“No! I don’t care how strong he’s gotten, I’m not letting all of you damn him!”
“Uriel, please. Berith is a very real threat to us. He’s already leveled a part of the Midscape, for goodness sake…”
“What, so now that Heaven’s in danger you’ll take action?!” Uriel groaned and turned away. His wrapped feet pattered on the marble floor and the sound echoed up the curved walls.
“I know, I know, we waited too long, but-”
Lars whipped back around. “How long were all of you planning on keeping this from me, Gabriel?!”
“He’s too strong to capture now! We could have done this peacefully!” Tears welled up in his bright yellow eyes. “I don’t want him damned, Gabriel! He deserves better than that… this isn’t his fault.”
“I understand but you must put your personal feelings aside. We must do this for the greater good.”
Uriel shook his head and furiously paced the room again. “Greater good…,” he glared at Gabriel through the strands of long hair hanging in his face, “That’s my brother you’re talking about.”
A quiet sigh dribbled from Gabriel’s lips. “I see… I feared you would be too close to this, but we need you Uriel. Your power combined with the other archangels would surely be enough to stop him.”
“I will not use my power against him. And neither will you.”
“Uriel, there is hardly time to argue this. Every moment Berith is growing stronger.”
“He has a name!” Uriel’s tears were only warm for a second before the streams became cold against his cheeks.
Gabriel sighed. “The title of Berith is not to be taken lightly, Uriel. I am sorry Saul became Berith’s vessel but we must think about this logically.”
Uriel shook his head and turned away, pressing his shoulder against the cold stone wall and rubbed his eyes. The room started spinning and he had to sit down. His arms clutched around his folded legs and he hid his tears from Gabriel.
“There has to be another way…”
Gabriel sighed and took a step towards him. “Uriel, I am sorry.”
Uriel shook his head making his long brown hair falling over his shoulder.
“No,” he turned his teary gaze back up to Gabriel’s white stare, “I won’t let you damn him…”
“No.” Uriel stood, his hair a frazzled mess and sticking to the shoulders of his robes. “Go after him if you dare, but I will stop you. All of you.”
“You cannot defy Michael, Uriel. You know what will happen.” Gabriel took another step forward. “This isn’t like you, friend.”
“It’s not like me to want to protect my own brother? He’s the whole reason I became an archangel in the first place.”
“I know, but things have changed. Michael will not answer your plea. Not after what Saul has become. It’s impossible to bring him to Heaven now…”
Uriel stood again. “That’s not his fault.” A deep breath filled his lungs and slipped out from between his lips. “You tell Michael I will not allow this. Tell him I will stand in his way, and the way of any other angel who dares to try and damn him.” His voice, and clenched fists, shook and he grit his teeth in a desperate attempt to hold back more tears.
Gabriel stood in front of him for a moment before turning down his gaze. He gave a defeated nod and, in the blink of an eye, teleported away.
Uriel’s breath shook as he stumbled over to a chair, slumping into it and making the back clash into the wall. His head hung and the rings on his fingers snagged in his hair when he tried to hold his head up. His leg shook and his mind raced. How could Berith’s soul have gotten free? And why Saul of all people? He had already ended up on the Midscape after death, just one step away from Hell, and it had been a mistake. Uriel worked two-hundred long years to achieve his title in hopes of negotiating with Michael to bring him up to Heaven where he felt he belonged. Despite his pleas, Michael refused every time, and Uriel was getting frustrated. But this. This was the final straw. Even his closest friend, Gabriel, had kept this information from him for months. Whether it was because he was trying to protect Uriel or not he didn’t care. He would go against the Arches even if he would be sentenced to fall from Heaven.
Uriel felt more tears pouring down his cheeks and ran his hands down his face and beard, wiping them away. He needed to be strong now, he knew the Arches would be leaving soon by Gabriel’s desperate pleas. He took a deep breath and picked his head up, looking around his home. The hand carved stone walls and cold marble floor had never felt more unforgiving. He rose from his chair, taking a few deep breaths and letting himself feel anger. And sadness. And fear. Not his favorite concoction, but it needed to be felt. He held his hands palm up in front of him and his yellow eyes glowed. Without even a spark, two fireballs burned bright in his hands. The heat would burn anyone else, but the title of Uriel certainly had its perks. The flames danced in his eyes reflection and he felt the power he’d never had to use before. The destructive capabilities of his title. He clutched his fists and extinguished the fire as easily as taking a breath. He pulled his long hair back and thought to himself, justifying his future violence. The Arches were wrong. He had to save Saul, there had to be a way.
His eyes shone bright and he was able to detect the other six Archangels. They had all teleported to the main gateway to Hell, far south on the Midscape. With a blinding flash of light, he teleported there himself. The cool, smooth floor was replaced by rough, cracking dirt. The ground and air were hot and a breath of humidity poured from the gateway behind Uriel, but the heat did not affect him.
Michael lead the group. His chin was held high and his wings were splayed out behind him. The reflective feathers on them were disorienting head on. By his sides were Samael and Zadkiel, two of Michael’s most essential Arches aside from Uriel himself. Gabriel was present behind the three along with Barachiel and Raphael. Uriel and Gabriel locked eyes for a quick moment, but even then Uriel could feel his pleading and looked away. “You should be by my side, Uriel.” Michael sounded disinterested, but Uriel had known him long enough to see past his blank expressions. “We will vanquish this threat together.”
“Go back, Micheal, I’m begging you. We can find a way to capture Berith again!”
“We cannot allow this demon to exist any longer. He threatens the balance of the afterlife.”
“But we’ve contained him before, Michael!”
“Clearly not well enough.” Michael’s wings folded and he stepped up to Uriel. He towered over him. “I will not make that mistake again.”
“Michael, I don’t want to fight you.” Uriel could feel Michael’s power radiating in the air around him. It broke the heat of Hell’s gateway and sent a chill down Uriel’s spine. He was face to face with the most powerful angel in Heaven. He forced a lump of fear back down his throat.
“Then you have made a poor decision.” His white eyes shone down on Uriel and he spread his wings. The reflections were dizzying and Uriel was finding it hard to keep his composure. “Stand aside.”
Uriel clenched his teeth behind his lips and shook his head. His shoulders were taut and the cords in his neck were stressed under his skin. He held his breath, awaiting an attack from Michael. Instead, he watched as Michael’s bright glare shifted to the gateway. A giant burrowed hole in a gargantuan mound of earth. Three cerberus lie unconscious at their positions. Even powerful hellbeasts such as those were easily manipulated by Archangels. Michael looked back at Zadkiel and Samael.
“Deal with the traitor. We have more pressing matters.” He lead the other three Arches into the gateway.
Zadkiel and Samael stood in Uriel’s way. Zadkiel grit her teeth at him and Samael pulled his wings from his back. They popped in a toxic green and purple pattern and in his hand he summoned a barbed staff. The barbs dripped a horrid toxin that even smelled bad for you.
Zadkiel was the first to lunge. She unsheathed a longsword from her back and slashed at Uriel. He lept up and his wings burst out from his back. The feathers shone a brilliant orange and red and carried him high above the attack. Samael followed right behind him. Uriel narrowly avoided a swing of his staff.
“Stop! I don’t want to fight you!”
“That’s not what I heard when you defied orders from Michael.” Zadkiel hissed as she ascended with the rest of them, riding on wings of royal purple.
“Zadkiel, please! I-I’m sorry for what I did but-”
Zadkiel didn’t give him time to finish. A swift blade of energy came from a slash of her sword. It hurled right towards Uriel. Even as he evaded it would follow. He made a quick decision and turned to face it. A fireball shot from his hand and the blade burst. The gust it carried pushed Uriel back and the pop echoed off of the barren landscape below them. When the smoke cleared he could see Zadkiel and Samael gaining on him. He gasped and in a panic teleported to the ground closer to the gateway. He could hear the two cry out in the distance as they were temporarily blinded by the light. Michael was right in front of him. He could see him drawing Berith’s sigil in the dirt right in front of the gate. He was going to summon him.
“Michael, think about this!” He didn’t want to fight his peers, but he was starting to run out of options. No response. He watched as Michael took a dagger to his own hand, but was quickly jerked away. Zadkiel had him and Samael swung at him. Before he could land a hit Uriel smashed his head between his wings. Samael was stunned and crumbled to the ground. That’s when Uriel felt a horrible pain. When he looked down Zadkiel had stabbed through his stomach. Her blade turned red hot and his black blood hissed against the blessed steel. Before it could start to melt she retracted it. Uriel let out a pained groan. He felt the rough land dig against his hands and knees. He shoved his body to the side, narrowly avoiding her blade again. When it stabbed into the dirt he threw a burst of fire at it. The steel whined and warped. Uriel got back on his feet and into the air. Zadkiel groaned in anger and threw the sword in his direction, but it didn’t go far and shattered when it hit the ground. A smear of black marked where he had fallen and drips of his blood fell from his wound. He flew closer to Michael while Zadkiel was trying to wake Samael.
“Stop!” He noticed Michel holding his bleeding hand above the complete sigil. Michael squeezed it into a fist. A black droplet formed in the fold of his hand and dripped off of his skin. Uriel reacted quickly. He shot fire directly at the sigil, burning up the blood before it had a chance to touch the marks. Michael simply lowered his hand and looked up at Uriel. His cold stare alone was enough to strike fear into Uriel’s heart. Michael disappeared from sight. Raphael and Barachiel took guard over the sigil. Blue lightning surged up Barachiel’s arm. Uriel beat his wings quickly to avoid her strike, but he was grabbed. Michael had him by his wings and held him still. Uriel only had time to blink for a second. His body jolted and pain zapped through him. He could smell the cloth of his robes smoking, but his skin would not be burnt. His head rattled when it smacked the ground and he lay in a heap.
Everything looked like a horrible fever dream. Uriel could feel his body being scraped across the ground and he choked at the taut collar of his robes. His vision was a psychedelic blur and it was impossible to tell which direction was up. A rumble could be heard, like a scratching in someone’s throat, but he wasn’t so sure it was real. Everything beamed white. The rumbles turned into mutters, and the mutters into words, he tried to focus on them. The voice took a tone, one he hadn’t heard in over two-hundred years, but one he could never forget.
Uriel could see a figure against the white of his vision. It laughed and motioned for him to come, but he couldn’t feel his body anymore. Or maybe he didn’t have one. He watched as the figure started to get smaller. It was leaving, the shadowy figure was getting swallowed up by the white atmosphere. He heard himself gasp and tried to follow, but he couldn’t find his legs. He couldn’t reach the figure, but soon it didn’t matter. The white of his vision started to rupture into bright, disorienting color and he heard it cry out. The color swirled and swallowed what was left of the figure. Uriel felt a his heart sink into his chest. Then he felt his arms again, and his legs. They were being battered against the ground. Oh, the ground, he could see it now. The colors faded and he could see reality again.
With a few more blinks everything came into focus and he found himself face to face with Berith’s sigil. The blood from his wound spidered along the cracks in the ground and poured into the sigil’s pattern. It seeped into the symbol and the ground started to glow. A bright red light filtered through the cracks and the ground shook. Uriel’s muscles were slack, but he managed to stand. The ground underneath him started to break and chunks of dry earth descended into a gaping hellhole. The other Arches were in the air, keeping their distance, but Uriel was too weak to fly. He quickly turned and stumbled away. The ground tremored again and made him lose his footing. His head was spinning. Dark smog plumed overhead. The sky was quickly choked out.
From his back Uriel could see a figure emerge from the billowing cloud. A familiar figure. If it weren’t for the ashen skin, jagged horns, and deadly claws, Uriel would be staring right up at his brother. The orange light from his eyes splashed against Uriel’s skin. Berith had completely taken over. The demon’s soul was using Saul as a vessel. Now that he had a physical form he could rampage through the afterlife. Just like he had in the past.
Berith’s wings tore from the skin on his back in a gory display. Strings of muscle and blood ripped and spattered. The claws of his leathery wings shredded through tendons and skin until he was able to spread them out. Berith’s long silhouette cast a darker shadow than the smog in the sky.
Uriel couldn’t allow himself to fear. He was injured and shaking, but he couldn’t run now. Even though Berith was here, so was Saul. He needed to save him.
“Berith! Leave this vessel! Fall into damnation where you belong!” He whipped a fireball at him. Berith held out a hand and the power was absorbed. His eyes glowed brighter and he gave Uriel a harsh glare. He released the stored energy from his hand. His power was sent back at him ten fold. An unseen force battered Uriel’s body into the ground. Everything went black.
A voice whimpered. Jagged, broken feathers poked into his sides and the air reeked of burning and rot. He felt himself laying across a pair of legs and being grasped in someone’s hands. Slowly, Uriel’s hearing got better. He peeled his dry eyes open to a mess of black and brown blurs.
“Uriel, please…” He recognized the voice. Though he couldn’t see well, he could sense Gabriel and Raphael around him. “Come on… wake up. Michael is gone, we need you.”
Uriel blinked, his vision improving every time. Gabriel had him in his lap and Raphael was knelt over him. Raphael’s hands were pressed against Uriel’s chest and the injury in his stomach. A red energy ebbed all around him as Raphael worked to seal his wound and restore his energy. A deep crater of broken earth surrounded them.
“Uriel… Uriel!” Gabriel’s snap away from his soft spoken self snapped for Uriel’s attention.
“Berith he… he’s damned everyone. Michael is unwilling to fight any longer. He’s surrendered to save the rest of us, but Berith has begun a rampage. He’s going to take Heaven.”
“Michael surrendered?” Uriel was already starting to feel his energy returning. Raphael had the hole in his stomach sealed up. He was able to sit up now, but was still slightly dazed.
“Yes. He has given up. But…” Gabriel sighed and held three vials out to Uriel. In each were small, glowing flames. Purple, green, and blue. “The power of the fallen Archangels… we still have them.” He met Uriel’s eyes. “It is a risk but… if you truly want to save Saul then please… use them. Michael will no longer fight, but I believe you can save him. And I believe you can save Heaven.”
Uriel carefully took the vials in his hands, haunted by the weight of the souls who used to bare their power. “But… why me?”
“You’re the strongest of us remaining, Uriel. If anyone can stop that monster it’s you. I’m… deeply sorry I defied you.”
Uriel returned his attention to the vials. The small flames were concentrated with intense power. He thought about Saul. This was as close as had ever been to saving him, if he even could. He had to take the chance. Gabriel and Raphael helped him back onto his feet.
“Don’t strain your body. Having that much power… it can tear you apart.”
“I know. But I have to do this.” Uriel squeezed the vials in his palm. “Go back to Heaven.” He turned to Gabriel. “You have to warn the angels. If I can’t stop him then… Heaven’s in trouble.”
Gabriel nodded. “Take care, my friend.”
Uriel reached out and gave Gabriel a hug. “You too…” He let go and squeezed his shoulder. “Now go, quickly.”
Gabriel bowed his head and he and Raphael teleported away. Uriel was left alone in the crater with the three vials in hand. He couldn’t waste any more time. With a glowing hand he opened the seals and took the three flames in his hands. They popped and started to spin into a ring. His hand caught fire as their individual powers merged together. The cold fire spread to Uriel’s whole body and turned a brilliant orange as it started to get hot. Uriel’s eyes glowed brightly and his head was instantly cleared. The memories of the past souls to hold the titles, Samael, Zadkiel, and Barachiel whisked through his mind. He could feel his own internal flame growing and his hands seethed with limitless power. His wings were repaired, and beneath them grew two sets more. His head buzzed and his feet lifted from the ground. He raised his body from the crater and planted his feet into the charred ground.
With closed eyes and a hand extended he searched for Berith. In the atmosphere there was a spike of power. A dark, horrid void of demonic energy hurling right up to Heaven. Uriel took a mental hold of it and forced Berith to teleport back down to the Midscape. When Uriel opened his bright eyes Berith was standing right in front of him.
Uriel’s sight pushed past Berith’s features. Behind the violent glare he was receiving and slouched, animalistic posture Berith was holding him in, Saul was still there. Uriel tried to push past Berith’s mental influence, but even with this much power he was not strong enough. Berith blocked him out.
“He is nothing but a vessel for my power now.” Berith snarled, heavy breath hissing through his teeth. “Your attempts are fruitless.”
“You must let him go. He has done no wrong.” Negotiating with a demon usually didn’t yield results, but the last thing he wanted to do was harm Saul. It was clear that the other Archangels had already done a number on him. Crimson blood was spattered all over his dirty face and tattered tunic.
“I do not follow your balance, Arch.” Berith’s bloodshot eyes bulged from Saul’s face. A manic smile sliced his cheek. “I will take power from all of the Archs. I alone will rule the afterlife.” Blood marbled drool oozed over his gums and he flexed his clawed hand.
“Balance between Heaven and Hell is needed, Berith. Without it th-”
“Without it there will be nothing! Nothing but damnation!” Berith swiped at Uriel. He was impossibly fast. Uriel hardly blinked before feeling his claws rake into his arm. He took to the skies, his six wings taking him higher faster. The demonic blood that had splattered on him from the attack ate away at his skin. Berith roared up at him and his body multiplied in a flash. Three Beriths followed him up into the air and surrounded him.
“You cannot use him! Let him go!” Uriel feared the power he held. He didn’t want to have to use it, but in the back of his mind he knew he would have to.
The three of them attacked at once. Shards of sharp metal were shot at Uriel. He climbed the air to avoid them, but one stuck in his leg. It immediately turned to gold and fused to his skin. Uriel grit his teeth and climbed higher.
“Saul! I know you’re in there! You have to fight him!” He was trying anything at this point, but Berith had become too powerful. Even for Michael. He couldn’t think of a way to release Berith’s grasp on him. Maybe Gabriel had been right. Maybe it really was too late. Uriel felt he’d already known that. He just didn’t want to believe.
Berith attacked again, sending a hail of shards up at him. The metal popped and panged, breaking into smaller pieces. Uriel teleported just in time. The beam of light was intense and Berith cried out. It not only blinded him, but peeled and burned at his skin. The two false Berith’s were gone and Uriel was right in front of him now. He grabbed his shoulders and shook him.
“Saul, come on!”
Berith’s eyes flickered. The red glow faded, revealing Saul’s brown irises. It would only happen for a moment. Berith teleported out of Uriel’s grasp and shot another blade of metal. It plunged into Uriel’s shoulder and shimmered gold when it touched blood. He groaned and was knocked back, but was able to hold his composure. He came to terms with what he needed to do.
“Berith! If you want Heaven than I stand in your way!”
“Not for long!” Berith threw his arm and molten gold flung from his sleeve. Uriel was hit. It wouldn’t burn him, but it did weigh him down. He fell down into the dirt and scraped the red hot liquid from him.
From where he knelt, Uriel glared up at Berith. His eyes shone bright yellow and the air became heavy. The deep red atmosphere rippled and swirled as a fatal heat wave was laid upon the land. The dark orange dirt was blistering and molten rock pooled in the cracks in the ground. Berith started to gasp. He beat his webbed wings and landed on the ground. His palms and knees were burned and beads of sweat poured down his face. Uriel watched as he struggled to move. He watched his eyes, hopeful that he would falter again.
This skin of Berith’s raised arms split and blistered. The glow of his eyes wavered, but he was determined to keep ahold of Saul. His hands slammed into the ground and spears of metal shot up from the earth. The blades stabbed through Uriel’s body. His eyelids squeezed shut and his mouth gaped open, but no sound came. With a swipe of Berith’s hand it tempered into gold and fused Uriel to the ground. In a flash he teleported of of the trap. The gold had kept layers of his skin, leaving the afflicted areas raw. He was able to power through the pain.
The heat wave was ripping through the land. Any foliage was charred and lava was flooding the surface. Berith flew to avoid it. He had fashioned himself gold plated armor from the ore in the earth. Uriel pelted him with fireballs, each larger than the last. The armor deflected it. He damaged nothing but the dark hair on his head. Berith absorbed the strongest attack and sent it right back at Uriel. The force wrenched him backward. His wings beat the air and he stabilized. When he looked up again Berith was right in front of him. An iron clad fist cracked bone and bruised skin. Uriel’s face was bloodied, and the black liquid seeped into Berith’s gauntlet. He frantically clawed at the armor, panicking and tearing it off. The blood dissolved the skin on his hand. The glow of his eyes wavered.
If Saul was going to break Berith’s hold he needed more time. But there was little time to waste. Uriel focused his power. He could feel an unfathomable amount degree of energy contained in his mind. He feared its power. He feared what damage it would cause. But he was running out of time. With a simple thought, he released it. His body became overwhelmed. His physical form was engulfed in a burst of blue and orange fire. The heat wave whipped up tore through the atmosphere and the smog in the sky swirled viciously. Thunderous rumbles blasted orange into the dark clouds. The earth began to shake and a low din rattled dust and bone alike. Giant balls of fire pierced the smog and hurdled towards the surface. The whole sky was lit up with the deadly torches for miles. Uriel was no longer in control. The power he held was too much for him to reign in. The ground hissed and warped. Scalding steam spewed from the cracks and Berith sank into the melting earth. He was stuck. A strong influence gripped him. Chunks of flaming earth were hurdling towards him. He couldn’t budge. He couldn’t teleport. His jaw gaped and a deafening screech tore his throat. The meteorites smashed into the melting rock. The Midscape shook from the heavy impact. Fire cracked and roared through the sky. Rock collided with the molten surface. The barrage lasted mere minutes, but the damage done was impossible to fathom.
Soon after it was silent. Uriel’s blazing form extinguished and he fell from the sky. A line of black smoke followed his descent. The surface hissed and squeaked as it instantly cooled. Uriel’s limp body plopped in a heap on solid ground. The three powers of the other Archangels abandoned him and returned to Heaven.
Uriel’s throat crackled when he took a breath. The ground was smooth, but unforgivingly firm. His temple ached as it rested against the sulfur-scented surface. His head was throbbing and looking around only strained his eyes.
“Oh…. Lord…” He got a good look at the destruction around him. As far as his eyes could see was a marbled mineral surface of red and gray. It seemed as if the liquid surface had frozen in time. Cooled lumps of pooled lava poured away from the gateway, which was amazingly untouched. Metal and gold were marbled under Uriel’s feet as he stood. There were no signs of life. Not but one.
“Saul!” Saul’s body lay in a crumpled heap. Uriel’s knees skimmed the ground and he knelt over his brother. Berith’s demonic features had gone. It seemed much of the damage done had gone with them, but it wasn’t to say that Saul wasn’t still terribly hurt. Arms weren’t supposed to bent that way.
“Saul, please! Wake up.” Uriel pulled his brother into his lap and held his leaning head up. Even after two-hundred years he still recognized him, even more so now that Berith was gone. Uriel’s vision was soon blurred by tears and his voice trembled with each breath. He could feel him in there, the smallest spark of life. But he was no healer. He could not repair the damage done.
A quiet groan came from Saul’s mouth. His jaw trembled and his whole body shivered. Uriel watched as his eyes opened and quickly dried his own tears. Saul’s jaw fell open for a moment, a few quiet yelps escaping.