Chapter One: Watch
“Hope can be bruised and battered. It can be forced underground and even rendered unconscious, but it cannot be killed.”
~Neal Shusterman, UnSouled
It was a quiet day, as always, atop the great watchtower. Heaven’s youngest was pressed flush against the top of the wall. She frowned, and pulled herself further up the wall, trying to get a clearer sight into the great mist that stood as the gateway between the plains, the Sentinel Path. Hadraniel looked over to her with concern. Unlike the youngest, Hadraniel stood tall as a tower and just as think and sturdy as the very same stones that made up the watchtower where the youngest was small and weak looking, like polished jade.
“What caught your attention, little sister?” he asked her, moving to her side. His gray-blue eyes lacked the sight her brightened silver ones did, and could not make sense of the path without assistance. When he received no acknowledgment from her, he reached into a pouch he had at his hip and drew out a handful of sparkling dust. With a flick of his wrist, he threw it into the mist, and the path cleared for him to see, showing him her focus.
She stared intensely at the human city of Los Angeles at an automobile accident that seemed to them in slow-motion. It held a touch of their brother’s, Uriel, work. The touch of slight nudging to change the fate of another, his influence without direct involvement. But, between the two cars was the familiar figure of a Gregori, though injured, protecting one of the humans.
“You had best not do anything stupid.” He warned her gently. She cast a glare in his direction, her eyes darkening to their usual dark brown. He knew just as well as she did. The Gregori fell under her realm of control. The injury of a Gregori called for punishment, and not even Michael could interfere. She tapped on the wall three times, and Hadraniel stepped back. It took a few minutes, but three Gregori arrived, their spotted wings flared. All three knelt before her, rising quickly as soon as she acknowledged them. Her eyes flashed silver as she looked back into the mist, and the three dived off the wall, rocketing down the path to the scene. She remained tense glaring down the path as the three Gregori arrived and carefully approached the one who was there and injured. Two of them took the one that was injured as the other took his place to guard the human. When they returned, the injured one knelt in front of her.
“Milady, it was close, I fear if I had not intervened, she would not have survived,” he reported. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. For all of Uriel’s foresight and pattern seeing, he never understood that humans could rarely be considered. More factors could be considered when dealing with a human that no matter how great his sight was, it was certainly far from perfect. She patted the Gregori’s shoulder and permitted him to leave so he could tend to his injuries.
Hadraniel watched her as her eyes flared silver and turned back to watching the Sentinel Path. For the past millennia, she did little else but watch the path. She was still the youngest, still the weakest, but she was the most stubborn. Shortly after the rebellion, and her numerous attempts to run away, she stopped showing her wings, and she made the watchtower her home. However, more importantly, she stopped speaking altogether. One day her voice rang clear through the silver city, and the next all noises from her were silenced. She grew restless the minute Lucifer started his escapade on earth, watching earth more closely than she had any time before. The eldest brothers did not seem concerned with such a change in behavior, but he and the others noticed, though they knew best not to dig for what had happened.
Somehow word had gotten to Michael about how far the youngest had placed herself peering over the wall. Though Hadraniel was not punished, he was sure he did not want a repeated incident if it meant having to face their father’s chosen general.
It was a quiet, albeit, tense day atop the great watchtower of the Silver City. Hadraniel stood warily watching as his youngest sister paces atop the wall uncomfortably close towards the edge. The silver chain attached to her ankle scraped with each step, but she continued to move with familiar ease that she seamlessly was able to turn directions without being tripped up.
“Little- “he began but stopped short when the child shot him a fiery glare. His nerves were frayed enough from the last tongue-lashing he received from Michael when the youngest was caught practically hanging over the edge of the wall. There was no doubt that the chain would stop her if she tried to go over the wall, but Michael was fierce when it came to the youngest’s confinement.
“For goodness sake, please come away from there,” Hadraniel begged, inching towards her, his spear abandoned at the door. She snapped towards him, her wings bursting forth in a canvas of the night sky painted with freckles of color that created the visage of the galaxies. It was as clear a warning as she’d give, if he came closer, just to spite him, she would jump. Hadraniel’s lips thinned as he raised his hands in surrender, retreating a few steps. She turned sharply on her heel and continued to pace. However, it was clear through her shining silver eyes that she was looking through the great mist that stood as the gateway between the plains of existence, the Sentinel Path.
She suddenly stopped pacing, much to Hadraniel’s relief, stood facing the great mist as if she was expecting someone, and crossed her arms. Her eyes ceased to shine silver, returning to a warm dark brown as she waited. A second later, Uriel burst from the mist; wings spread wide. He swept up outside the wall before stopping short, grabbing the youngest by her jaw, and lifting her off her feet. She didn’t struggle against the rough treatment as he flew them off the wall and slammed her onto the cold stone just inside the Silver City. Hadraniel turned and peered over the edge, worry creasing his brow.
“He will be going back to that pit he belongs in, and mother will be taken care of,” he hissed in her face.
For all of Uriel’s pattern seeing it came as a shock when her dark brown eyes snapped open, and her hand collided with his cheek in a thunderous clap. Uriel’s head snapped to the side, shock marring his eyes before they darkened in fury and he turned back to the child.
[This plan you have,] her hands quickly signed [will not go as you think, and in the end, everything will be your fault alone.]
The two siblings glared at each other before some of the Gregori appeared. Two were at her side, hands gripping the hilts of their swords. Atop the wall, Hadraniel grabbed his spear and pointed it at everyone below him.
“You know the law, there will be no violence,” Hadraniel ordered, silently praying that the two would heed to reason. However, the two siblings did not move and remained glaring at each other. The youngest’s chin jutted upwards in defiance as she glared up at Uriel, and Uriel glaring down his nose at her. Finally, the first to relent was Uriel, who stepped back. The youngest flicked a strand of curly hair over her shoulder while she turned on her heel and with a swish of her dress, went to her Gregori, who quickly escorted her from perceived danger. Once she was out of sight, Uriel began to brag about how far the fury of God had fallen and was beaten.
The youngest walked along the rooftops of the Silver City with ease, her hands clasped behind her back as she strolled. A few of the city’s oldest tenants called out to her, waving as she passed by. Politely the youngest would smile and wave back. After the last incident, Hadraniel had practically begged her to take a day away from the tower. She did not wish to comply at first but found herself agreeing to the guard’s request. It was pleasant enough, she supposed. However, with everything that was happening in the mortal plain, she could hardly find herself relaxed even though there was a quiet sleepy feeling that hung in the air.
“I have a job to do, feather brains, get out of my way.” A familiar sharp voice snapped. The youngest paused and listened carefully. That was the voice of her older sister, there was no doubt. “What do you think you’re doing? Let go!” she shouted. It was unusual and unsettling.
The youngest unfurled her winds, wrapping them closely to her thin frame as she crept forward. It was just below her. She laid down on the roof and peered over the edge.
There were more siblings gathered in the alleyway than she’s seen in many years. All the less friendly of her older siblings were there: Metatron, Michael, Arariel, Jehoel, Raziel, Netzach, Jegudiel, Camael, Uriel, and as she could hear, her only sister Azrael was there as well. It looked like they were arguing with the angel of death, the twins Jegudiel and Camael, holding onto Azrael’s arms in a manner that was certain to leave a bruise. Metatron, the second oldest, was as intimidating as he always was, towering over the others in all his self-righteousness. The most concerning was Michael, standing with his back to the group, golden wings relaxed behind him. The great enforcer of the laws was willingly turning his back to violence. The youngest knew that this could only mean that he condoned.
Metatron moved, reaching around Azrael and drew her blade before handing it over to Uriel. “Finish it,” was the only order he gave, low and flat. With a great push, Uriel took off towards the wall and the great mist. That wasn’t enough though. Metatron waved a lazy hand, and Azrael was dragged off fighting against the brothers as they all were needed to keep her down.
“Come along, Michael,” Metatron patted the general’s shoulder, and the two walked away together.
The youngest dug her fingers into the roof, pulling dust and stone under her nails as she formed a fist. But she couldn’t move. She didn’t dare. Fear coiled deep in her chest. She should have known; she should have known. Once the gleam of Michael’s wings were long out of her sight, she clapped her hands three times. Three Gregori appeared, flying to her side. She sent them a silent order, one that was to be carried out no matter what. Two Gregori were to protect the mortal woman who had seemed to find herself mixed in a power play between the rebel and the heavenly host. And One was to remain at her brother’s side staying in the shadows. The bowed quickly and went to comply with her orders stopping only to inform the others of the new orders and set up a rotation amongst them.
With a shaky breath, the youngest raced towards the one place she always feared the most. Her feet barely touched the steps leading to the holy of holies. She was so intent on her mission that when Michael’s sword appeared before her, she had to skid to a stop.
“Father doesn’t wish to see you,” Michael spoke plainly.
She forced herself to not respond with her instinct of fear. Of her brothers, he was the one she was wary around. She chose to act defiant though, crossing her arms with a raised brow and taking another step closer.
“Don’t make me repeat myself fledgling.” He growled, the icy tip of his blade scraping her skin.
Her bottom lip trembled as she looked to the great doors that lead to the one place no one was allowed without invitation. Without her permission, her eyes began to mist and leak. No matter what, she was still just as trapped as everyone else to the laws of heaven.
Raphael, the angel of healing, was enjoying yet another quiet day. He was in his usual hidden spot, under the sycamore tree, with a scroll in his lap. At least he had believed it was a secret spot until his youngest sibling rushed in front of him in a panicked state. It took a moment, blinking bewildered before he could react. She grabbed his arm and was pulling on him before he could even ask her how she found him.
“Hey what- “he started but was silenced as she quickly pulled him upright, scroll falling to the ground. He huffed and with a shake of his head, went to pick it up. Little siblings were such a pain. His balance was off enough, and he was unaware enough that when she tugged even harder on his arm, he had nowhere to go but tumbling forward. As if using his momentum, she was suddenly pulling him after her. Each step was only an attempt for him to gain his footing again but was ultimately at her mercy. When they finally reached the streets, he was able to resist her pull, yanking his arm from her grip.
“What is with you today?” He scolded her, anger, “You can’t just go pulling people like that.”
Her cheeks flushed, and she had the decency to look ashamed. Slowly she reached out to him, grabbing his hand tentatively in her smaller one. She tugged on it with a pleading look.
“Do you need me for something?” Raphael asked her, and she nodded feverishly, tugging anew on his arm.
Confused and a bit concerned, he allowed her to drag him through the streets with renewed vigor. He chuckled lightly, hopeful that the girl she once was, was once again shining through the darkness that had hung over her for millennia. Some of the older tenants smiled and laughed as the two angels passed to which Raphael waved back.
Before he knew it, she had reached the watchtower and had relinquished his hand to rush up the steps. Hadraniel. The horrifying thought passed, at the watchtower. It could very well mean that the young guard was injured or worse. However, the fear was squashed when he reached the top of the tower, where Hadraniel was propped against the wall looking bored and annoyed.
The youngest was half hanging out the tower, pointing to the Sentinel’s path with urgency. With a look to the young guard, Hadraniel offered the sparkling dust that allowed the unseeing to see the path with ease. Raphael tossed the dust towards the path, and his eyes were opened to what the youngest was seeing. A mortal woman lying in a hospital bed, clearly dying a slow, painful death.
“Little one, you know I can do nothing without an order,” he sighed. She looked at him, then back to the mist with gleaming silver eyes, and then back to him again.
“Those are the rules, you know that. It must be through Father’s direct order that I heal.” He patted her head before turning to leave. The youngest clenched her eyes shut and turned back to stare at the mist. Raphael sighed and shook his head. He ran a tired hand through his red hair and sent a sympathetic look to Hadraniel, who was staring at their sister with a discouraged expression. From that alone, Raphael knew the rumors were true. The youngest was drifting away, and there was no reaching through the wall she created.
Her knuckles were white from how tightly her hands were clenched. This was by far the stupidest plan anyone has ever had. He was on the hospital bed, strapped up to a machine. The human doctor (the mental kind, not the medical kind because the difference is apparently quite significant) and the demon stood next to him going over, again, their plan. The demon, having second thoughts, took a step back, only to have him grab the defibrillator from her hands and pressed it to his own chest.
It happened in an instant. His soul was no longer there, though his corporeal body was still there. Panic was swift, and with speed, she could only have she dived her sight from the mortal plain to the infernal plain. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest. If any of her brothers knew that she was gazing into hell, the consequences would be less than pleasant.
To her relief by the time she found him, he had safely entered the cell who had hurt the woman and was preparing to leave. However, she heard it the same moment he froze mid-step. A soft tune, the same one that he had taught all the younger siblings, including her. She tensed as he moved to a new cell door, hand reaching out to the handle.
Then he entered.
Her heart dropped into her stomach. It was an empty cell. She released her sight and glanced at her brother. Hadraniel was unobservant at the moment, back to the pathway watching lazily over the city. His spear was between them unattended. Slowly she snuck towards it and picked it up. She pressed the hilt to her chains and slammed it down. The chains shattered like glass, and before Hadraniel even had a chance to notice she was diving out of the tower, wings out and pressed tight against her body as she plunged into the Sentinel Path. She could feel the heat of movement licking flames across her body, but she was in control, the path clear to her. As she neared the infernal plain, she unfurled her wings, slowing her down. She rocked with the movement; her muscles strained against the force that was calling her to fall. Her momentum was slowed enough that she was able to land on the brimstone floor with a roll.
With a pained hiss, she rushed into the cell her brother wandered into, just as he planted Azrael’s blade deep into Uriel’s gut. She could recognize the room from all the times she spied on him, it was his living room, as cold and detached of personality except his light piece made of branches and the small grand piano that sat in the middle of the room.
Both brothers turned to look at her. She spared a momentary glance at Uriel before looking to the eldest of the two. He was as tall as she remembered, dressed in an expensive suit, and his pressed shirt wrinkled only from the normal movements of the day. She reached out and grabbed his arm. Wonder was the only word to describe how he looked at her. Complete and utter wonder as he reached out and caressed her cheek with his free hand.
“First Uriel, and now you,” he whispered. She shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but closed it just as quickly, choosing to instead to pull on his arm. The blade suddenly appeared in his hand once more, and with a cry, he plunged it into their brother’s chest. When he stumbled back, she grabbed his hand and pressed it to her heart. Real. I’m real. She kept trying to let him know. He blinked, confused as he looked at her and felt her heartbeat.
“What?” He started to ask before the blade returned to his hand and was forced once again to plunge the blade into their brother.
The elevator, well the entrance dinged, signifying the entrance of another being, a tall, thin, beautiful woman.
“Lucifer,” she shouted at him, and he momentarily froze.
“Mum?” he asked out of breath as he turned. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m your rescue party of one,” the woman, their mother, remarked glancing at her. A second later mother refocused and started to gently talk him down as he glanced between the other three in the room. Finally, he looked at her and didn’t look away. She reached back and plucked one of her downy feather pressing it into her brother’s hand before taking his hand and pulling him gently to the elevator.
“You were only trying to save us; this isn’t your fault. It’s mine. I’m to blame for all this. Ever since- ever since I returned, I’ve been manipulating you. Stoking your anger against your father in hopes of using you against him. But I’ve just made things worse. I pushed you and that human closer, knowing it would crush you when you learned the truth. And now look at us, stuck in this prison while Chloe's dying,” mother said, stroking Uriel’s face lovingly. The elder brother jerked as if slapped.
“Chloe. I killed Uriel because I had to, to save you, to save the detective, and I need to save her now.” His eyes widened, and his hand tightened around hers. “Mum, mum? We need to leave,” he said as he turned and started towards the exit. They were just about to cross the threshold when they realized that their mother was not with them.
“Why would we leave? Uriel is right here. We can stay, be a happy family.” Mother cooed. Suddenly from the shadows, a small child appeared, a tiny thing, the black wings behind her barely even flyable, and her large eyelashes batted as big brown eyes stared at mother.
“Mummy?” the child asked with a soft harmonic voice. Mother looked to the child with longing and sorrow and reached out. She darted forward between the two and grabbed Mother’s hand. The elder brother acted quickly too, grabbing their mother in his arms. “You pulled me out of my guilt, there’s no time to get stuck in yours.”
“Please don’t abandon me, not again,” Uriel begged.
“My sweet boy, my sweet boy,” mother repeated over and over even as they got into the elevator, though she struggled against them. It was like a weight she didn’t even know was on her was lifted as soon as the cell door shut. Her brother had sighed and smiled in relief before his eyes settled on her. Mother’s jaw dropped, and eyes watered.
“Is- Is it really you?” Mother whispered, reaching forward to caress her cheek. A strong hand landed on her shoulder, a warm hand. She turned and threw herself away from Mother and into her brother’s warm arms. His familiar arms automatically wrapped around her, holding her tightly to him, cradling her head through her thick mane of curls. She pulled away reluctantly, pressed her hand over her heart then moved to press it then against his own. He opened to speak, but in that second, he disappeared from the infernal plain, leaving her alone in the darkness with light pouring from the Sentinel Path above her.
Fear rose, the light could only mean one thing. Her brothers were coming for her. Spinning on her heel, she took off to the air, winding through the maze-like cells. Her being screaming for help though she could not make a noise. It had been millennia since she had last ventured to the place called hell, but she knew the general direction to go. The center. If she got to the center, she would find her brother’s throne, but also where she could get help.
It sounded like an explosion when the brothers entered. It had been long since she was able to use her wings to their greatest capacity, and she was determined to do whatever she needed to keep from going back. Everything grew dark, the light of ‘day’ disappearing in favor of the blackness of night. She was nearly there, the gleam of light shining out of the ‘capital,’ and the silhouette stood in the main entrance.
She was thrown from the air, tackled from behind by the last person she wanted to see. Michael. Her attacker rolled past her when they landed. She quickly looked up as she gained her bearings. It was cruel that of all her brothers, he would be the one to appear, his face the mirror image of the one she had just said goodbye to. She scrambled to her feet and took off on land to the capital.
She couldn’t scream, she wanted to but couldn’t, so instead, she made as much noise as she could. She clapped her hands, slapped the walls of the cells, rattled chains as she ran. It didn’t last long enough, as pain seared through her head and she was jerked to a stop by her hair. It was a scramble to get away, but there was a reason Michael was heaven’s general. She lashed out at him, landing several impressive blows on him. Her wings were flexing, but they weren’t alone. Fire lit suddenly without spark. Jehoel reached out and grabbed the base of her wings with flames licking at his fingertips. She spasmed in pain, and her eyes flared silver, and she let out a silent scream. And then it was far too late. It was Michael’s hand in her hair dragging her into the air towards the path. It was only then that she saw two figures running towards them, a demon, and one of her brothers, Shamsiel. She tried to reach out to them, but they were too far away.
“No! Don’t hurt her!” the Shamsiel shouted, running after them, his clipped wings flapping uselessly. She silently cried out for him, but it was far too late, they were already in the path, and there was no way that they would give her the chance to escape again.
Lucifer slumped down in a visitor's chair completely drained. He hurt, which was a strange feeling, but the relief of it all was worth it. It was all a lie, though, all a ploy. But the detective almost died, and that wasn’t something he could live with. For now, though, it was enough to know he gave the doctors the antidote.
A small hand touched his leg. He opened his eyes, surprised and hopeful, but it was the detective’s offspring, looking at him worried. She climbed into his lap and curled up with him. The messy little thing normally would have disgusted him, but instead, he wrapped an arm around her, closed his eyes, and pulled her close to him. The action to anyone who knew him would be foreign, but he found it a comfortably familiar act.
His hell loop was… traumatic. But she was there. He originally thought that she was a hallucination or part of his loop. It wasn’t a far stretch, she was pale, and silent, the little girl he knew, was healthy-looking and energetic. He hadn’t seen her in millennia when she ran away from the silver city to hide away with him, Amenadiel was the one who once again came to ruin it all and bring her back. For the first few thousand years, he waited, expecting that she’d turn up again, but she didn’t until he finally lost hope that he’d ever see her again. And much like the child in his lap, she used to clamber onto him and find comfort in the arms of her favorite brother (a title he was profoundly proud of).
The urchin played with his hands, comparing the size of hers against his, the rough calluses of his, and she smoothness of her own.
“Mommy’s going to be okay, right?” She asked him. He looked at her.
“Yes, child, she’s going to be just fine, I promise.”
She nodded, accepting his answer. They sat in silence together for several long minutes. Until the child came across the single downy feather, he had in his other hand.
“Pretty.” She marveled at it. It was fluffy and soft, barely bigger than the palm of her hand. The main color of it was pitch black, like a black hole that sat right in her hand, but it had flecks of white and very pale blue. To anyone else, it would have just seemed like a painted feather, but Lucifer knew better, it was a small piece of the night sky.
“Why don’t you keep it safe for me, it’ll bring you and your mother good luck.” He offered. It was like an anchor to him, but he couldn’t bear to have that small piece of her with him as a constant reminder that it was very likely he had failed her in more ways than he thought was possible.
She had been harshly punished, more so than anytime before. It had been months before she was capable of setting foot on the streets of the silver city, and even then, she had been banned from the wall and gazing down the Sentinel Path.
The only people who knew her, or at least tried to know her, were those tenants who were there the longest. Of those, it was namely Abraham who would take time to speak with her, which she simply categorized as gratitude for when she was sent to aid him. But one, however, was different from the rest. Frank Lawrence, a priest.
“I haven’t seen you for a while,” Frank said as he quickly caught up to her. She glanced up at him, and without a word, he nodded and lead her off the main street to a small garden where there was a bench to sit on.
When she sat down, he dropped to his knee in front of her, taking her hand. His eyes were locked on the new shackle around each wrist twice as thick as the shackle around her ankle had been. The skin under the shackle was raw and red.
“what happened? Will you tell me?” he asked.
For a moment, she considered it, but doing so would put the unneeded burden on him. She shook her head but quickly wrote in the dirt. ‘Too dangerous. Michael.’
Frank nodded and sat next to her. A quiet few seconds stretched between them. He watched her carefully, and she knew he could see the bruises peeking out from under her robes curling up her neck, and the faded ones that stained her cheek.
“It might be dangerous, but what can I do? I want to help you.” He told her.
‘I need to see Father. Do you know where he is?’
“No, I don’t. I haven’t even seen the Lord. I asked Abraham about it, curiosity, and all. It sounds like he has locked himself in the Holy of Holies.”
She nodded, considering before wiping away her writing with her foot. She tapped against her knee lightly, thinking before writing down
‘Something bad will happen. Keep your head low, don’t ask questions, and stay away from the elders. If there’s a problem, stay close to Gabriel or Raphael.’ She grabbed his hand when she finished, begging him with her eyes. He was the only one who would understand, the exiled weren’t bad, but something bad was happening in the silver city.
He reluctantly agreed. She opened her wings and plucked a few feathers giving them to him.
‘just in case’ she wrote quickly before wiping it away. He nodded and tucked the wings away in his pocket for safekeeping.
“Go quickly, and God be with you.”
With Frank’s blessing, she jumped to her feet and took off, the chains attached to her wrists and ankles jingling behind her.
Michael, as always, was standing guard in front of the Holy of Holies, but Cassiel was speaking with him. It was an opportunity she wouldn’t have again, she needed to see her father. As quietly as possible, she gathered the chains into her arms and slipped into the Holy of Holies, Michael none the wiser.
It had been ages since she last stepped foot inside, yet it seemed far different. The clean walls were darker than they were before, lacking the brilliant shine the mere presence of her Father that caused the walls to gleam. It was also silent, scary silent, her own breath was the only sound in the halls. She glanced up the tower of steps to where her Father sat, but the throne was empty, save for the dark gaping hole in the middle of it. The light and glory of her Father was gone. She dropped the chains she held as her body grew cold. Her father wasn’t there. Slowly she walked up the steps the horror digging deep into her bones. When she finally was right in front of the throne, she dropped to her knees, finger shaking as she reached out to touch the gaping hole. She was wrong, something bad wasn’t going to happen, something bad did happen.
“You should not be here, fledgling.” A sharp, familiar voice snapped, breaking the silence that hung.