[ Master Post ]
Title: Death and Desire
Characters: Gabriel ♅, Michael ♅
Rating: T (L0 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: War, death, holy vengeance, ethics of a damaged archangel
Notes: In about 701 BC, an Assyrian army led by Sennacherib sacked forty-odd cities in Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. Assyrian records report the successful sack of every city besieged, except Jerusalem. Although they also do not report defeat there, those records are kingly propaganda, so all bets are off. The story goes that Hezekiah, King of Judah, prayed in the Temple of Jerusalem, for deliverance, and as the first king in two and a half centuries to do so, his prayer was rewarded, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died outside the walls. This is variously attributed to Michael, Gabriel, or the onset of one of the usual siege camp diseases. I decided to go for all three. (I never thought I’d be writing Michael, but I suppose it had to happen, eventually…)
"Michael, I don’t like killing. It shouldn’t be necessary," Gabriel complained.
"Our father commands it. One of his kings cries out to him for salvation, and the city will not stand, without us." Michael shrugged. "Besides, he’s letting you use the scythe. I wish he’d let me use the scythe. But, no, I just get this sword."
"You want the scythe? Here, take it." Gabriel held it out, expectantly.
"I knew there was a reason I liked you!" Grabbing the scythe, excitedly, Michael was met with an unexpected jolt, and the scythe fell to the ground.
For a long moment, they both looked at the fallen weapon, as if it would take some action of its own volition.
"I can’t take it. He made it for you." Wonder and no small amount of envy were thick in Michael’s words.
Sighing, Gabriel knelt beside the scythe. "This isn’t what I want."
"It’s what our father wants. You are his judgement. I am his sword." Michael held out a hand. "Come pronounce over the Assyrian host, and I will do the rest."
Gabriel took the scythe in one hand and Michael’s hand in the other. "You enjoy this, don’t you?"
"Why wouldn’t I? It’s what I was created to do." Michael descended, pulling Gabriel along. "Embrace what you were meant to be. It’s so much easier than fighting it. It’s so much more fulfilling to have a purpose."
"I prefer the purpose granted me when we lost our brother. It’s just as fulfilling. Moreso, even. I like delivering the thus-unspoken truth. I speak seventy languages, Michael, and I can speak them all at once. I enjoy the dance of words, not swords!"
Michael butted in. "Well, good, because the dance of swords is mine!"
"I pass judgement, when judgement needs be passed. Must I be the executioner, as well?" Angels were not designed to doubt, to resist, or to regret, but Gabriel had been changed, when the Holy Father had cast down their brother. The responsibilities that had been his were split among other angels, and all of them had, in some way, become affected. It was said the angels who bore their sister’s roles had also changed.
"Of course not. That’s why I’m here!" Michael laughed, easily, at Gabriel’s bizarre distress.
"Then why did he make the scythe for me, and not for you?"
"Gabriel, Gabriel… Overthinking things, as usual. He just wants to make sure the job gets done." Michael yawned and stretched, a flicker of blue-green light in the evening air.
"You could do the job with no sword, half asleep, while talking to Raphael. You could probably do it without looking," Gabriel pointed out.
"He’s being cautious."
"Our father? Cautious?"
They set down in the valley outside the city, which had once, quite recently, had a spring running through it.
Michael touched the ground and laughed. "Smart man."
"What?" Gabriel blinked owlishly, more focused on the dense encampments that seemed to ring the city.
"He buried the spring." Michael knocked on the ground, and it echoed hollowly. "I bet that goes right under the wall, too."
Gabriel looked pale and ill, all dusky blue and dim yellow. "I can hear him. I can hear the king who cries out to our father to save his people."
"And these guys out here? They’re not our father’s children at all. They’re the sons of Apsu." Standing behind Gabriel, Michael continued to speak. "They’ve come here to kill and rob the grandchildren of our little brother, and they’re not even our father’s creation. They have no worth to us, Gabriel. They serve no grand purpose."
"Do they not? We have been brought forth on their account. They must be grand. Listen to the king. They have taken forty-six of his cities. They are no small danger. They cannot be judged insignificant," Gabriel corrected.
"Then what must we do?" Michael prodded.
"Our father has sent me to judge." The words spilled out of Gabriel, as if the angel had no choice but to speak them. "I judge that this army poses a grave danger to the grandchildren of our father. I judge that the grandsons of Apsu have invaded our father’s lands. I judge that we must rid this valley of their influence, but we must permit some to return to their source, that all may remember that our father still minds his children and their children."
"What must we do?" Michael asked again, green and blue swirls rippling with anticipation.
"We must lay waste to these camps."
Gabriel moved slowly and stiffly — yellow burning out into gold, blue brightening and deepening like a gas flame, as the angel rose above the pennants marking the edges of the encampment.
Below, Michael stumbled and missed strike after strike, until Gabriel swung the scythe, once just outside each wall of the city. Sickness raced through the camps at astonishing speeds. Sores and black blisters, on one side, convulsive vomiting, on another. The first strike had been made. Suddenly, Michael stopped missing, sword striking again and again, bringing down hundreds of men as they rose from sleep. Flashes of green and blue light darted and danced through the camps, followed by waves of death.
Michael sang the songs the priests used to praise the Holy Father, as Assyrian soldiers fell, on all sides. Precise, clean movements; a beautiful, intuitive choreography; and the body count rose higher. Above it all, Gabriel waited silently, clutching the scythe and wondering about the necessity of it all. They were angels, Lords in their own right, what right had they to take sides, as combatants, in a fight between two groups of mortal creatures? They were there to guide, to punish, and to protect, but this seemed much too far. They had struck down the children of another Creator. Children under no obligation to follow the rules of the Holy Father. And this, Gabriel feared, would begin a war much larger and more deadly than the one they had just stopped.
But, if war came to them, Gabriel wouldn’t be involved, unless Michael screwed up. And that, at least, was extraordinarily unlikely. Michael’s skill easily equalled, if not exceeded the enthusiasm displayed below. Gabriel would probably never even see it, but would be left to clean up after it — to pass judgement on those who betrayed the Holy Father. To destroy more of the children of their younger brother. Half-brother, Gabriel supposed. Same father, different species.
"Michael!" The ground shook and the walls of the city rang. "Enough! Come away!"
"So many still live, Gabriel! They can spare a few more!" Swirls of green licked around a pillar of blue light, hungry and joyful.
"We have taken enough. The point is made." Golden light spread through the sky, as Gabriel expanded commandingly.
"Why can’t we just wipe them out? Without survivors, they simply disappear, silenly. No more siege, no vengeance, if no one knows where they’ve gone…" Michael tempted.
"If no one knows where they’ve gone, and the last place they were going was Judah, we have a problem." Still, if none of them could report to their creator how they had been struck down… No. "Let them deliver the news that the god of Jerusalem is watching."
"You and your messages," Michael complained. "Just a couple more…"
"I am his mercy, as well, Michael. Come away. It is time for us to return."
"Who put you in charge of this mission?"
"You did. ‘Come pronounce,’ you said to me. I have pronounced. Our father did, in giving me the scythe. This scythe did, in being bound to my will." Hot, blue irritation licked at the edges of Gabriel’s deep golden wings. "Regardless of my opinions on the situation, he sent us together. The beginning and the end are mine, and the middle is yours. We are done. Come away, Michael."
"You just don’t know a good time." Michael stabbed one more Assyrian soldier, for good measure, before ascending to join Gabriel for their return.
"I know the kind of time I don’t want to have," Gabriel pointed out. "Good times will come. Our father didn’t design us to be miserable."
"He designed us to enjoy our work." Michael didn’t have to voice the rest of that thought — ‘which means there’s something wrong with you’. Gabriel already knew.