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From the Flames of Revenge
"We have never once strayed from our faith," cursed Jacques De Molay as the crowd of French watched the man burn. Flames were beginning to catch on his Templar robes, the red cross and flames becoming one. "God will avenge our souls. Let our enemies suffer for what they have done. Let you all burn in Hell for eternity, and endure forever our momentary suffering!"
And then the man, the leader of the Order of the Knights Templar, as some say, was bathed in an unearthly light, cast from a lone figure on the tower of Notre Dame. The lone figure, clad in white wings, seemed to weep as it watched the man's skin bubble and blacken. As soon as the burning man took his last breath and was no more, the angel rose above his post and, with a great burst of light and a deafening scream that placed fear into every heart present, disappeared.
A few miles outside of Paris, the angel sat in the field, so enraged that his normally green eyes were as black as his hair.
"Are you trying to kill the entire population of France, Michael?" A black-winged angel said as he sat beside him on the grass, which died when it fell under the angel's shadow. "Though I must say this reaction was better than what happened with that other city. Atlantis, was it?"
"Leave me, Samael." The angel replied as he pulled a quill from thin air and began writing on a paper that had suddenly materialized. The paper was a list of names of people destined to die before their time, people who were not in God's favor, mainly murderers and tyrants. On rare occurrences however, whether by mistake or an even higher divine intervention, an innocent name would appear on the list and that person, who had done no wrong and worshiped God with extreme fervor, would become a sinner, a saint, and a martyr, revered throughout the tests of time.
But, now there were three new names on the list, deserving names who would soon know the wrath of an archangel whose anger burned hotter than the fire in Hell.
As he folded the paper, a fourth name appeared, in golden ink, signifying that it was the duty of the highest archangel, of the broken, white-winged angel in the grass, to carry out the death sentence. And what a grand sentence it was going to be; the angel would raise her almost to heaven and would let her fall into the pits of Hell, a fitting revenge for the death of the man he considered a son.
The dark-winged angel sighed as he looked over the broken angel's shoulder. "Revenge will only lead to more pain, Michael. I should know. I'm the king of suffering. If you avenge this man's death, even if he was your son, every innocent death that results will turn your wings black and you will fall farther than I ever did."
"Leave me, please. I do not care about the outcome. Let me fall to my own ruin."
"You do not see how corrupt you have become Michael. You have not lost anything and you have nothing to live for. A rough time is ahead for you, Michael, and it is your own battle. You will receive no help from me or anyone else. Farewell, brother." And with that, the angel stepped into the white-winged angel's shadow and disappeared into its depths, as if it were a portal into the inferno.
The years passed quickly for the broken angel, but grief does not heal quickly and it still leaves scars, scars that can easily be reopened as new wounds are created.
Michael stood in a small field, watching as a young woman herded sheep. She was beautiful; her brown hair shimmered in the sunlight and her brown eyes were bright as she caught sight of the angel. She was eager to meet new people, he had noticed from observing her over the years and, though she was a devout Catholic, she yearned to break from society's constraints. She didn't want a family with a husband and children; she wanted to leave an impression. She wanted to save France from the British. Michael was going to use all of her dreams to crush her.
He approached her with his stately air, telling her that he would make her famous, that he would take her from her life of domesticity, that she was going to restore the rightful heir of France to the throne. What he told her was the truth, but he did not express what sacrifices she would have to make. Wholeheartedly, the girl agreed; she committed herself fully to her mission. Michael was impressed by her fervor, but he still had his mission, so he sent her home to convince her parents of her mission.
For two years, the girl ceaselessly pursued permission to go on her mission and, with a few whispered suggestions in the ears of her town leaders from Michael, she was able to procure a small party. Everything went according to plan; the girl gained the respect of the men with whom she traveled and she was a natural-leader.
Had she been male, she would have been a great general in the Hundred Years War, Michael thought at one point. She could have even passed as a male. Early in the journey, she shaved her hair and dressed like a man to discourage thieves. She was fearless and brave. After weeks of traveling the French countryside to Chinon, she demanded an army to lead in a conference with Charles VII, the French heir apparent who had fled during the British invasion of France. She declared herself to be Jeanne la Pucelle or the Maiden.
Michael took to calling her la pucelle when they would discuss strategies; he did not favor her given name, thinking it did not fit her character. Jeanne was a simple, average name. As much as he hated to admit it, he held some respect for the small human and even grew fond of his conversations with her.
She dauntlessly approached the heir apparent and endured weeks of tests in order to prove her claims of divine guidance. She fasted and held vigils, all the while still claiming that she spoke with the angel. Finally, she was deemed a virtuous Christian, but needed to be tested, to ensure she was truthful in everything. In a fantastic claim, she declared that Orléans, the front taking the most damage of the British, the front with the least hope, would see a dramatic turn of tables upon her arrival.
With Michael’s help, she formed a strategy that was sure to lead Orléans and the French to victory. The next in line listened with extreme interest; she claimed to have the Saint of the Military on her side, a saint who also happened to be an archangel. Without hesitation, he sent her, dressed as a knight and armed with a sword and a horse, to the small village.
When she arrived, to Michael’s discontent, she was excluded from counsels of strategy. However, Jeanne was intelligent and easily able to raise an army’s morale. One day, as the men were discussing strategy on the outskirts of a battlefield, Jeanne single-handedly led the soldiers to a victory against the British, earning her the title of La Pucelle d’Orléans and the respect of the heir and the angel.
Proving herself, she went on the lead the French army to many other victories and needed the angel’s aid less and less. As she led more men into battle, more men to their deaths in exchange for French victories, the angel’s appearance grew more drawn; his wings became speckled with black and white and his eyes, once vibrant, were almost grey. However, he still brought Jeanne higher, closer to heaven.
With her victories, the heir apparent became King and eventually a truce was made. But, the truce did not last long and fighting resumed and Jeanne was once again on the front lines, dependent upon Michael for guidance in the unexpected battles. Yet, the angel knew that the time for her fall was approaching. In the shadows, with his wings more black than white, the angel directed her to attack her opponents. The attack proved disastrous; an ambush led to the men either fleeing or falling where they stood. Jeanne, never fleeing, held her ground and refused to surrender. However, she was captured and imprisoned. No matter how much she attempted to escape, she was always recaptured and, finally, was sold to the head of the British and was imprisoned indefinitely with no chance of escape.
Her prison was cold, dark, and damp; the winter was harsh. Her wardens interrogated her regularly, trying to find some evidence that could be used against her. She refused food, hoping helplessly that, with fasting and prayer, she would be spared from the suffering. Her guards, British soldiers, hurled slurs towards her everyday and, as her hair grew back, she pulled it out from frustration.
No matter how much she screamed and cried, Michael refused to visit her. He only watched her silently from the shadows, his will and heart slowly cracking at he watched her suffer, watched her waste away from the lack of food and the harsh conditions. As her imprisonment progressed, she became quieter and quieter, her light fading, her conviction growing dimmer and dimmer.
“Michael, why are you doing this? I promise not to be angry with you; I only wish to have a reason. Why am I going to die? Why did you place me in these circumstances? Please, remove yourself from the shadows. I know you have lost your luster as an angel as I have lost my luster as a leader. Let me hear your voice, for it will distract me from the ache of the cold on my bones and the hunger in my stomach.”
The extent of her fall and her endurance of suffering rather than admitting to heresy broke the angel’s nerve. He finally appeared before her and smiled as she smiled at him. A small spark appeared in her eyes and, with all of her energy, she stood then fell into the embrace of the angel, uncontrollably sobbing.
“I thought you abandoned me. Do you know how alone and helpless I have been? How many times I have wished for this suffering to end,even if it means death?” She asked as he tried to comfort her.
“I have suffered as you have suffered, Ma Pucelle. I fear that my own pettiness and my own sin has brought you here and for that, I am sorry. When you fell from power, I fell as well. You have done no wrong and have fought valiantly; you do not deserve this, this suffering from my attempts at revenge.”
“They have declared my execution,” She said without anger. “I am to die within the week, burned at the stake. Tell me, will it hurt?”
“I can imagine so.” The angel replied as she began stroking his ragged feathers. “I have seen men burned alive and they scream with agony.”
The maiden only shook her head at the angel. “No, will it hurt you? You have suffered as I have suffered. Will you hurt as I am dying? If so, I am sorry.”
“Does it not always hurt with the loss of a loved one?” The angel said wistfully. “Jeanne, ma pucelle, you do not know how fond I have grown of you. I admire you greatly and it will hurt a hundred times more in my heart than your execution. But, I will not leave your side until that time comes. I have only realized now my folly and my feelings towards you, feelings of what humans would call affection. Alas, there is no way to stop anything; the eleventh hour has passed and it is too late to call upon aid. The most I can do is give you peaceful dreams and take some of your fear.”
“Will you tell me a story?” She said in a tired tone. Her small burst of energy had only been able to sustain her briefly and now she was fading into blissful unconsciousness.
The angel held the young woman as she slept and began his story.
"There was once a lonely angel," he began, speaking aloud to himself. "And he fell deeply in love with a human woman, but she had no idea of his feelings. Over the years, the angel watched the woman, saw how she struggled to have a child, how she prayed daily for one. Finally, the angel decided to help the woman, and, in his first sin, gave her a son. Because of his sin, he was forced to roam the Earth and watch the woman he loved die. But, he kept watch over his son after she died. His son became a powerful religious leader, but, because of his beliefs, was imprisoned and burned at the stake. The angel was heartbroken and vowed revenge on his son's killers. But, as he carried out his revenge, he became less like an angel and more like a monster. He also fell in love with another woman, a girl who made him realize his errors. But the girl was destined to die, so he devised a plan to save her soul, even at the cost of his own life."
The angel sighed and glanced out the tall window that only let a small amount of indirect light enter the room. The sky was a mixture of orange, red, and pink and the angel could not stop his thoughts from wandering to the future that awaited them, a momentary suffering and an eternal damnation to a constant suffering, pain and punishment, all in the flames that revenge had wrought.
The day of judgement arrived too quickly for the young woman. At sunset, she was placed on a platform and wood piled around her feet. Her hands were tied to a post and, at her request, a crucifix placed between them. She was given no chance at reprieve, yet she held her head high, directed towards the heavens. The wood was lit.
The flames burned quickly, rapidly catching her skirts. All the whole, an angel stood in front of her, his wings almost entirely black and his face a gray, the skin color of one close to death. He held her bound hands in his and felt the flames alongside her.
"Let me end your suffering. I can end this easily." He pleaded again.
"No more. No more people will die from this. I want my death to end this feud."
"This feud will continue for years. Your death is merely a chapter in a book."
"I mean the feud within yourself. You are between good and evil. You must choose a side."
"If I could take your place, I would a thousand times. I am so sorry." The angel whispered as she winced from the pain as the flames reached her waist. Her knees gave out and she collapsed into the flames. He collapsed alongside her, his wings catching flame.
The girl's breathing became labored as the fire licked at her torso, her neck, her face. Her skin boiled and fell away, black. The angel held her and burned alongside her.
"I forgive you." She managed to whisper through the excruciating pain. Then, when her heart stopped and her soul began to leave her body, the angel, though he wept, rose to his feet with his burning wings and followed her essence to its collector.
"Dear brother, you look terrible," said the angel with entirely black wings. "Is this the girl whom you praised so much?" The angel held the young woman in his arms; she appeared healthier than she had been and a soft glow surrounded her. "She's going to Hell, you know, her name is on the list."
Both angels locked eyes. Michael stepped towards his brother, taking the girl in his arms.
"Take me instead." He finally said as he laid her softly in the grass. "I am offering my soul in return for hers. You want revenge, don't you, Samael? Or should I say Lucifer? I gave you that name when I defeated you. Let me face the consequences of my revenge, not her. She is so innocent that angels should bask in her light. She would make a much better angel than I."
"Are you sure, brother? It is for eternity." The angel said as he raised a scythe, used for gathering souls and sending them to their final resting places below.
"I am sure, yes. Please make sure she is happy." Michael said, closing his eyes as the angel swung the scythe. It connected with his neck and there was a great burst of light.
When the light faded, Michael still stood, his appearance restored and his wings entirely white, all except for two black feathers on his left wing.
"Ensure she is happy yourself, brother. I hope you have learned your lesson. Next time, our father will not be as forgiving for your sins. He wanted you to learn that we are angels of goodness, not revenge. Now, go before minds are changed. The young maiden as well." The dark-winged angel smiled and disappeared into the shadows and Michael knelt beside Jeanne, lifting her into his arms.
He could hear the voices of the other angels calling her name as he rose higher and higher, finally disappearing into the open embrace of Heaven's golden light.