And Semjaza, who was their leader, said to them: ‘I fear you will not agree to do this deed, And I alone shall have to pay the penalty of this great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual curses so we will not abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then they all swore together and bound themselves by mutual curses.
And they were in all two hundred who descended in the days of Jared in the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual curses on the act.
--1 Enoch 2:1, 2-6
Michael summoned us to his tower in the early morning. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that something was wrong, that I was ill-prepared to see him again, though I had no basis for such feelings. Something in the air, Remiel would say.
After falling asleep in the mud, in my garden, I had woken to make my way home in the dark. I bathed, numb. At dawn, Raguel came to my door personally to escort me.
“Michael wishes a meeting of the six archangels,” he said.
That was how these things usually went. Unexpected meeting at the crack of dawn, where we tried to be civilized, then returned to our lives.
He brought me to the gates of the tower, where Uriel, Raphael, and Remiel already waited. Raguel led us up the steps, not one of us willing to speak. There were no screams from below--only silence. The whole tower, once dripping with fear, felt still. The quiet of death had taken hold, pervasive, and heavy.
In a strange turn, we weren’t allowed to enter the meeting room. Raguel had us all wait on the top floor outside the locked doors, hand on his sword as he watched for them to part. I had never been so cold there, my skin tight as my throat. I caught Remiel rubbing his arms, but Uriel was straight-backed as ever. We were being kept at Michael’s mercy, even there.
At last, the doors opened. Michael wore his long, black cloak, his golden hair shaved now shaved to the skin. That change frightened me.
“It’s ready,” he said, stepping aside. “Within is an altar. I must ask you to keep your distance from it. There is a ritual that must be done, and your cooperation is expected.”
“What sort of ritual?” I demanded, running out of patience.
He wouldn’t answer me. Uriel, recognizing before me the sort of situation we were in, stepped into the room first. Then, Remiel, and Raguel eyed me before the solemn-faced lackey followed after. I was the last to resign myself to it. There was a stench emitting from the open doors like bitter smoke, barely veiling a pungent odor I should have recognized from the cells below. I entered, if only to find out what it was.
The sight was like needles in my eyes, like thousands of them piercing through yet too small to give me the mercy of blindness. Saraquel, on an stone slab, motionless. Candles lit in a large circle around him, a sigil painted in blood on the floor beneath. I screamed--Remiel grabbed me from behind, smothering me.
“He’s already dead,” he whispered. “Screaming can’t save him.”
His words drained my will away. His hands fell from me. I stared, watching Michael walk through the blood sigil, drawing a dagger from his hip.
“The sacrifice is freshly made. He will now be burnt and returned to the elements, to be received by Yahweh.”
“Yahweh?” Uriel asked.
Michael slit Saraquel’s throat, the blood streaming forth to fill the cracks in the floor beneath the altar. I choked, as though it were my throat he had split. I tried to speak, but nothing came out.
The dagger was set on the exposed stone, before Michael lifted a pitcher from the floor. This he spilled over the beast’s body. Wine soaked his fur until it dripped from the table, welling in dark pools, mixed crimson by blood.
“There exists a piece of our Father here on earth,” said Michael, “willing to aid in the subduing of mankind. We need only prove our devotion to Him.”
“Dear me,” Remiel sighed. “I know of the piece you speak of. It is young, and hardly formed. It is an echo of Father at best, at worst it is a power-hungry shadow. No doubt you plan to appeal to its desire to be worshipped, which has no parallel in our Heavenly Father--dare I say, it looks like you would take advantage of its curious vanity to conquer this realm. Do I speak truth, Michael?”
“Terms like vanity are beyond any part of our Father. No matter how small a piece it may be, it deserves our worship. In a world where death is the ultimate state of existence, should not death be ultimate gift to our Creator?”
“You bribe the power Father left here, stirring it from its slumber. You are clever, Brother. Clever indeed.”
Michael would not acknowledge Remiel’s accusation. He went to the center of the sigil, where a tall candle burned brightly, and lifted it from the ground. He brought this to Saraquel, meaning to set his body aflame.
I moved, and didn’t feel myself moving. I was suddenly at the altar, knocking the candle to the ground, snatching the dagger. The dagger was in Michael’s chest, again, and again. Drawing blood. He spat blood, it poured from his mouth when I left the blade in him. He fell to his knees. His blood was on my hands. He fell to the floor.
All I could hear was the sound of my own breathing. Pulsing, air in my throat, against my ears. It was so loud I didn’t hear Raguel coming up behind me, a sword drawn from his waist--I didn’t hear him until the sword clattered to the floor, when I turned to find Uriel with his own dagger bloody, standing over Raguel’s corpse. He returned my vacant gaze, his mind gone as well. His decision had been made: here he joined me in my fate.
Now, only Raphael and Remiel were left unsoiled. In that deathly silence, unable yet to feel what I had done, I could only watch them. Raphael, his quiet calm broken by what he saw, his jaw tight and his eyes filled with sorrow; Remiel, his unreadable manner unshaken.
“Gabriel, Uriel,” Raphael said, like it was the last time he would say our names. “What have you done?”
“They’ve taken a stand against the brothers who tried to make their own rules,” Remiel said, answering because we could not. “They give mankind a chance to someday rule this land, rather than be corralled by fear of a vengeful Creator.”
Yes--yes, that’s what I had done. I fought for mankind. I opposed the fractured God Michael sought to supplicate. I wanted humans to be free. I believed that, even as I gazed at Saraquel’s broken body and crumbled within.
“You take their side?” Remiel asked.
“I take the side of Order,” said Raphael, “That is all. I believe humanity needs to be controlled, for its own well-being. If this force, Yahweh, has been left by Father for that purpose, then Michael’s belief is my own.”
“Then I’m sorry.”
Remiel approached Uriel, hand extended for the blade. Uriel, silent, surrendered it.
“Surely you understand that death on Earth means that you’ll be free to return to Heaven,” Remiel said. “I imagine Michael and Raguel are already there.”
“I understand,” Raphael replied.
“Then we will remain in our separate spheres while we deliberate what must be done.”
Remiel tapped the tip of the blade against Raphael’s heart; Raphael did nothing.
“It’s been a pleasure, Brother,” Remiel mused.
I couldn’t watch him fall; I only heard the body hit the ground, the last of the dissenters silenced. With this the dam on my emotions broke, tears pouring forth as I screamed, nails in my scalp, trying to rip through my own memories. I forgot my living brothers, soiling my face and dress with wine and blood, clutching the lifeless form that had been my beast. I pulled him to the ground with me, rocking with him, mourning the part of my soul he had stolen, that I would now never reclaim.
Too kind, my brothers left me to this. I glimpsed Remiel putting out the circle of candles, Uriel lifting the bodies of Michael, Raguel, and Raphael to line them up neatly by the window. Although their consciousness would live on, their lives here were at an end. They would receive a proper burial, one befitting great sons of Heaven.
As my sorrow slowed, Remiel placed his hand on my shoulder. I wiped my face of blood and tears.
“We’re fugitives of Heaven now,” Remiel said, gentle as teasing. “What do you say we round up the remaining angels and decide what we do next?”
He awaited my reply. Across the room, Uriel watched me, waiting just as readily. They would follow me, even now.
I was forced to lock my heart away.
“Yes,” I said. “Fetch them.”
Even covered in blood, half apart from myself, I knew what came next. If the remaining angels would not stand with us, we would send them back to Heaven, as we had sent Michael, Raguel, and Raphael before them. Those that stayed, we would make part of our army. Michael would not back down without a fight; now that he knew better than anyone how to cause suffering, he would use it to try to force us to his side. Our only choice was to match his power, in an attempt to break his resolve. His brutality versus ours: this would be the universe’s first war.
Not knowing how Michael would try to break us, we decided that Anatu, Uriel’s beloved, was best sent away. The angel Dumuzi would take her to a human tribe many miles from here, where he could watch over her. They would call her by a new name, Ishtar, so that whispers of Anatu would not be heard in the nonphysical realm. With her safe, Uriel would be free to pledge the whole of himself to our cause.
Although this battle would be over the fate of mankind, it would not be fought on man’s Earth. We would vacate our bodies of flesh and return to Heaven, leaving a few to rule over man and continue the experiment of Eridu, as well as keep guard over the unoccupied bodies of the others. Uriel and Remiel volunteered to take turns guarding me, as I was the only one who could create new bodies for angels who chose to remain on Earth. As much as I was loathe to admit it, I remained the most important asset we had.
The days were empty without Saraquel. It made it easier to fight.
In the war, the angel generals took on the name of their banners so that the lesser angels knew where to follow. The banners were branded “of God,” and as such, the angels’ names were changed accordingly.
The Watchers of Eridu who joined the Sons of Light were as such:
Mesh remained Michael, “Who is like God.”
Tal remained Raphael, “God is healing.”
Rig forsook the name Raguel and became Gabriel, “God is my strength.”
The Watchers of Eridu who joined the Sons of Darkness were as such:
Enme forsook the name Gabriel and became Haniel, “grace of God.”
A-nu remained Remiel, “courier of God.”
En-lil forsook the name Uriel and became Ariel, “lion of God.”
Penemue became Hermaniel, “tablet of God.”
Ubara forsook the name Urakibarameel and became Rakeial, “design of God.”
Dumuzi became Tamaiel, “God is good.”
In all, these were the names and positions taken by the generals of the Sons of Darkness:
Haniel, who united the army.
Remiel, who led the charge.
Ertael, second to Remiel.
Ariel, who armored the troops.
Amariel, who protected the troops from enemy enchantments.
Rakeial, who supported Amariel.
Daniel, who harnessed for the army the power of Heaven’s sun.
Kokabiel, who read the skies.
Ramiel, who healed the troops.
Araciel, who armed the troops with weapons forged from the fires of Heaven.
Hermaniel, who was spokesman for the troops.
Hatriael, who drafted the strategies of assault.
Ezekiel, who rained punishment from the skies.
Sathiael, who supported Ezekiel.
Yehadiel, who led the charge on the waters of Heaven.
Touriel, who commanded the chariots.
Jumiel, who fixed the weapons that were broken.
Tamaiel, who organized the generals.
Kesabiel, who drafted the oaths that bound the army.
Sariel, who commanded the shadows.
Sariel, last among the generals of the Sons of Darkness, was an angel unknown to his comrades, but whose power was not questioned and his help welcomed.
They were called the Sons of Darkness because in the case of defeat, they were willing to forsake the light of Heaven and dwell among the creatures of the Earth. The rules of the war were simple: those of the Sons of Darkness whose bodies were vanquished in Heaven had their souls banished to the realm below--Earth--where they were trapped. If they wished to live again, their only option was to be reborn in earthly flesh, when or if Haniel awoke from the battle. If Sons of Light were vanquished, their souls remained in Heaven, awaiting the time that the war ended and an archangel would have enough time and stamina to fashion their bodies anew.
These rules were accepted because to be a Son of Darkness was to reject the rule of Heaven over man, so it was deemed a fitting end that their fallen would have to live among men, forever separate from Heaven’s host. Those who weren’t willing to accept that fate aligned themselves with Heaven. In the end, the host of Heaven was divided two to one in favor of the Sons of Light. However, the two hundred warriors who stood with Darkness fought valiantly, deeply aligned with their purpose.
Each general had a charge of ten angels, who fought night and day on the battlefield that was Heaven. Towers crumbled, land was seized, broken bodies were strewn about the glorious fields that had stood unchanged since the dawn of creation. The angels knew horror for the first time, and came to associate that horror with the other side, who had brought this change to Heaven. As the conflict wore on, their hatred of one another intensified, until they spoke of their enemy as one with the Chaos itself. One side would emerge victorious from this conflict, and both knew it was they whose hatred would be called just.