"You?" Michael asked, surprised.
The robed Seraph in front of him gazed back blandly.
"I thought you were against this. Didn't you say something about 'pride' and 'hubris' in the Council meeting when we announced it?"
Dominic murmured, "I also said I needed to atone. Is this not a fitting atonement?"
_Well, it *would* be interesting to finally get to put the Hyena in his place,_ Michael thought, rubbing his chin with his hand. "Done. Where do you want the contest? And no legal debates."
"Of course not. As to where..." The other Archangel thought for a moment, then pointed.
The radiance in Heaven is not precisely transparent, nor solid. Where had been apparent bright sky, was now a glittering dome... with a hairline crack through its center.
"Trying to imply something, Dominic?" the Archangel of War said, low and not terribly pleased.
The silent gaze from beneath the cowl lasted for a long moment, then the hood dipped. "It is deserted. I think it would not do well for morale to have the contest either in my Tribunal, nor your Groves. The great entry hall there is open."
"All right. We'll go there." Neither Seraph mentioned the name of "there," even in the celestial tongue. They knew, they knew the other knew, and there are some Words and Names that are rarely said, even in Heaven. "What weapon?"
"Whatever comes to hand, I think."
The two Seraphim faced each other across the expanse of the entry hall of what had once been the Cathedral of Light. Completing the square were two Malakim -- Laurence and Bronwen, the Servitor, as always, as her Master's shadow.
"Whatever comes to hand, eh?" Michael grinned, his hand twitching. He could feel his axe, knew every rough spot and every smooth piece on it. It would take only the slightest bit of Essence to call it to him.
Dominic looked back, yet silent, and put a hand to the edge of his cloak. In a gesture that was not meant to be flashy, but could not help itself, he drew it off and it unfurled to cover the floor -- and cover the floor, and cover the floor, like a pool of ink over the crystal.
Michael raised himself above the wash of black with a wary flip of his wings. "A trap to smother me?" he asked, anticipation of the coming battle making him cheerful despite the possible dirty trick.
"No," came the reply. "But it would not do to bleed upon this place. The footing will be stable."
The Archangel of War scowled slightly and landed again, deciding that he would have preferred a dirty trick. "Ready, then?"
The other Seraph -- its humanoid form tall, lean, and not particularly gendered -- nodded.
Laurence was in the very act of saying, "Begin," when the two sprang at each other.
They met bare-handed at first, each gripping the fist of the other, and then Michael easily shoved the younger Archangel away. Dominic rolled, and came up with one hand outstretched. A whispered bit of Latin, and there was a shining blade in that hand, forged of shining air, nearly as long as his own form.
Michael grinned ferally, pulling his axe to his hand with a Song. _Thinks he can pull a Heavenly Judgment on me and stand back instead of doing his own fighting? Ha. I'm not going to forget that my opponent is *him* and not his little toy._
Though he braced for the huge blade to be flung at him, Dominic charged while holding it. Sword and axe clashed together, and then the dance of battle began in earnest. Each circled for an advantage, each lashed out with weapon and parried or dodged, each fell back and advanced as if choreographed.
_He's better than I thought,_ Michael thought, noticing that the Sword of Judgment was long enough that he couldn't try tripping his opponent. _But,_ he decided, matter-of-factly, _he's not as good as I am._ And he knocked the sword away for long enough to score a long line down the chest of Judgment.
Dominic hissed in pain, but brought his sword back into line, and the dance continued, with each seeking a flaw in the opponent's defenses, each exploiting what they found.
To the two black-winged watchers, the pair were nearly a glittering flicker in the middle of the hall, where the blows were almost faster than the ringing of metal on metal. Occasionally something could be seen separate from the blur: Michael ducking and somehow getting inside Dominic's guard; the other Seraph bringing up a foot and kicking the Archangel of War in the chest to get him away; a fierce grin on Michael's face; a determined expression on Dominic's; Judgment overbalancing and falling to the ground, rolling away just before the axe of War thudded where his neck had been.
Finally, somehow Michael was behind his opponent, and the flat of the axe-blade smashed into Dominic's head. Before he could recover, he was pinned down, a knee on his sword-holding arm, and an axe raised above him. The pose held for a long moment, long enough for the watching Malakim to see that both were bleeding from cuts and scrapes -- though Michael far less than his opponent.
"Yield," Michael demanded.
The moment stretched very long, though it was not long at all.
"You have won this battle," Dominic said, with the calmness of accepted Truth all that showed in his voice and face.
_So why don't I feel happier?_ Michael wondered, as he got up and backed away. He pulled a cloth from the air and walked away, cleaning his axe.
Dominic watched after him, as his Bronwen brought him his cloak. He took it from her silently, enfolding himself into the blackness once again. She looked at him, while he continued to gaze after Michael until had gone from sight. Dominic's shoulders slumped, apparently only now showing the defeat he felt. Laurence looked worried, and finally slipped away himself, to give the older Seraph time alone.
So it was only Bronwen who heard her Archangel whisper, with grief and old, old pain, "I don't think it worked."
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