The Kingdom of Earth
In the Face of Evil
Ariel the lioness of God looked across the clouded grey ramparts of Anhelios at her army. Their silver helms; adorned with red, white and blue plumes; glinted in the low-lying sun casting a glare over Ariel’s eyes. Each soldier was just as resplendent as the next, their plumes denoting their profession. The infantry soldiers massed on the walls, a hum of chatter going on between them. Each soldier was clad in ornate silver armour with a scabbard hung tightly on the left of their bodies. Some had crudely wound rope over the handle of their blade to improve their grip. The soldiers were similar in almost every way beside the equipment they possessed, the infantry had exquisite hoplon shields which each Angel had strapped to their forearm, a simple holy cross inlay clearly showing on the shiny metal.
Ariel knew what was to come before she was told, she could feel it on the air and sense the dread in her bones. Examining the expanse of land beyond their wall she noted how the small hill on the left-hand side would be great to conceal a flanking force. Anhelios would soon become a cacophony of noise, the wind already whistling through the crenulations chilling the defenders to their core. Ariel heard sandals clicking across the stone wall and turned to see a small angel racing towards her, with a scroll wrapped in gold leafing. Ariel noted her appearance, her light grey lesser angel wings were black and matted together with ash, sweat and blood. Her bronze armour was dented and scarred with dry red splatters trailing her arms. A deep wound snaked round her leg with a bandage crudely put in place to staunch the flow of blood but to no avail. Against the bright untouched silvers and golds of Ariel’s Anhelios Gate Guard the messenger looked disparate. She hurtled towards the Archangel only stopping an arms width away and not speaking until addressed by the commander.
“What is your name and why are you here?” ordered Ariel.
“Zephania mi lady” stated the angel while she thrust into her commanders hand a piece of golden parchment sealed with the Allfathers stamp. Ariel took the parchment; hastily scanning its contents but understanding and adhering to the instructions inside.
“What has happened, why are you in possession of such a message?” she was erratic, terrified almost; a feeling that was alien to her.
“They have infiltrated Arcadia, they knew where the Allfather would be, he sent me to you with the message” Zephania could barely speak in between gasps of air.
“Where are the others?” Ariel’s voice carried across the battlements, it was a voice that commanded great respect and power, a voice unlike any other, as if the sound of it could bring men to ruin.
“We fought well but their numbers were too great, we were slowly but surely losing. The Allfather himself ordered me to deliver this message. When I left your Archangel brothers were preparing the final defences. I am not sure of their end.” She paused before that last phrase a deep sadness falling on her expression and a crystal-clear tear rolling down her cheek. Ariel looked at the lesser being before her with wide eyes. Could it be the Allfather is gone? She motioned for water and food to be brought to Zephania and sent her on her way, thanking her for the information she had provided.
Ariel gathered all her officers to the gatehouse, 10 of the highest angel nobles all shining in their golden armour they stood around a large table with a map in the centre, pieces were placed on it like a chess board. Ariel was stood at the head waiting to address her officers. With a swipe of her hand she swatted a piece off the table it soared through the air slamming into the stone wall of the gatehouse and splitting in two leaving 4 pieces on the board. 3 rams heads painted red and another which was a pair of pure white wings. The officers were silent, although terrified they were staunch warriors and showed no emotion. They all looked toward Ariel for an explanation, leaning on her two arms and hunched over the table she explained what she had learned from the lesser angel Zephania, stopping at regular intervals in her telling to assess the reaction of her officers. They each had so much faith in their commander that they truly believed she would bring them to victory, that she would save them from the impending doom.
“We must hold. We are the last defense for the light and if righteousness does not prevail all will be lost” she gazed into the eyes of her commanders for a moment before walking out of the gatehouse.
The commander strolled along the ramparts that separated the universe from the heavens, her soldiers parting and saluting as she strolled by. She remembered stories her mother used to tell her of the beginning of time when the Allfather had created them and how his right hand lucifer had betrayed him and tried to take it all for himself so he used his power and might to defeat lucifer but it had drained him and made him weak. She remembered the sacrifice that he made in allowing his son to be killed so that he could wash away the evil manifesting in humanity with its wars and the evil taking place in the name of free will. She wished now more than ever that the Son of God would save humanity again for the evil had not subsided if anything the humans were rank with it but yet the angels and the all father were still to love the humans unconditionally. Because for all their flaws they were still the creation of the Allfather.
A low rumble in the distance stirred her from her daydream. There was a faint orange glow that’s intensity grew with every passing second followed by a drum beat. The men around looked to her for guidance all of them noticing the commotion in the distance. Her golden armour and long blond hair were a lighthouse of hope. She was the epitome of beauty with deep blue eyes, her skin so pale that it seemed as if she were pure white and yet she radiated with a glow so magnificent it would have made the finest diamonds jealous.
“You are the gate guard of Anhelios, the last defence and if we are to fall let it be with honour and in fighting the evil that threatens the existence of everything you hold dear.” Ariel’s voice rang true through the ranks of her expert soldiers. “Let us be sung of in the winds to be a bedtime story for mothers to their children, let everyone talk of the Gate Guard that defeated the evil once and for all.” She bellowed across the wall, lighting a passion within the defenders.
The soldiers on the walls cheered, and shouted the name Anhelios, their last bastion. Ariel took in the faces of the men she would soon fight alongside, the men who had been her brothers, her neighbours, her friends; for the Gate Guard was a family like no other. A handful of ice white wings were beginning to flap and the owners rose in the air ready to surge forward and defend their family. Their shouting and cheering still ringing loud in the ears of their commander as she rushed back to her officers on unfurled wings gliding softly into land just before the doorway to the gatehouse.
“What is the plan my general?” it was not one of the officers that spoke to Ariel but instead a small angel just by the doorway, her drab grey wings had been cleaned of blood and ash, her dented armour still spattered with dark red blotches but her wounded leg was now clean and properly bandaged. Zephania stared up at the Archangel wanting so much to look and be like her, instead her grey hair hung loosely by her head and her black eyes did not emulate any precious gem. The lesser angels were just that, lesser. Nonetheless Ariel could see the devotion and the courage in her eyes.
“Come with me we must speak in private” Ariel walked to the back side of the wall past soldiers rushing everywhere, the clatter of arrows being dumped into barrels, the rasping of swords being dragged from their scabbards, the occasional beating of wings. Ariel spoke softly just loud enough so her subordinate could hear. Ariel presented to Zephania the parchment which earlier that day had been done in reverse. “Read the contents of this parchment Zephania, when the battle begins you must stay near me and if anything should happen to me you are to follow the instructions in my stead and complete the task. Do you understand?” Ariel spoke quickly and forcefully getting her point across before her comrade could take in what was happening.
“I cannot my commander, the Allfather explicitly said the parchment is for you only and I am only a grey I have not the ability.”
“The fate of the world is in the balance; this is an order not a question. I cannot ask any other, the officers will all be dead by the end of the day and you will blend in with the humans better than any of us.” Ariel snapped at her. The lesser angels’ hands reached out to take the parchment, shaking as she did so. Her dented bronze vambrace sprinkled with blood was the exact reverse of the pristine armour the commander was in. She read through the parchment examining each part to ensure she had not missed anything, gasping in sheer dubiety at what she was seeing.
“How can this be though, surely Christ could not have a descendant and that be hidden from us? Who is this Zadkiel? My commander I do not know how I can complete this mission” Zephania stumbled over her words. She had so many questions that only a handful of could be answered.
“I do not know the answers to your questions Zephania but just do as I have told you and I’m sure you will find all the answers you seek, now please I must speak with the officers, will you join me?”
“Yes, my commander.” The angels made their way back to the gate house the orange glow in the distance had grown large by now and the drum beats louder and louder by the second. The two angels entered the gatehouse greeted by the ten officers of the Gate Guard. The officer’s frowned at Zephania who looked down at the floor in embarassement.
“What’s with the grey wing, commander?” leered a young officer by the name of Clariel a female high angel with short brown hair and green eyes with dark olive skin and an almost loathsome sense to her words.
The commander shot her a look so cold she thought that it would freeze even the fires of Tartarus. Zephania dropped her head, not wanting to embarrass herself further by making eye contact and turned to walk out the door but is stopped by Ariel putting a strong toned arm on her shoulder.
“This Angel is one of the last to see the Allfather alive, she is important to me and I suggest you give her the same amount of respect you would me.”
A smile crept across Zephania’s face, to be spoken about in such high regard by a better angel is unheard of and an archangel, even more so. She tried to hide her giddy flattery by clearing her throat. Ariel took no notice of the excitement from her grey winged friend and carried on with her brief of the battle to come explaining in detail the weak points of the wall to her officers and how she proposed the enemy would attack. She put Clariel in charge of what small cavalry force they had knowing that Clariel, although hot headed was a fierce warrior and a charge at the right time could be devastating for the enemy. Zephania looked at her in awe, all these powerful angels and Ariel was the one they all looked to for guidance, the way she commanded the room was phenomenal, she thought that if there was ever anyone to lead them to victory it would be Ariel. In an instant the mood changed. The drums had stopped and the orange haze ahead was now no longer an orange haze but an orange cloud, full of fire and rage moving towards the wall and to its defenders. The Angels all reported to their respective companies. Clariel flew towards the stables catching eyes with Zephania as she went and smiling curtly almost as an apology of sorts. Ariel and Zephania stood side by side watching what was unfolding ahead; the lesser angel in awe of the being to her left. The cloud was now much closer when it suddenly stopped mid-air it opened up at its belly and out emerged the most grotesque inbreed of woman and bird, Harpies, their screeches filling the sky; like witches they cackled. More and more of the creatures left the cloud till it seemed the whole world was filled with them the cloud emptied out and the drums began again but as the drums got closer and louder it seemed now that they were never drums but instead the marching footsteps of the Devil’s army. They were very obscure but Ariel knew the shapes well, minotaur’s with their great axes held in two large hairy hands, the devil’s own demon spawns, their strong goat like legs matched alongside their large horns were devastating in a charge. The fallen angels of the devil covered in black, their armour as dark as night with black wings to match stood with the army of evil, some circling overhead on black Pegasus’. The orange cloud was now just out of range of the defender’s when the front unfolded and out of which large cannons could be seen. The like of which Ariel did not know the mouths large enough to fit a man. She could see minotaurs clumsily loading the monstrous machines their metal hulls standing out against the orange cloud around them.
Zephania glanced at her commander in fear but Ariel was defiant in the face of terror, her expression stoic and her manner cold. Ariel’s voice rumbled over the sound of crunching feet and screeches.
“My Gate Guard you were all chosen by me as you are the best of the best. We have trained alongside each other; we have bled for each other and we shall die for each other. Today is the day that we vanquish this evil once and for all. Do not be afraid for if you shall fall you will be remembered as the Gate Guard of Anhelios that was triumphant in the last war.” The soldiers, their fear slowly ebbing away began slamming their swords against their shields to combat the ever-intense sound of marching feet Ariel took her helmet in two hands from where it rested under her arm lifted it overhead and slid it into place, tying it under her chin with a thin leather strap. She pulled her xiphos sword from its white scabbard scratching the inside as it exited its enclosure.
The defenders stood, poised, ready to pounce when a scream came from the harpies and they surged forwards teeth barred claws opened ready to tear the defenders apart but they were ready. “Nock arrows” came a shout from the archer officer Lasariel her troops all adhering to her orders and without hesitation the angels fired, their training serving them well with volley after volley hitting its target and cutting a great swathe through the harpies. A monstrous bang drowned out all the sounds of the battlefield, seconds later screams came from everywhere, the cannons had finally opened fire ripping through the angels ranks dismembering some and forcing them apart. The harpies saw their opportunity and rained down on the weakened areas of the wall landing in the aftermath of the cannon round. To the left of the gatehouse Ariel saw a flock of harpies coursing through the bewildered Gate Guard and raced to them Zephania with her smaller wings trying to keep up, Ariel brought her wings in dropping onto the edge of the foothold the harpies had created she thrust forward with her sword narrowly missing the torso of a harpy and ducking as a great grey arm swung for her head , side stepping left away from the claws she stabbed her sword up into its head with a satisfying crunch as the blade made its way through the skull. A screech from behind her made her dart around to see Zephania plunging her sword through a harpy’s chest, blood spurting in her face from piercing the heart. The Gate Guard of Anhelios had formed a shield wall behind the two angels and they raced to get behind the cover of it. Some angels hovering in the air with arrows ready to fire. The arrows flew over the heads of the shield wall veterans and once they found their marks the sword wielding units pushed forward, chasing the harpies back. One angel had his shield wrenched from his hand, using his blade to combat a harpy claw he had no way to stop the second one, the strike came cutting through his un armoured neck and he dropped, the warm red tainting his fine golden armour and making it unrecognisable. Ariel looked in disbelief at the life leave Tariel’s eyes while the Gate Guard dragged their officers’ body back to safety. The red plumes of the angels were slowly making ground against the grey skin of the harpies, spurred on by vengeance at the defeat of their officer.
A harpy took a sweeping dive at Zephania narrowly missing her targets shoulder and scraping a talon across the bronze armour, the harpy landed in front of the lesser angel and spun round to take a blow at her left arm which would have taken it clean off had Ariel not brought her sword to meet the monsters forearm and dismembered it following that with a quick swing at the base of the harpies neck to send its head flying through the air which tumbled off the edge of the wall. Zephania marvelled at the high Angels speed and expertise. Another round of explosions came from the gun battery and seconds later what seemed like hundreds of thunder claps smashed into the wall and the battleground, ripping through harpy and angel alike. The fighting continued for some time the angels arranging into defensive formations a ring of archers flanked on all sides by 2 deep lines of infantry large hoplon shields covering the soldier to their left. the gate guard were a single well-oiled military unit, a family like no other. The battle was at a stalemate the harpies dive bombing the defenders were shot down by expert marksmen before they even reached their targets. A deep long horn blast sounded from the dark lines on the field of Anhelios and upon hearing this the harpies turned and retreated back to their lines.
“Is that all you can muster” shouted a young Angel at the attacking force as Ariel travelled past, she cast him a look of contempt and he slunk back into his rank and file. Ariel stood at the gatehouse entrance looking in at her remaining officers, of the ten before only 6 remained. Gone was the shine of their golden armours they were now dusty, bloody, scratched and dented.
“What is our situation Gate Guard?” silence befell the room, it was only broken by the cavalry officer Clariel
“my commander, more than a quarter of our forces have fallen”
“and what of the other officers?” asked Ariel
“I watched Anariel and Jophiel die, a cannon ball dazed them and they were set upon by harpies, I tried to save them.” Her voice was full of sorrow and it quivered as she spoke.
“Hadraniel is dead” came the voice of the last remaining infantry officer Cassiel a hard woman with scars from past battles and as much experience as Ariel she towered over the other angels in height and terrified Zephania “they tried to take her, I gave chase but she was out of reach so I shot an arrow through her neck to save her suffering.” She said this bluntly like she had no thought, no emotion.
A battle-scarred Angel burst into the gatehouse from outside urging the leaders to come, Ariel exited the gatehouse and saw a small force breaking away from the countless numbers of the attackers and make their way towards the wall. Ariel knew it was the negotiating party come to ask the defenders to surrender and join them, there were 6 strolling towards them. At the head of the group walked an Angel his black armour shiny like a gloss had been applied to it at his hip trailed a serrated black steel great sword which could split a man in two, Ariel knew this Angel well. His name was Azazael, he had once been Ariel’s master but had been tempted to darkness by the devil and his promises of power and dominion over the earth. Ariel thought that he was the only being who could defeat her in battle for he knew all her weaknesses as well as strengths. The group stopped a stone throw away from the wall spreading into a line to face it.
“Come with me” Ordered the Archangel to her captains. The 7 angels ascended into the air and glided down from the wall on their snow-white wings to gracefully land near the Emissaries. It was Ariel who spoke first her voice travelling on the wind. “Surrender now Azazael. You and your forces will be shown mercy and be allowed to return to whatever infernal pit they emerged from.”
The evil angels voice was raspy and quiet, his eyes sunken and his cheeks gaunt. He was a shadow of his former self and thus resembled nothing that the commander had known him as. “My child you know we cannot do that, now I give you one choice to join us or die.”
Ariel turned to look at the wall; the eyes of the Gate Guard boring down onto the exchange. She shouted as loud as she could “Gate Guard what do we think of this proposition?” in unison the warriors rose into the air their bodies casting a shadow over the creatures outside. Their swords were drawn and their bowstrings taught. “As you can see our decision has been made” Ariel said mockingly. She had now turned and was staring directly at the fallen Angel waiting for his response.
“What about you my child? Clariel isn’t it? I can make you as powerful as you could ever wish. You would want for nothing”. His voice raspy, short of breath.
“I’ll see you on the field murderer” Clariel spoke with strength challenging the dark angel with her eyes, assessing him, his weapons, what strengths she could see and what she could possibly take advantage of.
“You’d better hope you don’t Clariel it will not end well for you the same as it did for your mother, she wept and pleaded for her life before I struck her down” a maniacal laugh escaping his throat followed by deep chesty coughing his sunken eyes observing the Archangels in front of him. Azazael spoke in the native minotaur tongue and the emissaries turned on their heels heading back towards the legions behind them.
Part of Chapter 1. constructive opinions would be great. Hoping to get published in the future