You know all those stories you’re told about Heaven being beautiful and all that stuff?
They are severely understating. Unless they’re the ones that say Heaven’s beauty is beyond comprehension or indescribable.
Heaven was absolutely astounding. Tall spires made of crystal and marble floated in the sky, which was a pale blue colour. Fluffy and wispy white clouds surrounded and enswathed the structures, and bridges connected the many platforms and buildings, although I was sure those were only for visitors rather than Heaven’s people. Most of the realm was situated on a large, floating rock that was covered with flowers and trees and glowing lights. Life was abundant here; Angels flew around everywhere, dressed in shining armour or brilliantly coloured robes of fine cloth found nowhere else. It was an expansive mass of floating radiance, and one of the most ancient realms in this world.
“Woah…,” I heard Iris breathe, and a whistle of appreciation came from Tiff, who looked stunned by the sheer magnificence of the place. Lydia, Soren and Nathan were all silently gazing around, while Aidan seemed a little uncomfortable and Hailey looked… at ease. I wondered why, but didn’t mention it, instead looking at our guide. He seemed as stoic as he’d been when he’d come to take us here. I understood that the city didn’t have the same effect on him as it did on us, due to him being an Angel and living here from the moment of his birth.
“Excuse me,” I said, gaining the Angel man’s attention. For a brief moment, I could have sworn that I saw his eyes soften, but it was gone as quickly as it had come, so I believed it to be nothing more than a figment of my imagination and continued. “Why is Heaven like this?”
The warrior raised an eyebrow. “I fail to understand what you ask.”
I mentally cursed and tried again. “Heaven is always kept in such pristine condition. Is it a matter of Magic or do you just have really good gardeners and cleaners?”
The faintest smile appeared on the warrior’s face, but disappeared when I blinked, although this time I knew I’d seen it. “It’s a matter of Magic.” He crossed his arms and folded his wings against his back. “Lady Vita is the source of Heaven’s vitality and pristine condition.”
“Lady Vita… the very first Angel?” I asked.
The warrior nodded. “Yes. The very same,” he confirmed. “She, like Mortem of Demonkind, sealed herself in a crystal in the very core of our realm. It is she who gives all Angels a place to call their own.” He seemed to reconsider his words just as my face fell, and I saw him visibly wince.
It was no secret as to why. The Nephilim, once, had also had a realm to call their own; Tutum, which had been utterly decimated during the Nephilim Massacre. Due to that event, we no longer had a place to call home, and had been forced to live on Earth ever since.
Our guide looked away. “Apologies, Firstborn,” he murmured. “I meant no offence.” His wings rustled, and he spoke louder to get the attention of the others as he said, “We must see the Archangel swiftly.” He began to walk, and after a brief hesitation, the rest of us followed him as he headed in the direction of the tallest tower in the city. It was more fitting to call the structure a spire more than a tower, and it was clearly important, but I felt as if any question I had would be unanswered, so I remained as silent as the rest of my companions.
As we walked across bridges, drawing funny looks from Angels as they flew overhead, I noticed that one – a female wearing similar armour to our guide – appeared to be heading towards us. As she landed, our guide looked at her with calm eyes, not particularly alarmed by her presence.
“I am sorry to bother you at such a time,” the female said, straightening and folding her wings as she spoke. “I understand your task of escorting the guests to the Archangel is of great importance, but there is something that needs reporting to you.”
“Let us walk,” our guide simply replied, and the female warrior nodded briskly before walking alongside him as we continued. They looked quite similar, with the only differences being gender, hairstyle and age appearance. “What is it you need to say, Tyta?”
The female frowned. “One of our warriors and one of our seers, a brother and sister, have gone missing. The Archangel is concerned for their health and safety, and believes them to be in grave danger.”
Our guide frowned, while the rest of us looked at each other in confusion. “A grave matter indeed, Tyta,” he muttered, his voice low. “I advise that the two factions discuss this together. The seers, with their abilities, may be able to help locate the missing pair, while the warriors can go out and retrieve them if able to.”
Tyta nodded and launched herself into the air, propelled by a powerful flap of her wings. She flew into the distance, towards a towering structure on a far rock, and as she disappeared into the skies I couldn’t help but ask, “What was all that about?”
The warrior shook his head. “Nothing concerning you,” he said. His tone was not rude, merely blunt and calm. “Everything is under control.” He fell silent again and refused to say another word, which drew a sigh from me as we continued to walk. We walked over more bridges, and once through a garden, which drew a gasp of wonder from each and every one of us. Excepting our guide.
Once we got to the spire, we stopped in front of it, allowing our little group to look up. It was taller than anything I’d ever seen before, and I was awestruck. Our guide remained completely stoic, striding up to the massive, intricately detailed, and guarded door. “This place is huge…,” I heard Tiff murmur, and I couldn’t help but agree with her.
“This is the Council Tower,” our guide abruptly said, and we all looked over at him. “The Angel Council resides and presides here.” He turned to the two burly-looking guards, who were dressed in identical armour to that of our guard. “These Nephilim and Humans have been summoned by the Archangel herself,” he said, gesturing in our direction, and the guards’ eyes flickered towards us. I almost flinched at the sheer intensity in each’s eyes, but refrained from doing so as they stepped aside, allowing us entry to the interior of the tower. The door swung open seemingly of its own accord and will, and our guide gestured before saying, “After you.”
Lydia was the first to step inside, and I followed. Nathan, Soren, Tiff, Iris, Hailey and Aidan all tailed me, and we found ourselves standing in a completely circular and empty room. We all frowned and glanced around; there were no stairs. Of course I didn’t really expect Angels to require stairs, but at the same time, what about guests who couldn’t fly?
“What’s with that?” Aidan asked suddenly, drawing me from my thoughts and directing my gaze towards a glowing circle in the dead centre of the room. Not really knowing, I shook my head as our guide stepped through the doors, and they slowly swung shut behind him as he strode over.
It was Hailey who gave us an answer. “It is a warp circle. It takes us directly to where we must go.” She looked at us carefully, one eye completely hidden by her hair. “There are many of them in Heaven.” She then looked at our warrior guide, who seemed mildly surprised by her knowledge.
However, his surprise melted away rapidly, and he nodded briskly before saying, “Now, please, step into the circle.”
We all shared looks, with most of them being slightly apprehensive and only Hailey’s being calm, before stepping forward. A light tingle went through my skin as we entered the glowing circle, and immediately a set of runes – Angelic, of course – flashed around us. Just as our guide joined us, the runes flashed rather brightly, enswathing us in a white light. There was a cry of surprise from Tiff, but not much else happened. I didn’t feel as if I moved, in any case.
Of course, I most certainly had been relocated; as the light surrounding us faded away, we found ourselves in another room in the tower. A large semi-circle desk was surrounding us, reminding me painfully of our very recent visit to the Nephilim Council, and behind that was another, upraised desk.
Five Angels were sitting behind the first desk, but it was the female Angel behind the raised desk that got my attention. She had a warm, welcoming smile on her face, and I could feel a kind, benevolent aura radiating from her.
As she rose to her feet, our guide bowed, placing his right palm above his chest and getting to one knee before bowing his head. He held that pose for five seconds, then got to his feet and said to us, “This is Eryn, the Archangel of Heaven.”
After he spoke, the Archangel said, “Council, this meeting is adjourned,” in a musical voice. Then, as the other Angels teleported out of the room, she looked at us, smiled, and said warmly, “Welcome, my friends, to Heaven.” She floated down to our level, landing lightly on the ground, her robes fluttering around her feet and brushing the floor. “I have summoned you here… to ask of you a favour.”
What sort of favour would the Archangel need from us? I thought to myself, utterly confused.
Eryn smiled at me. “I need a favour that my warriors cannot complete, Firstborn.” I stiffened, realising she’d read my mind, but forced myself to relax as she said, “If I order my soldiers to undertake this task, I risk violating the Heaven-Hell Treaty as well as severe retaliation by the Demons, which is something I would like to avoid.” She pulled a face. “Especially since we have all worked so hard to maintain the treaty after the events of the Nephilim Massacre.”
“You want us to go after Ryval.” Hailey’s voice was soft, but wise, and Eryn nodded, seemingly unfazed by the girl’s abnormal wisdom.
“That is correct, young Hailey,” she said, and we all shared a look, curious as to how Eryn was aware of her name. She certainly didn’t seem to know our names, at least. Or maybe she did and just hadn’t revealed that she knew. “I want you to investigate her behaviour for me.” She shook her head and turned her back, averting her eyes sadly. “Her antics are concerning me.”
“What is it,” Nathan asked, his voice quiet and respectful, “That you would have us do, Lady Eryn?”
The Archangel turned back to us, smiling morosely. “I would like you to force her to stop.” She folded her arms behind her back. “She is dangerous, and her mission to kill the Human race may cause her to kill anyway who steps in her path.” She shook her head slowly. “This means that she may kill her own people, ours, and the Nephilim.”
“If she directly threatens your people, can’t you eliminate her?” Aidan asked, cocking his head to the side. Eryn shook her head again.
“I’m afraid not, because she has not besieged us yet, and only directly threatens the Human race.” She turned away again, frowning. “The only reason she will attack Heaven’s people is if they get in the way of her single goal, I assume.” She sighed heavily, turning back to our group. “Please. I beseech you to help us.” Tears welled up in her eyes, and my heart clenched in pain as I saw her distress. “We must help our Creator’s last children before He disappeared. Our previous actions…” She paused, but didn’t need to explain what she meant. We all knew she was referring to the Nephilim Massacre at the hands of the first Archangel. “We must not allow a similar event to occur again.”
This time, it was Soren who spoke. “So… You want us to stop her…?”
The Archangel composed herself with a deep breath, wiping her tears from her cheeks using her sleeves. “Yes. I want you to track her down, and stop her before she goes through with her dastardly scheme.” She looked at us, her eyes filled with sadness. “Please.”
I stepped forward. “I will help. It’s the right thing to do.” I smiled at the Archangel, who seemed extremely relieved to hear me say that. The others, after a little more consideration, nodded and told her that they would also assist, which seemed to give further relief to Eryn.
“Thank you. It eases my soul to hear you all agree to help,” she said, before forming something in her hand. “Now, I suggest that you all see the Archdemon.”
“Why?” Aidan said, his voice a little strained. Nathan put his hand on Aidan’s shoulder, but the boy seemed a little fired up. Anxious, maybe. “If we need to take down a rogue Demon—”
“Regardless of status,” Eryn said, her voice still remarkably calm, “Ryval is still a Demon, and the Archdemon will know how to deal with her.” She shook her head, then stepped forward and held the object out to Lydia, who frowned before taking it. It was a spherical crystal that seemed to glow, and the interior appeared to be misty. Only Hailey appeared to recognise it, but she said nothing as Eryn smiled. “That will bring you back to Heaven at any time you require it.”
“Thank you.” Lydia pocketed the orb, keeping her face neutral for some reason.
Eryn then went to say something to our guide, only to be stopped by the arrival of a bloodied, bruised Angel. I didn’t recognise him, but Eryn stepped forward as the poor, hurt Angel choked, “The city… is under attack… by… Ryval!” and collapsed. His wounds were horrific; he was bleeding out of many lacerations, and his wings were twisted and broken. His armour was twisted, mangled and burned on top of that; he was not in a good way.
“Augral!” Eryn said, and our guide immediately straightened. Well, at least we knew his name now. “Summon all warriors and defend the gates! The Demon must not be allowed to breach the city!”
“As you command, Lady Eryn!” he said, before teleporting away, leaving us with Eryn as she knelt down and attempted to heal the wounded guard.
I knelt down next to Eryn. She looked at me carefully, although her eyes were still friendly, as if she was judging my intentions. “We should go and confront her, because your warriors aren’t technically allowed to kill Demons,” I said softly, watching as Eryn worked.
“Be that as it may,” Eryn said, her voice gentle as Tiff walked over and put her hand on my shoulder, “Ryval has already broken the treaty.”
“How so?” The question came from Iris, although I was certain that we were all wondering it.
“Technically speaking, the Heaven-Hell Treaty prevents Demons from attacking Heaven, and vice versa.” Eryn’s tone was slightly worried, and she wasn’t looking at us anymore; she was looking at the warrior she was attempting to heal. He was gasping feebly, losing too much blood too quickly. “Ryval, being a Demon, has broken the treaty by besieging Heaven.” She seemed to consider something, and after heaving a sigh, she softly said, “But I would like to prevent retaliation, at least from my faction. I shall send your group.”
I nodded before standing, accepting these terms. They were better than the Angels trying to kill Ryval and violating the treaty further. Knowing the same, Eryn waved her hand in our direction and a soft glow surrounded us. Then a bright light flashed around us, blinding us. But once it faded… we saw horrors.
We were standing in front of a set of gates so ornate that they looked surreal. They shone in the light, and while they raptured me, that wasn’t why I gaped. I was actually staring at the splashes of red that marred the shining gold, and as I looked over, I got to watch Ryval brutally stab an Angel warrior in the chest. She looked delighted as she watched the life ebb from him, and she dropped him as his eyes glazed over. The sound he made when he hit the ground was an unpleasant, mortifying one, like the sound raw and bloody meat makes when it’s cut from bone.
I felt sick to my stomach as I watched her kill more Angels, most of which were unarmed and merely trying to expel her from Heaven using non-violent means. As blood pooled from the corpses she so carelessly left around, anger rose in my heart, and I clenched my fists before yelling, “RYVAL!” at the top of my lungs.
My efforts to get her attention succeeded. The Demon woman turned to me, holding some poor Angel warrior by the throat. Her eyebrow rose questioningly, and she dropped the Angel before she walked over and said, “Well, if it isn’t my darling daughter.”
“I’m not your daughter! My mother is an Angel and my father is a Demon, not the other way around!” I yelled, trying desperately to cling to the truth that was slowly being shattered and becoming a lie. “Now tell me something!” I changed the topic, still denying what she was saying. “Why do you seek to kill the Humans?!”
“You don’t know?” Ryval asked in reply, but she received no reaction from me outside of a curt glare, which caused her to sigh. The Angels had ceased attacking, and were waiting with my friends to see what would happen. “You know about the Nephilim Massacre, I’m sure of it. You would have been alive then,” she said softly, and this time, I nodded, although it was a brisk movement. How she knew that I didn’t know. “So you know about the vengeful Demon who killed most of the Humans because ‘his’ Nephilim daughter was murdered, a long while afterwards?”
“Of course I do,” I said angrily. “What does that have to do with—”
I stopped talking as a jolt of realisation coursed through my body. Upon seeing me the first time we’d encountered her, Ryval had stopped and had wondered how I was alive, not to mention she had called me her daughter. Did that mean…?
“Have you finally realised the truth, dear Sai?” Ryval said softly, putting her left hand on her hip and pursing her lips. “The Demon that murdered the Humans was no male. The Nephilim that died was the daughter of a female Demon. And I was the Demon who massacred the Humans… because you were the one who died.” She shook her head and looked away, closing her eyes. “I remember watching from afar as the first Archangel himself cut you down. You tried to flee, poor little girl,” she cooed as she looked back at me, and I felt anger at the pity she had in her eyes. If she pitied me that much, she shouldn’t have been doing this. “When I saw you die, I was so, so angry… I wanted revenge on the Angels. Oh so badly. But then… Then your father came back, reviving you by summoning power that nearly cost him his life, returning life to your corpse… That soothed my anger a little…”
“But it didn’t entirely eradicate your anger,” Augral’s voice rang out, and I turned around to see him land just behind me, holding his sword tightly in his hand. His eyes were blazing with fury, and more warriors – including Tyta – landed around my friends, who were all huddled. Tiff and Iris were hugging each other, fear glittering in their eyes. Aidan, Nathan, Lydia and Soren all looked worried for me, while Hailey merely looked calm. Me? I was questioning everything I’d ever known. What Ryval had told me conflicted so badly with the ‘truth’ that I’d believed in… I couldn’t fathom it. But at the same time, there was so much that made sense now… Like what Lydia had said back at the safehouse.
“No, it didn’t,” Ryval admitted, her voice snapping me from my reverie. Before she could say anything more, though, Augral raised his weapon and pointed it at her as the tip began to glimmer.
“Why are you doing this, Ryval?” he asked, his voice both angry and… strangely… sad? I blinked a little bit, worrying at my lip. Why did he sound so sad?
“Taking revenge for my daughter, Augral,” she hissed, her eyes flashing. My heart clenched in my chest, as fear shot through me. “The Nephilim were massacred by Angel hands, so it only seems fitting that the Demons massacre the race the Angels vowed to protect!”
“You’re insane, Ryval!” he growled, grip tightening on the hilt of his weapon. “Wouldn’t massacring the Angels make more sense?”
She laughed at that. “Oh, no, Augral.” Her voice was soft, almost gentle, as if she wasn’t planning on committing mass murder and if she hadn’t just slaughtered Angels. “They’re going to suffer as well. Don’t you understand?” she asked. “They are going to suffer at my hands for what they did to my daughter!” She laughed again, sounding slightly maniacal. “The Humans will die and that will make all Angels fail their sworn duty to the Creator. It will break them, and you know it.” Augral stiffened at her words, which proved her point. “I won’t even have to kill the Angels after that; it’s more painful to keep you all alive with the pain of your failures tormenting you forevermore.”
Augral, realising that she was beyond stopping, raised his sword into the air so the tip was pointing at the sky. “I cannot allow you to do that,” he said slowly, then chanted something in the Angelic tongue as the runes on his sword began to emit light. Beams of light started raining down on the Demon woman, and she howled as she covered her face with her arms. Where the light touched her, it seared her flesh, and she cried out as the wounds began to bleed profusely.
Clearly seeing that she was outdone, Ryval hissed in anger, glaring at all of us before opening a flaming portal beneath her feet and disappearing, falling into it. Once the portal closed, Augral stopped his attack, and soon there was nothing but the smell of burned flesh in the air as he sheathed his sword and turned to us.
“There is no time for conversation,” he said as I went to speak, before he turned away and folded his wings against his back. “You must find Ryval as soon as possible. Use the crystal our fair Archangel gave you to return to your safehouse. Hold it out, and when it begins to glow, the rest of you must touch it.” He seemed troubled about something, but it was clear that he wasn’t about to answer our questions.
I nodded silently as Augral turned to his soldiers and ordered them to begin cleaning up. The small group I was with strode over to me, and Tiff pulled me into a hug, which I returned.
“Let’s go back,” Lydia said in a soft voice. She held the crystal sphere out, and it glowed before we followed Augral’s previous instructions, and pressed our fingertips against the orb’s surface.
The mist inside of it pulsed a little, before a flash of light emanated from it, enveloping us. When it cleared, we were standing in front of the safehouse, and our car was there too, which caused Nathan to smile happily. His smile disappeared when Hailey said, “We should take Lady Eryn’s advice.”
“And that would be?” Aidan asked, cocking his head to the side and regarding her with a curious expression on his face.
She looked right back at him, her eyes serene and her aura clear. “We should speak to the Archdemon.”
Nathan rolled his eyes. “Oh, sure, as if that’s going to work,” he hissed drily.
The young woman glared at him, her gaze becoming extremely intense, and Nathan flinched before Lydia said, “Hailey, enough!”
Hailey immediately looked away, taking a deep breath as Soren said, “Hailey’s correct. We have to speak to the Archdemon. He’s the only one who would know how to stop Ryval.” Then he crossed his arms. “So, what say all of you?”
Tiff and Iris shared a look before Tiff said, “I think we should. Meet with the Archdemon, I mean.” Iris nodded in agreement, as did Hailey and Aidan.
Nathan was a little more reluctant, but after some coaxing on Soren’s part, he decided to come with us, and Lydia soon agreed too. Then they all looked at me, and I breathed a sigh before nodding and saying, “Alright. We’ve met the Archangel. Now let’s go meet the Archdemon.”