Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
Around me was darkness, thin wisps of light following my vision. My chest hurt. I touched it, finding it was different. My grip was strange. I touched flesh, not fur. A chest hard with muscle but without an oxen’s bulk. I looked down, finding hands, white hands, thumbs and all. I touched my face--a human face. Eyes, nose, lips, my teeth blunt against my tongue. I was naked, able to see that even my manhood was well-shaped, and ordinary. I was like Michael--nay, better.
I fell to my knees. I wept. My hoarse sobbing echoed around me a tremor like my roar, softened only vaguely by new vocal folds. It didn’t matter where I was, or how I had come to be there. I was too weak with joy to question any of it. For the first time in my miserable existence, I felt real.
Behold, Saraquel. You have been remade.
The sound of Father’s voice quieted me. I forced myself upright, standing strong on legs meant to carry me.
“Have you done this?” I asked, timid.
Even the act of forming words came naturally to this tongue. I almost wept anew.
I felt great warmth wrap around me, an embrace that could not be seen.
You are Sariel, Punisher of God, angel of heaven. A being whose eyes burn red as fire, with hair white as snow-capped mountains, whose imposing figure strikes fear into all who oppose you. Your beloved will not know you like this, but she is not meant to know you survive. After the war, you will have a new form for your life with her, on Earth.
“What is war?” I asked.
Punishment that two groups try to force upon the other, repeated until one side proves the weaker and receives the battering. This war will be in heaven, between those who support Michael, and those who support Gabriel. Though she wishes not to be called my governor any longer, only my grace. So she is Haniel to you now, and the one called Raguel has stolen her forsaken name.
I snarled with mention of Rig--I was surprised I could still make that sound. I felt a wave of amusement.
The beast is part of you. You will never fully be rid of him, nor should you want to be.
My face was cradled by gentleness, though I still saw nothing but the darkness before me, wavering in the coming and going of wisps. I closed my eyes, feeling the strength of His love.
I give you one life with her willingly. However, after your time with her, you must repay your debt to Heaven. It was meant that Uriel would be the courier of human souls between Earth and this plane; with him forsaking his name, binding himself to Earth, another must take his place. You will become Uriel, the Angel of Death, and serve me and Heaven for all your days.
“For one life with her?”
One life devoted to her. After that, you may split yourself into as many pieces as necessary to serve both her and I. For you who has died and passed through the veil, to Heaven and back, are the only one suited to show mankind that path.
“Angel of Death.” I smiled, though perhaps I shouldn’t have. It was a grim fate. “Will I have to punish? Kill?”
Perhaps. Your primary duty will be to escort, but no other would be more suited to the act of punishment.
“Then I’m still an executioner.”
Your fate remains entwined with Michael’s. So long as he walks this path, Heaven will need an executioner. The pact he has made with a fragment of Myself will bring much bloodshed, by your hand and others. That is why I offer you one life with Haniel, my beloved daughter, who loves you as strongly as you do she. One life to claim your happiness. After that, you will return to Michael’s service, in My name.
“Why would you give me back to Michael?” I asked, anger rising despite myself. I was grateful, more than grateful. But my hatred for Michael was too deep.
Michael is my judge. To be Death, you must serve him. However...
There came a long pause in the darkness, as though He were considering the weight of His words.
He will hate you more than before. You will represent my interference in his autonomy, which before now I have not compromised. You must be cautious, Sariel, or else the one life I give you will end before its time.
I should have asked more. I’ve always been prone to saying too little, even in the presence of my Maker. Still overwhelmed with joy, my head reeling, new muscles aching to be used, I could only express the simplest of gratitude.
“Thanks. For all of it.”
He felt amused again.
Close your eyes, Sariel. You’ll awake on the battlefield. Listen for My voice, and I will guide you.
I would close my eyes. Still, there was something I had to know, before He faded from me. I asked, as the air began to thin.
“Father, what made you change your mind?”
I thought I heard His laugh, quiet and kind.