Author's Note: This is a redo of the very first chapter. I am rewriting the whole story so far since I was displeased with the turn out so far! Please comment and tell me which of the two first chapters you prefer! :) I am trying to lengthen the story, and also make it less confusing and predictable!
I continued on my way towards the Grand Hall. The crisp and cool night air bit at my exposed skin, goosebumps covering my arms. It was serenely peaceful. The lanterns lit the way like little beacons of guidance, and the starry sky above gave the city an even more regal appearance.
As I approached the palace, columns loomed over head. Ornate, ivory carvings decorated the royal walls, and the moon was reflected off the polished tiles beneath my feet.
I paused in front of the large double doors that stood before me, guarded by two knights. They remained motionless like statues before bowing before me.
"The Lord expects you. Proceed."
The iron doors creaked open, allowing me to enter. The fire lit hall glowed amber. The stone, white walls painted with a red tinge as the flames danced high above in the golden chandeliers. I kept my gaze ahead of me where the royal throne stood. With a bright flicker of a flame, I could make out the face of Lord Engel—ruler of Vangaard. The City of Angels. His wings remained furled behind him, and his posture was that of one you would expect from royalty.
Though he appeared emotionless, I could catch the smallest glimpse of fear in his eyes. It was at that moment that I knew this meeting involved the utmost importance.
Kneeling before his feet, I cast my eyes down to the ground. My reflection was easily visible, as was the suspicion in my blue eyes.
"You need not kneel before me, Baleon," the Lord's voice reached my ears in the silence of the room, and I rose to my feet. I did not say anything, but only awaited intently for him to reveal his concern.
Lord Engel stood from his chair, walking down the steps of the throne and pausing before me.
"Follow me," he stated, his tone containing the faintest hint of urgency. We walked briskly down the hall, the iron doors opening for us to exit.
"My Lord, why was I called here?" I inquired, my suspicions only growing at the Lord's refusal to answer. I picked up my pace to keep up with him, a small wind ruffling the white feathers of my wings. I tucked them close to my back, trying to avoid the cold as best as I could.
We continued on in unnerving silence, and I couldn't help but feel unsettled by all of it. It really wasn't like him to be so cryptic—nor so nervous and stressed. I caught the eyes of several passing civilians, each bowing respectfully before their Lord. It was as if Engel's uneasiness was infectious, for each passing angel seemed to tighten in uncertainty and hurry off. They seemed keen on avoiding us, probably noting the clearly troubled expression of their leader.
"Lord Engel, I do not mean to be a bother, but I must ask again, what is it that is so important?"
"I cannot say, Baleon. Not here."
His hushed answer was enough to hinder any further questions I had at the moment, though the irking sensation in the back of my mind was not completely satisfied. I merely acknowledged his wish with a dip of my head as I averted my attention to our destination. It appeared as though we were making our way towards the Haven. It was a holy place, used mainly for blessing ill souls and soldiers that were to be sent to war. Although it served a great many purposes, I could not comprehend the reason as to why we were going there.
Despite my growing concern, I forced my questions back into my mind and held my tongue. It was not in my nature to be ill-informed, but with the circumstances, I'd just have to oppose instinct.
Climbing our way up the stone steps of the Haven, I can see the apprehension in my Lord's eyes. He cast an uncertain glance back at me, perhaps to ensure I was still following before pushing open the doors to the entrance.
I took a hesitant step forward. It had been years since I had entered these walls. Centuries even. It had only been a blessing for my time in war. Wishing me the best of fortune, and asking the divine spirits to guide my wings to safety. But even now as I stood in the center of the great sanctuary, overrun with spiraling vines that twisted and clung to the stone columns, I could see it hadn't changed at all.
My eyes wandered the holy structure before reverting back to Lord Engel who walked up the steps to the pedestal. I did not follow but watched from where I stood. He collected a clothed object and proceeded to return down the steps, carefully unwrapping the item as well.
"I'm afraid we haven't come here for prayers," he frowned, pausing in his movements. "Over two thousand years to this day was the time of turmoil. The time of chaos for the people of Vangaard. Greed, jealousy, and hatred drove brother against brother. Kin against kin. I created the Trials of Truth to protect all innocent from the sinful hearts of the guilty, sending them to the depths of the core on the planet we swore to protect as angels. As guardians of Earth."
"Not everyone agreed with my decisions, but I had to do what needed to be done. I could not—will not let my kingdom become rampant with blood spill under my rule. I cannot say that I have no regrets, Baleon. I have many. But as a ruler, I had to stand by my beliefs. Not doing so would not have fulfilled my duties," he stopped at the foot of the steps, his eyes dull and grave.
"I'm not saying my beliefs are right. I'm not saying anything I did was ever right, but at the time it was what we all needed. However..." he looked as if pained to continue. As if the words were impossibly difficult to form. The recollection of those dark times had done all it could to make me feel as dismayed as I had during that time two thousand years ago. I remembered it all. I remembered everything. Those memories had not been forgotten, and I knew just as well as him, that they never really would be.
"However, that time is over."
And all of a sudden, I began to feel exactly as I did during the first attack on our kingdom. It had been an attempted invasion of a small, neighboring city called Tiskala. Angered civilians had formed together to take the small city under their command, giving them an extreme tactical advantage towards invading Vangaard. I had been the one to lead the regiment that would ultimately stop the invasion, but the idea of our brethren assaulting their own homeland to destroy our very homes sickened me to my very soul. I had been filled with great grief, but perhaps more strongly; dread. Dread because I knew this was not the end. No. Only the beginning. I knew more of our comrades' blood would be spilled. I knew this one victory was only a message. A message that clearly stated we had grown corrupt.
"Baleon, I never thought I'd have the misfortune of ever bestowing this upon you again, but the times have turned and I'm afraid the era of peace is at an end," Engel lifted a corner of the cloth, uncovering the black and silver hilt of the ancient blade that I had once wielded those two thousand years ago.
"The Sacred Dagger had been placed here in this sanctuary to spend the rest of it's time in a peaceful rest. Reminding those who pray under this roof of the grief and sorrow that war had brought. But today, it rests no longer," he took the dagger by the blade and offered the hilt to me. "Once again I must ask you to never let this dagger escape your grasp. Wield it for the sole purpose of restoring peace to this world and the world below. Lead your army to victory, Commander Baleon."
I gazed down at the weapon before me, knowing that it was my duty to protect Vangaard and Earth. No matter the cost. I curled my fingers around the black hilt of the dagger and lifted it from his grasp. Strange. Though it had been so long ago, the blade still seemed so familiar within my hold. I bowed before my Lord, placing the dagger in the sheathe by my hip.
Engel dipped his head in return, an almost grieved look upon his face. I looked up at him, a question that had still gone unanswered escaping my lips.
"My Lord, what has happened?"
"The seals. On the surface. The magic has faded over the centuries and is nearly dispelled. Those who had been sent to spend the rest of eternity in the core are threatening to escape. It could happen any day now," he responded quietly. I could tell he felt responsible for this. He was as fearful as anyone would be, but the brave face he put on was none other than what a leader would do.
"I-I see," I hesitated, the sudden realization making my head spin with apprehension and overwhelming emotions. Just the thought of those vicious souls that had been damned for the rest of time escaping the depths made my stomach churn in tight and uncomfortable knots. It was obvious they would do everything and anything to take their revenge.
Though they came from this holy land, they were no longer of our kind. They were no longer angels. They had grown dark. They had become shadows of who they were before, deemed to forever live in punishment of their actions. It was harsh. I remembered during that time that I myself had felt pangs of sympathy as their wings were removed with the very blade I know possess; The Sacred Dagger. The only blade that can remove the divinity of an angel's wings. I knew it had been necessary. Any other path we could have chosen, and we would probably not be where we are now. But just as he said, it did not come without consequences.
"The seals... can they be repaired?" I suggested hopefully, knowing probably far too well that the ancient magic could only be applied by very few, and those few had passed.
"Believe me, Baleon. If they could, I would full-heartedly do so. Sadly, the magic that we once knew has all been forgotten. In times of peace, one does not need the knowledge of such spells," Engel sighed, the bags under his eyes highlighted by the dim firelight from the torches along the walls. Sleep, it seemed, had not been kind to him these past few days.
"Surely there must be something we can do!" I blurted out, unable to contain my worry. "Shall the seals break, there is no telling of what they will do! We may not be able to contain them. The world below may suffer the wrath of their revenge!"
"I owe you an apology. I know it is unfair of me to place this weight on your shoulders, but if anyone could lead the armies against them, it is you."
I looked at him with my widened gaze, my lips tightly sealed. My chest felt incredibly tight with the hastened beating of my heart. It felt hard to breathe, and I had become so tense with out my knowing. I released the breath I had been keeping in my lungs slowly, running a hand through my dark brown hair. My gaze fell downwards to my feet shamefully.
"Forgive me, my Lord. I was overwhelmed. This is just so sudden...and too soon," I spoke quietly, my head bent forward to avoid his eyes. "I shall lead the armies and protect what we have sworn to do so. Until my dying breath I shall carry this blade and use it to restore the peace."
"Then, Baleon, I give you my blessing, and the best of fortune that you shall lead the armies to victory."
I dipped my head in the greatest gratitude before meeting his gaze once more. The peace was over, and the soldier I had once been has come again. I looked confidently into my leader's eyes and straightened my posture.
"I shall organize the regiment at first light. We will depart immediately at the first sign."
"May your wings guide you," Engel responded with a small smile. He seemed comforted by my promise to perform my duties as the Commander.
I bowed politely. "And you also." I turned to exit the Haven, the crisp night air greeting me as I opened the door. The stars above twinkled in harmony with the flickering lights of the lanterns. It was all too tranquil for what was to come, so I cherished it for as long as I could.
I don't know how long I stood in the pathway just watching the breeze rustle the thin branches of the ancient trees, but eventually, the night beckoned me, and I accepted. I unfurled my wings, the feathers immediately catching the wind. I raised them above my head, taking one foot off the ground before I bent my knee and pushed off the ground, leaving it far below me as I soared into that ebony sky.
Like a shadow, that sky enveloped the world. Nothing could escape it, and nothing could hide from it. All you could do, was wait in the darkness until that first ray of light shined through.