Introduction

Aethyr is a heavenly place, it is a corporation with departments run by archangels, and the penthouse suite is paradise; literally. Working there are the angels of death, harbingers of "the end" and charged to deliver mortal souls at the will of a god they've never seen. But something's wrong. The destined are dying, the damned are thriving, and rumours fly of mortals with yellow eyes. Is this a twist of Fate, or something much worse?

"Death. For any angel, it is the foundation to their continued existence, just one more inevitable path. For some, it is the end of a long, rough trail that has dragged them through both dreams and thickets, a respite; a rest. But not for us." 

All eyes were on Sariel, drawn and unable to look away. The meeting room was the smallest of all, but perfectly appropriate for the briefing of the newest angels. They sat and stood in a place that they had never expected in their wildest dreams. Things shone, but of glass and metal. There was no gold or fluffy clouds, or saints in robes. They had to admit the idea was a little far-fetched anyway, but compared to what they found themselves in, it was simpler. Now, they could look behind Sariel at a full-length window, out of which there was nothing but mist, and climbing out from it, the pinpoint turrets of Aethyr, plated in a metal that shone blue like the darkest sea-stone.

"For us," continued the angel Sariel, "death is a purpose and a job. You have been chosen, brethren, by one who knows, sees and commands more than we ever can, and as such you should understand how serious this is. You are angels of death, friends. Fate lies in the lines of your palms."

The other angels that the recruits had spoken to briefly - the same ones that had intially heckled them in the lobby - had recognised Sariel as the most terrifying beside the archangels themselves. The recruits had asked why, but there had been little explanation.

For decades, angels had speculated why the mention of the name Sariel made their insides clench, or why the familiar aura of her had them preparing for either joy or disaster rooms away. It was frightening enough that the words of an angel centuries older than many in the ranks of the great angel Samael, came from a child. Sitting in a strong, wooden chair behind an even stronger desk, Sariel was a young girl, no older than fifteen, with her light blonde hair whipped up into a plait and wearing a uniform that seemed more like an item of dress-up on her small, slim frame.

But that seemed to be part of the terror, as Sariel had learnt in all those years that if she pouted and smiled as she might have so long ago, others would think her just that, young, vulnerable, weak. In fact, if the angels looked close enough, into the corner of her eyes or the strain of her mouth, they would find no such weakness. There was a long-kept secret of hers, enough power and severity to subdue even an archangel, but like locked away into the tightest of spaces, it barely ever emerged.

"Except on Mondays," one senior angel had joked in the lobby before disappearing into the mist to a world innumerable leagues below.

"You are angels of death," the not-so young angel continued, inflecting respect once again. "Samael is your master, before myself, but rest assured that if you ever speak with him, it will be for punishment." Sariel stood and came around the desk towards the crowd of recruits. She was almost half the size of some of them, but there was an age and a darkness in her eyes that had seen enough death and grief to suppress the pride of each and every one. She was an omen that could reach any angel two floors down.

"You will learn as you remain here, under the service of divinity, that one more mortal life is just another mission. That way is best, though of course, care at your own expense. Few listen to me, and many pay for it. Deliver mortal souls to us as you are commanded, dwindle amongst mortality as much as you desire - though I myself find it sickening.

"And above all, remember this. There is a mortal saying that I have heard whispered many a time. "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." Death, only and always, death. Know that, and succeed, brethren. Any questions?"

The End

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