The March to Heaven
Chapter 2: The Rumor of God
Two men sat in a diner down the street from a destroyed building, one with short cut blonde hair and green eyes, the other with hair bordering the long end and grey eyes. They were still and silent for a long time, staring into their cups of coffee, soaked to the bone from the rain. The restaurant buzzed with noise and life, flowing all around them, but the two paid no mind to it. Even as the waitress came back for the the third time, asking what they wanted to eat, did they barely respond. Through the sky was already dark from rain the night managed to make it even darker, hiding the moon behind thick clouds, lightning brightening the world when it felt like it.
Jon broke the silence, finally, "Bob? What happened?" Without looking up the angel responded, "Before I answer that I have to ask, Jon: Have you heard the rumor?" Lucifer's words rang through his head, but the rumor was left out, "No. I heard there was one. Lucifer-" Bob scoffed at the mention of the name, "Him. Oh, I bet he enjoyed playing out that tale for you." Jon shook his head, "He didn't tell me, Bob. He said I wouldn't believe him." Green eyes stared in disbelief for a moment, studying the Paladin's face, "He's up to something, I know it. You mustn't get caught up in-" It was Jon's turn to interrupt, "Bob. Please."
It took some considering, and another bit of time, but the blonde man answered, "It's...they say...God is no longer in heaven." The words were as confusing as they were disheartening, and it was Bob's turn to sit in silence and await a response. Jon's mind raced through all the reasons that the rumor would exist, but he couldn't narrow just any single reason down. When he looked up to his friend, he answered without being asked, "Jerusalem. The rest of the world's memory was wiped away, the horrible things never happened, all those people didn't die, but the rest of the world. The Angelfolk, Demonfolk, the Attuned, we didn't forget. And some of them took it as a sign that God no longer is in his throne."
The idea was suddenly very clear to Jon, "And now everyone wants to occupy it." Bob nodded, "By sword or by favor everyone wants to claim it." Once again the scale of the problems of the world was more than any one man could combat against, but he wouldn't be alone, Jon knew there were other Paladin. "So that's why I was woken up? To join the others of my kind and try to keep the peace?" Bob emptied his cup and shook his head, "You're the last one, Jon." The immortals cup was already empty, so there was no buffer, "What? What do you mean I'm the last one?" The angel's perfect features wore a scolding look very well, "Who do you think they killed first?"
"Who is they, Bob?" The moment paused while Lily, the waitress, filled their cups again. "The Angels. They knew that it was you and your kind's job to restore balance. The logic is easy to follow. After they were gone the next targets were our kind: The Seraphims that arm you guys." Bob touched the shoulder where his arm used to be, "I only survived because I was on fired and covered in blood, I'm sure I looked dead. My brothers didn't make it." Jon offered his solemn condolences then asked why he was still alive. "No one could find you. It was like you'd disappeared off the face of the Earth. When they couldn't find you we all assumed you'd died in Jerusalem."
Jon wondered about how he kept hidden, not aloud, but trying to think why he would be hidden, and then something tripped up his thought process, "Wait. You said 'We'." Bob kept his gaze upon the cup in his hand as Jon spoke again, "What did you mean 'We'?" The Angel's brilliant green eyes were shimmering with tears, "I'm sorry, Jon. They said they'd let me live." The world exploded, cacophony and fire were everywhere. Jon's ears rang, but his grey eyes worked perfectly, he checked his surroundings. The tiny restaurant was in shambles, lights hung from the ceiling, flashing on and off, sparks were spitting from exposed wires. Sterile white walls were covered in dust and blood, gore clung to the moldings, people were gasping and choking.
The ringing died down to a voice, so pleasant it was almost musical, "Jon. Oh, Jon? Did you live through that?" There was nothing too painful for him, so he stood, brushing the dust and dirt off his suit, "Yeah. Yeah, I lived. And who's asking?" The beautiful voice replied, "Step out of that mess and let's introduce ourselves properly, please." The immortal decided to comply, walking over body parts and bodies to the blown in front, and out into the night. The orange streetlights illuminated the chaos and the single man that stood outside, wearing a smile, dark jeans, and a button up black shirt. Long blonde hair that curled in places reached the middle of the mans back, his body was in perfect shape, skin was like porcelain, and with eyes a shade of blue that was too perfect to describe.
The man stood in the middle of the street, Jon on the sidewalk. "The Paladin Jonathan Ross, I presume?" "And you are?" The blonde bowed deeply at the waist, "I am Epoch, member of the first Choir of Angels, enforcer of the word of Michael. I'm also your executioner, and for that I'm very sorry." He stood back up, still smiling, to his full height of around five and a half feet. Jon knew better than to engage an Angel head to head, so he had to delay to think of something, "So, Epoch. Why did you kill the people in the restaurant? Why kill Bob?" It was enough of a question to intrigue his opponent, who looked back at the smoking wreckage he'd created.
"The humans and the Seraphim? Innocent? Please, Paladin, don't make me laugh. Those people are all sinners, and two of them are atheists. They don't even believe God exists. As for the one known as 'Bob', well...The weak must be culled. Chaff from the wheat and all that." Jon's temper flared, but he was still thinking of what could be in his repertoire that could possibly take down an Angel. "If you're trying to buy time until the police show up, don't bother. I've put this entire city to sleep. Unfortunately, your time has come." Pain took Jon's words before he could speak them, his vision white from the impact he never saw coming.
His head went through the back window of the car, his body crushed the trunk. When Jon lifted his head he was twenty feet or so from where he was standing previously, the Angel was on the sidewalk, strolling towards the wreckage Jon was now a part of. Anger now flooded through the Paladin, all his powers awakened at once and begged to be unleashed, and he did not deny them. He opened his mouth and let forth a blast of energy, as much as he could expel at once. Epoch held out his palm and the blast impacted and dissipated almost instantly to nothing. Jon focused his vision and let forth another blast of energy as he pulled himself from the wreckage of the car, but it got the same treatment and the angel kept walking forward.
"Please, Jon, don't embarrass yourself. Just die with some dignity." Anger was a haze clouding Jon's thoughts, but he tried to think. The immortal smiled, his teeth red with his own blood, "There's an issue with me, there Epoch. I'm older than most other Paladins. So I got a few more tricks up my sleeve." With a shaky hand Jon reached into his pocket, where he always kept his vials of holy water, and withdrew one. The smug look never left the Angel's face, even as Jon began to speak a language that had been dead for more than a thousand years. Jon rushed the words, pressed to hit every syllable. As the last of the words fell from his lips the Angel Epoch stared down at him.
Jon shook the vial, the cue for the liquid to do something in reaction to the spell he'd just spoken, then glared angrily at it when nothing happened. The angel reached into the wreckage where Jon was and began to pull him out, prepared to deliver the final blow. Epoch lifted the immortal, his free hand forming a blade, fingers pressed together. Jon shook the vial again, ignoring the immediate threat, a last resort. "Goodbye, Paladin Jon." The liquid finally changed, the vial's clear contents turned black, and with that Jon met Epoch's smile, "Goodbye, Angel Epoch." Jon's hand flew as fast it could and smashed the glass container on the angels head. The scream that filled the air was unearthly, shattering windows and glass doors for blocks.
The Paladin was released as Epoch reeled away, he clawed at his smoking face in agony, dropped to his knees by the pain, his screams now just choking sobs. The black fluid melted away the holy beings flesh, sloughing off in chunks. Jon stood over Epoch, adjusting his suit as he spoke, "Black water. Deadly to Angelfolk. Luckily, though, this isn't enough to kill you. This, however, is." The immortal plunged his knife into the heart of the angel, twisting the blade. The world went silent again, but so did Jon's hope. Angels were hunting him, and now, even friends weren't to be trusted. With Epoch dead people began to wake up, and that was the immortals cue to leave the scene and try to regain a sense of self.
Half a block from the dead angel and the chaos that was left behind something happened that Jon couldn't believe: A woman walked into his path, fully awake, and seemingly unaffected by the sleep spell Epoch had cast. She looked one way, then the other, and laid eyes on the immortal walking her way. Both paused, staring wide eyed at each other, both just as confused as the other. Jon broke the silence, "Attuned." She startled and turned away, and began to walk quickly, muttering to herself, "Oh, my. Oh, no. Oh, goodness." Jon began to give chase, "Hey! Hey! Come back here!"