Sunday, July 17, 2016

Prologue: The War in Heaven

Prologue: The War in Heaven

By David Hartley Mark

            Sodiel, a Fighting Cherub, Fourth Class, “Pillar of Cloud” Regiment, 4th Angelic Infantry, St. Michael Commanding, rested against one of the pillars of the Heavenly Outer Courtyard. He felt something warm and coppery-smelling running down his right temple. Raising a gauntleted hand to his face, he realized that it was his own angelic blood—gold in color, but soon to dry to a brassy crust. He shook his head, and felt upon it the Golden Helm of the Celestial Infantry—molten brass cast in a mold, shaped like a golden eagle with outspread wings. He was beclad in silver armour with black trim, and carried a war-shield bearing the motto in Hebrew: Kadosh L’Adonoi—Holy unto the Lord.

            Screams rent the air, from both the Angelic and Demonic forces. A Ruach-Sprite flitting by dabbed at Sodiel’s face with an asphodel-petal, and whispered in his ear through the helmet,
            “Are you hearty enough for the battle, Sir Cherub?”
            “Yes,” said Sodiel, pulling the harness of his Magen, his Celestial Shield, upon his shoulder.
            “God help you,” returned the Sprite, and flitted off to another, more needy casualty.
            Before Sodiel lowered his vizor, he surveyed the battle-scene:

            It appeared as though Satan’s hordes had taken the upper hand away from General St. Michael and Marshal St. Gabriel, but the Seraphim were beginning to pull forward, once more. The Satanics had wheeled forward their Battle-Wagons—Ophanim, or Wheeled-Angels that had become Turnwings, or Rebels; they had renounced their Celestial Oaths to the Lord God and reversed their Colours, becoming Thanes to Satan, who rejoiced to have seized allegiances from such Exalted Heavenly Personages.

            Sodiel took his Shield of Honesty and Sword of Forthrightness, and waited for his Major, Senior-Battle-Cherub Uzziel, to move his infantry into formation. He looked over the Battlefield, and his heart skipt slightly to see the Infernal Works of the Sitra Achra, the Other Side: tubes of Adamantine Coal, smoking from Hephaestius, Armourer to the Greek gods, and ready to explode missiles of Hellfire amid his heavenly host. But Sodiel trusted, as did Maj. Uzziel and the other Cherubim, that with God’s help, they could not but conquer….

            “Cherubim to the right rank!” called Maj. Uzziel, pointing his sponson, which he used to dress the lines of Cherub-Knights, “Holy Chayyote-Beasts to the Centre Rank—Musqueteer-Chimaerae to the Left—Captain Bariel, will it please you to advance?”

            The captain nodded, and his gaze swept over the Musqueteer-Chimaerae, all of whom held their polished-mahogany musquets at the ready, powder-flasks over their shoulders, as per The Celestial Manual of Arms, 6th Edition.

            “Fire—on my command!” said the captain.

            The Chimaerae nodded, and dipt their beaks as one, tearing the paper off the cartridges they wore in bandoliers about their bodies. Pouring the blackpowder into their musquets, they stuffed the ball into the tubes, and readied their firearms.

            “Into line, Musqueteers!” called the captain, as the sponson-serjeants straightened the lines. Seventy-two pieces leveled across Flodden Field, toward the foe.

            The Infernal Engines rolled closer, driven by Stygian Ophanim. Sparks flew beneath the wheels. Sodiel could smell Naphtha and Asphaltus in the Tubes, and he trembled, lest they be fired.

            “Pick your targets, Chimaerae…. Aim low…. Ready—Aim—Fire!” cried the captain. A rolling sheet of fire slowly erupted from the musquets’ barrels, moving outward, towards the Black Ophanim. The Devil’s Own horses reared in pain, fell, and rolled in front of the attacking Satanic troops, making it harder for them to advance in an orderly line.

            “Drummers! Sound the charge—Cavalry, advance!—walk—gallop—trot!” commanded Merkava, the Heavenly Chariot-Commander, as his Celestial Cuirassiers charged off to repel the remains of the Skeletons who, mounted on Night-mares, were preparing to bring horrific illusions to the Cherubim, before they could advance in their phalanxes.

            The two equal-but-opposite forces met in the middle of Flodden Field—and there, it degenerated—as all forces must, that fight against Rank Evil—into a free-for-all. Sodiel could not see well through his vizor—his golden blood (all angelic blood is Gold in Colour) splattered before his vision, partially blinding him, and black batlings flew about, Satan’s soldiers in smaller form: he swung his sword back-and-forth, but could not bring them down.

            A Goliath-demon, bellowing, stomped down toward him: Sodiel spread his fledgling-wings and bucked to one side, not a moment too soon: the giant’s war-club split the terebinth-tree beneath which he had been sheltering, clean in half. Muttering, the giant stalkt off, only to be decapitated by a stray naphtha-blast from his own black artillery. But Sodiel was safe.

            Dropping to one knee, removing his casque, and looking out over the confused battleground, Sodiel saw, off to one corner, his commander, Uzziel, sore beset. That worthy was being attacked by three enemies: a Night-Hag, armed with her witch’s wand and broom; a Sorcerer, who cast flaming torches at him, which Uzziel could parry only one-by-one with the edge of his Sword of Truth, and a Sphinx of Grey, putting Thoughts of Doubt into Uzziels’s Angelic Mind. Unthinking of his own safety, Sodiel ran forward to assist, bringing Sitriel along with him.

            As the Night-Hag readied her wand for another launch of a BlackSpell, Sodiel cried out,
            “Aroint thee, Witch!” and struck her, cap-a-pe, with his sword, splitting her, top-to-toe. She dropt dead on the spot, and both halves of her body crawled off to die. He was careful not to touch any of her dark green blood; it was poison to him, any angel or human of woman born.

            Sitriel took opposite him the Sphinx of Grey, thinking strong thoughts of Proving God’s Love to counteract the Philosophical Doubts that that creature would placed into his enemy’s mind, thereby to confuse and conquer. As he swung his mighty sword, Sitriel began thinking about Judah HaLevi’s Proofs of God’s Existence from The Kuzari, and proceeded into Maimonides’s Listing of God’s Negative Attributes in his Guide for the Perplexed. By the time he was halfway through, he had the Sphinx literally tied up in Knots of Logic—Sitriel was soon able to toss his enemy into a Prison-Waggon like a harmless cat in a ball of twine.

            Only Sodiel was having a difficult time with the Sorcerer, whose Mental Powers were many and true; he had been imbued with the Spirit of Harry Houdini, Magician and Rabbi’s Son, before his Transmigration into the body of a Demon—for Heaven and Hell transcend Space and Time, History, Past, Present, and Future. Sodiel struck all over with his sword, but the Sorcerer, laughing like a loon, blocked it with fiery comets that flashed and blinded Sodiel, whose brassy blood ran freely down his face within the vizor of the casque.

            As the battle raged about them and Uzziel retired to see the progress in other parts of Flodden Field, commanding his troops to their victory, Sodiel felt deserted—he could no longer hear Hebrew shouts of triumph, only the Graeco-Roman blather of the Demons, as they slowly and reluctantly began to withdraw in defeat. The time crawled; his sword grew heavier….

            “Sodiel—Sodiel! I have returned to help you! Retire, my Friend, and let me undertake to dispatch this desperate foe!”

            Who was that? Whose voice was that?  

            “Where—where are you?” he ventured, turning and parrying the Sorcerer’s deliberate and well-timed strokes.

            Would it never end? I am tired—O Lord, so tired….
            He heard the Other’s voice in his brain—“Ease out of the way, Old Friend, and give your comrade a chance—there; there! I can easily slay him—he is weak; he grows fat, and stale. Again! Will you not let me dare his fires? Take your chance: now—move!”

            Sodiel was uncertain, but he ducked, parried, slipped his blade, thrust once more—and—


            For Sodiel, the battle stopped. He dropped his sword; the Sorcerer, tired as well, spread his leathern wings to run away—but first, hovering, he pointed a long, bony, nail-pointed finger at Sodiel, and intoned:

            You have killed your mate
            And now you will wait
            End night and pass day
            Destroy you I may
            For you ‘twill go worse
            You will carry God’s curse—
            O Cherub, Farewell!
            I will see you in Hell.

And he was off, with a great fluttering of wings….

            The Battle in Heaven was ended…for Sodiel, then and there; but his curse began.