The Last Battle for Heaven
There have been many wars since the dawn of civilization, all filled with horrors and unimaginable deaths, but none of them could ever compare to our war. When the Angels rebelled against God under the leadership of Lucifer, humans called it the "Civil War" of Heaven. Those words taste so weak as they are spoken, because Humans said them, and Humans did not see the war, they could not even see us.
The first attack was in Heaven, directly against God Himself. That time Lucifer was overconfident and he failed, but he and his followers did not give up and soon even more Angels betrayed God and went to stand by Lucifer's side. Only a handful of days passed before every Angel on Heaven and earth joined in the fight.
It didn't take long for the war to spill out of the holy land and spread across the earth we had sworn to protect. Angel killing Angel. Friend killing Friend. This was our war, people whom we had loved and fought beside for years beyond count were now our enemies and the fighting was relentless.
It's hard to say how many Angels died during the war, all we really know is that over a third of our brethren betrayed God and became our enemies.
Numbers alone saved us. Lucifer was a genius, Lucifer was perfect, but even he couldn't overcome our numbers. For a long time it was uncertain who would win, but during the Last Battle we all knew that Lucifer and his followers would fall.
I remember the field that day so well. It stretched out to the very horizon and everywhere you looked all you could see were Angels, whether they were fighting in air, on ground or lay dead.
The grass became bright red from all the blood and feathers littered the land. Lucifer's followers all fought with the knowledge that they would die. But they had to fight, because there was nothing left for them to do and we had to kill them because God commanded it.
Lucifer himself fought above us all in the sky against Michael. They had been like brothers, but now that day they fought with more hate than I had ever known possible.
I wish I could give you the details about of fight in the sky, but it's simply not possible. Even the greatest poet would be hard pressed to find words to explain how their swords clashed in the air and how their screams echoed in our ears.
Slowly we all stopped fighting with each other and turned our eyes to the sky and for a moment all of us below them were brethren again, watching on with horror. Suddenly we all knew that no matter who won, we all lost. We had lost each other and we could never gain that again.
And we never did.
Michael struck Lucifer with one final blow of his sword and the Angel began to fall towards the earth. I wept then and I was not the only one that day. Lucifer had once been the greatest Angel in Heaven, he had been the evening star of our people and now his twisted soul fell to the ground.
He would have died that day, but at the last moment he finally found the strength to spread his wings and although he could not save himself completely, when he hit the ground, broken and bloody, there was still breath in his lungs and life in his heart.
Michael descended, an Angel of Death ready to smite Lucifer once and for all.
Something happened then that no one expected. God stayed Michael's hand. God allowed Lucifer to live, because even after all of this God stilled loved all of us. To see so many die already must have hurt Him as much as us.
But God could not forgive them.
"Mark him," God said to us all. "Mark his body and mark his soul, for neither will be allowed back into Heaven for the rest of eternity."
There was a moment of silence as we all took in the punishment God has allotted him and it was almost too terrible to imagine, but Michael still obliged him.
Lucifer screamed as Michael cut the mark deep into his right hand and it was hard to tell if he was screaming solely out of pain of if he was trying to speak to God one last time.
"Mark them all," God commanded and panic broke out. All those loyal to Lucifer finally understood that they would never be forgiven for their sins.
They ran and most of them managed to escape. The wounded and those not fast enough were all marked that very day. They would live on earth forevermore and if they died they would go to Hell for the rest of eternity.
The war had ended and then the hunt began and I as a Power became one of the hunters.
"Uriel, the Messenger was just here," Samael walked into my room and I forced the sleep from my mind.
"News about one of the Fallen?" I sat up. The Fallen is what we called them now. We used to just call them traitors, but after Lucifer fell and God banned them from Heaven, the Fallen just seemed to suit them.
"Yes, one was caught the other day. It looks like their cloaking spells are getting weaker."
"I think we're just getting better at destroying their cloaking spells," I got up and splashed some water on my face. I was immortal, full of the Grace of God, had the use of powers beyond the comprehension of Humans, but still had trouble waking up in the morning. "What's that then? 15 left?"
"13, Gabriel got Agares and Foras last month."
"Oh right… Gabriel's good for something after all."
"Well you might not have to give him too much credit, he has Remiel as a partner, remember? I'm sure she does most of the work," he smiled and I smiled back at him.
With the last of these dregs we would finally be able to sigh in relief and rest, even if for only another moment more.
Immediately after the war ended a few of the Fallen had tried one last desperate attack against us, but in the end that only helped us to capture a few hundred all at once. We were not allowed to kill them anymore, it was considered a sin again and any who broke this law would become marked as they were.
I didn't mind staying my hand, having to kill other Angels was something I will have nightmare about for the rest of my existence. Even just putting that gruesome mark on their hands tore at my soul.
Whenever we found them, hiding in fear of both life and death, I felt nothing but the deepest sympathy for them, but even I cannot forgive them for what they did. There exists no punishment great enough for their sins.
"There was another part of the message."
"Something good, I hope," I felt a little nervous, Samael's voice had dropped a tone.
"The Dominions believe they may have found another Fallen near us, in the desert."
"I suppose we're the closest?"
"Yes and they want us to look into this immediately before he has a chance to slip away."
"Then why did you leave that until last?" I grabbed my metal staff, my hole weapon, and started for the door when I saw the look on Samael's face and the look in his eyes. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"… They think it's Ayman."
My staff seemed to grow heavy and all the noise in the room was suddenly taken by the wind. Had I hear him right?
"Ayman? They finally found Ayman?"
I smiled. "Thank God they finally found him. Justice will finally be done."
He nodded quietly, his eyes trained on the wall.
"We should go."
Even flying over the desert reminded me of the Last Battle for Heaven. The dunes of sand looked like the piles of the dead I had passed over as I flew into battle with new ranks of Angels. Their empty eyes stared up at the sky as though they had been trying to see His glory one last time before they died, their broken wings crumpled beneath them and their blood flowing across the grass until the field looks like Hell.
I was looking for Ayman then, but I didn't see him on the ground. Instead I saw him flying at me with over a hundred of Lucifer's fallen.
That was the last time I had seen that traitor.
Now justice would find him like it had the innumerable Angels who betrayed us and tried to overthrown God. The rest of the Fallen wouldn't last out the month, of that I was certain.
"Here! They said he was spotted in those caves!"
Jagged black rock loomed before us. There were hundreds of caves in those, it was a good hiding place, but we would still find him.
"You search high, I'll search low." I suggested.
"Sounds good to me!"
We separated mid-air as I swooped low to the sand, blowing some of it around me. To a Human it would have looked like a gust of wind suddenly appearing and then dying.
I reached the rocks moments later and settled myself on the ground. It was clear that his cloaking seal was still up from the message, but having been found meant it should be weak enough for us to find him.
All Angels could find each other, because we all felt the Grace of God on each other. It was like a candle in a dark room, bright and comforting and even though they were damned now, the Fallen still held onto that… at least, until they were marked. I was going to damn Ayman that day and it made me smile.
Then I felt it, like candlelight through the cracks wood, and I knew that Ayman was near me.
I went into the caves quickly, holding my staff at the ready for any attack. Samael wasn't far away; he would feel Ayman near soon and would follow it just as I was. I wanted to get this over before he arrived
The cave darkened as I grew farther from the entrance, the dark was good. I didn't want to give Ayman any clues that I was so near to him.
Soon his presence became strong and I was sure that I was on the right path. I didn't even need the light to find my way through all the twists and turns; the Grace of God was strong enough to lead me through any darkness.
Then I noticed light slowly building as I walked and I knew that I was getting closer to a fire, to Ayman's fire.
I turned a corner and found myself standing in a cul-de-sac, a dying fire in the centre and there against the far wall was Ayman, on his knees and drawing symbols into the rock with charcoal.
"Ayman," I spoke as softly as I could, my burning rage desperate to be released.
Ayman turned and I saw his raged face. It was drained of almost all colour and dark lines had formed under his eyes. He used to be very well kept, but now his hair was dirty and wild and a beard was growing. He was also thinner. He looked terrible, like he hadn't eaten or slept since the war, that his every moment was a waking nightmare.
He saw me and burst into tears.
At first I thought the fear of being found was too much and the realization that he was about to be banned from Heaven for all eternity had broken him, but then he began to crawl towards me, calling my name.
"Uriel," his voice was so meek now. He was a shell of the glory he used to be. He was almost nothing now. "Thank God you've found me Uriel!"
He reached me and wrapped his arms around my legs, too weak to even stand, and I realized that the reason he was crying was because he thought that he was saved. He thought that I had forgiven him and had come here to rescue him from the fate that had been laid out before him.
"Uriel, thank God!"
He disgusted me. I hit him with my staff with as much strength as I could muster and he let go of my legs and the force of my blow made him hit the rock wall.
"Look at yourself Ayman, aren't you ashamed!?!" I couldn't contain my anger.
"I am ashamed! All I feel is shame!" He sat up, looking at me with sad and confused eyes. "What we did was wrong! I know it was wrong…"
"Save yourself the trouble Ayman, there is no forgiveness for you now."
"I'm sorry I betrayed God. I'm sorry!"
"You didn't just betray God, you betrayed us… You betrayed me and God will not forgive you for that."
His tears rolled down his cheeks and he leaned forward. "Haven't you come to save me?"
"Don't be a fool. I've come to give you the mark."
Sheer terror ripped through his eyes and he backed against the wall. "NO! Wait! I have so much I need to say to Him! He needs to know that I've repented! I've seen the faults we made! I only want to right my wrongs! I want to beg you for forgiveness! I BEG YOU FOR FORGIVENESS!!!"
"God has decided that you will be punished."
He lunged towards me and fell at me feet, his hands reaching for me but afraid to touch. "Then kill me! If you kill me then I will be judged and they will see that I truly am changed! They will be able to judge me! And I will accept that!"
I crouched down on my knees and laid my staff on the ground. My hands went to his face and his hair and I smiled at him.
"Don't you understand? You've already been judged."
I pulled my knife from my cloak.
"NO!!!" Ayman tried to pull away, but I held him fast, pulling his right hand towards me. He screamed as he felt a pain I cannot even imagine, though for a moment I think I understood it. It was more than just the pain of having God's Grace taken from your body and soul, it was the knowledge that he had lost his home, his friends, his family, his life and his God and no matter what he did for the rest of eternity he would never get them back.
When I was finished I stood and I had to turn away. I couldn't bear to watch him writhing in pain and screaming for help, maybe from God, maybe from me, it didn't matter now. He was beyond help.
He was damned.
I picked up my staff and I made for the entrance, but I couldn't leave without saying one last thing to him. I still remembered him as he was before the war. We used to be Angels together, because we loved each other, because in life we had been brother and sister and when we died and became Angels we vowed to always be together and protect each other.
I don't know why things changed, but I know they did and I know we broke our promises to each other.
"I don't forgive you brother. I shall never forgive you."
I left him and his screams and I never saw him again.
Samael was waiting near the entrance, his eyes closed as he was deep in thought. "You're going to hate me, but I have to ask, were you able to do it?"
"His will be done, right?"
I tried walking past him and Samael grabbed my arm. "Answer me Uriel. Did you give him the mark?"
"I gave him the mark on his right hand. He shall never go to Heaven again. When he dies, he shall go to Hell and I will follow him for doing it."
He was silent for a long time, his intense silver eyes staring into my very soul.
"This was God's judgment, you will be forgiven for this. How could you not?"
I smiled through my tears. "Because I don't want him to."
Soon the other Fallen were found and marked and the world seemed to be a peace for a moment.
I never saw Ayman again; in fact I rarely saw any of the Fallen. After they were marked they managed to find the perfect cloaking seal, many of them went into hiding, in the hopes of keeping themselves alive for the rest of eternity.
But some persisted and we found another name for them. Demons we called them and we found a new purpose in life. No longer were we just protecting Humans from each other, but now from Angels as well. And we would protect Humans from those we once loved, because an Angel will sacrifice all they have to give in His name.
Earth and Heaven will remain safe because the Angels will protect it.
(I wrote this today and I posted it today, probably the fastest short story I've ever done and put up to the public. And why? Because I wouldn't let myself write as much as I normally want for short stories – like 20 pages and up – which made it a lot easier to shape and edit. I'm starting to like this actually short, short stories idea. This is written for a web comic I write for, Archangel, and I wrote this because this war is mentioned in the story but I don't want to involve all of this because it is too complicated! So this is to get it out of the way and tie up some of the things hinted at in the comic. I purposely left out when this takes place, but you can imagine it was several, several thousand years ago. All these characters show up in the comic at one point or another, so it's also nice to see some of their background. Also, yes I gave the Angels sex and yes I made Angels originally Human, this is just my artistic interpretation; so don't worry about it too much. Now the brother thing was always planned and it's something only hinted at in the comic and the reason why you don't know until the end was because I wanted you to see Uriel do something pretty extreme and then learn that she was doing it to someone she loved. This story is also asking a bit of a question, which I leave up to you to answer: Did Uriel mark Ayman because God told her to, or because she felt so betrayed by her own brother and doesn't let go of grudges?)