The building itself was sleek and imposing, carved of incredibly rare white crystal that reached up with smooth and sweeping curves towards the indescribable sky of heaven. Every door closed perfectly flush with the building itself, functionality not daring to mar the organic appearance of the monolith, shaped even to guide rainfall to the ground without a single gutter. It was the closest thing in heaven to a skyscraper and the wind whipped hurriedly around it, laden with the smell of moisture that always seemed to speak of a distant storm. Sometimes the wind howled like an animal about the upper reaches and could be heard from the ground. The windows were always lit from within by a brilliant blue glow and at night they blazed like stars that were visible for hundreds of miles around, an artificial constellation laid out against the night. It was situated far to the north of the capital city of Chastity, Pireda. Visible from the tier's largest population hub, it loomed ominously in spite of all efforts to make it something beautiful and ornamental. Impossibly tall, it stretched from the very root of the soil up into the sky, where it vanished in the atmospheric clouds.
The inhabitants of the Chastity tier were uncertain what its function was, calling it simply The Tower. Sometimes on rare nights, where thunderstorms prowled the sky, strange threads seemed to flash, illuminated like spider webs that reached from the tower up to who knew where. There were a lot of guesses about what the tower was for, with most angels willing to share their speculation. It culminated in a lot of urban folk tales which sprang up throughout heaven, but very few knew the truth of what it was.
Mrost knew the way back to the tower without even trying. He could have found it in the dark. He could have found it in his dreams.
He often found it in his dreams.
He returned there that night and the storm clouds gathered, circling the tower like animals stalking prey, restless and rumbling. Down in the cities below, rain streamed from the gutters and gargled into the drains. The lights bounced back from now reflective - and impeccably clean - streets. Mrost didn't care about the city, moving through the air like a breeze. The angels below wouldn't see him if they looked up. He was a ghost, moving through the world invisible and silent.
He didn't need to open any doors to enter the tower, it didn't have many and all were kept tightly shut. He simply moved through the substance it was made of, finding it yielding to him as though it was not truly a wall at all.
Inside there was stillness and long corridors stretched away in various directions, clean and floored in crystal, lined with sealed doors and lit by lights that streaked the ceiling in a road marking dotted line that went on and on. He walked and it felt like he was treading the ellipses at the end of his own story, waiting and waiting for something else to happen, something more to come. It got into your head, unnatural and strange. Only one thing really kept him grounded as he went.
Even in here he could hear the pattering of rain, a slapping and dripping that overlaid the silence of the tower with a hissing reminder of the world outside. Sometimes the world was punctuated with a flash that seemed to run through the substance of the structure, followed with the a ripping tear of thunder that he felt in his chest as it rang through the halls like the defiance of a distant angry beast.
General of diligence, he had all of heaven's armies at his disposal, charged with ending the war and bringing peace by whatever means possible. People assumed he would have pleasant quarters, somewhere comfortable for a general of his rank, a place to think and lead.
How wrong they were.
The thunder grew louder and he closed his eyes, feeling the weakness creep through his veins, his footsteps less sure, his form a little less solid. But it wasn't far now, he was close to his destination. It was what he needed. He could make it.
The corridors converged like arteries on a central location and he knew he was close as the crystalline floors lit up from beneath with brilliant blue, the energy snaking into the walls and around the lighting. It reached up to earth below his feet as he walked. The building seemed to breathe from within, the blazing azure light brightening only to fade again to a mere ember and resume once more. Mrost came to two vast doors and passed through them the way he had passed through all of the others and came eventually into a truly enormous room, larger than an aircraft hangar, large enough to hold an entire town.
And it was occupied.
By the central focus of the room itself, there was a small and fragile looking figure, an angel who seemed to have covered his wings with steel, along with much of his body. He hovered in place, attending to a small panel which showed a rapidly oscilliating wave. He had feathers in places and strange bird-like hands. He moved erratically, also reminiscent of a bird seeking out the best spot to peck.
"Ryong." he said.
The small figure didn't seem startled, glancing around at the tall blue haired angel, his yellow eyes bright. "Oh! I knew you'd be here, the readings always give it away." And he gestured to the screen with an emphatic claw, where the spikes he'd been watching danced. He flew and flitted hovering on those extended wings, a long steel tail curling prehensile beneath him.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked.
"I don't need a reason." he said. "And it's not a pleasure."
"Dexter will ask." the smaller man added, an insistent edge to his voice.
The spikes on the screen peaked dangerously and Mrost whirled at the small angel, all bristling fury."Then LET HIM." he roared up at him. "LET HIM ASK. LET ALL OF THEM ASK WHATEVER THEY LIKE. LET THEM WONDER AT SOME DAMNED THING THEY FINALLY CAN'T SOLVE. TO THE DEVIL WITH THEM."
Ryong backed away a little despite himself, reaching for another panel of buttons. Mrost froze and restrained himself immediately. "No. Don't." he said through gritted teeth. "I'm fine. I'm calm. Look I'm calm." He took a deep breath and exhaled as if this would somehow demonstrate how calm he was. He hated this, hated always trying to show how obedient he was, how he toed the party line.
Ryong withdrew his reaching hand.
"All right." he said. "And tell you what. I'll tell Dexter I asked you to come in for a checkup. My fault and that. I'm almost done here anyway. Let me finish up."
He flitted here and there across the enormous room with startling speed, pressing buttons, taking readings and pressing the large gem around his neck to small ports which lit up in response to his touch. He always seemed to function a little faster than most other people. "I'll lock up." he called out to Mrost. "Stay as long as you like!" He could almost feel Mrost's glare.
"That was a joke." he added, and then was gone from view.
Mrost was left alone and stood there in the room, a tiny figure in front of the chained behemoth that took up the entire room and then some. Truly gigantic paws were hooked up to innumerable cables, brilliant blue scales and sleek skin visible between walkways and machinery. Everywhere the wires glowed blue with intense power drawn from the source. Here in the heart of the tower they had chained something enormous and the room hummed audibly with the sheer scale of the power they were channelling from it. It seemed as if it was asleep, still and unmoving other than the gentle rise and fall of its breathing and the occasional twitch of an eyelid or lip. It seemed to be having somewhat fitful dreams.
The creature was unmistakably a Host. One of their own kind but old enough to have developed an enormous pool of energy. LIFE energy was scarce and so it fell to someone to sacrifice for the greater good, translating a little LIFE energy into a lot of magic and offering it to power the grid and half of heaven with their own magical lifeblood. This was the result, an angel of electricity, rigged up like a machine and the general population oblivious to what was happening under their nose.
The vast creature wore the emblem of Diligence around its neck, the symbol itself the tick of a heart monitor in contrast to the flatline of Sloth. With diligence you did what you had to do and he - Mrost - had done what needed to be done. He /was/ just a ghost, trapped and unable to leave heaven while his body was here in this tower. He was usually just a projection, a nuisance permitted because he got people stirred up and going. He started every day with the pain of a hundred thousand lives lived at his expense. Wasteful things, needful things, it was all the same. They took from him and so he had no qualms taking from them, sending soldiers into fights from which they'd never return or sacrificing what needed to be sacrificed. Too many angels spoke of the things they'd had to give up for the sake of heaven and had no damn IDEA what that word even meant. It was agony, a constant and ceaseless agony he never got used to, and yet he endured day after day and was told that he was rude and cranky and asked too much of too many people.
And now, to top it all off, he had B0nez to deal with.
Stepping forward he moved into the enormous creature in front of him and with a gasp of breath, he woke, opening his slitted blue eyes to look over his tower prison. He couldn't move, it was impossible to move, the leeching weakness settled in all of his limbs. Even his tail felt impossibly heavy, restrained in a hundred places and feeble. But he was himself, solid and real, a creature rather than a spectre. It was the closest thing he had to coming home, able to distantly feel the storms that sought him out but remained out of reach, their teeth pulled as each lightning strike was channelled off elsewhere for use.
B0nez was someone he'd been avoiding for so long, so very very long. They'd been together once, before The Fall. Two brothers destined for great things. They'd blown up more things than lesser scientists had built in their whole lives and in their gusto and joy for creation they'd found something....horrible.
In the end he'd stayed behind while B0nez had fallen and had spent so very long thereafter trying to truly convince himself he was dead. Dead and gone, with only a parody of the angel he'd known left behind. He should have left things that way, consigning the other Host to the past and to history, but he hadn't. Instead after too many ignored text messages to count, he'd replied and agreed to talk to him over a video link just to shut the whole thing down forever. It hadn't worked. Talking to him had been like going back to the time before, where everything had been good, as if nothing had ever changed. It had been his worst nightmare, a conflict in the centre of his entire campaign. It was about the complete and utter eradication of demons, they were fighting a war. He couldn't be compromised, he couldn't flinch or give up, he was betting too much, too much was at stake.
And yet, doubt lived in here with him now, a doubt he couldn't shake that perhaps he'd been wrong, that SIN didn't corrupt everything beyond repair, that it was just something outside. B0nez was stronger now than he had ever been before, in a way what they'd found had worked, just with unexpected side effects.
He closed his eyes and let his mind drift out of his confines, outside the walls where in the distance, the sun was rising.
He looked down. It was a long, long long way.
But he wondered what it would feel like to fall.