“Ten minutes, or this place is rubble. I suggest you encourage your disciples to make for the exits.” The old man stood unmoved before the doors. As earlier, his hard voice reverberated throughout the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
A few minutes of silence ensued. It was broken when the interior of the grand cathedral devolved in to chaos.
Swarms of angry worshipers, clerics, priests and Inquisitors descended upon the man’s location, looking for the source of the disturbance.
He made no efforts to hide himself, and was not difficult to spot standing conspicuously before the doors. The hunters raced towards him at break-neck speed. However, as each figure drew within ten meters of the man they suffered the same fate as the first priest; frozen solid like granite, locked in the corona of light that surrounded him.
“Visitors please clear the area. The Cathedral is now closing.” The sound was clear, dignified and unhurried. The scores of worshipers flinging themselves at the old man slowed to a trickle, and stopped. All became silent once more within the Cathedral.
In the sudden stillness two figures appeared, flanking the man from two opposite directions. As they slowly walked closer, the doors behind the visitor opened to reveal a third. Three people, from three different directions. Their pace was slow, and exactly mirrored one another’s.
The elderly gentlemen calmly turned to face the figure from behind the doors. His face bore no expression.
“Magnate, I pray you’re doing well.” The man who addressed him was strikingly handsome, with long blonde hair falling loosely down his shoulders. From the back one might think he was a girl. Pretty as a picture, almost like he himself was painted but retained a sense of masculinity. He was clad in a pure white, spotlessly clean cassock, but it was the eyes that stood out. Gold, and as they shone a saintly aura surrounding the newcomer.
“Metatron. Still not good enough. Where’s the Pontiff?” The old man addressed him dismissively.
The golden-haired youth smiled amicably. “He’s praying. He’ll be with you momentarily, if you would care to wait.” He spoke with the old man as though addressing an old friend visiting from afar, ignoring his crass manner.
“I said ten minutes. Now it’s seven.” He clasped his hands behind his back, returning his gaze to the murals set within the vaulted dome ceiling of the Cathedral. His expression was one of appreciation, not violence.
Aside from Metatron, the other two approaching figures also arrived at the old man’s location, revealing themselves as two young women The girl on the left was clad in a long white dress, beautiful like an elf. Her skin was fair and soft, almost like milk. Even her long hair was a pure snow white.
The second woman had short blue hair – at least, from this angle. Strangely she seemed like an illusion or hologram, changing color as the time and angles changed. Her features were normal enough, but for that strange discoloration that made her hard to pinpoint with the eyes.
Metatron continue. “Arcane Magnet, sir, we know why you’ve come. This entire situation really is regrettable.”
The old man snorted a sarcastic laugh. “Your regrets can’t change what happened. Am I right? Let’s see if your regrets can stop me today, shall we? I’ve lived long enough anyway, I’m starting to grow impatient for what comes next. And who can ask for a better coffin than this beautiful cathedral? I’ll have more things buried with me than the kings of old.”
Metatron’s amicable smile began to slip. “Magnate, please be cautious. We don’t tolerate blasphemy of the Father or his home here.”
This earned a scornful snort. “The only god I know is Mathematics. Your god, is bullshit.”
“The audacity!” The girl on his left gasped in a tender, finicky voice. Her mane of white hair began to float around her head, and silvery moonlight emanated from her. The light beckoned six silvery wings which stretched from her back and splayed wide. A suffocating aura of sanctity filled the air.
“And now this, half-assed ‘moon angel’ daring to puff up like a peacock before me.” The old man waved his hand at the young woman as though he were shooing away a fly. The motion elicited strange lights from reality before him. It was a peculiar illumination, that fanned out before him. The instant it touched the moon angel’s aura, the silvery light melted away like ice before an inferno. The speed with which is enveloped her was staggering.
It was like the air was sucked away, stealing it from her lips and pulling it from her lungs. The silvery girl’s eye’s grew wide in fear.
“Please, be lenient Master Magnate.” Metatron had stepped before the old man, cutting his line of sight to the beleaguered young girl. His hands were raised as if to ward the frail man off, matched at his back by the unfurling of his great golden wings. They were so large, so full that determining just how many Metatron possessed was a difficult endeavor.
His own aura wasn’t flashy, nothing so glorious or brilliant, but was possessed of an incomparable pureness that culminated in the golden halo surrounding his head. It was his turn now, and as his hands raised a light was liberated from their depths, so grand that it was like a sun had been born within the confines of the Cathedral.
“Hmph!” The old man nearly spat. Suddenly his form became ethereal, like a vision, and vanished. However his sudden disappearance did not mean they were safe, for instead the strange light that was slowly suffocating the moon angel suddenly exploded outward. In the blink f an eye it had surrounded the entirety of the palatial church – and all within found themselves fighting for each burning breath.
“Magnate, you mustn’t!” Metatron shouted through gasps, but the terrifying vacuum surrounding them swallowed the sound before it could manifest. Instead he could only project his thoughts outward. As he did so an orb of golden light fought to expand out, with the angel at the center.
This was no ordinary denizen of the Pontiff’s Castle. This was the one known as the First Among Seraphs, second only to the Pontiff himself. More powerful even than the seven Archangels, and once regarded as the closest to the Paragons themselves. But despite these titles, in the face of this singular old man he was clearly outmatched. This greatest of heavenly angels was not fighting – he was hoping not to upset the elderly visitor further.
“Three. More. Minutes!” The hoary voice arose from every which direction, making it impossible to pinpoint the Magistrate’s precise location. As his voice faded, it was replaced with the sudden, thunderous chorus of angelic singing. It rang throughout the entirety of the Cathedral, and as it did the whole of the interior brightened as though light were pouring from the walls. Crashing waves of milk-white, holy light was coming from the doors behind Metatron in a torrent.
Visions of angels fluttered in the sea of white. The overpowering, sacred aura filled the onlookers with a sense of nirvana. Even the vacuum created by the Magnate diminished in the face of such an aura. The air around them returned to normal, and that suffocating sensation faded in to memory.
“Old coot, as crazy as ever.” Another voice joined the exchange, this one aged and plain. The source was revealed to be an old man, who walked towards them from the large doors. He was clad in luxurious robes, and a pointed hat sat upon his snow white hair. Metatron retreated a step, nodding respectfully towards him. The two women at his side bowed low at the waist.
“Took you long enough. Any longer and you’d have to rebuild this little nest you’ve cobbled together for yourself.” A shadowy figure appeared before the pontiff’s altar. After a few moments it reconstituted in to the now familiar shape of the hoary old man.
The Pontiff regarded him from his location by the doors. “Keeper, this isn’t necessary.”
Indeed it was he. This old man who’d single-handedly repelled the forces of the Pontiff’s Castle, the one they called the Arcane Magnate was the same old codger who spent his days on his deck chair in Skyfire Avenue sipping tea.
He scowled at the Pontiff’s remarks. “You should be quite clear on the rules we’ve established on Skyfire Avenue. The Jewelry Master is one of ours, a member of the Council – a fact you knew full well. And yet, you set your trap and tried to have him killed. How do you plan to explain this?”
The old priest watched him with an inquisitive gaze. “I haven’t seen you this energetic in ages, you geezer. Aren’t you afraid of the strain, that it may kill you? You dare to come here alone, even though you must know that in this Holy City my abilities are nigh limitless. I can see what will be, can make it my will.”
This produced a chortle from the Keeper. “I couldn’t care less. Of the Paragons I am considered eighth, and you sixth – you’re already more powerful than I am. But there is something I have over you, and that is pure destructive power. Other than the two greatest among us, none can compare to the obliteration I can bring. How do you think your precious city would look after a blast from my positron assault?”
The Pontiff glowered at his guest, sighing as he spoke. “Very well. Indeed, in this aspect we are in the wrong. If it wasn’t for his relationship with the Stygian Succubus did you think I’d agree to provoking your Avenue? With that explanation, what will do you? Not to mention your own man is not without fault. The Angel of War is utterly destroyed, and Michael himself gravely injured. He’ll need at least a year before he is fully recovered. By comparison, you’ve suffered no great losses.”
“None of this has anything to do with me,” the old man replied rudely. “I’m here for business the Jewelry Master and I had entered in to, a deal you ruined. Recoup the losses incurred by your meddling, and I’ll turn right around and leave.”
This took the Pontiff by surprise, as his helpless response underlined. “I figured there’d be a reason behind all of this. Fine, you’ll have it. Consider the matter settled.”
As he spoke, he turned towards Metatron and nodded pointedly. The Angel’s brows knitted and he opened his mouth as though to speak, but the expression in the Pontiff’s eyes cut him off.
The Keeper still did not appear convinced. “Since when did the old Scepter start being so agreeable?”
A coldness crept across the Pontiff’s expression. “Undermining this meeting so you can show off your cleverness isn’t the best move here. Take what you’ve come for and leave, and don’t test my resolve in making you if I must. Even if it costs me this place, my life, don’t think I want sacrifice it all if it means protecting the Castle from the likes of you. Even if it means siding with the Dark Tower. Even your precious Avenue couldn’t stand against that.”
“You’re welcome to try,” the Magnate hissed through his laughter.
The Pontiff had begun to lost his temper. This infuriating old coot didn’t know when to back down. With an angry growl he turned, disappearing through the large double doors. Any further interaction here, and he feared his orders would become violent.