Capitolium - Holy City, home to the Divines, the center of all that is good and just - was in a state of chaos. Immortal Vohu Manah sat in his grandiose meeting room, hunched over his six powerful legs with his massive wings folded behind his back. The Lion Divine spoke in a booming voice from atop his velvet-draped throne of Tyrian purple.
“Trusted Six, I have gathered you here because it is time to make a decision, the consequences of which will be grave in any case.”
Assembled in Vohu Manah’s throne room with him were his six generals. He himself one of the six Divine Aspects of the Creator, had six Divines that answered directly to him. Long-haired Gabriel was there, draped in dark red and sipping a glass of red wine. Iason lounged in a cushioned chair with a measure of swagger, master of tricks and charms, and wearing his golden fleece. Seragon sat on a sturdy stool, weapons master and director of Captiolium’s forge. Azraus knelt on a weary knee, with withered wings, the general of Capitolium’s army. Ogrus sat cross-legged on the dark marble floor, friend of beasts, with his monstrous muscles. Auriel propped himself on a large red pillow, scribe and keeper of ceremonies, prone due to his weak legs.
“As you all know, the Heavenly Realm has come under siege by the forces of evil. As you may not know, our Lord - the Divine Father, the Creator of anything and everything – sits and does nothing about it. Chaos and Hatred sweep through all of Perfectum, not just Capitolium, but we must regain control of our city before we can secure the entire Heavenly Realm. The decision we must make is how to go about this.”
The low light shimmered from Gabriel’s painted fingernails as he raised a delicate hand to speak. “What are our options?”
“We have three – diplomacy, trickery, and force,” said the Aspect with a snort from his nostrils.
“I propose we negotiate,” voted Auriel, ever the pacifist. He raised a pasty, trembling hand in the air to emphasize.
“The only thing that can help us now is brutality!” voted Azraus, a shake of his fist making his charred metal bracers clatter.
“Fight,” concurred Ogrus, wrapped in a tiger’s fur.
“We are well-stocked for a war,” agreed Seragon, proudly striking the air with his radiant new sword.
“Hatred and Chaos are both veterans of battle, and their demon minions are plenty. Our only option is to fool them,” voted Iason, shifting his form to a sparrow in order to emphasize his point.
Gabriel, sitting on the end, glanced grandly around at his comrades, taking the situation to heart. To his right, Auriel had gladly lowered his weak arm. Next over, Iason sat back in angelic form, stroking his red beard confidently. Adjacent to him was Seragon, marveling at his own shining armor. Second to last was Ogrus, playing with the tiger’s fur as though it were still his living pet. On the other end was Azraus in his telltale habit of running his right thumb over and over his lower lip.
“And how do you vote, Quiet One?” asked Vohu Manah, always swayed by Gabriel’s word.
Once one of the greatest warriors in the land, Gabriel had protected Vohu Manah in his young life, and though the Lion Divine was immeasurably more powerful, he valued Gabriel’s strength and spirit above that of all others.
“In order to make things as easy and bloodless as possible,” began Gabriel, pausing for a groan from Azraus, “I think we should negotiate.” Gabriel put down his wine glass and ran his nimble fingers through his long, dark hair to dispel stress.
The Aspect eyed his most trusted general carefully, taking in his millennia of battle experience. After a pause, he dictated, “Then I too vote for negotiation. If we can exodus seraphim and secede certain parts of Perfectum to the evil without any more death, then so be it.” Vohu Manah set himself more comfortably, resting one front paw over the other.
Gabriel nodded silently while Azraus began to object, “Why go through the trouble when we can just slay them all?” He stood and raised his arms to the dark blue tiles that made the ceiling forty feet above, his voice dancing across the chamber walls.
And after the refrain had stopped, “If we could just slay them all, we would in the beat of a wing, but we can’t,” said Gabriel, his voice brimming with resentment for Azraus. “Your rashness will be your downfall, old friend.” Gabriel lifted his wine glass to Azraus and took another sip.
With an icy-cold stare, Azraus delivered his answer to Gabriel’s thinly-veiled claim of friendship.
Vohu Manah lifted his magnificent head and ordered for a negotiator to be sent.
And so, one-armed Metaphiel was sent, the greatest negotiator Capitolium had ever borne. And so, the assembly of seven waited patiently.
“And what do you propose when this doesn’t work?” demanded Azraus, pointing an accusatory finger at Gabriel.
With a slow sip of his wine, Gabriel eyed the general carefully. “Hatred and Chaos, whether you choose to admit it or not, are immortal. Not even the glorious gladius of our friend here can harm them,” he explained with a graceful gesture to Seragon.
“And yet you name it as an option?” Azraus asked the Aspect.
“Vile violence comes with consequences more notorious than normal. In order to harm an Immortal, you need the blood of a greater Immortal. This secret has been kept for millennia and considered an option only now.” Vohu Manah blinked slowly, never wanting to say more than was needed.
“Us give blood, make weapons with!” offered Ogrus honestly, his arms raised palms-up to his sides. His fur drape started to slide from his shoulders, revealing a toned and tanned torso.
“But the blood must be borne of a greater Immortal,” said Vohu Manah with another slow blink.
“Then we ask graciously to sap some of yours,” said Seragon pleadingly, making a little cut in the air.
Auriel sighed and tugged at his own sleeves. “Are you so eager to bloody your armor? Then why spend so much time polishing and protecting it?” he asked.
“Why spend so much time bathing when your skin will never be smooth?” retorted Seragon, slashing into the marble floor. Small pieces of the stone struck him in the face.
“We have no choice but to use your blood, Your Splendor,” said Azraus, once again stroking his lip.
“Only one is of higher status than Hatred and Chaos,” interjected Gabriel.
Gabriel began to stand to tell the grave news, but footsteps clattered in the hallway and merciful Metaphiel entered. Sword strapped to his left hip, though he did not have the arm to draw it. In his left, and only, arm he held his son, baby Metaphim, barely a month old.
“What bravery you have to bare a baby boy in the midst of this madness,” praised Gabriel, opening his arms in welcome.
“When duties of the tongue superseded duties of the sword, I found myself with the time to raise a child of my own.”
“And how go those duties of the tongue?” asked Azraus, mocking. “Are you performing them without the unbecoming emotion that cost you that arm?” Azraus tauntingly shook his right hand, his bracer once again clinking.
Not daring to speak out against the aggression of a general, Metaphiel answered plainly, “Our opponents refuse parley. Even with my sword arm severed, they viewed me as violent.” The negotiator held his cooing son closely.
“And so you waste more of our time. Be gone with you!” Azraus seized Seragon’s stool and hurled it at Metaphiel who obediently let it strike his right side. Metaphiel stumbled and landed on his back to protect his only son.
“Leave us, my friend,” said Gabriel apologetically, following with a sneer at Azraus.
When Metaphim’s crying and the clattering of footsteps faded, Gabriel glared at garish Azraus. “Hassle one more of my men and I’ll take your tongue.”
“Puny man talk tough!” guffawed Ogrus, throwing off his tiger fur.
“Were you to get within inches of me with your head still attached, I’d burn out those pretty eyes you’re so proud of,” said Azraus, proving his point with a flick of fire.
“Do not take him lightly, Azraus,” warned Auriel.
“Penboy feeling fierce!” laughed Ogrus. He pounded one fist into his other hand, and rose to his feet to join Seragon and Azraus.
“So even you two are beginning to see that force is our only option?” asked Azraus of Auriel with a raise of his eyebrow.
“No, it was simply a professional warning not to cross Gabriel, or any of us for that matter.” Auriel did his best to toss an intimidating look Azraus’ way.
“Perhaps you should take your own words to heart, penboy,” concluded Azraus, running his thumb over his lip.
“We haven’t the time for this. I need to fire up my forges,” said Seragon. The hasty general began to walk away.
“Yes, to arms!” cried Azraus, strutting proudly toward the door. He turned his head over his shoulder to ask, “Where is this Immortal whose blood can kill Chaos and harm Hatred?”
“He is currently napping in his bedchamber,” said Vohu Manah.
“Well then wake him up! Who is he?” asked Azraus, hungry for bloodshed.
“As I said, it is an option you will not like,” warned Vohu Manah, another slow blink.
“Well then,” began Azraus with a slow stroke of his lip.
“How have you not figured it out?” thus Gabriel,
and then Iason, “We must exhaust all other options.”
“Jester have plan?” said Ogrus, bending down to retrieve his fur.
“It is an action more benevolent than facing violence with violence,” promised Iason, normally not averse to fighting.
“It is the only way,” agreed Auriel. Gabriel nodded his concurrence.
“Well that makes three and three, an impasse,” stated Azraus, still paused facing the door.
“Allow me to explain. We fight, yes, but retreat,” said Iason.
“RETREAT?” demanded Ogrus, throwing his fur to the floor once more.
Gabriel caressed his forehead with two elegant fingers. “Retreat,” he confirmed.
“We retreat into the palace where we will lay a trap. Hatred and Chaos will step on a false panel on the palace floor and fall through. There, we will have a cage constructed of your finest spears,” he said with a nod to Seragon. “This cage will be buried under the palace, safely setting aside Hatred and Chaos for all eternity.”
Seragon paced toward Azraus, and then back to his spot. He raised his shining blade to catch the reflection of his face, a face that showed worry and hesitance.
Ogrus, eyebrows furrowed in confusion, walked slowly away and stood with Azraus.
“It sounds like our best option,” agreed Seragon, suddenly understanding the gravity of the situation.
Azraus turned back, his eyes wide.
“All in favor?” asked Iason.
“Aye,” voted Seragon, Auriel, and Gabriel.
“Nay!” proclaimed Ogrus and Azraus.
“What are you thinking?” asked Azraus of Seragon with a stomp of his armor-clad foot.
“I’m thinking what’s best,” resigned Seragon, as he sat on the floor.
“Then set the trap,” ordered Vohu Manah.
And thus Seragon ordered the construction of the cage, fashioned from the finest spears that could see a hundred years of battle and not bend. And thus Iason told his men in great detail how to set the trap. And thus they all waited.
“And what brilliant ideas do you have when this fiasco fails us? Hatred and Chaos will be running about in our very palace!” said Azraus. He raised his hands once again to the ceiling.
“No,” said Ogrus weakly, finally catching on. “Have to do it other way!” he pleaded to Vohu Manah.
“We may have no other options,” said the Divine Aspect with his head bowed and a slow blink.
“Then it is so!” Azraus proclaimed. He jumped in the air, bracers, greaves, and breastplate clattering.
“Azraus dumb?” asked Ogrus.
“Am... am I what?” A puzzled Azraus studied his friend. Ogrus only looked with stern disappointment. “Do you switch sides?” Azraus tried to match Ogrus’ look, but could only look confused.
“Only one blood kill Hatred and Chaos. You that dumb, or just don’t care?” asked Ogrus. He shook his head and once again wrapped himself in his tiger fur. And thus, even the Master of Beasts understood what the Prince of War could not.
“My lords!” entered a panicked and tired seraph soldier. “The trap has failed! The palace is breeched!”
Vohu Manah stood on all six legs and spread his wings. “Then one option, and one option only do we still have. You are dismissed; buy us some time,” thus the Lion Divine.
“Let us find this Immortal and slit his throat!” shouted Azraus with a raised fist in a failed rally.
“The death you clamor for is that of our Lord. Our Father. The Creator himself,” said Gabriel, slowly standing. “You are a fool to proclaim his death so gaily.” The elegant angel straightened his back and threw his wine glass, still half full, at the warmonger.
It shattered on Azraus’ chestplate and the bloodlike substance splashed his face and features. The Keeper of Swords was dumbfounded.
“Now we think if we do it or not,” stated Ogrus gently to his wine-drenched friend, to himself, and to the other five.
Azraus staggered back a few steps and brushed glass shards from his chest. Ogrus approached his friend and wiped the wine off his face.
Auriel slapped his hand down firmly on the marble floor. “We can’t!” he cried. And with another slap, “He is the one thing holding this world together!” He shook out his wrist and massaged his hand.
“How sinful! To even suggest such a thing!” said Seragon as he threw his beloved blade to the ground.
“I could not bear to live knowing I had allowed such a thing!” thus Iason, standing from his chair and pacing out past Gabriel.
“Do we have any other choice?” asked Azraus, his hand covering his eyes.
“Do it other way!” repeated Ogrus, and he wrapped himself tightly for comfort.
“We should lay another trap!” voted Iason weakly.
“Let the Lord Himself rain fury upon them!” pleaded Auriel, straightening up where he sat.
“Silence!” commanded Gabriel. And all eyes were upon him. With hands to his sides and gaze to the floor, he shook his head quickly. “The Lord refuses to act! In the passing months He has grown apathetic to all matters. Where once He shone brightly, He has dulled. He is no longer a finely sharpened blade, but a crude club. He has neglected His world, His palace, and us, His children. For that, I believe He owes us,” said Gabriel, tears beginning to stream down his face. After a quick glance over his comrades, he turned to Vohu Manah. “Is that not why you asked us here? Not because of the situation with Hatred and Chaos, but because of the Divine Father’s lethargy?” Gabriel reached out with pleading hands.
“It is true that I have grown less fond of Father. It is also true that slaying Him is the only way to save ourselves.” Vohu Manah uncrossed his paws.
Azraus made sure the shoulder straps on his breastplate rested where they should. He nervously adjusted his bracers, then put his thumb to his lower lip. “But if we need His blood to destroy Hatred and Chaos, how can we possibly defeat Him?” he asked.
And thus Vohu Manah, stepping down from his throne delicately, “In the passing months He has grown weak. I have seen Him cough. He is sickly, frail. He once shimmered gloriously, but now no light emits from His Beneficence. Alas, I saw Him trip and hurt Himself. Taking His life will be no difficult task. I am a part of him, I can sense it in His presence.” The Aspect paused to look around at his generals. Each looked distraught and unwilling, except for Gabriel who stared at him with burning eyes. “I have often pondered doing it, even before it was necessary to do so. Let us do it now that it is our only hope.”
“Then in hope and in horror, let us gather arms,” said Gabriel, lifting his silver spear. He tightened the belt around his robe and the straps of his sandals.
“To arms,” agreed Azraus, strapping on his spiked shield and drawing a wide blade from the sheath on his back. He nodded approvingly to Gabriel.
“To arms,” confirmed Ogrus, donning his tiger claw gauntlets and throwing off the fur one last time. He looked around to his comrades with a determined look.
“To arms,” sighed Seragon, eyes dull with his sword glimmering brilliantly. He extended his arms to pop his shoulder blades and gave his wings a strong flap in preparation
“To arms,” trailed Iason, an axe in each hand. He dealt a blow to his chair that splintered it. He withdrew his weapon, taking the padding with it.
“To arms then,” said Auriel with bow and quiver of poison-tipped arrows. He shook greatly to rise, but stood easily when Gabriel offered a hand.
“With my lead,” said Vohu Manah, who let out a mighty roar and charged down the corridor.
Invading demons were tossed aside by claws, swords, and shield; fell with arrows and bursts of flame; sundered by spear and axe.
Down one hallway stood Chaos in unnatural resplendence. His skin black with ash, Chaos stood a startling ten feet tall, covered in cruelly-spiked armor. A terrifying sight to behold, he snapped the neck of the angel he was fighting and tossed him aside like a disloyal dog. Chaos welcomed the challenge by pounding into the nearby wall, sending pieces of marble bouncing about.
“Fallen angel, black of skin, I send you back to the Pits of Sin!” Azraus charged Chaos with a furious war cry.
“You five go! We take this one!” Ogrus too forsook himself to buy time.
Down another hallway roared Hatred, towering in a tattered tunic over the remaining generals and wielding a wicked sword, curved and serrated and dripping the blood of many seraphim.
An arrow thudded into his chest. “Back, demon! Lest you face the likes of me!” yelled Auriel, stumbling forward on his weak legs.
Hatred simply gazed at the opposing angel and sent him to the floor with a crippling burst of energy.
“You must go on!” cried Seragon to Vohu Manah and Gabriel. “We’ll do what we can!” Seragon charged Hatred, dodging another burst, with Iason in his wake. Hatred slashed Seragon across the chest, putting him down, but Iason went unseen.
“The Day of Wrath is here, fellow Immortals!” proclaimed Hatred. A giant snaked wrapped around him, Iason in the guise of a monstrous serpent. As Hatred struggled to break free an arrow bounced off his helm.
“The next one takes your eye!” yelled Auriel, stringing another arrow.
Seragon struggled to stand and threw off his dented armor. “It will take more than that, Foul One,” he taunted, with a twirl of his sword.
Vohu Manah and Gabriel charged on.
“Father’s wing of the palace is up ahead. I will take out the guards. You must not hesitate, Gabriel, for Hatred and Chaos will be right on our tail. Can you complete this all-important task?”
“I will not fail you, Your Brilliance.”
“Then follow my lead. For the glory of Perfectum!” Vohu Manah’s war cry startled the guards long enough for him to lay his sharp claws into all of them. Then he shattered the bronze door with a mighty kick.
Inside the throne room with forty armored guards and sixteen-hundred polished marble tiles, the Lord sat upon his throne of one-hundred-twenty bronze bricks.
“Now, Gabriel!” commanded Vohu Manah. The Lion Divine extended his wings, which glowed bright with a bluish energy. As armor clattered and halberds aimed for Gabriel’s and Vohu Manah’s heart, the Aspect discharged streaks of lighting, laying low all the guards. Gabriel gathered all the might he could muster and leapt across the room with a push from his legs and flap of his wings. The wind rushed through his long locks and he regrettably closed his gentle eyes. Reminding himself of the necessity of the sacrifice, Gabriel soared through the dry air and lopped of the Lord’s lazy head.
Then there was utter silence. Utter silence as Gabriel gathered gushing blood onto his spear, utter silence as Vohu Manah reared and turned about, guarding the entrance to the throne room from Hatred and Chaos. Utter silence as combined attacks of sword and claw sent the Lion Divine flying across the room and smashing through the opposite wall.
With godly speed, Hatred charged forward and swung his sword. But faster was Gabriel and the curved blade cleaved through bronze bricks.
And again there was sound. “By the power of all that is holy and just, I send you, Hatred, back to the underworld,” and a swift slash of Gabriel’s bloody spear disintegrated the terrifying angel.
Chaos was upon him at once, wrapping him in an enemy’s hug and taking him into the air. The demon slammed Gabriel against the ceiling, causing him to drop his spear. It clattered on the floor below has marble crumbled around it from Gabriel’s repeated collisions with the ceiling.
The seraph was loosed and thudded on the floor when Vohu Manah bit down on Chaos’ leg. The lion clamped down, though Chaos grappled him about the neck. Out of oxygen, his teeth slowly came out of the demon’s leg, and Chaos flung him again through the wall, making the hole even wider.
Thankful for the distraction, Gabriel retrieved his spear. ”In the name of our Fallen Father, I banish you, Chaos, to the bottom of the Celestial Sea.” He hurled the weapon skyward, piercing the demon’s armor and finding his hollow heart. Chaos turned to dust in flash of holy light.
And with this, a soothing calm came over Gabriel as he fell to his knees. The clattering of his spear on the marble floor was the only noise in all of Capitolium. Gabriel knew he had done what had to be done, and felt little regret. He glanced around, seeing Vohu Manah stirring, knowing that he would survive. In the air he smelled success, and knew that the other five were still clinging to life. And - as the birds once again began to chirp, and the dear began once again to frolic – for the first time in history, the sun set over Perfectum.