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Excerpts from Heaven and Hell – Cover

Excerpts from Heaven & Hell

A Visit From Dominic

Portia had just gotten home from a grueling day at the Bureau. The team was working around the clock on the bombing investigation, and even her celestial stamina was starting to give out.

A sudden breeze ruffled the papers on her desk, and then there he was, tall and robed, peering at her with a dozen eyes from the darkness of his hood. (Or was it her hood?)

"Portia," Dominic whispered.

The young Cherub scrambled to her feet, thinking Why now? She said nothing, merely waited.

"Erael reports your work goes well." Dominic glided to the desk and turned over a few pages.

"I suspect the bombing was the work of Belial's servants and am looking for definite proof."

"And then?"

"The mortals in the Bureau can track down the human servants of evil. I will try to find the demon who inspired them."

"Try?"

"I will find the demon."

"Indeed. Erael also reports you have been seen with the Ofanite Liri."

Portia hesitated for a second. "He is assisting in my search."

"He is riddled with Discord. As one would expect from one who serves Fire."

There was a long silence, until Portia spoke again. "He has been very helpful."

"No doubt. And if he should transgress once more and lose the grace of his mad mistress?"

"I would bring him in for trial."

Dominic sighed. "You presume much, Portia. That duty is for others. Yours is merely to report the fact and continue with your assignment."

"I'm sorry, Archangel. I spoke without thinking."

"Always think. To act in haste is to allow emotions to interfere with reason. Meditate upon that." Portia expected her Superior to leave then, as he usually did, but the robed Archangel lingered for a moment, then spoke again. "It troubles you, does it not? The idea of betraying one who you call a friend?"

"I wouldn't want to see Liri harmed."

A whispery chuckle sounded somewhere deep inside the heavy robes. "What a tricky thing compassion is. By protecting him, you would only be doing him a greater harm."

"I don't understand."

The robed Seraph glided to the window and gazed out. "If you betray your friend, he would be tried in the Celestial Tribunal. If guilty, he would probably be sentenced to death – his forces unbound and scattered. That must seem a terrible thing to you."

Portia didn't know how to respond, and after a moment Dominic resumed. He turned to face her and slowly approached, the dozen burning eyes intent upon her. "But there are worse things than death. Imagine what could happen if you protect your friend and do not report if he is Outcast. He would wander the Earth, lost and friendless. Inevitably he would slip into the grasp of the Fallen and soon would join them. Instead of a clean death, he would become a foul servant of the Adversary, doomed to spend centuries undoing all he currently stands for. That is what your mercy would give him. Now do you understand, Portia?"

"I understand, Archangel. I won't fail you."

"Good." And with that, he was gone, leaving the room faintly smelling of incense.


Behind Enemy Lines

Sooner or later every new celestial asks the question: "Why don't we simply attack the other side en masse and bring a quick end to this whole War?" Most of the time, their Superiors simply shake their heads and wonder about the kind of brains new celestials have these days, but sometimes, if they are feeling generous, a Superior will explain the reasoning behind the nature of the War.

Laurence shows curious angels his unclassified estimates of the large percentage of the Host that would be lost in the storming of Hell, or Michael explains to them the overwhelming advantage enjoyed by ferocious, unprincipled, deadly creatures fighting for their lives on their dangerous home territory. Dominic points out that when God judges that it is time to end the War is when it will end, not a nanosecond earlier, and asks the curious angel if he places his own judgment above the Divine. Other Superiors are equally discouraging.

Curious demons are told by their Superior that Baal has been informed of their willingness to fight on the front lines against legions of disciplined Malakim, and they are assured that their sacrifice will not be in vain. If they don't get the point by then, they're usually assigned to something less mentally challenging, like raking the bottom of Sheol for loose change. Lucifer has learned all he needs to know about attacking God before being absolutely sure of success.

So a Cold War exists between Heaven and Hell. Demons do their best to poke holes in the Symphony and undermine God's plan so that Heaven can be weakened enough for Hell to launch an all-out assault. God's angels do their best to protect humanity from the activities of the demons and support the Symphony against demonic schemes. Eventually, one side or the other will get the upper hand and be able to pull off a decisive victory, or a large enough faction will grow tired of the stalemate and launch a suicidal final assault to force the issue.

There are certainly factions on both sides of the War who would prefer Armageddon came sooner rather than later, but those factions have largely been reined in by the majority. Uriel's Purification Crusade in the eighth century and his calling to the upper Heavens serves as a strong reminder to angels of the dangers of taking too much initiative.

Still, it is not unknown for individual angels and demons to invade enemy territory for various reasons while pursuing their duties in the War. Usually, it is angels making trouble in Hell, since demons have more problems getting into Heaven.


Sheol

The vision that most mortals have of Hell is a land of running lava and lakes of fire and brimstone. Sheol is the place that mortals have feared for centuries. There is no Principality in Hell that more completely mirrors the nature of its Prince. Belial, the Calabite Demon Prince of Fire, embodies the destructive power of flame, and his realm is a burning ruin. The damned who dwell in Sheol are permitted no amenities, no peace, no hope. They wander on shelves of rock, choking on the smoke and ash, wincing from the flying cinders. Their moans and screams rise on the heat, swirling upwards toward the volcano at Sheol's center as if to feed it.

The volcano, larger than the largest on Earth, is continually active, a murky silhouette in the constant clouds of smoke laced with rivers of white-hot lava. Fresh explosions from the core of the mountain break out almost daily, showering the land below with molten lumps of rock and superheating the air incredibly. The rivulets of lava join to form broad streams, then rivers, and these channels of molten rock flow slowly into Sheol, which skirts the mountain's feet on all sides.

The twisted nature of the place provides not only constant fire, but also constant fuel. There are small cities, entire forests, valleys and villages forever burning. Beautiful mansions are built by the damned just so they can be burnt to the ground by Belial's Servitors. And between and around them all are the lakes of fire, broad and bright, fed by the volcano. In the lakes, the demonic servitors of Belial, immune to fire and heat while in Hell, bathe and swim and watch the fires around them burn.


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