The Seraphim Council sat agog as Michael and Laurence announced the
contest, convienently omitting certain details, like the fact that part
of this challenge was to gather information on Superior-level fighting
skills. It was so good to have a Malakite speaking, evading those nasty
conflicts of truth that Seraphim occassionally undergo. ~It is only
unfortunate that we cannot record this moment for future posterity~
Michael thought with amusement, looking at Dominic's bulging eyes, all
one hundred and eleven of them. Naturally, he was the first to rise from
his chair, his black robe rustling.
"Such trials smack of Pride, Archangel." The cowled Seraph's voice hissed coldly about the chamber, giving newer Superiors like Christopher, Litheroy, and Zadkiel a glimpse into the age-old enmity between Judgement and War.
Novalis was next to stand, her voice trilling but firm. "I won't have my Glades become a battlefield! These conflicts are absolutely not necessary!"
Next to her, Christopher arose, his form as a young man taking on his Cherubic halo in his distress. "Nor my House! There are the souls of innocent children there Michael! Being exposed to combat would rob them of their beautiful innocence!"
Surprisingly, Litheroy rose up, his white scales gleaming. In his quiet, diffident voice, he said "I am not certain that it would be so, Christopher. Is not exposure to a certain amount of violence necessary, in order that you and yours may teach the young to channel their aggressions more positively? Also, I believe that these trials may reveal unto us our strengths and weaknesses. As such, I would like to propose the first challenge, Michael." He turned to his Choirmate. "A revelation of your strengths relative to mine in unarmed combat in celestial form, to take place in the lake of my Abbey. I may need the practice, should it ever come to pass that Alaemon and I confront each other. Do you accept?"
Michael was a little taken aback at the challenge from the Archangel of Revelation, of all angels, but he nodded his acceptance. "Indeed Litheroy, contigent upon one thing." He turned to Laurence. "Do you find the conditions fair, Host Commander?"
Laurence considered and nodded. "I do. Litheroy proposes an honorable trial by strength, with the added disadvantage to both parties that it occur in the water in Celestial form. It is good."
Dominic started to sputter, and Novalis and Christopher both were prepared to protest, when Laurence cut them off. "Of course, neither Litheroy nor Michael will kill each other, and we will respect your prerogratives as you deem fit, Archangels of Flowers and Children." He turned to Dominic. "Surely, pride in one's Word and one's ability is not wrong, unless it grows out of hand? You may watch, if you wish, to determine that neither Archangel goes too far into the sin of Pride." Dominic lowered himself down, but said nothing.
The Archangel of War looked around at the Council, noting the benign smile on Yves's face, Zadkiel's approving nod, and the compression of the lips that signified Jean's disapproval, then he looked to the Archangel of Revelation. "Shall we go, Litheroy?" The answering nod was all he needed.
A scant few moments later, both Archangels were in celestial form, sunk to about mid-length in a deep, shaded lake in Litheroy's Abbey. A crowd of angels, most of War and Revelation but many of other Words, were gathered to watch. Laurence sat atop a high tree branch overlooking the pool, to serve as referee, while Dominic watched from a shaded wall nearby. Laurence looked to the two contestants. "You will duel for a half-hour, no Songs or use of Essence in any way allowed. This is a purely phsyical confrontation. The first to submerge his opponent for a length of two minutes wins." He raised his gleaming sword, then lowered it. "BEGIN!"
The two Seraphim slithered towards each other across the length of the wide, deep lake. Michael had the advantage of size and strength coming into this, but the Seraph with the sun-golden scales knew full well that it was not always the big and strong that won the day. Litheroy might be smaller, but that would give him the advantage of speed if he but used it. Michael's mind cleared, as it always did in any fight. ~Just because he is not a notorious warrior does not mean he is incompetent.~ That thought was uppermost as Litheroy sought to slip around him and get behind him. A quick lunge with his serpent-like body cut off Litheroy, but won him a slash across the nose with one of Litheroy's horns.
Litheroy smiled, moderately pleased that he had scored that glancing blow. A faint trickle of blood tricked from Michael's nose, winning him applause from the audience. Michael nodded once. "First blood. You may be tougher than we have thought, Litheroy." When Litheroy nodded in pleasure, Michael headbutted him, knocking the white-scaled Seraph back. "But Litheroy, the first rule of combat is that one never takes their eyes off their opponent." With that, he lunged, catching Litheroy on the shoulder with a bite and bringing his heavy, scaled tail up in a pounding blow....that just missed as Litheroy ducked under it, trying to strike Michael in the chest with his horns. Michael arched up and over, diving under the water and up again so fast that Litheroy didn't even see Michael's horns ram into his chest. He felt it though.
Michael jumped to follow-up his advantage as Litheroy reeled back across the pool and fell on his back, his wings flaring out behind him. As he lunged down, Litheroy's tail snapped out of the water behind him, catching Michael about the neck and wrapping about his throat, constricting in only the way that a serpent could. Michael gasped, his wings coming up in surprise to the amazement of his Servitors in the crowd. Litheroy smiled calmly and flipped his tail...and Michael...down into the icy depths of the lake. There was a click as Laurence activated a stopwatch to time the submersion.
As he drowned in the cold depths, Michael gasped, his tail snapping up to wrap around Litheroy's torso and tug him down. Seraphim, because of their serpentine bodies, are highly flexible. The two Archangels locked their horns together as they struggled underwater, the bubbles of their conflict coming up to the surface in violent geysers. They broke when Michael headbutted Litheroy and rose. As he broke the surface with a gasp, he got a nasty shock as Litheroy fashioned his teeth onto Michael's chest, ripping through the scales to draw blood.
Litheroy's many eyes showed grim determination, and Michael's estimation rose as he bit into one of Litheroy's eyeridges, causing blood to flow into one his eyes. Blinded, Litheroy reeled back and Michael wrapped all the way around him, dragging him down while keeping his head above the water. Laurence reset the stopwatch and the the count resumed as Litheroy choked and struggled underwater. Soon he went limp. At precisely two minutes, Laurence called "Time!"
Michael immediately uncoiled himself and rose, dragging Litheroy with him. He dragged him to the shore and applied pressure on his chest until Litheroy coughed up water and slowly opened his eyes. Michael smiled, not unkindly, as the Archangel of Revelation awoke. "You did quite well Litheroy. You surprised me, and that is not easy. It has been long since I had to exert myself so. Come see me in the Groves sometime. I think you have it in you to be a strong warrior, with time and practice. Good match." Litheroy nodded weakly and the two Seraphim exchanged a shake with their tails before Michael turned and bowed to the crowd.
"If any wishes to challenge me, let Laurence know or come find me in the Grove. I will accept any fair challenge." With that, he spread his wings and took flight, leaving Dominic to shake his head and depart quietly as Laurence went to congratulate Litheroy on his surprising performance against the Champion of Heaven.
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