Inarius had listened with rapt attention. Malthael’s pain had been all to obvious to him, but he had no idea where to begin with it. Soothing was not his strong suit, and there was the matter that the older angel had a tendency to try and maul him. “Both, really. And…” The angel hesitated, glancing guiltily off to the side. “And myself. I know he’s still upset about the Worldstone. Never mind I wasn’t even the one who blew it up.”
“What he lost… I guess no one ever taught him how to deal with loss. It’s abundant on Sanctuary. In Heaven nothing stays truly lost. Nothing is truly grieved.” There was pain there, and for a moment Inarius sounded so very tired. The mortal angel’s request had him balking however.
“You want to hop dimensions?” He stared, stricken. Watching the mortal stiffly gather up his quilt, he couldn’t help but doubt that he would be okay coming into his world. The angels and beasts of his Sanctuary were so aggressive, and Malthael was so small.
“That’s a bad idea.” Inarius stood up, and circled after the mortal. “It’s winter there, and jumping can be extremely draining, and…” He hesitated, the illusion of mortality rippling. A clear indicator of his nervousness. “I can’t promise your safety.”
Inarius looked around the home, taking in how well lived in it was. It was obvious this Malthael wasn’t alone. He had people here. People who would miss him, who probably loved him. He had no interest in delivering a mangled corpse back to those people.
“Malthael is…if he sees you like this-” Inarius stepped so that the man could see him gesturing. “He’s more likely to gut you first and ask questions later. Or try and claw me again. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to protect you if he decides to attack.”
The angel sucked in a nervous breath and ran his fingers through his hair. More fluff flittered down to the floor. It was strange, but this mortal’s safety mattered quite a bit to him. Maybe he was just the realization of a lifelong dream - that there could be peace, that the people of Sanctuary and the Heavens could work together. Could live together, and prosper.
“I just- I need you to be sure. Maybe tell your people what you’re doing. Maybe tell that lady of yours - her scent is all over, and you’re clearly not the only one living in here.”
“I am well aware of the nature of realm hopping.” Malthael slowly raised an eyebrow, before gathering his weapons from the floor. “Or how do you think I left the Heavens all those times? Regardless, I do believe I can help. Wait here. I will return in a bit.”
He left Inarius to stare at his back as he trudged out of the greatroom. Already, his mind was turning over ideas to counteract the obvious dangers inherent in the venture. Realm walking was draining, but Inarius would shoulder most of that burden. And it was obvious the angel was more concerned about his world’s inhabitants harming Malthael than the journey itself.
Still, he had said he would help. And he was loathe to break a promise, even one made casually.
His armor was where he had left it after the battle. Cleaned, thankfully, but still discarded in a careless pile in the corner of his study. He’d had no reason to don it since. Now, he needed it for protection – and for the carefully crafted visual it provided.
Because if Inarius could take on a human form, then the same would not be unexpected from him. It didn’t matter if he was unsettled underneath the armor. He had always hidden his feelings behind a cowl, and he had always risen to whatever was required of him when needed.
The calm after battle had simply provided him the unwanted luxury of time alone with his emotions. He was all too willing to set that aside and reclaim an aura of self-confidence, if only for a few hours. And after all he had seen in his world, going face to face with a more feral version of the Reaper was not the most terrifying thing he could imagine.
The Reaper was a familiar threat. One he knew how to disarm.
He snapped his weapons back into their sheaths, then returned to Inarius. Each footfall he took in the greaves echoed quietly about the home and within his soul. Methodical steps, ones he could follow.
“As for the others…” He paused and turned slightly, allowing Inarius a chance to see him properly garbed and standing with far more confidence than he’d had before. “They are accustomed to me leaving. However, given the circumstances, I can leave them a message.”
Inarius’ earlier words returned to him:
“Maybe tell that lady of yours - her scent is all over, and you’re clearly not the only one living in here.”
Malthael wanted to sarcastically retort that Inarius couldn’t tell the difference between a woman and Tyrael, before he remembered Aya spent a great deal of time in their home as well. Still, given Inarius could smell the mortals, which was not something Malthael remembered him being able to do in the past, he wondered if the angel had indeed managed to pinpoint Farah’s exact essence. On him.
“Also, she is hardly my lady.” A faint flush rose to his face as he tugged his cowl into place. “She is no one’s possession, and simply tolerates my behaviour more than others.”
“This is a little more intense than realm hopping.” Inarius grumbled, but let the man go. He turned his attention to his own form, and felt his mortal form dissipate. Familiar, broken skin and dented metal replaced his smooth human body. His wings unfurled, shaking and shuddering as they went.
Inarius stretched and shook himself, scattering yet more of his fluff about. He looked around, thoroughly satisfied with how thoroughly fluffed the room had gotten.
The Fluff had spread…
The angel patiently waited for his new friend to return, absently preening a wing. He looked up admiringly at the armor Malthael now bore. The man could almost pass for an angel - though there was one small problem. “Can you get any bigger?” The question was seemingly casual and innocent. If Inarius could ever be considered such things, that is.
If not, the man was in for a lot of looking up.
He simply shrugged to himself, and smiled at the man’s attempts to cover his feelings. “Only one you’re lying to is yourself there Malthael. Do yourself a favor, don’t bother hiding it. It’s worth it to feel such things openly.” The angel did not bother to elaborate, but began to focus, reaching out to find his world again. A glow built around his armor, and the moment he located his home, he and the mortal were seemingly sucked into the glow, only to vanish from existence…
They appeared with a flash, and a small shock-wave. Snow was blown back, but quickly settled. Inarius let out a noise of strain, wings raised in an attempt to keep himself steady. He cracked an eye open, checking to make sure he hadn’t lost the mortal angel along the way. Fortunately, the mini-reaper stood beside him, looking intact. Inarius snorted a breath of relief.
After a moment, he tilted his head back and let out a low, crooning hoot. A few distant replies sounded out, and Inarius nodded to himself. All was well in his absence. Izual was irritated, but what else was new.
“Come. We must stop at the forge - you smell like mortals. Malthael will know immediately if you show up smelling like that.” Inarius casually strolled off, snow melting around him as he went. He could already feel his mane thickening against the chill. He hoped the mortal wouldn’t be too cold here.
“What are you going to say?” The angel lowly asked, tilting his head. Distantly, the beating of wings could be heard. Around them, the forest swayed and the wind moaned serenely. They weren’t exactly within Tristram, but rather on the outskirts. Inarius and his angels inhabited several kilometers of forest, though they would likely need to expand soon. Angels were spacious creatures.
Malthael’s retort to Inarius was cut short by reality cuffing him about the head. It was a rougher transition than he remembered, though he had no intention of letting Inarius learn that. He stifled a hiss and managed to remain upright, swaying precariously from the hit to his equilibrium and the sudden appearance of snow beneath his boots. He sank into the drift to his knees, the cold already seeping into his limbs.
Hells. Inarius hadn’t minced words about the weather. They also were not in Tristram proper.
He sighed, and after taking a moment to collect himself, reached out to the dust-like soul essence that constantly drifted about. The mist covered him in a faint sheen, protecting him from the external world’s chill with the more manageable frost of Death.
It did nothing to stop the goosebumps that rose on him as Inarius crowed to the wind. The returned calls only confirmed to him that things were very different here, at least in terms of the Angiris.
“Ah. Then this sense of smell is also consistent among your kin?” He carefully stepped where Inarius tread, making use of the melted patches to allow him to keep pace. Around them, the forest whispered, the wind mostly disguising what Malthael thought were the echoes of wings.
He tightened his hands about his blade-hilts, the gesture being the only overt sign he gave of his unease. Lingering wisps of the arcane tinted the air, different from what he remembered of his kind’s magic. It felt angelic, but also untamed.
“I will say little. To start. I will offer to listen. If he needs to speak, he can speak to someone who understands.”
Inarius twisted his head around to observe the odd mist that now swirled around the mortal. He jolted, as for a moment, it wasn’t Malthael, but another tall, death-like figure trailing after him… The angel shook himself, and the image vanished from his mind. They had a job to do here, no time for these mental images.
“Nice frost.” He commented. “You really can’t get any bigger? This might cause some confusion among the rest.” Inarius reached out with his aura, heating the air around him ever so slightly. He knew the man must have been cold.
Inarius did not dally, following along the invisible path to the heart of their territory. “All angels have a decent sense of smell. Better than a humans. It does vary however - Tyrael’s was particularly strong, whereas Itherael’s nose wasn’t good for much.”
A low rumble left the angel’s chest, echoing across the woods. He reached out, feeling for the others - most were holed up in various cuddle piles, taking advantage of one-another’s fluff and warmth. Enough were in the barn-turned-forge for what he had in mind.
Hephasto’s little sanctum was equally as popular as it was avoided. The Smith was ornery, and did not particularly enjoy having to step over the others while moving about his forge. But it was also very warm.
“I’m not sure he’ll have much to say, little mortal. Everything that comes out of his mouth, what little there is, has been highly derogatory. Then again, I am not him, and you are not I.” The duo arrived at their destination, the low thud of Hephasto’s hammer ringing out, smoke billowing up into the crisp air. Inarius let out a sigh of relief at the feel of his kin’s magical energies. Angels were social creatures, and lived best in groups. Inarius in particular did not want to be alone. Even his short trip away had left him feeling uncomfortably starved for the company of the others.
The Smith didn’t bother to look up from his work when they pushed in, rather pointing to where several other angels of varying size were clustered in a heap. They sleepily looked up, and he sent a mental message to just go with what he planned. The urge to dive in was tempting, but that’s not what Inarius was here to do.
“You’re going to hate this~” The angel sing-songed, before reaching back to scoop Malthael up. He took a second to give the man a sunny look, before dropping him into the pile. Fluff was scattered everywhere…
“My size cannot be that much of an issue,” Malthael muttered, though Inarius seemed genuine enough with his concern. “And no, I cannot. I am not a wizard.”
He didn’t fully understand the angel’s fixation with his height until they entered the barn. There, a hulking smithy-angel towered over a smoking forge. His hammer was nearly the size of Malthael’s entire body, and he swung it effortlessly.
Malthael’s eyes widened.
Feral and huge, he thought sarcastically. Marvelous.
He was also fairly certain the smith was Hephasto, who he had not seen in centuries, since he had been lost to the Hells. This realm’s Malthael had mentioned there being other angels in his letters, and he thought he remembered the smith being named. But that had hardly prepared him for the extent of the spectacle.
Nor for Inarius picking him up and tossing him into a writhing pile of fur with nearly no warning. He shouted, before he began to sink into the mass. It was soft, and exceedingly warm, and it all smelled of animal sweat and a strange, pervasive sweetness that made him think of the latest batch of pastries Farah had brought back from the bakery.
Baking did not invade his personal space without asking.
Baking did not snicker, or try and grab him while he was attempting to escape.
Baking did not argue with him when he protested, and did not try and convince him that a bit of socialization would be good for him.
“INSTANT!” A waft of fluff drifted into his mouth as he yelled, transforming his voice from a dark rasp into a pathetic choke.
It was the same fur Inarius had left around the house. Angels. He was stuck in a pile of angels who seemingly had no idea who he was, how tiny he was compared to them, and how much he wanted to throw himself back out in the snow in place of being smothered by their flesh.
Inarius was exactly right: he did not like it in the slightest.
Inarius did not bother to hide his mirth as he watched the man slowly sink into the cuddle pile. If his Malthael’s reaction’s to spontaneous cuddles were anything to go by, this Malthael would not be having a good time. There were maybe seven angels enjoying each other’s company, and they did not seem to mind the addition to the pile however unwilling.
In the end, it was not Inarius who saved the man, but Izual, who had stormed in after them at some point. He hissed at Inarius, who merely growled good-naturedly in return. The more-demonic angel reached down into the pile to retrieve the mortal, hauling him up by the collar of his clothing.
“What exactly do you think you’re doing.” It was not a question so much as a flat representation of how much Izual disapproved of whatever was happening.
The angels who had been cuddling huffed at him, before they began to rearrange, one or two of them vacating the forge. It was getting a little crowded, and Hephasto had begun sending them death-glares. Not that he would ever harm any of them, but the interruptions were not appreciated.
“Fixing problems.” Inarius easily returned. He giggled at the amount of fluff that had covered the mortal. No doubt the man would not trust him again, but it had been more than worth it to see the look on his face.
Izual huffed, and set the mortal down, eyeballing him suspiciously. Recognition crossed his features, and he began to call on his magic, before a hoot from Inarius stilled him. The others in the room had begun to circle around, curious now about the weird new angel. Whispers and chatters permeated the barn, and a few of them delicately reached out to poke at the mist surrounding the mortal.
Malthael hung stiffly as the corrupted-looking angel stared at him. He returned the stare, somewhat appreciative for having being pulled from the pile, but also not amused at being thrown around by his cloak. Even with his senses disorientated, he still recognized the lingeringly familiar form of Izual.
Were they all Fallen, here?
“What exactly do you think you’re doing.”
As soon as he was released to the floor, he tugged at the top of his breastplate, attempting to relieve some of the pressure that had been applied to his throat. Unintentional, he assumed, but clearly the angels were not used to handling smaller creatures. And ignorance did not mean they were not dangerous.
“Inarius,” he growled, turning to glare at the angel, before realizing the others had gathered about him, some with looks of cautious recognition, others with more overt curiosity.
The more reserved expressions set him ill at ease; a tingling chill ran through his fingers and into the blade hilts. He forced himself to breathe and keep his composure. Weeks of treating the Angiris as his enemies had trained him to react suspiciously to any angel behaving aggressively. It was a deeply embedded response, one he could not seem to turn off.
“I specifically asked you take me to him.” He flinched and drew away as several of the angels waved claws through the fog. They seemed curious, but he wanted to keep them at arm’s length – for his safety, and for theirs.
The mist dropped with a gentle patter to the ground as he released the souls back into the void. “This is now complicated.” And he assumed the chances of him getting back to his home without anyone noticing his absence were now minimal.
At least he’d taken the time to leave the note. Though, perhaps it should have said more than: Back later. –M
“We have crossed dimensions in order for you to get into an argument with a bigger, nastier, angrier version of yourself.” Inarius exclaimed. “I don’t know where you got the idea that this wouldn’t be complicated, but you should stop getting your ideas from there.”
The angels were all shuffling about and flicking there wings. There was an almost palpable air of confusion as they found themselves unable to resonate and touch minds with this new strange angel. If he even was an angel… then again, many of them were lacking certain things normal angels would have. It made sense that eventually they’d find someone they wouldn’t be able to Hear. It was odd how familiar his voice was though, particularly to one angel.
“You sound like our master.” The voice was quiet and subdued. The throng turned and gently shuffled aside to allow the speaker to come forward. A reaper, far smaller than any of the others, cautiously approached.
“Sermin.” Inarius’s voice was warm and gentle, a sharp contrast the the snarky tone he favored Malthael with. “He’s here to help us. With Malthael.” The reaper trilled, and shyly dipped his head.
“What.” Izual’s tone was flat. “Can we speak outside? The three of us.” His tone brokered no argument, and Inarius merely shrugged leading the way. From the moment the doors shut behind them, the group of angels began murmuring among themselves…before returning to their pile.
“You have a problem, Izual?” Inarius’s tone was playful, but with a bit of an edge. The two had often argued about the subject of Malthael, and Inarius hadn’t exactly told the other angel what he was doing.
Inarius didn’t bother standing around, but began trudging towards the (heavily renovated - more like torn down and rebuilt big enough for multiple angels) house. Izual stormed after him, their mortal companion all but forgotten.
“As a matter of fact-” The fallen angel roughly grabbed Inarius by the shoulder, spinning him around, “I do.”
“Well can you wait? We’re a little busy here and I think someone is impatient... oh and Mal?” A glowing, shit-eating grin filled with thick, sharp teeth split the blackness of the angel’s face. “I never agreed to take you to him.”