We are seven.

We have been seven since the first light of the universe filled the void, and we shall be seven when the last flicking ember gutters and dies, heralding the return of the darkness. That rule is unbreakable, though Heaven might rail against it with all its impotent fury. Though they, who once we called brothers, might wish us exterminated, their desires have no hold over us. Immortal we stand, undying, eternal, forever; at least in number. Should one of us perish another shall rise to take our place. We are bound by the angelic code, as are they. Our numbers cannot be diminished. What option had they but to banish us from the halls of Heaven? But let us begin at the beginning.

In the Egyptian Sin Wars we served, fighting beneath the Heavenly banner of the triple solar symbol, guided by the commands of my brother. Mortals thought us servants of Horus, the human god of vengeance, but we were much more. Demon slayer was our title. Our sole purpose was to settle the ancient quarrel between Heaven and Hell. We were not plucked from the masses of the nine circles and trained as warriors; we were created knowing only war.

No war lasts forever. Such was our fury that when the demon horde lay vanquished beneath our feet the very fabric of Hell had been transformed. The firelands were frozen, the burning pools of noisome brimstone quenched beneath glittering ice.

Of the proud army we once called brothers there were but eight of us remaining. Our kinsmen were left behind where they fell, or condemned to a state of nothingness by the venom of demon wounds. Perhaps they were not truly dead, but by no measurement known to Heaven could they be called truly alive. 616 mutilated angels forsaken on the battlefield. Such was their reward for an eternity of service and loyalty.

We are seven.

Yet, as told, eight of us stood before the gates of Heaven, bathed in the black blood and putrid venom of the countless demons we had slain. We had departed to trumpets and fanfare, loyal soldiers marching to fight a just war. We returned as battle-twisted veterans, unwanted by those in whose name we achieved victory. What place did we have in a victorious Heaven? For we were sons who knew only war and destruction. Our endeavors against the stinking horde had transformed us into powerful and unpredictable immortals.

Proudly we stood while the gates of Heaven were closed to us forever. Undesirables, unwanted, outcasts— the words still burn in our minds. As dark angels we had free rein to wander the world of men and its many insignificant kingdoms. The judgment passed upon was cruel. Immortal we were, but we had been removed from the Grace of Heaven, and for that we suffered. Some had their wings clipped, others atrophied. These wounds pained our flesh, but the loss of dignity ravaged our spirits.

The mortals of Egypt, on whose soil our kinsmen had shed their immortal blood, spoke of how our service to Horus was at an end. That our masters was pleased, and now rallied us to aid Anubis in the never-ending struggle to protect the underworld from Apophis, the demon-serpent. Thus was our ability to fly taken, for we were bound to the depths, not the eternal sky. Poisonous words, except in the feeble minds of mortals, whose pitiful senses could not comprehend our true fate.

We are seven.

Yet eight of us stood before the gates of Heaven so long ago. The law was immutable—we would be seven, and no more. In order that the law be fulfilled one of us would remain in Heaven, but not as a hero returned in glory or honored guest. No celestial palace would they call home. Their fate was to be caged. Only when one of us fell would the eighth of our number be released from their bondage.

The decision as to who should be imprisoned was not ours to make. Eve, the most ruthless of our kind, was chosen by the Archangel Adam. Behind closed gates she would stay, the eyes of the fiery, six-winged guardians of the Throne of Tetragrammaton—the Seraphim High Guard—watching ever upon her.

Why Eve we did not ask, for we knew no answer would be given. They could ignore our words, but they could not deny us our thoughts. Eve was the greatest of our number, a glaive wielder whose prowess had accounted for the existence of an unimaginable number of black-hearted demons during the long war. Ah, how her weapons sang, for they were forged and infused with the most powerful melodies ever known in the heavens.

Mortals forge weapons, but we angels forge power. Only when the physical shell was perfect, as befitted the ranks of Heaven, did we empower our weapons. Into each was whispered a unique song, a psalm attuned to the individual weapon, a hymn that gave the weapon life and purpose. Eve’s glaives held the Hymn of Sundering. No substance, divine or hellish, enchanted or mundane, could resist their deadly kiss. Such power was infused into those blades that the very walls of Heaven shook as each harmony was molded into shape. Never have I replicated their fury, and never shall I do so again.

To leave behind Eve in the Heavenly realm infuriated my brother. He spat no words, but his face was an open book to me. Though he would never admit it, even to himself, he and Eve were close. During the wars they were inseparable, fighting back-to-back on a mound of writhing demon corpses. As my mind’s eye gazed over those scenes, two warriors fighting as one, I realized the truth—ripping Eve from our ranks would render my brother incomplete.

We are immortals. No passing of time would erase this mischief from my brother’s mind, nor heal the open wound in his heart. It is strange, perhaps cruel, how things work out. In the last battle, before we unfurled the victory banner over the shattered remnants of Hell, Eve broke a piece of her heart and gave it to my brother. Around his neck it hung, and would do so for eternity.

We are seven.

The early days of our banishment were a source of great pain. The constant presence of Heaven poisoned our spirit, for although we had been cast out they would not allow us our freedom. Into our ears they whispered venomous thoughts, telling us our banishment to the mortal layer was in our best interests. As the Tree of Life grew from a seed, so vengeance festered and magnified within us. Perhaps we did dwell in ignorance, blinded by Heaven’s insidious claims, but the curtain of lies could not remain over our minds forever. My brother and I saw clearly the true nature of the scheme. Our banishment was not for our good, but to protect the pathetic lords of Heaven, to whom we had once bowed low. Alas, the others were still veiled to the truth.

Before our descent we made a pact to remain together, brothers in exile, defiant against those who had sinned against us. The mortals have a saying—the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Let me tell you now, it is paved with the blood of fallen angels. I know, for I have walked it.

We remained as one in deed and thought but for a short time. Two of them were pawns of Heaven. Their sentence was to run errands on the mortal layer for the ones who exiled us. This they did like lapdogs, never once questioning the banal nature of the deeds they were to carry out. It burdened me greatly to see the iron grip Heaven held on their hearts. These two we cast aside, for they could not be spared their fate.

My brother and I defected from the other three soon after, though we held no malice for them. Mortals speak of eternity, but they have no true grasp of its meaning. To be discarded from Heaven and the Light of Lights, to ponder the reality of being a fallen angel—it was too much for them. They had lost their will to rebel, and could serve no role in the new cause that burned and gnawed within the spirit of my brother and me. Vengeance would be ours.

We are seven no longer.

Free from Heaven’s final shackle, we were masters of our own existence, uncontrolled, unconstrained, unguided…

Centuries and millennia drifted by, like clouds in the sky. Our interest fell upon the mortals, and in particular the land of Zion. Here men dwelt in great multitudes, enclosed within a city as large as a continent. We walked as simple travelers. Our true nature was masked from mortal eyes. As fallen angels, we had developed many new powers. Disguised as mortals we penetrated their culture and absorbed their history.

They were ants compared to us, but we grew fond of them. The wars we fought of old were, in part, to preserve the human race. Heaven had created them as the reflection of angels, and we were assigned to protect those we considered our own. But only now, as outcasts, did we take the time to truly know the hearts of earth-bound men. The humans had been productive since the distant days of the Egyptian wars, and their technology fascinated us. Automated machines, the magic of being able to fly without wings, and artificial creatures known as robots—mankind, it seemed, had assumed the mantle of the gods.

Do not think they lived within a utopia, for the humans were weighed down by many burdens of their own making. Their lust for technology had created environmental problems—the planet’s resources, vast as they were, were being consumed, animals were hunted to extinction, pollution choked the skies and waters.

We were not gods. We could not tell if the world would ever recover from the rape, but we could at least nudge the humans in the right direction to making amends. We made Zion our home, and the Zionics welcomed us with open arms. We had found some measure of peace and acceptance that caused much agitation in Heaven, but we did not care—the humans were now our companions. They were loyal to us, and we would return that in times of distress.

The sands of time ran long, and our status in the world of humans increased dramatically. Our endless knowledge elevated our standing in their eyes, and our solving of their political problems elevated our standing in their hearts. Though we did not seek dominion, we were drawn into the heart of power in Zion.

Since before our arrival centuries earlier, Zion had been a monarchy. Three thrones it boasted—one for the king, and two for his closest advisors. Time is the enemy of mortals, and the king was nearing the end of his allotted days. No son or daughter had he sired, and the burden of having no rightful heir weighed on his soul like a mountain. In all our days in Zion we had never once sought audience with any king, yet now one summoned us to his throne room. With sense far beyond the kin of mortals I could hear the old man’s heart thumping out its final beats, like the last grains of sand falling in an hourglass. Our discussion with the king was long, but the outcome short—he offered us the throne on his death.

I, being of a more diplomatic nature than my brother, accepted the offer with no hesitation. My brother’s mind and heart were, as always, elsewhere, and it took all of my powers of persuasion to convince him to accept. I would rule as king, and he would rule by my side as prince. It was not long afterward the king drew his final breath. As promised, I was appointed the new king, my brother at my side. We mourned the old king’s passing, for such was the way of the Zionics, but they also rejoiced, for they knew us to be strong and wise.

Though my brother was a prince, he saw himself as a general, charged with overseeing the country’s defenses against all external threats. I acquiesced, seeing that besides defending the great city, our great city, he would have free hand to pursue personal interests away from the politicking of court. A great time, by mortal reckoning, had passed, but vengeance against Heaven and the liberation of his beloved Eve still ruled his heart. An age of peace fell upon Zion.

During my reign I forged two new weapons of power. For my brother, I forged a blade imbued with the Hymn of Mending. His thirst for vengeance unquenched, it would serve him well should danger and suffering befall him. For myself, I forged the Blade of Immortal Death. Though my craving for battle had diminished, I knew that any threat that walked unbidden into our throne room would not be of mortal origin. Ah, you are undoubtedly wondering how an immortal can die? The weapon’s name was misleading, for it held no power to truly slay an immortal. Its enchantment would cut immortal flesh, rendering any so wounded incapacitated. In all the world of men it had no equal in that regard.

We had never feared mortals, and so armed we had little fear of immortals, for the blades would ensure any attacker was quickly defeated. To these I added for my brother the Shield of Undying and the War Crown of Victory. Forged of metal, imbued with power, and tempered with pride, they were perfect instruments. The humans have another saying—pride comes before a fall.

We had seen countless nations crumble and perish, and though we were immortal and without equal in the world of men, nothing lasts forever. Our peace was ended by a host of angels unleashed from Heaven. At their head marched the two betrayers, of whom we had long forgotten. Their goal was simple—to capture us and to bring about the end of our regime.


They were legion, and our resistance lasted but weeks. How many mortals gave their lives to protect us and how many angels were gravely wounded by my brother’s blade we cannot say, for they were immeasurable by any reckoning. In the end, the throne room was penetrated and we were overpowered by sheer weight of numbers. My beloved advisors, who with a little help from myself had managed to withstand the ravages of time remarkably well, were executed before our eyes.

Our punishment was exile once more. Torn from the mortal realm, we were dragged to the Hell Frost. Since the Egyptian Sin War, it had been a harsh landscape plagued with everlasting winters, the battle-torn ground undisturbed for thousands of years. It was a realm we knew well, for we had been here before. Hell Frost it might be now, but once this realm was known as Hell.

Since the end of the war, the war we had helped win, the white fields had been a sacred tomb to the fallen. Here, time had stood still. Our gaze fell upon the immortal skulls of angels and demons, silent witnesses to the savage conflict fought here. And now we were to be the only living inhabitants.

The fate of my brother was not identical to my own. Calmer, quiet, a diplomat more than a warrior, they sated themselves with shattering my blade and leaving me to roam the barren lands undefended. No doubt they thought there was no chance of escape, and with no end to my torment I would lose my sanity.

My brother’s fate was far harsher. He was sentenced to the region of the Nightmareland, where a temple of ice was raised as his prison. In their eyes, his doom was certain. The Nightmareland was a forgotten part of Hell, a treacherous realm even by immortal standards. Should he break free from his cage, the jagged cliffs of the Valley of the Damned would prevent further progress, leaving him at the mercy of the uncontrolled revenge that seeped through the fabric of the realm and breathed an unholy life all its own.

No sooner than our jailers left, I summoned an eclipse to shield me from the All-Seeing Eye of Heaven. By immortal standards it was a simple trick, one I had learned from the ancient Egyptians. Concealed under a veil of darkness, I tracked down the fragments of my blade and began my work anew. Broken though the blade was, its magic could not be sundered. Metal and spell were reforged to create an axe that would be the bane of the betrayers. Within its shell I poured my unchained rage. So was born Angel Cleaver.

I worried little about my brother. His blade, which was still intact, still carried within it the Hymn of Mending. Sooner or later he would escape his prison, and any injuries he received would be healed by the song of power. No, my thoughts lay with the mortals we had left behind. Heaven’s wrath had not been sated with our capture, and without us to guide them they would be easy prey.

Trapped in a land without time, we knew not the length of our imprisonment. Neither of us accepted our fate as final, but our nature began to change to suit the enclosures in which we were caged. Our thoughts once turned to the three self-doubting fallen angels, thinking perhaps they might come to our assistance. We soon put such notions aside, for they had been lost for millennia, and their apathy was unlikely to have lessened in so short a time.

Hell Frost may have been our prison, but we were not without sources of information capable of reaching us. Word reached me that Heaven had finally grown tired of the human race. Men had long changed the world to suit their needs, but now they endeavored to unlock the secrets of artificial intelligence. This the powerful Seraphim could not tolerate.

That God gave the world, his creation, to man only to watch the mortals destroy it was one thing, but to attempt to become gods was another. Man had been granted free will and consciousness at the instant of his creation, but now he was attempting to transfer that consciousness, the divine essence that separated him from beasts, to inanimate matter. It was a violation that could not go unpunished. Heaven decreed a flood would exterminate the human race. This would be no deluge of water, no drowning death as unleashed of old—this would be a metaphorical flood marked by the dawn of the machines. Men would be permitted to fulfil their ambitions, only to watch their creations turn on them.

The two betrayers were again ordered into the service of Heaven. This time they would pass as mortals, infiltrating the AI research team and guiding them towards Heaven’s appointed goal. The key to this would be a simple cog forged in Heaven’s workshops. Its purpose was to replace the human heart in the AI, a construct known as Syndissiah. Placed in its chest cavity and wired into the robotic core, the cog bestowed the machine with full consciousness.

I have often asked myself whether mankind would have continued the experiments had he known the final outcome. I have yet to reach an answer. The cog filled Syndissiah with the entire history of mankind in an instant—its barbaric wars, the abuse of the planet, the misuse of species man was meant to watch over, the injustices man wrought against his fellow man. The newborn entity, man’s creation in his own image, reached the only logical conclusion—mankind would have to be exterminated.

Wired into the global information network, it conquered Zion with minimal resistance. Now in full control, it initiated a full-scale nuclear strike. Within a week, the time it had taken God to make the world and the creatures that crawled upon its surface, the machine had transformed much of Zion into monumental factories. Its citizens, the people we had come to know as our own, became the raw materials it needed to create an army of biomechanical machines. The final days of the human race had dawned.

Though frozen in body, a lone thought burned in my brother’s mind—reunion with Eve. But like the last ember in a once raging fire, it was a dull glow, and rapidly diminishing. Cracks began to appear in his sanity. In his delusional state he wished for her nonexistence, to rid his mind of the nightmares of his past. Heaven may have heard his thoughts, but it chose to ignore them. His blade, buried deep in the ice temple of Nightmareland, did not.

The blade sang. Renewed strength flowed through his limbs. His frozen shackles cracked, then shattered. His mind at once turned to his heart, for his jailers had separated it from his body and buried in within the ice temple as a final ignominy.

His escape did not go unnoticed outside his temple prison. Wraiths, the spirits of angels long buried in the ice, awakened with a wail that must have caused God to shudder, for in all of eternity it had no comparison. The object of their rage was my brother, for his presence was deemed a violation of their sacred resting place. Within seconds of his emerging into the frozen hell they swarmed over him, tearing and biting at his flesh. Oh, to have seen it—my brother, a lone warrior, clutching his perfect blade in his right hand and his still-beating heart in his left, preparing to meet the onslaught with honor and courage.

He should have struck at his attackers, but he stayed his hand. Instead, he dropped his blade and raised his heart aloft for all to see. With a roar he plunged it back into his empty chest. Terror was the primary weapon of the wraiths, and now it was their enemy, for they flinched. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of their undying spirits, they recognized the courage of their old general, a being that had absolute power over his heart, mind, and body.

As one, the wraiths bowed low before my brother. 616 angels fell in battle that fateful day, and now 616 wraiths swore fealty to my brother. He was the Unguided King, and the army was his to command. Now I look back, I see that our positions among men had reversed—my brother was king, and I would be his prince.

Sensing my brother’s release through the bond we shared, I dispatched a messenger to him with all haste. All those years caged, all that energy expended in trying to escape, had likely erased all knowledge of our last conversation. Before we were separated, we had sworn a final oath—to defend the human race against whatever enemy they faced. We had saved them from the tyranny of Hell’s armies long ago, and now we must defend them from Heaven’s wrath.

Oh, how the universe had changed. Hell was an impotent frozen wasteland, Heaven was aflame with insanity, and nature, which we had both come to love, was but a vague memory, so choked was it by pollution and warfare. Someone had to pay the price.

Our plan was to march on Zion, the enemy’s heart on the mortal realm, and cast down the machines and the two betrayers. With their deaths, the planet would slowly recover from the millennia of corruption that had occurred in our absence. The wraiths knew a secret passage through the Nightmareland and its razor cliffs, and they duly guided my brother onward.

At the head of the army he marched—the Unguided King. Behind him fluttered the banners of the triple solar symbols once more. Heaven reacted, sending a legion of angels to oppose his progress. Had he fought alone he might have faltered, but with his army at his side he swept aside all opposition, scattering their flesh and consuming the knowledge residing in their minds. Through the latter the army grew in strength; not in numbers, but in wisdom.

Though I had yet to stand at my brother’s side, I called forth another eclipse to shelter us from Heaven’s gaze. Let them ponder our intended destination. Let them fear that we were marching to their gates. They may not have been able to see us, but they could hear our progress, for the very foundations of the universe shook at our advance. The invasion had begun.

// listen

The secret passage took us from the permanent blizzards of the Hell Frost to the borders of Zion, for Hell of old had long connected to all mortal lands. Here, at last, I was reunited with my brother. A mortal may feel joy at returning to a loved one after many years, but his heart cannot comprehend the ecstasy of reunion I felt after millennia away.

Not all mortals had perished in the terrible war. I called upon those left, to stand beneath our banner and to fight in what would be the conclusive battle. They had no fear of Heaven-sent persecution, for the shadow of the eclipse kept them safe. Drawn by the beacon of darkness, they came from the four corners of the world. Mankind had long been troubled by divisions based on creed and color, but on this day he stood united—one people, one goal.

As our number swelled I placed in my brother’s hand his new weapon—Angel Cleaver. The host of Heaven had not destroyed his other items of power—his shield and crown. Perhaps they thought that allowing them to exist, albeit under my protection, would be a further insult, for in his ice temple prison he was impotent yet aware of their continued presence.

His cyan eyes lit up, illuminating the darkness as he placed the crown upon his head and took steady grip of his shield. He spread his black wings and pointed Angel Cleaver toward Zion. Without pause, without question, the army of immortals and mortals marched to war. I cast aside the shadow of darkness, allowing the enemy to witness our approach.

The initial clash was violence previously not witnessed in the mortal realm. The machines stood ready with their formidable defenses, but we were as unstoppable as the tide. Deeper and deeper into the city we fought, recognizing it in name only. Here once stood the greatest city known to humanity. Today it was a ghost of its former glory, populated by machines served by the remnants of humanity.

As the tide flows inland, so it must eventually retreat. A thousand tides flowed as the battle swung to and fro. At some point we witnessed three stars fall from the heavens toward the earth. These were no balls of stone or ice—I recognized them at once as falling angels. Three stars fell. The three angels who once turned their backs on our cause, had obviously found a way to destroy themselves, to end their immortal existence. At last they had lifted the veil of Heaven’s dark deceit. At last they found release through oblivion.

At once I caught sight of my brother. His eyes glittered with renewed hope, for the balance must be maintained, as Heaven decreed. The ancient rule demanded three be sent to join our number. Yes, there was hope in his eyes, but also sadness, for he knew none of the three were the one he so desperately longed to see. I retreated from the battle and made my way to where the newly fallen angel had landed. Perhaps these were better suited to our cause than those they had replaced.

Fortune had indeed smiled upon us, for in all three I saw great potential. Two became my disciples; the third received schooling in the art of battle from my brother and served as his captain. I named my new followers Mercy and Judgment, for they would stand beside me as my advisors. Strange, that having witnessed a million deaths I still missed my old mortal assistants. These two would go some way toward healing that wound.

Still the war raged. A small team of wraiths, veterans of the long conflict, were sent to infiltrate the nexus of the enemy camp, from where Syndissiah, the self-proclaimed God of a new race, was controlling his force. It proved a costly use of manpower. Six wraiths, the only ones we lost in the war, died to reveal a truth we had long suspected but never dared to voice—no weapon could destroy Syndissiah, for his shell had been replaced with impenetrable adamantium. We could scour the world and eradicate every last servant of the machine god, but still the vile creature would live. Time, we realized, was not our friend. After each assault, our enemy upgraded his defenses to eliminate flaws in his previous tactics. Soon we would be out of options.

The battle continued for six years and a day. We gave up counting the number of human casualties long ago. The machines proved most adept at destroying human life, but against the wraiths they had a harder time. We mourned the passing of our human troops, but the sacrifice was necessary—at long last we had the upper hand.

On the final day of war we faced the two betrayers. Until now they had kept to the shadows, but there was nowhere left to hide. The mere sight of them enraged my brother. I recall him charging at the male betrayer with a fury I have never witnessed, not even during our war against the forces of Hell. A lesser warrior, I struggled to keep the other occupied.

My brother struck blow after blow, a rain of steel combined with the chorus of an enchanted song, forcing his opponent to his knees. As he held his axe to the angel’s throat, the betrayer begged for its life. The Unguided King looked down at the pitiful wretch and did something unexpected—he spared the fallen angel. To see it grovel with thanks was both sickening and empowering, for it was sorely beaten and yet could have been so much more.

Believing his opponent subdued, my brother marched away in search of other opponents. The betrayer rose, slashing at my brother’s wings, slicing clean through them, and pulverizing his crown. Without looking back or even breaking step, Angel Cleaver sang its hymn. Since that day I have often wondered whether the betrayer knew what his fate would be, or whether he truly thought he could kill my brother. My stupor at seeing the immortal’s head fly from his shoulders was immediately dispelled as my brother plunged his hand into the fallen angel’s chest and ripped out its heart.

Witnessing this, the female betrayer immediately fled. We made no attempt to hunt her down—an eternity of loneliness carrying the knowledge of her betrayal was a more fitting fate than death. To Mercy I gave the heart for safekeeping, while Judgment devoured the brain. My two apprentices would keep the organs within their own bodies, preventing any reconciliation.

My brother gazed skyward, waiting for what he knew must come next. Another piece of light plummeted down, blazing a fiery trail through the firmament. My brother rushed to the impact site and there…there she stood—Eve, his long-lost soul mate.

For an age they simply stared at each other, his bright eyes locked with her dark orbs. The spell was broken, they rushed into an embrace, entwining themselves in each other’s arms. It was not since the Egyptian Sin Wars I had felt such a sense of happiness in my brother. No doubt they would have remained that way for ever if they had the luxury, but there was still a war to win.

The presence of Eve and her glaives stirred something inside me. Insight into the nature of the cog and the means of its destruction flooded my mind, bestowing on me the information I needed to destroy the cog, the source of Syndissah’s unnatural life. I melted down Angel Cleaver and the king’s old blade, for both had served their purpose, and forged them into a hammer. I composed a song of power that day like never before, empowering the weapon with one specific purpose— to destroy the cog. This was Heaven’s Bane, and to the Unguided King it was gifted.

As the sun sank below the horizon, bathing the sky with the color of blood, the captain and the wraiths lead the vanguard as we stormed toward the old throne room, Syndissiah’s heart of power. The army moved to mop up the last elements of resistance, while my two disciples, my brother the king, and the new queen, Eve, and I advanced toward the final confrontation. To see Eve wield her glaives again as she dispatched the last robotic sentry between us and the machine was a spectacle all its own. And then the end came.

Eve moved like lightning, plunging her twin glaives through the adamantium carapace, almost tearing the creature in twain as she opened a long gash in its rib cage. There, glowing like the very throne of Heaven, was the cog. My brother ripped it from the false god’s chest and placed it on the remains of the fallen sentry, an anvil for his hammer.

It is amazing even to an immortal how little it takes to end a war. With a single strike, the cog was crushed into a million pieces. There was no piercing scream, no explosion, no fanfare—just a myriad showers of tiny lights fluttering upward towards Heaven. With an act that simple Syndissiah ceased to exist as a creature of consciousness. All that remained were the lifeless gears and wires of her artificial form.

We did not destroy her remains. These we left in the throne room as a permanent symbol of our victory. Once more I sat on the central throne of Zion, with Mercy to my left and Judgment to my right. Above us stood the statues of Horus and Anubis, erected here long ago when first I became king.

Our first visitor was not one we expected. The Archangel Adam came before us, unarmed and willing to open dialogue. Heaven was not pleased with the outcome of the war, but it had come to respect our courage and strength of will. Heaven would not interfere in our affairs, at least for now. I wish that there could have been some reconciliation, but not one fiber of my body trusted Adam.

The Unguided King and his queen chose not to remain in Zion. Much had to be rebuilt, but they sought only to make up for the many millennia of lost time. I speak truth when I say my heart was heavy at his departure, but I knew in my heart he would never abandon us—when Zion called, he would answer. Undoubtedly, I would have need of his weapons one day, for the peace with Heaven could not last. The Unguided King’s last order to the 610 wraiths that remained in his service was to make them swear oaths of fealty to the captain and me.

My forecast of another war with Heaven weighed heavily on us all. Countless hours were spent planning strategies, but everything pointed to the same conclusion—the ancient rule kept our number at seven, while Heaven could command untold legions of angels. It did not escape our notice that we were in fact six, for the female betrayer was never seen again, and since no replacement ever arrived we knew she still lived. Of course, the wraiths were an added advantage, but they were not fallen angels.

Judgment saw a solution. My brother has left us an army of immortals, and though it might take many human lifetimes, we could evolve them into fallen angels. Already in the earthly layer and under our command, they were not bound by the ancient law that stymied us. Heaven has already quailed at the thought of having six fallen angels opposed to them; the terror they would feel at facing down an entire legion would be legendary. So it came to pass, the process of evolving the wraiths was put in to place.

We eventually received word of the seventh original fallen angel. She had failed Heaven so utterly that her continued existence was a cancer. Her fate would be far crueler than anything we had endured in our exile. Naturally, she was not replaced in our ranks—by the time her demise came, our numbers greatly exceeded the ordained quota. We did not complain, for before us stood the ordered ranks of 610 dark angels.

616 angels died in the final war against Hell. Now 616 fallen angels walked the earth, ready for the eventual conflict that would determine mastery of the universe. As for the earth, so ravaged by war and diseased by pollution, it began the slow recovery. To watch nature return in such strength greatly warmed my heart. We would make sure to give it the time it needed, to fully mend.

There was nothing stopping us now.

Unguided we were.

Unguided we will be.

~The Defector




I have seen the time before time. I have seen the Throne of Tetragrammaton. I have been to the very centre of heaven, constructed by the unknown forces that gave birth to so much -- the centre, with its purpose to shine divine light upon the tree of life that stood proudly tall and commanding beneath it. Its roots vast and ever present, reaching through time and space, to bind all lands under the sky and nine circles. I can tell you as I witnessed all of this, I can tell you of the system that the throne belonged to, the very pivot of this whole tapestry, part of a sensorium which was aware of all its surroundings.

It knew of events, both near and far.

It was all part of the grand plan, to help nurture and supply life force to all places of the world equally. We had created, my brothers and I, with the help of power beyond our own -- this organic infrastructure that was vital and important to all creation.

We planted the seed of this tree, watched it grow, mature, and become strong to stand guard for eternity at the foot of the great throne -- it was not our greatest accomplishment, but one of many that we could be proud of.

We served the Seraphim, as the seven, to maintain and monitor the vital function of the tree and its vast root ecosystem as it penetrated all of reality, touching all worlds at once, feeding the divine power and the mortal, simultaneously.

We have witnessed wonders and terrors in equal measure, the bright light of heaven and the all-encompassing shadow of the darker universe. We have seen the birth of countless worlds, and we know — or, we can at least guess — that when one is born, these Seraphim have their divine hand behind it. They orchestrate life, crafting the world, ensuring there is harmony and balance upon the surface and that what life is there can grow and mature. We like to think of them as an order of World Crafters and God shapers -- to us, this concept does not seem wholly unreasonable.

What of these Seraphim though, how do we see them? To us they appear not too unlike those beings we have come to know as humans, perhaps they are a reflection of these divine energies, or there is another template at work we yet do not know. What sets them apart from the humans are their wings, six of them, magnificent reflections of the dawn's early light pregnant with their radiant angelic luminescence.

What you must know of course, is that man had not yet been created, so perhaps it is not accurate for me to say that the Seraphim reminded us of humans. Instead, perhaps I should say that humans echo so much of that which is Seraphim, sans wings, and the power of the divine that gives these angelic beings so much charisma and beauty.

So yes, man did not yet exist, and we had other tasks that required our attention.

Along with the Seraphim, we shepherded the primal forces that make up the cosmos, carefully — always carefully — ensuring that the right mix of spirits, forces, and entities were drawn down. Lured you might say. Then, like some form of a cosmic alchemist, we would turn our attention to stirring this morass of potential — until after much refinement — we provoked the entities to stir consciousness within themselves.

As mortals, you would come to know these beings as Gods. Yes, Gods, great and small, who were created thanks to the Seraphim and ourselves. “God” is a good enough word as any for these entities of power. And, as you know, there has been a multitude from the various pantheons throughout history.

We watched with a great deal of interest. As the affairs of the Gods grew, their power grew. And the Seraphim, along with us, kept a careful eye on all that transpired. As the Gods were defined, they all had different properties, personalities, skills, and of course different agendas. They were made distinct from one another, of course. All extremely talented in their own ways. And all driven by their own needs, wants, and desires.

Yet there was only one throne. One seat of power that mattered to the Seraphim and us. We needed one of these beings to serve as the head of all Gods, to take the one seat of power that straddled the tree, to become the ONE who became the very Pulse of the World.

To do this the Seraphim decided to test them all, thoroughly, without rest and without mercy.

These tests were long, hard, and grueling. The Seraphim saw some of the lesser Gods fall by the wayside to return to the essence from which they came.

I remember, though, when I first saw him. He was the most commanding of all the Gods who was tested. He out-shinned them all. He was a bright star with the power to shift reality and to shape flesh. He was known to us as the God named “Apophis.” His skill was magnificent and extraordinary. He had the power to craft living flesh from the cosmic building blocks of life. Surely he would be the one to take the mantle and throne most exalted?

Apophis was clever as well. We saw this. The Seraphim saw it too. The God crafted a creature in the Seraphim's own image, set him to grow as a fruit upon the tree of life. This stunning spectacle played out for us all, and it was the birth of the first human. He was given a name by Apophis, a name that would echo through time and space: Adam.

So it was that the dawn of man came upon us, marking for the seven a glorious moment, and for our calendar of sorts: Year Zero.

This show of power, this incredible feat of creation impressed the Seraphim beyond all doubt. Apophis was accepted as the God who would sit upon the throne, to be the heart of the world. This position and place could only be inhabited by one being of power though, so it was that upon the very same day that the God Apophis sat upon the heavenly throne. The other gods were banished from heaven, and sent to their own realms and dimensions to find their own place in the tapestry of the cosmos.

We saw Apophis take full control of the tree of life, enmesh his power with it, and gain its infinite reach.

Yet he was not done. Adam was but one man, and Apophis reasoned that to complete his great work he needed to create for him a companion. So Apophis once more touched the tree of life, and it bore fruit. This fruit was different and a perfect companion to man -- equal in nakedness and equal in spirit -- Adam's companion was named Eve. Upon the seventh day of creation she was born unto the new world.

This, we saw unfold, and it took our breath away.

Adam and Eve walked their new world under the watchful eye of all of us. Apophis included who monitored how his life adapted to their home. They watched (as did we) as their world was slowly constructed around them. They swam in its rivers, ran across its plains, and played in its lush gardens. They came together many times drawn by their attraction to each other. The pair had many children in this time, and thus we saw a rise in the world's population as their offspring sired children of their own. Humankind increased in number almost exponentially after a time.

To aid them in this world and to provide for them, Apophis introduced new species over time -- new beings who could live in harmony beside the fledgling humans.

Our story seems grand so far, full of life and potential, with nary a dark cloud over it? This, I wish was true. But soon a blackness would come over this new world and heaven would be shaken to its roots -- in the case of the tree, literally.

As time passed we noticed that Eve was no longer as happy as she was. And so concerned with her well-being were we that secretly we spied upon her and Adam to see what had transpired. We saw that Adam and his firstborn daughter had become close. Not in a passionate way, but in a father-daughter relationship built upon love and respect. We observed that they talked about a great many things. Adam taught her all about the world and his experiences, his philosophy and understanding. He neglected Eve in this way, and the woman grew jealous of her beautiful daughter. Her mind turned to thoughts that were dark, unfriendly, and unwanted in this world.

Yet she thought them, and they grew in number, festering in her mind.

What we did not see, until it was vastly too late was Apophis' scheme -- a plan he hid from all of us until it was enacted. By then, we could do little to stop it. We were left as bystanders to a great tragedy born of hubris.

Whilst Adam and Eve's relationship soured upon the ground, Apophis secretly turned his attention to the tree of life. Over time he began to poison the tree. He removed the power of creation from the high throne to ensure that he was the ONLY being capable of such. In his sort of madness, he allowed fear to cloud his judgement. He had fear of losing his power to a usurper from the ranks of the Gods, someone else who could impress the High Guard and take the throne from him.

This he would not allow. So we were all shocked and amazed when the tree of life died.

Power is an interesting thing. It can never be created nor destroyed, much like energy. So, the dying tree passed its power to the next in line, Apophis' first born -- Adam.

Adam did not know that he had been given such responsibility and power. The power of the tree, to maintain all life, and to bind the planet together.

We knew though, eventually. We can tell you that Adam gained a complete immunity to the ravages of age. He also gained an immunity to the elemental forces -- no longer to suffer the effects of heat or cold. He now became the very nexus of all things that kept the world together, bound to the fate of every living being upon the planet.

He did not know that if he ever lost that power, the fate of the world would also be sealed -- all things would cease to be.

Whilst Adam was unaware, we watched in horror as Eve drew her plans, her mind now thoroughly poisoned by jealousy and envy -- she had seen the tree's decay and watched it sicken. It was this sickness that gave her the idea for her betrayal, so she slipped away to plan and plot whilst Adam continued to dote upon his daughter.

Now we move into the most troublesome, worrisome, and sad aspect of our tale so far.

Eve's betrayal and the first death.

On one of her many frequent trips away from Adam, Eve discovered that the sickly tree had almost died. And while she observed, she saw a creature drink from its sap. It was quickly killed, and her eyes lit with the fires of revenge. She swiftly worked to fashion a bow from the poisonous wood. She crafted arrows using the tree’s sharpened branches and feathers from the dead creature. Then, she laced these arrows with Apophis' venom, and crept away as silently as she came.

It saddens me to recall this event, but here humanity had crafted its first weapon and much later on in history they would know the bow as “Death’s Sting.”

Now where was I? Ah, yes, Eve.

Let me tell you of Eve's actions so that you are not doomed to repeat them.

This is how it transpired. This is how the firstborn man died.

As the new day dawned, Adam bid farewell to his family and began his early morning excursion into the lands surrounding his home. He did not make it far, for Eve followed her husband and ambushed him. Her anger, hate, and envy reflected brightly in her eyes. She leapt from the bushes and unleashed a swift poisonous arrow. It struck Adam in the knee and shredded his flesh. It cracked his bone and brought him low.

Adam whispered, “Why?” But all he could hear was his racing heart as his body succumbed to the poison. We could have saved him, or at least the Seraphim could. But we watched, all of us, in shock. What came next was incredible and terrifying in equal measure -- Adam's gift from the great tree manifested. As his body died, his spirit embraced the Light of Lights, and was born heavenward like a shooting star.

Eve left her husband's body to rot. So great was her anger that she did not even bury the man.

An explosion rocked the heavens and the Seraphim became aware of Eve's treachery. At the same time, they learnt of the tree's fate. They were furious, as such beings could manifest that emotion. They scoured heaven looking for the culprit and they left no stone unturned. We followed with them, certain we would be called to action as warriors to punish the being responsible.

All the clues that the Seraphim found led them to one conclusion, Apophis. So angered by his betrayal, the Seraphim found the God and accused him of numerous crimes. In his hubris, his greed, and lust for power they found all they needed to know. He had laid waste to the tree of life, supplied humanity with the recipe of death, and taught them how to end life prematurely.

There was but one punishment for this. The Seraphim dethroned the God. They threw him to the floor of heaven's throne so that the white-gold marble cracked, and the sky broke on the mortal world. Torrents of thunder and lightning bathed Eve's home and she grew fearful. In heaven, it fell to us — the seven, the most revered warriors of the High Guard — to enact the Seraphim's will. And we did. We took the God and bound him in chains of storm and fury. We held him aloft over the great ladder to the Earth and we cast him down.

His fall broke the spine of the world. He plummeted so fast that we were barely able to see where his final destination was, a tomb of lava beneath the crust of the planet.

Heaven was unbalanced. Creation teetered upon the brink and all came so close to destruction. We implored the Gods who now roamed the Earth that one might sit upon the throne, to save all creation. Our pleas, even those of the Seraphim, fell upon deaf ears. What care did the Gods, who were once abandoned by their makers, have for the fate of which that they had no part of?

So the Seraphim did what they had no recourse but to do. They enthroned Adam, and raised him most high. This first heavenly reborn man became the first Angel to lead heaven, to hold the fate of all in his palm: Adam, fruit of the tree, saviour of all.

ACT I - AN EMPTY MOAT // listen

So now that you know the past, we can talk about more interesting things. You know the story right, you have read the first Canto of The Book of The Unguided surely?

OK, so my brother, the king, rode off into the sunset with his queen. Flowers, garlands, and the whole celebration. Then he just canters off into the setting sun. He has the girl, and so forth. I feel elated for him, and sorry at the same time because immortality is a blessing and curse. Take it from an immortal, you know, me. I have endured so much for so long. I have lost count of all that has transpired since I began. To a mortal, to live forever sounds tempting since you live your lives on a constant clock-watch, just waiting for death to come along and shepherd your soul to where it needs to go.

Well, here is an interesting fact you may not know. For us immortals, we often dream of that frailty, of that final embrace. The calm peace that it may bring with its oblivion. So simply, those who live eternal dream of that final rest. And you mortals dream of our longevity. In the eyes of immortals such as me, mortality is a state of being that is simply “to die for.” Pun very much intended.

Now, do not get me wrong. It is not that I do not enjoy life, far from it. But to us, there is really no risk involved. Not much excites a true immortal. The endless march of days can become dull, the same thing over and over again.

To make it easier to understand, imagine that you had an unlimited resource at hand, gold, silver, iron, coal, cosmic power, and so forth. You no longer need to challenge yourself to get it. You no longer need to reach out to others and perhaps try diplomacy, or war, if you are really inclined. It is always there, always right there for you. For me, and for us immortals -- that resource is time.

It is now 7181 by my count. That amounts to many years, not counting the time before time.

Even if the memories from very early on grow thin and begin to fade, that span is still a lot of time to remember. I can tell you right now, it does get really boring after a while when you can remember back to Year Zero.

You know, back up there in the story, the whole thing. I was also there when the Trinity was completed and time itself began to tick on. That was a really surreal moment, first there was no means of tracking motion through our lives and then suddenly -- TIME. I often wonder if that is the origin of the saying, “Time Gentlemen Please.” I fully intend to say that at the end of time when everything is done and we press the big reset button.

It is such a classic phrase!

I digress though, I remember Adam being grown from the tree.

It is not as impressive as the Trinity, though. That is pretty incredible. In the more recent age, you would probably know it as the three solar symbols. Three suns stacked atop each other -- forever bound (like me). These symbols are the three criteria for a functioning world. They form the basic building blocks in all creation. Do not let on that I told you any of that, however. It is really a chain of command of sorts, working in symbiosis -- the heart, mind, and soul.

In the case of heaven or creation, you could look at it like this...

The heart: Say hello to Archangel Adam, remember him from previous texts, he is the pulse of the world.

The mind: That would be the Throne of Tetragrammaton, the everlasting, ever-knowing light.

The soul: That used to be the tree of life, binding it all together. But as we all know — thanks to the God Apophis, who we unceremoniously kicked out of heaven — the soul part has been dispersed. I'm not really sure what to think about that part of the Trinity honestly. On one hand, we were told that if the tree was ever destroyed the whole house of cards would come toppling down. Well, that did not happen if you think about it, tree dead, soul goes on somewhere? Perhaps you all have a tiny bit of it in you, and it is held as a collective part of the whole of humanity.

Or I could be wrong, whatever the answer -- it is a fact that the tree has been gone. And the soul is lost to us since the days of old.

I am rambling really, but stay with me, I think this next part is really interesting and it dovetails into the affairs of humankind as well as heaven.

It was suggested that if you break one link in the chain, the soul is no more, and both mind and heart would fall as well. Chaos and destruction would follow until everything just vanished into a morass of darkness.

It did not though, and that is kind of the point.

There has been one succession already in the past. Adam gained the power of the tree as Apophis poisoned it. Adam was reborn as an Angel (later he even became an Archangel) after his wife killed him with Death's Sting. When you break it down, it is essentially the very same rules that you mortals live by. It is just on a vaster scale, coloured by cosmic power and knowledge beyond your ken.

It is why we seven, and the Seraphim exist, to process the information when you cannot.

There has been successful heart transplants in the human world through your history, so in the context of this whole thing -- the soul and the mind must have accepted Adam on the throne rather than rejecting him, just like in the aforementioned transplant. When you come down to it, the heart is really a glorified pump and that's just what Adam on the throne IS.

Got it?

While we are on this subject it makes you think, or it makes me think and remember, I have a lot of time to ponder. Shifting the other two would be a monumental task unless you happen to be Syndissiah with his synthetic neuro-technicians. I bet he could work some foul encroachment with the brain. I mean he did really, what of the cyborgs fashioned in his facilities, bent to his will, constructed from the bodies of Zion's citizens?

It pains me to think about it, but thankfully, since the final offensive: codenamed: E.A.E, which ended the war. That kind of research, in the more robotic direction, has been forbidden in your world. Chalk one up for the World of Men right there!

Why did I mention them though?

Well, what they lacked was any semblance of SOUL. Connected to Syndissah, disconnected from the living vital world -- we are still on the subject of soul, see? I told you, immortals have long lives and we think about a great many things. We are also flighty in that regard, passing from one subject to another in the blink of an eye.

Of course my thoughts only make sense if you believe in such a thing as the soul. And in my experience with your kind, most mortals do not believe in the soul, the afterlife, alien beings and heavenly ones such as myself. Seriously, right there, you are missing out on some incredible moments of existential understanding and awareness.

On the other hand, I know for certain that you, and all the material that makes up your reality, are bound together. Everything is linked in a vast network that originally sprung from the tree of life from its long branches, and its very deep, penetrating roots. It is fortunate for all of us that when the tree died the world was young, still being shaped as the wayward soul of the tree escaped. Our luck did not end there either, the wayward soul found a new host, or hosts. It had to, or we would not be able to have this conversation. You simply would not be alive to read it.

I am also not sure how all this happened, or how the whole thing survived the change in this day and age, but it did and that is enough for me.

So what else can we talk about? Oh, peace -- there has been peace for 400 years and even if that is barely a blink of an eye for a being like me, it has been a welcome breath of fresh air in the ocean of time I can tell you.

Peace has been good for both the world of mortals and our grand home, Zion. The victory over the machines was quite a stunning achievement. Even if your kind tends to forget quickly, this particular fight along with its encompassing hardships taught humanity a valuable lesson. Ever since the war, I have observed a change in humans. It is honestly a good change. Your people have chosen a path of reconstruction compared to destruction. Your minds and efforts turn towards repairing the damage done by the machines, and also to the environment over time. Your common goal has become a mantra to heal the planet, something which I admit, I am somewhat proud of you for.

The war really did you a favour in one way. It unified humanity in a way I never thought possible. It was an achievement that surprised me, which is a rare thing to happen to an immortal. I never thought I would see your people come together and embrace each other, the world, and the environment. It has helped you prosper like never before.

I wonder if Apophis ever had those feelings as he watched Adam, Eve, and their children populate the planet?

Perhaps one day I shall have the answer.

Today, however, I am left with a few things to speak of still in this act, of my brother again, I suppose.

His exile left me conflicted, his army left behind, originally under his command, now transferred to me under my title as Warden of the City and my closest ally: the Captain.

Now this army of wraiths was strong and cunning, clever beyond measure. Their ability to consume the minds of their enemies and grow from the experience has given them an impressive rate of progression. They have changed so quickly compared to the creatures who first pledged allegiance to my brother in Hell Frost. However, against Adam's light-guided Angels, they were outnumbered. My two advisers, Mercy and Judgment, came to me with tales of great philosophic exchanges with these academic warriors, whom they also trained regularly. They told me that the army was a much appreciated addition to the City of Zion.

To make Zion secure once and for all though, something more had to be done. We needed a steadfast and unbeatable defense, and they were the perfect candidates.

For hundreds of years we evolved those wraiths. We turned them into even stronger beings, known as Dark Angels. This was a skillfully sanctioned transformation, overseen by Judgment, and inspired by the humble creature you call the butterfly.

We were bemused when our creation hatched, so to speak. When they came out of this metamorphosis they were unresponsive. Physically they were perfect, the perfect warrior cast in the images of those beings which we admired. Their mind though, that was missing. They did not answer to anyone, perhaps waiting for the right command or commander to call them to war. They flitted, like dark shadows, mindlessly around the city -- akin to golems just put on hold until a righteous master would appear to address them.

I hoped beyond all hope that my brother would return, to command them, to stand with us again.

The Citizens of Zion were scared of this new development though. They saw the city as vulnerable with a blunt army, and an army that might turn on them at any moment within their very walls. Perhaps to them it was understandable. To me though, I did not see it.

We held a council meeting in the hall of the Three Thrones, where the corroded remains of Syndissiah still lingered in silence as a constant reminder to us all. After much deliberation, the Captain and my advisers saw no immediate threat in the current status of the Dark Angels. So all agreed that the army would come back together if there was ever danger, to protect the people and save the city. This was the message we conveyed to the folk of Zion. We hopped that it would quell their fear and wash away their panic.

It was accepted by the Zionics but secretly they whispered thoughts of danger.

And as an immortal, I heard the whispers, but chose not to concern myself with them. Not at this time.


I have always admired this about humans, you have so many wonderful qualities amongst your people. Your dedication and thirst for knowledge, viewed by some as detrimental, or dangerous, is one of those many things I like. Your propensity to learn about history and where you came from is just another facet that sets you apart. I know that the most historic documentation was lost in the war sadly. But thanks to the efforts of Mercy, who has spent a great deal of time keeping track of the ages, those records and histories have been restored.

You seemed to focus upon the 61st Century. You were most interested in how the old king's advisers (later my own) had been given an unnaturally long life span. I admit, this was a trick of my own, it comes really naturally too. I simply channeled my immortality through the fabric of their bodies and thus they gained immortality, of sorts. It is a pity that their lives were cut so short, beheaded before my very eyes and in such a cruel fashion. I really liked them, they served me equally and loyally as they did their old master, and king.

As an immortal though you learn a great lesson, the longer you live, the easier it is to let go of people, places, and even feelings.

This is why I sometimes envy you mortals. Your brief candle-flame lives lived shortly yet twice as brightly as our own.

What came next was equally amusing, frustrating, and astounding. The academics of Zion came together as a think-tank and began to break down this ability of mine. Through chemistry, tinkering, and outright genius they created a mathematical formulae. They concocted potions that were the distilled essence of my power, made into something as crude (but still impressive) as an Elixir of Life.

What did you do that for? Here am I, immortal, ever-lasting and hoping one day to be united with the void somehow... and you, tiny flickers of life find a way to extend your already elongated lifespan (now 150 years or more) unless sickness or disease took you early.

But this drink, this potion would stop aging completely and with it bring a raft of problems.

When you add immortality to humanity, and you create it by chemical means, a means that can be manufactured you allow profit -- money -- corporate greed and control to overtake the essence of what you originally tried to create. Industry embraced this new wonder potion, the price was phenomenal and only the truly rich could afford to live forever. Hmm, where have I heard that before, eh?

The creators, those who came after, all of them would never have to fear age again, nor lift a finger. Thanks would go to those who crafted my gift into mere chemical qualities.

I really should have demanded royalties for it, but I find money tiresome and monotonous -- I am immortal after all.

Now remember I have spoken before of the balance, all things happen for a reason and there is a point to my tale in this Act. It is coming pretty soon as well.

As time lingered on, I really could not shake the feeling that in all of this. Us greater beings had somehow upset the proverbial apple cart, as well as upsetting the heavens by acting as Gods yet again, repeating the same mistakes of the past. Redirecting humanity and its development just seemed like another mistake, and I knew that our personal vendettas had brought you suffering once. Perhaps I unwisely kept my advice to myself, and held my own counsel.

I knew what would come, what would happen when Adam and the High Guard found out what you had achieved.

I knew he would be furious, and the High Guard would take steps.

It was only a matter of time, for me, that time came sooner than I really expected it would.

Why? To know this you must first understand the cycle of souls that bind heaven and the mortal worlds together.

Imagine heaven and the mortal world as two points of an eternal conduit, a figure eight. You have heard the term “Moebius Loop” or strip, right?

I can break this down to a simple concept for you. Earthly souls that return to Heaven, are reborn to fill the roles that Heaven has slated for them -- warrior, messenger, servant and the like. Angels who die, or eventually diminish (it can happen), have their energy reborn in humans — you — the other end of the strip. This was an immutable and unbreakable law -- even Adam had to abide by it.

As you were born, heaven needed to supply that fresh body with a soul to join with the mind and heart. With the Earthly function of procreation supplying the physical matter for the mind and heart. Thus the loop was maintained. The flow of souls managed to be perfected, and the all-important cycle of death, birth, and rebirth continued.

People wrote books on it for you to read, some of you understood the importance of all this, but those who wanted money only cared about their decimal points and market values.

Your immortality was a dangerous imbalance, and Adam saw it. If unchecked it would serve to annihilate the angelic race, wipe them out. Adam could not stand the idea that humans would eventually require the souls of his beloved champions and that humans would never learn the lessons they had still left to learn.

So he broke the truce, which perhaps broke my heart as well.

Adam unleashed wave upon wave of death upon Zion. The harvest of souls had begun in earnest.

It was a late hour when we realised what was happening, when we were alerted that the heavens had gone to war with Zion. In desperation we tried to reactivate the army but it was in vain. They did not hear our rallying cry and kept on wandering the streets like broken dolls. They watched with gaze, unblinking, as countless people were slaughtered like cattle in an abattoir. They walked through the blood and kept on walking. It was our fault, we felt. We had instilled in the citizens of Zion hope, a false hope -- my hubris was perhaps almost equal to that of Apophis in many ways.

Yet I was not about to give up, even as I saw the holocaust rage like a pyre through our grand city and claim numerous souls from our own people's discarded, lifeless corpses. I mourned you as I saw your lives taken. Anger filled my heart and I steeled my resolve.

Swiftly, I called for my brother. For I may have been the Warden of the City, but I was not its protector -- my brother was the rightful leader -- he would be able to save us. Until then, the Captain, Mercy, Judgment, and myself prepared to face Adam's armies as we dug in our heels to defend our position as best we could.

We were too few in number. I knew this, and I knew what would come. As I painfully waited for the king and queen to return, I watched the numbers of people dwindle as Adam was relentless in his campaign. He won of course. How could we stop him? So he enslaved Zion's people and created systems which his Angels enforced to regulate the flow of souls in favour of himself and his angelic hosts. How I hated him at that moment.

Our small group of resistance fighters did what we could to ruin his plans, but we were overwhelmed eventually, and in dire need of aid.

Adam's army kept growing with each of your lives they ended.

All seemed lost...

ACT III - EXILE // listen

You humans have a word you use, do you not, for that particular person whom you feel the most attached to when you speak of love? “Soulmate.” I hear it often when I observe you, and you sound so firm in your belief that you have found “The One.” How do you know? And more importantly, when you are apart from them, how do you make up for the lost time?

Can you imagine making up, say, four-thousand years of missed opportunity -- that time which you have endured away from this true soulmate of yours and the one love destined to be in your life? I cannot understand it truly, and honestly I would not know if I were in love, beyond the love I feel for those close to me. I may even have dabbled in something close to love during the time my brother was imprisoned in ice. But love as you know it, is rarely an ingredient in an Angel's life -- and even less so in the life of a Fallen.

So, imagine how shocked I was when I saw him meet Eve for the first time.

Eve died of old age and was reborn in heaven, and for some reason she was introduced to us as... well, one of us — one of the seven. I saw their eyes meet when Eve looked upon my brother. He looked at her and there was a spark, well, beyond a spark. Let’s call it an explosion of pure energy that connected them. The light of lights appeared in their eyes and I would not be surprised if the whole world thought the sun had exploded on that fateful day.

Like I said though, it was not that energy that shocked me, it was the rebirth of Eve as one of the seven. I know the history, and you know the history. Eve was the first murderer. Thankfully, she did not become the world's first serial killer. That would have been rough. All levity aside, however, we seven are pure breed Angels created by the High Guard -- to be the instruments of the Seraphim.

Adam was specific in his instructions though -- one of the seven was needed to help form a new world. Mars, I think it was, but I may be wrong. So Adam ordered that Eve replace the missing soldier in our ranks. I am not sure why he did this because he was the first victim of the first murder. Eve was the last being I expected Adam to want in our ranks, but he must have forgiven her. Whatever the reason, be it some form of love, or understanding that he had neglected his wife by choosing his own daughter over her, I actually gained a lot of respect for Adam that day.

Eve and my brother eventually left Zion though, as you know, so there is really no need for me to regurgitate those facts for you here. I just remember they were sick of all the evil and wrongdoings in the world, so they put themselves as far away from the city as they could possibly get. Think of it like this, imagine you got fed up of the human rat-race and took your soulmate (if you have one) away from the hustle and bustle to live in a cabin somewhere far away in the woods. You learned to live off the land away from social media, politics, taxes and everything that binds your modern life together.

That is exactly what Eve and my brother did.

I heard snippets of what happened out there in their idyllic life. How they spent the first hundred or so years just gazing into each other's eyes. They built a simple life, good for them. They made friends with the animals and surrounded themselves with both nature and the beasts of the natural world. They hoped it would last for an eternity.

But fate is one of those forces that will never let you go, human, Angel, or even God -- there is a grand tapestry woven and you can even see their fate at the centre of our very crest. They had a child, the boy's birth brought the king and queen much joy. The prince became a symbol of their love, the victories of their unbridled spirits. They watched him grow, and as he did, it was as though all the blight of the past had been erased completely. The boy was raised by them both to do the right thing, to stand up for the underdog and the downtrodden, to help those less fortunate than himself.

I do not want to use the word hero, but if the shoe fits!

This young, enthusiastic prince became a fine person quite quickly. He befriended an animal, I think it was a lynx, and the two were inseparable from that point on. To see him grow, mature and make these kinds of spontaneous choices both thrilled and delighted his parents -- I just wish I had been part of all this as well.

A foolish wish really.

Everything was good and well until shortly after the prince turned four. Remember I had called for my brother when Adam sieged Zion? Well, it was at this point in our Act that the news reached the king and queen. The king found out that his arm left to protect the city was useless, incapacitated and how I tried (but failed) to protect the survivors. He did not even stop to take a breath, he lifted down his old hammer, Heaven's Bane, from the wall and felt the heft. Eve though, she laid her hand on his shoulder and then guided him to a hidden secret.

She took “Death's Sting” from her belongings where she had hidden it, even from the king, and offered it to him together with a quiver of those very special arrows you know so well by now. He took the bow. He was confused but trusted Eve's better judgement in this case.

Eve girded herself for battle and retrieved her ancient twin glaives, she took them from a special chest she had carefully hidden under the floor to hide them from the prince lest he cut himself badly upon their razor-sharp edges.

These weapons of old which had not had a role in Eve's life for hundreds of years sang at her touch, they whispered songs of old glories and woke from their long slumber and shone once more.

As they readied themselves to return to the besieged city, the queen saddled her mount, a dire wolf which was suited for long travel. The king chose his own mount, a magnificent remarkably large bull-elk -- the King of the Forest bore the King of Zion -- fitting really. The prince was four at this time remember, but eager to join his parents in battle (good kid) leapt upon the back of his lynx who was also ready to join the young boy and his parents.

As the sun broke over the horizon they left their safe, loving refuge for the embattled City of Zion.


So here we are, I wish I could tell you that this was my favourite part of the tale, but really, it is not. Yes, I get reunited with my brother and Eve and so on, but what happens -- I better tell you so that you understand how important Act IV of my story really is. Everything comes down to this moment, this piece of time, this battle.

It took my brother, the prince and Eve a couple of days to get here even riding for as long and as fast as they could. The little prince could not travel as fast as they could, so they kept pace with him. When they sighted the walls of Zion and saw the city, they quickened their pace and raced here faster than ever.

The enemy was alerted instantly and sent out a horde of guarding Angels to meet my brother head on. As they took flight, my brother unleashed the bow from his mount and ended them as swiftly as he could, arrows pierced their skulls and they dropped like dead birds to the floor, broken.

A new swarm of Angels flew at them to intercept the riders before they could reach the gates and breach the city. The king and queen were no strangers to battle. Even though they had not fought in a long time, muscle memory returned, old skills reawakened, and they cut a bloody swathe through the angelic hordes as if they were made of paper. The king kept the prince to his rear at all costs, protected him without a second thought. Eve did the same, perhaps fighting even harder to protect her son.

In the skirmish, wave after wave of Angels driven by soullust met their end to arrow after arrow, and the cutting edges of Eve's blades. Angel blood flecked the air, splattered the whole family as once again my brother and his queen had to ply their warrior's trade. They were so good at it too, but you could tell they were also sickened by it, sickened that they had to once again become involved in shedding blood -- they did not revel in death and decay.

They feared what effect this much carnage would have on the young prince's sensitive mind.

It was not just the king, queen and prince who fought this first offensive but their companions as well -- the wolf ripped Angel after Angel apart, the elk impaled them and threw them aside, even the hot-tempered little lynx clawed and bit at the enemy as they all formed a barrier between the prince and the frenzied angelic defenders.

What was I doing with my rag-tag band of revolutionaries at this point?

We stood at the Gates of Zion and aided my brother the best we could, without drawing too much attention to ourselves. Zion was in a terrible state and we had to be careful.

As the first tide of battle subsided and the ground was wet with Angel blood, I was finally reunited with my brother. After all this time, I saw that in my brother's eyes he did this out of deep-rooted duty and not by the will of his heart. It was of some concern in that regard, we had sworn a damn oath of fealty to you mortals, and binding promise made SO long ago.

We had no time for ethics or debate at this juncture, we had a battle to win and an army to awaken!

So I led my brother to one of his old soldiers, sure that once he addressed it we would be able to awaken the others.

He did so...
A blank stare, like before...
Fear took my heart.

He tried again, and again, nothing -- I could sense my brother's anger mixed with my own trepidation.

I have not felt this kind of feeling since Adam flooded the world in the days of old, this kind of heartache -- this feeling of despair. For a moment I thought we were done for, Adam's army would win and the war would end with us not as the victor, but the vanquished.

I was desperate and a fledgling memory tugged at my mind. I remembered how these creatures, in their primal state, had reacted to their old general in Hell Frost, when he displayed his vigour and bravery upon the battlefield. It was worth a shot! It had to be done again, there was only one way to do it.

I tore one of Eve's glaives out of her hand, whispered sorry (I was not really sorry) and used it to cut my brother's chest wide open. It was not a fatal wound, it would take more than that to kill him -- but it exposed his vital essence, his heart to the creature before him. Eve's eyes widened in shock at my actions, the prince let out a horrified little yelp, and as the king let out a primal roar his heart thumped madly in his chest.

It was all that was needed. Upon seeing a single beat, hearing that roar, the creature's mind snapped back and miraculously returned. This must have created a resonance across the whole city, culminating in the awakening of every single Dark Angel that had been mindlessly roaming the streets even as Adam invaded Zion.

My brother, offended (he had every right to be), gave me an annoyed look. He closed his chest with a flex of his muscles and a single bash as his bones cracked. I returned a simple polite smile and gave him a brotherly shrug, then with a sweep of my hand I returned the weapon back to its rightful owner -- her look could have killed me on the spot, but she knew that I had done the right thing.

The screams of terrified Angels were answer enough to that question.

The spectacle of the Dark Angels crushing the forces of heaven was truly magnificent and I did not feel a drop of compassion for the Angels they slaughtered, now the tables had turned and the tide of battle swung in our favour -- we seven could do nothing except sit back and watch our awakened army do their work. No foe, magical or mundane, could hope to stand against my brother's army now. I was thankful I was on his side in this conflict. That was a given though. I am loyal to a fault.

As Adam saw this, his anger grew and he chose the actions of a coward. He flew down from his most high seat and roughly grabbed the prince by the neck, hoisting him into the air as his magnificent form blazed. He roared at my brother and shook the young prince as though he were a rag doll.

The king ordered his Dark Angels to stand down and they obeyed instantly -- they froze like ice and remained at rest, as if they were once more golems awaiting new orders.

So there we were, in a deadlock now. My brother with an arrow precisely aimed at Adam, Eve with anger in her eyes, any love she might have had for her former husband had been destroyed in that single moment. The prince screaming in agony as Adam slowly tightened his grip, delighting in the mewling sounds that the boy made, their animals held at bay and in check like us, we waited with bated breaths for someone to make the first move.

My brother knew that his son was in danger, Eve was once human and some of that vulnerability had passed down. The prince might be ageless, but a broken neck would cut that time to the quick. Eve was angry again, I saw her scream to my brother to shoot Adam in his knee as she remembered the once-human man's old wound, which had oddly, still not fully healed. Like her son, this was the fatal flaw of Adam's immortal form, his Achilles heel so to speak (but his knee).

The king did not listen and Eve was reminded of her human life, where her husband ignored her, doted on his daughter -- her rage grew and grew and suddenly she was engulfed by all those old painful memories.

She yanked the bow out of the king's hand and dealt him a heavy blow to the side, my brother fell to the ground with a sound like thunder.

We watched in horror as she fired, right through her own son's heart and into the old injury of Adam's. It was unexpected, the prince screamed, blood bubbled on his lips and my mouth was agape. The king roared in anger, fear, agony and disbelief. The arrow had passed through the boy and into the fatal-flaw of Adam swiftly, and just as it had done so on Earth it ended his life.

Adam fell to the ground, dead. At this point, the heart of the world stopped beating -- the world began to collapse...


Without a single thought for the world's imminent collapse due to Adam's death, the king got to his feet momentarily groggy, shook it off and rushed to his son. He picked up the boy and bore him away from the tumult. He laid his son down and knelt by him, blood dappled the prince's lips and he coughed in vain -- each time he coughed more blood came forth and I watched on in horror. The king smiled sadly and looked at his queen, then he did something that no one expected, least of all I -- I did not even know this was possible.

He gave up his immortality to his son, he used all his power, his fatherly love and care to syphon his own life force into the body of the prince. He made the ultimate sacrifice at that moment, dropped to his knees and the light faded from him. My brother, the king, was dead. The prince though, new inheritor of his father's power rose from near death and whilst shaken to his newly perforated core, looked around. He saw the body of his father lying there, lifeless, still and unmoving -- he did what any young boy might do at that moment, prince or not, he fell over the body of my brother and wept torrents of grief.

I took that moment to join him and stood there silently, one hand upon the child's shoulder.

I saw the Dark Angels return to their somnambulist state now that the war was over. The Angels had been defeated and Adam was no more. I saw Eve return to her senses. I was unsure if I could forgive her for her careless, rash actions, but I think that the death of my brother might be punishment enough for now. She joined her son, and wept severely over the king's corpse -- I saw in that moment that she intended to take the blame for all of this.

I forgave her in that moment.

We attracted a lot of attention, appearing as one might do in a ballad of your world, one of the tragic tales of heroism, love, loss and all that human pathos that your people so delight in. The citizens of Zion, both grateful and shaken at the events joined us in our grief and even I, stoic as I am, wept for the loss of my brother.

We had won the war, but lost so much more.

This day had given us victory, but taken from us a precious thing.

Adam's body had gone, the enemy Angels that had not been destroyed fled the city and left for the sanctity of Heaven.

After we took stock of our victory every one of us, the seven (though we were fewer in number and only five now remained), feared for what would happen now that the balance of the world had been tilted -- the heart had been destroyed and this was a terrible thing to contemplate.

A heartless body could not survive, nor could a heartless world.

These were matters left for the High Guard to deal with, and perhaps foolishly, we trusted them to deal with that issue as we concerned ourselves with our priority.

The City of Zion, rebuilding, and of course the old king. He would need to be returned home, back to where he and Eve made a life for themselves -- it is here that we would bury him amongst the flowers, trees, forests and animals that he had grown to love.

This quiet funerary procession would be a trying venture, but nothing was more important to us in our hearts at this juncture.

As they say in your world...

The king is dead, long live the king!

~The Defector