“And then,” Michael laughed, tears running down his face as he tried to hold in even more chuckling. “Byron started singing before anyone else in the choir did, which just left him belting out a long note by himself with everyone else just staring at him.”
The Kehtayahn laughed at the story, just one of a hundred told throughout the night and into the morning hours. The sun was just beginning to poke its rays over the distant mountains, making the fire that they sat around unnecessary.
Michael had built the fire the night before, then stayed the night with them. The group had spent the dark hours getting to know each other and understanding the situation in Brone as explained by the angel. They hadn’t bothered sleeping, due to the Varahora water’s regenerative properties having revitalized them thoroughly the night before.
When conversation reached a lull, and everyone was simply sitting and enjoying the fire, Angel startled everybody by slapping his leg and laughing.
“What?” his twin asked, smiling at his mirth.
“I just can’t believe we are sitting here talking to an actual angel! I mean, I’m an ‘Angel’, but not like Michael. This guy is the real deal.”
Michael, too, chuckled at Angel’s merriment.
“I am also in amazement at this situation. Never before have I spoken to a physical of the likes of you four.”
“A ‘physical’?” Jex questioned.
“Yes,” the angel replied, as if the topic was commonplace. “You are a physical, just as I am a celestial.”
“Wait,” Apollo interjected, nodding back toward where he knew Caldera lay dead in the ash. “That other angel said the same thing. About how he was a celestial, and we were not, so we could not hurt him without celestial weapons.”
“This is true,” the young Michael confirmed. “There are laws in nature regarding the interaction between the three life forms-”
“Yes,” he nodded. “Celestial, spiritual, and physical. You creatures are physicals: born of this world, requiring sustenance to survive, with limited lifespans. But within every sentient physical, there dwells a spiritual: the intangible spirit not visible in this light spectrum, which gives the physical its life. This is the true essence of every sentient, physical being, and it lives on after the death of its physical host.
“Now, we Seraphim are Celestials. Our race was handcrafted by Jehovah at the beginning of Time, and we have always resided with Him in the Heavens. Though we can become more or less powerful, we cannot die. We require no food or drink as you do, though, upon it is possible for us to die, as you have seen with Caldera. At that point, our essence returns to its place of creation and is reborn. For Caldera, he will be apprehended in his weakened state as a newborn, and dealt with accordingly.
“In terms of interaction, celestials can interact with both spiritual and physical beings. This is how Sariel, Jehovah’s Archangel of Death, can escort the souls to the Heavens after death.”
“But why can’t our weapons hurt you?” Angel inquired. “And how come your own can?”
“Honestly,” Michael responded. “I do not know. There is a science behind it that has been explained to me before, but it is beyond my reckoning. I just know it as a simple fact of life. Just as the wrong key will not open a lock, a physical object cannot harm a celestial.”
Jex snorted derisively.
“Then why bring us ‘physicals’ into this fight? This is your fight, anyways.”
“Yeah,” Llandra added. “What is this whole war about anyways?”
“I am but a member of the lower ranks,” he explained. “So I do not know all of the details of this war, only the basics: Belial, a high ranking member of the Lord’s Forces, defected and took a score of Seraphim with him. They are waging war against Jehovah himself, recruiting foreign beasts to fight alongside him, and attempting to either take or destroy Brone, home of the Carnecians.”
“And why are we here?” Llandra asked.
“Well, rumors get around the ranks, and one suggests that there was a prophecy among the Carnecians stating that a force would come and help end the war. I think that you are that force.”
“I think that someone else intends for us to be them also,” Apollo said, then told him of the Scroll.
Michael listened intently before responding.
“So then you are Altopian Warriors? The Kehtayahn?”
“It would seem so.”
“Do you believe that you are?”
“I’m not sure,” Llandra admitted. “But we’re definitely not who we were before we were brought here.”
“We’ve got powers that we didn’t have before we showed up,” Angel said, then attempted to form a ball of qi in his hand, with not much more than a yellow glow resulting.
“This,” Apollo said, then held up a grapefruit-sized ball of qi in his hand. “Plus, we’re all a lot stronger and faster than before.”
“Also,” Jex added. “We’ve got weapons that just showed up with us, that we are, like, masters of.”
Michael smiled and looked at them.
“So then you are warriors.”
The group sat in silence for a moment, struck by the simplicity of it.
“Well,” Michael said, standing and stretching in the morning sun. “I believe I shall take my leave now and return to Machonon.”
“Wait,” Llandra said, standing beside him and avoiding the wings that now stretched forth nearly ten feet wide. “We have to find Brone. Can you take us?”
“Alas, no,” the celestial responded. “I have to return home now, before my absence earns me disciplinary actions.”
“Well,” Jex said. “Are we heading in the right direction?”
The winged being turned and pointed at the distant peaks.
“Over those mountains is the City of Brone. I would fly over them if I were you, but it seems as if you are without that ability. So I suggest taking the path that cuts through the mountains. It is a massive cavern that will allow you to pass through the heart of the rock and not have to climb it.”
“Does the path come this far?” Angel inquired.
“Well,” he said, then shot up in the air, looked around, then dropped back down. “Yes. The path you have been on leads north to the mountain and to Brone. Between here and there, there appears to be some sort of depression in the ground with a structure in it, which looks to be surrounded by massive boulders and such. Just continue that way until you spot the boulders, then pass them and the path should be not very far past.”
“Thanks,” Angel said. “I appreciate it. But before you leave, I’ve been meaning to ask you something. The Bible talks of a great archangel named Michael. Is it you?”
Michael laughed and slowly ascended.
“I still don’t know what this ‘Bible’ is, but I will tell you that there is but one Michael in our ranks, and that is me. As much as I would like to believe that I will amount to anything as great as what you say, I do have to believe that you are referring to another Michael from sometime far in the past.”
“Or the future,” Llandra countered.
“Yes, or the future,” Michael responded, smirking. “Let me make a deal with you, you soft-skinned creatures: if the day ever comes that I am promoted to the rank of Archangel, I will find you and tell you personally. Okay?”
“Deal,” Angel nodded, and the group watched the young angel soar up into the sky with a wave, before disappearing in a twinkle several hundred yards up.
When the fire was stomped out and the group had stretched their stiff joints, they began to make toward the direction that Michael had indicated. Keeping an eye out for the boulders, the Kehtayahn walked along, talking and laughing as though there was nothing strange about the entire situation.
“I’ll admit,” Jex said to the others. “I didn’t want anything to do with this whole situation, as you all know. But sitting and talking with an angel, being a battleaxe master, and having the ability to jump fifty feet straight up without trying? Man, this is so much cooler than when we started.”
“True that, homey,” Apollo laughed.
At the rear of the group, Angel was practicing his qire, forming yellow marble-sized energy balls in his hands before they dissipated. Grunting in frustration, he continued the practice continually, slowly starting to get a feel for the mind-set he needed to have.
“You know,” he called up to the others. “It’s almost like you need to be very relaxed, but very focused at the same time. I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“Check this out,” his twin said from up ahead.
Everyone looked up to see the young lady juggling three maroon qi balls, each one the same size as the other.
“Show off,” Angel called, then ducked as she threw one his direction.
A small explosion threw dirt on his back as Angel gaped at his sister.
“Are you crazy?” he laughed.
“Just keeping you on your toes,” she replied.
“My turn,” Angel muttered, drawing his focus down on his hands and making two more small, yellow qi. When they were barely shimmering in his hands, he thrust them forward.
What started out as condensed energy suddenly became a stream of qi as golden energy poured from his hand in a torrent of power. Jex and Apollo leapt back as the qire shot between them to Llandra, who immediately formed her own and threw it forward in panic.
The small red energy was enveloped by Angel’s onslaught as it passed through it and slammed into Llandra, who took the brunt of it on her chest. The impact slammed her straight back as she slid across the ground, attempting to hold herself upright until finally her foot caught and she tumbled back, rolling across the ground for another twenty feet.
“Oh, no,” Angel gasped, shocked at his own power.
“Llandra!” Apollo cried, running up to where she lay disheveled in a cloud of dust. “Are you okay?”
“Okay?” she gasped, sitting up and shaking dust out of her hair. “You could say that.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Angel kept repeating, pulling his sister to her feet and dusting her off.
Llandra looked up at him and smiled coyly.
“I’m sure you know that this means war.”