The New Commander (A Heresy)

By Manny Nepumecino


The Council Hall was silent in the moments after the Angel of the Sword spoke. His wounds not quite healed, the young Malakite limped off the podium and back onto the floor. Off to one side stood Khalid, the Angel of Faith, having just given his testimony. The two angels of Purity were the last to give their depositions; all that was left of the trial was the judging. The old Elohite did not so much as grace Laurence with a smile, though both of them bore the wounds of the Purity Crusade. Laurence did not seem to notice.

In the very center of the Council Hall stood Uriel, Archangel of Purity, Commander of the Armies of God, and their Superior. His celestial form stood tall and proud, and while the armor he wore over his black-winged form was just as battered as that which Laurence and his compatriots wore, it seemed that he bore his wounds more proudly. The massive greatsword the Archangel of Purity carried shone brightly even under the thick ichor that encrusted it -- all that remained of Garchek, the last dragon, only days dead at the hands of Uriel himself. The Malakite stood still, barely breathing, staring into space -- not even deigning to face the cloaked figure tasked with his judgment.

Everyone else, on the other hand, had their eyes on Dominic. The Archangel of Judgment was one of Uriel's staunchest allies, and it was whispered in dark places that he'd tried to dissuade Blandine from calling for Uriel's trial. The Archangel of Dreams was no friend of Uriel's, it was known, and everyone in the Hall was conscious of her presence as both accuser and member of the Council. She sat regally beside Yves, who was, for once, frowning at the proceedings. Clearly, whatever was to happen here would happen without his foreknowledge.

The Archangel of Judgment raised his arm as if to speak, quelling the murmurs that had begun to rise. Beside him, Seraphiel, the Angel of the Inquisition, and Mihr, the Angel of Mercy, tensed. It was time.

But Dominic faltered, his words swallowed by the inky darkness of his cloak. Angels and Archangels alike looked at each other uneasily. Unabated, the Song of Holies continued in the background. Whatever happened, the Trisagon would continue.

Then God spoke.

It was not like God speaking through Metatron -- angels old enough to remember understood that there was a critical difference, but would not be able to explain precisely what it was. There was, however, no doubt in anyone's mind that it was God him/her/itself speaking to them all, and that He/She/It had come in response to their need. Angels present at the Trial, ancient and newly-fledged alike, wept in adoration as God's voice washed over them, filling them with a sense of purpose and importance. Even Uriel wept at the sound of God speaking.

And God said, "My child, return to the purity you hold so dear."

And Uriel, weeping, replied, "Yes, Father," and faded from sight. Some say that they saw beings arriving to take Uriel to the higher heavens -- members of Choirs higher than even the Seraphim. Others claim that there was a great flash of light that burned Uriel to cinders. And they wept, angel and Archangel alike, for God was still present with them.

God spoke again.

"My child," God said, "it is time for you to take up the banner." And then God was gone.

Everyone present knew that God had chosen another to rule Heaven and to plan the War -- and they looked around at those deemed worthy of this honor, trying to discern who had been chosen. David, Archangel of Stone, stood naked and proud, tears running down his face and bare chest. Michael, Archangel of War, stood beside him, radiant and glorious, and even his face was wet with tears. Gabriel, Archangel of Fire, burned with the brilliance of His presence.

And there were others there as well who were deemed worthy of commanding God's armies -- Khalid, Angel of Faith, who had glowed brighter than any Ofanite (save Gabriel) at the sound of God's voice. His wounds were healed, miraculously, as were those of Laurence, the Angel of the Sword, virtuous and true to the ideals of Heaven.

But none of them spoke; another had been chosen.

And then he spoke. "Well -- yes," he murmured, clearing his throat, "it seems we have a lot to get done."

And Eli stepped into the center of the Hall.


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