A Long, Lonely Mission

By James Walker


He had winced as the champagne bottle had smashed against the side of the ship; wished that someone else had been assigned this mission.

That was why he had been chosen, of course. As the ship travelled down the slipway, his gaze turned to the ship builder's daughter, who was excitedly watching the ship settle in the water. That helped. It helped a lot, actually - it reminded him why he had chosen to join Heaven. Why, as a dissonant, broken Impudite, he had chosen to seek Redemption - and chosen to serve the one Archangel who could make the world a better place.

Hell hadn't been that bad, he mused. Other angels would be horrified to hear him say that, but it was true. He had never doubted himself, nor his Superior while in Hell. It had all made sense: a twisted perverted sense, but sense all the same. Hell was evil, but intelligently evil. He had been sent to the Corporeal to corrupt humanity, draw them into Hell's waiting arms. It was a task he had enjoyed, had been good at, had felt pride at being good at - still did, actually...something he which worried him. Could that result in him Falling? Perhaps - that was just one reason why he had chosen to remain True.

He reached out with his resonance to touch the girl, felt the complicated web of relationships in which she nestled - the love for & from her father; of her mother, standing behind her: that was a complicated relationship, a mix of joy and pride and nostalgia - nostalgia? But of course, no doubt mother had launched a ship herself, many years ago. So...

'We didn't save your life, little one...much more than that. We saved your mother's. You would never have been born at all. That bottle is the memory of a much older custom - one that died under our blades. I remember the fleets sent to invade this island, sixteen centuries ago. I watched, helplessly, as ship after ship was launched onto these waters: and each time a child died under the keel. Each child who died - who I could have saved, if I'd tried - drove me madder, until I sought out Uriel, sought to be made Pure; and to Purify the world. To destroy the parasites, who wastefully used and abused humanity; whose actions could revolt a Hellborn demon.

We were winning, once. People could understand. But those we defend have turned against us. Those 'quaint customs' that humans cherish are the memories of a bloody past, one that they would bring back if they could. Deep in The Marches, tiny spirits exist: waiting. "Spare them!" fools cry, as the helpless tiny spirit looks appealingly to them. How long will you spare it? Until it has waxed strong, and can demand the return of the original custom? Demand the blood sacrifice is considers to be its due?

Hateful, they call us, as they fuss over the cute, harmless creatures that still infest The Marches. Cute & Harmless? Yes - for we made them that way. They are as much the children of the Tsayadim as they are of humanity - for we have culled them, destroying the worst, sparing the best; that is why your cute little ethereal exists: we spared it. No great virtue, you think, to spare a life? But remember, we also saved it's life: it would have been eaten long ago by the monsters of the Marches, if we did not patrol, slaying the evil beasts. Everything it has, it owes to us - and as thanks it teaches humans to hate us.'

He sighed. Exile was a terrible punishment for a Mercurian; to lose old friendships, to be cut off from the chance of new ones. The mental rant came all too easily. Still, the sea trip would be entertaining. They would cross the equator - and those foolish sailors would want to invoke "Neptune's Wrath" at the deed. He smiled. They could try. He had spent years acquiring this Role as a Lawyer, and it would be well spent, punishing the mortal's love of hurting and humiliating one another for the sport of their gods. As for the fools who had acquired Worship Rites for Neptune - those he would detect; and they would be watched, for the Tsayadim still sought Neptune's head.

With a strange sad look on his face, he strode down the pier, to board the ship.


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