In the beginning, there was nothing. But that's not quite right, for there were angels. They weren't nothing, but they weren't really anything either. Thoughts, perhaps, or the awaiting responses to yet spoken commands. As the world was formed and solidified, the angels found themselves growing more defined and concrete. They found their spheres, their orders, their purposes, and all was peaceful.
And then the Lord made his next move, and there was someone new. He was not an angel and he was not their Lord and he was not like the other life in the garden. Many angels did not think about him, but some did and were troubled, and questioned. Others found themselves untroubled and questioning in a different sense.
"What is his name?"
"What is he? Will there be more?"
That is up to him.
"What does he do?"
I couldn't say.
"Will we get to greet him?"
Priel, is 'we' the correct pronoun there?
The seraph responded bashfully, "I mean, surely there are others who'd want to say hello! And I know Cahethal would enjoy checking on her trees."
It was not long until another was added to the garden, and with her the troubled thoughts and questions increased. Yet, the seraphim's song was unphased, and Priel remained curious and undoubting.
"You made another! What is this one to be called?"
Her name is Eve.
"Eve," Priel echoed to himself. "Will she be like Adam?"
It is hard to say.
"But aren't they both human?"
Michael and Azazel are both cherubim.
The seraph hummed and thought over what this meant. "You let Adam name the animals, what will you task Eve with?"
There was a pause before He replied. She will name their children.
Behind veiling feathers, Priel grinned. "Children?"
And Priel drifted, lost in the thought of more humans and what they might be like. Observing Adam had proven interesting. The man had so much to say and do, and it'd been clear he sought company like himself that the angels stationed around Eden couldn't provide. He had taken to trying hobbies, these idle activities meant to distract him from the passing time, and when he'd started stargazing Priel couldn't help but wonder if the human had found a way to observe them too. He hoped all were like this.
As it turned out, Eve was different. Where Adam was content to spend his days doing, well, very little, Eve made challenges for herself. She was curious and had taken quite a liking to all of the beasts in Eden, it seemed that each day there was a new target caught in the crosshairs of her friendship.
And the humans learned from each other. Adam showed Eve which fruits and berries and flowers could be crushed into colorful dyes and smeared on pale stone surfaces, and she showed him how to herd and lure and calm all manner of creatures. She taught him how even the most sharp toothed and clawed predators he had called terrible were not, how they were simply living creatures in their own right with needs outside of Adam’s wants. From him, she learned how to tell when each fruit was at its peak and how flowers could be woven together and the pleasure of swimming. She took this and showed him how to climb trees to get to the ripest fruits and the rush of leaping into deep waters.
They loved each other in a truly human manner.
Something about that made Priel ache. Existence in the first sphere was...lacking. He most enjoyed this, observing the garden and listening in on the thrones’ reports on the dominions’ reports on the third sphere’s reports on the humans. And it’s not as though he was lonely, Jehoel always had some new topic to gossip about and Cahethal would observe and eavesdrop with him, even if she was more focused on their food than anything else (they had taken to fruit well enough, and she swore that vegetables were going to be the next big thing once they were introduced). Even outside of them, he enjoyed his choir, and the cherubim were fun, easy to goad into friendly spars and ridiculous stunts. It was all well and good but…
He prayed his grand purpose would be more than this. I don’t need to be important, I just wish to experience as much as fully as I can .
Aziraphale hovered just high enough to see the cherubim mingling with the two humans. Okay, mingling wasn't the right word. They were mostly shuffling around awkwardly, both not knowing what to do and completely unused to existing outside of heaven. It'd been a few months since Eve had joined Adam in the garden, and God had declared that all the angels should introduce themselves. They'd be serving the humans through Him, afterall, and the couple might benefit from learning more about the heavenly choirs.
The principality didn't really see the point, and he certainly didn't enjoy the sudden increase of actual traffic he had to keep track of. Usually guarding the garden involved very little, it's not like there was anyone demanding in or out. Until now.
At least they were almost done. The cherubim would leave soon and the seraphim would give a surely short visit, and then it'd all be over.
The cherubim finished what conversation they had going, dismissed themselves, and started heading towards the gates.
As the cherubim left the garden, Aziraphale noticed two seemed to be lingering behind. Azazel and Michael were caught in the middle of an impassioned debate, from the sound of things.
“We don’t have to see the point in it! It’s not our place, if you could just have a little trust-”
“Don’t start in on ‘trust’ again,” Azazel interjected, scowling. “I just- Something feels funny about this. Why do they deserve to be here? What have they done to earn paradise?”
Michael looked at him in befuddlement “What do you mean? They were placed here, by God. What more do you need?” He laughed nervously, and turned his head, catching Aziraphale eavesdropping. “What do you think?”
“Me?” Aziraphale asked, thinking Michael was perhaps referring to another cherub, though most had left by now.
He nodded as Azazel groaned. “Now you’re dragging passerbys into this? Really?”
Michael simply grinned and explained “Azazel here is insistent that there is something wrong with this little,” he gestured to the garden,”setup and the humans. I say it’s God’s plan and we’d all be happier just not questioning it.”
“It’s not that simple! Something’s off here. It’s like,” Azazel paused, “it's waiting . It's weird and I'm certain it has something to do with those two. And what even is the reason for any of this! He’s so cryptic, it’s infuriating.”
“You are going to give yourself an existential crisis if you keep this up, and of everything that’s still a theoretical concept, I’d rather you not actualize that.”
Aziraphale knew what Azazel was talking about. He kept having this feeling of anticipation, an itch. It was making him nervous. Angels were highly intuitive beings, their feelings couldn't be wrong. If Michael wasn't picking up on this… Aziraphale was unsure what that meant.
“Hm,” Aziraphale’s brow furrowed. “Well, Azazel is right-”
“Finally! Maybe he can talk some sense into you, Michael, since you clearly aren't listening to me-”
“-but, I think you’re right, too. We don’t get a say in what happens.” Aziraphale punctuated his answer with a shrug. “Do you really not feel anything off?”
“No… I don’t doubt that you two do, though. It’s certainly strange we aren’t all on the same page, I wonder why it is.” Azazel looked like he had some offensive answer, but before he could Michael pulled him close. “Probably nothing, we should head home.”
“It’s not! You just don’t want to worry about it. If you think I’ll drop it that easily, you meek-”
“Is that a taunt?” Michael teased as they began to fly off.
Azazel’s response was snappy but Michael only laughed and shoved the other cherub playfully. Aziraphale couldn’t help but chuckle, those two were something all their own. Nevertheless he kept the issue of the conflicting intuitions on his mind, trying to puzzle what exactly could be the cause.
It was not long before the seraphim arrived, and Aziraphale stiffened trying to project some air of dignity. Where the cherubim were mighty but attentive, seraphim were exquisite and lofty.
“Hi!” one of them waved as he flew in. That took Aziraphale aback, he hadn’t been expecting any of them to say anything to him. He waved back and made note of the seraph’s appearance. The seraph practically danced around his companions as they entered Eden.
Aziraphale watched the seraphim, flying up enough to see them make their way to the humans. The one seraph only seemed to grow more energetic, bobbing excitedly as he spoke to Adam and Eve. He broke his pattern, suddenly rushing over to another seraph where he paused for a minute before he began weaving around the trees in the grove. All the while he appeared to be keeping up whatever conversation he had started with the garden’s residents.
Smiling to himself, Aziraphale considered that maybe this visitation wasn’t as bad as he’d thought. First the Arch-Cherubim and now this...unusual seraph, he wanted to talk to him too.
When the seraphim left, he chased the earlier impulse. “Hey!”
The excitable seraph turned around in acknowledgment.
“Hi, er, hello! I uh, didn’t catch your name earlier?”
He flew back down to be more level with the principality and regarded him tentatively “Priel.”
“Well, Priel,” Aziraphale smiled with the grace of a seasick ark-bound raccoon, “did you enjoy your visit?” He awkwardly paused before adding on “I’m Aziraphale, by the way.”
Priel laughed, and Aziraphale’s nonexistent heart fluttered, before asking wryly “Are you meaning to mock me?”
“Oh, I would never! It’s just, you seemed excited and I wanted to make sure you had a good time. That’s all.” Would any angel mock a seraph? Okay now that he thought about it he was sure some of the cherubim would.
“Well then,” Priel seemed almost flustered, “yes! I did, I really enjoy the humans!”
“Really? I don’t get it, honestly. I know there’s something planned for them, but,” he shrugged, “I haven’t the faintest idea what it is.”
A bristle of feathers and Aziraphale could see Priel’s brilliant smile. “I suppose that’s part of the nature of it all. They’ll do fine, though, I’m sure. There’s so much potential.”
“You wouldn’t be privileged to any of those potential details, would you?”
“If I were, do you think I would be permitted to share them?”
“Well, what if you telling me about the plan is part of the plan but you weren’t told that because it involves you and you can’t know your role in the grand scheme of things.”
“...That is the biggest load of nonsense, Aziraphale.”
He ignored that Priel had ignored his question, a new one was pestering him now. “Why do you think it is that we can’t know what all we are to do? Wouldn’t it make things easier for us, if we just knew ?”
The seraph was silent for a moment and Aziraphale started to worry he may have offended him before he replied, “He wants us to try, and to trust. We aren’t meant to be infallible. The risk makes it interesting for Him, and it gives us choice.”
“So we can choose to do things like, say, love?”
“Naturally.” If the space between them seem to lessen at that, neither felt the need to comment on it.
“Or choose to uncover your eyes?”
“Ah, now, that’s different.”
“Sign of faith, indicates a willingness to let our Lord guide us. Really shouldn’t uncover them.”
“But you could, couldn’t you? It’s not like anything bad would happen.”
The principality reached out, intending to brush away the feathers that kept him from what he was certain was a very pretty set of eyes. In a effortless gentle movement, Priel caught Aziraphale’s hand, clasping his wrist and resting a thumb across the heel of his palm. Aziraphale’s unneeded breath hitched as the seraph lowered his hand and placed a chaste kiss across his knuckles.
Priel chuckled softly and Aziraphale felt like he was about to melt. It was strange, feeling an intense gaze that wasn’t there and couldn’t be returned. Without moving, Priel said, “Well aren’t you something.”
“I, uh, um,” Why had words stopped working? “yes?”
Priel seemed to somehow find his response charming, and leaned in, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth. Aziraphale found himself at a loss on how to form thoughts, but suddenly very much understood why the human couple liked doing this.
Before he can move his mouth and make the kiss proper, it’s over and Priel is gone. Aziraphale backs himself against a tree, slumps there, and begins chastising himself on how stupidly he’d gone about all that.
Jehoel was waiting for Priel when he rejoined the other seraphim. “Took you long enough, finally get bored of teasing that principality?”
“I was not teasing!”
“Oh, you were totally leading him on! It’s not nice you know, flustering ‘em like that,” Jehoel said, continuing to needle him.
“I wasn’t - It wasn’t like that!” Priel quieted in the hope his friend would maybe stop some of their joking. “I may be growing a little fond of him.” He quickly felt Jehoel’s absolute delight but before either could continue the conversation, they were distracted by a pair of cherubim arguing.
“ Stop acting like I’m wrong! ” Azazel roared, frustration and confusion rapidly becoming anger.
“I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying maybe you're overreacting?”
“I am not overreacting!” He spat out each word with such venom that Jehoel noticeably flinched.
“My light,” Michael pleaded, silently suggesting the other cherub take a moment to calm down.
Azazel withdrew, “And what would you have me do? Just lay here obediently until everything falls apart?”
“We should give them some space,” Priel whispered to Jehoel who absently agreed. Moments later, away from it all, he couldn’t help but ask “What do you think that was all about?”
“I- I don’t know. Priel,” Jehoel hesitated, “I’m very happy for you and all, but did that principality do or say anything off?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Just, you know, vibes. Probably just being oversensitive, lot’s of angels got a strange feel to them lately if you ask me.”
“Hm,” he thought for a moment. “What about me?”
Jehoel laughed, “Well you’re always strange, it’d be worrisome if you weren’t. But no.” They continued anxiously, “A few of the seraphim do . I… I can’t tell if maybe the problem is me or what. I don’t know.” They groaned. “This is supposed to be my thing.”
“Have you asked Him about it?”
“Don’t wanna, feels like a test and I don’t think I could admit to failing.”
There was little physicality in the first sphere, things of that nature didn’t work this close to God, but the angels there were already getting a sense of how to work around that. Priel leaned his aura against Jehoel’s in a comforting gesture. They accepted the astral embrace and grinned. “Did you hear about what this one virtue said down in Eden? I think it was Turail or something like that. Also this is a story Cahethal is not allowed to hear - I don’t want her getting any ideas, she too busy as is -” And Priel half-listened as he let his thoughts wander, back towards the garden. He wondered what the flowers looked like.
The angels were unused to being all called into an audience with their Lord. The mere fact this had happened worried many of them, and the tension that grew as they gathered was practically palpable.
I understand many of y-
“Can we just cut the pretense!” Azazel yelled out, breaking the hush that had settled amongst the crowds.
“Don’t even try! I know you’re lying to me, to all of us.” That caused a quiet murmur amongst the angels. Azazel changed his attention and addressed them, “I know some of you have felt it too! He’s been trying to divide us and refuses to admit it or say why!” He switched again, “Did you get bored with this,” he gestured around him, “is that why you want to destroy it?”
That is not-
“What is wrong with you?” Now it was Michael yelling at Azazel. He looked grievened, desperate. “Why can’t you just let this go? You know that’s not what’s going on, you’re letting your fears get the best of you!”
Infuriated, Azazel shot back, “Why can’t you trust me ?”
“I do! I don’t trust your paranoia!” he shouted.
“Well I don’t trust your compliance!” Around them, angels started taking sides, murmuring supports and insults. Azazel noticed this and was relieved others were agreeing with him, and he spoke out to his supporters, “Why should we obey someone who lies and manipulates? Someone who refuses to give us reason or explanation, someone who treats us like pawns?” He looked pointentedly at Michael; behind all that anger, he begged for the other cherub to listen.
Michael lunged at him. At that, other angels began to fight, and they could not tell that as they scuffled, Michael whispered, “Now why did you have to go and make a scene over all this? You could have come to me, to Him. There was no need to make this such a public affair.”
“I tried that,” Azazel muttered. “I was tired of being dismissed. And it was clearly an issue beyond me, how many of them were caught up in this without knowing? They didn’t deserve to feel alone, to suffer silently.”
“How considerate of you,” Michael deadpanned.
Azazel hesitated, wanting to stop and ask so much, in so many ways. Instead, he opted to ignore Michael, and screamed out, “You can’t just strong-arm us into doing what you want, we deserve clarity!”
That was a fair point and some gut feeling urged him to listen to Azazel, but before Aziraphale could join in on the mutiny the Arch-Dominion, Gabriel, zipped by herding as many dominions and whatever other angels he came across away from the scene. He bellowed, “This noise and chaos isn’t wise! None of you are going to want to be caught up in the aftermath of this, and if you fall under my supervision, believe me I will make the consequences worse .”
Gabriel droned on and Aziraphale used this opportunity to try out something he’d seen Eve do last week; he rolled his eyes. His gaze encompasses a few distant seraphim huddled together and his attention is caught by a figure he recognizes. Focusing on Priel, he couldn’t help but grin.
He’s so above all this, probably isn’t worried about anything Azazel’s brought up , Aziraphale thought as he let go of his tension and ignored all that was happening around him. I should- I could return that kiss. And he could assure me that there is reason here. There was something odd about how Priel had positioned his wings.
Aziraphale was instantly aware that something had happened. He really doesn’t even need angelic abilities to sense it, Michael’s now distressed shouts are more than enough. The panic rising in his voice as his verbal reactions quickly fall away until it’s just Azazel’s name.
He’s quickly drowned out as angels begin to scream. Aziraphale is only peripherally aware of the growing decrease of the crowd, as his gaze remains unbroken. It occurred to him why the wings covering Priel’s face looked off as the seraph reacted, hands flying to cover his mouth in shock of what he was seeing unfold.
And then something is wrong. The seraph’s aura dims everso and he struggles suddenly unable to find any counterforce holding him up, something in Aziraphale twists and tightens with a sense of impending doom. And then Priel Falls like a flame is snuffed out.
In the garden, two figures are snuggled together, watching the stars. Eve sighs, lost in her own thoughts, and Adam pulls her closer. They watched together, as a shower of stars began to fall, leaving trails like glowing afterimages behind them.
The thing about Falling is that it burns. All that was heavenly about you combusts and burns away. To have been made holy and then have that stripped of you is excruciating. To have the ever present love from God leave you is nigh unbearable.
The other thing about Falling is that you don't forget what you were, you forget how . It's like losing muscle memory; you're aware you used to ride a bike, but you don't know how to anymore. And, unfortunately, you've forgotten why you ever wanted to ride a bike in the first place.
Priel, left without love or purpose, sobbed, heart wrenchingly cried out for mercy, and found no relief. His wings hurt. That wasn’t right, why did his wings hurt?
“For the love of- Can somebody shut this one up! That wailing is just awful!” It was not as though most of them were much better, still reeling and hurt and trying to put together what happened. But one drew closer to the fallen seraph, and he momentarily hoped it may be someone he knew. He was unsure whether he was relieved or saddened to find it wasn’t.
The unfamiliar angel began impatiently dotting on him, encouraging him to fold away his wings. They were dumbfounded when Priel choked out that he didn’t know how. They began talking him through it, and called out to the de facto leader, “Hey! He’s not going to be able to walk for a bit, needs to learn how.”
“Let him Crawl then!” He snapped and Crawly whimpered as he felt the name take hold.
A fallen power made his way to the new Adversary, unconcerned with the likelihood the fallen cherub would lash out at him. “So what’s the plan?”
“The plan. What’s our next move?” The power, already debating what his new name should be (he was thinking something with a few ‘b’s in it), looked at him expectantly. “What do you want to do now?”
The Adversary thought for a moment, his remaining fear and heartache twisting to anger, and all that anger growing into a grudge. “The garden is a weak point. We find a way in, disrupt their little paradise, and stage an attack.”
A sickening grin spread across the power’s face, “Let’s get started, then.”
“I understand that the majority of you were shaken by,” Gabriel paused an unnecessary moment, “recent events.”
“That is completely understandable, I think everyone lost someone. And, I’m sure everyone would like an explanation as to what happened, besides the innate understanding we possess.” He again fell silent for a moment as the principalities squirmed and exchanged various quiet communications with one another. “So, as we are all aware, Azazel and those he rallied Fell. They cannot return to heaven and are no longer angels. We’re calling them demons , they are unholy, monstrous. You’ll find no trace of your missed companions among them. Zophiel’s report indicates they’re volatile and scheming, so we must be vigilante. Report anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small. Neutralize any possible threats and don’t let them deceive you.” Anticipating the unspoken question ‘ Report to who? Nisroch is gone, ’ he continued quickly, “Since your lot already reported to my dominions, I’m acting as your supervisor until a new Arch-Principality is named. If I’m unavailable, go to Haniel.”
Gabriel sighed, a rare sign of exhaustion. “My personal advice is to let yourself forget those that are no longer here. Holding to what once was, what can’t be again, will only bring you pain. It would be easy, He does not want us to suffer. Any questions before we move on to more menial matters?”
What about the seraph, Priel? Aziraphale wanted to scream, it all felt so unfair. It hadn’t been his- It was mine, I should’ve… He couldn’t let himself finish the thought. Internally he struggled to grasp a way to rationalize this, to ease his guilt. No relief came.