|There was a cold breeze in the air as Michael stood at the podium. In front of him, the Choirs of Angels filed into the main meeting hall little by little. The bitter chill complimented the rather dismal scene in front of him. The general of the Most High’s armies had seen worse over the years and did the best he could to ignore it.|
Seated on either side of him, were the other 6 great Archangels, leaders of the Celestial World. The large council hall seated thousands of angels, all of whom listened intently waiting for Michael to speak. The last of them had taken their seats sucked in a deep breath.
The long war had dragged on for eons, costing uncountable angel lives. For years, the angels fought against the armies of Lucifer to no avail. It seemed as though the war would continue until the angels were all but extinct, but a daring campaign carried out by a small group of angels had turned the tide of the war.
The thousands of occupied seats were dwarfed by the seats that no longer had an owner. Those empty seats had lost their occupant either to war or treason. The scene was a sad reminder of everything that the war had cost them.
Michael had taken his rightful place as the leader of the Nine Choirs of Angels. It was a job, some thought, he had let go to his head. Not that he cared, others could have criticized him all they wanted, but in the end, he was still the leader.
Michael stood in front of the choirs and looked out on the chamber that had been carved of Ivory and marble. Like all else, it had been badly damaged during the war and needed to be rebuilt. Large craters had shattered the marble floor tiles. The holes in the ceilings were singed black from firebomb damage.
Michael did the best he could to ignore the dismal scene as he addressed the Choirs, “Brothers and sisters, you all have good reason to rejoice. For after years of watching our brothers and sisters being cut down in ruthless combat, the war is mercifully over. Our little gambit, paid off and four of our bravest warriors breached Lucifer‘s position, forcing him to surrender. He has since been driven out of the Celestial World by the Most High and punished for his crimes.”
Michael sighed before he continued, “However, peace is not yet ours to enjoy. There are still those out there that remain loyal to Lucifer and his cause. It is true that the bulk of his force has been disbanded, but we believe that there are still some creatures in our midst that remain hidden. I can assure you all that they are being hunted down and will be brought to justice.”
A deafening applause erupted from the Choirs as now peace was actually within their grasp and the Most High could continue his plans to create a child race in his own image. Michael smiled and nodded as he too joined in the celebration. He allowed the angels to rejoice for a few moments before raising his hand again to regain their attention. The large chamber immediately quieted down at the sight of Michael’s gesture.
The smile never left Michael’s face as he spoke, “Thank you, brothers and sisters, this is truly a day to rejoice, but I regret that such celebration may be shadowed by business that we still must to attend to.”
Michael’s gaze left the choirs and turned to the entry way next to his podium. A guardian, who was just standing at the door waiting for a signal, returned his look. Michael nodded to the guardian, which prompted him to exit the chambers.
Minutes passed and the specter of curiosity loomed in the chambers. What did Michael want the Choirs to see? Could he have captured another traitor?
Suddenly, the sound of clanking chains could be heard from outside the room. It sounded as though someone was struggling against heavy metal bonds. The noise served to elevate the curiosity of everyone in the room as they waited to see who it was.
A moment later, the guard reappeared followed by an angel covered in blood that was practically being dragged in by her chains. She was shackled at the arms, legs, and neck. Her wings were weighted down to prevent her from being able to take flight and the look on her face was indicative of pure hatred.
The guard pulled her forward onto the main stage. She defiantly refused to move, making the guard’s job even harder. If anyone was going to publicly humiliate her, then they were going to have to work for it.
Michael shook his head and looked back up to the Choirs, “My friends, I must inform you that we have captured one of these agents and not just any one either…”
As the archangel spoke, the young angel refused to look at anyone and instead kept her eyes fixated on the massive walls of the Choir Chamber. She had always been amazed by the sheer size and intricacy of this hall. It had somehow been hand carved almost completely out of marble and ivory. Murals on the wall told the stories of angel’s deeds throughout their history. She smiled to see one of the divine temples being set to flames. She appreciated that someone had seen fit to immortalize her work.
The entire design of the chamber was beyond anything anyone could image, but something about it was different than the last time she had seen it. The burn marks and blast craters in the walls almost ruined the tranquil view. She remembered the battle early in the war that had caused this damage. It was the first battle that she had been a part of.
Not a day went by that she had not regretted Lucifer’s decision to fall back rather than risk heavier casualties. Being Lucifer’s military strategist and general, she was certain that they could have occupied the Celestial Temple in one swift stroke had they continued to press forward. It just didn’t make sense, yes her forces were being bled, but they had inflicted far more casualties than they had taken. Falling back was a critical error on Lucifer’s part, and it would prove to be one that would cost them everything.
Her thoughts were broken as Michael spoke directly to her, attempting to get her attention, “General Xaphan, step forward, please.”
Xaphan moved defiantly closer to the podium where the Archangel stood. Michael watched her every move, waiting for her to try to break free of her bonds. She made no such attempt and kept her hands tucked away behind her.
Many of the angels were dismayed by the sorry state she was in. Xaphan was at one time a respected soldier in the armies of the Most High, even Michael was sorry to see how things had turned out. It definitely was not helping morale.
Xaphan wore a tattered black outfit that flowed below her knees. It was all she was allowed to keep after being stripped of her sword and armor. Her pale white skin was filthy and scarred. Her wings were missing feathers and covered in blood, most of which was not her own. Her black hair was a mangled mess from weeks of her being too busy to tend to it. She breathed in deeply as her pale blue eyes looked up scornfully at Michael.
Xaphan’s glare pierced right through Michael’s presence and it was as though she wasn’t looking at him at all. She didn’t even acknowledge his presence. To her, it appeared that Michael was little more than an obstruction standing in the way of what she was really looking at.
Uriel followed Xaphan’s gaze and noticed that her eyes were fixated on the Celestial Temple and the chambers of the Most High. A partial smile appeared on her face when she saw that much of its damage had not yet been repaired.
Michael noticed where her attention was too, but dismissed it as he began speaking. Almost to spite Xaphan’s gaze, Michael spoke in a tone that wasn’t speaking to her at all. It was more like he was dictating to her for all to see, “General, I assume you know why you are here.”
Xaphan gave a defiantly unenthusiastic nod and spoke through her teeth, “I do.”
“You have been charged with treason, espionage, wanton destruction, and plotting against the Most High,” Michael said in an accusing tone. “The evidence against you is absolute. We have examined everything in great detail and have found you guilty on all counts. Have you anything you wish to say before your sentence is carried out?”
Xaphan quickly turned to the other angels in the hall, “I fought for you… all of you. It was Lucifer’s wish to see you all freed from your bondage. The world that the Most High is now creating… it should have been for us! It is ours by right, but he would give it to some child race that would only scorn him! Ours was an eternity of servitude… I wanted something better than that for you! I am not the monster that many have you have been led to believe I am. That monster stands in front of you in the form of an Archangel!”
Xaphan pointed an accusing finger at Michael, “He would see you remain in bondage!”
Screams of support for Michael and angry cursing was spewed in Xaphan’s direction, but she ignored it and continued speaking, “I wish I’d never given you fair warning to evacuate the temple before we attacked! I would willingly give up my wings to see all of you burn for this!”
The words hurt Xaphan as much as she was certain they angered the Choirs. She didn’t mean much of what she had said and still cared about the friends that she had betrayed, but they were words that she felt they needed to hear. She still desired to see them free, above all else, and if she was to be a martyr for this cause, so be it.
As the yelling got louder, Uriel stood up, “Enough!”
Michael shook his head as he looked down at Xaphan. He felt a twinge of anger himself as the room quieted down, but as he was about to speak, another voice spoke up.
The voice cut in from the back of the chambers. “I request to be heard.”
The room fell silent as every eye turned to where the voice had come from. Michael smiled, “Ah, one of our local heroes. If anyone here has earned the right to speak before the council, she certainly has. The floor yields to you, Adalyn.”
Adalyn immediately flapped her wings to elevate herself off the ground and gently glided down to the main floor of the chamber. She touched down gracefully and brushed the hair out of her face. As though defending Xaphan from attack, Adalyn stood in front of her, blocking Michael’s gaze, “Brothers and sisters of the Nine Choirs of Angels, I have come before you to plead for mercy on behalf of my sister.”
“What are you doing?” Xaphan whispered in a demanding tone. “I don’t want your help, get out of here.”
“You are my sister. No matter what you have done, I still love you and don’t wish to see you harmed.”
Xaphan sneered and turned her back on her defender as archangels looked at each other oddly. The room suddenly erupted in quiet whispers and gasps. They were intended to be low, but there were enough of them to make a ruckus. Michael raised his hand to silence the noise, “You have earned the right to speak, but judgment has already been passed against her.”
“I realize that Master, and I’m sure that whatever you have decided to charge her with, is more than appropriate, given the magnitude of her crimes.”
Adalyn lowered her eyes as her tone became pleading, “However… I would like to point out that while she is responsible for the initial attack on the faithful, and responsible for the damage to the Celestial Temple, she did not shed a single drop of innocent blood by her own hand. Lucifer was the architect of the massacre. I also happen to know that you have proof that she gave us sufficient warning before burning the temple to allow our people to evacuate.”
Uriel rolled his eyes, “Please make your point, young one.”
“My point sir is that despite her attacks, despite the fact that she sided against us, and despite whom she cast her lot with, she has been an honorable foe since the first days of the conflict. Even as it dragged on, she still maintained a strict code of honor. I should know, because I fought against her on several occasions. That honor is the only reason that many of us now stand here in judgment of her.”
Michael nodded, “I am aware of that, Adalyn. However, being an honorable thief does not make someone any less a thief. I would think that after all the time and effort you put into catching her, that you would understand this.”
“I do understand it, Michael, but there is a difference between understanding and agreeing.”
“That is something you will have to come to terms with. I’m sure your sister appreciates your efforts on her behalf and you have secured your honor, but the decision has already been made and there is no further room for debate.”
“Still not willing to listen to reason?” Xaphan scoffed. “It’s nice to see that nothing has changed in eons. You would think…”
Uriel stood up, “Silence you!”
Xaphan turned back to face Uriel with a malicious grin on her face. He snorted at her defiance, “General Xaphan, for your crimes you are hereby banished from the Celestial World. Personally, I would have preferred it had you been removed from existence, but ironically enough, the Most High still cares about you and has decided to show you mercy. We are therefore sending you down to be with your mentor, Lucifer.”
Xaphan hissed as she suddenly shook off her shackles, revealing that she had broken free of them earlier, and was waiting for the chance to escape. She dodged around the guard when he tried to grab her. Before anyone could react, she spread her wings and launched herself into the air. It looked as though she had a clear path to the exit when Adalyn suddenly appeared in her way.
Having no way out, Xaphan landed a few steps away from the door with her fists clenched. Her eyes met her old friend with contempt and worry, “Get out of my way, Adalyn. Don’t make me hurt you.”
Adalyn moved her arm downward in a thrusting motion. A blade appeared in her hand which she pointed it directly at Xaphan’s throat, “I’m sorry sister that is not going to happen and I don’t think you’d hurt me even if you could. Stand down; I don’t want to have to fight you again.”
“And if I dont, are you going to kill me, Adalyn?” Xaphan asked in a malicious tone.
“I don’t want to. Please don’t push it that far… sister.”
The two glared at each other for a moment. Xaphan could see the tears in Adalyn’s eyes as she stood, ready to strike. Though a loyal servant of the Most High, Adalyn would have preferred to allow Xaphan to get away. She knew what fate lay ahead for her sister and had to resist the urge to stand aside.
Adalyn knew the consequences of making such a decision and held firm. Xaphan sighed, she hated her sister for getting in her way, but at the same time, didn’t like seeing her in pain, “Very well my dear sister, you win, but this is not over between us. Someday, our positions will be reversed and you will be staring at the end of my blade. Don’t expect me to show you anymore mercy than you have shown me. I will kill you.”
“I know that, sister… I know…”
Xaphan raised her hands and turned back to Michael, “So it is damnation for me then?” She hissed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather suffer there than serve here!”
Michael sighed, “After a few eons in the world of shadows, you may find yourself regretting those words General.”
“I don’t plan on being there that long. I will return with an army… and the temple will be consumed in flames once more.”
Not wanting to argue further with Xaphan, Michael snapped his fingers. There was a sound of glass shattering in the distance and suddenly Xaphan noticed the feathers on her wings beginning to look odd. She watched as the roots of her feathers slowly turned black and then each bristle of each feather also slowly began to turn.
Within moments, her wings looked very much different from those of her brothers and sisters. Her feathers were blacker than even the largest void. They quickly began to match her dress and hair.
Xaphan looked at her wings with disgust and began to feel unsettled. As their color changed, she began to notice that her wings were getting extremely heavy. Each feather began to weigh her down more and more. It became much harder for her to remain standing. Her breathing became labored as she struggled to hold herself up. Though she did not want to show weakness, eventually the weight became too much for her, causing her knees to buckle, and give out from under her.
As Xaphan collapsed, her defender stepped forward. Before Adalyn could do anything, Xaphan raised her hand and signaled Adalyn to stay away. She then turned back to Michael, “What… have you done to me?”
Michael’s expression did not change, “You are being banished, and your wings will never allow you to fly here again. This will ensure that you can never return.”
“Is this really necessary?” Adalyn demanded. “She’s struggling and can’t stand or even move. Your sentence was banishment, but this is more of a horrific death sentence, how will she survive without her wings?”
Michael sighed, “Her wings are too heavy for her to fly here, but when she reaches the Netherworld, she should be fine. They should not be such a burden to her there.”
“Master, I beseech you, reconsider this! There must be another way! Such punishment does not befit angels. This is far too cruel for…”
Adalyn turned away from Michael and looked down at Xaphan. The intense pressure from the weight of Xaphan’s wings felt as though it would crush her. She looked up weakly, “Michael… please…”
Adalyn felt the tears began to fall down her cheeks and rushed to her sister’s side. She grabbed one of Xaphan’s wings in a futile attempt to take the pressure off her back, “Sister, forgive me… Had I known that this would happen…”
Michael thrust his hand forward at the two angels. Adalyn lost her grip on Xaphan’s wing, went flying backwards, and landed on one knee a few feet away. She glared at the archangels as she got back to her feet, “Michael!”
“Adalyn… It’s time for you to leave. Your intentions are honorable and so they shall be noted, but you are getting in the way and allowing your emotions to bleed through. This can no longer be tolerated from the floor. You are compromised, leave now.”
“Under protest, Michael! I want that on the record too!”
Adalyn stood up and reluctantly walked to the doorway. Her eyes were locked on Michael as she disappeared from view. She looked back only once at her sister with tears in her eyes.
As Adalyn disappeared from the watchful eyes of the Choirs, Michael turned his back on Xaphan and raised his chin, “Be gone.”
The mist beneath Xaphan could no longer handle her weight and gave out. She quickly began to sink through the cool surface as the weight of her wings pulled her down through space and time. Just before she disappeared from view, Xaphan raised her fist into the air and uttered one last cry, “Forever freedom!”
As Xaphan fell, she began to notice that the further she plummeted, the less her wings weighed. Much to her relief, she was quickly able to slow her decent by spreading her wings as far as she could. They caught the air, allowing her to hover as she proceeded downward.
Moments later, there was a bright light and a flash of energy. She was temporarily blinded by the light and did the best she could to remain hovering while her eyes adjusted. This was it; the light was her path out of the Celestial World.