Author’s Note: First chapter of Volume 3! Hope you guys are enjoying the story so far!
Volume 3 – Chapter 1
He stepped out of the mist and into a large courtyard where, surrounded by an impenetrable fortress of thick-trunked olive trees, the angels congregated, pausing in their flux between the world of man and the world of the divine to rest, to find, to learn.
It felt like years since Sariel had last set foot in Paradise and, recalling how quickly the passage of time flowed in the world of mortal men, he realized it probably had been.
As he stepped forward, according to custom, the angel shed his earthly form, revealing wings long-kept hidden. In this world they shone, a soft light as thin as mist spreading out above his shoulders in a nebulous form, weighed down only by the consuming darkness present at their own edges.
Moving along the rough surface of the dirt path leading forward, Sariel prepared to consult with the Lord, in hopes of gleaning information on the future proceedings of him and his companions. Though the courtyard was particularly full of other heavenly beings, he found his path unobstructed, although that was hardly a surprise.
Ignoring the stray glances and whispers of his divine companions, their wings shining, nearly blinding him with their purity as they trained their eyes on his own dark specimens, the unmistakable mark of an angel of death.
They tried but, even for angels, it was hard for them to hide their unease.
In time, though, Sariel passed from their view, fading from their memory until the next time he was forced to taint their gathering place with the aura of humanity once again. He was glad for it–after so long detached from the isolated community of angels in Heaven, he found it hard to remain in their company for any extended period of time.
Unfortunately, after traversing the winding path towards his rarely-visited respite, he discovered that he was still not truly alone. Ahead of him, leaning against the gently-curving trunk of a well-kept tree, its nameless fruits shining like precious gems, was an angel. He wore his hair, the color of melted gold, long, and it flowed with his pure-white robe in the gentle breeze.
Even from one hundred feet away, his smirk was unmistakable.
“Greetings, Sariel,” he said, bowing his head slightly. Sariel, though he would have liked to keep moving, stopped, knowing full well that the price of not acknowledging him was not one he was willing to pay. “It’s rare to see you here. Are you heading to speak with our Father?”
“Yes,” Sariel replied curtly, and offered no further explanation.
The golden angel’s smile widened.
“I will let you go in a moment,” he said, the glowing tone of his voice doing much to indicate his perceived charity at the future act. “Although, He has much to talk to you about. Perhaps I will help to lighten the load for Him? Some of the news He is prepared to deliver has spread already, and I am fully willing to let you in on some of the knowledge.”
The fact that others knew of the reason for his summons struck the angel as odd, but he pushed it from his mind–he would know soon enough, either way. Deciding not to waste another moment engaging in the tug-of-war his companion so thinly-veiled as simple pleasantries, he moved forward, brushing past the angel in front of him.
“Save your breath, Barchiel,” he said. “I will speak with Him myself.”
Sariel had been fully prepared to leave it at that but, in typical fashion, Barachiel was not. As Sariel advanced briskly on the path, the angel behind him called forward, his self-righteous voice drowning out the floating birdsong, the swaying of leaves in the gentle breeze, even Sariel’s own heartbeat.
Commanding silence from all else, Sariel heard nothing but the words.
“Remiel has turned.”
Silence reigned for a moment, an infinity, before all of the sounds rushed back in at once, beginning with the rustling breeze and cascading onwards, the entirety of his environment collapsing inwards on itself. All that was silent, it seemed, were his breaths, his footsteps, both halted.
Slowly, the dark figure turned to face the golden-haired angel, his eyes narrowed.
“What did you say?”
“Remiel turned, a small number of days ago,” Barachiel repeated, trying, unsuccessfully, to mask the satisfied look on his face in response to delivering the news. “She has sided with them.”
For some time, Sariel stared at the ground, following the progress of a small beetle crawling across the path which, before making its way fully across, took flight, buzzing past his ear and rising into the leaves of a nearby tree. With some effort, he met Barachiel’s eyes once again.
The messenger’s face didn’t change. “You know I’m not.”
Then, suddenly, Sariel’s body began to move, his feet pounding the ground softly as he began to stagger slightly forward, toward the line of trees in the distance.
Of course, Barachiel wasn’t finished.
“That’s not all,” he said, his voice reverberating in Sariel’s skull. “I still haven’t told you how you’re involved.”
Sariel didn’t want to hear it, but he found, amazingly, that he had rooted himself to the spot, his body no longer moving in accordance with his thoughts. Barachiel continued.
“Out of us all, you knew her the best,” he said. His mouth had sunk into a straight line, but it did nothing to hide the interest blazing in his blue eyes. “That kind of relationship comes with a special privilege, as you know. Now that she has turned, it is up to you to deal with her.”
The angel’s breathing, silent up until then, rang in his ears, each breath in seeming to sear his lungs, each out to boil the air around him. He feared what the angel was about to say. He knew, but he wished he didn’t.
“It is a great honor, Sariel, and I hope you will treat it accordingly,” Barachiel said, no longer trying to hide the smile spread across his face. “You are lucky, in a way. The rest of us are only permitted to watch, to halt her effects and no more. But you. You get to go a step further.”
His smile might be presumed righteous, by any other passing angel, but to Sariel, in that moment, it was nothing other than sinister.
“You don’t simply get to watch her,” he said. “You get to kill her.”
He did not wait to see Sariel’s response, walking away immediately upon completing his final declaration of his rival’s good luck.
Sariel didn’t notice. He simply stood, those final words ringing in his ears, the ghost of something now lost burning in his mind. He bit his lip, and took a step forward.
Minutes, hours, days later, he found himself in the forest, glancing at the light as it filtered through the canopy, bouncing off of leaves and casting his face in shadow. His palm lay on the rough bark of an ancient oak, his eyes cast to the ground, his thoughts still reeling from the revelation he had never been prepared to receive.
He stared at the ground, and he thought.
Finally, the light faded, making way for an unforgiving darkness that he had scarcely witnessed in the forest before. Whether it was from physical fatigue or simple mental exhaustion, he let go of his restraint, giving into the weight of his thoughts, his past.
After so long waiting, he sank to his knees and, amongst the trees, separate from all but his creator, he asked the one question that he could not imagine the answer to.