“And Lasrial,” the darkly clad angel who had already turned to pursue his divine master’s orders paused and turned back to listen to the rider that was being added to them, “when you have finished, return here and spend some time with your new sister. I believe it would be good for you.” The rhythmic sound of whetstone on steel filled the spaces between the words.
“As you wish, Lord Thaladeneth,” Lasrial bowed again, turned for his running take off and was airborne almost as soon as he cleared the balcony door. As he neared the metaphysical borders of his lord’s domain his mind was already on the task ahead. Murder was always unpleasant but, then it was supposed to be.
The secret priest was, like all of his kind who tried to do good in the world, not nearly so secret as he believed. For the matter to have gotten as far as Lasrial or another of his brothers the man had to have ignored divinely sent warning dreams and some fairly unsubtle rebukes from the priests of all three surviving Swordlords. They were down to their last option for dealing with the man and that option was Lasrial.
The house was dark and everyone asleep. Lasrial liked that. It always seemed better for the survivors if they believed the victim had died in his sleep. A few suggestions in the right ears usually saw any dependents into suitable new lives. He just needed to find the right-
“Ho villain, put up your weapon! This house is under angelic protection!” The figure that stepped around the corner radiated light, its golden hair and the gold band of feathers on each wing the only relief from the unrelenting pure white of its appearance.
“What are you doing here, Outcast? And keep it down,” hissed Lasrial, “or you’ll wake the entire household.”
“I am here to defend a righteous man whose good works enhance the lives of all around him,” proclaimed the white and gold angel.
“He worships a dead god and won’t listen to common sense and reason,” Lasrial told him flatly. “I’m what you get when common sense and reason run out of time.”
“Who are you and why are you in my house?” The sleepy man in the doorway was Lasrial’s target and obviously had no idea what was going on.
“I am here to defend you from the dark powers that would silence your light,” proclaimed the white and gold angel.
“I have to concede that,” admitted Lasrial, his blue-grey wings held in tight to reduce his profile.
“Angels fighting,” a fourth voice growled into the conversation from behind Lasrial, “if I’d known I’d have brought rat-on-a-stick. By the way, I don’t want the priest dead either. What you going to do, tough boy?”
The whiff of sulphur and the expressions on the faces of the other angel and the human together with the sound of that voice told Lasrial everything he needed to know. He said conversationally, “There’s a vard behind me, isn’t there?” The human and the other angel nodded, the angel beginning to draw the sword strapped to his side as he did so. The sword blade glowed, of course. Lasrial shifted his grip on his spear.
From behind him the vile voice commented, “Oooh, pretty boy’s got a sword, but tough boy’s going to make his move first. What’s he gonna do?”
From the sound of its voice, their normal proportions and stance, the vital point in that baboon-like body with double bat wings and a donkey tail should be-. The spear rotated in Lasrial’s hands faster than thought and he lunged backwards. The resistance and weight told him he’d met his target. Lunge forward to pull the spear free and rap the other angel on the side of the head with the butt, hard enough to knock him out. Pivot the spear round its butt and take out the third target.
And it wasn’t a clean kill. Lasrial wrenched out the spear, dropped it on the ground and caught the dying man before he reached the floor. Once the angelic weapon was removed from the wound there was no mark in the mortal flesh. “I’m sorry.” The rusty emotion in Lasrial’s voice was compassion. “That was supposed to be instantaneous, I must be out of practice.”
“But why?” The man was bewildered as his life ebbed away. Lasrial was acutely aware of other voices but this was the important one right now.
“I fought in the Death War.” So many painful memories. “I saw my lord, our lord, the First Swordlord fall under the weapons of the Vardmasters.” The dying man’s eyes widened in surprise and wonder. “I helped recover his body after the battle. I helped clean it and lay it out.” Pain and tears. “He was gone. There was no bringing him back. No resurrection. We cannot worship or serve a dead god, it’s too dangerous to the world. When you wouldn’t listen, my brother, we still had to cut off your conduit of faith. I’m sorry.” The man’s eyelids fluttered, all tension went from his muscles, his eyes dulled and he was gone. Lasrial dropped a kiss on his brow and gently put the corpse down.
“My husband…?” The woman inside the room, who must have heard if not seen everything, was sensibly terrified.
“Is dead. I’m sorry.” Lasrial was brusque but he thought sympathy from him would be unwelcome. “I’ll leave now and take the other angel with me. You should summon assistance from the authorities – your husband is dead and you have a slain vard in your hallway.”
Lasrial collected his spear, resheathed the Outcast’s sword and picked up the unconscious angel under one arm. Then he left. The entire affair had been messier than he cared for and there was still to dead man’s family to consider.
Later. “The affair was messier than usual, my lord. My apologies.”
The sound of whetstone on steel continued unabated. “Sometimes these things cannot be helped. One of the Outcast rescued from himself, a vard dead and the worship of a dead god ceased. All in all, I believe you should consider that a good result.”
“I caused unnecessary distress, my lord.” That, that stung his pride. Lasrial prided himself on doing his job cleanly.
“Distress can bear desirable fruit.” His divine master continued with his eternal task, honing the edge of a sword. “Now, go spend some time with your sister. And Lasrial,” the tone said ‘look at me’ so Lasrial raised his eyes from the floor to meet his master’s, “she has never been in a Choir. She’s as ignorant as that fool we’ve just packed off to Ashrenat’s Choir to be socialised, though less foolish. She needs you and your few brothers to teach her the things she should know.”
Lasrial’s wing’s flared in surprise and interest.
“Now,” Thaladeneth paused his honing to consider the edge of the blade in his hand, “go make friends and be about your tasks.”