The Archangel Michael waited. He heard the warning claxons, not heard since the Great War and extended his senses to the Guardians at the Four Gates. Each had turned its attention skyward. They all locked onto a streaking meteor blazing brilliantly over the horizon heading toward the Celestial City. He moved toward the center of the city and rose skyward, his two wings slowly carrying him into the storm of Heaven. Rain covered him once he was beyond the radiance and he welcomed its cooling embrace. He felt too little these days, filled with the administrivia of managing Heaven. The unknowns of battle were his meat and drink, figuratively speaking, since he rarely ate or drank. This new threat was what he was made for.
The fireball moved fast, fast enough to be nothing but a threat. The outer defenses did nothing, as he had asked. He sensed they would not be enough as it approached them. He saw them cringing as it flew overhead, with a heat terrible enough to burn an angel. Heaven made ready below him and Gabriel stood by beneath him should he not be enough. There had never been a threat that ever took more than two Seraphim to deal with except for Him. And this, this clumsy thing was not his way.
Michael summoned his power and his two wings became four and his two eyes became four. Flame began to rise from him and his four wings became six and his four eyes became six and flame began to come from them. He increased in stature and his glow cast a light onto the Celestial City. He opened his mouth and began to sing in the tongue of Enoch, the language of Angels and could hear the Litanies of Heaven being sung below him, and the city harmonized with him.
He moved away from the city and flew out over the wall, gaining speed, preparing to stop the fireball before it even reached the city. The Four Guardians activated their Enochian patterns and the City’s radiance hardened, a great shield protecting the walls of Heaven and its attendant suburbs. Michael streaked away from the Celestial City, a brilliant star, as tiny as the fireball was huge. He could feel the heat. He could smell the smoke as it passed through the air, miles away, he could feel life. It was alive… He could hear it screaming. Seconds away, he prepared himself for the impact.
Jehoel watched awestruck as Michael streaked away.
The skies above Heaven were momentarily lit with the light of a thousand suns. Multiple streaks of lightning covered the dark sky. These flashes were arrhythmic but constant, and the rumble of thunder cascaded ceaselessly. There were clouds but their movement would be strange to an onlooker. If one were to watch one would see this was a never-ending storm, moving constantly. It always rained here. Sometimes less, often more, but it never stopped, and had not for at least six and half centuries. Moving through the cloud cover and dodging the lightning were tiny flying figures, some human in appearance, others not so much, heading to and from a magnificent city of immense size in the distance. Its magnificent spires and minarets, towers and cathedrals, skyscrapers and monoliths all glowed with a pure radiance that soothed the weary flyers, or walkers who approached the city and came within its glow.
This city provided the only other light visible in this place. A steady source of golden light similar in tone and warmth to a gently rising sun. The only difference was the light did not illuminate the darkness past a few hundred miles from the city proper. Beyond that region was darkness, only punctuated with the never ending flashing of lightning in this permanent darkness. There had not been a sunrise in Heaven for almost seven hundred years.
A flying cloud of winged eyes dipped down from the sky and approached the Easter Gate. The breathtaking speed of its approach was noted by the sentries and by the city itself. The cloud of eyes began to slow as it came down to the Eastern Highway and merged with the oncoming traffic. The Celestial City proper is a huge structure, a perfect cube, but there were the Celestial suburbs as well and these stretched on for hundreds of miles outside of the City walls. To imagine the City properly one would have to image a cube on one of its points, half above the ground, half below. There are dwellings in both halves of the city and all types of entities lived there.
Jehoel Softspeaker was returning to the city and hated the traffic that had been growing worse in the recent decades. She was an Angel of Mediation and returned from a negotiation with nearby Paradise Realms discussing terms of merger with the Celestial Host. She had been unsuccessful in convincing these other paradises to join with the Host in the coming War. Elysium wanted nothing to do with the war. They would not commit any of their divine resources, energy or heavenly servants to the cause. The Celestial Host was not trying to coerce anyone into serving, at least not yet. There were many angels negotiating on the behalf of Heaven, each going to realms they were familiar with and welcomed.
Jehoel was told to return to the city and report the results of her trip. Waiting in traffic would take several days before she would be able to enter the city, and while she waited, she Sang. This close to the Celestial City, everyone sang while they waited to be admitted. The walls of the city comprised of precious stones, resonated, reflected and refracted the songs of the approaching visitors or residents. Each stone of diamond and with flecks chalcedony returned the exalted songs of Heaven to its visitors in a way that soothed their souls, warmed their bodies, calmed their spirits and ensured everyone, no matter how long they waited, no matter how cold or tired they might be, were in a perfect state of bliss when they entered the shelter of the city.
The songs, each different, each unique to the singer created a greater harmony as they were woven together in a magnificent chorus lead by the wall’s sentry angels. Clockwork mechanisms were seen patrolling the walls of the city. Great machines that resembled a variety of natural creatures, great lions with greater roars to match, capable of melting steel, bears with huge paws with stone rending claws, and clockwork eagles flapped their mechanical wings in the rain, circling the city in every rising spirals, each wing the length of a football field and capable of shaving the edge of a diamond. Heaven was known for its automatons of clockwork, each a veritable work of art from an Angel of craftsmanship and their attendant servants. Each piece was completely unique, and possessed of a singular nature that allowed each to come to life and fulfill a task assigned by the Angel upon their completion.
This song was heard throughout the realm as an echo in the soul of every person who came to Heaven. It was the Celestial Beacon and often when humans were in the act of dying, they could hear and see the Beacon as a tunnel of light they were drawn inexplicably toward. When you arrived here, you had to walk, down one of the cardinal roads which approached the city on one of its four points where each gate directed you into the Celestial City where you began your new life as a servant of Heaven. The Celestial Beacon was nearly irresistible to anyone who arrived in Heaven but if you chose to resist it, you were able to reach the only other destination here, Sheol, the City of the Archangel Lucifer Light-bringer. This other city has a variety of names, Dis, the City of Brass but it was most commonly known by its residents as Hell.
There are other Paradise Realms for the non-believers and with those the Celestial Host were in good relations with, had portals to those Heavens were accessible from here. As the primary religion remaining after the Compact on Earth, nearly all souls passed this way before they went to their personal Reward. Unaffiliated souls were able to be directed to whatever Afterlife they believed in but they were processed at the halfway point between Heaven and Sheol. Nothing is known of those souls that are processed there and the Angels there do not speak of it. Traffic between Heaven and Hell was always a constant as souls that had been released from hell were slowly migrated toward Heaven and newly arrived souls that needed the cleansing fires of Hell were directed there. All in all, an efficient arrangement.
In the central processing center of Heaven, where the spirit energy of prayer was processed and stored for later conversion into illiaster, cocoastrum and aether, there was a problem. This problem had presented itself in fits and starts for the last decade, but recently, it had grown to new proportions. Enough of a problem, that it needed someone to look into it, preferably by someone who would not make the problem worse, be seen by Humans and thus cause a religious event. Once upon a time, such a schism might not be such a bad idea, but now schisms divided resources that should be spent best on the Celestial Host, not on any rival gods or god-lings, trying to make a comeback against the Holy Church.
A shooting star in a place that has not seen stars for the dark clouds that perpetually cover it. Unconscious and unaware of her peril, as she fell, she burned. She burned, not from the fall but from that which made her fall. A machine unlike anything she had ever seen. She had existed as long as the Celestial City and had never seen anything like this thing. It was more fearsome than the Malakim, warrior angels to heaven, whose wrath and ferocity have few equals, more horrific than the great Iron Golems, with their hidden hearts, that protected the Gates to Heaven and whose gaze, when released, destroyed all things, mundane or celestial. But the greatest wounds she suffered were caused by the devastation of a place that had never truly know war, until now. The destruction of the Lands of the Great Spirit tore her heart as she plummeted to the ground in her own rain-soaked Heaven. Her mission to the Lands of the Great Spirit were more than a failure…
She arrived in The Happy Hunting Grounds expecting what she always experienced there. Blue skies, except when it was needed to rain, warm days, and the sun shining overhead. It was a place so beautiful that if she did not know this was Heaven, a particular heaven, she would think she was back on Earth. The great plain below her was always covered with buffalo migrating from west to east covering the ground from horizon to horizon. This was her memory of the place, beautiful, grass-covered plains with verdant wildlife, and spiritual beings enjoying their ease in this paradise.
It was not what she saw when she crossed The Veil Between Worlds.
There was a pyramid, immense and coal black, standing in the Great Plain where all visitors to the Realm first appeared. Jagged bolts of black lightning leaped from it and struck the ground around it. Where it struck, creatures made of stone and glass, six legged, vaguely horse-like rose from the Earth. Ferocious, these creatures immediately joined the fray. Their screams chilled her blood, and their speed, grace and lethality became immediately apparent as the creatures engaged anything living within range. The black pyramid had doorways open upon it sides and creatures streamed forth like black locusts or black ants, and anything touched by these clouds was stripped to the bone in seconds.
The ground rumbled constantly as if it were experiencing an earthquake. Distant mountains already aflame with fire and smoke erupting. This was a paradise realm, volcanoes were simply impossible here. The air was choked with sulfurous smoke. The fields of grass were blackened with burns and the buffalo lay as charred skeletons across the plains from horizon to horizon. There were no spirits in repose, they were in battle against a variety of foes, whose eyes burned with a bright light akin to searchlights. And the things those lights touched, burned. She hovered in the sky above a battle, her hundred eyes taking in everything, the wind, the smoke, the flames, the battles both on the land and in the air.
She heard the howl of Coyote and saw the flash of lightning from the Thunderbird. They were surrounded, standing guard over the bodies of the Great Bear and the Rattlesnake. Each in their iconic forms, they were twenty to thirty feet tall. Each of them glowing the power of the Great Spirit of this place, each a guardian of their people’s spirits. Those spirits were fighting for their very existence against enemies whose skin was like stone, dark and heavy and deflected the lightning from the Thunderbird’s flapping wings. Coyote howled again and the creatures stopped their advance, shook and exploded into shrapnel fragments destroying their brethren who were proof against his howl. The Thunderbird’s flapping wings created a great wind driving the shrapnel away from the gods’ defensive position.
The Great Bear rose to his feet, having taken one of the black pyramids strikes directly to his chest. Towering over his enemies, bleeding profusely, he released a mighty roar and waded into his enemies again. The spirits of Men were here along with these godlike icons of this realm. They wielded magic and weaponry, ancient and modern with great effect but the enemy was numerous and powerful.
Medicine men summoned lightning from the burning sky, striking the ground with great explosions, casting defensive spells from their tribal staves against the burning light of the hexapeds. Tribal women wielded clouds of feathers from their headdresses as flying razors slicing into the armored hides of the enemy. The women conjured and the Earth opened and swallowed their giant enemies.
Horse thundered into the fray, his shining and sharp hooves flashed and dispatched enemies in a single strike. And yet with Coyote, Snake, Bear, Boar, Horse, Crow, Eagle and Thunderbird, all iconic gods of this realm, they were unable to stem the tide of the battle. The best they could do was to hold their own and refuse to give ground.
This battle raged for days. Nonstop. More Men appeared, more weapons appeared. No quarter was asked for and no was given. The horrors were supplemented by the hunched forms of man-like creatures each with huge hands, misshapen heads, each with the strength of ten men. There were monsters that flew and breathed a liquid fire all over the battlefield. Others bled acid, some had flaming vision. One by one the gods fell.
Bear fell first, surrounded by Men he led into the fray, they held their ground protecting him. Bear had engaged several of the enemy’s larger ogre constructs and slew them all. He began to move toward the center of the enemy line, confident he would be able to disrupt it. His bear men, wearing an armor of bearskin, channeled his ferocity and his power, each of them filled with the strength of a great bear. He lent them courage and ferocity and they took the vanguard toward the structure the invaders arrived in. The men fought with great axes headed with razor sharp obsidian. They were once legendary warriors in life and in spirit they were even greater.
The tower targeted Bear again and black bolts flew like arrows toward him. His men leapt to his defense and time and time again blocked the blast, each giving his life for a few more yards. Bear drew closer to the center of the battle. The tower redoubled its efforts, and soon Bear was forced to take those strikes himself. He never stopped moving and mere feet from the largest of the ogre-like giants leading the battle, he was struck with six black spears of lightning. So fierce was the strike, for a moment, the entire area was hidden in darkness. When vision returned. Bear was dead. His men fought on but without the ferocity of Bear they were soon overrun and trod into the mud.
Snake crushed creatures and spit venom across the battlefield but he was the next to fall. Large winged dragons dropped down from the sky and savaged him and all were unable to reach him so embattled they were, all they could do was watch. Snake wrapped his coils around the aggressors and bite one of them who died as the venom burned through it. The remaining dragons released their liquid fire and Snake burned and died. In his death throes, he squeezed the life from the remaining three dragons. The dragons and Snake thrashed about and when the smoke cleared the dragons and Snake were still.
She watched, her hundred eyes remembering every detail, every creature, every structure, every shadow, every movement, spell, construct, machine and every sound that took place on the battlefield. But she took no other action. It was not her way, nor her duty. She had already predicted the outcome of this battle. Her actions would not change that outcome, only delay it. This information had to be returned to the Celestial City, so she watched and waited.
Raven and Coyote fought side by side, while the Thunderbird and Horse had been split apart from them. Boar lead a group of humans and buffalo against the enemy and they managed to reach the foot of the pyramid. A cloud of darkness exploded from one of the open doors and the darkness covered them. When the cloud disappeared, only bones remained. Boar was unaffected and proceeded to climb the pyramid. Lightning struck him as soon as he touched the pyramid, but his rage was all consuming, so he kept climbing, even as the lightning carved holes in his flesh, he kept climbing. His screams were heard all across the battlefield and were so horrifying everyone stopped and turned to watch. As he reached the main door on the pyramid, a man stepped out. A tiny man compared to the giant form of Boar. He had two flying snakes over his shoulder, each with scales of iridescent black and huge feathered wings. The snakes open their mouths and a terrible light surrounds Boar. His movement slows and his tusk stops mere inches from the strange man in the red cloak. The two snakes scream again and Boar is blasted into chunks of stone that land at the foot of the pyramid.
There was nothing she could do but return to the Host armed with this information. She could feel the Raven and Coyote sealing the realm and any passages to other nearby heavens. She knew that if she planned to leave, she would need to leave now. The Thunderbird bought them time by intercepting the lightning strikes directed at them and reflecting them back into the enemies legions. Instinctively she knew this was nothing more than a test. These creatures could have won this battle days ago, they were simply testing their capabilities against this relatively weak Paradise. They would be seeking stronger test subject soon.
As she turned to go, She could feel the will of the Enemy directed upon her. She made ready her magic and could feel Heaven on her mind as she tried to Transit. Her computations indicated she would not make it. In those seconds, she compacted all of her observations, conjectures, calculations, her dreams, her love and her life and sent them before her, a sigil streaked away into Transition; being without mass, it could transition instantly. The black pyramid extended a great cannon from the point and swiveled it in her direction.
She flew faster turned her eyes toward the sky. It was only then did she realize hundreds of other pyramids were descending on the Happy Hunting Grounds. Only one had devastated nearly every major deity in residence. They would not know this. She had to make it home. The Great Cannon fired and she was enveloped in flame.
She transitioned into Heaven, taking the flames with her.
Michael became aware of a waveform approaching him and stopped. He was far enough from the suburbs of the Celestial City for the confrontation. As the waveform reached him, he realized what it was: the Resonance of an Angel. The last will and testament as it were; all they knew, all they dreamed, all of their life was encoded in the Resonance. It was hers.
He braced himself and flew directly at the fireball, he would have to time this just right. At the moment of impact he separated becoming Guardian Michael and Warrior Michael. Guardian grabbed her from within the fireball and slowly descended to the ground, she was covered with burns, and all of her eyes were closed. Her wings were burned off. Her flesh crackled and sizzle with the energy of her life-force oozing out of the cracks. He covered her in his Light and she was soothed. But Michael was not very good with Light so he could do little for her but ease her pain, and protect her from his Warrior.
Warrior extended its four wings and blocked the path of the fireball and the sky lit up with its pallid sickly green color. Warrior thought he could control the explosion, his powers were strained to their limit. Moving through time, he summoned other versions of his temporal self and they combined their powers increasing his ability tenfold, but even that was not enough.
The sphere seemed to only grow stronger the longer he delayed it. Warrior extended his awareness into the flame and saw this weapon only grew stronger the longer it was delayed in reaching its target. The weapon only grew more powerful the more energy he put into trying to stop it. Whoever this was, they knew the defenses of Heaven too well. The Guardians at the Gates would have tried to annihilate this only increasing its power. They counted on someone trying to delay or attack it with energy weaponry. He knew he had only seconds to decide how to deal with it. Since he had already summoned his temporal selves he knew instinctively that time was the element needed. He directed his power and his temporal selves into moving the object through time but not space and his temporal selves surrounded the object until it would have reached the Celestial City. In those seconds, the Guardian erected a shield over himself and her. Nothing would penetrate it. He only hoped the Warrior would not need it more.
The bomb detonated lighting the skies of heaven in every direction, and a fierce shockwave swept from Warrior Michael’s position. Gabriel ran from the gates of the city and moved as if time had no meaning. He streaked through the bomb blast debris as if it was not moving. The Gate Guardians directed their vision toward any debris that moved through the clouds and destroyed it before it could reach the outskirts of the suburbs. Gabriel took five seconds to reach the Warrior as he fell from the sky. Warrior Michael had lost an arm during the explosion and was blackened and burned. His wings were shriveled and mere wisps of their former greatness.
Guardian Michael was also unconscious. His left arm was also gone and he was covered with burns, but he protected his charge from any further harm. Gabriel angry that Michael had insisted on doing this alone was incredulous as his Light began to heal the catastrophic injuries Michael had suffered. Michael was an Archangel, what could do this to him?
Jehoel Softspeaker, along with everyone else standing outside of the Celestial city cowered as the super-hot winds blew through the streets, miles from the bomb blast seen in the distance. She had not been the only agent to return unsuccessfully. It would appear our enemy has decided to let the Host know of their intentions.
Heaven was at war.
He plummeted from Heaven, with only two of his six wings still with him. He left his other four with his other selves protecting Her. Gabriel would be furious. Guardian Michael was still aflame from the unknown soul-fire weapon. Sensing the threat, he carried it away from Heaven aware of a hidden payload as yet undelivered. He could feel the frustration roiling inside the weapon, trying to combine itself, attempting to decide what to do, being foiled from its target. He could sense its consternation, feel it building toward a quiet rage, the further from heaven he took it.
In his translation from the Eternal City, he fell through Time and Space, the weapon trying to escape him had unanchored them from both. He would not be shaken off and could tell he was no longer connected to anything he knew. He had shrunken his previous sense of the universe and had become aware of only this particular moment, aware only of his need to disperse this weapon.
The weapon tried to free itself of him. Changing it shape it became a dodecahedron whose sides were as sharp as razors. He held on. It became viscous acid, burning him, he held on. It became a deadly gas, whose touch would sear the flesh from anything living, its toxicity burned him, seared his cocoastrum-laden flesh, tearing from him, his magic, his gifts, stealing from him all that was of the White Host. He held on.
Heaven fell away and he could no longer hear the Great Storm and its perpetual lighting and thunder and the light of Heaven receded as he reeled into the Darkness of the Void. The Eternal City was safe. Nothing this weapon could do now, could harm it. A pang of regret as a moment of foreknowledge revealed to him, the loss of Heaven and never returning to it. All that mattered was to take this weapon as far from the Eternal City as possible.
He struggled to hold on to what he was, but the weapon was more powerful. His choice to leave part of himself behind and sacrifice this guardian aspect was the right one. He could sense the Great Divide and piercing it he could feel the Earth and the World of Men far below him.
The cold of space meant nothing to him once. Now he was aware of it, a brief respite from the weapon tearing at his essence. He tried to steer the weapon toward the ocean but his strength flagged and Eurasia spiraled into view as he plunged into the atmosphere, thick, heavy, phlegmatically slowing his descent. It would not be enough. If he could not destroy this before it touched the Earth, Eurasia would no longer exist.
He sensed the flow of Time around him again, and his perfect awareness of himself in relationship to the All returned. Two minutes. He had two minutes at this speed before he reached the ground.
He reached inside and realized he would need to give everything for this. The fireball was glowing brighter after it touched the air and lit the sky for thousands of miles. A change had begun inside the weapon. It had begun to alter itself for its final form. A long tail of fire followed it as he reached inside of the weapon and tried to wrest control of the core of the weapon from reaching its final state. He grabbed it. He realized he could not control it, nor could he Send it anywhere, his strength was gone.
He placed it within himself.
He gathered the vestiges of his strength and connected himself to Heaven to channel the power of the Host one final time. The weapon’s sentience realized what he was doing and tried to prevent that connection, stabbing him with fire thorough out his body. It did not matter. He did not let go of the flaming sphere. His wings pressed against it, surrounding it, enveloping it. He held its igniting weapon inside of his ethereal form, protected from its arming core. The weapon raged, thrashed, screamed in a booming voice heard in every direction for five thousand miles, and he did not relent. His mind began to shatter as the weapon tore him to pieces, his ethereal body surrendering its manlike shape for its more divine countenance of energy.
His energy surrounded the weapon, bound it, controlled it, shaped it and seconds before it plunged into the great forest of Tungunska, he forced it to release its bound energy, and the explosion flattened the forest. Not a tree was left standing for over two hundred miles. At the center of the explosion, the trees were literally vaporized for almost fifteen miles.
There was a vortex of swirling energy that glowed there and wrestled there for ten days. He held that unholy fire in abeyance as his mind failed him. All he had left was spirit. His spirit was unrelenting and in the end, it was enough. The few men, wayward vagrants who managed to cast their gaze upon this battle were driven blind if they stared for more than a few seconds. Most could not help themselves. Only the most pious realized and turned away.
Later, when scientists arrived at the center of the explosion, they expected a crater. They found none. They expected radiation. They found none. They expected to find a reason for this event. They found none.
All they found was a man, who lay near death at the center of the explosion. He was naked, scarred beyond recognition, without clothing in a Russian winter. No one knew who he was and he was expected to die before sunrise of the following day. He did not.
He did not speak, nor know his name, he was blind and deaf to the world. The old woman who saw to his care and would come to love him in the following years would name him Mikhail.
Fallen Angel, excerpt from The Aspect War © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved