Prologue: Angels Would Fall

Zephyr searched through the Midplanes, using his leather bat-like wings to control the currents of air that lashed at his frame. The air was thick with an icy fog that was unknown to this region. It spoke of a disturbance in the Midplanes. The disturbance had been what worried his superiors.

So, of course, they had sent him to investigate. In their opinion, all of the others were too busy completing their wicked tasks. They couldn't be bothered with such a thing as a problem beyond their borders. But Zephyr knew the truth. They were afraid of wandering into other lands. Hell was certainly a xenophobic domain.

Slipping through the continents of Earth never concerned them in the least. It was easy enough for those of Hell to bring their familiar settings onto the land populated with those fickle creatures known as humans. He had always found it amusing that the creatures believed that Hell was a static place, forever centered in beneath the bowels of the Earth. Perhaps, it was this silly illusion that kept the mortals content. He could allow them their dreams...for now.

Though, he never understood why Hell insisted on moving his homelands around existence. Supposedly, it broadened their area of influence, which always pleased the Princes. Zephyr had never bought into that excuse. He believed his kind were still wary of the creatures they had battled for millennia--the angels. His kind wanted to avoid any premature confrontations with the beings that had slaughtered thousands of them in the first fight, the one that had given them their first true Prince.

It seemed ironic then that his brethren would choose to watch over the Midplanes. Aside from the Balancers, the Midplanes lacked any being that would be susceptible to their charms. There was nothing corruptible there. The Balancers were too immersed in their duties to heed the enticing promises of any of Zephyr's kind.

That didn't mean that he hadn't tried to tempt them several times. They were fun to mess with, until one lost his concentration and had to find the first available scapegoat. The Balancers were no angels, but that didn't mean that they couldn't leave lasting wounds for a few years. Still, the entertainment was worth the pain every few decades.

Zephyr turned on his side and rode the next current at an angle, letting his wing hang down and sweep through the gathering of pools that surrounded the Pillars. The errant splashes of water drowned out the droning hymns of those within the sacred circle.

Why did they always have to sing? It constantly got under his skin, making the cold flesh crawl. For the longest time, Zephyr had wondered if the reaction was from his lineage or if the sound was just that bad.

His flight soon brought him to the ancient home of the Pillars. It had been destroyed during the first battle when the angels had taken refuge near the final days. The demons had granted them no quarter and broken through the forbidden wards, driven on by the lust for victory and blood. Their opposing forces had proved to powerful for the Pillars to support and the massive slabs of stone had crumbled, crushing any creature that hadn't the energy to escape.

There were legends that the spirits of those lost in the tragedy still roamed this place. In all the years that Zephyr had visited the realm, he had yet to see any evidence to support the claim. Still, he quickened his pace as he crossed over the hallow ground.

Suddenly, a searing wave of power tore through his form, making his wings snap back as they lost their hold on the wind. His panic only lasted long enough for him to plummet toward the ground. Zephyr managed to right himself just before he hit the ground. Not fast enough unfortunately, as his hands smashed into the hard surface, straining the supernatural bones within them. His knees followed immediately after, tearing upon the ground and dousing the land in his thin red blood. He was still too young for it to have turned black like the others, which also meant that it took him longer to heal.

Zephyr howled and rubbed his throbbing palms on his legs. The ominous energy struck him again, forcing him to cower under its assault. He curled inward, driving his claws into his thighs in attempt to escape the pain.

It was too strong to have come from the Balancers. The way it sunk into his frame, seeping into the blood that flowed through him and setting it ablaze was an entirely new agony. He had only heard about it in stories and myths. Such power was only released during the death throes of an angel.

Was an angel here? Was that what was causing the disturbance?

The demon shivered. How could they do this to him? He was inexperienced and young. The First Battle had been way before his time. He had never even seen a real angel. How could they set him against one?

He knew they were angry with him for refusing to use his powers upon that stretch of land that was heavily populated by greedy humans ravaging the resources. The superiors hadn't even listened to his claims that the land was also home to a variety of exotic creatures, which had been leaving in peace before the humans arrived. To unleash a killer storm upon the area would result in their deaths as well.

"Zephyr, the demon who should have been born on the other side," they had taunted, sending another to do his job.

A grand scale quake had shook the place, leaving misery and grief in its wake. Zephyr had remained in his quarters the whole time, training his animal servants as the destruction took place. He hadn't been able to avoid the feeling of so much death as even his pets reacted strangely to the anguish in the air.

It wasn't like he was against death. He caused it all the time. It was one of his duties, aside from spreading ill will in general. He was also good at it. Unlike some of others, Zephyr had more than one source of power. The first was his shared dominion over the razing forces of nature and the other was his ability to work his influence over the animals. He could charm the most fearsome of beasts with a single look. Within two minutes, they would do his bidding without a second thought. Zephyr couldn't help but admire his servants for their power and their beauty. He did his best to avoid any sort of injury to them. It pained him to think that they had to suffer for the sins of another species.

"There is no place for a demon with compassion." They had used that phrase around him as well. It was so much a part of common conversation that Zephyr had developed a system of response ranging from simple nods to forced bows of respect. He was glad they never saw the bitter snarl or the flames of hate that smoldered against his bright red eyes.

"Help."

As the voice rose through the air, Zephyr felt another power brush against the harsh energy that pinned him toward the ground. This power was more familiar, dark and feral. It belonged to another of his kind. He welcomed the force, allowing his own weakened power to merge with it.

Slowly, the holy essence drained from his body, leaving him clear-headed and ready for action. He cloaked himself in his black power, using it as a shield against any further attacks by the dying angel.

Damn creatures! They couldn't leave well enough alone even in death.

Zephyr tried to search the lands with his eyes, hoping to find whom had called out to him and inadvertently freed him from his pain.

"Why won't they listen? They can hear. Why won't they help?" A child's voice, steeped in fear but still daring to hope.

So the demon was younger than him. That made things easier. Young demons were always seeking others to idolize and teach them the tricks of the trade. They were easily influenced. Maybe this demon could help him finish off the angel and put an end to the emission of its deadly power.

"Our kind doesn't usually frequent these lands, young one. What are you doing here?" Zephyr spoke to the mysterious voice, limping toward the source.

"Someone is listening?" the voice exclaimed as a feline bass echoed in the tone.

"Are you lost?" Zephyr asked, cringing as the angel's power heightened once more.

"Az...they hurt him. I didn't see. I called for Micael. He wouldn't come. I called for Rafael. He must not have heard. But Az won't wake up. He needs to wake up. Micael will be angry if he is late again," the unseen creature whimpered.

Micael! Rafael! Those were angel names! What sort of demon consorted with angels to the point where he called them by name?

He approached, battered by the waning strength of the angel's agony. Bright light tore through his vision. The demon stumbled upon all fours, wings scraping the ground with their clawed tips. Growling, Zephyr raised a hand above his eyes, fighting to see through the radiance.

Just ahead of him was the blurry shape of a stone slab. Crouched upon it appeared to be a black cat-like creature, only the beast was almost eight feet long and possessed crimson feathered wings. They were folded against its flanks as half of its whip-like tail draped over the slab; black flames sizzling near the tip. He had never seen a demon like this before, if that was what the creature was.

The cat started to turn its head to him as a wrenching scream came from a form beneath the cat. Zephyr shuddered under the force of the scream, wondering what would cause something to release such a howl. Being a demon, he had been an audience to a variety of screams, each more delicious than the first. Yet, none of these had ever possessed the emotion that poured from this one. It was entirely new to him.

A terrified yowl left the cat-demon and it nuzzled something stretched across the slab.

Idly, Zephyr noticed that strange light had started to fade. It was easier to make out the slab. For the first time, he observed that it was stained in blood and some drenched the cat's paws as it leaned over the other form occupying the stone. Driven by some strange curiosity, Zephyr drew closer to the slab, careful not to alarm the feline sentinel that sat upon it.

Along the slab lay the still form of a creature whose skin glistened like pure alabaster. Waist-length strands of hair, the color of white silk, haloed the body. Some tresses stuck to its body, glued by dried globs of blood that decorated its arms and legs as the creature lay on its side. Faded white feathers floated about the body though no wings were present. The reason for this had to do with the oozing remnants of bone that poked out from the figure's shoulder blades. Much of the flesh around the area was marked with deep bruises that would probably become permanent as could be told by their almost black hue.

One feather trailed down the air in front of Zephyr. Half of it still shone with an unnatural glow while the other looked no different than the untended plumage of a bird. Lining the mismatched whiteness of the feather was a faint red tint. It blended into the white, becoming lost in the snowy down.

Snatching the feather, Zephyr stared harder at the limp figure. Its body was covered in a thick streak of blackened blood that came from the gaping wound across its stomach. Parts of the torn flesh were burnt but the burns were more severe than any he had seen. They couldn't have come from the average flame.

The whole time, the creature never stirred. Zephyr felt an ounce of relief but it was mixed with a sort of sadness. The sadness annoyed the demon. Why should he be sad? This creature wasn't one of his noble animals. It had most likely deserved this treatment, though it had appeared to suffer badly at the hands of its assailant or assailants, which was the more likely circumstances.

Was it finally dead? Had this angel--for what else could the creature be--passed out of existence?

From the slab, the large cat mewled in despair. It raised its eyes to him in a plaintive display. Zephyr did a double take when he saw that one eye was sea green while the other was the same blue as the skies just before the onslaught of a storm.

"Are you going to help us?" the cat-demon pleaded in the voice of a child.

"Help?" Zephyr gasped at the other's blasphemy. "That is an angel!"

"I don't understand," the beast responded, cocking its head to the side.

"It is forbidden to aid one of them. Do you understand nothing, child?"

The cat-demon's eyes filled with fury. "The rules of our kind mean nothing to me! They have never helped me anytime in my life. The only one who ever has is Az." It tensed its claws and bared its fangs. "And for your information, demon, I am not a child! I am probably a great deal older than you. Now are you going to help us or not?"

Zephyr gawked at him, bristling at having been spoke to so rudely. "What does a demon care about the affairs of an angel?"

"Az is my master. My friend," the cat breathed, looking mournfully at the angel. "I don't know what happened to him. He called me. He sounded angry. But when arrived, he wasn't there. I searched the heavens for the longest time. I never would have found him if I hadn't heard his scream. He was hurt when I found him. He tried to talk to me but then he just stopped. I want Az to be all right."

"Forget about him. If he was your master, that makes you free now. You can return home."

"I have no home!" the cat-demon raged. "My only home was with Az. I won't leave him!"

It sounded so desperate. Zephyr was having a hard time ignoring that beseeching cry. He always found it hard to refuse help to an animal and this one acted as though it was in dire need.

"I guess I could tell you if he's dead," Zephyr conceded, dragging himself up to the slab and bending down over the angel. Thankfully, the angel's power had dissipated significantly and it no longer lashed at his tender skin. Resisting the urge to tear into the creature that had caused him so much pain without even moving, the demon carefully moved his claws across the angel's throat, seeking a pulse.

He looked up. "Your angel is alive but unless something is done for his wounds, the power providing his immortality will run out."

"What can I do?" the cat-demon pleaded.

"I still cannot understand why you would go through so much trouble for one that detests our kind," Zephyr complained, checking for any other fatal wounds on the angel.

"Tell me!"

"For the love of Lucifer, quit it with the hissy fit!" the demon snapped. "We'll take him back to one of my Earth haunts, okay? You're damn lucky that you look like an animal. I have issues with watching them suffer. So I'll help you with your accursed cherub."

Stunned, the beast hung its head, growling.

"No wonder they say I'm soft," Zephyr grumbled to himself. "I can't even leave an angel to die. Wait until the others hear about this." He tugged at his short blue-gray hair. "I know his name is Az, but I didn't get yours."

"Az calls me Lucifer."

"Lucifer? As in the fallen angel?"

Lucifer nodded.

Wasn't that just beautiful? An angel had given his demon servant the name of the greatest of the Princes. This must have been some angel. He wasn't appearing to be like any of the angels he had learned about.

Suddenly, a morbid realization took hold of him. He wanted to know about this angel. Could things get any worse?

"I've always liked that name," he told Lucifer as he roughly yanked Az into his arms.

The notion that he was holding a living angel almost made his head spin and he had to concentrate hard to stay on his feet. Az shifted as he was lifted from the ground. His eyes opened, glazed and unfocused. They were like newly formed ice, a perfect blend of blue and white.

By the Hells, they were beautiful! Yet, an animalistic anxiety shone from them as the angel tried to sit up.

"Why Micael? WHY?" the angel roared before collapsing back against Zephyr. He slipped back into unconsciousness.

That odd feeling had returned to the air. An emotion that Zephyr could not recognize. He was able to pick something up this time. The unknown emotion was clouded with that of something that he knew well. Betrayal.

Had this angel been stricken down by his own kind? Interesting. That sort of thing had only happened a few times and all of those had been before he was born. They had all been the result of a traitor among the ethereal ones. Was Az also a traitor?

If that were the case, then maybe rescuing him for Lucfier's sake wasn't such a bad thing. Fallen angels made amazing warriors from what he had heard. It might be advantageous to have such a powerful being in his debt.

"One more thing," Lucifer called to him. Zephyr turned to face the cat-demon, who appeared to be preparing to fly. Lucifer gave him a sober look. "Az does not like anybody calling him that but me. If you speak to him, I suggest you use Azrael."

Zephyr grimaced. He was through with formalities. This angel was at his mercy now. He could address him however he pleased.

But as usual with animals, his placating nature won over. "Azrael, huh?"

"The lieutenant of the Second Legion," Lucifer added.