Part 4: The Trial
Michael was escorted back to the Council chambers, and told to rest. He did not comment on not being permitted back into the Groves to his own tent, and his escort did not comment on his withdrawn manner.
If the guards at the door heard the sounds of the Archangel weeping some time later, they did not acknowledge it.
Some hours later, a knock sounded on the door, although it opened without waiting for an acknowledgment. Dominic stepped in, cloak rustling behind him.
"The Council is meeting, your presence is required."
Michael sighed. "So you can decide what is to be done to me?"
"That is the primary reason, yes."
The two Seraphim made their way to the central chamber, Michael straightening up on the way. He was not defeated, not yet.
On the way, they passed a pair of Elohim apparently arguing.
"It is logical, if we work together to finish this project, we can do it. Alone, neither of us could," said the first.
"This is true, however, I do not feel that I can turn you loose in that lab yet. Now come along, we have a meeting to attend." The second nodded to the Seraphim as they passed. "Michael."
"Jean," he answered, keeping up with Dominic. His senses itched for his axe, but he knew better than to come armed into the Council chambers after what he had done. He still wanted it, regardless of the consequences. Perhaps, he thought, that is part of the problem.
The chamber was packed quite full, although Michael's eyes were drawn to the empty spaces usually occupied by Gabriel and Soldekai, Litheroy, Marc, and Jordi. He settled in next to Doxas, leaned over to her.
"Where are Soldekai and Jordi?" he murmured.
"Soldekai is grieving, Jordi has gone to Earth to try to save what's left."
Michael was puzzled. "What's left?"
"When Gabriel and Belial fought, they did it on Earth. It set off all of the active volcanoes there, and some thought dormant. A significant amount was destroyed, the rest in danger from the aftereffects. You'll notice how distracted Novalis is, she's divided herself and is attending to Earth as well. They had to nearly drag Eli back here for this gathering."
Michael heaved a deep sigh. "I suppose asking why they're bothering with this while the battles still exist is pointless?"
"We have. Repeatedly. The majority assure that everything is in hand."
"And why are you here, instead of out fighting?"
Doxas cracked a smile at him. "Because you need allies right now, the battles can wait."
Dominic took his place at the central podium, his since he had called the gathering. His gaze silenced the many hushed conversations rippling around the chambers. "By now, you all know what happened to Michael and his servitors after the destruction of Baal," he began. "This gathering has been called so that we may decide what action to take to answer for this tragedy."
Laurence was the first on his feet to speak. "We may have won the day, but the War continues. My are holding for now, but we cannot press forward without the aid of the angels of War. The Word must continue."
David rose as well. "I agree," he said simply.
Jean rose after the two Malakim had retaken their seats. "The Word must continue, yes. However, we must consider whom shall hold it. The possibility exists that its current bearer is no longer fit."
Michael's breath caught in his throat. He knew the possibility was indeed there. It was one of his greatest fears.
The arguments raged back and forth for hours, his supporters against those who wished the Word stripped from him. Dominic offered no opinion, simply presiding over the debate and calming it down when words became to heated.
Then they started bringing forward witnesses. Laurence and David, the angels he had wounded. Those who wanted Michael stripped tried to warp the words in their favor. The argument drifted away, to the topic of who would replace him if the Word was stripped.
"No," Doxas said emphatically when her name was brought up. "I already have a Word, I will not replace Michael if it comes to that."
Someone pointed out that if the Council decided to choose her, she would be unable to refuse. "You only say that because no-one has ever refused a Word before. I will not make the exchange."
The chambers erupted in shouts. Doxas calmly sat down. Michael tuned the sounds out, sunk into his own thoughts, analyzing. Matters seemed to be out of his hands, the Council would eventually reach their decision, and he knew he could not sway them with his own arguments for keeping his Word. He was beginning to doubt them himself. He considered several possibilities, let the Symphony tell him which were most likely, which were True. Several items stuck in his mind, pushing him closer to his own decision.
He looked across the hall, searching out Yves. That enigmatic being looked the same as ever, a small smile on his lips as he heard things no others could. His eyes were on Michael already. 'The choice is yours,' Yves' voice echoed in his mind, answering a question Michael hadn't realized he was asking.
He knew that there was still one chance, something he could do. A final chance for victory.
Part 5: The Choice
Michael rose to address the Council, waiting patiently for the arguments to quiet down. As he waited, he scanned to knot of his loyal servitors who had been called in, mostly Masters, including those he had wounded.
The voices fell silent as every eye in the chamber fell on him. He felt the weight, especially from Dominic's surplus eyes. The battle was at its peak.
"This has gone on long enough," he stated, his voice echoing in the suddenly silent room. "There is something else you have all forgotten."
The gathered beings waited silently for him to continue. "The Word of War must be always ready to stride into battle with our enemies, no matter what they be. This requires confidence, the unfaltering belief that what one does is the right thing, is the will of God." His eyes locked onto Dominic. "You once accused me of Pride and Hubris, when you saw this confidence. God pardoned me then, and I forgive you now."
The phrase rang from the walls with the Truth of his words. Dominic seemed to shrink, just a tiny bit.
"However, I have seen the results of my own rage. I have seen the dead, the wounded, and the ones in Trauma. The ones who shrink back from my presence in fear. I realize now that I no longer have that necessary confidence. I realize now that I..."
He paused, steeling himself to finish what he had started. "I realize that I am no longer fit or worthy to bear the Word of War."
The chamber erupted in shouts, both support and dismay. Michael remained standing, regarding it all with the calmness of a warrior at peace with himself. Dominic nearly put his gavel through the podium trying to restore order.
When things finally calmed down, Michael looked around the chambers again. Most of his servitors and supporters were watching him with mute shock.
"I also do not feel it is fitting for me to choose the one who must now bear that burden. Some would accuse that one of being my puppet, my figurehead. However, my servitors and I would suspect the same of anyone the Council chooses.
"Therefore, I will let the Symphony choose. I relinquish my Word and my status as Archangel, I release the power to the Symphony, that another may be chosen. Let the will of God be known."
As he finished the words, a pure white light seemed to seep from his body. The Symphony rang out, joy and agony at once as the Word and its Forces bled from his form, flowing into a gleaming ball of energy floating over his head. "Let it be so," he whispered, echoed by Eli across the room.
The ball of light paused, rotated, then dove down into the mass of Warriors gathered in the chambers. The crowd parted, angels bending knee to the one the Symphony had chosen. Doxas caught Michael as he swayed from the sudden loss of himself, held him upright long enough to see the coppery auburn Seraph now surrounded by the light and looking more shocked than the rest. The Seraph he had healed, the one who had done her best to stop his rage, Áinel.
And Eli spoke, saying, "Let it be so."
Immediately after her surprising ascension, Áinel gained and granted the same attunements and distinctions as Michael had. However, as she grows and learns, and develops her own interpretation of the Word, she starts to modify what she grants.
She has learned from what happened to Michael, and after a rumoured session with Novalis, created a new attunement similar to the Master of Peace ability.
Warrior's Peace: Allows the angel, or a target within line of sight, to burn through any distractions, dissonance, discord, or hostile attunements or Songs, to see Truly who is an enemy and who a friend. While it is not often used on an enemy, any who wish to resist must do so at half their Will. Effects last for number of rounds equal to the angel's Will plus any Essence used.
Much to the dismay of some, Áinel is molding her Word somewhat away from the relentless hostility toward the enemy that Michael showed. From his actions relinquishing his Word, she has learned that sometimes a final victory can be accomplished through a partial surrender. While it is still dissonant for her servitors to fully surrender to an enemy, they can now perform a strategic retreat IF- that retreat will lead to a later victory. An angel so retreating without a direct order, or the one taking charge and giving that order, has a number of hours equal to their Forces to re-join the conflict. This also allows angels to retreat and come back with reinforcements. If the conflict does not resume within the required hours, the angel will suffer the dissonance.
She has also taken an interest in the effects of the War on those not directly involved in the conflict. Her Cherubim and Mercurians can now find and help the friends and families of those slain in combat. This can affect Celestial friends of fighters, however the concentration is for the humans, those the angels often forget. She remembers that she was once human. (ref. http://home.earthlink.net/~aekilgore/Ainel.html) She is also quite willing to grant these to servitors of other words, although she is so caught up in her new position that it takes quite a lot to get her attention.
Cherubim: The Cherub can attune to a dying warrior, and after he or she passes on, use the attunement to find the sentient being who the deceased most wants to know what has happened. Normally this would involve fast-talking to avoid telling non-Aware humans about the War, by the time Áinel develops this attunement, the few humans surviving already know.
Mercurians: These are the bringers of comfort, both to soldiers and bereaved. A new fighter, human or Celestial, who has doubts about what they are about to do, is quickly sent to a Mercurian of War, who eases the nerves and gives the support necessary to get the fighter ready. They also know just what to say to a shocked friend or family member to help ease the pain and reassure.
Part 6: The Archangel
War continues until the bitter end.
Áinel was as shocked as the rest of the Council when the Symphony chose her new position. She is adapting well, treating her servitors fairly. One of her first actions was to choose a personal advisory council, including Michael, Doxas, and her closest companions Raniel, Lanus, and Ahrionel, among others. She listens to their advice, but is definitely not their puppet, making her own decisions sometimes against theirs.
Relations: Many Archangels are reserving judgement until she gains some experience. Generally she is seen much as Michael was, with some noted exceptions.
Allied: David, Janus
Associated: Laurence, Eli
Neutral: All others except
Hostile: Vapula (not an Archangel)
On Blandine (MIA): (The loss of any Archangel is a loss to Heaven. I hope to soon send a joint party into the Marches for some sign of her, or evidence that she either survives or is gone.)
Christopher (weakened): "She is concerned for the children of the fighters, and she teaches strength in the right path. She also seems less eager to get her servants killed than her predecessor. It is too early to tell, but I think she will work out." (I hope that he grows strong enough to be restored. If humanity is to survive, they will need his help.)
David: "She is new to the mantle of Archangel, but is bearing up well under the pressure. She is concerned for families and groups, not just the individual warrior, and this I can support. I look forward to working with her." (He was one of Michael's staunchest supporters, and I hope I can prove myself worthy of his support as well.)
Dominic: "She is War, and she shows its pride. Yet she is young enough to listen and learn. She was once human, and is closer to them than most of our Choir. It is too early to Judge her." (He is still the Hyena, and he is strong. I do not trust him, and while I do not wish a conflict with him, I will defend my servitors and myself if necessary. That cat of his, I do not understand.)
Eli: "She is near the pinnacle of evolution, growing from simple human, to Soldier, to Reliever, to Angel, and now this. Y'know, I almost snagged her as one of my own Soldiers back then... It will be wonderful to see how she makes War her own." (He helped me learn how to create and grant new attunements. His focus is on humanity instead of the battles ahead, but he has some very useful insight.)
On Gabriel (deceased): (Heaven is diminished from the loss of the mighty Gabriel. I hope her replacement will assist us in the war efforts.)
Janus: "She is a changed War, and she is changing still. Michael is still a dear friend, but she is shaping up to be a valuable ally." (Janus was one of the first to openly support my new title. I believe we work well together toward a common goal.)
Jean (diminished): "She shows some concern for humanity, which is admirable, but not enough. They need our help more than ever now, and the continuing ravages of war make things worse." (He does not like me, and I am not comfortable around him. Perhaps someday our relationship will improve, certainly we could be of mutual benefit. For now, I have a war to attend to.)
Jordi: "She worries about the war, about the humans, and forgets that there is other life struggling to survive on earth. We cannot support her, not now." (I regret that Jordi does not assist more. They insist I need to show more concern for the creatures of earth, when I try to convince them that a coordinated effort would help humans and animals alike. We are at an impasse now.)
Laurence: "She is War, and as Commander we must work closely together. At least she uses a sword as her weapon of choice." (He is uncertain whether or not I am suitable for this job, but accepts the will of God. We work together as we must, that is all.)
Kobal (redeemed): "She actually has a sense of humour. It's dry, but it's there, and for a Seraph that says a lot. I wish she would show more joy though." (His Redemption is genuine, but I do not yet trust him. At least he can occasionally make me smile.)
On Marc (deceased): (His loss is felt, perhaps he could have helped to get the others of the Council to work together.)
Novalis: "She's learning that you don't always have to fight to the death to meet your goal. Still too violent for my tastes, but at least she listens." (She is a valuable asset to our efforts, and speaks wisely. Still, I often wish she would work with our faction more.)
Vapula (redeemed, weakened): "She does not trust me. I can understand her feelings, even if they are not objective. She generally leaves me alone." (As long as Jean keeps a close eye on him, fine. I do not think he is to be trusted away from Jean.)
Yves: "I read her destiny when her soul first came to Heaven. She was a rare case, one that had two possible, equally bright destinies ahead of her. This was one of them. She is more willing to ask my advice than her predecessor." (I am not comfortable around him, but he is wise. He refuses to tell me what my other Destiny was.) (Author's note: To become a true Trisagionist, singing the praises of God at His throne.)
Her stance on the remaining Demon Princes is simple: Seek and destroy. She is currently sending out teams on "feeler" missions, finding out Hell's strengths and weaknesses, and preparing for a larger assault.
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