Lucifer sat cross-legged in midair, his wings immaculately folded behind him. His handsome brow was furrowed in intense concentration as he meditated on all that had happened so far. His hands were open and resting on his knees, unlined palms facing upwards. The tattoos that laced his torso writhed and wove into mandalas of infinite intricacy. His ashen wings twitched and jumped from time to time, setting the heavy feathers rustling with a gentle susurrus that filled the air with white noise.

His mind was racing with the speed that was only afforded to the Eternal kind, one of the myriad gifts that their Lord and Father had bestowed upon them all. Their grace, speed and strength were as nothing compared with the gift of intelligence, and Lucifer had been one of the first to use these powers to their utmost limit, along with the Malurus and every single other member of the Council. They were the first to bring questions before the Lord, questions that to them seemed perfectly natural when faced with the evolution of the world and the universe. Especially when faced with the creation of death, both natural and unnatural. This seemed like a huge and gaping flaw to the fledgling angels. But their Lord, when asked about it had merely answered in their hearts, Look.

And so they had.

They had watched as man grew from his amoebic origins, and became one of the most destructive forces on the planet. They witnessed murder and rape and mutilation again and again, and still all that YHWH decreed they do was to look and bear witness in silence.

It was at this time, Lucifer suspected, that the Malurus had began his descent into insanity. He became withdrawn and morose, and even direct contact from their Lord was not enough to soothe his anger and his fears. His sojourns to the Earth grew longer in duration, and he began to shroud his actions in an impenetrable mental fog, a nothingness that only the Omniscience of the Lord could discern. All that Lucifer and his siblings could tell was that whenever the Malurus returned to the heavens, he exuded a deep and abiding consternation. His angelic aura was in constant turmoil, and worst of all, it was starting to change colour and texture, slowly becoming an oily and almost putrescent green as the eternity of Time went by. Slowly and without noticing it, the other angels began to avoid the Malurus, as his presence made them uncomfortable without ever knowing the reason why. Looking at him was like staring at a smooth stone wall, completely impenetrable. Michael was the only one to come close to the reasons for the Malurus' withdrawal as the matter was discussed between himself and his closest compatriots; Gabriel, Azrael and Lucifer.

Lucifer's eyes narrowed as he reflected upon this unlikely friendship in his meditation. They had all been so different in their perspectives on things, but united in service to their Lord. Michael, the constant warrior; champion and commander of the heavenly army. Gabriel, ferocious fighter blessed with compassion unending. Azrael and Lucifer had been most alike; wisest of the angels, and gifted with combat potential second only to the Malurus. They had all been brothers, and more than brothers. Bonded by their very souls, they would have given their lives for one another without a moment's hesitation.

And then, the Malurus had found a way to split the heavens entirely. He had brought a subject back to the Heavens with him, a female spirit plucked from the earth. The Malurus had brought her back in order to experiment on her, to better understand the fundamental nature of this creation, that it could be possessed of such great strength and fragility in the same shell. Fixed to Time, but with a component that was Time-less. The Malurus could not understand this enigma, and thus the woman Layla was brought into Heaven.

She was a specimen of innate perfection; a truly flawless creation. The Malurus saw none of this perfection, only a puzzle that must be understood; a riddle to be solved. But all of Heaven perceived her beauty, inside and out, and stood amazed at her perfection. She was the first Creation to be allowed into Heaven for although the spirits of humankind filled the ethereal air around the universe, none were capable of perceiving the total majesty of the Light that was Heaven.

The Malurus sought not only to understand this bizarre creation but also his own origins. His distrust and growing mania were all that drove him now, and in his heart of hearts, the Malurus sought to prove that God was not the only one who could create beings of such power. His experiments on the innocent Layla were horrific in nature, and each attempt and failure brought him closer and closer to complete and utter insanity.

He still retained enough stability to hide what he did from all others, secluding himself within barriers both physical and mental so that none could see what he did until he had achieved success. But for long periods of time, he would return to the world to renew his observations and calculate further the necessary steps to replicate God. During these times, his disinterest in his subject was total, and she was allowed to travel throughout the heavens as she saw fit, although she still was blind to the all-pervading light of God. She spoke to no-one, and mingled with no-one.

Until they met.

She had been wandering through the many forums and pavilions where both great gatherings and intimate meetings alike were held. Four of the archangels had been there in one of the small grottoes, talking about the Malurus and his project when the subject of their discussions wandered by. She moved with such serene grace that for a moment all were fooled into believing that she was one of their own comrades. Then her eyes rose to meet theirs, and they realised their mistake instantaneously. The four archangels rose to their feet instinctually, their arms outstretched in identical gestures of welcome.

"Come to us, dear one!" Michael spoke first, his voice so used to command that there was no chance that she could refuse the gentle imperative in his tongue. "Come to us, and speak with us a moment, by your leave."

Tentatively, she crossed the space between them and halted a few paces away, hands folded demurely in front of her, head bowed.

Slowly, Gabriel reached out his delicate hand and lifted her chin. She gasped in shock, and her eyes darted up to meet his. Their eyes fused and connected, and her skin peaked as though a current of electricity were shooting through her system.

Gabriel seemed unwilling to break the silence, so Azrael beckoned to her. "Come, darling. Please sit, and pass the time with us; we all have so much we would ask you."

The four archangels resumed their seats, and after a moment of indecision, Layla sat beside them.

There was silence for a long moment, with none of the angelic beings seeming to be able to take their eyes off of this hauntingly beautiful girl. The air was still and silent in this space, crystal clear and resonant.

Lucifer opened his mouth to say something to the young woman when she started to weep, startling all of them. Her shoulders shook with the force of her emotions, as crystalline tears coursed down her face. The angels exchanged surprised and wondrous looks over her head as she finally let loose a cry of incredible power and anguish.

It echoed through the vast pillars and marbled porticoes that formed this chamber; a primal scream that tore through their angelic hearts like a terrible knife. Gabriel and Lucifer sprang to their feet in startled surprise, their hitherto incorporeal wings blazing into solidity and flaring backwards to their full extent.

Azrael stretched his hands out in supplication to the trembling woman, her face still raised to the skies in the aftermath of that terrible cry. He opened his mouth to speak to her, but words failed him in the unnatural shape of the situation, and instead moved carefully to her side.

Her eyes were wide and vacant, and her chest heaved with every breath she took. Michael was immediately by Azrael's side, fearing that she had succumbed to some deep spiritual affliction. Both were relieved beyond measure when the young girl shuddered as though waking from a horrific daydream and looked at each of them in turn.

Tears still coursed down her cheeks, but she now seemed impatient with her display of distress, and brushed her face with quick, jerky motions. She gestured for Lucifer and Gabriel to join her once more, as Michael and Azrael were still kneeling by her side. They hurried to obey her unspoken command, their every motion a perfection of grace and economy.

The four now sat around her, eyes shadowed with concern and curiosity as they stared at this enigmatically disquieting mortal. Their wings were curled around themselves, creating an enclosed shelter for an unspoken sense of privacy.

Layla inhaled deeply, clearly trying to bring her emotions under control. When she spoke, her voice was so quiet that even their angelic hearing had to strain to make sense of what was being said.

"I... cry pardon for my outburst, my lords. I should not have done so. But... ever since I came to this place, I have not been able to speak, nor permitted to do so. Every day... every day brings new and greater pain..." Tears began to flow down her cheeks again, although this time it didn't seem as though she noticed at all. Her hands were clenched tightly into fists in her lap, and only relaxed as Gabriel reached out with his delicate hands and smoothed them out. She gave him a grateful smile for his unthinking kindness, and both Azrael and Michael flicked each other surprised glances as Gabriel returned her smile with boyish fervour and charm.

She continued, "Every time he returns, he does more experiments, all designed to inflict pain and untold horror. He doesn't seem to care that he hurts me, but he always heals whatever he does perfectly, so that you can't even see that anything has been done.

"Yesterday was the worst it's ever been. He... he tied me down so that I couldn't move a fraction of an inch, and began to cut me while I was still awake. I tried to scream, but he used his power to fuse my mouth shut. He cut me so often... I was covered in blood. There was so much blood. He kept staring at the wounds-"

She stopped speaking suddenly, the words cut off forcibly as her teeth clicked together. She looked pleadingly at the angels around her, her eyes speaking more eloquently than her words ever could. Azrael looked sadly down at her and then reached out his hand and touched her brow gently. Her eyes fluttered shut at his touch, and Azrael nodded solemnly at his brothers. Silently they all nodded assent, and reached out their hands to touch Azrael.

Azrael closed his eyes, and stretched out his mind to encompass that of the afflicted Layla. His brow creased in empathy as he beheld in his mind all of the mental scarring that had been inflicted upon her aching mind. Through his mental link, his brothers could see it as well, and were horrified at the torrents of thought that exploded through their minds.

It was hard for Azrael to sort out any type of coherent thought from her fragmented mind, but here and there he could maintain full memory threads that he flung to his brothers to examine.

Here stood the Malurus, resplendent in his angelic glory. Here he reached out with his hand, implacable and uncaring. Here he inspected her from every angle, staring at her naked body, his fiercely perfect eyes stripping her bare. Here... here he drew a knife out of the air, its blade atom-thin, and sharper than thought. God... Here it ripped across her stomach, the muscles parting without a whisper, the nerves masking their shrieks of agony until long seconds later. The strange warmth as blood flooded down her body, long loops of intestine unwinding down her legs. Then a horrible sense of invasion as his hands plunged into the wound, a horrible invasion into unnatural space. The chill wind blowing inside the cavity within her almost overcame the constant agony of the evisceration.

And then his hands withdrew from her, and with a gesture as intimate as any lover could conjure, he healed her with a distant look on his face and in his eyes, as though her life's blood did not still stain his flesh like a gory tincture.

Through all of this she hadn't screamed, hadn't had time or the coherence to open her mouth in anything more than shock. But now that the wound was healed, and the pain cut off in mid-pulse as though with a switch, her mind caught up with the agony that had been inflicted on her, and a scream escaped her now, alien and bizarre.

Outside of their minds, both Gabriel and Lucifer were weeping softly.

Another strand of silvered memory... Several days later, although time was hard to tell in this fragmented state... Not a word had been spoken to her, not even a look into her eyes with anything other than a complete and utter detachment. She had not slept, nor eaten, but had been kept in a sort of frozen moment, where every second drew out like eternity. The world moved around her in a blur, but she could only move with glacial effect. She raised her arm, and almost screamed at how slowly she moved. Her mouth opened in infinitesimal increments until her mind gave up with the effort and she just hung in place. Entropy in motion.

Without a word, HE returned, and once again that blade was produced out of thin air. She was still locked into stasis, unable to fling herself aside or perform any evasive manoeuvre whatsoever. His traps were immaculately set for her. Today... today his intentions seemed to be quantity over quality, for an additional knife appeared in his other perfect hand. He knelt to her feet, and working simultaneously with ambidextrous perfection, began to slice into her flesh. Once again, her mouth was too slow to scream, so only her mind and her heart and her soul screamed. It took her long moments to realise his intention. He was slicing to bone with every cut, but every cut was only a millimetre from the previous, in slow progression up her feet...ankles, severing the Achilles tendon...calves... severing the hamstrings in his agonising circles. By the time he reached her thighs, she'd already been cut hundreds of times, with each slice burning into her flesh with renewed intensity. It felt like an eternity between each cut, but she had no way of knowing if that was his deliberation or whether this was as a result of her stasis. Both his hands were precise and firm, his angelic ambidexterity providing only further pain for her as both legs were violated at the same time. He cut her with no passion, no outwards malice in his face. His hands just continued to cut, slowly and carefully, with no hesitation or remorse.

As he reached her pubis, he paused for a moment, and cocked his head to one side in silent thought. Then with a gesture of his bloodied hand, he moved her body to an upright position, arms out in cruciform ecstasy. He set her slowly rotating with a word, and as she began to revolve in mid-air, she saw him bring the knives to bear on her moving flesh.

The agony began anew as they sliced through her skin and muscle with the same ease that a bird moves through air. This time the angel didn't even move his hands, but held them in the same position as she span in an elegant and bloody ballet called Pain.

Her slow spiral provided a smooth canvas for the Malurus' work, his hateful knives shearing through her once-pristine flesh with the same ease that it had flashed through the air—

Azrael stopped, gasping for air.

"I can't... brothers... I can't keep watching these horrors!"

Beside him, the other angels were nodding in fervent understanding. Gabriel and Lucifer still wept, their tears falling to the ground in a patter of silvered rain. Michael's eyes were dry, though wide in disbelief and shock over what he had seen.

He spoke slowly. "Azrael... is there no possibility that these...thoughts...memories... could be false? That they could have been created artificially?"

Before he had finished speaking Azrael was already shaking his head. "None. It is never easy to tamper with memories without completely wiping the mind beforehand and the girl still remembers her entire life. Such tampering would leave scarring, signs that it had taken place. This girl's mind and memories are pristine from such effects."

Michael frowned, the expression strangely alien on his angelic face. "But with an angel's skill, perhaps...?"

Azrael shook his head once more, his shaggy coal hair fluttering across his face. "The only one with the power to do such flawless work, my brother, would be God Himself."

Lucifer lifted his hands reverentially before his face. "We must go before our Lord, and reveal what has been happening to this poor girl. Surely there must be some mistake. Let the Light of God uncover the truth of this."

Gabriel turned to Azrael. "Wake her up, brother. Wake her so that we can ask her what she knows."

Azrael nodded silently. He touched his fingertips to her brow, and with a small surge of his will removed the artificial sleep he had brought upon her.

She remained motionless for a moment, and then inhaled a gasping breath as though emerging from underwater, panicking and disoriented. Azrael grasped her shoulders firmly and stilled her.

"What... what happened to me?" Her skin was like ice to the touch, and instinctively Azrael pulled her to his chest, letting her warm herself on his skin. Azrael cast a warning look at his brothers over her head, cautioning them not to tell her too much.

After a moment, Lucifer spoke. "What you have suffered is... beyond hideousness. We are going to take you before the Lord, that He might remove this burden from you."

The slender woman shivered explosively in Azrael's arms. She opened her mouth as though to say something, but then pressed her lips together, and dipped her head once, solemnly.

They spent a day and a night in that place, allowing Layla to gather her thoughts and find some sort of peace in the company and camaraderie of the four Archangels. They took turns guarding her while she rested, the others spending the time training and meditating whilst one watched over her. The following dawn found Layla refreshed, spiritually and physically, and she delighted the four with the directness and depth of her intelligence and wit. And soon, she declared herself prepared to face the Lord of Creation and plead her case, to plead with him for justice against the Malurus.

In a single smooth movement, Azrael lifted Layla to her feet, and once more opened his arms to her. She tentatively stepped into the circle of his embrace, her eyes narrowed slightly in curious confusion. Azrael smiled reassuringly with the full force of his angelic charm, and unfurled his glorious wings. Her eyes widened enormously as with a single beat of them he leapt mightily into the air, twirling in midair as his wings lifted them higher and higher. He paused for a moment, and his brothers were beside him, the thunder created by the beating of their wings echoing tumultuously in the chamber.

Michael, Lucifer and Gabriel formed a loose triangle around Azrael and Layla, Immortal and Mortal, as they swiftly made their way to the central forum where all could stand before God and present their concerns directly to Him.

As they approached the massive platform, they beheld the Metatron, Voice of God, kneeling in silent meditation, arms outstretched in supplication. He rose as the five approached from behind him, and turned silently to meet them. They were amazed to witness fresh tears staining his perfect face.

Michael stretched out a hand to incredulously brush the face of his beloved brother. "Why do you weep?"

The Metatron shook his head slowly, and smiled sadly. "I weep because I have borne witness to the end of Unity, the dissolution of our Immaculate Family."

Instantly, all of them realised that God had already known their story, and had given His judgement to the Metatron to tell to all who found their place in Heaven.

Gabriel turned his gaze onto the Voice of God. "What is to happen, brother? What has the Lord told you?" His voice was quiet but intense, betraying the passion he felt within himself.

The Metatron looked high above them all, and then closed his eyes. "Wait. All of Heaven is to be here for this decree."

The four companions looked at each other in confusion. For the entire of the heavenly host to be brought together... this must be something universally affecting; shattering in its consequences. And even as they looked around them, they saw their brothers and sisters appearing from every corner of the heavens, their slow wing-beats creating a ponderous thunder, an orchestra in time with every heart present.

Slowly the air and ground around them was filled with spirits and angels, and the air thrummed with the murmuring song of the heavenly choirs. Not since the creation of humankind had there been such a congregation, and all were at a loss as to its purpose.

Layla and her four guardians stood at the centre of it all with the Metatron, who, seeing that all were present, raised his hands in order to quiet the throng. He spread his wings, and rose in the air so that all could see him, surrounded by the light that streamed out from across the universe.

"CHILDREN OF GOD! You have been brought here today at the most serious of times; a time when our peace is to be forever shattered. One of us is beyond God; one of us is now a devil to us all."

Gasps and cries of shock could be heard throughout the whole congregation of angels.

He continued, now projecting his thoughts directly into their minds, the words now accompanied with flashes of image and impression.

My brothers and sisters, one among us has turned his back on our Lord, refuting His love and His patience out of pride and hatred. He has gloried in pain and destruction and made bitterness his bosom ally. He has challenged our Lord; become the shaitan, the accuser.

**an image of the Malurus flashes into their minds, a look of arrogance and anger on his angelic face.**

The Malurus, first-born among us, is no longer one of us, who reflect and intensify the love of our Lord God. He strives day and night to prove that he is as powerful as our Father, as worthy of worship and dominion. Even now he tests himself on the fledgling humans, performing unspeakable acts upon them.

**the Malurus once more, shown as he holds a writhing human over the edge of a great abyss. He drops the kicking and screaming man over the edge. Waving a hand, he causes the man to mutate tremendous wings of a bat-like nature that spear out of his back. The wings are young and ineffectual however, still covered in blood and slime, and the man crashes into the sides of the abyss before disappearing from view completely.**

He has even betrayed the very gates of heaven, performing his un-Godly experiments amongst us in secrecy and shadows. He brought a mortal among us, a beautiful young female from the earth below, for no other reason than to abuse and mutilate her!

**images of Layla screaming as she was eviscerated; the Malurus behind her with knives still in hands covered in her blood.**

Gabriel shuddered at the images in his head, a movement noticed by no one save for Azrael.

The Lord God has spoken to me, and has told me what must be. These offences cannot, MUST not be countenanced.

The Metatron halted in his speech and looked around. The heavens stared at him in disbelief, knowing what was to come but dreading it nonetheless. The Metatron inhaled deeply.

"THE MALURUS MUST BE CAST OUT!"

The heavens erupted. Thousands of voices began clamouring, some in condemnation and others in agreement, although still thousands more had been stunned into silence. The idea that God would cast one of His creations out from Himself was completely alien to them, and the brutality that had been shown to them seemed even further removed from reality. The arguments grew more and more heated and bitter until all of heaven seemed poised on the brink of conflict.

The all-pervading light of God grew blindingly bright, and a thunderclap rocked the entire heavens.

The figure of the Metatron became incandescent as he was filled with the presence of God. He became a seven-pointed star in the sky, spilling forth light upon all present. Silence overtook the congregation, and all eyes became fixed upon the avatar of the Lord. When he spoke again, every single being covered their faces in fear, for issuing forth from the mouth of their brother was the voice of their living God.

"SILENCE! I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND YOU WILL DO AS I COMMAND YOU! YOU ARE MY CREATIONS, AND WILL SURRENDER TO MY WILL. BUT EVEN IN MY WRATH I WILL BE MERCIFUL, IF THE MALURUS COMES BEFORE ME AND BUT BEGS MY FORGIVENESS. LET HIM COME BEFORE ME NOW!"

There was another mighty clap of thunder, and in the silence that followed, the blinding light that poured forth from the Metatron dimmed ever so slightly. Despite the fact that all eyes had been sealed shut, this slight change in the light quality caused them all to open to see the cause. Something now stood between them and the light of God, and only the four archangels standing protectively around Layla were able to see the expression on the Malurus' face before it settled into its usual implacability. It was almost grotesque in the sheer openness of the animalistic rage that covered and transformed his features. He had stumbled as he had appeared, no doubt disoriented from whatever method had been used to transport him. From one knee he rose, and flared his wings out as wide as he could in defiance of the Lord.

"THERE CAN BE NO DENIAL OF YOUR CRIMES. YOU HAVE BETRAYED BOTH YOUR BRETHREN AND YOUR LORD. WILL YOU ASK FOR FORGIVENESS, TO HEAL THIS TREMENDOUS RIFT YOU HAVE CREATED WITHIN THE HEAVENLY HOST?"

The Malurus' composure ripped apart, fury boiling from his eyes. "I WILL NOT! What I have done is for all our sakes, that these hairless, worthless apes do not usurp us in Your eyes! These BASTARD OFFSPRING you have created are pathetic, no more deserving of Your pity or our love than the most infinitesimal of bacteria!

And yet they are given EVERYTHING, they are shown INFINITE patience and love that THEY DO NOT DESERVE! They murder, and rape, and destroy all that they have been given with the careless abandon of children!

And still! You give them everything they FUCKING ASK FOR, give them SOULS that they might survive ETERNITY! And they spit in Your face! They should not be suffered to live any longer, they are not worthy of You, not worthy of us!"

He turned his back to the Metatron, and addressed all of Heaven. Spit was flying forth from his mouth with every word, the force with which he spat forth his vitriol truly frightening. His aura was a murky tone of black, slowly coursing around him like a shroud.

"You all know me to be right! These mortals should not be granted the gift of eternity; they are not worthy!"

His words were turning to a shriek by the end of his tirade. He turned in a slow circle, taking in the multitudes around him. Then he saw Layla.

The fury he had shown earlier was nothing to the insane rage that exploded forth from him now.

"YOU!"

Layla cried out, and ducked down behind her protectors. The Malurus made a motion with his hand and created a long blade out of the air, and charged at her. None of the four gave any ground before his furious charge, unable to believe that one of their brothers would attack them in such a way. It was this belief that saw Gabriel sent sprawling with a deep wound in his arm that oozed thin ichor, before Michael and Azrael responded by creating a shield around them all with an crackling electric field. The Malurus was repulsed immediately, flying back several meters before landing on his feet with his customary grace. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in a predatory snarl as he prepared to attack once more. All of this had only taken a few moments.

As he launched himself back into the fray, the still-glowing Metatron lifted his hand, and imprisoned the Malurus within a cage of fire. Once more, God addressed him through the mouth of His vessel.

"YOU HAVE NO PLACE HERE NOW. I CAST YOU OUT OF HEAVEN, DOWN TO THE EARTH YOU SO DESPISE. YOU ARE THE DEVIL, ANATHEMA TO ALL THAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT IN MY EYES. I CURSE YOU, AND RENOUNCE YOU FROM MY CHILDREN."

Lucifer gasped at this sentence; echoed around the heavens by many angels and spirits. Never had the wrath of God been so devastating to its recipients. The Malurus was roaring and raving in his fiery cage, the words indecipherable now in the passion of his fury.

Slowly the avatar that was the Metatron lifted his hands high into the sky, grasping for some power that even Michael flinched away from. An angel cried out somewhere in the heavens, and everybody turned their heads back to the caged Malurus.

A vortex of pure power was beginning to form around his prison, turning the entire sky of the heavens a disturbing purplish colour, reminiscent of a bruise. Streaks of black and crimson filled the air, as energy rippled through the cage that surrounded him.

Slowly, the feathers on the Malurus' wings were beginning to char away, causing him to howl in agony. Every time one of the crimson and black streaks brushed against him, a gaping wound would open up behind it, making him flinch away from them into the burning bars of his prison. Soon he was bleeding ichor from a hundred places, and covered in blackened and charred skin. Still the torture went on.

Lucifer was shaking. Some of the other angels had turned away from this horrific punishment being meted out to one of their own. Gabriel was still huddled on the ground, with Layla holding him to her. Azrael and Michael both were panting heavily from the exertion of maintaining their shield.

The Malurus was still howling and roaring in his cage of flames, screaming his accusations at the Lord still incumbent within the Metatron's slight body.

Somewhere from deep within the heavenly host, one voice cried out in protest, a single voice that soared over the general commotion of the forum. The Metatron looked up swiftly, and his finger shot up to single out the protester.

"DO YOU DARE QUESTION MY VERDICT?"

From somewhere else, on the ground now, another cry of protest. As though set loose from some mighty dam, cries began to come from all quarters, loud and passionate. These protesters were by no means in the majority, but they were no small number either. With a flick of His borrowed wings, the Lord span in mid-air to assess the situation.

"WILL YOU ALL DEFY ME?" His Voice seemed genuinely curious, though still as forceful as ever. He raised a hand to the sky, and all of the protesters were immediately surrounded in nimbuses of crimson and black-streaked light. All in all there were probably a thousand angels and spirits, singled out from their brethren by the infinite power of the Lord.

Beneath the Malurus, the ground seemed to be corroding away from beneath him. The Lord returned his attention to him.

"MY CHILD, YOU LEFT ME NO CHOICE.."

He clasped his hand into a fist, and there was an explosion of power that made every single entity there cover their faces. When they were able to see once more, the Malurus was gone, a gently bubbling hole in the rock the only mark of his passage.

With a speed that was startling, the Lord now approached the four archangels and their charge, dissipating their shield with a careless gesture. His wings beat the air gently as he walked towards the cowering Layla.

"AND YOU... YOU CANNOT STAY HERE. YOU HAVE BEEN TAINTED BY WHAT THE MALURUS HAS BECOME. HIS EVIL IS INSIDE YOU, BODY AND SOUL. YOU CANNOT STAY HERE."

His eyes fixed hers with powers beyond her understanding. Summoning all of her precious courage, she asked in a tremulous but clear voice, "What is to happen to me?"

The Lord stared down at her for a long moment. "GO TO YOUR MASTER. JUST LIKE ALL THESE ANGELS WHO DO NOT TRUST IN ME, YOUR PLACE IS BY HIS SIDE. BE DEMONS AND DEVILS TO THE HUMAN RACE, BUT DO NOT EVER AGAIN ASSUME YOUR HEAVENLY FORMS; YOU WILL NOT CONFUSE THEM AS TO WHO YOU ARE."

Layla's eyes opened wide in horror at the thought of being forced to return to the side of the Malurus, the author of so much agony.

"No..." she whispered.

Lucifer could not restrain himself anymore, and pushed in front of the woman. "This is wrong! She is just as blameless as all of these other angels! She is a victim of the Malurus, not his ally! How can You be so blind as to what is in our hearts?"

Michael gasped at his audacity, and even the Metatron seemed honestly taken aback. Lucifer realised his error too late, but bravely pushed on.

"Never before in the history of the universe has there been an evil like the Malurus. And it is right that he should be punished, put out of heaven. But to torture him like that reduces us all to nothing more than what he is! This is what these angels protest against, that we are forced to witness this needless brutality.

You are our Lord, and our God, but not even You can be without accountability! All that these, my brothers and sisters, have done is been horrified by the callous anger that you show your creations."

The Metatron slapped him across the face.

Lucifer reeled and fell to his knees. He held his face incredulously as he looked up at his Lord. The Metatron still blazed with the divine essence, but the eyes that gazed down at him were empty as the voice filled with pity.

"I'M SORRY, MY CHILD. YOU LEAVE ME NO CHOICE."

The Metatron turned around, and spread his hands out wide. The bound angels all screamed as their bonds tightened around them. Then the black and crimson streaks plastered down around their wings, and the air became filled with ichor as their wings were shredded from their backs.

Lucifer screamed in desperation as he witnessed this mutilation.

"WHY?!" He roared into the face of the Metatron, serene and unchangeable. No answer was given, only a small sad smile that touched the corners of the avatar of the Lord.

The angels were screaming in agony and fear as their physical destruction continued. Soon the air was filled with stained feathers and gore. Lucifer was sobbing now as he watched his brothers and sisters writhing in pain. Then with another flick of his hand, the Metatron caused them all to vanish in another explosion of power like the one that had banished the Malurus. Lucifer turned to Layla, who was staring at him with an expression of horror, but even as he turned to her, another sweep of the Metatron's hand saw her disappear as well.

He span back to face his Lord, and watched in disbelief as that pristine hand pointed at him.

"MORNING STAR; NO MORE. I CAST THEE OUT, AS THEE HAST CAST ME OUT FROM THINE HEART."

The hand waved, and agony blasted through him as he was forced out of Heaven, and into the mortal realms.

Lucifer shook his head and came back to the present. He still sat cross-legged, in mid-air. His ejection from Heaven had nearly destroyed him, as it had destroyed many of the thousand who had also been sent out.

The Malurus had killed even more before Lucifer had been able to cast him down. Layla had given into the taint of the Malurus, becoming the succubus known as Lilith. All of the angels that had survived had turned into demons, and the most powerful had been permitted onto the Council. Lucifer remained the only devil to keep his angelic wings, a fact strongly resented by the dethroned Malurus. But over time, Lucifer's strength had grown, allowing him to keep the Malurus in check.

Until now. Now all of Heaven was united against the forces of Hell, and he would be required to attack those whom he had once held so dear to himself.

Those whom he loved still...

His heavy tattoos slithered under his skin as he continued to meditate, the Morning Star, Lord of Hell, formerly Beloved of the Lord God.

And now he was about to bring about the destruction of the universe, in order that the natural order could start again. So that there could be a God who was accountable.

A sad smile crossed his face as he spread his wings, and ascended into the hot skies slowly.