Sitting on the empty bed, I wait for the four of them to escape this town and travel as far south as they can manage. I am aware of the Elders assembling on the outskirts of the city, Angel and Fallen alike, too uncertain of the circumstances to come forward and greet me. I’ve been missing for too long. This could very well be a trap and not a single one desires to risk their Soul to find out.
Their fear is too palpable.
It is the Darkness that tampers with their mistrust. There is an abundance dwelling on Earth. It makes the air nearly toxic with its copious manifestation.
When I had left the world, there were enough resistances against the assembling malevolence. The Gloria Patri, Desna and the Gatekeepers, the virtuous Merci, Tymician, Dane Monte, and the sanctimonious Grigori; all gathered together on both Angel and Fallen fronts to withstand against the Darkness.
Yet it feels as if they are no longer in harmony with each other. Perhaps without me, without Tymician, they lost trust amongst themselves.
I stand and step out onto the balcony. It is unacceptable. They cannot falter, not now. The rising storm in the night displays the importance of their alliance. I will rectify this error. I will not surrender the Earth or any of its people. Not anymore.
I ascend to Heaven, the grand foyer of the Second Level. Angels turn toward me, surprised at my sudden entrance but they do not recognize me. Such young Souls will not know who I am.
I close my eyes and breathe in the glory of Heaven’s Light. Goosebumps rise up on my arms as the cold air encircles, welcoming me as a caressing lover. Tears rush to my eyes and I chastise myself. How emotional I’ve become. If my former self saw water drip upon my cheek, she’d slap me for such flaws.
Happiness erupts. The Arch Family encircles me nearly instantaneously and all the Angels around us jitter in excitement forming a semi-circle, peering over the shoulders, whispering to each other and pointing fingers.
Five of the Seven stand before me and each so proudly lower to their knees, a greeting unnecessary. I quickly latch onto the gorgeous Zadkiel, bringing her into my arms. She kisses each cheek and grasping my hands in the black palms of her own. “You bless us, your grace.”
“I’ve missed this beauty.” I run my fingertips down the side of her smooth cheek. “It has been too long, my friend.”
Remeil steps forward into my sight, his attractive features never changing. “Two thousand years too long.” Zadkiel steps away and he takes my hand to his lips.
“You look well, sir. How is your wife?”
He lingers, staring at me, reaching out and cupping my face. “It does my heart good to see you. She does well and will cry as will the rest of Heaven in joy upon your arrival.” I lean against his hand only shortly before he slips away.
Raphael steps up next. The white of his robes stitched in the fine blood red thread brings ready tears. He is taller than I am but perhaps thinner with his long stretched out form. His hand reaches out but I step into his arms. He and I worked together for far too long. We began the Apothecary and learned the arts of Healing as a unit. To see him after all that I’ve been through swells my heart. He murmurs into my ear, “I knew nothing could touch you. I did not lose faith, Ariel.”
“I must admit.” Uriel interrupts his voice insipid and hard “I did.”
Raphael squeezes me one last moment and steps away. Only as an obligation, does Uriel take my hand and raise it to his gelid lips. He and I did not lack friendship before. Why does he treat me with such distaste now?
Zadkiel quickly explains with a punitive expression, “Forgive our brother. He lost his heart and forgets how to act proper.”
Sariel, thick boned and intrusive doesn’t bother to reach for my hand. “My faith withered as well, I’m afraid. Tell us where you’ve been all this time.”
The symbol of the Merci on his sleeve is enough for me to keep my distance. I believed at one time that the Merci was my friend but as time evolved while I slept something has changed within their faction. I do not know what darkens their doorstep but I will watch my step when it comes to their breed.
I smile amorously. “It matters little, sir.” He’s brows knit, particularly unhappy with my assessment. “I am free. I am here with those that love me and I will not be immured any time again.” A small threat that I hope will not go unnoticed.
Zadkiel panics, “You were imprisoned?”
“It is over.” I glance down to the child still upon the floor, peeking up every so often. I giggle as I step to the side, “Tell me who this is?”
Remeil helps her stand and nervously she rocks on her gold shoes incapable of standing still. “This is Gabriel. She replaced Jopheil, who chose to join the Seraphim. Barachiel is gone as well, I’m afraid. ”
There are so many alterations that I must prepare myself for them. I reach out and tap at her chin. Her eyes dart to mine. “Nice shoes.” It takes only a moment for a wicked grin to break out. I laugh with her and hope to ease her shy disposition.
“Ari?” My smile drops and my heart speeds up in exhilaration as I hear the voice of a man I’ve loved as my own Father for generations. The small crowd parts and there he is standing before me in a white tailored suit with gold markings, looking to be a man of great age. The sight of it breaks my heart. The last time I saw him he was not so ancient. He was a fledgling, full of vivacity and exuberance. Has time passed so critically that I’ve lost so much?
I rush into Metraton’s waiting arms and feel myself minimize into a little girl. It makes this moment tangible. I am not an Erelim, ten thousand years old and growing. I am no savior and no one’s hope. I am a child that needs a father. I am feeble and I have faults. I need love just as well as anyone. Tears fall down my cheeks and his hand brushes the length of my gold hair.
“You’re alive, my darling. Oh, forgive me for doubting. I should have searched better. I should have done more.”
What is this? Why is he pouring his heart out onto me? I need him to be my strength. I lean back to cup his cheek. I force a compelling smile. “I blame no one, Uncle. Please, let it pass.”
He nods, grasping the sides of my face and kissing my cheeks.
Metatron strengthens cleaning my face and then his own. “He will want to see you. Before He passes. He has been asking for you and I did not know what to tell Him. He asks for Tymician too. For Lucius. For Gerald. For Ema. So many I could not bring Him. This will warm His heart.”
My brows crease deeply as I pull back taut, “Before who passes, uncle?” He stares at me with wide blank eyes. I flip my head to the Arch family and they turn their gazes from me unwilling to delve into the topic. I’m left in the dark of some unforeseen calamity. I look at him again and he grips my hands harshly, struggling to prepare me for something that’s quite impossible to ever be prepared for.
The words fall from his lips and though I hear them, I do not respond to them. Perhaps I cannot believe in such a decree. How can God die? Is He not our world? Isn’t He what makes my heartbeat and my blood pump? Isn’t He the very essence of this Heaven, the Light that shines in the walls, the air that we breathe and the words that we speak? God cannot die. He is infinite.
“Take me to Him.” I murmur.
Met forces a hard smile, “Uriel, will you please? I must be heading out.” He kisses my temple.
I’m perplexed by his haste. “You’re leaving Heaven?”
He grins slyly, “Earth is so much fun.” He waves, disappearing before I can get a word.
The Arch family leaves me much to their disinclination. They all have something they need to be doing, they tell me. I cannot remember a time where they were so busy. Uriel slightly touches my arm and I enquire, “Is it because of Lucius? I heard a rumor that there is war.”
He unclips his ring of keys from the gold plate of his armor. “It is not a rumor. Lucius gathers hundreds of thousands in league with the Princes. He means to destroy the world.” Uriel clenches his thick jaw. “We should have entombed his Soul upon his last threat.”
My words are filled with only pity. “He is the first son of God--”
“It does not mean he owns the planet. Yet as always he believes he can do whatever he chooses.”
“Forgive me, Sir Uriel, if I overstep my bounds, but you were not present when Lucius resided in Heaven. I assure you, he may have acted to others as a spoiled child, but he was fully aware of himself. He was a man of fine convictions. He is of a brilliant mind and to speak with him is only for the most sagacious. ”
He struggles with a locked door. “I will not get into a heated debate with a woman of high authority, Madam. You know him better, I am sure.” He shoves it open and I, apparently, have upset him. “The fact, however, remains the same. Lucius is a threat to our worlds and he must be thwarted. I for one, would like it to be permanently.” He clamps his mouth tight and every muscle is taut and rigid.
I stop my movement yet he continues only to snap his feet, refusing to look back at me, “Please, sir, indulge my interest. What have I said to upset you?”
He stares straight for a moment before the bells chime on his long black braids as he spins around to look at me. “You have sympathy for that creature and I disparage such a thing. Lucius coerces our race to betray us and you find no fault in him.”
“Have you never understood why Lucius Fell? Are you of this age and lack that imperative comprehension? Lucius left us to defeat the Darkness. Looking at you, I suspect you were a proficient combatant. How do you fight an enemy that cannot reach you? In Heaven, we are untouchable. To fight the enemy one must occasionally voyage into rival terrain. He took this upon himself. As many Fallen did to protect us. To protect Father.”
“You believe this?”
“Of course I do. Lucius spoke vehemently about the growing shadows that we were so ignorant of. If it weren’t for him, for his constant crusade, Earth would be overrun and a dead land.”
Uriel seethes only further. “I should have expected less out of you, a Soul Mate to a Fallen.”
I am unhurt. I was ridiculed for the first few hundred years and it had made my heart stone to any such talk. “There is no diversion between us and them, my lord. We are of equal value to Father. Surely, the Angel of Unity can understand such a decree. I expected more out of you, my lord. We both have been misled. You loath a man you do not know.”
“After all this time, you claim you know him? He is a monster!”
“Beneath that monster there is a man who lives for the greatness of God. Tell me, in such unholy lands surrounded by evil itself, would your heart stay pure and untainted? Are you better than God’s Son?”
“You can manage your own way to Father, I presume?”
“Yes, thank you.”
I have a feeling I will upset many an Angel with my truth. I will not stop my honesty to spare their feelings. For too long, their minds have been prone to ignorance. Perhaps it is the way the Merci has desired it. If that is the case, then the Merci will not like how I plan to run our world from now on.
Without keys to take the private paths to God’s dwelling, I peek my head out into the main hallway. There are only a few passing by and with quick, cat like reflexes; I dart down the corridor trusting I do not encounter anyone. The ones I do pass seem to be unconcerned with my presence. They are young and unaware of who I am. My Light is obvious. If they took the time to notice, it would be unquestionable but as the Arch Family seemed to be occupied, so does the rest of Heaven.
As not to attract unwanted attention, I propel the mammoth weighty doors to access the next level. Entering the Fourth, I find I am nervous. It has been many years since I have come in direct contact with the Merci. My escape from the Ruling, did it fit in with their plans? It seemed too easy. Once I got to the surface, no one stopped me.
Will they confront me here? Or will I be the one to go to them?
I stand firm, ready to tackle their most impious speeches. Sariel is not a nefarious man. He knows his duty and is loyal to its truth. He will procure God’s world. I am an essential piece to the evolution of mankind. My Light can heal millions of Souls. I can regenerate my own Soul, time and time again. I am as close to an immortal as we have ever come. He has learnt my secret and he will use this.
When I woke in the basement of the Ruling, the Hikmah Elder explained that my Light had been severed in half. When he found me, lying in the forest, alone and already succumbed to a catatonic state, it was true. My Light was split. It was while I slept I learned how to manipulate and extract from the forces around me. I took bits from the Earth, from the energy that encircled me and after seventy years, my power was whole once more. It was the Merci and the Ruling that chose to keep me secluded. I woke, only because my body learned to adapt to the drugs and they no longer could keep me asleep.
I walk steadily, waiting. My sea green eyes flicker to every door. I feel them. They hide. They muse themselves behind the wooden panels and talk amongst themselves but they do not come and greet me.
Another time, then.
I pick up my steps through Fifth Heaven. I feel the Army of God, hearing the echoing of swords clashing together and the grunts of men and women from the training camp. They train needlessly. We rely upon the Fallen, upon Tymician’s armies to stand up against the Darkness. Angels do not shed blood, it is a mockery of God for them to train. I will fight because I have the power to make a difference. Dane and I will do battle but these children will stay in Heaven and be safe.
Yet the question remains, who will lead Tymician’s forces? The Fallen are disagreeable creatures. They have followed Tymician for too long to accept anyone else. Will they gather together, or will they simply split apart?
My sadness stretches and I pray Desna proves to be the worthy soldier I know her to be. She must find Tymician. I will accept no other outcome.
Upon entering the Sixth, I have no hope of venturing through it without their knowledge. There is a guard at its forefront and she stalls my movement. I must make a claim for my visitation and seek the approval of the Royal line.
The Sixth Level is as I have always imagined it. This is my first experience on the Seraphim floor. When God seeks a word with someone, there is a Cherub to guide that particular Soul through the back hallways. If I had needed to speak to Father in the past, I traveled those said hallways with my own set of keys. During my slumber, the Ruling had stolen them and Arch Uriel had left me to take the only path I could manage otherwise.
I rise from my seat as a procession of royalty fasten to greet me. Tatiana leads the line with four others lagging behind. Her robes of purple and silver velvet drape heavily down her back, dragging along the floor. None of them bother with the cumbersome of wings. They must think it too much of a burden to care for such delicate and tenuous entities. I used to think the same. I had come quite close to joining the Seraphim. I’m much relieved I ran away instead.
I bend my knee in a slight curtsey, “Empress.” I greet Tatiana. The massive quantity of her hair curls and coils down the front of her, ending past her waist. My own is as dead thread compared to the glowing gold spindle of hers. I am dressed in the clothes the Ruling had placed on me. White silk pajamas without any covering upon my bare feet, while she is wrapped up in the most expensive fabric surrounded by the ring of her fortune. There would have been a time when I would have cared about my appearance, yet now I find myself only pitying her close-minded thought. She and I are the same age. She should know better than to care for such worldly artifacts.
“No, your grace, we bow to you.” She speaks only words and does not bow. “It is a pleasure to see your face. Please, let us guide you to your destination. Father will be greatly elated.” Her eyes, originally had been brown but as her power grew the crystal color of God encircles the outer rim. It is the same with mine. The closer we are to God, the more our Souls drown in His Light. Though I notice that she is not Transcending. I stare at her as we walk side by side. She flickers her golden locks, cocking her head, as if she thinks I am admiring her gorgeous face. Tatiana flips her gaze upon me, “You had us fretting over you, dear. It was quite cruel.”
“Where is Dane Monte?” I have little patience for faux attention.
Her grins stretches, “Sir Dane left us. When you did not come to receive your place here amongst us, he relinquished his spot amongst the royal line. While it upset many, we could not stop him. He followed you to Earth. We dreamed he had gone to recapture your heart. But as it were, you disappeared. He was never able to find you.” She glances to her court, “He distracts easily.” Tatiana hides a sly smile behind a thin hand. They all stifle their giggles. She insinuates and I cannot understand what she means. Dane does distract easily but there is something else lingering beneath it.
“Can you answer a question for me?” I meet her eyes once more. “Why is Metatron going to Earth?”
Her thin blond brows widen, “Surely I mustn’t be the one to tell you?”
“I know of the war. I’ve heard of Lucius and his selfish desire. I’ve been made aware of God and it is why I head there now. But I am confused. Metatron acted in such a hurry. The Army is training. And there is still a rather large number of Angels residing on the Earth. They should be here, safe and secure. The Fallen will fight, even if Tymician is not with them. ”
Her arm slips into mine as if we are gossiping friends. She leans against me whilst we walk. “It has been decided that the Angels will fight in this war.”
I stop our pace, pulling away from her, “Are they mad?”
She smiles warmly, “Without you, without Tymician, and without Dane Monte, Metatron has asked the Earth Angels to fight. He gathers the human Prophets as well. Lucius has gathered an army of two hundred thousand. The Princes rule them. Do you think the Fallen will be able to defeat them without their precious Tymician to lead? They cannot. The Earth will perish without the races combining.”
My breath comes wildly while my heart trembles. “Where is Dane Monte? Why doesn’t he fight? He is the first king of men. I was beside him as he built the cities of NeGall, ten thousand years ago. He is the Ruler of the Ancient World. He should rule the Fallen.”
She shrugs, a coy smirk on her lips, “Why don’t you ask him?”
I swallow harshly and continue our walk. My eyes flipping about on the marble floor. What is Dane doing that distracts him? Doesn’t he understand that the world needs him? When has he ever failed God?
All too soon, I see the doors to God’s private sector. My negative thoughts drain from me and are left behind. He has been waiting for me as long as I have been waiting for Him.