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Act I: Fate

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Zoltun Kulle. That was where this madness started. He was the man who created this Black Soulstone, which was designed to have the ability to entrap the souls of Angels and Demon alike. That was Itherael's part, the Archangel of Fate. For days he stayed in the library of Fate, looking to the past, present and future. From the past, he could see the dark wizard Zoltun Kulle, creating the stone for his own selfish greed; to entrap every demon and angel so humankind could rule the land and he would be praised as king. He could see it being sculpted, he could see its final, definite form, he could see--
``Itherael!`` Snapped a rather impatient voice from the mouth of the platform that Itherael was on, in meditation. Shook out of his meditation, Itherael winced slightly at the shillouette of another, larger angel, its arms crossed, its right armoured foot tapping impatiently. ``Well?``
``Nothing, Imperius. I'm sorry.`` Itherael had a habit of apologizing for everything, It was just how he was. He bumped into someone? ``I'm sorry.`` Coughed next to someone? ``I'm sorry.`` It was just a habit. And he truly did mean it; he was a very sincere angel. But Imperius wasn't having it. ``Nothing? Itherael, we're running out of time!`` Imperius growled, his brilliant flame-orange wings flapping impatiently. ``I swear,`` He snarled, ``if you don't come up with anything within the next day, I'll have you sent to the Burning Hells to die. Mark my words.``
``Yes, Imperius. Sorry, Imperius.``
``Don't feed me your 'sorry, Imperius.' You and I both know you aren't. Now, get back to studying!`` Imperius snarled, turning and storming out of the library. Again, Itherael winced. Imperius was the brother of the Archangel Of Death, Malthael. Unlike his brother, Imperius was a hothead and rarely kind to anyone. Sometimes Itherael wondered if he was even nice to himself. Next stop for the angel was Malthael's old Pools of Wisdom, when he was still the Archangel Of Wisdom. As he entered the part of the High Heavens that Malthael once dwelled in, Itherael felt a pang of loss and sadness. Malthael had once been their calm, level-headed leader, the guiding hand of the council. He was always kind, and rarely was he angry. If you needed advice? Go to Malthael. Needed a friend to lean on? Go to Malthael. He was dependable and kind, though he was known to often get into squabbles with his younger brother. Imperius was now the leader of the Angiris Council, now that Malthael left. Even now, Itherael could hear the last, stinging words that Malthael had said to his brother before he left, never to be heard from again: ``You always have been jealous of me, haven't you, Imperius?--Jealous that I was the leader, that I was the smarter of us two. Perhaps you'll have your way; perhaps you'll be the leader of the council.``
He never returned that day. The day he left, he had left gifts for each member of the council, save for Imperius. The day he left, he left with him a fracture in the council that to this day remained unrepaired. Malthael was known to make frequent departures, without any of the council knowing where he went, but until that day he never had stayed gone. Itherael could remember the day Malthael, his friend, his brother in wings, left the council for good. He was especially fed up with Imperius...

``You always act surperiour to us because you're the Archangel Of Wisdom, brother, and I'm sick and tired of it!`` Imperius snarled at the much taller angel, clenching his fists and flapping his wings irritably. ``Do I now?`` Malthael's voice was unusually cold. ``Funny you should say that; you're the one that acts so much better than the rest of us because you just so happen to be the Archangel Of Valour. But know this: your bravery makes you a fool. You let it go to your head and fuel you. When have you ever paid any of the rest of us a mere, 'good job!' or even a compliment? Never. It's always about you. You, you, you, you, you, you, you, you! I'm tired of it. Then again, you always have been jealous of me, haven't you, Imperius?`` Now Malthael's tone was even colder, like the icy hand of death itself, almost an icy, mocking tone to it. It was nothing that any angel had heard Malthael sound like, and it scared them. ''Jealous that I was the leader, that I was the smarter of us two. Perhaps you'll have your way; perhaps you'll be the leader of the council.`` And he turned and left without another word, without a single glance over his shoulder.

Shaking his head, Itherael did his best to push away the empty feeling of regret that stabbed his chest like a demonic arrow. But, like a demonic arrow, the pain failed to cease, so Itherael went by ignoring it. Trying to push thoughts of Malthael from his mind. But, then again, that was a little difficult, seen as to how he was standing in the Archangel's old quarters. Since his departure, the other Archangels tried to avoid going in as much as possible. This was Itherael's first time in, and he could now understand why: the calm essence of Malthael still lingered on the air, at a very beautiful black desk a book still lay open--Itherael wondered for how long it stood there, waiting patiently for its owner that would never return. Beside it, two candles still burned dimly, and papers written in ciphers and runes covered the desktop, layers and layers of dust covering them. Now Itherael faintly remembered Imperius' reaction to his brother's departure. He had muttered something under his breath, shaking his head--perhaps it was a ``He'll be back... He couldn't live without us.``--and turned, walking off silently, and now Itherael wondered if it ever gnawed at his leader, if the knowledge that Malthael never returned hurt. ``That's why he never comes here then?`` Itherael though out loud, and instantly was hit with a wave of remorse. Malthael's old quarters were like a funeral; you didn't talk out, and if you did it was a whisper. Turning, Itherael walked--glided, to be more precise, as he didn't want to disturb the dust on the floors that Malthael had once walked upon. Honestly, Malthael's part of the High Heavens were breathtaking--gold, blue and white, blue glimmering trees, waterfalls pooling together at Itherael's feet, others spilling down, down, down into the Lower Heavens...
``I can't take it,`` Itherael said suddenly, and he went to turn away, to return to the Library of Fate where the sorrow could chase him no longer. Then he remembered Imperius' words, and he knew one things for certain: it was not just a threat, it was a promise.

Upon arriving at the Pools of Wisdom, Itherael gasped softly in admiration. He knew Malthael had a good sense of what looked good, but if he though the rest of the place was petty, it was nothing compared to this. He wandered the pools idly before going to search. Soon, he found what he needed, and he stooped, scooping some of the shimmering, glistening blue water into his hand. He looked into it, looked long and hard, and found the information he sought. The Black Soulstone, code-named by Kulle as Snowflake Obsidian, was designed to keep the souls of all angels and demons. Yes, that he already knew, but upon looking harder, he found out that it currently contained the essences of two Lesser Evils, Duriel and his twin sister, Andariel, and two Prime Evils, Diablo's older brothers: Baal and Mephisto. Quickly, as to not disturb the water, Itherael let the water trickle from his fingers back into the pool. Straightening, he readied to tell Imperius of his findings, but a sharp pain in his side told him all he needed to know; he was too late. Corruption had began.

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``I'd take you with me, Nala, I would, but I won't risk you getting hurt, and I can promise I will be back soon,`` Malthael could remember saying that to the young human girl. That was 6 months ago. If she were pregnant, she'd be halfway through the process, he thought grimly. Over halfway. At the moment, he was taking a break from his tireless studying, and his mind was wandering to places he wished it weren't. The day he left, did he truly hurt Imperius? Did Imperius even care about him? Did he even care about Imperius? Shaking his head, he pushed the troublesome thoughts away and began tapping his fingers on the bone desk; a habit he'd picked up from Nala. A scythe in hand, he also began to let his left leg bounce a little, a tic from Vader. Looking around, he surveyed the piles of books that had been promptly tossed aside when he found no vital information in them. He knew that now he had only one rational option left, and he was far from thrilled about it. The only option now was to visit the Pools of Wisdom, but that would require him to go to the High Heavens, where the rest of the council resided. Shaking his head, he heaved a heavy sigh. He, the Angel Of Death, was trapped in a corner, with walls on all sides and but one escape. He then stood slowly, sighing. ``Why fight it, Malthael?`` He asked himself softly, ``you know you'll have to go sooner or later, and the longer you prolong it, the more people die, by the thousands; by the millions, even.`` And it was true. More and more poured into the underworld, and Malthael wished to stop the unnecessary suffering of humankind. That would require visiting his old quarters and perhaps even working with the council--with his brother--again; an idea he was not too keen on. All the same, he wouldn't mind seeing the others so much--Itherael, the Archangel of Fate, who was always abused by Imperius, quiet, soft-spoken and kind, as well as smart, but sadness always traced in his voice, Auriel, the Archangel of Hope, who always told her brothers in wings to keep hope for the future, always happy and looking up, positively, and Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, who fought for what was right, and was a kind and just friend, as well as strong.

Standing at the gates of Heaven, Malthael could feel his gut twisting. What a surprise Imperius would be in for. After all, he had only been gone for 200 years. Using this as little motivation to feel better, Malthael managed a weak laugh. Would Death be allowed into Heaven? He was an Angel, but he didn't know at this point. He took another step forward. Then another. And another. Soon he was at the very arch, about to enter heaven. Odd; there were no Angels about. But then, he was sure that things would have changed a little in 200 years. And then he stepped inside. Looking up, Malthael could just faintly see the High Heavens. Jumping into the air, he swiftly carried himself up, soon landing in the main pavilion, where they all would normally be. There was silence. Now Malthael was a little worried. Setting himself down and flapping his wings once more, Malthael began to walk. His footsteps echoed around the silent Heavens. Looking around, Malthael felt his emotions whirling as he remembered centuries worth of happy memories. However, he shoved his emotions down into a mental cage and locked them there. He didn't need them right now. he decided quickly to see if Itherael was in the Library of Fate. He knew that, in the event that he was, he could count on the Archangel to tell him what in the name of Death was going on. He tread lightly, as it was awkward for him to hear his own footsteps echoing. Soon he came to the Library, and silently, he entered. After a bit of walking, he indeed found Itherael. The angel was huddled in the corner of the main platform, his back to Malthael. ``Hello, Imperius. No, I don't have any progress on the history of the Nephalem or Zoltun Kulle, Imperius. I apologize, Imperius.`` His voice was sadder than usual, much more panicked than Malthael could ever recall, and shrill. Malthael had been told that his essence was very akin to his brother's, but if Itherael couldn't distinguish his essence from Imperius', he must have been terribly stressed. Taking Malthael's silence as an angry, threatening silence, Itherael turned, words already tumbling. ``I told you! I don't have any progress . . . ? M-Malthael...? I-I....`` Now he was at a loss for words, taking in the Archangel's appearance, and taking a moment to confirm that he was there. ``Wh-What happened to you...?`` He asked quietly. Malthael glided to him and gently grabbed his arm, hoisting the shorter angel to a stand. ``Don't mind me, what happened to you?`` Malthael responded, noting that the other was shaking. ``I-If I tell you, he-he-he'll hear me...`` Was Itherael's response. ``Who, Imperius?``
A weak nod.
``If he tries to hurt you, he... he'll have to fight me before you. Now, tell me, my brother, what has happened to you?``
``I-I... Imperius, he... demanded I f-find out what was causing this... when I found out, I-I... It was too late and-and... he... t-told me that, if I-I fa-fail again, he.... he'll k-kill me... I'm f-finding a w-way to stop this, b-but to n-no avail... I-I could... h-heh, I could use.... wisdom like your's... h-heh, he-heh....``
Malthael went to reply, but could find nothing to say. ``I... What is it that is causing this? If I knew, I'm sure I could find a way to stop it.`` Itherael looked at the other hopefully. ``T-The Black Sou-Soulstone, cr-created by the d-dark wizard, Zo-Zoltun Kulle.. D-designed to ent-entrap all souls of angels and d-demons so men could rule... I-it contains D-Duriel, Andariel, Ba-Baal, and Mephi-Mephisto..`` His voice shook still, and Malthael nodded. ``Thank you, Itherael. Come, and we shall find Tyrael and Auriel.``
``N-No Imperius?``
``No. He will be cut from this equation until further notice,`` Now Malthael was getting a stronger voice, like he'd had when he still led the council, ``until further notice, I will resume leading the council. Is that fair?``
``Y-Yes, Malthael.. Thank you,`` was Ithereal's weak, quiet reply. Though there was hope in his voice; Malthael was back. The fracture in the council could be mended, and it would become stronger than before.
``There isn't a need to thank me, my friend,`` Said Malthael softly, and perhaps, only just perhaps, he felt the same way.

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The two walked arm to arm, and Itherael was honestly struggling to keep up with Malthael's quick strides. Not only was Malthael much taller, but he was regaining the confidence he had once had as the leader of the Angiris Council. Not only that, but Itherael knew that Malthael was ready to act. To fight. The dead were rising. Demons poured onto the lands, raiding camps, murdering all in their path. And Itherael was tired of it. Malthael, he could tell, based on his posture, how he walked and the way he held his wings, was too. The demons, they'd cornered the angels in the Heavens, cowering like fools. Imperius was the only one that dared venture out, and that was rare, only to scream at Itherael. ``You're not working hard enough, Itherael,`` Imperius would say. ``Sorry, Imperius.`` would be Itherael's soft reply. ``You're practically worthless, Itherael,`` Imperius would say. ``Sorry, Imperius.``
Up until that moment that his old leader had found him cowering, that was practically all Itherael had said. ``Yes, Imperius.`` ``Sorry, Imperius.`` ``No, Imperius.`` He practically forgot how to say all other things. Even now, while fruitlessly trying to catch Malthael's attention, the words sounded strange and foregin as he said them. Softly had he explained their situation to the Archangel, who responded with a dull, ``M-hm,`` though it was clear that his mind was elsewhere. Formulating plans, weighing the odds of each idea, calculating what would work best. It's what he did. Some would dub Malthael as distant in times like these, but Itherael knew that he was working to form a plan. After a while, Itherael gave up on getting Malthael's attention, as he knew it was pointless. They walked in silence, which was interrupted by what sounded as if two were yelling as they drew near to Tyrael's quarters. Malthael started into the Armory of Justice, but Itherael put a hand on the taller angel's chest. ``Let me handle it.`` Malthael tilted his head, looking skeptically at Itherael. ``Imperius is in there, Itherael. haven't you-``
``I want him to suffer. When you see fit, appear in this archway--`` now Itherael's soft voice dropped to be even softer,``--and make him suffer at your appearance. He'll be at a loss. Make it happen, Malthael, /please/.``
``I...`` Malthael paused, choosing his words very carefully. ``I will do what I can for you, Itherael, but know this: he may not have long to go off on you, as I feel I know what he does, and I wish to not put you through more of his verbal treatment.`` To this, Itherael nodded. ``Thank you, Malthael.`` And he dissappeared into the archway. Abruptly, the yelling stopped, and Malthael could imagine his brother rounding on Itherael. ``Itherael!`` Imperius snarled. ``You worthless excuse of an Archangel! Why are you not in the Library of Fate!? Each second you waste braizenly could be another second that the demons invade us, that the dead rise!
``Moreso, did I not promise you that if I caught you from the Library you would suffer a fate worse than Inarius? Is that what you wish upon yourself?``
A soft whimper from Itherael.
``IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT!?`` Imperius shouted, and Malthael knew it was his time to play his part. Silent as a shadow, he slipped into view, his shadow falling across the three Archangles. Tyrael looked as if he had been roughly shoved to the side, while Imperius towered over Itherael. All three heads turned to look at him. ``M-Malthael...?`` Tyrael murmured softly. Instantly, Imperius straightened, looking at Itherael. Was he avoiding looking at Malthael? ``So,`` he said, his voice uncanily calm, ``this is what you have brought. You have brought Death into the heavens.``
``I brought myself into the heavens,`` Malthael replied evenly. ``Did you, now?`` Imperius' tone was cold. Not that it mattered to Malthael. ``Don't you remember, all those years ago, when I told you that perhaps you'd have your way and be leader? I was right, wasn't I?`` Malthael asked cooly. Itherael had asked him to make Imperius suffer, and he knew what would get to him. ``Aren't I always, though? How does it feel, knowing that you were the reason I left? Hm? Does it make you feel =good=?`` He taunted in a cold tone. For a heartbeat, Imperius hesitated, before responding hotly, ``You aren't my brother. You're Death itself. You /killed/ my brother.``
``Oh? Do you not remember the day that I le-``
``My brother died that day! That day--`` Now Imperius was hyperventilating, clenching his fists, his voice shaking in anger, ``--that Malthael left, he died, and you-you rose from his ashes.``
``Have it your way, then, Imperius,`` Malthael responded calmly, turning to Tyrael. ``I have heard of your troubles, Tyrael. I wish to help. It will be no easy task, however, but I believe that through our combined strengths we may find the cause of this and stop it. Will you stand by Itherael and I?`` He asked. Itherael nodded lightly, shakily turning and slinking next to Malthael. He looked very tiny compared to the other. For a moment, Tyrael seemed to be at a loss for words. However, words did not completly fail him, and he
uttered a single, simple word: ``Yes.``
``Are you out of your minds!?`` Imperius snarled, rounding on the two angels. ``Trusting and working with Death!?`` Tyrael growled, standing strong next to Malthael. ``No,`` he replied simply. ``We'd be more out of our minds to work with and trust /you/,`` Itherael snarled with surprising hostility. With that, Malthael nodded slightly. ``Now, if you'll excuse us, Imperius, we will be on our way,`` He said, turning. The two others turned as well, and they dissappeared from sight. ``I don't excuse you--...`` Imperius began, but they were already gone.

``200 years, Malthael... What happened?`` Tyrael asked. Malthael shrugged. ``I got tired of Imperius always acting like he owned us. Got tired of him being so damn bossy.``
``If I had a sword for every time I'd heard someone describe Imperius as bossy,`` Tyrael chuckled, ``my armoury would be overflown. I take that back--Heaven would be overflown.`` Twitching his wings lightly, Malthael nodded. ``Agreed. However, yes--I got sick of it. He wanted to be leader so bad? Who was I to stop him?``
``Did you ever plan on coming back?`` Itherael asked quietly. Malthael slowly shook his head. ``No. I did not. I... tried to forget about the council completly.``
``Why?``
``Too many painful memories,`` Malthael replied briskly, ``however! I am here now, and is that not what /truly/ counts?`` Tyrael nodded hesitantly. ``Well... yes. But, if you do not mind me asking: what painful memories?``
Another shrug. ``As I wandered, the good memories made here for centuries pained me. They still do. I left all of this. All of you. I mean... I didn't mind leaving Imperius as much, but...`` He broke off, and Tyrael nodded. ``I understand. I apologize for bringing it up.``
``There isn't a need to apologize, Tyrael,`` Malthael said softly. ``Are you sure-?`` Tyrael asked uncertaintly. Malthael nodded cooly. ``I am certain.``

``Why would she not be here?`` Itherael asked quizically. ``Perhaps she left,`` Malthael suggested. Tyrael and Itherael winced. ``Sorry-sorry. It's but a thought,`` Malthael added quickly. Itherael nodded. ``Yes, of course...``
``Perhaps she went to the Lower Heavens?`` Tyrael suggested. Both other angels accepted this thought. ``Well then, shall we go?`` Malthael asked. ``Yes, let's.``

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Auriel was known as the positive, happy one of the Archangels. She was the one that was always reassuring the others: ``It's okay! Everything will turn out fine!`` Even in the darkest of times, she was there, like a lantern. ``Keep hope, everyone,`` she would say, ``everything will turn out to be fine, even if it doesn't look it now.`` She was the only one of the angels that Imperius was regularly kind to, and even Malthael was convinced that he had a thing for her. Despite being the maiden of the Archangels, Auriel was not one to shy away from battle, and often would she lead Angelic troops to victory over the demonic forces of Hell. However, she did not normally like fighting, and was usually the one to come and resolve the conflicts between Imperius and Tyrael or Malthael. Among angels, she was a peace-maker. Among demons, a deadly foe. Yet even she had retreated deep into the Gardens of Hope. Despite Tyrael and Itherael both having explained what was going on, Malthael was still perturbed by the lack of noise and excitement that he clearly remembered the Heavens having. ``How long has this been in order?`` Malthael had asked. ``2 years,`` replied Tyrael softly. Itherael had nodded, adding in his quiet voice, ``Two years since I failed to bring the information of the Soulstone to Imperius in time.``
``But this is not your fault,`` Both Malthael and Tyrael had reassured him. He just shrugged. ``It partially is.``
``You have no control over the forces of Hell and what they do,`` Malthael had murmured kindly, and Itherael grudgingly nodded. ``I suppose I do not, but perhaps if I had gotten the information in time, we would not be all in our quarters, cowering like fools.``
Now Malthael was the one to shrug.

An angel's blessing is a rare thing indeed, but not unheard of. Normally, it would impart some of the angel's ability on the person. For instance, Justice would impart the gift of true justification, while Hope would impart eternal hope and the ability to make everyone smile and feel better. Fate would impart the uncanny ability to see into the past, present and future. Wisdom would impart boundless wisdom. Valour would, in the obscene idea that he were to bless a man, impart eternal and boundless bravery. An angel's curse, however, was known to be quite deadly. The curse types varied widely. For instance, sometimes it would bring about a loss of vision or hearing, while others it would lay upon the cursed a plague. Malthael, Tyrael, and Itherael felt at the moment that they themselves had been cursed, walking in circles in the Gardens of Hope. Never before had Auriel retreated this deep into the gardens, and it was a maze to them. In Malthael's case, he was waking in literal circles, thinking. Itherael leant against a wall, deep in though, while Tyrael paced. Under his breath, Malthael was muttering. If Imperius were in the vicinity, he would be quite annoyed by this habit that his brother had always had; sometimes it helped Malthael think better. ``We've gone every way, and yet we still end up back here,`` he was muttering. And then a thought hit him that he felt dumbstruck by how obvious it was: the true passageway to where Auriel resided was most probably well concealed by plants. ``That's it!`` He exclaimed out loud, causing poor Itherael to jump and hit his arm off the wall. Rubbing his arm, Itherael glanced at Malthael, puzzled. ``What's, 'it?' ``
``I've been blind this whole time,`` now Malthael was sounding excited, much to Tyrael and Itherael's bewilderment, ``the true way to where she is would be hidden behind many plants. A simple, yet ingenious trick. How I did not think of it first thing eludes me, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that we find this passageway.`` Itherael nodded slightly, wincing as he bent his arm. ``Ow-... I agree, Malthael. I'm betting it would be on the left-hand side, as her favorite direction is left. As for the statistics on the passage itself? I'll leave that to you and Tyrael.``
In response, Tyrael nodded. Malthael gestured to a path leading off to the left, then sharply veering right. The three began walking, and once more Itherael found himself struggling to keep up with Malthael's strides, which seemed to be twice as fast now. After a bit of walking, Malthael abruptly halted, and Itherael bumped into his back. A shudder ran through his entire body, wings and all; Malthael was the coldest thing he'd ever felt in his entire life. Quickly stepping away, he asked the male, ``What's wrong?``
``Here it is.`` He gestured to a particularly thick patch of thin blue tree branches. Behind them was another path, just barely visible. ``We've been so focused on an actual path that we looked past this one completely!`` Malthael was talking quite fast now, and with one hand, he gently brushed some branches from the way. Itherael swore he could see tiny tendrils of ice forming under the Archangel's hand in a swirling pattern up the branch. ``Will one of you two get these held back for me so I can get to the rest?`` Malthael asked. Tyrael offered, and as soon as his hand touched the branches, Itherael could see him visibly shudder. Malthael seemed to not notice this occurrence, however. Instead he went about pushing the remainder of the branches from the way. ``Come, now; quickly.``

As Itherael brushed past the branches Malthael was holding, he shivered once more. The branches were only a fraction warmer than Malthael himself was. Once the three of them were through, Malthael looked at Itherael, asking, ``Are you alright? I could feel you shiver a little.``
``No-no, I'm fine,`` Itherael said quickly, perhaps a little too quickly, as Malthael gave him a skeptical look but said nothing more. This passageway was illuminated solely by the glowing plants, all pruned and watered to their best health. The ceiling in here was much higher than where they were. How they had not noticed eluded Itherael. Some sort of Angelic Magic, he supposed. It was odd to Itherael, however, that his friend was so icy cold to the touch; Angels were warm. However he shrugged this off, looking at Malthael. ``Do you suppose there is more of a maze ahead of us, Malthael?``
Malthael shrugged. ``Most probable answer is yes.`` Itherael sighed. ``Fun, fun,`` he said sarcastically. Malthael snorted. ``It should be easy, however. For angels, anyway. Demons, perhaps not so much.`` And they began walking. Though all three were ready for a new puzzle, they were surprised to find that after two lefts and one right, it was a straight-shot to Auriel. Tyrael and Itherael were the first to enter, Malthael staying behind for the moment. ``Oh! Tyrael, Itherael! Why are you so far from the Armoury of Justice and the Library of Fate? ... You know Imperius will kill you if he finds you out, correct?`` Auriel sounded worried, and Tyrael chuckled dryly. ``Oh, he already knows.``
``We have the permission of someone better,`` Itherael said softly. By now, Malthael had moved into view, but Auriel was too focused on the other two males to notice his lanky shape in the archway. Itherael nodded to the arch, and Auriel looked up. For a moment, she seemed to not recognize him, and for a moment Malthael feared she would ask, ``A rogue angel?`` or, worse yet, ``Death. You have death's permission.``

``M-Malthael?`` Her voice was a quiet whisper, almost as if she didn't believe that he was there, that he was some sort of conjured image. ``You-you look so much... different...`` At a loss for words, she gently glided up to him, looking him up and down. ``So much different... Your wings--they-they... used to be the most beautiful royal purple... Now-now they're... Dustlike. I-I mean--`` now she scrambled to make her words sound nice and not what she felt sounded insulting (Malthael actually knew that she was too dumbstruck to form a coherent sentence and he knew what she meant, but he wasn't going to interrupt her), ``--they look good now, too, I-I just... W-What I meant w-was--``
``I know what you meant, Auriel,`` Malthael gently cut her off. She nodded, still having suddenly lost the ability to speak properly. Soon, however, that loss of speech was replaced by bubbly speech. ``I always knew you'd come back!`` She was saying excitedly. ``I was always telling them to keep hope that you'd come back, because I knew you would, but they didn't believe me!``
``Well, It looks you were correct,`` said Malthael absently, toying with the bulb of a tree. It appeared this specific tree only grew when chilled to the core. Ironic, is it not? Malthael though to himself. Perhaps this tree and I have things in common, He noted that it appeared to be alone, as well. ``Auriel, what kind of plant is this?`` Malthael asked suddenly. Glancing at it, she said, ``A Frostwood berry tree. Only grows when alone and very cold.`` She then noticed the part in Malthael's hand was fully blossomed; a beautiful ice blue with white streaks. None of the other bulbs were blossomed yet. ``Oh? That's wondrously odd,`` She commented softly, and Malthael quickly withdrew his hand from the blossom, letting it fall to his side. ``Indeed,`` he said coolly, giving away nothing. ``I wonder; what will this particular bloom be doing while the rest of the bulbs open and bloom?``
``Hm,`` Auriel said, tilting her head. ``As I've never seen this happen, I know not, but I'm guessing that it may close into a bulb once more? Or, perhaps it will start giving Winterberries early! Now, that would be truly wondrous...`` She trailed off, looking at the tree, pondering. Tyrael seemed to be doing the same, and he had come closer to it, inspecting each bulb, then finally the bloom. As soon as the bloom touched his hand, he sharply recoiled, jumping a half-step away. ``That thing is freezing!``
Auriel nodded. ``When fully bloomed, a Frostwood blossom is incredibly cold.`` Tyrael cocked his head. ``Interesting. I've never seen a tree quite like this one, to be honest. I mean, it's quite breathtaking, but why do they not grow all around the Heavens?``
``Again, they don't like being in crowds, or being crowded. We four are far away enough from it that it will not recoil, but if we were to get very close to it, it would recoil into itself. If the place it is growing is deep enough, and it is stressed enough, it will actually go underground. It also hates being touched anywhere besides the bulbs. If we were to grow them locally, many an angel would stop to look at it, and perhaps touch it. The poor plant would get too stressed and eventually die off.`` She shook her head slightly as she finished, and Tyrael nodded in understanding. ``I see. That makes sense enough.``
``It also does not like too much water. In fact, it does not like water at all.``
``Then how do you water it?`` Malthael asked.

``By putting cubes of ice on its base, being careful to not touch it.``
``Oh?`` Malthael said. ``Interesting plant, indeed.`` A relatable one, at that, he added silently. As Tyrael and Malthael continued to interrogate Auriel about this plant, Itherael only half listened. He was thinking hard. Malthael had only began to become visibly interested in the tree when Auriel had told him it grew by being chilled. Why is that? The bulb Malthael was idly playing with fully blossomed. Why is that?

A few hours later, Itherael was still pondering. Malthael had now turned the subject to plants of all kinds that grew by chill. ``There are many, many kinds,`` Auriel had said, ``Why are you so interested in the ones that specifically need cold?``
To this, Malthael shrugged. ``It's just an interesting concept. All plants I've seen grow only in warmth, with water and sunlight. These plants that grow with coldness and darkness are something new for me.`` Was his soft reply. And now, Auriel was showing them all around her gardens. Despite the breathtaking beauty, Itherael was only minutely interested. Following them, he pretended to be absorbed in a row of royal purple plants. However, he was putting the pieces together and he was pretty sure he'd come to an answer. Once Malthael became the Angel Of Death, reaping so many souls turned his body cold. Instead of being warm and having powers of warmth, Malthael had powers of ice and death. That was why the Frostwood bloomed in his hand; even his touch was enough to bring ice. He was so interested in the ice plants because in the event that he was going back to his quarters in the High Heavens he would probably put these exotic plants around. However, he was quite clearly keeping his command over ice a secret. 200 years ago, Malthael had been personally closest to Itherael, so Itherael hoped that still remained the case.

``Malthael?`` He asked gingerly. ``Might I talk to you for a moment?`` Nodding, Malthael glided over to the shorter angel. ``You two, go on, I'll be along within a matter of time,`` He said to Auriel and Tyrael. Both nodded, and moved forward a few feet, Auriel saying something about a frostspitter. ``What is it, Itherael?`` Malthael then asked, his tone soft, friendly. For a moment, Itherael was silent. How was he to word this? ``I... you seem quite interested in the ice plants?``
``Ah, yes. Because I've never seen a plant grow under those circumstances,`` Malthael responded calmly. ``And because you have command over ice?`` Itherael asked, not unkindly. ``E-Excuse me? I'm sorry, what?`` Malthael asked, but there was no hiding it. His voice had clearly cracked. ``You don't have to hide it, not from me, Malthael,`` Itherael said softly, ``I think I understand how it happened. I'm not mad. I'm actually interested.`` Malthael shook his head gently. ``N-No, no, you'd not understand-...``
``Malthael, please,`` Itherael asked quietly, pleading. Sighing, Malthael shook his head. ``I suppose. Perhaps, yes, my powers have converted themselves to ice. I am interested in the plants that grow with ice and darkness because... perhaps I will return to my quarters, to the Pools of Wisdom. If so, I will be redesigning somewhat, and the plants would make for a nice touch. As well as that... I feel I can relate to them.``
``How?``
``They prefer to not be crowded, do not like water, like the dark, and like ice. In ways, I can relate to those plants... please, do not tell Tyrael? Even if he asks?`` Malthael asked, and there was a genuine fear in his voice. ``Are you scared of having to leave again?`` Itherael asked very softly. ``Worse than that, getting thrown out,`` Malthael's normally calm voice shook only very slightly. Itherael patted Malthael's arm once, shuddering. ``You should be getting back to Auriel and Tyrael; they'll be missing you,`` he murmured, and Malthael nodded. ``I suppose I shall... Will you be staying back here?``
``Yes; ice plants do not interest me,`` Itherael said honestly, and Malthael nodded once, turning and gliding to catch up with the other two. Sighing, Itherael began looking at the royal purple flowers once more. Those used to be the color of his wings, he though sadly.

Chapter Text

Justification, the idea of righteousness. Acceptance. Nothing Imperius ever understood completely. By now he was deep in the Gardens of Hope, his thundering footsteps echoing aggressively. He knew where the traitor he was misfortune enough to call his brother was, and he knew where the arrogant fool known as Justice was, as was the worthless excuse of an Archangel known as Fate was. They were with Auirel, the only one save for himself that was pure, that was a true Archangel. Upon arriving, the first he glared at was his worthless brother. ``Ah, there's the traitor. The traitor, the fool, and the scumbag,`` Imperius' voice was an icy cool. Now he approached Malthael, and jabbed a finger sharply into his chest, only to recoil; he was freezing. ``What the-? T-traitor... Traitor! Traitor! You've fallen to the dark. You are no longer Angel. You're no better than demon,`` Imperius growled. ``Oh, really?`` Malthael hissed maliciously. ``Yes. I could more call Lord Diablo my brother than you.``
``Ah, funny, funny. But I have no brother,`` Malthael snarled. A gasp rang out through the Archangels, and for moments, there was silence. And then Imperius swung at Malthael. Easily, Malthael side-stepped, catching Imperius' fist with his own and twisting viciously. Imperius let out a howl of pain and dematerialized for a moment, only to remateralize behind Malthael, but Malthael was ready, flapping his wings backwards, sending a gust of frosty air at Imperius, stunning him for the moment. Auirel stumbled backwards, into Itherael's arms, him catching her before she could fall. ``Are you okay?`` He asked gently. She nodded breathlessly, and he could tell that both Tyrael and Auriel were shocked at this use of ice magic. Turning, Malthael slammed his forearm into the side of Imperius' face, then executing a sharp kick to his ribs. Imperius snarled, body-slamming Malthael's much leaner, stronger body, throwing him off-balance. He, however, regained this moments later, ramming his shoulder into Imperius as hard as he could without doing any fatal damage. If angels had bones, all of the bones around and including Imperius' clavicle would be snapped. Instead, it caused a massive amount of pain. Imperius yowled, grabbing at Malthael's arm with the intention to break it. Malthael slipped from his grasp easily, like a ferret. As Itherael watched this helplessly, he could feel his worry growing by the second; he knew one of the pair was bound to pull a weapon, and it would most likely be Imperius. Somehow, Imperius landed a blow to Malthael's ribs. Wincing, anger changed his posture completely, his shoulders and wings hunched. He almost looked like a wild animal, and Itherael felt himself take a step back, dragging Auriel with him. Quicker than Itherael had ever seen anything be in his life, Malthael's arm flashed out and met Imperius' neck, lifting him high above his head, his claws closed tightly around it. All Imperius could do now was desperately claw at Malthael's relentless grip. Struggling, Imperius aimed a kick at Malthael's face, who moved his head, closing his claws in more, them now threatening to dig into Imperius' neck. Imperius began letting out choked sputtering noises. ``Tr.... a... ito.....r...`` He managed in his voice that was still somewhat strong, though desperate. After a few more lingering heartbeats, Malthael threw Imperius, far, and Itherael sucked in a sharp breath when he hit a pillar and crumpled, collapsed in a heap of flaming orange wings and golden armour. He did not move. Malthael was panting, his shoulders bobbing up and down as his hunched, lean black figure backed up a little bit, the armoured hand's claws curling in. Then. to Itherael's relief, and even, to his horror, disappointment, Imperius stirred. It was very faint; a mere shift of the wing, but it was enough. Now he hoisted himself to stand, growling, and suddenly his spear appeared in hand. ``Playing weapon now, are we?`` Malthael snarled, twitching his fingers out, and suddenly his dual crescent hand-scythes were in hand. With a shout, Imperius charged at his brother, aiming for his chest. Malthael blocked his attack with a scythe, swinging at Imperius' neck. Imperius jerked his head back, snarling and spinning his spear in a counterclockwise circle, kicking Malthael in the stomach (he wasn't quite as flexible as Malthael, and did not have the capability to kick his taller brother in the chest) sending him staggering backwards. Vulnerable to attack, Imperius let out an angry cry and charged. Using both scythes, Malthael stopped the spear, the tip only inches away from where a mortal's heart would be. Now it was will against will, Imperius still relentlessly pushing forward, trying to drive it deep into Malthael's chest, Malthael keeping the spear in place. For all Imperius was concerned, this was no longer his brother. This was some dark manifestation that had taken over his brother's body. After a few moments, Imperius realized that there was no hope for getting him like this, so he jerked the spear sharply to the left. Taken by surprise, Malthael had no time to block, and a deep wound appeared in his upper arm. Before blood could spill, Malthael created a bandage of shadow around it, but the damage had already been done; brilliant white blood splattered the spear tip, Malthael, and Imperius. Now, with even more vicious intent than before, Malthael had his scythes at Imperius' throat, and Imperius, his spear at Malthael's stomach. It was at this point that Auriel intervened.

``You two, stop it!`` She commanded, stepping between the two seething Archangels. ``You two are brothers, for Heaven's sake!``
``He is no brother of mine,`` Imperius snarled. Auriel shook her head. ``Have it your way, Imperius.`` Malthael snarled at him and slipped from the two others to return to Tyrael and Itherael. As soon as he was within range, Itherael began talking. ``M-Malthael, y-you're injured, m-may I h-hea-``
``I'm fine, Itherael.``
``No, Malthael, you're not,`` said Tyrael gently, and Malthael snarled. Itherael flinched back, and Malthael sighed. ``I'm sorry, Itherael. T'is but a flesh wound, as mortals are fond of saying.`` Itherael nodded, though he was visibly shaking. ``Come, then; let us go,`` Offered Tyrael, and the other two obliged, walking out of that particular area of the gardens, perhaps to wander, lost, trying to find the way out.

Now Imperius and Auriel were left alone. After a few moments, Imperius discovered that Auriel was silently crying. Upon noticing this, all aggression seemed to melt away. Instead he put one hand on her shoulder, the other sliding under her chin to lift her face so he could look at her. ``Auirel, my love, what's wrong?`` He asked softly, sounding genuinely concerned. ``You two are-are brothers!... Why can't you just get along? You always fight with Tyrael and Malthael, and you verbally abuse Itherael. If you see them in a negative light, see me in a negative light too. If you see me in a positive light, see them in a positive light, too.``
Imperius went to reply, but found nothing to say. Instead he pressed a gentle kiss to Auriel's forehead. ``Do not cry, my love...``
Auriel all but looked up at him. ``How am I supposed to not, Imperius...?``

Chapter Text

For the first time in 200 years, Malthael was back in his quarters, in the Pools of Wisdom. Nothing had changed, and even the book wrote in ancient Horadrim runes remained open to the exact page he left it open at, and the white candles still burnt. Dust covered everything, and for a moment Malthael felt a twinge of loss. His gray wings drooped for a moment, but quickly he make this look like a roll of his shoulders. Itherael wasn't fooled by his friend, though. ``Malthael?`` He asked softly. ``What's wrong?``
``Nothing, nothing, Itherael,`` Malthael responded briskly. After a skeptical look from Itherael, he added on softly, ``I suppose it is just toying with my emotions, seeing that everything is still... how I left it. Moreso, I have been thinking, and...``
``And?`` Itherael asked, holding his breath, bouncing on his heels slightly. In response, Malthael took a deep breath and said, ``I decided I will be returning to the Council.``
``R-really-?``Itherael asked, almost expecting this to be a joke. ``Really.`` Malthael nodded as he said this, and in his giddy excitement, Itherael pulled the taller Archangel into a bone-crushing hug. Malthael recoiled a little, before awkwardly patting Itherael's back. Itherael's head was just below Malthael's, his forehead against his neck. After a few moments, Malthael smiled half-heartedly and murmured, ``Alright, lay off, Itherael, you're crushing me.``
Quickly, Itherael stepped back, mumbling, ``S-sorry, Ma-Malthael..`` However, his wings remained perked up, rippling happily, giving away his excitement and happiness. To this, Malthael chuckled. ``There isn't a need to try and hide your excitement, Itherael, for finally you will have a just leader.``
Itherael nodded, rocking on his heels once more, his brown and white armour swishing about. However, as a thought crossed his mind, his excitement faltered. ``And Imperius?`` He asked quietly. Malthael opened his mouth to reply, but paused, not sure how much Itherael was going to like his next words. Finally, he decided to say it straightforward, and not, as mortals were fond of saying, sugar-coat it. ``I am... making him an offer.``
``An 'offer'? Of what sorts? Malthael, you know-... You know he didn't like being second in command,`` Said Itherael softly, having guessed what Malthael's brilliant 'offer' was. To this, Malthael shrugged, the ram skulls on his shoulders shifting slightly. ``At least he would be in a place of power,`` he said, ``and if he refuses, well, I decided that you would make a good second in command.``
``M-me!?`` Itherael asked, stunned. ``Yes, you. Think about it, Itherael: you're much wiser than most of the council, and even wiser than me in ways. For instance, I may be perhaps the wisest in all of creation, but I cannot see into the past, present and future at will. You can,`` Malthael responded softly. Itherael blundered for words, but found none. ``I-I... Malthael, you can't possibly be serious...`` But he knew he was dead serious (no pun intended there) about his words. Malthael only gave Itherael an amused look in response. Itherael shook his head. ``Why not Tyrael? Or-or Auriel?`` He asked. Malthael chuckled; it seemed as if Itherael was scared to be second in command. ``Auriel is more the healer kind; I see her not as a leader.``
``Yet you see me as a leader? And what about Tyrael?``
``Yes, I do see you as a leader. Tyrael and I have devised a plan, to aid our war against this Black Soulstone,`` Malthael responded. ``A plan?`` Itherael asked. Malthael nodded. ``That being?`` Itherael pressed. Malthael pursed his lips. ``Before you ask, this was actually not my idea whatsoever.``
``Alright, alright, go on-!`` Itherael pleaded, his curiosity nagging at him. ``I'm getting to that,`` Malthael chuckled, ``now, come close; Imperius cannot hear of this...``

``You've to be joking with me-!`` Itherael sputtered, clinging to Malthael's arm tightly. Malthael simply shook his head. ``We-we've lost you once, we can't be losing Tyrael! It was bad enough losing Wisdom, we don't need to lose Justice, too!``
`` 'Too'? Itherael, you make it sound as if I'm still in Pandemonium, as if I haven't made my decision to join with the Council once more,`` Malthael responded calmly. Itherael just rapidly shook his head; after Malthael's departure, Tyrael was his closest comrade. Why was it always his friends that left him? Was there... something wrong with him? ``Why is it always my friends that leave?`` Itherael wondered out loud, his soft voice rising in desperation to get Malthael and Tyrael to change their minds. ``Is there-there something about me?``
``No, what-?... Itherael, listen--`` Now Malthael pulled his arm free of Itherael's relentless, though somewhat weak (weaker than Malthael's grip, I should say) grip and placed his hands on the smaller and younger angel's shoulders, ``--it's nothing against you. I know you only believe that due to how you've been treated by my brother, but I can assure you by everything Holy that it is nothing against you. You, my friend, are a wondrous angel, and I would never trade anything for a friend like you; not even the wisdom to answer the unanswerable questions of life and death that haunted me for so long. Tyrael, as I said, volunteered. You and I both know his fondness of mortals, and his dislike of my brother. It went hand in hand, my friend.``
Itherael whimpered. ``The Angiris Council may as well be crumbling on itself,`` he whispered, his voice barely audible. Malthael shook his head. ``No, no. It is far from crumbling, it is strengthening.``
``By losing more members? Perhaps we were not destined to be five... The Scroll of Fate has known to be wrong on occasion...``
``Itherael, listen to me,`` Malthael said in his gentlest tone, as to soothe the panicking Archangel, ``your Scroll of Fate is not wrong; we were destined to be five. Just because Tyrael is leaving the Heavens does not mean he is leaving us. Justice will still be Justice, as Valour will still be Valour, Hope still Hope, Fate still Fate...``
``And Wisdom?``
``That is what I am uncertain of. We were born from the Crystal Arch as pure aspects, but I, you could say, am no longer the pure aspect of Wisdom. I, as well, am the aspect of Death. The Heavens do not represent Death.``
``So you are uncertain of your true place,`` Itherael finished for the other quietly. Malthael nodded. ``Precisely. The Heavens represent Valour, Justice, Hope, Fate, and Wisdom, but not Death. Death, you could say, is the polar opposite of Heaven.``
``But isn't that Hell?``
``Well, yes and no. Hell is the literal and figurative polar opposite of Heaven, it representing Fear, Hate, Destruction, Pain, and Anguish.``
``But not Death.``
Malthael nodded. ``Which is why I am not one with Hell by what I represent. Death is... like a line between the two. Here, you have Heaven--`` He gestured up in the air a little, ``and here--`` now a ways below, ``Hell. And here, in the middle--`` He made an imaginary line with a hand movement, ``--is Death. Death is what all must face in the end. Whether they be mortal, demon, or even angel. Before I had decided to govern Death, when a demon, mortal, or angel died, their spirit had nowhere to go. All they could do was wander aimlessly across the breath of creation until they expired--`` he ruffled his wings once, the dustlike strands creating patterns, some twining up Malthael's arm into his hand, creating a tree, ``--and yet even then there remained energy.`` Now they created a seed, its rapid process into a flower, then its wilted ruin. However, as the flower withered, the seed remained in perfect health. ``Though not visible to most, the energy of every once living thing still resides. However, eventually, after time, these lost souls begin to, ah, what's the word?--decompose, let's say.`` Now the seed began to decompose, and Itherael nodded, transfixed on the hazy gray lines moving rapidly around Malthael's open palm. ``Once fully decomposed,`` Now the gray lines were only a faint outline of the seed, ``the souls are virtually dead. Of course, there is still energy left, but not enough to be called a coherent soul or spirit. I have taken to calling them wanderers, or, more accurately, raw energy.`` Again, he ruffled his wings, and the smoky tendrils retreated back into the skeletal outlines. ``If you don't mind me asking... What were those gray things? Are... Were they decomposed souls?``
``Exactly what they are. Decomposed souls.``
``So--your wings are...?``
``Mostly decomposed souls? Yes. However, there is still much devine energy left. That is why the souls can freely move. I suppose that you could say they are one with me now,`` responded Malthael. Itherael blinked. ``Hm. So... please, go on about what you were saying; I'm interested... I never knew that being the Angel Of Death was so... complicated,`` Itherael murmured, a hand wandering over to Malthael's left wing, propping his head up by his other hand, which rested on his leg (in the time Malthael had explained he and Tyrael's idea, they had taken a seat on a rather well furnished bench, after thoroughly dusting it off) gently. He tapped his fingers on the side of his face as he toyed with a few strands of souls. By now he was used to the coldness of Malthael's wings. Malthael nodded to what he had requested. ``As you wish, my friend. As stated, these souls had nowhere to go until they were decomposed, only mere fragments of energy. As I wandered, I encountered many, as I can see you've seen. I felt a pity for these souls and began to study the subject of Death. As I learnt, I felt the rift of pity grow deeper and deeper with each rune I read. These souls had nothing left for them once Death claimed them, even if they died heroically in battle. Demon, human and angel alike all suffered the same fate. Some souls I talked to, of demon in particular, told me of this: they were very much akin of the demon from the creation of Sanctuary, the ones who wished to be free. They felt that human, angel, and demon could get along fine, but never mentioned this to others; as they were afraid of a punishment similar to Inarius'. Consequently, they fought bravely for the Demonic cause, albeit unwillingly, and many of them died heros of their time.
``I took immense pity on these souls, and I asked them to join me on my trek. Still, they are with me.`` Malthael brought his wings forward, to rest in front of him, and five silvery strands of energy wrapped around Malthael's left arm, resting in his hand. As he spoke, Malthael nodded to each strand.
``Litherius, Izal, Zillos, Modaan, and Ithreaus,`` He said. The strands created hazy outlines of the heads of demons. Two were Darksky Fire Demons--Izal and Modaan--one was a Storm Caster--Zillos--and Ithreaus and Litherius were Oppressors. Itherael vaguely remembered hearing at one point of the Demonic champion Litherius. And hadn't he heard of Izal, the Darksky elite? Modaan began speaking Demon, a language that sounded gibberish to Itherael, and, surprisingly, Malthael translated. ``He says: 'so, you are the Archangel Itherael? Aspect of Fate, I believe? Much have I heard of you--both from Demonic Archives and Malthael.--' `` a chuckle from the demon, `` '--In fact, Malthael talked much of you. You and Justice. Tyrael was his name, correct? All of it was positive, there's no need to worry. As Malthael told you; I was a victor of the demons, but I did not feel it. I felt a downer, a loser. I did not want to help the Demonic cause. I actually wished to assist in the Angelic cause.' ``
``Did you ever try telling any of our numbers?`` Itherael suggested. Modaan nodded fiercely. `` 'Oh, yes, I tried many a time. But each time I got the same response: "You're here to kill me, too, aren't you? Get back, demonic scum!" I even had Zillos with me; he is my translator. I can't seem to wrap my head around you angel's tongue, but I'm working on it. In fact, I do have a few words memorized, along with their meaning. It was mostly what I heard your numbers shout on the fields. ' ``
The demon shook its head, and for a moment its form went hazy, before returning. It's voice was scratchy, and the words sounded unfamiliar to it: ''Fight,'' ''run,'' a word in demon, most likely 'and', ''retreat.'' Modaan seemed fairly proud of himself. Malthael smiled, speaking in, to Itherael's surprise, the same demonic gibberish as Modaan. Before Itherael could ask where in Sanctuary had Malthael learned to speak demon, there was a banging on the wall at the mouth of Malthael's quarters. The five demon souls zipped back down Malthael's arm and into his wings once more with surprising speed, and Itherael could make them out of the rest; they were the brightest silver. Malthael let his wings fall behind him once more. ``Malthael!`` growled a familiar, angry voice. ``Yes, Imperius?`` Responded Malthael in a sweetly calm voice. Imperius snarled. ``Get out here. You, too, scumbag. The Council holds a meeting once more, to discuss the fate of Wisdom, the traitor.`` Both Itherael and Malthael exchanged a glance, and Itherael swore he heard a faint voice from Malthael's wings say, ''This can't be good--Imperius is a scan'kas.''
Malthael only laughed humourlessly. ``Scan'kas, indeed.``

The council was seated at the foot of their posts, and all, save for Imperius, looked on in worry. There wasn't a shadow of doubt that Imperius would be hard on his brother, but each others knew one thing: Malthael belonged in the Council. Malthael was restless, knowing the same as the others: Imperius would do all in his power to keep him from returning. ``So,`` Imperius called loudly, his booming voice echoing throughout the meeting hall. Though no-one could hear it but Malthael, Izal, Modaan, Zillos, Ithereus and Litherius were having hushed debates on the subject of whether Malthael would win or not. (Translated) ''Malthael is older, and much wiser. He by default has more of a case on his side,'' Modaan was saying. ''Yes, and yet Imperius is the head of the council,'' pointed out Izal. ''And yet Malthael has the entire council on his side. And, do you not recall? Malthael was the first leader. He left because of Imperius,'' Ithereus argued. ``We have gathered today,`` continued Imperius, ``to discuss the fate of my brother, Malthael. The Archangel of Death.``
Tyrael and Auriel exchanged a glance. Itherael shifted uncomfortably. ``Should he be allowed to resume his post as the Archangel of Wisdom? Or be banned from the Heavens forevermore?``
Now Tyrael and Itherael exchanged a glance. Both looked highly uncomfortable and worried.
``We will take a vote. As well as that, we will argue our point. I vote him out of the Council, to ban him from the Heavens,`` Imperius huffed. Everyone seemed rather angry at Imperius, but none took it as far as Itherael. ``Of course you do, you attention-loving skrog,`` He hissed under his breath. Tyrael gave him an alarmed look. ``I'm sorry, what was that, Itherael? I couldn't hear you,`` Imperius hissed through clenched teeth. ``I said,`` Itherael said, raising his voice so he could clearly be heard by everyone. Without even a waver of his voice, he repeated himself. ``What I said was, 'of course you do, you attention-loving skrog!``
A shocked silence followed his words, and Malthael found that even the five demons had gone quiet, shocked at the shy angel's sudden outburst of anger. But Itherael wasn't done. ``I'm not even slightly surprised you vote him out! After all, he's a "traitor"! And I'm a "Worthless scumbag" and Tyrael's a "arrogant, foolish bastard." Well you know what? We do things! Malthael was braver than the rest of us, venturing to far reaches and doing things that no other person would! He risked his life making the Underworld because he felt pity for the souls. Would you like to know what would happen to you when you die if it weren't for Malthael? Even if you died in honour, your spirit would be bound to wander the breath of creation until you decompose--waste away--into nothing! Thanks to Malthael, that won't happen! Your sorry corpse will still have something to do in the after-life! Of course...`` Now Itherael smirked, a dangerous glint in his eye as he lowered his voice, ``... If you would rather rot away than go into the Underworld made by your brother as to help spirits no longer suffer, that could easily be arranged. Or, if perhaps you'd like to put yourself in Malthael's wings and impose yourself into self-exile because you were sick and tired of your brother being so damned bossy to you and everyone around you, you can do that too. We won't care.
``Tyrael fights for true justice, Auriel heals the wounded and gives us all eternal hope, I, the alleged worthless scumbag, watch fate itself, and when a war that could be avoided appears, or a life-threatening disaster, I steer people away from that. Malthael made an entire new dimension so that those who died will not suffer and waste away! You? All you've been doing since Malthael left is cowering behind your throne, ordering us all around as your slaves, and mooching up to Auriel so you feel the slightest bit of important. I don't know if you've heard it today, but you may be Valour but you are a fool. A fool and a coward. How many times are you on the battlefield with us, fighting against Demonic forces? Never! You cower behind lines and lines of angels that you brazenly send out to die, yelling orders like we are your pets. Even when Malthael was here, you still ordered us around! You quarreled with him non-stop because you though you would make a better leader. But you seem to think you're the best at everything, then. Take my position, too, why don't you? The same goes to Tyrael's, and Auriel's! Do you suppose you could be Wisdom, too? And do you perhaps think that you could govern Death, as well? Take on the jobs of everyone in Heaven, then, since you're so great at everything!`` Itherael snarled, breathing heavily. Again, a very, very shocked silence followed, and it appeared even Malthael was shocked. For once, Imperius had nothing to say. ``I vote that Malthael stays, and perhaps even takes up his post as leader again,`` Itherael growled darkly, ``who else is with me?``
After a very long pause, save for the sounds of wings ruffling and flapping softly, a murmur of, ``I`` came from Tyrael and Auriel. Malthael restrained a chuckle as a chorus of ''I!''s came from the demons, too. Modaan even said, (Translated) ''I, you showoff, nit-witted, attention-whore!''
Imperius opened his mouth to reply, but could find, for once, nothing to say. Instead he flapped his wings angrily. ``I... see,`` he said after yet another long pause, ``so all of you are with... him. Even you, Auriel, I see. And where am I in this equation?``
``Everywhere, clearly, seen as to how everything has to be about you,`` Itherael snorted coldly. That shut Imperius up again. Malthael shot his friend a grateful look as he ruffled his wings once again, rolling his shoulders.
Another long round of silence issued, and it almost seemed as if the others were waiting to be dismissed. But by who? Malthael wondered. A glance from Auriel was all the answer he needed. He, Death, had been voted back as the leader of the Angiris Council. ``I... Everyone is... dismissed.`` He sounded unusually nervous to himself, but that was because he truly was. He hadn't led anyone for 200 years, save for the Death Maidens, many of which he knew would kill anyone to be his maiden. He wasn't interested, however. He was thankful for their loyalty, however, he only wished they would not be so clingy, as well as kinky, even. There was one that referred to him as master, all the time, even in casual conversation. Malthael shook his head slightly at the though of this. Within a matter of minutes, all other angels had cleared out. Now it was just Malthael and Imperius. Imperius was staring blankly, silently, at a wall, his wings held unnaturally rigid. Malthael noticed this and walked over. ``Imperius, are you okay-?`` He asked, only to have his younger brother snarl and round on him. ``Oh, I'm terrific, oh, leader. Just absolutely fantastic. Now, who will you be appointing second-in-command? Fate, perhaps?``
``No, I actually was thinking about appointing you second... You still deserve power. As much as I care for Itherael as a friend, you didn't deserve all the things he said to you, (a small ''Yes he did!'' could be heard from Malthael's right wing) and I believe that now you have true leadership skills you would make a wonderful second-in-command.``
``Oh, no! Go ahead--pick Fate or Justice! As Itherael said, 'we actually do things! All you do is cower behind your throne!' Do you really want a coward as a second-in-command?`` Imperius snarled. Malthael put his hands into the surrender position and backed away slowly. ``I'm being serious, but... if you don't want it then, yes, Itherael will be my second-in-command.``
``Let him be that, then,`` Imperius hissed venomously, and Malthael nodded, turning and walking rather quickly out of the hall.

Chapter Text

Malthael was doing some major redesign to his quarters. Already he had told Itherael of the news, and now the pair of men stood in Malthael's quarters, most of which were black now. Currently they stood in his room, and Itherael only watched as the colors turned darker. Now the room was mostly black, lit by white candles. The ink was black and red, assortments of demon blood and mortal blood. A letter-opener resided on top of several scrolls and scrolls of parchment wrote in runes. Already was the room rather cluttered, as it once had been years past. A week since Imperius' rejection had passed, and Malthael was doing well to resume his post as Wisdom. Itherael had actually walked in on his leader furiously scribbling with both his left and right hands (he was left handed naturally, however he could write with both hands and write two different things, quite fast, with each hand. As well as this, he could use his magic to levitate additional quills and write even more) in runes. Now they stood in the once white room. Malthael glanced at his second-in-command slightly. He was looking around the larger, cluttered room. Everything was dark gray, to black. Even the bed. Even now the desk was cluttered, scrolls, candles, ink bottles--both empty and full--and an assortment of quills covering the top completly. Boxes of tomes and other assortments of items were placed and stacked oddly around the room. Save for the dark colors, the room appeared the same as it had before; cluttered, yet somehow organized and neat. Itherael looked around silently, and Malthael sighed, picking up a quill, pulling a chair from the desk, dipped it in demon blood ink, and began scribbling. His handwork was very loopy and beautiful, and he scribbled in Horadrim Runes. It wasn't uncommon for any of the other Archangels to walk in upon him doing this, and he usually wouldn't acknolwdge them. Instead he would merly nod, if even that. Most times the angels would not come to him directly, instead sending letters to him via messanger. Again, he would only acknoledge these messanger angels with a curt nod. He then would take the letter into a free hand, open it with a rather sharp letter opener that looked it could inflict fatal wounds if used correctly, skim the contents, grab a new piece of parchment from the large, and somewhat messy pile, dip his quill into the ink, and begin writing a response in his loopy, beautiful handwriting, never even pasuing in his writing of the other things in his other hand or magic. Itherael even dared to dub his friend affectionatly as a "workaholic." To this, Malthael only chuckled.

Itherael, by now, had seated himself on Malthael's dark bed, watching the darker angel write, now with both hands. He craned his neck to see what he was writing, and the talented angel was writing a letter to... Tyrael, it appeared? with his left, which he knew was his best hand, and another to Auriel with the other. Somehow the silence, save for the scratching of quills on paper and the flickering of flames, was calming. Currently Malthael was writing what appeared to be 35 documents, each on seprate scrolls or parchment with different quills. That was the smallest ammount of papers that Itherael had ever seen him writing at once. Malthael seemed to have the uncanny ability to predict the future, even better than Itherael himself. ``Itherael,`` he said suddenly, halting all writing but not looking at his leuitenant. ``Yes, Malthael?`` Itherael asked, his gut twisting. His friend's voice was unusually cold, and almost had a sense of urgency to it. ``Go, fetch Imperius.``
``But, surely-?``
``No. Go, fetch him.`` Malthael let a sigh escape his lips. ``Please,`` he added to the timid Archangel, letting his voice drop to a soft whisper and letting even the tiniest bits of worry and stress show through. Hearing his friend's worry, Itherael nodded breathlessly and stood, rushing from the room in a flurry of armour, robes, and wings. Malthael sighed, looking up at the ceiling that was charmed to look like a mortalkind's night sky. Destruction was coming, he knew it to be so. He only did not know of when.

Itherael rushed from the Pools of Wisdom to the main pavillion, to see if Imperius were there. Upon noting his absence from the area, he knew where he would be: the Gardens of Hope. Which teir, he did not know. He rushed to the Gardens of Hope, passing by his Library of Fate on the way. An Angel of Fate, a mute one that he took pity on, waved to him, but he merly shot a glance in its direction before continuing on. Malthael's worry and stress had worried him, as well; is the Archangel of Wisdom was in stress and worry, if their leader was in stress and worry, they all should be worried, at the least. Malthael was not one to show his emotions while serious; it was yet another trait he shared with the aspect of Wisdom and Death. But Itherael tended to not show emotion whatsoever--Tyrael and Malthael were the only two lucky to see his emotion. However, Malthael had began to be the same, drawing back from his brother and Hope. Ever since Malthael's squabble with Imperius in the Gardens, and the one immediatly after the meeting, the two had become painfully distant. Though in 200 years they had never been closer to each other physically, Itherael and the other two, as well as the rest of the angels and beings of Heaven, knew that the two brothers had never before been so distant with each other. When in the same area, the two would lack to even acknoledge each other. When the other was brought up in conversation, they would go silent. Yet all the same, Itherael knew well enough that Imperius would oblige to his much calmer brother's request to see him. Perhaps, Itherael offered to himself, he believes we will be going into a war, and he wants Imperius to discuss the strategy. Yes, he concluded with a nod, that must be it. Soon he came to the large pavillion where the Angels of Hope resided. Many an angel looked up upon his unepected appearance. ``Do any of you know where Archangel Imperius or Mistress Auriel is?`` Itherael asked breathlessly. He didn't stutter as much when around lesser angels; for it was not their judgement he was afraid of. One small angel with faint blue wings perked up. ``Y-yes, s-sir,`` she squeaked, ``he-he i-is on the 4 teir o-of the Ga-gardens of Hop-pe.`` In reply, Itherael nodded. Perhaps this angel was shy. Akin to me, he thought grimly. ``Thank you, angel.``
The small female nodded, squeaking a sort of ``it is my duty, sir`` quietly. Itherael brushed past the angels without another word, and disappeared into a flash of light. He reappeared on the fourth teir, looking around. Crystal trees grew around the walkways, and streams connected the trees. Itherael flapped his wings once, folding them against his back. Thank Anu he was a master of teleportation. He finally chose his path to go from the six to be chose, from his gut feeling, as mortals called it. He veered to the left, his steps echoing. Soon he came to a fork in the road. Oh, no, he though jokingly, a fork! Whatever am I to do? Itherael then closed his eyes, his moment of humour fading. He forsaw what each path held were he to take them. The left, a series of twists and turns that led to a large display of giant crystal trees; the right, a left, another left, a right, and Imperius and Auriel. He opened his eyes once again, and turned to the right. A soft huff escaped his lips as he began walking at a fast pace. Despite the fact he knew Imperius and Auriel were cuddling, and he knew Imperius would be hostile, he trekked on. A left came, then another left, then a right. He came to an array of crystal trees, the largest of the group in the middle. In the largest tree sat Imperius, seated on a branch, Auriel in his lap. Valour's arms were curled around her waist, and her hands entertwined with his much larger ones. Her eyes were closed, and Valour rested his head on Hope's, a deep purr rumbling in his chest. For a moment, Itherael observed this quietly, a slight smile gracing his features. Even the surly Imperius had his sweet side. However remorsfully, he knew he had to interrupt this rare moment. He cleared his throat loudly, and Imperius opened one eye to look at him. Upon seeing it was him, he scoffed. ``What do you want, Fate?`` Itherael flinched instinctivly, but soon regained composture. ``M-Malthael wishes to see you, Imperius,`` he said. Imperius sniffed. ``Does he? And what proof is there?``
As if on cue, the imposing Archangel appeared next to Itherael in a flash of dark light, his arms crossed. ``Itherael speaks the truth.``
Auriel perked up. ``Only Imperius?``
Malthael nodded begrudgingly. ``Yes, Lady Auriel. I regret to inform you of this, but soon enough you will be called to meeting.`
Hope dipped her head. ``Yes, of course, Malthael. Forgive me for sounding dissappointed.``
Malthael only waved her off with a talon. ``Apologies are not needed, Lady Auriel. Now, Imperius, come, we have matters to discuss.``
All Imperius could do was nod, kissing Auriel's cheek fleetingly and standing.

Malthael leant foward at the black desk, his talons clasped with his fingers. Itherael shifted in unease, and Imperius bristled at his brother's calmness. ``How can you be so-so... calm about this!?`` Imperius snarled. Malthael was unaffected by his brother's outburst. ``If we plan ahead carefully and accordingly, our batttles will be the least of our troubles. You, however, need to rest yourself and your nerves.``
Itherael looked at Malthael. He wasn't doing so well himself, either. Though the angel appeared ageless, stress and a lack of sleep wracked his thin body, making him seem older. His body was bent over and he hunched, even his shoulders slumped. Imperius began to reply, but, in a lecturing tone, Itherael interrupted. ``You both seem to be with a lack of rest. Both of you; go now, sleep.``
Both Malthael and Imperius began to protest, but Itherael cut him off. ``Don't argue. Please. It is for your own sakes.``
``Itherael, I appreciate your concern for me,`` Malthael said quietly, and the unrest and stress in his voice was just as audible, ``but I simply cannot rest until every bit of the demonic forces and their plans have been examined and evaluated.``
``And I,`` Imperius sniffed proudly, ``cannot rest as the Archangel of Valour.``
``Yes, yes you can,`` Itherael lectured. ``Both of you can. Now go. Rest.``
Grudgingly, Malthael was the first to stand. Imperius followed, grumbling to himself. He lumbered out of the room, out of the Pools of Wisdom. Most likely to the Gardens of Hope. Malthael stood still for a moment, before sighing. He hunched over. ``I suppose I shall be going, then.``
Itherael nodded. Malthael nodded once, sliding from the room, down to his own room. He sunk down on the bed and rubbed his face with the heel of his left hand. Now that he realized it, he was quite tired. Throwing the covers aside, he sunk down onto the bed, resting his hooded head against the fluffy black pillows. Slowly, he pulled the covers over himself, sinking farther down into the bed. His eyes fluttered shut once, but he forced them back open. He then remembered Itherael's words, and he knew the younger Archangel spoke the truth. Pulling the covers up to cover his armour-clad chest, Malthael exhaled slowly, trying to let out stress as well as his breath. His large wings drooped across the bed, and he rested a single hand on his abdomen. The other hand slid behind his head, and he tilted his head back, letting his heavy eyelids droop shut once again. This time, however, he did not fight the darkness of sleep trying to consume him. He let it in, gladly.

Itherael watched as Imperius lumbered off, and Malthael stood. Hunching over, he sighed. ``I suppose I shall be going, then.``
For another moment, Malthael was motionless. Then he turned and dissappeared from Itherael's view. Now Itherael felt a sense of unrest come about him. The demons were due to attack the High Heavens. Malthael predicted this. But he could not see when. Itherael felt like his wings were twisting into knots; this attack could come at any given moment. Suddenly he felt himself worrying about the others. As he began to slowly make his way back to the Library of Fate, worry gnashing away at his thoughts. What if someone attacked Mistress Auriel? or Imperius? Or Tyrael? Or... or Malthael? He shook his head rapidly. The sheer though made him shake. As he turned to enter the Library, he caught a glance of Imperius kissing Auriel. He had her pinned back against a tree. What he was planning to do to Mistress Auriel, and more importantly, her innocence, was imaginable, but he prefered to not think of it. If he wanted to stay up and not rest, that would be his choice. Not Itherael's. As he lingered out of mild curiousity to watch, the situation began to escalate at an alarming rate, and Itherael quickly excused himself. He hurried into the Library and back into his studies. He looked around the cluttered area. Like Malthael, papers scattered his desk in increasing layers. However the boxes were replaced with books. Stacks and stacks of books. At the desk was a very large chair, which served as both his working chair and his bed. He slumped down into the chair, letting his wings droop to the floor. There were around five quills strewn about his desk, which was lit by white candles with blue flames. Three of them were broke. Itherael sighed loudly and swept these quills off onto the already cluttered and messy floor. What would three more quills hurt? He then tilted his head back, yawning. At the same, he forced himself to focus on the papers on the desk. A half-finished letter addresseed to Tyrael lay accusingly on top of the pile. Itherael squinted, and picked up a quill. Dipping it into a bottle that was three fourths of the way empty, he sighed, propped his head up with his left hand, and began to write.

Malthael awoke late, two human days later. Though he did not feel he got all of the rest he could have, he sat upright. However, he slowly began to drift back to unconsiousness once more. He shook his head, snapping himself back to consciousness. However, his eyelids were still heavy. He groaned softly; this is why he did not want to rest--now he was two human days behind in what would be invaluable information. He forced himself to a stand, though every joint in his tired body groaned in protest. The angel may have well been ageless, though stress wracked his aching, tired body from head to toe. He looked up, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, yawning, a flash of silver-white fangs visible for a moment. He streched, wings and all, rejoycing in the few stolen moments of goodness before he sighed. He would have to make haste in finding Itherael, Lady Auriel and Imperius. He turned, lazily fluttering his wings to levitate, as he was not quite sure his legs would his weight, despite theire not being much of it. He was a very light and quick angel, always steady on his feet, but yet now, after so little rest, he wasn't sure he could function. First he made his way to Auriel and Imperius. He took time, however, to look through the flowers and trees of kinds. He soon came to Auriel's private quarters and gently rapped his knuckles on the door. He waited a few minutes with no answer before gently pushing the door open. The room was large and beautiful, and in the corner was a larger bed. In that bed laid a dozing Imperius and Auriel, in each other's arms. Both were... bedraggled. As if they'd been doing things. Malthael rose a brow at this, noticing the bare skin visible, and too late did he realize that the entirity of Lady Auriel's left breast was exposed. He slowly backed out of the room. He wouldn't want to ruin his brother's... private life. Slowly closing the door, Malthael turned, almost smiling at the idea of his brother being... sweet, to anyone.

Itherael was quiet at work. Yet another fretful, sleepless nigh had past, but it mattered not to Itherael. He would rather sacrifice a few more nights of sleep than perhaps his place in the Angiris Council as second in command. He couldn't lose the trust of his closest friend, the male whom he'd once been closer with than he'd been with anyone else...
He shook his head, pushing these troubling thoughts from his mind. Another broken quill splattered ink across a small portion of the page. Huffing in much frustration, Itherael slammed his hand into the desk, brushing the broken quill off onto the floor quite aggressively. He then made a grab for the remaining quill and quickly scribbled a note on a spare sheet of parchement in a truly beautiful sort of handwork: Reminder, ask Malthael for more quills. He then brushed it to the side where it was near guarenteed to become buried along with its other brethren. He began to scribble on the note previous, however his handwriting was considerably more messy than it had been. His right hand pummled the paper furiously as he wrote, his eyes narrowed as he wrote with a considerable ammount of aggression. A small rip appeared in the paper and he snarled, casting a brooding glare at the paper. Ever since the day Itherael stood up to Imperius, he seemed... different. That was also partially because of the lack of sleep and food (angels were not required to eat, but it was something that Itherael was generally fond of), but mostly, Itherael wanted to throw Imperius' poison back at him. He mildly wondered to himself what Imperius and Auriel had ended up doing the few nights before. However, he felt he could care less. At that point, Malthael had walked in. ``Itherael?`` He called. Itherael looked warily up at his leader and managed a smile. ``Malthael,`` he responded lightly. ``It appears you have a lack of rest?`` Malthael offered. Itherael blinked. ``Oh?``
``Do not lie to me, Itherael,`` Malthael said softly. ``If Imperius and I need rest, you do as well. Even Lady Auriel has gotten herself rest.``
Itherael shook his head. ``No--no, I'm fine,`` he insisted. Malthael dissagreed. ``Itherael, listen. You are beginning to get more and more like, forgive me for saying it, Imperius, each day.``
Itherael paused. ``I... suppose you are right. But--... there's so... so much to do, Malthael, I-...``
``As your friend and leader, I tell you that you simply must get rest, Itherael. I... do you have a bed?``
``... No. This chair is my bed,`` Itherael said softly.
``I... You will use mine, then.``
``Y-Your bed? M-Malthael, pl-please-...``
``No,`` Malthael insisted in his soft voice, ``you may.``
``Malthael, I-I'll be fine, I-...``
``It is an order,`` Malthael concluded softly. Itherael opened his mouth to respond, but he knew he could not disobey a direct order, not even from his closest friend. Itherael simply nodded, in response. He stood, slowly setting the quill down with a shaking hand. Malthael nodded in response, placing a hand gently on the smaller angel's back, guiding him, out of the Library and into the Pools. Itherael found that his friend's hand, albeit cold, was somewhat calming. He led him to his private quarters, and gently pushed him down to the bed. ``Sleep,`` he commanded. Itherael found that Malthael's bed was very soft and fluffy, and Malthael watched as Itherael moved the sheets aside, sinking down into the bed. Malthael moved over to his friend and slowly pulled the sheets over Itherael, smiling down at his comrade. Itherael smiled affectionatly back up at the Archangel. Malthael's next move surprised Itherael, reducing him to a stuttering, blushing mess. Death leaned down--a considerable ways for such a tall angel--and kissed Fate's forehead. Itherael stuttered, blushing at this. Malthael only winked, chuckling. He allowed one of his great wings to brush over Itherael as he murmured, ``Sleep well, Archangel.``
As Wisdom departed, Fate wondered if the feeling they had once a time ago could be rekindled from the hearth of ashes?

Chapter Text

Over the nex few days, Malthael made sure that Itherael was resting. He would get bevrages and food for the Archangel, but due to Itherael's lack of sleep, Malthael made sure the younger stayed in bed. Itherael had to admit, he was very tired. Mostly, he slept. Sometimes he would awake to what seemed to be the ambient sounds of Malthael's abode: quills scratching on paper and flames flickering. Sometimes Malthael would grunt in apparent frustration, and very rarley would he talk. Papers being shufled were not rare, either. Sometimes Itherael would see a messanger angel come in and hand a unopened letter to Malthael before scurrying out. Malthael would continue writing with one hand, making the letter levitate with his other and open it with a letter opener that Itherael noticed to be very sharp. Often then would the scroll Malthael had been writing on previous be pushed to the side. He would skim the letter and its contents and then proceed to scrawl a reply out on a fresh piece of parchment in his graceful handwork. Now Itherael awoke to Malthael muttering, all work halted, save for the quill in his left hand. ``No,`` he was huffing, his right hand against his forehead, ``that makes no sense... can't possibly...`` His words were mostly a mumble to Itherael, and he could not make out too many of the words. ``Diablo . . . not the same . . . incomprehensible? . . . Azmodan . . . not the best . . . fallen star . . . El'Druin . . .``
Itherael cocked his head at Malthael's mention of Tyrael's sword, El'Druin. He dare not interrupt the scribe's studies, however. Instead he merly pondered. ``Black Soulstone . . . destroy . . .``
Itherael paused. If only he knew what Malthael was talking about...
``How long have you been up, Itherael?`` Malthael asked softly, unmoving. Itherael blinked. ``Not long... long enough to hear you talking of the Lords of Hell, El'Druin, and the Black Soulstone...``
Malthael nodded, beginning to scribble on the parchment with his hand. ``Yes. I have been predicting, and I can see a large battle of angel, mortalkind and demon...``
His tired, slender form slumped. ``I cannot see who will win but I can forsee a battle... The forces are led in such a way that I have never seen any of the Lords of Hell lead...`` His troubled voice trailed off and he set the quill down, clasping his hands in front of his chest. Shaking his head, he looked off, distant. Itherael then realized just how tired his leader, his friend, was. ``Malthael,`` Itherael said softly. Malthael was snapped from his trance and he swivled his head to look at his friend. ``Yes?`` He asked. ``You need rest,`` Itherael said. Malthael opened his mouth, the tips of his silvery fangs only a little visible. He closed it, however. Itherael may well be right. ``You, I suppose, are correct... perhaps if I rest myself, I will forsee the outcome of this battle.``
Itherael smiled tiredly. At least Malthael would not fight him. ``But--... I'm taking up your entire bed--...``
Malthael shrugged. ``Closeness can be a blessing.``
Itherael paused before scooting over as much as he could, to let the bigger angel into the bed. As he slid into the bed, and pulled the covers over himself, he smiled. Itherael smiled too, and hesitantly cuddled over to Death. Malthael chuckled at this, allowing the tinier angel to rest his head on his chest. Itherael wrapped his arms around Malthael tightly, nuzzling his chest. Malthael purred--a deep rumbling noise in the back of his throat that calmed Itherael immensly. A few heartbeats of silence passed, and Itherael murmured softly, three words: ``I love you.``
Malthael simply chuckled, looking down at Itherael. ``Haven't you always?``
Itherael laughed softly. ``I suppose I have...``
Malthael smiled, and soon enough Itherael drifted to sleep. After a few minutes of Itherael's rest, Malthael mumbled softly, ``However, I do love you too, Itherael.`` And he placed a kiss on the smaller angel's forehead, causing him to smile in his sleep.

Malthael awoke and looked down at the younger Archangel who still cuddled to him. In his slumber, he had turned and wrapped his arms around the other, so it appeared. However Itherael still had his face pressed to Malthael's chest, his soft breath coming in short huffs. It appeared, as well, that Malthael had wrapped his wings around Itherael in his sleep; a sign of affection. Malthael sighed deeply, however, knowing that he would soon need to resume his studies at his desk. The chalice was on the top of it; perhaps wisdom of the battle to come would reside in it. Another kiss was planted on Itherael's face--his nose, to be exact, and an ``I love you`` was issued from Malthael's lips as he stood. He was reluctant, yes, to be leaving the warmth and embrace of the bed and Itherael, but he knew what he must do, for it could well save the Heavens from destruction. He held himself to a stand and slowly turned and lumbered over to the black desk, and moreso, the chalice. Looking down into the swirling contents of the chalice, Malthael pulled the chair from the desk and lowered his tired body down into it. He sunk down, elbows on the desk, shoulders hunched, pondering. This attack he forsaw was quite unlike anything he had ever seen before. Looking out the darkened window, he saw it was nighttime, akin to the ceiling above him. He exhaled a slow, dark sigh. Things were not looking in their favour. Looking out across the cluttered desk, Malthael huffed and pulled a well worn scroll from the piles. He unrolled it and scanned it. Growling, he threw it to the side. ``Nothing.``
Another scroll, another grunt. ``Nothing.``
``Nothing.``
``Still nothing.``
``A load of nothing.``
By now, Malthael was fretting. He tossed another scroll aside. A small pile of scrolls and documents was beginning to form. ``Nothing, still.``
He swivled his head to look at the chalice. ``I don't suppose you will offer me anything, either.``
The chalice remained silent, save for the whispers of voices that drifted from it. Even now, Malthael could not understand what these voices said. He shook his head, purging himself from his thoughts. ``Enough. I will record what I know of, and see where these pieces bring me.``
And he picked a fresh piece of parchment, a quill, dipped it in the mortalkind blood ink and began to write.

Day broke upon the Heavens, and still Malthael had came to no conclusions. As Itherael slept on, Malthael had worked tirlessly, working his tired mind to his limits. He was becoming increasingly frustrated. He, Malthael, the leader of the Angiris Council and the Archangel of Death and Wisdom could not figure out the answer to a simple question. In a fruitless effort to calm himself, Malthael began organizing the piles of papers and boxes to the best of his abilities. However much organazation calmed him, it never seemed to work; within a matter of days it would return to the same crowded, cluttered mess. He never quite understood why. His organization weren't the best, you could say. The paper piles had merly been shoved to the bounds of the desk and the boxes had been moved around slightly. A few papers fluttered off the desk and to the floor as Malthael passed by, a load of boxes in his arms. Huffing, he dumped the boxes in a heap next to a shelf of books and tomes and returned to the papers, picking the parchment up and setting on top of a disorganized pile. As he brushed back by to pick up another set of boxes, the spike that protruded from the elbow of his right arm's armour knocked over a ink bottle. Thank Anu it was empty, he though to himself with a huff as he sat it back upright. Bending, he picked up a stack of particularly heavy boxes. He actually had to use his wings, fluttering them slightly, to assist himself in picking them up. If he'd not done that, he was sure he'd have to see Lady Auriel about a cramped muscle in his arm, or worse yet, his entire back. He moved the boxes, with some ammount of effort involved, to the other side of the room, next to archway and door. The stacks of boxes never were about the room itself, they always were against the walls. On ocassion, however, Malthael would find that a stack had fallen and spilt into a pile in the middle of the floor. He would merly kick these off to the side, back to the walls. Ironic enough, the rest of the Pools of Wisdom were not messy at all. Indeed, they were the oppisite of Malthael's own quarters; they were in a spectacular kind of perfection.
It was enough to draw jealousy from the other Archangels.
They didn't know, save for Itherael, that his study in his private quarters was clutterd. In his own quarters, he kept it very tidy. It was the private part that was messy. Mostly because that was where he kept himself and his thoughts.

Malthael sighed, leaning against the wall of Lady Auriel's study. How long could his brother and Hope sleep for? He knew that Itherael was currently asleep, as he had checked to make sure. If he couldn't rouse his surly brother and Lady Auriel, he would check to see if Tyrael was currently conscious, as he and the Aspect of Justice had much to discuss. However, he had much to discuss with his brother and Lady Auriel. Again, he rapped his knuckles on the door. Again, there was no response. Huffing, Malthael crossed his arms. However, a rustling noise that was much more graceful than Imperius could manage alerted him that Lady Auriel had awoke. After much more of this, the female called to him, ``Come in!`` Her voice was a little tired, but all the same kind as always. Malthael slowly cracked the door, peeking in. Lady Auriel seemed to perk up as she saw him. ``Oh! Malthael!`` She said, and he nodded. ``I apologize if I'm interrupting anything,``Malthael said. Auriel waved him off. ``No, you're fine. Nothing is being interrupted; I've merly been allowing Imperius to rest.``
Malthael nodded. ``I see. I... have things that need to be discussed with you as well as Imperius, however if he is resting I can come back later...``
Auriel shrugged. ``Is it a matter we both need to be alert to discuss?``
``Perferably: yes,`` Malthael responded. ``However I suppose I can make exceptions.``
``Are you sure, Malthael?`` Lady Auriel asked. Malthael nodded. ``It is rather urgent.``
``Then by all means, do come in,`` Auriel said in a hushed voice.

``As off topic as this is,`` Malthael murmured. ``What exactly did you and Imperius do as of last night?``
Auriel giggled. She appreciated Malthael's attempt to lighten the grim mood. ``Oh, nothing.``
Malthael rose a brow, but said nothing. ``Are you sure?``
``Oh, perhaps we did something,`` Auriel chirped, ``but that's for us to know, isn't it?``
``Indeed.``
``You two... did it, didn't you?``
Another giggle. ``Maybe.``
``Hm.``
``So, Malthael...`` Auriel began, returning to her serious demeanor, ``Where, excatly, do you think this attack will take place?``
``Demons have been known for their aerrogance and their confidence in themselves,`` Malthael responded, ``and with how strong these forces are, I believe it... may take place in Heaven, itself.``
``What?`` Auriel stuttered. ``Correct me if I am wrong, Lady Auriel, but have the demons not tried to invade Heaven before?`` Malthael asked.
``Well, y-yes, but...`` Auriel trailed off. Malthael's words made sense to her. ``With how strong these forces I have forseen will be,`` Malthael continued, ``I fear that they may breach the gates of Heaven themselves.``
Auriel sharply inhaled. ``Please, pardon me for asking, but how would they do this? The only Lords of Hell left are Bellial and Azmodan, and neither of them have the power to.``
``I forsaw in my visions a demon. It was shaded into blackness, however, and it was able to badly injure my brother. It then breached the gates.``
Auriel was gravely quiet. ``I see,`` was all she said. Malthael nodded silently and looked at the sleeping form of Imperius. ``I'll have to discuss this further with Itherael,`` he said finally. Auriel nodded, placing a hand on Imperius' arm. Imperius only shifted. Malthael then stood. ``Thank you for your time, Lady Auriel.``
Auriel smiled and curtsied. ``Of course. It was nothing, Malthael.``
Malthael did a half-bow of respect, turning to the door. ``Oh, Malthael--one more thing,`` Auriel called. Malthael turned his head to look at her. ``Yes, Lady Auriel?``
``Could... you give Itherael this letter?`` She asked, holding out a small package. Malthael nodded, holding his talons out. Auriel dropped the package into his hand. ``Thank you, Malthael,`` Auriel said. Again, Malthael did a half-bow. ``There is not a need to thank me, Lady Auriel.``
Auriel nodded, and Malthael turned and left. Auriel looked over at the innocent looking warrior, and managed a smile. But it was weak. ``I promise nothing will happen to you, love,`` she found herself saying.

Itherael found himself back in the Library of Fate. How did he get here? Looking around wildly, he saw that the place was in ruins. The bodies of angels and demonkind littered everywhere he looked. Books lay everywhere, torn. As he began to walk, he came upon angels combating demons. And then he saw Mistress Auriel. Hope was engaged in a fight with someone--Rakanoth, Despair.
Despair swung at her, and essence splattered his bladed arm. Mistress Auriel yelped in pain, retaliating with Al'Maiesh. However, this proved inaffective. Rakanoth swung several times, and when his body cleared, Mistress Auriel was trapped inside of a crystal. She thrashed about, but to no avail. Itherael gasped, lunging forward, his Rune Sword appearing in hand. ``Itherael,`` came a soft, somewhat familliar voice from afar. Then it came louder. He felt someone or something shake him once, then again, then again...

Itherael's eyes burst open as he panted wildly. There was no Mistress Auriel, no Rakanoth, and he was still in Malthael's darkened quarters. Over him stood a concerned Malthael. His hands were firmly on Itherael's shoulders, and his wings draped over his body. ``Itherael? What happened?`` He asked breathlessly. Itherael panted, struggling for words. ``Mistress Auriel . . . Rakanoth . . . Library of Fate . . . in ruins . . .`` Malthael sighed, wrapping his arms around Itherael and hugging him. ``Calm down, Itherael,`` he said in his soft voice. Itherael continued to wheeze, and Malthael pecked the other angel's lips. ``Calm down and tell me everything,`` he instructed. Itherael nodded, though he still had wide eyes and his breath still came in short gasps. Itherael then began to explain his dream to his comrade. Once finished, Malthael nodded silently. ``I see. This is exactly what I have forsaw, but I did not see it to be that... horrid.``
Itherael nodded silently. Malthel sighed, and his tired body drooped. Itherael put a hand on the other's back and pushed him down to lay on top of him. Malthael lay there, on top of Itherael, silent. Itherael was quiet, too, and he could sense Malthael's unrest and even guilt. ``Don't blame this on yourself, please?`` Itherael asked. Malthael shrugged. ``I failed to see that. Lady Auriel may well be in danger thanks to my failures.``
Itherael shook his head and kissed Malthael briefly on the lips. ``No, no. If-if she is in any sort of danger, it wouldn't be your fault. Mistress Auriel may well be a prime target for the demons...``
Malthael huffed. ``I understand that, but think it! I failed to tell her of this. Due to my failure, she won't know of this... I... I have to tell her,`` Malthael decided. Before he could move, however, Itherael locked his gray-clad arms around him. ``No. You need to rest as much as I do. Please Malthael. Stay here... with me...``
Malthael sighed but stopped struggling, instead letting his face fall into a pillow next to Itherael's head. ``I suppose you may be right.`` His voice was muffled as he said this. Itherael nodded. ``Of course I am.`` And he placed a kiss on Malthael's cheek. ``I love you. Even if some won't accept you because you are Death... But I do...``
Malthael smiled. ``I love you too, Itherael...`` His voice was a tired rumble, and soon Malthael had silently fallen asleep on top of Itherael. Itherael smiled at this. Malthael may be practically ageless, but he always seemed older. Of course, he was the oldest angel in existance, but he was always tired nowadays. Only in the rare moments of sleep that he caught did he seem young. Itherael let his own eyes droop closed, and he felt himself fall into a calm sleep, with no troubling dreams.

Itherael awoke not even a human day later. Malthael's slender body was still slumped on top of his own, and this graced a smile on Itherael's face. He turned his head to be pressed against the side of Malthael's face and kissed it, smiling. This graced the slightest bit of a smile on the other's face, though he remained asleep. Itherael then nuzzled his face close to the other, pressing against him. Right now he was happy. To him, there was no Pools of Wisdom, there was no Angiris Council, no Heaven, no Hell, just he and Malthael. He draped his wings around Malthael lovingly. The fire had been able to be rekindled. A time ago, he and Malthael were in a... close relationship. A loving one. They were a couple. But then Malthael left, and as most say, long-distance relationships just didn't work. Eventually Malthael cut connection with them all, even Itherael. But now Malthael was back, and Itherael finally had someone he could love. Another kiss was planted on Malthael's cheek, and another ``I love you`` was whispered to the sleeping angel. Malthael shifed, rolling unconsiously onto his side. Itherael cuddled to Wisdom, resting his head on his broad chest and wrapping his arms and wings around him. In response, and in his slumber, Malthael locked his arms around Itherael's waist and draped his wings over him. Itherael giggled and purred as he did this. As he cuddled the sleeping Archangel, he wondered just how long Malthael could sleep for. He also wondered what sorts of dreams the male was having. Perhaps troubling ones; Itherael was honestly surprised that the stressed angel even had time for love. Gently, Itherael nuzzled Malthael's chest, the calm rumble of his breath and the gradual rise and fall of his chest lulling Itherael into a calm state. A sleeping Malthael was an adorable, harmless Malthael. Itherael found himself purring to Malthael's slow, rumbling breathing. He wished Malthael more times like this, as the man barely ever rested. Itherael began running his hand down Malthael's side, resting his other hand around Malthael's shoulders. Malthael's own arms remained locked around Itherael's waist tightly. A deep purr rose in Malthael's throat instictivly as his side was stroked. In reality, he was quite awake, but he was enjoying the sensation of his side getting rubbed and Itherael's loving cuddles. He kept his breathing even, despite the fact that a... tender, spot lay in the curve where his hips met his ribs. Each time he would bite his lip to restrain a groan, instead. Itherael placed gentle, fleeting kisses on Malthael's chest, trailing them up his neck, and Malthael had to stop himself from shuddering under Itherael's lips, then up to his mouth, and back down. He then began repetitivly kissing different places on Malthael's neck, still running his hands down his side. Malthael was biting his lip quite hard by now, still resisting the urge to shudder. Itherael's touch was just so... gentle. Not to mention that he was kissing Malthael in all the right, or wrong depending on your point of view, places. Itherael, however, did not know that Malthael was awake, and simply whined softly. ``Mmm... I love you, Malthael...`` He murmured. Malthael almost smiled. But he restrained himself. Itherael slowly sunk back into a rest, and Malthael allowed himself a smile.

Lady Auriel found herself at the door of Malthael's study. Gently, she knocked on it. The door almost instantly cracked slightly, and Malthael poked his head out. ``Yes, Lady Auriel?`` he asked softly. Noticing her apparent unease, he opened the door a little wider. ``Please, come in. I apogize for the mess,`` He said. Upon entering, Auriel looked around. Indeed, was the room a mess. Much on the contrary to th rest of the Pools of Wisdom. ``Oh,`` was all she could say. ``Again, I apologize for the mess,`` Malthael murmured. She waved him off. ``Oh, no, it's nothing. I just... didn't expect it, I suppose.``
Malthael chuckled dryly. ``Of course. Anyway, what is it you came to talk to me about, Lady Auriel?``
Auriel paused, glancing at the sleeping Itherael, then back to Malthael. ``I... Tyrael, he-he.... He became mortal.``
Surprising to her, Malthael seemed unsurprised, or even concerned. ``I see,`` was all he said.

Auriel cocked her head. ``Are you not surprised?``
``In honesty, no.``
``Oh?`` Auriel asked.
``He and I... planned this.``
``What?``
``Yes. I, as you know, forsaw an attack. He wished to warn humanity, claiming to me that humans were the only hope left. We had a small dispute upon this, however we came upon a desicion: he would become mortal, and warn humankind of this.``
Auriel was silent. ``Oh.``
Malthael only nodded. ``Imperius came to me, brooding,`` Auriel murmured with a chuckle. Malthael laughed wryly. ``I see.``
``Stressed, aren't you?`` Auriel asked. Malthael shrugged. ``I suppose you could say that. However, it is of no concern, Lady Auriel.`` Auriel cast a glance at him. ``It is. If you, our leader, are stressed, it makes us have tension. Relax, Malthael.``
Malthael huffed. ``Why am I hearing that so much lately?``
``Because it's true,`` Auriel responded softly, laying a hand on his arm. ``Relax yourself, Malthael.``
Malthael sighed, slowly relaxing his shoulders that had been quite rigid. ``I may try.``
``Trying is better than refusing,`` said Auriel in her soft, soothing voice. Malthael only shrugged once more.

Chapter Text

Itherael had finally made it back to the Library of Fate, and he currently slumped in his chair, a fresh pile of broken quills forming on the other side of the desk on the ground. He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his left hand, heavily sighing. ``This just doesn't make any sense!``
And he struck through yet another thing wrote on the paper. With Malthael's boundless wisdom and uncany ability to predict things, along with Itherael's ability to see the future and all of the possibilities, they were working to figure out just who was leading the army that Malthael had forsaw, along with other things. With the loss of Tyrael, things were only getting harder on the Angiris Council as a whole. Itherael stayed in the Heavens to further reasearch, but Malthael had brought himself to Sanctuary, to further discuss things with Tyrael. He, with him, had brought one of his Angels of Wisdom; his name was Adrithael, and he was blind in his right eye and mute. Adrithael acted as a messanger, sending messages between the pair. At that moment, the blind angel stumbled into Itherael's study. Tripping over a large pile of papers, Adrithael held out a letter clutched tightly in his hand. Itherael teleported quickly to grab him before he fell. The angel whimpered softly, nodding his thanks. Itherael smiled a little, helping the other to his feet. Adrithael stood by the door, waiting for Itherael to finish his reply. Itherael now sat, skimming the letter after opening it. It read:

Itherael,

I have recieved grave news: as Tyrael fell from the Heavens, El'Druin snapped into three parts. Due to this, he has lost all recollection. However, I have met, and please do not think me in any danger, Diablo's daughter; Leah. She knows not of her heritage. She has been raised by her adopted uncle, Deckard Cain--the last of the Horadrim. Leah told me that she never believed her uncle's stories until she met me. Now she is rethinking. Her uncle was trapped in the New Tristram Cathdreal upon Tyrael's descent. I believe that he is still quite alive, and I am due to rescue him. Worry not for me, continue with your studies. I believe that once and if we find Cain, he will be able to reforge Tyrael's sword, granting him his memory. I will return soon with my findings.

Malthael

Itherael read this over a few times before grabbing another piece of blank parchment, beginning to write furiously.

Malthael,

I know you said to not worry, but I am. With Tyrael's memory erased, Diablo's daughter in our wake, Deckard trapped in the Cathedral with the dead rising, isn't it enterly plausible that Deckard may well be dead? I don't want to sound immature, or anything but-- No, that wasn't good. Itherael struck the sentence out. Of course, he began again, there is positivity, such as the idea of Leah not having any clue of who her father is, but, --Itherael paused, wondering how to word his sentence. To hell with it, he though to himself as he continued writing-- we must look at the more negative options. Perhaps I will make my way down to Sanctuary as well; Mistress Auriel has Imperius well under control. I know what you're going to say: "Itherael, no--you're in my place as leader of the Council" but I know what I am doing. I can assist you, and I suspect that Adrithael could be of help to us as well. I myself will bring one of my Archangels of Fate along. I want to personally meet the daughter of Diablo, so we can perhaps turn her from any sorts of possible demonic corruption, or worse yet, turn her away from the possibility of becoming a vessel for her wreched father.

Itherael

Itherael scanned the note.

Malthael,

I know you said to not worry, but I am. With Tyrael's memory erased, Diablo's daughter in our wake, Deckard trapped in the Cathedral with the dead rising, isn't it enterly plausible that Deckard may well be dead? I don't want to sound immature, or anything but Of course, there is positivity, such as the idea of Leah not having any clue of who her father is, but we must look at the more negative options. Perhaps I will make my way down to Sanctuary as well; Mistress Auriel has Imperius well under control. I know what you're going to say: "Itherael, no--you're in my place as leader of the Council" but I know what I am doing. I can assist you, and I suspect that Adrithael could be of help to us as well. I myself will bring one of my Archangels of Fate along. I want to personally meet the daughter of Diablo, so we can perhaps turn her from any sorts of possible demonic corruption, or worse yet, turn her away from the possibility of becoming a vessel for her wreched father.

Itherael

Itherael looked over the hastily scrawled note once more. Nodding to himself, he folded it and placed it in a envolope. Standing, he held it out to the smaller angel, who took it and turned to leave. ``Wait,`` Itherael said in a even voice. On command, Adrithael stopped every movement. Itherael walked to the exit of his study, then turned his head to look over his shoulder at the messanger.
``Come.``
Adrithael nodded, and tucked the envolope under his arm, scrawling on a notepad the words: If there is no crime in me asking, what are you doing, Archangel Itherael?
Itherael's eyes scanned these words. ``I am taking one of my own Angels of Fate and myself to Sanctuary.``
On the notpad appeared the words but surely, with Archangel Tyrael and Archangel Malthael's absences, you must stay? You are the leader as of now-
Itherael did not finish reading the sentence. ``Mistress Auriel will take my place well. Now, go to Malthael. I will be there within time.``
Adrithael did not protest, only nodded, bowed his respect and left. Itherael turned, looking out at the array of busy angels. He went through the crowd mentally, and finally selected one. Slowly, he approached her, making sure to be silent and not draw too much attention to himself. He wouldn't want that. She was looking intently into a crystal, but her studies would have to wait. ``Adelinde,`` he whispered softly. She looked over, jumping and nearly dropping the crystal. ``Archangel Itherael!`` she stuttered. ``Adeline, I have important matters with you to discuss.``
She nodded. ``A-Alright.``
She was a young angel, slim and pretty, but the oddest thing about her was her red wings. ``I will be going to Sanctuary, and I was going to take an angel with me,`` Itherael was saying, ``and I decided on you.``
``M-me?`` Adelinde asked in disbelief. ``Yes. Now, come. Bring that crystal with you.``
She nodded, still flabbergasted.

Malthael scanned the letter over for the fifth time. ``No, No... He can't possibly be-...``
"What's wrong, Malthael?" Leah asked, trying to look at the letter. Malthael waved the girl off. ``Nothing, nothing, Leah,`` he said. In reality he was worried about Itherael. What would happen to the Heavens without him? He then folded the note and slipped it into his robes. He began making his way to the gates, and Leah followed. ``Leah, go annoy... Haedrig, or something. Leave me alone.``
"Come on Malthael!"
``I said no, now go away,`` Malthael grunted. A few gasps came from the front gates, and Malthael knew why. Upon arriving, there was Itherael with a red-winged angel. ``Itherael,`` Malthael said briskly, ``you cannot be here. The Heavenly Host needs you as their leader-``
``Mistress Auriel will make a fine fill-in,`` Itherael said pointedly. Malthael huffed. He knew there was no changing Itherael's mind.

``The Skeleton King has been here,`` Malthael muttered bitterly. Itherael nodded silently, and Leah scowled. "Great," she muttered sarcastically, "there's no hope for Uncle Deckard, now."
`That isn't true,`` Malthael muttered. ``We will find him. I'm just not too happy with the thought of the Skeleton King running around.``
Leah nodded begrudginly in understanding. "I suppose that makes sense. I just hope he hasn't done anything to Uncle Deckard."
``Believe me, nothing has happened to Cain,`` Itherael reassured her. It didn't seem to help her, however. She didn't reply to the Archangel, just aimed her bow and brang down another of the walking dead. Malthael watched this with a dim sense of interest. Mortalkind were odd, indeed. Itherael sighed quietly, noticing a shambling corpse headed their way. Before he could summon his Rune Sword, Malthael had rather lazily thrown one of his crescent hand-scythes at it like a boomerang, cutting the top of its head from the bottom, and the scythe embedded into the wall. Malthael silently glided over, wrenching it from the wall and allowing his hand to fall to his side. Itherael observed his friend with little interest, instead turning his attention to the surrounding Cathedral walls and passages. Mentally, he cursed. Deckard Cain was somewhere in these walls, perhaps dead, and Tyrael was in town, mortal, all memories wiped from his mind. As a grim silence fell through the walls, Malthael broke it with a gruff nod. ``Come. I can sense Cain nearby.``
"You can?" Leah asked excitedly. Malthael nodded. ``As I just said, I can sense Cain nearby, yes.``
``However,`` Itherael piped up, ``there are two paths here: wait, trying to decide whether Malthael is correct or not and allow Cain to die, or follow Malthael and his senses and find Cain.``
Leah gripped her bow tightly. "Let's go, then!" she said anxiously. Malthael nodded, beaconing for them to follow. As he glided, Leah struggled to keep up with Itherael, pestering him with questions.
"How far into the future can you see?"
"What's it like, being Fate?"
"Can you read the fate of my uncle?"
Itherael could only sigh. Lucky, Malthael came to his aid, calling over his shoulder, ``Answer me this, girl: do you ever stop talking?``
This made Leah sink into a grim, brooding silence.

Malthael let himself be completly absorbed in his thoughts, allowing his senses of life and death to guide him. His pace was quick, and his steps were confident. And then he halted, Itherael crashing into him from behind. Cain was near, and would be within the premises within a matter of seconds. He was on the run from the dead, yes but very much alive. As if on cue, Cain's raspy voice could be heard from a passageway: "Back, fiends!"
Malthael waited, and Leah perked up. Cain ran across a crumbling walkway that for a moment Malthael feared would crumble under him. However, it held his weight, but such was not the same for the skeletons pursuing. From the floor emerged the Skeleton King in all of his unglory. "The power of the fallen star has awaken me!" He announed with an evil cackle. "Guards! Bring me his bones!" And skeletons rose from the ground all around Cain as the King dissappeared. Cain ran as he could, coming to a corner. "Is this how it ends?" He asked himself, cowering. And then Malthael jumped into the air, landing himself in the crowd of skeleton. He swung with one blade at one's neck, kicking another back and snapping its ribs. He felled them, one by one. But more and more came. Now Itherael jumped into the fray next to Malthael, swinging his Rune Sword at all skeletons. Soon, they felled them all, and rested, panting. ``Chi,`` Malthael grunted. ``Hm?`` Itherael asked softly, noticing Malthael holding his shoulder awkwardly. ``I think I... Ngh... wrenched my shoulder wrong,`` Malthael panted. ``Chi,`` Itherael agreed, resting his sword against the floor. But that wasn't it. An evil laugh filled the room, and from the ground rose the tallest skeleton that Malthael had seen. ``Chi,`` he muttered for the second time, lifting his hand from his shoulder and grabbing his scythe. He attempted to move his other arm, but to no avil; it was in a lot of pain and he could not move it. The skeleton advanced on them, and Itherael swung at it. His sword did no damage--it only embedded into its arm, and it kept advancing. Malthael snarled, swinging with his right arm, his only usuable arm. It did nothing. Now Leah, recovering from her shock, began pummeling the skeleton with arrows. They stuck into it harmlessly. With the large sword it posessed, it swung at both of the angels, who barely dodged in time. Malthael gained a nick on his arm, breathlessly hissing ``Chi!``
Malthael now kicked it in the ribs, splintering five of them, breaking one. However, it kept on, kicking Malthael back, actually knocking him to the ground, It advanced on the fallen Archangel, and Itherael, with a shout, rammed his shoulder into the skleton, throwing it into the wall, throwing his forearm into it. ``Worthless--`` another hit, ``--pitiful--`` another one, ``--demon-spawn!`` And he brought his sword down on its head, hard, splitting the skull. He then rushed to Malthael, crouching. ``Malthael? Are you okay?`` He asked. Malthael nodded with a wince as he hoisted himself up. Itherael helped him, putting his arm around his waist, Malthael leaning his weight against the smaller angel. Leah rushed to Cain. "Uncle Deckard?" She asked. "Leah!" he replied, "Why are there two of the members of the Angiris Council here?"
Leah explained as quickly as she could. After all of this, Cain nodded. "I see... so this 'fallen star' was actually Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice..."
Malthael winced at a pain in his left side.
"We must get back to New Tristram quickly, then. Malthael seems to be in pain, as well..."
``Chi,`` was all Malthael said.

Malthael and Itherael sat by firelight, Malthael's side bound as well as his entire left arm. Turns out he had torn a ligiment in his arm, and that damn skeleton had completly snapped four of whatever sort of ribs Malthael had. Sighing, he looked up at the starry night sky, letting his wings and shoulders relax. Most everyone, by now, had gone off to sleep, and the two angels remained. Even the lesser angels had fallen to slumber. The fire crackled softly, casting a glowing red and yellow flicker onto the two angels. Itherael's wings rippled softly, and Malthael's blew gently in the wind. It was any stereotypical summer night, the air warm, cicadas buzzling; but it was perfect, and neither Archangel would want it any other way. ``So,`` Malthael said finally, ``what do you want to do?``
Itherael's eyes glinted mechiviously. ``Besides you, you mean?``
Malthael found himself blushing faintly at his lover's slick remark.

Chapter Text

Lucky there were unused rooms in the Slaughtered Calf Inn. As Malthael laid on the bed, which was quite comfy, though not as much as his, Itherael laid on top of him, his face in his chest, his left hand intertwined with the others' right hand, purring softly and lovingly. He nuzzled Malthael, whispering an ``I love you`` to him, receiving a mumble of an ``I love you too`` back. Itherael purred and kissed Malthael's jawline, making the elder shudder. Malthael's arms tightened around Itherael's smaller body, and Itherael smirked slightly. By now, Itherael had figured out all of Malthael's kinks and turn-on's, and liked using these against him. Now he began running his hand up and down Malthael's uninjured side, focusing on the deepest point. Malthael allowed a small groan to be omitted from his lips. Itherael smirked more, beginning to kiss Malthael's tender spots on his neck, biting down on a few. Again, Malthael's arms tightened around Itherael, and he let out a noise that Itherael loved more than almost anything, other than Malthael's own voice: a small noise that was half whimper, half groan, that came from the back of his throat. It was the most venerable noise Itherael had ever heard him make, and he knew that Malthael trusted only him to see him to exposed. Itherael dragged his black, wispy tongue over three of Malthael's sweet spots, and Malthael let out a groan--a deep rumble that came from within the abyss of his chest. ``I-Itherael...`` He groaned, slipping his hands down to clutch Itherael's hips, digging the fingers of his left hand into his hip. Itherael whined, gasping softly as Malthael bent his head and began kissing, licking and biting Itherael's neck. Itherael moaned softly, increasing the speed of his rubbing on Malthael's side. Malthael, in turn, bit down on Itherael's most tender, sweetest spot on his neck. Itherael gasped loudly, moaning Malthael's name. Malthael smirked, rolling and pinning Itherael down, who looked up at him with round, lustful eyes. Malthael began tracing his hand up Itherael's smaller body, dragging his tongue slowly, seductively up his armoured chest, to his neck, to his lips, where he kissed the other passionately. ``M-Malthael...~`` Itherael whined into the kiss. ``Yes, Itherael?~`` Malthael purred. ``I-I need you... Pl-Please...`` Itherael pleaded. Malthael rose a brow, slipping his hand under Itherael's armour, stroking his muscles, rendering Itherael to a shivering, moaning mess...
"Archangel Malthael? Archangel Itherae-... O-Oh-..." The bartender and Innkeeper saw this and paused. The pair looked over, a deep crimson blush staining both of their cheeks. Malthael was the first to speak. ``What is it?``
"A-am I interrupting anything?" He asked. They both rapidly shook their heads. ``No. What is it?``
"Deckard Cain... He-he wanted to ask if you had recovered any of the shards of the sword... he called it 'El`Druin.' "
Malthael nodded to the bedside, where the hilt sat. The bartender nodded quietly, and Malthael rolled off of Itherael, who gave a soft whimper. ``Later,`` Malthael mumbled to him. As he rolled onto his arm that was bound, he winced and hissed, and Itherael rolled to help the other. Helping Malthael stand, Itherael looked at him, then back at the bartender. ``I actually have need to talk to Cain in person,`` Malthael said. The bartender regained speech. "B-But, sir, surely, wi-with your injuries, you-"
``I have need to talk to Cain in person,`` Malthael repeated, lowering his voice. The bartender yelped and nodded, scurrying out of the room. The two Archangel looked at each other. ``Was I a little too harsh on him?`` Malthael asked.

"It is simply wonderful to finally be blessed with the ability to meet you in person," Cain was saying, looking at the two Archangel sitting at the other side of the fire, "Tyrael told me much of you two."
Malthael dipped his head. ``The same of you, us. Tyrael told us much of you and your travels with him.``
Cain smiled, the wrinkles on his face casting shadows upon his skin. "I am not surprised. Tell me: what made you choose to govern Death upon departure from the council?"
Itherael and Malthael exchanged a glance. ``Someone had to do it,`` was all Malthael said. Cain nodded. "Ah, yes, indeed." He then leant forward, clasping his hands in his lap. "I have tracked the other pieces of El'Druin. I know of no others to complete the task, so, forgive me for asking, but it seems that you two would be the only ones capable?"
Malthael somehow managed a humourless laugh. ``Capable, indeed. Nothing to you, but I've a torn ligament in my left arm; that's the arm I'm able to do things better with. However, I believe that, in order to help my fallen comrade, I can manage. What's a little pain?``
Itherael looked at Malthael in alarm. ``You've torn a ligament, and snapped four ribs. Surely you can't be meaning to--``
``I will be fine. Cain, do you think you could come up with a map of the area?``
Cain nodded, and Itherael could be heard muttering ``sometimes you're too much like your brother.``
"Of course I can. It may, however, take a time. Until then, I think you should rest yourself, and perhaps try and jog Tyrael's memory," Cain said. Malthael nodded. ``Yes, of course.``

``We've tried everything!`` Itherael hissed desperately. ``There simply must be something we have overlooked, then,`` Malthael decided. Itherael shook his head wildly. ``I've tried everything I can think of! And you?``
Malthael didn't reply.
The pair currently sat on a bench, the clueless mortal Tyrael sitting opposite of them on another bench. ``You don't want to admit it because it'll hurt your pride,`` Itherael snorted in desperation. Malthael quickly shook his head. ``No, no. I'm trying to think.``
Itherael rose a brow at him, giving him a look that said ``sure you are`` to Malthael.
Malthael tapped his fingers aggressively on the benchside. Itherael reached down and placed his hand on top of Malthael's, trapping his fingers from tapping furthermore. Malthael grunted in protest, but didn't try and move his hand. Tyrael only looked on, blankly. "I don't know what you two are talking about with this 'Angiris Council' thing," he said. Malthael face-palmed, bearing his teeth as his hand met with face. Tyrael winced back upon seeing Malthael's fangs and wispy black tongue. "O-oh?" he stuttered, and Malthael mentally face-palmed once more. Tyrael was even more innocent than a newborne kitten. Itherael was gentler with the former Archangel, however. ``Come on,`` he said gently, ``try and remember things. Remember Imperius, me, Malthael, Auriel, yourself.``
Tyrael only shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about, I already told you. I might have no memory, but I know I was never this 'Archangel Tyrael' you seem fond of. Is he a friend of yours?"
Malthael snorted angrily. For a moment, he fumbled with a few scrolls before unrolling one and skimming through it until there was a picture of Tyrael, as an angel. He flipped it to face Tyrael and pointed to it with a talon. ``Your armour is much like his.``
"Coincidence."
``Your voice is the same as his.``
"A paradox of sorts; it means nothing."
``The sword hilt you have is the hilt of Tyrael's sword, El'Druin.``
"It must be a mortal replica of it."
Malthael sighed hopelessly. ``There's no hope for you, is there?``
Tyrael only shook his head with a blank stare. "There may be hope for me but..." he paused, looking up into the ebony night thoughtfully. He then returned his attention to Malthael and Itherael. "There might not be any for you. I mean... telling me that I'm a fallen Archangel?"
Malthael huffed, waving him off with his talons. ``Forget it. Once we get the remaining pieces of El'Druin, and Cain forges them back together, you'll regain memory.``
"Will I?"

"Even you, Wisdom, cannot jog his memory?" Cain asked the archangel. Malthael nodded grudgingly. ``He thinks us crazy.``
Cain stroked his beard thoughtfully. "I see... I believe I have located the first piece of the sword. It is in The Fields of Misery. However, I have failed to to locate the second missing piece."
Itherael sighed. ``Then we will retrieve the first missing piece,`` he decided, casting a glance at Death. Malthael kept his face impassive. ``Alright. We shall.``
Cain rose a white brow. "But, Malthael, you still have wounds to heal. The gash on your arm--if you move too much, it will reopen to a painful wound."
Malthael shrugged. ``I can deal with a small cut.``
``Small?`` Itherael asked, looking over at his friend. ``Small is an understatement! That skeleton did a number on you, Malthael!``
Another shrug.
``If it reopened you could lose a lot of blood-..``
Yet another shrug.
``Malthael, please-...``
Malthael huffed. ``Itherael, listen... I care not that I may well lose much blood and perhaps pass out. The number one priority right now is finding the shards of El'Druin and restoring Tyrael's lost memory.``
Itherael opened his mouth to respond, but closed it; Malthael had his ways of making you lose all ability to argue. Instead he hung his head in defeat. ``Fine. We'll go. We'll go and let yourself risk getting hurt and risk me having a panic attack.``
Malthael sighed. Itherael did have a point. ``As you wish. We will stay here until I am fully healed. And then...``
Itherael nodded, standing and holding his hand out to Malthael, who took it and stood himself up. ``Thank you.``
``Not a need to thank me, Malthael.``

Roles, now, were reversed. Malthael stayed in bed most times, sleeping. Often would Itherael sit by the bedside, cuddling into his lover, using his uncanny healing powers to speed along Malthael's recovery. The pair had discovered that Malthael had an affinity for hot--steaming--chicken noodle soup, and often would Itherael run to the kitchens to grab a bowl, to return to Malthael and feed it to him. Malthael was unusually tame while stuck in the Inn bed, allowing Itherael to feed him food of his choice, cuddle him, fluff the pillows, and take care of him in general. Normally, Malthael was a very independent Archangel, but as his injuries had seemed to worsen as he moved around upright, he allowed Itherael to mother him. ``Do what you must`` were his words. Of course, Itherael claimed that cuddling and loving in general were a vital part of the recovery (they weren't, but Itherael wasn't going to pass up the chance to cuddle his love) and that the more often, the better. He was sure Malthael had seen through this by now, but never once did the elder reject. He was most likely too tired to, so Itherael reflected, but he was happy that he wasn't rejecting his love. Itherael almost felt Malthael was using his lack of mobility to his advantage.
``Itheraellllll,`` he would purr in his dark, musical and seductive voice, dragging out the 'l', ``get me some of that soup for me, would you, love?``
``Of course, Malthael. I love you,`` would be Itherael's kind reply. Malthael would grin, allowing his sharp silver fangs and black tongue to be revealed. ``I love you too,`` he would say in his deep rumble of a voice that Itherael loved the sound of more than anything else, besides Malthael himself, of course. Itherael would then depart, returning with a bowl of steaming hot soup. He then would sit down by the bedside, smiling down at Malthael. Malthael would purr and smile back up at Itherael, and Itherael would begin feeding him the soup. Afterwards, Itherael would set the bowl aside and lay next to Malthael, playfully biting his neck, before cuddling lovingly into Malthael's side. Malthael would roll over, usually with a small wince, and wrap his long arms around the smaller Archangel. Giggling softly, Itherael would plant delicate kisses on Malthael's chest and biceps. Malthael, in turn, would murmur an ``Anu, do I love you, Itherael`` and lift his face to kiss his mouth, and Itherael would pull himself against Malthael, breaking away and placing his forehead against the other's. ``I love you,`` he would say. ``I know,`` Malthael's smug reply would be.

``My arm seems to be healing well,`` Malthael commented to the form of Itherael that sat at the bedside, rubbing his hand up and down the other's stomach, which was exposed. Currently, all of Malthael's visible armour was removed, and his black chest rose and fell with each breath. There was a visible scar on his left arm, and his same arm was twisted at an awkward angle. A large injury spread outwards from his ribs in an almost frost-like fashion, and it looked that there was frost on the scar, the part of his left arm where the ligament was, and his ribs. Both seemed rather tired. Itherael smiled at his lover. ``Good,`` he purred, leaning down and pecking Malthael's lips. Malthael smiled, licking his lips after his lover kissed them. Itherael giggled, raising a brow. ``Hm.``
Malthael smirked, before saying softly, ``Itheraelllll-...``
``Yes, Malthael?`` Itherael asked, his voice a purr.
``Get me some of that soup?``
``I suppose,`` Itherael murmured, standing and brushing an arm over his lover's chest and arm. He then turned, walking out. Malthael watched him leave, allowing his left hand to ball into a fist, grabbing many of the sheets. It felt good to him--straining the muscles of his injured arm. After all, what was a small dose of pain? Of course, Itherael didn't allow Malthael to do that while he was in the vicinity, so Malthael made sure to only stretch that arm when Itherael was absent from the room. However he was sure that the other had figured out by now; he knew Itherael was far from dumb. Itherael soon returned to the room, his eyes raking over Malthael's body, looking for signs of the injuries healing or worsening. After confirming that the healing--both his own and the frost over the injuries--was going fine, Itherael nodded slightly, a gurgling kind of purr rising from the back of his throat. He then proceeded to sit back on the bedside. ``Do you want to see if your left arm works well enough to feed yourself?`` He offered.
``No--I enjoy slaving you,`` was Malthael purred reply as he looked up at Itherael, swiping his dark, wispy tongue over his lips. Itherael laughed. ``Of course you do,`` Itherael responded, smiling. ``In many ways,`` Malthael purred, winking. Itherael blushed and unconsciously licked his lips. ``Now,`` Malthael purred in his musical, seductive voice, ``feed me, slave.``
Itherael giggled. ``You're insistent, aren't you?``
``Perhaps.``
Itherael smiled, and Malthael allowed himself to be fed by the other Archangel.
``Ironic, isn't it, that your affinity is ice, yet you seem to like warm things,`` Itherael murmured as he spooned the last bit of soup into the elder's mouth. Swallowing it, Malthael shrugged before winking and smirking. ``Only yours.``
Itherael's eyes widened as he blushed. ``I-I... M-Malthael-- y-you-...``
Malthael's smirk only broadened.

"And you checked for any internal damage?" The lady with the glasses asked. ``Yes,`` Itherael responded mechanically. Anu, these people are nosy, he though to himself. "Are you sure?"
``Yes.``
"... Alright." And she scurried off. Itherael shook his head, turning to return to he and his lover's quarters. Cain, however, caught up with him. "Archangel Itherael!" He called. Itherael turned. ``Cain,`` was all he said. "I have located the final piece of El'Druin. It is in The Drowned Temple. How is the recovery of Malthael coming?"
Itherael managed a relieved smile. ``Well. The ribs have healed, and the nick scarred over. Now we simply need to allow his ligament rest. That does limit what all he can do, however...`` Itherael trailed off, almost a little sadness to his voice. Cain rose a bushy white brow, but did not press; the buisness of an Archangel was not his to invade. Instead he rhetorically nodded. "Right. I suspect you'll wish to stay with him, to assure he makes a full recovery?"
``Precisely,`` said the angel. "Then it is settled," Cain replied, holding out a folded paper. Itherael took it, studying it. "It is a map of The Fields of Misery and The Drowned Temple. I pray it will aid you in your search for the shards; I have nothing more I can do, as I am but an old man."
Itherael nodded, tucking the paper away. ``Yes, of course. Thank you, Cain.``
Cain's eyes sparkled in knowing. "There is not a need to thank me, Archangel Itherael."
Itherael waved him off. ``Just call me Itherael.``

``So.`` Malthael looked over the contents of the paper once more, ``Once I am healed these are the places we set out to.`` Itherael nodded. ``First we will go here--`` Malthael jabbed the paper with a talon, ``--then head to the west. After that, we will make our way to The Fields of Misery and start here--`` another jab, this time he traced a line to the north, ``--and follow this path, to where the second shard of the sword is.``
``Why can't we just go straight to the sword?`` Itherael asked. Malthael looked up at him. ``Do you really think it would be that easy.``
``For two Archangels? Well... yes.``
Malthael shook his head with a sigh. ``I can easily guess how many things will be around the shards, fighting all who come near, trying to claim it as their prize.``
Itherael shrugged. ``True, I suppose. Regardless, I can estimate that by tomorrow morning, if you rest until then, your arm will be healed.``
Malthael groaned. ``Itheraellll--....``
``Yes, Malthael?`` Itherael asked sweetly. ``Why must I constantly rest?`` Malthael complained. Itherael only leant down and kissed his lover's forehead. ``To heal. Now, rest.`` And he pushed Malthael back down onto the bed gently. Malthael tried to support himself with his wings, but they soon collapsed under his weight, and he sighed, sinking back into the covers. ``You win,`` he admitted. Itherael grinned. ``Don't I usually get my way, though?``
``I suppose so.``
Itherael grinned, putting out the candles and folding the paper, setting it on the desk. Malthael watched this from the depths of his hood, blinking once. Itherael went about tidying the room, before finishing, nodding, and walking back over to the bed. Malthael scooted over much as he could, allowing Itherael room to lay beside him, cuddling to him happily with a soft purr. ``Malthaellll...`` He moaned into the elder's ear, and Malthael bit his lip. ``Itherael-... D-don't-...`` He mumbled. ``Why notttt?`` Itherael whined, grinding onto Malthael's side slightly. Malthael groaned quietly, shivering under Itherael's touch. ``I-Itherael, p-please...`` Malthael begged. Itherael smirked, slowly tracing his tongue up Malthael's neck--one of the other's turn-on's. He put a hand on the other's chest, too, which was now re-armoured, beginning to kiss up his neck. Malthael shuddered and whimpered slightly, totally at the mercy of Itherael. Itherael then placed himself on top of Malthael, grinding down lightly and biting his bottom lip; another turn-on. ``I-Itherael...`` Malthael whimpered in his deep voice, and Itherael couldn't restrain a tiny moan of ``Malthael``. Malthael grinded back up on Itherael, eliciting a small gasp from the other's lips. ``A-Ah...`` Itherael whined, ``Ma-Malthael... C-Chi...``
Malthael smirked faintly, pulling Itherael down against him into a kiss, grinding up again. Itherael moaned softly, and Malthael slid his dark tongue into Itherael's mouth, causing the other to gasp. ``M-Malthael...~``
He smirked, deepening the kiss and grinding harder on the smaller Archangel. In turn, Itherael shifted his position on Malthael, maintaining the kiss, and pulled Malthael on top of him. Malthael began to grind down on Itherael, taking control. He then broke the kiss, kissing down Itherael's neck and biting down gently, leaving a slight gold mark. As he continued kissing and grinding, Malthael worked his hand up under Itherael's shoulder armour, beginning to take it off. Itherael assisted the other in taking his armour off, till his upper body was exposed. Malthael paused all movement for a moment to look over Itherael, tracing a scar on his chest. ``Chi...`` was all Itherael said, panting softly. He then began to work on removing Malthael's own upper armour, looking over his lover's slender, yet even so very muscular, figure. He then let his eyes fall to the curve of Malthael's hips, that led to his lower body. He then let his eyes come to rest on Malthael's well toned eight pack. Malthael smirked, raising a brow. ``Like what you see, do you.``
Itherael snapped his gaze back to Malthael's face, blushing. ``M-Mm..``
Malthael just chuckled and pulled his lover into a fierce kiss. As they kissed, Malthael began undoing the leg and waist armour he wore, and he could see Itherael blush more, beginning to undo his own armour. Malthael smirked as he saw Itherael fumbling with his armour, his hands shaky. How cute it was to him when he got Itherael all worked up and sexually excited, and/or sexually frustrated. It was even more cute when he left him there, on the edge, wanting more. As he continued removing his own armour with ease, he smirked down at Itherael. ``Having troubles there, mm?``
Itherael only whimpered. Having finished removing his own armour, Malthael watched as Itherael's hands became more shaky and he continued fumbling to remove his own armour quickly--a sign of sexual excitement and frustration from the smaller Arch. ``M-Malthael, M-Mm...`` Itherael whined. Malthael smirked. ``Yes, Itherael?``
``Help m-me?``
``Hmm...`` Malthael mimicked pondering. Then, ``Nah. I think you'll be fine, love.``
Another whimper. His armour was almost all removed, but he still struggled with the shin armour. Malthael sat back, watching, smirking. Soon, with a little difficulty, Itherael had removed all armour and looked lustfully up at Malthael, pleading. ``M-mm...``
``And what do you plan doing, Itherael?`` Malthael teased in his dark, seductive voice. Itherael's eyes, darkened with lust, flicked to Malthael's member, then to Malthael once more. Malthael rose a brow, his eyes flickering to Itherael's lips before looking up back into his. ``So,`` he purred, ``what are your plans?~``
Itherael leant forward, kissing Malthael and pushing him back on the bed. He broke the kiss almost as soon as Malthael's back was on the bed, and he began kissing down Malthael's neck and chest. Malthael allowed himself to be pushed back, allowed Itherael to do what he wished. The smaller Archangel kept trailing his kisses lower and lower, teasingly kissing Malthael's abs. Malthael began to shudder under Itherael's lips, Itherael smirking and running his hands across the other Archangel's sides and upper chest, Malthael balling his hands into fists around the sheets of the bed and groaning softly. Itherael smirked, kissing lower on the elder still. ``I-Itherael...`` Malthael grunted softly. Itherael giggled, before taking the tip of Malthael's length in his mouth. In turn, Malthael's eyes widened and he gasped quietly. ``I-Itherael!~...`` He groaned, and Itherael began sucking, slowly but surely. Itherael smirked at Malthael's soft huffing and panting. He began taking more of Malthael in his mouth, blowing him faster. ``Itherael... C-Chi...`` Malthael grunted, and Itherael put his hands on Malthael's almost bony hips, deepthroating him by now. It was a good thing he didn't have a gag reflex. Malthael was clenching and unclenching his fists in the covers, groaning quietly. He could tell he was getting close, and Itherael could tell too. He increased his speed greatly, smirking as shudders wracked Malthael's slender body. ``I-Itherael, I-I'm... M-Mm..``
Itherael smirked, swirling his tongue on the tip, stopping his blowing completely. Malthael groaned. ``Itheraelllll...``
Itherael only smirked. He kept up the swirling motion, before beginning to blow him once more. Instantly, a loud groan was issued from Malthael's lips, and Itherael began blowing even harder, waiting for Malthael to release. Only a few moments later did he, and Itherael managed to swallow three fourths of it. The rest of it coated the area around his mouth, and a little of Malthael's member. Itherael slowly pulled away, licking his lips clean of the cum. ``Itherael...``
Itherael smirked, crawling back up to Malthael and kissing his lips. Malthael kissed the smaller angel back, and Itherael teasingly broke the kiss, rolling to lay on his stomach. Malthael rose a brow in an ``is that an offer`` sort of way. Itherael wiggled his hips teasingly, and Malthael bit his lip, twisting his body to lay on top of the other. ``Come get me...`` Itherael purred. Malthael leant his head downwards and bit Itherael's neck gently. Itherael made a small whine sort of noise, and Malthael smirked. ``Are you sure, Itherael?~`` Malthael purred, and all he received in turn was a tiny whine. ``Yes.``
Malthael, instead of doing what Itherael wanted, simply began teasing the smaller Arch, kissing all down his neck and shoulder blades. ``Malthaellllll...`` Itherael whined, moving his hips up into the elder's. Malthael gasped softly, biting down on his neck, swirling his tongue around. Itherael bit down on his lips, balling his fists into hands around the sheets of the bed. Malthael aligned himself with Itherael, but continued to merely bite his neck and taunt him. ``M-Malthaelll...`` Itherael whined, moving his hips up again. Still, however, Malthael teased. ``M-Malthaelllll~...`` Itherael whined musically. ``Needy, aren't you?`` Malthael purred into his ear. Itherael moaned as Malthael ran a hand down Itherael's side, pushing himself closer to Itherael's entrance, still not letting his lover have his satisfaction. Itherael whined loudly. ``Ma-a-altha-a-aelllll...`` Itherael moaned loudly, his wings fluttering under Malthael, the tendrils beginning to rub up and down Malthael's sides. Malthael's eyes widened, but he resisted the urges he had to fuck his love right then and there. ``Malthael.. Mmmm... C-Chi... I-I need you...``
``Do you? Or do you want me?~`` Malthael teased. Itherael whined loudly. Malthael smirked, purring an `` As you wish`` to him, slowly, but surely, pushing his length into Itherael's small body. Itherael whined loudly, balling his hands into fists. Slowly did Malthael begin thrusting into Itherael, licking his shoulder blades and kissing his neck. Itherael whined and moaned, turning his head so he could kiss Malthael's lips in some way. The pair kissed well as they could, Malthael still thrusting, Itherael still rubbing Malthael's sides with his wing tendrils. For the moment, the pair kissed, each panting into it. Then they broke it, Malthael rapidly increasing the speed and strength of his thrusting, Itherael moaning and whimpering, the side of his face pressed down into the pillow. Malthael propelled himself and his body in quick, jerking but hard thrusts, bringing both he and his lover to the edge quickly. Itherael allowed Malthael to do this, only able to whimper and moan in pleasure. Both could feel themselves coming steadily closer, and the sounds of panting, whimper, groaning and moaning. ``M-Mal-lthaellll....~`` Itherael moaned loudly, grabbing the sheets as hard as he could. Malthael kept up his steady thrusts into Itherael, dragging his tongue up the other's neck. ``Itherael...`` He groaned softly. Itherael found himself releasing, Malthael following suit only moments later. Pulling out, Malthael laid next to Itherael, huffing and panting. Itherael placed a kiss on Malthael's cheek--which had a scar on it. Malthael smirked lightly. ``What happened to me needing to rest?``

Chapter Text

``He still thinks us crazy,`` Malthael huffed. Itherael laid a hand on his lover's arm. ``Don't let it get to you, Malthael.``
``Well, I'm letting it!`` Malthael snapped. Itherael flinched back instinctively; when angry, Malthael was a little too much like his brother. Malthael sighed, allowing his shoulders to go lax. ``Sorry, Itherael...``
Itherael shrugged his words off. ``It's fine--you just...``
``Imperius.``
Itherael only nodded, and Malthael sighed. ``I apologize. I'm stressed... Heh, I think I know how Lord Vader feels on a daily basis, now.``
Itherael shrugged. ``Didn't you say something about him having a temper to be reckoned with? Also... He's a Sith, right?``
Malthael nodded. ``I suppose my stress is different than that which he feels; he has an entire Empire to run, a Rebellion to silence, and a galaxy to conquer.``
For a long few moments, Itherael didn't respond. Finally, he said, ``And you have a universe to save.``
Malthael suddenly became distant. ``Cain told me something about that..``
``That being?``
``He called it the Prophecy of the End Days...``
``And?``
``It goes... 'In the end days, Wisdom shall be lost, as Justice falls upon the world of men. Valour shall turn to Wrath--and all Hope will be swallowed by Despair. Death, as last, shall spread its wings over all--as Fate lies shattered forever'...``
``Oh.`` Itherael didn't know what to say. ``As well as that, Auriel came to me with something disturbing... She told me that she had a dream, before we left. I will not go into detail of the dream, but the words she told me that were spoke by Diablo himself in her dream trouble me... He said, "Valour to wrath, Justice fallen, Hope silenced, Fate broken, and Wisdom long gone, to be replaced by the shadow of Death. The Heavens fall to ashes, and Death will spread his wings across the lands, bringing with him suffering and pain. Fate lay in ruins, broken and shattered--a shell of who they used to be. Justice, fallen from grace forever, no longer able to help. Valour turned to wrath in anger, killing his own and his enemies. Hope, gone, silenced forever by the depths of Despair. And Wisdom, no more. Without wisdom to stop this corruption, and only Death in his place, you will fall. Heaven will be mine to rule, and Death will lay Sanctuary to ruin with his madness".``
Itherael had no words. ``Diablo's words sound much like the Prophecy of the End Days, but he fills in more...`` Malthael muttered. ``"Death will spread his wings across the lands, bringing with him suffering and pain"? "Death will lay Sanctuary to ruin with his madness"?`` Itherael quoted. Malthael shrugged. ``I don't see how!`` Itherael sighed. ``If anything, you're doing the opposite of his words... you're trying to save Sanctuary, not destroy it...`` Itherael sighed heavily and shook his head. ``Perhaps there's no hope for us. Perhaps we were all meant to die.``
``Itherael, stop and listen to me: we were meant for more than this; to protect the innocent. We will do so... there is hope for us,`` Malthael said. Only then did he realize something: there were tears in Itherael's eyes. Malthael bit his tongue. ``Itherael--...``
``Y-yes, Malthael...?``
``Look at me.``
Itherael did so, looking up at Malthael, teary-eyed. ``You need to have hope; we will defeat this evil. But first, we must restore Tyrael's memory.``
Itherael nodded, and Malthael cupped the younger's face, wiping his tears away. ``Dry your tears, love--for soon, all of this shall be over for the rest of time.``
Itherael nodded, and looked up. Malthael did to, perking up when he saw a dark, wedge shape in the sky. ``Star Destroyer...?`` He muttered absently, huffing when the shape broke--as it was only a cloud. He then drew his hand from Itherael's face. ``Come,`` he said, ``let us discuss this with Cain.``
Itherael nodded, and Malthael turned, walking with the marching gait and certainty that he's heard the other describe many of the officers from the Empire, including Lord Vader himself, walk with. 
``Cain!`` Malthael called to the older man, and he turned from a conversation with Tyrael. "What is it?" He asked. ``Itherael and I will be setting to the Fields of Misery to find the first shard of the sword.``
Itherael cocked his head, as that was not where they were going to go to first in the beginning, but he questioned not. "Ah, I warn you; the Khazra are rampaging. Take heed, my friend," Cain responded. "D'you recon it could be caused by the power from the sword fragment?" Leah suggested. "Perhaps so," Cain murmured. Malthael looked up into the pale blue sky that was just beginning to let the light dawn. ``Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not. Regardless, Itherael and I should be off.``
Itherael nodded in response, gathering himself, shaking himself awake. ``Come,`` Malthael said as he set to the gates. Itherael soundlessly followed, still struggling to keep up with Malthael. He would have to ask him later to slow down a bit while walking. However, that was later, and this was now. 

Upon entrance to the Fields of Misery, Malthael looked around at the span of dreary grasslands. ``I can bet that a Khazra Mage brought the sword fragment to the den, thinking it was some great staff of magic.``
``In essence, it is,`` Itherael mumbled, and Malthael shrugged. ``Not exactly.``
Silence fell across them like a blanket, Itherael not even trying to break it. Instead he kept an eye out for any Khazra. He spied one in the distance, it being much bulkier, dragging its hoofs lethargically across the ground. Most likely a warrior of the clan, he reflected. As long as they kept their distance, he knew, they would--should, anyway--be fine. And then he remembered they had a liking for burrowing and attacking from below. Nervously, he fluttered his wings, allowing himself to raise a few inches into the air. Malthael looked back, noticing this. ``You alright?`` he asked, and Itherael nodded. 
``You seem nervous.``
Itherael shrugged. ``I was remembering that the Khazra like to burrow and attack from below, that's all...``
Malthael nodded in understanding. He then snorted softly. ``If you'd like a piggy-back ride, I suppose I could give you one...``
Itherael blinked. ``W-what? I-I'm not that nervous!``
Malthael allowed a smirk to creep across his features. ``Then why are you stuttering?``
Itherael grumbled to himself, and Malthael just smirked even more. However, he abruptly put his hand out. ``Here it is; the Khazra Den.``
Itherael craned his neck to look over Malthael's shoulder. It was... a large hole in the ground that looked as if Malthael would have no problem sliding down, but he, himself, might have a little more difficulty. Damn him and his small frame, Itherael thought to himself. Malthael, able to read minds, only rose a brow. ``Who ever said that we had to keep the entrance that size? Better to announce yourself than arrive unnoticed, correct? Just invite yourself in, Itherael.``
Itherael opened his mouth to reply, but Malthael had already slid out of sight. Huffing Itherael approached the hole. It was a rather long drop... and he already didn't like the idea of being underground. What if it collapsed? What if his wings failed him? What if-
``You coming?`` Malthael called from the shadows. ``What? Oh, y-yeah,`` Itherael called back down, inhaling deeply and sliding down the hole.

He didn't get stuck, by some miracle, and his wings didn't fail him, allowing him a safe landing. There were tunnels in every direction, and Itherael felt himself getting dizzy. Oh, how he hated being underground. Upon feeling the thundering of Khazra hooves on the ground above, and some dirt falling from the ceiling onto his shoulder, Itherael stumbled back into Malthael, who quickly wrapped his arms around the smaller Arch's waist to steady him. ``Hey, it's okay,`` he murmured, but Itherael only whined. ``I hate being underground...``
``We won't be down here for long, I swear it,`` Malthael responded, pressing a kiss to the side of Itherael's face. ``Just long enough to get the sword fragment, and then we're out of here.``
``Sure?``
``I'm positive.``
Itherael smiled a tiny bit at this reassurance. 

The pair walked, and Itherael made sure he kept Malthael's arm within reach, in case he freaked out; Malthael's arm was always nice to hug to his chest when he panicked. ``This way,`` Malthael murmured, veering to the left. Itherael obediently followed. Odd enough, they had been walking for around a mortal's 30 minutes and not come across any Khazra. Perhaps they're all aboveground, rampaging, Itherael had suggested to himself. That made him feel better for about 1.5 seconds, until he realized that meant there was a higher chance of the roof caving in. ``M-Malthael...?`` He whispered. ``Mmm?`` Was Malthael's reply.
``Why are there no Khazra around?``
``They're either all aboveground or worshiping the fragment of El'Druin, no doubt.`` Malthael shook his head. ``Horrendously stupid creatures, honestly.``
Itherael nodded his wordless agreement. Suddenly he was yanked into the shadows by Malthael, just in time for a group of Khazra to pass, speaking in their tongue. "Bu tsurugi . . . unubunko . . . kankee gusha . . ."
A roar could be heard, echoing from farther down the tunnels. "Chuba!" The first Khazra hissed. "Boska! Boska!" And the two rushed off. Itherael and Malthael exchanged a glance, slowly creeping from the shadows. ``They said something of 'the sword'...`` Malthael murmured. ``What all did you hear them say? I know you can speak Khazra, but I cannot.``
Malthael nodded. ``I caught the words "Bu tsurugi," translating to "the sword"... I also got "unubunko" and "kankee gusha", translating to "underground" and "kind of lucky" respectively. "Chuba" means dammit, and "Boska" means let's go.``
Itherael blinked, confused. ``Should we follow them?``
``Yes.``
And so they set off, following the hoof marks from the Khazra. Quite a few twists and turns followed, but soon they arrived. Staying in the shadows, they looked upon a great room, filled with Khazra spearmen, warriors, and mages. A final Khazra mage walked in, uttering, "Dobra wata."
The mage on a large throne of bones nodded, and shouted, "Da t'hesh!"
Silence fell.
"Bu punyoo jee grenchicit sa ov paamuk, worthy ov nenoleeya kan; perhaps soong tuta bu gupa pa."
``He said, "this weapon I hold is of great power, worthy of our kind; perhaps it is from the higher realms,"`` Malthael translated softly for Itherael. A dark sort of grin crept across the mage's face as he continued, "Mo bu doompa pa."
Malthael bristled. ``He said, "or the lower realms."``
Loud Khazra whooping could be heard all around. ``I'm going to go in and try and negotiate getting the piece back,`` Malthael whispered. ``What?!`` Itherael hissed. ``Yes. Trust me,`` Malthael said. Then he left Itherael, going into the open. Silence fell across the goatmen, and the mage hissed, "Haku sa bu?"
``Jee tyatee che bu tsurugi,`` Malthael said calmly, ruffling his wings before folding them to his back. "Bu punyoo sa myo!" The Khazra mage growled. Malthael put his hands up, in a surrender motion. ``Soong sa myo pateesa's.``
"Wanta hagwa hoohah tyatee, tu?" The mage snarled. ``Hoohah chone chyasee. Ehshtee je bu tsurugi, an nobata blotasee holosa buttmalia kobosu,`` Malthael demanded in his soft, calm voice. The mage seemed to only grow angrier from his words. "Chut!"
``Yud ehda, blotasee holosa buttmalia kobosu, nas?``
"Tagwa! Khazra shetai, dabwenga!"
On command, all Khazra warriors rushed at Malthael. Rather lazily, Malthael flapped his wings, bathing the area in a cold breath and flying upwards lazily, causing three of the warriors to slam into each other. He faked a yawn, stretching his arms over his head. ``Sa da songwa?`` He asked, only further enraging the Khazra mage. "Khazra Yari, dabwenga!!"
The Khazra spearmen began hurtling their spears at Malthael, all of which he easily dodged and deflected back at their owners, killing them, or catching them and throwing them to other spearmen, killing them, too. He then looked back at the mage. ``Sa da songwa?``
The mage's dark eyes darted around the dead spearmen, the unconscious warriors, then to the other mages. "Khazra Tejina," he hissed softly, "dabwenga."
The mages began attacking, him included. Malthael simply deflected their attacks back at them, killing them. But not the leader. The leader looked at him, hate flaring in his coal black eyes as he whispered, "Watagwa crispo uba hongas." With that, he flung a spell of flames at Malthael. He dodged. Another fire spell. And another, and another, and another, and ano--
``Eloswa,`` Malthael snarled, holding a hand out and sending a jet of ice at the mage, freezing him to the wall. ``Bu , sa tsurugi, myo.``
Before he could move, however, a dark form appeared over the shard, forming into a woman, with large butterflies for wings and pale skin. She was in a dark dress. "You dare steal from the Coven?" She asked Malthael. Malthael hissed, glaring. ``The shard is mine, mortal.``
The woman laughed shrilly. "I am Magdah, servant of Lord Bellial! The shard is mine to keep, Archangel. Let the games begin!"
From the ground rose humans. Each ran towards Malthael, who rather easily felled them. ``Is that all you've got. You and your Coven are almost weak as Bellial himself, then.``
Magdah only giggled darkly. "You win this round, but the next shard is mine; as it is only where the ancient Nephalem can tread!"
``Shut your mouth and blab to someone who cares,`` Malthael growled. Magdah laughed shrilly again, and disappeared by the same means that she appeared.
With that, Malthael bent and picked the shard of the sword from the altar. Turning, he left, not looking back. Itherael followed, blinking. ``You need to teach me Khazra,`` he muttered. ``I will, someday,`` Malthael responded. Itherael nodded, jogging a little, eager to get out of the caves.

Once out, they began heading back, and Itherael spied a lone female Khazra. The female were more deadly than the males. She was hunched over a log, and Malthael walked up to her. Putting a hand on her shoulder, he said, ``Uba bok chuu-ock tuta bu den.``
She jumped, whirling round to look at her aggressor. When she saw it was not a Khazra, she relaxed, but squinted. "You... You are not Khazra," she spoke in human tongue, "how do you know Khazra? You are... an angel?"
Malthael rose a brow. ``You are not human, how do you know human?``
She growled quietly, muttering, ``I am a rogue Khazra. I picked human up from humans, of course..." She then looked up at him. "You are the Archangel Malthael, and that is the Archangel Itherael. I am Siz--Khazra for fire. I broke away from the Moon Clan to wander on my own. Sometimes, I even help out travelers. However I feel like I don't have much a purpose... What is that? A... sword fragment?"
``Yes.``
She paused. "I'd like to see what you do with it..."
``You're asking to come with us, aren't you.``
"In essence? Yes."
Malthael looked at Itherael, who shrugged. ``You may, then,`` he said, and Siz smiled. "Terrific. Oh, and one more thing; call me naked all you wish, but I will not adorn any "clothes". I have my flesh and fur to keep me clothed."
Malthael chuckled at this. ``Wise words.``

Upon returning to New Tristram, Malthael made his way to Cain, Leah and Tyrael, who happened to be near the cowardly mayor. Many who saw the female Khazra either glared or gave her odd looks, all of which she snarled at. Upon looking up and seeing Siz, the mayor became alarmed. "Oh, my! A Khazra! Get that filthy, ugly creature out of here!"
Khazra's are known for their temper, especially the females, and even the smallest females stand taller than most humans, and Siz was no small female. Along with that, she had a nasty temper. She whipped her head around to look at the mayor as he said this, narrowing her coal black eyes. Turning, she made her way up to the man, backing him against his trailer. "Filthy? Ugly? Look who's talking! I came here to help these two Archangels purge this land of its evil. I have been rogue for many years, helping wary travelers. And you? You're trying to run! See that woman over there? The crying one?"
The mayor nodded frantically.
"She's crying over the loss of her 10-year-old son, who died defending this place. And yet you try and run. If anything, you're the filthy, disgusting one. You should be in the place of that little boy, and mark my words, you, sir, can go to Hell."
Siz let the man drop, and indeed he did; to his knees, sobbing. Pawing the ground once with her hoof, Siz turned, only to hear the crying woman call to her. "U-Um... e-excuse me, K-Khazra?"
Siz turned to look at her, her black eyes softening. "Call me Siz. What is it?"
The woman smiled a little. "I just... wanted to... t-thank you for... that..."
"For what I did to the mayor?"
"Y-yes."
Siz now smiled a little too. "There's no justice in running like a coward. I felt he should learn a lesson in that."
Within a few minutes Siz had become a welcome sight in Tristram.

"Tomorrow, we set out for the Drowned Temple, then?" Siz asked, leaning forward by the fireside, resting her hands on her knees. Itherael nodded. ``I... believe so.``
Malthael nodded, more confidently. ``Yes. By sunset we will have the last shard of the sword, and Tyrael's memory restored.``
Siz smiled. "That's great. With his memory returned, we should have no problem defeating the evils."
Malthael nodded, looking into the sky. Siz looked back into the rest of the town and frowned lightly. She kept in shape, and travelers would often tell her he had a good form, but she had lost count of just how many men from the town would stare at her breasts (which were covered with fur, mind you, so there was nothing to see there) and her butt. Honestly, she though to herself, men will look at anything a woman has. Flicking her ear, she exhaled softly. She then looked up into the stars. Tomorrow would be a long day.

Chapter Text

"Ugh. I /hate/ Boggits," Siz grunted, lifting her left hoof and shaking the remains of one from it. Malthael nodded sympathetically, kicking at one that tried to attack him. Most creatures here left them alone; who in their right mind would attack two Archangels and a female Khazra? ``So,`` Itherael began softly, ``What weapons do you use, Siz?``
"Normally my body. On ocassion, a Khazra krieg-ha, or Khazra War-blade," Siz responded. Itherael nodded slowly. ``I see.``
Moments of silence passed, and finally Malthael spoke. ``Do you believe you have any connection with the Buraindo Ryobun?``
"I... don't think so."
``The Ketsueki Ryobun?``
"A bit, yes. I think I have more a connection with the Yoro Ryobun, the Tsuki Ryobun, and the Eclipse Ryobun," Siz responded. "Watch."
She waved her hands, and several strands of dark magic appeared. It formed a tree. Then, she thrust her hands forward, and the strands rushed to a Boggit tower, destroying it. Malthael nodded in approval. "I was a mage," she admitted. Itherael blinked. ``Good,`` Malthael rumbled, ``mages have always made for good companions.``
Siz smiled. "Good."

"I cannot refuse to let two Archangels inside of these ruins," the spectre said, "but know this: my brethren /will/ seek to kill you."
Malthael snorted. ``Itherael, throw a rock at me; let us demonstrate where trying to harm me gets us.``
Itherael nodded, picking up a chunk of stone and throwing it at Malthael. It merly passed through him, coming out behind him, icy. Malthael then turned to the spirit. ``And you,`` he said, ``thrust your sword through my chest.``
Hesitaintly, the spirit did so. Again, the item passed through Death harmlessly, only becoming icy. Drawing back, the spirit blinked. ``I assure you, no harm will come to us. Your brethren see I am strongest; they will attack me first. When they see that no harm can come to me, they will flee,`` Malthael said. The spirit nodded, soundless. Siz found her respect for Malthael growing. ``Let us go, then,`` Malthael said, sweeping past the ghostly warrior. Siz and Itherael followed, exchaging a glance. The scene played out almost exactly as Malthael predicted. A spectre appeared, lunging for Itherael. Two things happened in that moment. First, Malthael jumped in front of Itherael, and second, Itherael teleported where Malthael was standing at first. The spectre drove his sword deep into Malthael's chest, and even time seemed to freeze. The sword stopped moving, and Malthael coughed slightly, eyes widening a bit.
And then the spectre fell straight through him. Falling onto the ground, it flipped to its back, trying to propell itself away from Malthael, it's face a mask of horror. "J-Just... what /are/ you!?"
Malthael smirked, advancing on it, drawing a scythe into hand. As he smirked, his silvery fangs shone clear as day from the abyss under his hood. He spread his wings far, and effortlessly glided towards the petrified spirit. ``I am... Death.``
The spirit shrieked. "Retreat! Retreat!" Getting up, it ran and stumbled, dissappearing into a wall. Being honest, Itherael and Siz had to admit that even /they/ were a little intimidated by this display. Calmly, Malthael folded his wings back, letting his hands drop to his sides. ``We... should not have any trouble, now,`` he stated. Siz nodded. "Right. I will admit, even I was a little intimidated by that, but no harm done."
Malthael nodded absently. He was going off into thought again. Magdah claimed she was the servant of Bellial... But hadn't he been killed? No, no, that was Duriel...
But hadn't the defeat of Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal discourage he and his brother?
Perhaps . . . but all the same . . .
``We need to go, now,`` Malthael said suddenly, quickening his pace. He had a vision: Magdah was coming for the second sword shard, and she was almost there.
Now he quickened his pace more, and Itheraelwas having difficulty keeping up. "Malthael--... What is it?" Siz asked, but he did not respond. He sharply veered left, then right, and another right. Then one more left. The fragment was gone. From behind Malthael rang out a shrill laugh. ``Magdah,`` he growled. "You fool!" She giggled, "While you were playing hero, I stole the fragments and kidnapped your little friends!"
Malthael snarled and whirled around, aiming a backslap to her pretty little face. But she was a projection; his hand went straight through her. She laughed shrilly once more before dissappearing. Malthael looked between the two others. ``We need to get back to New Tristram. /Now/.``

Upon entrance to Deckard Cain's house, Siz, Itherael, and Malthael were met with a horrifying sight. Magdah, channeling a dark, demonic magic, probably painful, too based on the expressions of pain worn by Cain, Leah, and Tyrael. Magdah giggled shrilly. "Now, old man, fix me the sword!" She commaned. Cain looked up at her, and Malthael had never seen so much determination, anger, and hate in one mortal's eyes. "I will... never." His voice was weakening, but he kept himself strong, keeping himself up by his staff. Before Siz, Itherael, or Malthael could act, Leah let out a loud scream, and a red blast of magic swept through the room, knocking Magdah back. "Fine!" Said Magdah. "If I cannot have the sword, I will simply have the one it is bound to!" As she said this, a dark portal formed under Tyrael, and dark tendrils rose up from it, dragging Tyrael down. Magdah laughed shrilly, dissappearing, and Malthael could hear Itherael shout, ``Tyrael, no-!``
Leah ran over to Cain, who was still leaning against his staff. "Uncle Deckard... you can't die!"
"I am not long for this world, Leah," Cain rasped, "but there is one last thing that must be done... the sword..."
Cain began working his olden, Horadrim magic on the sword. ``Cain,`` Malthael murmured, but he knew that soon Cain would be entering his underworld. Within a matter of moments, El'Druin was whole once more. Looking up at Malthael with his tired eyes, Cain pushed the sword feebly towards him. "Take it," he said, "take it and give it to Tyrael. It shall restore his memory..."
Leah looked between them. "Uncle, please... You-you /can't/ die..."
Cain managed a weak smile at his adopted niece. "You... you will have to continue my work, Leah... Finish what I started..."
Tears stung Leah's eyes. "Uncle..."
"We will see each other again, Leah," Cain rasped, his smile bittersweet as his arm faltered, carrying him to the ground. Leah crouched over him, watching as he took his final breaths, before he closed his eyes an let his last breath escape his lips.
A somber silence fell across the house.
``I'm sorry for your loss, Leah,`` Malthael said finally, ``Cain was a good man, and I heard much positivity about him from Tyrael.``
Leah nodded soundlessly, wiping some of her tears away, but more rushed to replace them. Now Siz approached the other female, crouching and using her thumb to wipe more of her tears away. "Hey," she said gently, and Leah looked up at her. "From what I have seen and heard, Cain was a great man. Know this: he has passed to the beyond... to Malthael's spirit realm. He watches over you, he will guide you... he is free of suffering."
Leah nodded at the goatman's words; Siz may be correct. "I... guess you could be right... I can just hardly believe he's gone... he was the only family I had..."
Siz nodded, then looked back to Malthael and Itherael. "You have /us/ as family, too."
This graced a faint smile on Leah's face. "Thank you..."
Siz smiled a little as well. "No need to thank me."

Since Cain's death, Malthael had been much gentler to Leah--he felt she needed it. Each day they tried relentlessly to figure out where Magdah had taken Tyrael, which was putting much stress on Malthael, and frustration. He, the Archangel of Wisdom and Death, could not figure out where she had taken his friend.
``She could have taken him /anywhere/ in creation,`` he was muttering. "Well, let's look at the facts we have," Siz responded, "based on Magdah's rather malicious personality, there are quite a few places she could have taken him. She could have taken him straight to Bellial, but I feel like she wants a chase to ensue."
Malthael nodded somewhat, gesturing for her to continue.
"She could have taken him to the Drowned Temple to drown, but, again--I feel she wants a pursuit on her hands. I think she's over-confident in her own self. She underestimates the abilities of two Archangels. Severly underestimates."
Malthael nodded. ``Not only just Itherael and I. He underestimates the abilities of the smartest Khazra I have met in my entire life--and that is a long time.``
Siz smiled a little. "Oh, I can't /possibly/ be..."
``You are,`` Malthael said seriously. Siz shrugged. "My wisdom is miniscule when compared to yours." Malthael managed a chuckle. ``As is everyone's comapred to mine.``
"Perhaps only Itherael could rival you, with his ability to see the past, present and future," murmured Siz. ``Perhaps,`` Malthael agreed.
Siz craned her neck to look at the map that sat on the desk Malthael was at. Looking over it, she suddenly gasped. "That's it!" she exclaimed. Malthael looked over at her. ``What?``
"Leoric's torture chambers... that's where she must have took him! ... we'll need to go through Leoric, himself, first..."
Malthael seemed to hunch more. ``Of course... she would use /him/ as a trap...`` He looked up, smiling grimmly. ``She isn't ready to face us yet.``
Siz tapped her hoof on the floor. "Hm."
Itherael appeared in the doorway. Siz looked up at him and smiled. Leah appeared from behind him. Often, now, was she seen near Itherael, and she clung to him like an infant to her mother. Most likely, he reminded her of the mother she never knew.
``Any updates?`` Itherael asked softly. Siz nodded. "She has taken him to Leoric's torture chambers; we will have to go through Leoric himself to continue--she is not ready to face us yet."
Leah smiled. But it was a bitter one. "She will pay for what she has done to Uncle Deckard. Won't she?"
Itherael smiled weakly down at her. ``With her life.``
Malthael looked up at the ceiling again. ``And Bellial will pay with his. Then, we may obtain the Black Soulstone, and seal his essence in the stone. The Eternal Conflict /will/ end.``
After a few moments of silence, Siz asked softly, "And Azmodan?"
``He, too, will pay with his life. I repeat myself: The Eternal Conflict =/will/= end.``

``There is /no/ other way,`` Malthael muttered. Itherael nodded begrudginly. "Any path we take will lead, yes, to where Magdah holds Tyrael captive, but also to the Mad King Leoric. Even if we didn't wish to, we will be forced to fight Leoric and most probably kill him," Siz murmured distaintfully. "He was once a respected, good man, too..."
Malthael nodded with a sigh. ``But Diablo can corrupt even the purest of people, twisting them into his foul puppets,`` Itherael breathed.
Siz nodded her agreement, flicking an ear. "Look at the Khazra Blood Clan, for instance. Koochoo wormos, all of them."
``'Koochoo wormos'...?`` Itherael asked slowly. "Translates to 'stupid idiots' in your language," Siz explained. Leah, who had been silent this whole time, nodded. "And baatu baatu translates to bother... Schutta is bitch, and rocka rocka is brain damage or brain damaged," she murmured.
Itherael smiled faintly. ``Basic Khazra insults...``
Siz nodded, looking up at the ceiling, exhaling a snort. "When will we be going to Leoric's manour?" She asked Malthael, who promptly shrugged. Siz huffed. "Well, that doesn't help us."
``I know, and I apologize. We must first look at out strengths, weaknesses, and assests, as well as Leoric's and Magdah's.``
Siz shrugged. "Whatever Magdah has, it can't be good. I don't like her... especially not with the talk of serving Bellial." She paused to shake her head in disgust. "No-one in their right mind would serve Lies."
``I'm not trying to say you are incorrect,`` Malthael murmured, ``but Magdah is no crazed hermit. She is in perfect mental health. I believe Bellial has twisted reality--given her a set of lies to live by. However, mortals under the influence of Bellial are not easily swayed. I fear we will have need to kill her.``
"Fear we will have need to kill her?" Siz scoffed. "Damn /right/ we'll have need to kill her!"
Itherael sighed. ``Horrid as it may sound, but tell me this; when millions die, what does one more death ammount to? When millions die, a death becomes a mere death. Ten deaths become mere deaths. Twenty, even. Or one hundred. Or a thousand?... Malthael has lived for 15,716,480,300 years, and I for 14,448,480,575 years. We have seen much death in our times...``
``But not in as many numbers as this,`` Malthael finished for him. For a moment, Siz's head swam with the prospect of living that long. She soon regained her composture, with a snort. "Hm... I see your point, Itherael. For, truly, what is the exchange of one's death to the lives of millions of innocents?"
Leah nodded numbly. "The more we can save, the better. I hate to think of murder, but at this point, it must be done."
Malthael nodded his silent agreement.
Itherael smiled slightly and his armoured hand found its way to Leah's shoulder in a soothing manner. "You have been through much, Leah," Siz murmured, "and yet you still see the light of good."
Somehow, the Khazra's words graced a bitter smile on the girl's face. "Wasn't there a saying telling how the people who'd lost everything were the kindest, and most pure?"
Itherael nodded. ``I do believe that there was so a phrase... you are a good person, Leah, and good people get the worse part of the meat, so it appears.``
Malthael nodded his own, silent agreement. ``But in life, there will always stand to be suffering, and death. Such is the circle of existance.``
Now Malthael sat a gentle hand on the girl's shoulder. ``Deckard resides within my spirit realm, now. Albeit from afar, he watches over you, Leah. Just as Itherael and I watch over you now. Life is a truly whimsical thing--it has its up and downs, highs and lows. People will be born, and people will die. But there is life after death.
``The strong and kind seem to partake in the most suffering. It is not a fair process, but it is inevitable. In the end, however, the kindest will have the richest afterlives.``
For heartbeats, Leah was dead silent. Then, she hugged Malthael tightly, and he could see the tears that stung her eyes.
Humans are definitly emotional, he reflected, awkwardly patting the female's back. However, he soon found himself fully hugging her back, understanding in complecity her pain. Sensing the sobs that screamed to be released, Malthael murmured four words to her that were perhaps the most genuine, gentlest and caring thing she'd ever heard him say to her: ``It's okay to cry.``
At first, all she permitted was a tiny sniffle. However, that sniffle turned into a tiny hiccup, and that hiccup to a sob. Before she knew it, she was sobbing uncontrollably on the Angel of Death.
This seemed to genuinly move Itherael, Siz, Malthael, and any others that happened to be around.
Malthael's wings rippled slowly as he let the girl cry her sorrows out. He let his left hand, the one without sharp armour on it, stroke her back absently, his fingers running across it in a soothing manner. ``Calm your breathing,`` he instructed softly as she hiccuped again, tears running down her face. ``In, hold for three, exhale, and repeat.``
Slowly, Leah did this and eventually her breathing became normal, and her sobs were dry convulsions of her body, wracking her form harshy as she tried in vain to cry the tears that were not there to cry any longer. "I-I'm sorry... for c-crying, I just..." Leah manged to say before Malthael pressed a cold talon to her lips. ``Sh,`` was all he said in his gentle voice that at the moment resonated sympathy. His single word sentence spoke all that he needed to speak: ``It's alright, I understand. There isn't a need to apologize, young one. Let it out; I do not mind.``
Despite feeling a true sympathy for her, Malthael could not help but wonder if Leah would suddenly look to he and Itherael as parent figures of sorts--a thought he was not fond of. However, she was 19, and he was sure that though Cain's death rocked her hard, it would not cause her to fall and she would push on and perhaps become stronger. Even so, if she did look to us as parent figures, there would be less a chance for Diablo to corrupt her if he finds a way to, Malthael reflected silently, and this much was true--she would need all the angelic protection she could get, and having the pure enbodiment of Heaven itself--Malthael--as a protection would decrease the chance for her to be corrupted greatly. Of course Malthael did not normally choose to take this title despite it being the truth, but at the moment it was the best reason he could offer to himself to let his mind not be so reluctant as to if Leah were to choose to see him as a father--or even mother, if that was what she chose, though Malthael cringed slightly at the idea of it--figure.
Sometimes it was difficult being the leader of Heaven and the pure aspect of Heaven.

Chapter Text

Why he didn't know where the /damn/ crown was? Like the question previously stated, he didn't know. But it made him incredibly angry. he was only glad that Itherael was understanding, as Leah, indeed as he suspected, tailed him like a leopard its prey. Even as he tried desprately to do his research. Itherael distracted her, most of the time however. To make up for his large doses of anger, he took up cussing in mortal language as well, to add to the large scale of languages he cussed fluently in, whether that be angel, demon, Huttish, Ewokese, Jawaese, Twi'Lek, or any other number of absurd languages, he could cuss fluently, and he proved to be the same in mortal as well. As with all other languages, he had a habit of creating colorful new swear words from already existing ones, such as his personal favorite, ``Fuckscum.``
Though he'd considered asking for assistance, he thought against it, strongly against the idea of hurting his pride.
Fucking angels and their pride. That was something he had overhead Siz muttering to Leah at a point, though he didn't comment--as he didn't have the heart to. Maybe that would hurt his pride, too.
Frustration blanketed him and swaddled his time like thick chains, as it never left him--and he'd had the misfortune of snapping at others--Siz, Itherael, even Leah once. On top of this--like a cherry to the ice cream, Malthael had been keeping base with his leiutenant Urzael, who was informing him daily of the Heavens and how they were handling. Imperius had attempted to call himself leader again, so Urzael had told him, but there was a hollowness to his words, and Auriel had gently reminded him that Malthael was still the leader, and it seemed that she was in fact the one taking his place while he worked on Sanctuary. Urzael had apparently talked to Auriel in person and she had confirmed what he was suspicious about; Imperius told Auriel that he actually missed Malthael, and he regretted the harsh words exchanged with him upon his return--because he felt that, again, Malthael left because of him and only after this did he realize that the dark shadow known as Death was, in fact, still his brother and not the cruel and dark manifestation of evil and hate. Apparently the supposedly strong Archangel even cried.
Malthael could feel a sinking feeling in his stomach as he read Urzael's letter.

Master,

I spoke to Auriel today to get information on how Imperius is holding through, and how the rest of the Heavens are responding to her command. She told me that the Heavens--whether that be her own Angels of Hope, or Angels of Fate, Justice, Wisdom, the handful of Reapers, or even Angels of Valour--are doing well under her command, though she supposes that you would be a better hand at them. Oh--she told me to tell you that she said hello. The next thing she told me was something I found very interesting; it was about your brother, Imperius. She had confessed to me that not a day after your departure, she found him secluded in his Halls of Valour, shaking. He confided in her that he felt horrendous for the exchanging of words between the two of you the day you returned (of which I was not around to hear, but I was told it was rather malicious and included the pair of you fighting again and he injuring you) and that he simply did not believe that you, who was once Wisdom, would become Death. He said that he thought that when you left your searching and wandering of Pandemonium consumed you--that the souls of demons slain took over you. He admits now that he was wrong and he realizes that though you may be Death now, you are still his brother. Apparently he was crying as he said this (though I cannot fathom to see Imperius crying). He tried to proclaim himself as the leader once more, though there was a certain hollowness and emptiness to his words that I can only describe as regretful and sorrowed. I have not seem much of him since. But then, none have, other than Auriel. I overheard an Angel of Valour speaking with an Angel of Fate yesterday, and what they said was something along the lines of;
"The Heavens are falling to shreds," (That was the Angel of Fate)
To this, the Angel of Valour responded hotly with, "Clearly you do not trust in Malthael's motives,--though I do. He may be Death now, but he and Itherael have some plan, and I trust that this plan will strengthen us more."
It is a shame that not all angels trust us yet, as the Angel of Fate shot his reply back; "And you trust Death!? For all we know he's lured Itherael off to kill him. He's literally ripping the Angiris Council to shreds; I heard him talking to Tyrael about Tyrael becoming mortal to 'assist him with something.' Look at us now!--we are down to Archangel Imperius and Lady Auriel. Malthael has ripped the council in half--one mortal, the other probably dead... we cannot trust Malthael, his leiutenant, or anyone that follows him. I'm not even sure if we can trust his Angels of Wisdom anymore, and if he does not kill Itherael, then... can we even trust him? ... and isn't it absurd that _you_trust Malthael?--Imperius doesn't. He's sensible."
"Then clearly according to you Auriel is not trustworthy either."
"What do you mean?"
"She is trusting in Malthael, as well."
I did not listen further, but I did smile upon the Angel of Valour. I believe that the Heavens may be divided upon this subject... but I do not know. As well as keeping tabs on the Heavens, I will continue to search for the location of Leoric's crown for you, though I must ask you if you have asked Siz for assistance, as Khazra Mages seem to have a sense for magical items, and I believe that if Siz is as smart as you have told me she will be a great help in this, and every second you waste unwilling to ask for help because it would perhaps put your pride on the line is yet another second that Tyrael is in danger, and his death could be around the corner.

Urzael

Malthael, by this point felt like, as mortals say, his stomach was in knots. ``Dammit Urzael,`` he hissed under his breath. ``He's right, you know,`` came a voice from behind Malthael, and he whirled around with a hiss. Upon seeing it was only Itherael, he huffed. ``Dammit, Itherael... you fucking-...``
``Sorry,`` Itherael said sheepishly. ``But he's right--you need to set your pride aside...``
``Itherael...`` Malthael began, but his voice faltered, and he sighed. ``You were reading it over my shoulder, weren't you?``
Itherael sheepishly smiled. ``Maybe...``
Malthael managed a dry chuckle, straightening himself and ruffling his gray wings, sighing as Itherael let a single white wing tendril reach over to stroke his cheek. ``Please,`` the smaller Arch said softly, the tendril still stroking Malthael's cheek, ``I don't want Tyrael to die and as stated by Urzael, the longer we wait the more probable his death is...``
Malthael huffed, striding to Itherael, kissing his lips briefly, muttering against them, ``I just don't want to believe that I couldn't find it on my own...``
Wrapping his arms and wings around Malthael, Itherael mumbled in return, ``I know, and I understand... but that does not matter in the large picture. What does is that Tyrael lives.``
``... I know.``
Itherael reluctantly pulled himself from the kiss, cupping Malthael's face and looking into his lliac eyes with his own white ones. ``Then please, ask Siz for help. I know you may think it'll hurt your pride, but I believe it'd hurt it more if you let Tyrael die...``
Malthael twitched his wings slightly. ``I suppose you may be correct on that... I could not live with myself if I knew I let Tyrael die.``
``Exactly,`` Itherael responded briskly, ``which is why you need to set your pride aside. Just this once. A time ago, I may have understood what it was like to be prideful so that I did not wish to set it aside, lest I harm it, but...``
``I know,`` Malthael murmured distastefully, ``it's because of Imperius that your pride was diminished.``
Itherael made a small ``mhm`` noise, bringing one of his hands forward to rest on the front of Malthael's chest gently, looking up at him with his white orbs of light for eyes. ``Now, go,`` he demanded softly, taking his arms and wings from the man, ``ask Siz for assistance. Please.``
Malthael sighed, nodding once; for he knew he would not win this. ``... Fine. I'll do it for you,`` he mumbled. ``And if Siz can't help?``
Itherael sighed, shaking his head. ``Always pessimistic aren't you? Just go, Malthael--go and ask Siz. Tyrael's life depends on it.``
Malthael grumbled something inaudible, kissed Itherael's forehead, and turned, departing.

"You've too much pride for your own damn good," Siz was saying--lecturing--the angel, who huffed loudly. ``So you've said. Get to the fucking point--I'm on a short temper and an even shorter schedule.``
"Right, of course," Siz said in a sympathetic tone, though words and tones could not hide the underlying annoyance in her voice. "The crown of the Black King? Not a clue."
Before Malthael could respond with what would be no doubt snappy, Siz was faster. "However I know of a resident of this fair town that has a clue, much unlike the rest of our sorry dumb asses."
``And you didn't bother to tell me!?`` Malthael growled, anger flashing in his lliac eyes. Putting her hands up in a surrender motion, Siz backed up. "Okay, I admit, I should've told you sooner, but in my own defense, I had reason to not; I wasn't sure if he was telling the full truth. He was pretty deep in his depression."
``Get to the damned point or so help me I will flay the flesh from your bones,`` Malthael growled, fangs flashing in the light. "Somehow I doubt you'd follow through, but point taken. He never told me his name, but he's off in the streets somewhere now. Only reason you didn't find him is because he'd cooped himself up in his house, made it look like no-one lived there . . . ah, calm down Malthael--Tyrael won't just drop dead if you take time out to find the guy. He's a blacksmith. I believe that he was near the bridge."
Slowly, Malthael calmed, and he sighed. ``Much as I may detest admitting it, I think you may be right. I've just been on such a short temper recently due to stress, I don't know /what/ to do,`` was all he said, and his raspy voice was a dark mumble. Siz eyed him, coal black eyes showing worry for her friend as she sighed with a dip of her head. "Well? What are you waiting for, then?--go, find the blacksmith. Despite you being the Angel of Death, I know you don't want your friend dead."
To this, Malthael nodded slowly. ``Yes, and?``
"And you're stalling," Siz said pointedly, pushing the man--who was surprisingly lightweight, even moreso for an entity of his size--in the direction of the door. "So go."
Malthael sighed, allowing this to happen. He knew well that both Siz as well as Itherael would not stop pestering him until he went. But in all honesty, he was nervous. Nervous that he'd already failed, and that it was all for naught. That even if he found the crown, killed Leoric and found Tyrael, he'd already be long gone, and Magdah would be laughing over his corpse. Mortals were fragile compared to... well, everything that he was accustomed to, really. The knowledge that Tyrael was mortal now too and in the hands of a psychopath, weaponless as well as with no recollection of himself and could very well die pained Malthael to his very core. Yet he knew he could not afford to let himself succumb to any pain, nor anguish that may have rested in his soul. He needed to be strong--he was the Angel of Death after all, and none would let him outlive it if he were to break down. Alas, it was difficult to keep so much in, but he somehow managed, by some miracle of Anu.
A sigh escaped past his fangs and slid out his lips as his lliac eyes scanned the area. No sign of any blacksmith in any direction. An annoyed scowl formed on his face as he absently tapped his armoured fingers off of his belt. He'd sorely hoped that the man wasn't far, but it so seemed that Siz was correct in saying that he was off by the bridge. On the other side of the town.
A man couldn't get himself any rest when he was due to save his friend could he?
He turned and made to set off, but was stopped by someone tugging on the back of his armour.
Letting out an immensly dramatic and annoyed sigh, he turned around to face the smaller angel who was there. Adrithael, the angel he had brought with him, was clutching a letter tightly in hand. Malthael snatched it, and the angel flinched back. Malthael didn't apologize. Unfolding the letter, he scanned it over. Bloodstained, it said one sentence in a sloppy, hasty handship:

Meet me in Halls of Valour as soon as possible

Imperius

Some of the blood dripped to the beaten down ground, and an ominous feel swept over the area, chilling Malthael. What could have possibly happened to his brother...?
Cursing under his breath, he thrust the letter back into Adrithael's hand.
``Tell Itherael where I've gone,`` he growled, turning and beginning to approach the area where he knew Cain would be.
The angel rushed after him, scrawling on his notepad, but sir, surely he will follow you?
Malthael scoffed and did not stop walking. ``Tell him to talk to the blacksmith near the bridge. And tell him I personally said to not follow--this is for me alone.``
The lesser nodded once and turned to hurry off.
Malthael simply reached Cain's house, and knocked on the door.

The Heavens were in... disrepair. The Diamond Gates reeked of corrupt angel, and black and white blood mingled and splattered the walls and pillars. It disturbed Malthael. Ruffling his misty wings, he carried himself into the air, without hesitation this time. Even his wingbeats echoed ominously, and a sense of paranoia and fear began to grip him, tightening around him. But he would not let it win. He couldn't afford to. Soon he landed on the platforms of the High Heavens, in front of the Halls of Valour. There was more blood here, too, and the corpses of dismembered angels and corrupt angels littered about like toys in a mortal child's playroom. It was clear that Auriel and Imperius had been here, too--Solarion had clearly caused this fallen pillar as well as this ghash in the wall, Malthael silently reflected, and Al'Maiesh was easily the cause of this corrupt that was torn in half. Dread gripped Malthael but he pushed on. He needed to. And so he did, striding into the Halls. Quickly he took to his wings to avoid the masses of slain angels in this place. Most of the blood now was angel and not corrupt angel, and it seemed the corrupts had torn their victims and killed them in creative ways. One angel was torn limb from limb, while another had its ribs ripped from its chest. Another seemed to have its entire spine ripped from its body, and its spine could be seen around three feet away from it, impaling another angel through its chest. The entire scene disturbed even him. It appeared they'd forced both Auriel and Imperius farther and farther back. The normally brilliant white and gold walls and ground were now a palette of blueish white and blackish blue blood. And what worried Malthael the most was the gold-tinted blood that was signature to Imperius, and the pinkish blood that was easily told to be Auriel's. There was lots of it, and many of the bodies felled had their blood on them. The crystal casings where the demon trophies were displayed were almost all shattered, some seemed to have been from attempts to flee, and others having been slammed into. Swerving, Malthael momentarily flattened himself horizontally to avoid an angel who'd been brutally gutted and hung from the ceiling by its own intestines. More of these appeared as he flew, and he vouched to simply fly horizontally. The were strung about like pathetic puppets, and by the time he finally reached Imperius' quarters the entire ceiling was filled with them. Landing gingerly, Malthael looked to his left and saw that one of the corrupts had wrote a message in a mix of angel blood, corrupt blood, and even Auriel and Imperius' own blood: You cant stay in there forever!!! Just letting us kill you now would be so much less painful :)

Malthael cringed at this, but a fear of sorts that had apready been there began to gnaw at him slowly. Were the corrupts /really/ that confident? And somehow... Malthael felt as if they would be able to kill his brother, and Auriel. If they could cause them to lose this much blood... Well, Malthael didn't want to think of what they'd do to them if they killed them.
Taking a breath, Malthael crossed the threshold. He looked up when he saw movement, but was not greeted by what he wanted to be.
``Hello Malthael,`` a corrupt angel snickered, its back to him. He was facing Imperius and Auriel, who were unmoving. Imperius' ribs looked to be almost all snapped, and his arm was bent in an awkward manner, as was his neck. Blood was everywhere. And then there was Auriel. One wing looked to be halfway torn off, and blood continuously seeped from a deep wound in the side of her chest. A cut was on her throat, too, and that leaked blood as well. Worse of all her injuries was her left arm--it was completly ripped off from the middle of the upper part down, and the rest of it lay a few feet away, her sword still in it.
Neither seemed to be breathing. They were simply still in all regards.
``We've been waiting for you,`` the corrupt continued with a cawing laugh. ``Call me Deserus, or the last thing you'll see before you end up like these two here.``