God Is My Light.
Uriel knew from the moment that he was Created that that was what his name meant. Similarly, he had known from that moment that he was an angel, that he had been Created by God, and that he was a member of the host of Heaven. These things, all angels knew from their moment of Creation.
There were other things he knew from very early in his existence, things that he was the first to know. He knew that the feathers of his wings were a deep red, like clay from the newly created Earth. He knew his faces were those of creatures of his Father’s Earth that did not yet exist – a dolphin, which he somehow knew was a creature of intelligence and cleverness, and a panther, a symbol of power and agility. He knew his trueform was that of the heat and roiling molten power of magma.
On the seventh day after his Creation, he received his Calling, just like every other angel.
An angel’s Calling was their role within the host and Heaven, decreed from their Lord Father and bestowed upon them by their eldest siblings, the Archangels. In addition to the specific role they were assigned, they would also be placed within their order, which dictated which of the Archangels they served under.
Uriel remembered waiting for his turn to be issued his Calling. He was one among the first group of angels Created by their Father, after the Archangels, of course. Neither he nor his siblings quite knew what to expect. They waited outside of the Archangels’ Hall, waiting to be called in and told what their Heavenly duties would be.
He watched several of his siblings enter the Halls, and leave them again a few minutes later. Anael was the first called; she was given stewardship over the planet Venus, and was also named as a commander of one of the garrisons that would be built of angels yet to be Created. She was named one of the seraphim, under Michael’s orders. Several more of Uriel’s siblings filtered in and out of the halls – Zachariah, Naomi, Joshua, among others.
Hael stood just before him, her pale pink wings quivering, but whether it was excitement or nervousness, Uriel wasn’t sure. She was called into the Halls, and Uriel waited once more. Only a minute later, she returned. She flew right up to him and brushed her feathers against his. Her alpaca face headbutted his panther gently, and the eyes of her seahorse face gleamed.
“I am to be one of the Cherubim, and specifically an Architect, under the orders of Heylel!” Her faces couldn’t smile, in the strictest sense, but the joy that sang through her grace was unmistakable. “I will assist in our Father’s shaping of the Earth and all its glory!”
Uriel chuckled, and sent a pulse of joy of his own back along his grace to hers, as a celebration of her Calling.
“You have been truly blessed, sister. Your work with them will stand for eons to come.”
Hael abruptly pulled back from him, flustered. “Oh! I mustn’t keep you! Go, go – receive your Calling!” She brushed a wing outwards in a sweeping gesture towards the Archangels’ Hall. Uriel nodded towards his sister and flew forwards towards his destiny.
The Archangels’ Hall was magnificent; grandiose was an understatement, with towering columns of pure white lining the amphitheatre, ever shifting in form from carved stone, to curling vines and blossoms, to burbling streams of water and back again, never changing from their pure alabaster hue. Geometric fractals and spirographs were inlaid in the floor and ceiling with gold and silver-hued mithril, the metal of Heaven. Four alcoves sat in a semi-circle at the back of the room.
The alcove farthest to the left was draped in silk, shimmering gold and verdant green. There was a soft blanket of grass and leaves instead of a floor, vibrant with life and almost appearing to lean towards whoever was closest to it. Two pedestals sat just before the alcove, each topped with an enormous crystal geode, also golden, which glowed with warm light. Lounging atop his throne of woven branches growing out of rough-hewn stone was Gabriel, his golden wings draped lazily behind him. All of his faces, kookaburra and bumblebee and fox alike, were faintly amused, while still taking in everything that happened in this room with unabashed curiosity. Despite his relaxed posture, Uriel could see the shards of crystal that made up his trueform swirl around each other and rearranged every couple of minutes – he may as well have been leaning forwards in undisguised fascination.
The alcove adjacent to that one, in the centre left, was draped in lace of white and all shades of blue, their intricate patterns almost hypnotizing, even more complex than the structure of Heaven itself and resembling the unique and perfect forms of snowflakes. The throne sat upon a small island of soft, pure snow, which was surrounded by gently flowing water of the purest blue. The throne itself was carved from a single block of ice, its lines strong and geometric, yet almost appearing organic. The pedestals before the alcove were topped with stars of ice, each with perhaps two dozen points and balanced precariously on only one of them and glowing with a soft blue light. Heylel sat upon his throne and smiled softly as Uriel entered the Hall. Each of his animal faces smiled in turn as well – the wolf, then the bearded vulture, and finally the cobra.
The alcove in the centre right was draped in velvet of deep scarlet and rich violet and vermillion. The pedestals before it were, in fact, braziers, burning with flames so bright and hot that they may as well have been tiny stars. A pure disc of obsidian formed the base of the alcove, which was struck through with veins of gold-hued mithril. The throne was forged of that same golden mithril, shaped and twined around and sculpted in such a way that it truly looked like a flame, flickering and glowing with power. Michael sat atop his throne, regal and strong as always. The eyes of all his faces, elk and tiger and hawk, all flicked towards Uriel. His expression was unreadable, but he tipped his head in acknowledgement. His red and purple wings shifted slightly, the only hint of any sort of emotion.
As none of the other Archangels had chosen to speak, Uriel then turned to the final alcove, furthest to the right.
This alcove was filled with sand – most of it created the base upon which the throne rested, but some granules spilled down along the back wall in a perpetual curtain. The alcove was draped with chiffon, in white and silver and lilac. The ends of the fabrics drifted gently in a breeze that Uriel could neither feel nor see. Delicate chimes of silver mithril gently clinked against one another in pure tones that resonated with grace. The pedestals at the front of the alcove were topped with fragile sculptures of crystal-clear glass, in strange, abstract, swirling forms that didn’t seem to have a beginning or end; rather than glowing, they hummed a variety of different notes in chords, which changed every now and again. The throne was constructed of the same abstract clear glass, but unlike the sculptures on the pedestals, it was filled with the occasional spark of lightning.
Raphael gazed down at Uriel from xir throne. Xir tortoise and dove heads turned to face him as well, while xir elephant head stayed facing away, its trunk gliding back and forth gracefully through the falling curtain of sand. Xe took a moment to settle more comfortably on xir throne; xe also shook out xir wings to let them get more comfortable too, their silver feathers a gorgeous gradient of palest silver at the scapulars to deep, dark gunmetal at the longest flight feathers.
“Uriel,” xe said, xir voice soft but still firm and resonant, “you stand before the Archangels to receive your Calling. You have been chosen to follow and serve me, as one of the Hashmallim. You and your brethren are the healers, the gardeners, the mind-healers of Heaven.”
“I understand, Raphael, God Has Healed, and I am honoured to follow and serve you.” The words had not been rehearsed beforehand, nor had any of his siblings told Uriel what to say; they just came into his mind and felt right. He bowed deeply. “In what way am I to serve you, serve Heaven, and serve our Father?”
He felt a gentle touch against his grace and glanced up. A single tendril of Raphael’s lighting had latched on to him. He looked up towards Raphael’s faces once more.
“Our Father intends to create more angels – ten thousand in total, from what He last told us. You have been issued the Calling of caretaker, one who will tend to the new fledglings. One who will teach them about grace, and Heaven, and our Father. You are to be their second Father, while our Lord Father Creates worlds and creatures and angels alike. Others will eventually join you, of that I have no doubt, but you will be the first. Do you accept your Calling?”
What kind of a question was that? He would never question his Father’s judgment, nor that of the Archangels. Even if he were inclined to do so, he would never question this decree. His wings fluffed and arched in surprise and joy, and the magma of his trueform bubbled and burst. He heard Gabriel and Heylel both chuckle warmly from their side of the Hall, but he did not tear his gaze away from Raphael – from his Archangel.
“I accept – I could think of no greater honour, nor greater joy, than to serve Heaven in this.” He bowed once more, his grace still singing with joy while he did his best to contain it. “Thank you, Raphael.” He turned his gaze towards the ceiling. “Thank you, Father.”
Ten years after Uriel received his Calling, God Created the next generation of angels. There was an entire new hall in Heaven that had been crafted just for housing the new fledglings while they were cared for and taught all that they needed to know about Heaven and Earth and their duties to their Father. It was filled with soft fabrics and a myriad of gentle colours and some of Raphael’s delicate chimes.
One wall of the room was comprised of a series of cubbyholes, each one lined with soft shed feathers and the plushest moss and leaves from the Garden. Nestled in each cubbyhole was… well, Uriel wasn’t sure if there was truly a name for them.
He tended to refer to them as chrysalises, but they were not organic structures like those were. They were, essentially, halfway between an egg and a geode. They were perfectly spherical and glittered like gemstones, but they were warm to the touch, and Uriel could feel the soft velvety outer layer that made up their shells. He could feel the tiny, new grace forms incubating within the chrysalises when he touched his own grace to them.
Each day was spent making sure the chrysalises were clean, ensuring that their cubbyholes were comfortable, and gently wrapping them in tendrils of his own grace to help them grow. This new generation of angels were already Created, but they were not fully developed. The nurturing of the caretaker, along with some time incubating without the constant presence of their siblings in their minds and graces, would perhaps cause them to exist in a different state of mind than the older angels.
Each of these new fledglings would hatch when they were ready, when their time came.
That time ended up being seven days after the chrysalises were given to Uriel to care for. The first of them cracked and split open early in the morning, exposing a tiny form of raw grace and featherless wings. Uriel gently lifted his infant sibling from the remains of their chrysalis and gently cleaned off the scattered remnants of its shell, then gently tucked them back into their cubbyhole, where they rested.
The rest hatched and various points throughout the day; some were separated by several hours, while four ended up hatching all at once, leaving Uriel frazzled. Still, he performed his duties without a shred of hesitancy and more than a little joy. He wrapped them gently in his grace, to allow them to get used to connecting with others in the host. He sang them quiet songs that told of their Father’s Creations.
One of the fledglings with a trueform like rushing sand touched their grace to his and told him that their name was Balthazar. Another, who didn’t want to speak, already had the beginnings of tiny blue feathers on their stubby wings. Several started poking and prodding at each other’s graces, their trueforms, their wings, already indulging in their natural curiosity. By the end of a very hectic but wonderful day, though, all of the new generation of angels were free of their chrysalises.
All except for one.
Uriel grew steadily more concerned as the day went on, and by the time the next day rolled around, that concern sharpened into worry. Once the day was half gone, he grew so nervous that he reported to Raphael that one of the new angels hadn’t hatched. He insisted to xem that he’d been very careful with all of the chrysalises, and that he hadn’t done anything differently in caring for it than he had the others. His Archangel regarded him steadily. Xe stretched xir wings and the two of them flew from Raphael’s sanctuary to the fledgling’s ward.
Raphael crouched down and studied the tiny chrysalis. Xe swept xir hands over it, gently murmuring in Enochian and wrapping it in xir own grace, much like Uriel did. Uriel watched impatiently from off to the side. He was worried about what had happened to his younger sibling, why they didn’t hatch like the rest of them – had he done something wrong without realizing it? Would his Father be angry with him? Would he be removed from his Calling as caretaker?
After a long moment, Raphael turned to him. Xir grace glowed warmly with gentle amusement.
“Come here, Uriel,” xe said softly. Uriel cautiously stepped forwards, his russet wings quivering in trepidation. He looked down, wide-eyed, to see the chrysalis cradled in Raphael’s cupped hands. He had already thought that it looked so small and fragile, but against the massive form of an Archangel, it seemed to be hardly a speck. As he stared, he heard a crack, and he watched as a jagged line began to split the chrysalis down the middle.
Uriel’s wings slumped in relief. “Thank our Father,” he exhaled. “What did you do?”
Raphael chuckled softly. “Not a thing,” xe replied. “They just weren’t ready to come out yet.”
Another crack, and this time a small chunk of the chrysalis’ outer shell fell off. Raphael delicately pinched the edge of the opening in the chrysalis and slowly pried more of the shell away. Uriel startled and rushed forward to help. A moment later, a tiny fledgling sat in the hollowed-out base of their chrysalis, staring up and Uriel with big blue eyes and a trueform like quicksilver. Their little featherless wings tried to flap; he and Raphael both laughed.
Raphael extended xir hands out to him. Uriel gently took the new fledgling from xem and cradled them against his own grace. The moment their graces touched, he knew the fledgling’s name. He chuckled.
“You gave us quite the scare, Castiel.” He rubbed a hand up and down the fledgling’s back, and his thumb traced tiny circles into the nub of their wing.
The stench of smoke and blood and shit rolled off of the city in a grotesque wave, sharp and acrid, wafting up towards the red rock cliff where Uriel stood. The sun set in the sky, casting an ominous red-orange glow over the desert. It was silent, but only a few hours earlier screams and crying echoed out over the flats, and desperate prayers had flooded the grace of every angel in Heaven.
It had been quite some time since Uriel had been a caretaker. God hadn’t made any new angels in the past two million years. Once his Calling had been fulfilled, Uriel had been reassigned under Michael, as a “specialist”.
Blood ran in rivers through the streets of the city; Uriel knew that every other city and village in Egypt looked and smelled the same as this one did.
He hadn’t been one of the angels that had purged Sodom and Gomorrah – those were strikes lead by Gabriel – but he had assisted in destroying Admah, one of their sister cities. That day had been… brutal, but efficient. A single grand display of power, with nothing left behind but ash and dust. A reminder to all of the consequences of their immorality and their eagerness to sin.
This… this was another matter entirely. A shudder of revulsion ran through Uriel’s grace. It was one thing to slay the Egyptians; not only did they worship false godlings, eschewing the reverence for their Lord and Creator, but they had enslaved and slaughtered many of their fellow humans. They deserved punishment.
But there were many who hadn’t done so – many Israelites who had not known to paint their doors with lamb’s blood, or who were unable to procure it. Many who were devoted in their worship and loyalty to God. Many who were, despite being human, kind and generous and, perhaps, exactly what his Father had intended when he Created humanity.
Uriel stared down at his hands. He watched with a sort of detached fascination as they trembled. These were the hands that had nurtured almost ten thousand angels from fledglings, the hands that cradled their tiny forms with utmost care and wrapped them in his own grace. The hands that held them as he taught them lessons and sang them songs and told them jokes.
They were the hands of a butcher.
Uriel heard the flutter of wings and felt the tell-tale rush of grace beside him that heralded the arrival of one of his siblings. He dropped his hands back down to his sides and stared out over the city once more.
From the corner of his eye, he saw obsidian feathers reach out to brush against his, and felt them a moment later. An oxen head regarded him steadily, even as the angel’s central face joined him in watching the city burn.
“I am glad I found you, Uriel,” Castiel said softly. Uriel never understood his predilection for taking vessels whenever he had a mission Earth-side, but he supposed it didn’t matter all that much, as long as he got the job done. He heard Castiel’s vessel’s voice, the soft tones of a young Israelite girl, layered overtop of his true voice, much like he could see his trueform layered overtop of his vessel.
“We were supposed to report back to Heaven already,” Castiel continued.
“Anael already knows everything that happened, and she’s the only one that needs to report to Michael,” Uriel said, hoping he sounded as unaffected as he desperately wanted to be. “What does it matter if a pair of soldiers don’t make it back right away?”
He could practically feel Castiel’s scrutinizing squint against his faces – both from his vessel and his snow leopard face.
“If it were just me? Perhaps.” He shrugged. “But the rest of the host knows just as well as I do that you prefer to stay away from Earth whenever possible. They would think something is amiss.”
“Something is amiss,” Uriel murmured under his breath.
Uriel stared out over the city, but he was no longer seeing the physical buildings, nor the smoke that spiralled up from their remains. Some distant part of his mind wondered if it would reach Heaven, if they would smell and see the stain of their actions there. His mind was reeling, his hands still trembled. Thoughts that he’d had many times before but had never dared to speak aloud were on the tip of his tongue for the first time; perhaps he had simply been waiting for the right person to speak them to.
“Something is amiss,” he said again, firmer this time.
“What do you mean?” Castiel asked, nothing in his voice but open curiosity. Father bless this wonderful angel of yours.
“Why did we kill these people, Castiel?” Uriel said, low and demanding.
Castiel blinked and reared back, somewhat alarmed by the question.
“Because it was God’s will. Because they had enslaved and murdered the true servants of God, motivated by their own avarice and pride,” he said slowly. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as Uriel.
“Not the Egyptians.” Uriel kept the eyes of all his faces fixed firmly on the city below, unwilling to show his favourite sibling just how affected he was by what they had done. “The Israelites. Those who were unable to mark their doors. Why did we kill them,” he asked once more. Demanded once more, really.
Castiel had to have a reason. Someone had to have a reason. Uriel wasn’t particularly fond of humanity – their flaws and failings were too apparent, and too often they abused the free will that had been granted them – but for God to order them to kill his own Creation… If he had Created them to have free will, and they exercised that free will, even if it was in a way that defied God’s will, then what could possibly justify executing them for that?
Unless it hadn’t been God’s will at all. Unless it was simply Michael’s orders, acting as though it was his Father’s command.
How many had actually seen their Father, stood in his presence? Only the Archangels, and one was cast down into the Cage – unfairly, if Uriel was asked his opinion. Humanity was an interesting experiment of God’s, but clearly not as well Created as the angels.
He pushed down that particular thought, as he had so many times before. It was one thing to reveal to Castiel that he was beginning to doubt the will of Heaven; it was another thing entirely to suggest that their Father had made a mistake, that maybe Heylel – Lucifer – was right. Especially considering what had happened to Lucifer when he suggested the same idea himself.
He turned back to his brother with further demands for answers on his lips. They died before they could be spoken; as he turned, he noticed a splash of red from the angel beside him. Castiel’s true hands were as pristine as always, but the hands of his vessel were stained with blood. He watched as Castiel evidently realized what he was looking at, and shifted to clasp his hands together behind his back.
“You disobeyed orders,” Uriel murmured, awestruck. He opened his mouth to speak once more, despite not knowing what to say.
It didn’t end up mattering. They both felt the grace of another angel brush against theirs, and their commander’s voice was in their minds a moment later.
“Uriel. Castiel. You were to report back to Heaven immediately following our mission,” Anael scolded them. Castiel winced.
“Surely you have already reported to Michael, Anael? Our absence has not caused any delays or issues?”
“Of course I already reported to Michael; that doesn’t mean that the two of you can go off on Earth as you please without orders.” Her sigh echoed through Uriel’s grace. “You are both to report directly to Naomi when you return.”
It was Uriel and Castiel’s turn to sigh. Uriel had nothing against the chief Mind-Healer, but reporting to her was always a tedious endeavour. Always asking question about their perspective of their mission, wanting to know how they “felt” about it.
Castiel nudged his wing with one of his own. “Better to get it over with now, before she comes down here and drags us up there herself.” With that, he spread his wings and flew, slipping into the ether and back to Heaven. Uriel stayed where he stood a moment longer, watching as the smoke from the city died down and was replaced with ashes on the wind.
Perhaps Castiel wasn’t as much of a stickler for the rules and order of Heaven that Uriel had always thought he was. Perhaps…
Uriel landed in the old warehouse, a few feet away from where the Grand Inquisitor of Hell had been imprisoned only hours ago. Castiel stood on the far side of the room, staring down at the chalk sigils on the floor. Uriel could feel the presence of his grace, but couldn’t discern any particular thought or emotion from it. It was a blank canvas, carefully distanced from him.
Such a thing was hardly new amongst the host; it had been some time since any angels had freely joined their graces together. Between the oppressive rigidity of Heaven and the subterfuge that many among them carried out for their true Master, it was hardly a surprise that they kept to themselves. Uriel could hardly remember the feeling of another grace gently joining with his own. All that he could recall was the cold callousness of Michael’s regime.
That would all change soon.
He took a couple of steps forward into the light, towards the devil’s trap. “What do you say, Castiel? Will you join me? Fight with me?”
Castiel didn’t look towards him. “Strange. Strange how a leaky pipe can undo the work of angels,” Uriel saw his brother begin to turn his head towards him; he cast aside his gaze before it could lock with Castiel’s. “When we ourselves are supposed to be the agents of fate.”
Uriel shook his head. “Alastair was much stronger than we had imagined,” he lied.
“No.” Castiel’s rebuke was swift and unflinching. “No demon can overpower that trap. I made it myself.”
Of course he had; much like Uriel himself, his original Calling hadn’t been that of a soldier, though he had always served under Michael. No, in addition to his stewardship over Thursday, Castiel had also been one of five angels granted the Calling of Sigilbreaker. They had devised the Enochian language, to act as a bridge between Heaven and humanity. They had developed Celestial, a language that could only be spoken and written by the host. And they had created a vast number of glyphs and sigils and spells, including the trap that had held Alastair.
Castiel began to pace the room. “We’ve been friends for a long time, Uriel. Fought by each other's sides, served together away from home, for what seems like forever.” He slowly came to a stop right in front of Uriel, his voice meandering around his point in a way that was clearly intended to inspire shame in him. Guilt.
He felt none.
“We’re brothers, Uriel.” Uriel fought back the urge to scoff. Castiel had spent too much time around the damned Winchesters; as if Heaven ever believed in brotherhood as they did. “Pay me that respect – tell me the truth.”
Uriel had been waiting for this moment for years – centuries, even. He knew, even before their conversation earlier, that Castiel had been losing faith in Heaven’s vision, just as he had. He knew that his brother was always one to buck orders when he felt they weren’t right. If he could be convinced – oh, they would be unstoppable.
Uriel smirked. “The truth is, the only thing that can kill an angel…” He slipped his blade, forged from his own dewclaw and coated in mithril, from its sheath in his trueform and into his vessel’s hand. “… Is another angel.”
He relished Castiel’s shocked expression, displayed even in his trueform, his ebony wings flaring out and the eyes of his snow leopard and impala heads growing wide.
“I’m afraid so,” he said; he’d heard the expression used by humans before, a hollow statement of false sympathy. It felt appropriate, now.
“And you broke the devil’s trap, set Alastair on Dean.”
Uriel fought the urge to roll his eyes. Always about Dean, that one, too caught up in the minutiae to see the bigger picture. He was a little disappointed he had to spell the whole thing out for him.
“Alastair should never have been taken alive. Really inconvenient, Cas,” he chastised, just as he used to do so long ago to unruly fledglings. “Yes, I did turn the screw a little. Alastair should have killed Dean and escaped, and you should have gone on happily scapegoating the demons.”
“For the murders of our kin?” Castiel demanded, his voice low and dangerous.
“Not murders, Castiel. My work is conversion.”
His grace sparked in a way that it hadn’t for many an age. He could feel his wings fluff with excitement. It was about to be the beginning of a new order, one without the disappointing carcass of a failed Earth or the military dictatorship of Michael in Heaven. No, this would be sculpted in ice and painted in hoarfrost, glorious and beautiful and terrible, just as the Morningstar himself was.
“How long have we waited here? How long have we played this game by rules that make no sense?”
Castiel’s voice became more hesitant as he turned his back on him. “It is our Father's world, Uriel –”
“Our Father?” Uriel cut him off with a derisive sneer. “He stopped being that, if he ever was, the moment he created them. Humanity, his favorites. Those whining, puking larva.” Finally, finally, he let the magma he was made in the image of boil over, let the bitterness and cynicism of several million years spill forth. He was done being at the beck and call of a Father who never gave a damn about any of them.
Castiel turned back to him once more. “Are you trying to convert me?” It was an accusation, not a question.
“I wanted you to join me, and I still do. With you, we can be powerful enough to –”
“To?” Castiel cut him off, matching his derision with his own.
“To raise our brother,” Uriel said simply. He watched as Castiel froze, shock and horror echoing clearly through his grace, the careful detachment he had displayed earlier gone.
“You do remember him?” Uriel asked. It was his turn to pace around Castiel as he spoke, soft and reverent. “How strong he was? How beautiful? And he didn't bow to humanity. He was punished for defending us. Now, if you want to believe in something, Cas, believe in him.”
Raphael was still Uriel’s Archangel, and always would be, but the Morningstar was magnificent. He had a beauty about him to which nothing else in Creation could compare. He was deadly and dangerous, just like the ice of his trueform, but there was a certain gentleness, an elegance, about him as well, like the perfect precision of each individual snowflake. He was brilliant and perfection itself.
It should have been him in charge of Heaven all along, not Michael.
“Lucifer is not God,” Castiel said, like the bullheaded fool that he was.
“God isn't God anymore. He doesn't care what we do. I am proof of that.”
“But this? What were you gonna do, Uriel? Were you gonna kill the whole garrison?” Castiel asked, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard.
“I only killed the ones who said no.” He watched Castiel’s eyes widen slightly at his words, and his head fell as he realized the extent of Uriel’s work. “Others have joined me, Cas. Now, please, brother, don't fight me. Help me. Help me spread the word. Help me bring on the apocalypse.” He pleaded with his brother; he did truly regret having to kill his siblings, but he did what he did for Heaven! For the angels, the host!
Castiel’s eyes slowly slid back to his, though Uriel could not place the emotion in them now. He leaned forward, caught up in the rapture of his sermon. He had known Castiel saw the same flaws in Heaven that he did, had known it since that day in Egypt. All it would take was one final push:
“All you have to do is be unafraid.”
Castiel shook his heads, all of them, just a tiny little movement. His gaze slipped back down, and then back up to Uriel’s once more.
“For the first time in a long time… I am.”
Uriel couldn’t fight the victorious smile that curled across his vessel’s face; wouldn’t have, either, even if he could. He knew that Castiel, despite many of the host’s claims of being too emotional, would see reason.
An instant later, the full force of Castiel’s might slammed into his shoulder and launched him backwards. He smashed through the brick wall behind him, his vessel and trueform and pride alike wounded.
Very well, then. If that’s how you want to do this…
He rose to his feet once more, tossing aside a few stray bricks as he faced Castiel. He charged out from the opening in the wall and attacked his brother. They exchanged blows, reverberating like nuclear bombs in the enclosed space. Their trueforms shook, magma and quicksilver doing their best to absorb the impacts but falling short each time. Blood spilled from their vessels, while their real bodies quaked with injured grace. Neither of their original Callings were that of a soldier, but they were Created for war just the same.
Uriel managed to grab Castiel and hurl him across the room, though it wasn’t enough to knock him prone. He stumbled, sure, but he caught his balance quickly. He turned back towards Uriel and strode towards him, spitting blood from the corner of his vessel’s mouth almost as an afterthought. Steely flint reflected in his sharp eyes.
A few more blows were traded; they were enough to send Uriel stumbling backwards, which brought him right up to one of the large iron pipes strewn about the room. As Castiel advanced on him once more, he swung, catching his brother in the face with his improvised weapon. Castiel crumpled to the floor in such a manner that, had Uriel not been keeping every one of his eyes on him, he would have thought he vacated his vessel.
He reached down and grasped him none-too-gently by the hair and pulled him to his knees before him. Castiel’s eyes, now beginning to glaze over, found his.
“You can’t win, Uriel,” he said, just as stubborn and obstinate as ever. “I still serve God.”
“You haven’t even met the man!” Uriel spat. “There is no will.” He punched Castiel across his vessel’s face and felt the tissue and muscle and bone fracture and break beneath his knuckles. “No wrath.” He pulled his fist back and let loose another blow, this one sending Castiel reeling. “No God.” He raised his fist to strike again –
He neither heard nor saw his sister approach before her blade pierced his throat. He didn’t need to. He could feel her grace within her blade, could hear it sing with the strong stone of her trueform and the name Anael whispered against his own grace. As his vision began to blur, he could just barely make out her purple feathers in the corner of his eye, could just see the tip of a grizzly bear’s snout by his ear. He could not hear whatever threat or promise or prayer that she whispered.
The bright, sharp pain of the wound immediately began to be overshadowed by Uriel’s grace as it flared and unravelled at the seams. It grew bright and hot, then brighter and hotter, and brighter and hotter still, the volcano’s eruption.
It burst as he died, like a star going supernova. And, also like a star going supernova, all that was left afterwards was a black void.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
Uriel watched as the fledglings he watched turned into human infants, tiny and fat and ugly and helpless, crying and screaming in misery.
Uriel watched as one by one, those human children-once-fledglings died, withering away in starvation or crumbling to dust or choking on their own blood.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
Uriel watched as the fledglings he watched turned into demons, their trueforms dripping tar and rot and reeking of brimstone, which peeled back to reveal cracked and broken skulls and bones.
Uriel watched as one by one, those demonic hellspawn-once-fledglings died, slashed apart by blades or ripped apart from the inside or burnt out by grace.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
Uriel watched as the fledglings he watched turned into Leviathan, their oily bodies thrashing and coiling in some unspeakable writhing mess, their slavering maws filled with too many teeth.
Uriel watched as one by one, those Leviathan-once-fledglings died, frozen in ice or burned by solar fire or crushed by gargantuan vines or blown apart by lightning.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
Uriel watched as the fledglings he watched were each frozen solid in ice, like some kind of macabre statues, beautiful and unmoving but for their eyes, still twitching every which way.
Uriel watched as one by one, those ice sculptures-once-fledglings died, shattered into trillions of pieces or scorched by holy fire or crushed under the enormous clawed hand of an Archangel.
Uriel watched over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again as his charges, his siblings, his Calling, were destroyed before his eyes, helpless to do anything. He did not know how many times the gruesome scene played out, slight variations each time. It could have been a few hundred, it could have been a few thousand, it could have been a few million.
He didn’t have his wits about him enough to count.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
Uriel watched as the fledglings he watched grew in to fully-grown angels, soldiers and healers and messengers alike, resplendent in their grace. Feathers of all colours filled his vision, and trueforms of every possible element flowed easily around one another.
Uriel watched as one by one, those angels-once-fledglings died, stabbed through the neck with an angel blade, stabbed through the heart with an angel blade, stabbed through the gut with an angel blade.
The ashes of their wings painted the entire room. No longer did soft light filter in from the rest of Heaven. No longer did Raphael’s chimes gently sway in an ever-present breeze; now, only motes of soot and flakes of charcoal filled the air. Blood dripped onto the floor from where his hands hung outstretched, trying in vain to stop the slaughter of his siblings. The slaughter he had caused.
Uriel gasped, wet and broken with some kind of emotion that he had never been permitted to know, as his eyes darted about the room. The shelf of cubbyholes that the chrysalises were stored in was split down the middle and rapidly rotting, the wood wet and blackened. The soft fabrics that once draped the sanctuary were moth-bitten tatters and covered in cobwebs.
He hugged his sanguine-stained hands to his chest and curled in on himself. For the first time ever, Uriel cried. He cried for the destruction of Heaven. He cried for the death of so many angels – so many by his own hand, the very angels that he had helped to live. He cried for the absence of his Father, who had given him this task with so little guidance. He cried for the universe. Tears slipped down his cheeks as his eyes slipped shut, the blackness consuming once more. He did not know how long he cried for.
He opened his eyes.
Uriel watched as he tended to the chrysalises and fledgling angels in Heaven.
The Empty was dead.
Killed by none other than Dean Winchester and the rebellious daughter of Castiel’s vessel. They had stormed into the heart of its realm and shattered it, freeing every angel and demon and reaper that had been held trapped within.
That had been about two months ago. In the time since then, much of Heaven was in the process of being restored and rebuilt. Numerous civil wars and apocalypses and power-hunger scribes and Archangels from alternate universes had taken their toll on Heaven’s infrastructure. The Architects were hard at work, the skills they had once honed while aiding God in Creating the Earth were now being applied to their first home.
Hael had been tasked as the leader in the Architect’s efforts. When Uriel last spoke with her, she looked frazzled and utterly exhausted, but a warm core of joy glowed within her grace. She had wrapped her pale pink wings around his.
“Yes, it’s a lot of work. But it feels so good to Create again! To build and repair, rather than destroy.” She had smiled at him with unabashed bliss. “This was my Calling; it always was.”
Even more than the physical restoration of Heaven was the healing that had begun to happen within the host. Their years trapped within the Empty had given many of them a fresh perspective on their actions in the eons of their existence – their regrets, their failures, their fears.
They had forgotten that they were a family. They had become too consumed by order and rules, too hurt by the absence of their Father and the punishment of the Morningstar, too accustomed to battle and destruction that they no longer remembered that they had been Created to love.
They were fixing that now.
Uriel could barely contain himself. He could feel the magma of his trueform bubbling and popping with excitement, and his maroon feathers kept fluffing up despite his attempts to keep them under control.
He lead the way to the fledgling’s ward; behind him were Raphael, Castiel, and the nephil, Jack. The Dawnlight, as Michael had dubbed him, had briefly held the power of God, but had chosen to split it between himself and the remaining three Archangels. It was with his approval that their work here had begun, seven days ago.
As he pushed back the curtain that hung before the entrance, a brief flash of those horrific nightmares that had plagued him in the Empty filled his vision. They were gone in an instant, but he froze nonetheless. A hand gently touched his shoulder and he flinched.
“Uriel?” Castiel asked softly. Uriel glanced back towards him for a split second, then turned away. He was grateful for the second chance at life, and for the reminder of his purpose, but it would be some time before those memories rested easily on his conscious. He sent a pulse of gratitude through his grace to Castiel for his part in freeing them from the Empty and allowing Heaven to be restored. He felt an answering pulse from his brother. With that, he pushed his way in to the fledgling’s ward.
The sanctuary was exactly as he had left it he previous day, filled with soft fabrics and cushions and covered in soft leaves and mosses and hung with chimes and bells. The massive wooden shelf that held the cubbyholes that housed the chrysalises was clean and polished until it gleamed, and was empty, save for one cubby.
A single chrysalis sat in the central-most cubby. It was the same pale blue that all the chrysalises that came before it were, but occasionally a streak of green or lavender or vermillion or pale yellow would flash across its surface. Back when the angels were first Created, their Father had been the only one to Create them. Now, the Archangels all held a portion of God’s power.
This chrysalis was their trial run, to see if they were capable of making new angels. Each day of the past week had seen Uriel visited by at least one of the Archangels, all eager to see the progress of their youngest sibling. Gabriel and Michael would be visiting again later that day, but at that moment, Raphael and Jack were the ones who got to witness either the success or failure of their endeavour.
Uriel reached in and carefully, delicately, pulled the chrysalis from its resting place. He walked over and sat in a pile of downy discarded feathers and cushions and soft grass. His audience crowded around him, leaning in to stare, enraptured, at the chrysalis. Raphael had seen the process before, but never before had xe had such a personal stake in it; a few stray tongues of lightning sparked off of xir trueform.
Castiel and Jack, however, were nothing short of excited fledglings themselves. Uriel was still learning how to read Jack’s trueform the way he could read the rest of the host. He only had two arms, as compared to other angels’ four, and the proportions of his form of coiling ivy and vines were more like that of his human body than that of an angel’s. He only had one face, which again resembled his human face, but he did also boast several animal attributes: a deer’s antlers, a pangolin’s claws, a fox’s tail, fluttering gills.
His wings were the greatest indicator of his emotions. The pale yellow feathers fluffed and quivered with barely-contained enthusiasm.
“How much longer?” Jack whispered to Castiel, eyes wide with wonder. Out of the corner of his eyes, Uriel saw Castiel lean towards his son to answer.
In that moment, a sharp *CRACK* pierced the air. All eleven heads present snapped down to stare at the chrysalis. A crack had begun in its surface, just a faint line right near the top. Another loud cracking sound and the crack grew, longer and thicker and deeper into the chrysalis. None of them dared breathe, even though only one of them even needed to.
A few more moments of the chrysalis being broken open, and then there was a tiny fledgling sitting in Uriel’s cupped hands. Its stubby, featherless wings wiggled uselessly against its back. Its grace had the form of thousands of drops of rain, all holding their individual shape but joined together. One of its animal heads was that of a gecko, and the other was a fennec fox. He gently stretched a tendril of grace out to it; tentatively, it stretched its own grace out to meet him halfway.
Uriel managed to tear his eyes away from his youngest sibling and looked up at the other angels with him, up at his Archangel, who had granted him this Calling. He could feel the sting of tears in his eyes; his only previous experience with the sensation was filled with pain and misery, but he couldn’t be further from that darkness now. Nothing more than the purest joy filled him.
“Faer name is Phanuel,” he said.
Immediately, Jack was hanging off of his arm, peering down at the fledgling with wide eyes, desperately wanting to hold or talk to faer but too nervous to ask and too scared he might hurt faer. Uriel chuckled and manoeuvred Jack’s hands around, then passed Phanuel over to him. His eyes somehow managed to widen even further and his grace buzzed with anticipation.
Castiel walked forward and placed a hand on Jack’s back to steady him. He leaned around him to take a closer look at Phanuel. He bent over and pressed a kiss to the forehead of faer central porcelain mask-like face. Fae giggled at the feeling. Castiel smiled warmly at the bell-like sound of the fledgling’s laugh.
“Welcome home, little one.”