Chapter 1, The Boy With the Golden Gun
“Lucifer is the true Messiah. Who else could keep Michael’s army on the run in their own territory for 10 years straight?” Lemuel, a rebel angel, argued with the town priest. He was waiting in a pub while his daughter searched for weapons to sell.
“But if that is all true, why hasn’t Lucifer defeated him yet?” The priest replied. “The first four layers of Heaven are in chaos. Angels live like animals now. Until he fulfills his promise and frees us of the Cherubim, none of that will change. Perhaps this is God’s punishment upon all angels.”
“What do we rebels care about God? This war has been going on for years and he hasn’t lifted a finger. He even knew we were slaves to the Cherubim all along!” He cursed God’s name.
“Quiet, Lemuel. He may be still watching over us.”
“Then don’t speak my name when I curse!” Lemuel shouted.
“So you do still fear His wrath?” The priest smiled. Lemuel groaned angrily. “What are you lecturing about God in a pub for anyway?”
“It’s where men need it most!” the priest replied as he downed a shot of whiskey. He poured two more shots. “Another?”
“No thanks, I need to get out of this creepy place where holy men serve me liquor.” Lemuel stood up and searched for his wallet. “How much do I owe you?”
“It’s on the house, my friend. We have no use for money here.”
“Ah well, don’t get too drunk holy man.” Lemuel gathered his satchel and left. The pub was empty except for the priest. He went outside to search for his daughter.
The once-civilized country of Shehaqim, better known as Third Heaven, was indeed in chaos. The priest was right about that. Angels who lived in prosperity now killed each other for essentials like food and water. They even engaged in the black market of body parts. The music of his homeland, once joyful and harmonious, was now the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Archangel Raphael, who once watched over Shehaqim, was the only angel capable of reviving the dead. He tragically died 15 years ago at the hands of Lucifer, and the bodies had been stacking up like mountains since then. The citizens of Shehaqim had never known death before, and could not accept the concept of mourning the deceased. As the war dragged on, many angels turned away from God out of despair. Some joined the army of rebel angels that served Lucifer.
Lemuel was one of them. He had lost most of his family in the war. In order to feed his only daughter, he passed supplies through the black market to arm Lucifer’s soldiers in battle. He wondered about the example he was setting for her sometimes. But then, most angels didn’t care which side he was on anymore. They all just wanted to avoid the violence and feed their families.
He, like many other angels, believed their faith was being tested by God. But why? Why did he have to betray Archangel Michael to save his family? What moral lessons were to be learned from Heaven’s Great War?
He felt faint, and realized he had been walking in circles. He was in front of that strange pub again. Maybe he never left? He sat down on a piece of rubble as the holy man approached. Lemuel tried to speak, but then he found his throat had dried up from the holy man’s liquor. His vision was blurry. He saw the holy man pull out a gun, and then heard shots.
He raised his hand from his chest and saw blood. “Where is my daughter?” Lemuel mumbled as he collapsed.
Lemuel’s daughter Ariel wandered the streets of Shehaqim alone. Ariel had never known Shehaqim before its destruction, and was used to scavenging through the debris for food and weapons. She often took guns and ammunition from dead soldiers and civilians for her father to trade for food.
Ariel was pursuing a strange angel with blonde hair and a golden gun, who had just saved her from a group of bandits. She had been cornered by the bandits when the angel miraculously appeared. Ariel inspected the bodies and found they were not dead, but temporarily paralyzed by a nerve toxin. That golden gun had to be something valuable. She decided it might be worth risking her life over.
Ariel followed him down the alleyway, where they were both cornered by more bandits. He shot them in self-defense. He continued walking until the alleyway met the road, which was crowded by a parade. Soldiers were marching along with military vehicles. Ariel attempted to sneak up behind him.
“What’s the parade for?” He asked Ariel without looking back. She jumped, not expecting to be noticed. The angel laughed. “Don’t get any bright ideas. You have a lot of nerve to chase after someone who just saved you. Now, who are all these people celebrating?”
“It must be a parade for Asmodeus…” Ariel’s plan to take the golden gun suddenly seemed petty. “Asmodeus and his men were left for dead after a failed assassination attempt on Lucifer. He and his soldiers keep terrorizing the citizens of Shehaqim. These people are probably here under threat of death.”
Asmodeus constantly interfered with the flow of supplies to Fifth Heaven, where the battle between Michael and Lucifer was taking place. He was despised by rebels and holy men alike.
“Ah yes, the concept of death is still new and horrifying to the people of Shehaqim, isn’t it? I suppose that fear can be easily manipulated. The people here are too afraid of death to ever fight back. Until they accept the fact they are all going to die, someone like Asmodeus can always rule over them.” The angel continued watching the parade. He walked to the front of the crowd, and Ariel felt compelled to follow him.
“Could you recognize Asmodeus if you saw him?” He asked, pointing at the angels riding in the parade.
“No… no one is sure what he looks like.” she replied. “What are you planning to do anyway? You can’t kill anyone with that weird gun of yours. I checked those bandits you shot. They weren’t dead, only paralyzed by some venom.”
He shook his head. “It’s not venom. The blood in this gun causes immortality and permanent paralysis.”
“Say that again?” What a horrifying prospect. She must have heard him wrong. The parade was pretty loud, after all. He leaned in closer.
“Those people are paralyzed, but they can never die. There are probably many bodies still living in those mountains of corpses. They just can’t move or speak. It is the most cruel way of killing an angel – by not killing them at all. Ironically the gun comes from Michael’s army, not Lucifer’s.”
Ariel watched the parade as she tried to process the information. It was a surreal moment. Living corpses? Trapped in their bodies forever? She felt sick. “Why are you paralyzing people instead of just killing them? Don’t you ever plan to save those people? Are you just going to leave them like that forever?”
“Of course not. But before I can save them, I have to find out whose blood is in this gun. Then I will have to kill that person.” He smiled grimly.
“So what is that gun really loaded with?” She was almost afraid to ask.
“The blood of a cherub.” He aimed at the soldiers marching in the parade.
Chapter 2, Descent
Ariel knocked the golden gun out of his hand, as the poisonous bullet fired against the building. The crowd became alarmed at the noise, while the soldiers began unloading their weapons. They aimed at the boy. He swiftly grabbed Ariel and flew directly upward, watching from above as the soldiers began firing upon the innocent crowd. It was a grizzly scene.
Ariel hit him in the shoulder and flew away from him. Innocent people were being slaughtered in that crowd. What was he thinking?
Ariel realized the golden gun was now in her hand. There were engraved symbols on the side. It was in Cherubic, the official writing style of an angelic government ruled by Cherubim. Ariel barely knew the basics, but she could clearly make out one word.
So this gun was made by Michael’s army for one of the seven archangels. Could this boy really be one of them? It didn’t seem possible. The seven archangels were fully developed beings when they were appointed to rule under the Cherubim – over 50,000 years ago. This boy was only maybe 15 years old. 15 years had passed since Ariel’s birth and Raphael’s death. Could he really be…?
The boy approached her, and she pointed the gun at him in defense. “So what does it say?” He asked. “You said Archangel. Is that my name?”
Did he really not remember his own name? Ariel didn’t trust him.
“I’m taking this gun, Archangel. Don’t try to follow me. You know what can happen if I decide to shoot you.” She flew away while watching over her shoulder. He did not pursue. She was intrigued by the golden gun and its engraved symbols, but not enough to get involved. She would sell it at her first opportunity. Or maybe bury it. That boy was too dangerous to be the Archangel Raphael, she thought.
She watched the sunset as she flew over Shehaqim. It was nightfall by the time she reached their destination. Ariel immediately knew something was wrong when she saw her father was not at home. She went to the pub she left him at, broke down the front door and began calling his name. The pub was empty, so she went to the nearby town.
She found him surrounded by a crowd of people, as a doctor struggled in vain to save him. Most of his valuables had been stripped from his body. The doctor pronounced him dead as she landed. Ariel turned away and began crying. Then she called out a name she promised she would never call for. She began to shout for Archangel Raphael to save her father.
The crowd gathered around her. “Poor pitiful child. We have all cried out his name at the loss of a loved one. You are not alone here.” But Ariel was, for deep down she knew who the golden gun belonged to. “Archangel!” She continued to call out his name. Ariel, desperate to get his attention, took out the golden gun and shot it directly into the ground. The crowd suddenly hushed. She felt the gun quickly snatched out of her hand, and saw the boy standing before her.
Ariel watched him step forward and place his hand over Lemuel’s bloody chest. He began singing an old melody. She watched as the bullets slowly traveled backward out of his chest and into the boy’s hand, as the wound closed. The color returned to his skin. His breathing and pulse returned. He began to speak as if in a state of trance.
“Raphael!” He cried out. The crowd audibly gasped.
“You’re delirious, old man. I’m not Raphael. Someone get him some water.” He motioned to the doctor. “Don’t say my name so loud.” Ariel heard the boy whisper.
“Archangel Raphael, it really is you! You’ve returned to us after all this time. You’ve returned to save us, haven’t you? You must help us, save us from the millions of dead. I can see them now, lost in the underworld! I see millions of our beloved lost in darkness!” The crowd wailed again.
“You talk too much, Lemuel.” Raphael said as he set him on the ground. Lemuel’s trance ended as soon as Raphael let go of his chest, and he lapsed back into unconsciousness. His breathing stopped and his skin was going pale. “Damn it. Even now I cannot save one angel. Ariel, we must go.”
The crowd was no longer paying attention. They had seen the miracle they had been longing for – an angel revived from the dead. “Raphael has returned! Raphael is the true Messiah!” The people began shouting. Raphael gathered up Lemuel and fled the scene, clearly uncomfortable. Ariel chased after him, and led him to their home. There, Raphael woke her father once more.
“Lemuel, you old fool. How do you recognize me in this form?” The young angel of healing demanded.
“I remember you helped my wife deliver our daughter Ariel. Hasn’t she grown up to be a beauty? It was three days before Lucifer captured you. I could never forget your face. Shehaqim was in its prime then, wasn’t it? We were going to be a cultural bastion for all the seven heavens!”
“Yes… we were. Listen, do you remember who did this to you?” Raphael asked.
“It was the holy man who served me liquor in that pub. The drink was poisoned.”
“Poisoned? Damn it, no wonder you keep dying on me. Where are you in the underworld? You must tell me where to find you.”
“I’m in a river, the currents keep pulling me under…” he coughed.
“Lemuel, listen to me. You are going to be dead for the next day or so. You must wait while I try to find your soul in the underworld. Now, where are you? What do you see?”
“I see… blue lights…” Lemuel murmured something unintelligible.
“I think I know where you are. Try to get on dry land. I’ll be down in a minute.” Raphael laid him down as the trance ended. His body went pale again. “We don’t have much time. Ariel, I want you to stay and watch over the body. Make sure no one interferes while I’m gone.” Raphael opened up a portal in the floor.
“No, I’m coming with you. No one knows where our home is. He’ll be okay. That holy man stole everything valuable to him anyway…”
“Everything except his daughter. I can’t let you risk your life. Lemuel would never forgive me if something happened to you. Just wait for me.” Raphael said as he disappeared into the portal. Suddenly, Ariel was alone with only her father’s corpse for company. She stared at the portal for a moment.
“I have to protect you too. The whole world would never forgive me if you died again, Raphael.” She jumped down after him as the portal closed.
Chapter 3, The Underworld
The elevator reached the bottom floor. Ariel peered outside the elevator and saw the millions of undead, stretching to the horizon in all directions. Ariel began to speak, but couldn’t hear her own voice over the echoes of their wailing. She and Raphael flew higher to get away from the noise. She saw the Leviathan swimming through the sky, and nearly fainted from dizziness. Raphael caught her.
She saw the underworld consisted of several branches of a giant tree. Angels covered every inch of the branches like ants, many of them hanging off of the edges. She watched angels falling into nothingness. The entire realm was ready to burst from overcrowding. Something was wrong here.
“The problem is the underworld rarely ever housed more than a few hundred angels at a time. It was never meant to be a permanent resting place for millions of dead spirits.” Raphael explained. “Do you see now why I go to great lengths to avoid killing people? These souls could be lost forever if this realm broke apart.”
“This is an ancient realm, older than myself, the Cherubim… maybe even God. It exists deep below First Heaven, and can only be accessed by certain high-ranking angels. Don’t be surprised by what you see. The chaos here reflects the chaos in heaven.” Raphael landed on a high branch far from the noise. “This tree has grown since I was last here. Your father mentioned blue lights so he must be near the tree. We’ll have to hurry.”
“This is insane. Weren’t there any wars before Lucifer’s Rebellion?”
He paused. “I can’t say too much about the old wars, I might give away Michael’s dirty little secret.”
Speaking of Michael, Ariel noticed something missing from the inhabitants of the Underworld. “Why aren’t there any soldiers from Michael’s army here? I only see civilians and rebels.” Raphael didn’t respond.
The inside of the tree was the only quiet place in the Underworld. They traveled in silence for several minutes before Raphael spoke again. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save your father. You know, he’s the first angel I’ve tried to heal since I was reborn. I didn’t want people to think they could return to their old ways of avoiding death. Because you can’t avoid death forever. Even I can’t.”
Ariel seemed concerned. “Are you sure you can bring my father back from the dead?”
“Yes, but my powers of healing are limited without the Book of Raziel. I won’t be myself again until I find another copy. The book is filled with forbidden knowledge, much of it even I cannot understand. Raziel was an ancient angel who is said to have disappeared long ago. But he left behind a trove of valuable knowledge about how our world works and why it was created. It’s one of the oldest, rarest books of all. I have to find Archangel Uriel. I know he has a copy of it.”
“Sounds pretty important. So what happened to your copy?” Ariel inquired.
Raphael hesitated. It became clear he was looking at something out of her sight. Ariel could hear the wailing undead from outside again.
“Why don’t you answer her, Archangel Raphael?” A voice echoed within the tree. A boy in black robes, similar in age to Raphael, emerged from a door that led outside. He shut it behind him and sealed away the noise. Ariel saw he was holding a large book. “This is what you’re looking for, isn’t it? Well, I want to know what happened to your copy.”
“You know the answer to that, Archangel Uriel.”
“Of course. But don’t you owe the girl an explanation?” Archangel Uriel held up his copy of the book and smiled.
Raphael sighed and looked directly at Ariel. “Lucifer stole my copy when he killed me. God only knows how much he’s been able to decipher.” He turned to Uriel. “Are you happy now?”
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to the girl?” Uriel countered.
“This is Ariel. I’m here to help her resurrect her father. Now give me the book.” Raphael was losing his patience.
“You want the book that bad? Leave the girl with me and I’ll give you the book.” Uriel laughed.
Raphael finally lost his cool and slugged the boy, who went down laughing. Raphael drew his golden gun. But instead of aiming at Uriel, he aimed at the wall. “Uriel, I don’t understand your weird relationship with the Underworld, but I do know one thing. If this tree dies, you die. I’m not above sacrificing the Underworld in order to save Heaven. Now give me the book.” He was angry now.
Uriel smiled beneath the gun. “A grand gesture, angel of healing. It’s good to see you on the side of death for once. I hope you can teach it to our people back in Shehaqim and Machonon.” Uriel got up and handed him the book. “Don’t think that cherub’s blood can kill my tree though. That blood can only affect other angels.”
“Uriel, do you know whose blood is in these guns? Don’t you have one yourself?” Raphael asked.
“Yes I do. You want to kill the cherub in order to save the people cursed by its blood? Well, you won’t have to look far.” Uriel opened the door and pointed out at the Leviathan. “The golden guns are filled with Leviathan’s blood. Kill him and you will free the victims of his curse. Be warned though, the golden gun is the last resort of each Archangel, including Michael. Michael may need that gun during the final showdown with Lucifer. You will have to choose if that killing the Leviathan is worth the risk of losing the war.”
“It’s a risk worth taking, for the sake of those victims.” Raphael stood firm. “Michael won’t need the golden gun. He has too many other weapons.”
Uriel pulled him closer. “Raphael, you must reach Fifth Heaven in time for the final battle. If Michael dies, there will be nothing standing between Lucifer and God. However, if Lucifer dies, his soul may escape into the Underworld. You must be present in order to capture him alive.” For once, Uriel was being serious.
“I understand.” Raphael nodded. “I won’t waste my time.”
Uriel smiled. “Good, that puts me at ease. This tree has been growing as fast as it can, but too many dead angels weighs it down. Those who fall off are consumed by the beasts of the Abyss.” He broke a twig off the inside of the tree. “You’re trying to find Ariel’s father? Give her this twig and it will lead her to her destination.”
Ariel accepted it and bowed. “Thank you, Archangel Uriel.”
“You must go. Time is of the essence if you want to save your father and slay the Leviathan. Raphael, remember that Michael will need you by his side.”
Raphael bowed and they left. The twig guided them up the tree and across a razor-thin branch where Lemuel was hiding from the chaos. The bulbs on the branch glowed a luminescent blue. Ariel embraced her father, and Raphael opened a portal for them to escape. Once they returned to Shehaqim, Raphael was able to study the Book of Raziel and cure Lemuel of his poison. After reuniting his soul and body, he woke.
“It looks like a successful operation, doctor.” Ariel said to Raphael happily. She had learned some of the secrets in the process of helping him. Lemuel was advised to rest and let his body heal. Raphael would return to make sure he was recovering – after one last mission.
“Ariel, do you want to watch me kill the Leviathan?” He asked as he opened a portal.
Ariel smiled. “Lead the way, Archangel.”
Written: April-May 2016
Released: May 13, 2016