Azfiel plummeted to earth, his broken and burned wings trailing limply behind him. Tears ran down his face, washing pale tendrils through the soot that coated his features. He tried flaring his wings to increase the drag, slow his descent, perhaps gain enough lift to try and hurl himself against the Gates again. All he succeeded in doing was making his shoulders scream in agony.

He squeezed his eyes shut as the golden grassy plain below rushed up beneath him, and prayed for the dark release of Oblivion. How foolish, that he of all beings should pray. What was the use? No one would heed him.

He slammed into the ground, feeling his bones shatter and crack. He burrowed into the earth, digging a crater at least twenty feet deep. A herd of zebra skirted towards the lip of the hole, then darted away. Azfiel reached his left hand up, begging for their aid. "Please… please…"

No other beings came near. Azfiel tried to move, to try and get closer to the sky. His legs and his wings refused to heed them. Every inch of his body ached, all his limbs but his left arm broken. He lay in his crater, weeping. He could not starve to death, or die of thirst or heatstroke. No, that would be too simple. For him, death would mean a return to the place he had just been cast out of.

An angel could not die.

He lay in the crater for an indefinite span of time. The cycles of mortals meant nothing to him. When he again found the strength to move his atrophied, recovering muscles, Azfiel stepped into the blazing sun of the plain. A tribe of wandering mortals saw him step into the light and flare his broken wings. They cried out in alarm in a language Azfiel could not understand. They leveled their spears and fled as quickly as they could. Azfiel tried to follow them, but he lacked the strength to keep up.

The angel collapsed to the ground, panting with exhaustion. A lioness slunk from the waist-high grass and inhaled his scent. Her tongue curled around her teeth, and her nostrils flared. She delicately stepped over him and continued on her way. Azfiel was almost offended. So now he wasn't even good enough to be eaten?

He hauled himself to his feet, and began limping in another direction. He came to a watering hole, and chased away three zebras with an Aramaic curse. An elephant mother bathing her calf some distance away eyed him warily. "Oh, be at peace," he snapped. Azfiel bent down and drank deeply, and washed the grime off his body. He then washed the worst of the grime of his tunic, though even he had a hard time believing it was once white.

He glanced down at the rippling water and raised an eyebrow at his reflection. His once heart-shaped face was now sunken, his eyes rimmed with dark circles. His hair had grown long, and he pushed it off his shoulders. Azfiel shrugged and donned his tunic. Now, where to go? He needed a destination.

If only he knew where he was…

Well, there were zebras. And lions. And elephants. So. On the southeastern central landmass, most likely. He hadn't explored it extensively, as the humans here were not yet advanced enough to merit the attention of the higher powers. Their concept of the Hierarchy was rudimentary at best. And when he was out Seeking, he had made his focus primarily on the Eastern Lands, especially the Islands of the Rising Sun in the Far East.

Before the Trumpet Calls, he had been a scout for the Hierarchy of Heaven. He had flown out, bringing the light of the Almighty to all corners of the world. He had taken one final mission just before the Sixth Trumpet resounded through the heavens, and was just returning as the Seventh rang out, closing the Gates of Heaven forever, sealing Lucifer and his Fallen Legions out. Unfortunately, Azfiel and several other angels were also barred re-entry.

Together, he and those brave angels had mounted an attack on the Gates to try and force their way back in. Michael and Gabriel had led the defensive against them, though their hearts were not in their attacks. Even then, all of Azfiel's Forsaken brethren had been completely obliterated by the heavenly force, their life energies burned out. Only Azfiel had been 'spared'.

He flared his tattered wings and spat into the pool of water. Even if his wings ever healed, he would never get back into Heaven. The Gates were barred to him forever. He could not open them again of his own power. Man was, in a sense, lucky. They did not know Heaven yet, and they had never tasted the feeling of soaring through the air on pristine wings. Best of all, they had free will. Even forsaken and cast down from Heaven, Azfiel was not free. Should a proclamation come, he would have no choice but to obey.

Never again could he be free, never again would he fly through the skies in blissful happiness. Never again…

"Sucks, doesn't it?"

Such coarse language. And Aramaic… No one in this land should be speaking Aramaic. Azfiel looked up to see a man sitting on a stone in the middle of the watering hole. Unlike the native mortals, his skin was ghostly pale, and a pair of burned, blackened wings flared up from his back. He was beautiful, but his beauty held a cruel light, almost wolfish.

"My dear comrade, look at you. How could They have done this to one such as yourself? You have done no wrong. Why should you pay for the faults of others?" the other angel purred as he strode across the surface of the water. He helped Azfiel to his feet, and winked. "If you come with me, I can help you. Get you where you would like to go. Or perhaps… become something greater somewhere else."

Azfiel shoved this strange being away. "Do not try to take me in with your lies, Prideful One! I know who you are, foul tempter! Get away from me!"

The other angel licked his lips. "All right, young Azfiel. I merely come to tell you that we share a similar interest. We both want to go back to where we have come. Should you disagree with my methods, I must respect that. But should there come a time when you change your mind, you need only speak my name. And I will come swift as lightning to your side." Then, he vanished without a trace, the only remnants of his presence faint footprints in the dirt.

Azfiel wandered the world of Men for a long, long time. He left the southeastern landmass and made for the northern one, by way of a strait at one end of the sea in the middle of the earth. He traveled through that land for many moons, where the people all had pale skin much like his.

Over time, he found he could indeed fly again, but he dared not soar through the clouds as he once had. Perhaps the Legions of Heaven would see him, and strike him down once more. He would preserve his precious gift by never using it.

As he walked through a dense forest on one of the islands north of the continent, he came to a field. On the field, mortal men fought on foot, on horseback, and in chariots. The screams of dying men and animals filled the air, accompanied by the metallic smell of blood.

Azfiel clenched his fist. This was not the first time he had seen war, but the first time he had been so close. When the Almighty had lived close with the mortals, this didn't happen. Because the angels had let the mortals go, they had abused their free will. Only their return could bring peace. And they weren't apt to do that of their own volition.

Only Azfiel could bring order back to the world.

"Lucifer… I'm ready."

The angel with darkened wings appeared next to Azfiel in a heartbeat. "I knew you would see things my way eventually. Come, my armies are prepared."

The world around them blurred, and Azfiel found himself standing on a large cliff, overlooking a plain. On the plain massed legions of demons, all of the regiments led by one of the Fallen Angels. Lucifer raised his hands high. "My minions! The time has come for our final crusade! Now with the aid of Azfiel, we shall once again rush into Heaven! To wing, take flight! Go, and strike with all the fury of the pits of Hell!"

The demons and Fallen Angels spread their wings, filling the air with the sound of unfurling feathers and snapping membranes, the clattering of weapons and the crashing of armor. Lucifer placed a delicate, pale hand on Azfiel's shoulder. "We will draw the fire for you. Get to the Gates, and throw them open. Then, follow my army and we will reclaim Heaven. We can reshape the world in our image."

Azfiel nodded, and launched himself into the air. His wings flared out with a satisfying thwap. As the Forsaken Angel wheeled amidst the Legions of Hell, he flew without fear. No heavenly power would dare strike him down with an army like this at his back. He soared up through the clouds, relishing the feeling of flying once again. Oh, how he had missed that. He was tempted to break off and soar around the world, just like old times, simply because he could! But no… he had a duty. And the world needed him.

The army mounted up to Heaven, and flew at the Gates. Angels soared out and met the legions, their blessed weapons glowing. Azfiel darted through the battle, making directly for the Gate. He wrenched the golden chains off with one quick, decisive motion, and flung the portal wide.

From across the battlefield, Lucifer cried out with savage glee, beating his wings to join Azfiel. His black wings rained fire and brimstone down on the battlefield, incinerating all they swept over. He twirled a black chain in his gauntleted hands, and wrapped it around the left gate. With a savage wrench, he ripped it from its hinges, and flung it away.

Azfiel cried out. "What are you doing? The Gate is open! Why destroy it?"

Lucifer wrapped his chain around the second gate. "I must destroy the symbol of my oppression." He jerked back with a roar. "I am the Fallen Morning Star! Look upon me, Almighty, and tremble!"

"I'll pass, thank you," a composed voice intoned. There was a flash of light, and Michael the Archangel appeared before the Fallen and Forsaken. He shook his head. "Azfiel, Azfiel… How could you be taken in by him?"

"But… the world needs us…"

"The mortals have free will. What they do has always been their choice. We can no longer guide them. They must make their own mistakes."

"How naive!" Lucifer shouted, and drew swung his reaping scythe. "Michael, you'll be the first to Fall!"

Michael drew his broadsword with calculated precision. "I think not, my old friend. You see, I fight for the power of Good. And that is always greater than the power of Evil."

"We'll see! The Universe favors entropy!" They met with a boom, and Lucifer fell back with a cry. Michael stood over him, with his broadsword leveled at Lucifer's neck.

"There are powers at work greater than those of Nature. If given Hope, Order will always triumph over Chaos."

Azfiel sank to his knees. The power of Heaven called to him, as surely as dawn follows night. Michael had subdued Lucifer with just one stroke. Truly, his power was greater than that of the Tempter. The Archangel lifted his sword high.

"Now, with all the authority vested in me, I banish thee and thy foul minions back from whence they came!" A brilliant light shone from the blade, and Michael himself. The demons and Fallen Angels screamed in agony as their very essences were ripped from their bodies, banishing them back to the pits of Hell.

The light cleared, and all that remained was Lucifer, Michael, and Azfiel. The Gates were repaired, and Michael glowed with holy radiance. "Such… Such petty drivel," Lucifer spat. "I will never be vanquished."

"And Heaven will never fall," Michael sighed. He lifted Lucifer with one hand, and threw him back down to Earth. "So long as Hope burns in one breast, I will never yield." He waited until Lucifer's enraged scream faded.

Then, he knelt beside the Forsaken One. "Azfiel… What am I going to do with you?"

Azfiel felt tears flow down his cheeks. "I-I can't come back?"

"No… I'm sorry. Not now." He led Azfiel to the edge of the Heavenly Plain. "But perhaps, someday…" Then, Michael shoved Azfiel off the side.

The Forsaken Angel tried to use his wings, to fly back. He wouldn't Fall again! But his wings refused to heed him; the feathers were sloughing away with each passing instant. By the time he crashed once more to Earth, his beautiful wings were gone.

Azfiel clawed his way to his feet and cursed Heaven.

Then, he blinked. He could curse. Curse Heaven! Almighty, Michael had given him a precious gift! The Forsaken Angel rolled his shoulders back, relishing in his Free Will. He may not be able to get to Heaven again for a long time, to experience that divine bliss. But Michael had given him a chance!

The Archangel had made Azfiel a Man!

Azfiel laughed, long and loud. Well, perhaps he would have a chance to get into Heaven after all. But Michael shouldn't be expecting any tribute any time soon. Azfiel knew better than anyone that one didn't need a religion to get into Heaven. He slowly began to walk, ready to forge out onto his new destiny. Then, he began to laugh again, as he realized what he had become.

An agnostic angel! What a preposterous thought!

A/N: This is my entry for the December Writing Contest Challenge, sponsored by the Review Game Forum. If you read and enjoyed this, make sure to vote for it between December 8th and 14th.