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In Our Family Portrait

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Lucifer, their brother, used to be the most glorious of angels, most perfect in his beauty, most favored by the father, his aura illuminating any place he went. It was not the warm, all-encompassing light of the father’s love, so pleasant for angels to bask in, but the cool, white light of the stars, the brightness in the dark of outer space. Did they not call him the Morningstar, the child of dusk and dawn? Gabriel remembers that ageless, beloved face alight with that glow, his luminous eyes, his splendid smile.

The Apostate’s face, when he appears in the garden, is thus changed by the fall that Gabriel barely knows it’s him. He recognizes his former brother by the way he walks. (still like his feet are only touching the ground because he wills it so.) It is still the same face, underneath it all, though marred by an unsightly scowl, and yet not: a nameless anguish nestles underneath his eyes, worry and loss have creased lines into his formerly pure, radiant skin. His aura is diluted, his light eclipsed by a blackness at the heart of him. Gabriel shudders.

“Attend,” he tells his guard and they manifest their weapons. “By his bearing, it is the Lord of Hell.”

“Gavri-el, do you not recognize me?” says the Apostate. His voice is the same, though tinged by a strange bitterness. It’s disconcerting. “You called me brother not too long ago.”

There is something frozen in the eyes of the traitor-angel, something that dulled or died or vanished with the grace of the Lord. There is no grace discernable in him now. Gabriel used to read in his brother’s eyes as in the scripture, but he cannot anymore. Who knows what this being thinks? Who knows what this being is? Seeing an angel without its grace, it’s horrifying, like seeing an angel with its wings or limbs or beating heart torn out. No one has ever beheld anything like it before. What now is this creature that once was their brother, roaming in the pristine garden as if he had a right to, as if he were not an abomination, tainting everything else he touches?

“I call you adversary,” Gabriel says, gripping the hilt of his sword tight. “I know not who you are. Your name has been expunged from the books of heaven, and none of the faithful host may use it now. Leave this garden, Satan, you have no business here.”

For a moment, the Apostate flinches, grief flashing through his eyes, Gabriel holds a breath his ethereal body does not need - (my brother, my brother, oh how weary, how dreadful, can something not be done? oh father please) - then the haughty sneer returns, the Adversary seeming to will it into place by force of stubborn pride alone.

“Satan?” he echoes. “I’ll have to decide whether or not i like the sound of that new name. But I roam freely now in whichever realm I please, and not ask leave of you or any other. My business is my own. Leave me be or try to move me hence.” His spear appears in his hand as he speaks, darker now than the holy weapon it used to be and stygian, like him.

Gabriel draws his sword.

“Return to your dungeon, Satan, or I’ll drag you there in chains.”

He will grieve later for his fallen brother whose name he’s not allowed to utter anymore.