The war is eternal, the barracks are full of gutter swill, and Michael sits with his soldiers – some young angels not yet scarred by battle, some hardened veterans with crooked broken noses and lashes across their skin, burns from brands, twisted flesh from whips and swords. In the trenches and camps, the border never falls, and the only thing to sing you to sleep is Israfel’s weeping over the Damned.
Sometimes, when there is a pause, and the demons retreat, Gabriel pulls out her battered trumpet and plays hymns. Raphael has an accordion, and Uriel a makeshift drum. Michael sings then. It’s a ragtime band, Vaudeville in the wastelands, for shed enough immortal blood in Heaven and the grasses, flowers, and sedge drown in ichor. All that blooms is asphodel. The angel will dance among the plain white flowers and bramble thorns.
There are also roses. One blooms every time an angel utters his or her last words. They are sickly sweet with the fragrance of lost hope and a rain that never comes. Michael picks them and presses their nectar and delivers their prayers to God’s throne room. God weeps at the loss of his children, and another poppy blooms in the fields of the slain as the snow of their Father’s tears buries the corpses. Roses, asphodel, poppy. Pink, white, red. It’s like a twisted Valentines, a love letter from Heaven to Hell.
Oh sweet nothings between Michael and Lucifer as one bites the heel and one crushes the head. Oh sweet somethings between Raphael binding Azazel in Dudael. Oh sweet possibility as Gabriel plays up the dawn with her song. Oh sweetly impossible wishes of Raphael, for healing of the broken hearts of his comrades. Oh bittersweet light of Uriel, who has run out of tears to shed – all that is left in her amber eyes is salt.
It is a Crusade. It is a Cold War. It is a chess set with poker on the side. Two masterminds, Left Hand and Right Hand of God. Over humanity perhaps, or perhaps so much more than mere hairless humans. Perhaps they fight over free will, for freedom, or perhaps they forgot what they were fighting for long ago, and the lances and armor are dressings over empty burning hearts swiftly turning to coal.
Deus Vult. As God Wills.