An angel cast down from heaven and a princess who discovers extraordinary powers. Together, they may save the world or they could destroy it.
He walked through the doors of the Council in chains, standing a head taller than all about him despite his captivity, or perhaps because of it.
The chants of traitor and heretic were growing louder, yet he walked unbowed. His captors walked him to a dais before five thrones and dragged him to his knees. He said nothing but waited, absorbing the insults thrown his way, noting the faces and voices of those most virulent, those who had, mere months before, cheered him as a hero of Heaven. Then he had been proclaimed a Guardian of the Faith, now he was about to die.
Five hierarchs marched in procession into the chamber, their wings neatly folded behind them while their halos shone as if to mock his own dead celestial ring. They took their seats and Archangel Azrael raised his hand to silence the room.
“Sparda,” he began, his voice deep and commanding with all the authority and presence of the Council imbued in his words, “you stand before us charged with treason against Heaven and having committed vile heresy by consorting with the demon Zerena. These crimes are especially serious in light of your status – to which you were elevated by this this Council – of Guardian of the Faith. What say you to these accusations?”
“That I am guilty,” Sparda replied, his words sent a ripple through the crowd. Some hissed and spat in his direction, others demanded that he be cleansed upon the Eternal Flames. “I did what needed to be done to defend Heaven and the Faith from those who would do it harm, as I swore to do in my oath both as a soldier of the gods and then as one of their Guardians,” he spoke softly, yet his words carried over the noise of the crowd.
To Azrael’s left, Azari, the only woman to serve among the hierarchs, looked to the others and nodded, “it is the judgement of this Council, taking in light of, and with gratitude to, your millenia of service to Heaven and the gods that you shall henceforth from this day and until the end of time be marked as tainted and exiled from Heaven to the world of mortals.”
The chamber erupted in outrage but Azari silenced the room with a piercing look, “this is the ruling of this Council. It is so ordered. All but the prisoner must leave now so that we may render further judgement.”
Angels and apostles alike filed out, their seething anger and disappointment evident to Sparda as he waited. His sentence was mild given what he had done and vacating the chamber was an unusual step, the Council were clearly not finished with him but now he knew not what to expect.
Azrael spoke now, “we know you are no heretic. What you did could not have been prevented and was done only in the best tradition of the Guardians to protect the Faith. Yet, the crowd demands punishment and even we must bow to their demands at times. In truth, your banishment will serve us well for there is much that is troubling to the Gods in the world of mortals.”
“We name you Crusader,” Azari announced, “go to the world below and find there a young woman in the city of Vetnaris, a princess. She is of interest to us and concern. Study her, befriend her if you can, and report to us all that she does of note.”
“Do not consider this a reprieve,” Hierarch Aerith continued, “you will die, as all Crusaders have died.”
“This girl is so dangerous?”
“No,” Azari replied, “not yet. We do not fear her for what she is. We fear her for what she might become.”
The walls were collapsing around her, the roof and floor disintegrating as she ran. Katari paid no heed as the world imploded on itself but instead raced on, the tiles evaporated as she ran until there was nothing below her but she did not fall. Yet nor could she move.
“How disappointing,” Jiro commented, his voice as ever deprived of emotion. If her master could ever be said to be chiding her, it was now, but the lack of anger or disappointment still bemused her. She felt either emotion would be better than the lifelessness he showed, was Jiro like that with everyone, or only her?
“Again,” he commanded, the tone impossible to miss this time, and the world reverted. Katari was back where had begun, at the doors to a great temple dedicated to a forgotten god. Her goal was simple, reach the other side, but with Jiro, nothing was ever easy.
Calming her breathing, she broke into a run through the great doorways and pelted down the corridors. Vast statues of angels acted as columns, holding the roof aloft, while the walls and floors were decorated with scenes of creation and destruction both. One becoming the other, as was the immutable nature of the duality of all things, or so Jiro said.
For a second time the world began to fall away, the statues crumbling and the artwork exploding in a shower of lethal colour. As the tiles came away beneath her, she stumbled and nearly fell but she righted herself and pushed forward. Sections of the floor crumbled about her and she reached deep inside herself, she could feel the power nestled within her body and grasped at it. The floor surged upwards as islands floating alone in space, she had nowhere to run. Kitara closed her eyes and felt her power flood her body, when she opened them she was standing a hundred feet above the ground.
She did not have long, the island was vanishing just as the temple had. In a moment, there would be nothing left. Kitara surged from island to island, the time she had on each seemingly growing shorter every time until she reached the last. The doors appeared before her, she was almost out. Her magic surged through her once more and she pushed her way towards the exit.
Emerging just shy of the doorway she threw herself over the threshold as the temple dissolved into nothing and picked herself up, brushing off the dust as she did so.
“Sloppy, but acceptable Kitara,” Jiro announced. “You will try again tomorrow.”
Everything went blank before the world snapped back into view. She was home in her bed and the hour was early. Her stomach grumbled but breakfast could wait, training was more important. She would not fail Jiro again, she could not.
It was a strange thing, her relationship with her master. Kitara knew nothing about him save for his name which hailed from one of the ancient languages of the Isles and meant ‘Guide’ but whether that was his real name at all was a mystery she was no closer to solving than she had been when they had first met three years past on the night of her twelfth birthday. He had come to her in her dreams and at first she had thought that’s all they were, the idle musings of her sleeping mind, but she remembered everything so vividly. Jiro had told her she had magic and had shown her how to wield it. It was only when she had sought for warmth one cold winter’s night two weeks after first speaking to him and accidently set fire to a rug with no more than a thought that she had realised there was more to her dreams than fantasy. She was sorceress, a powerful one, Jiro said, but one still with much to learn.
And she would, Kitara swore she would master every spell, every incantation, every curse. It was an oath she made to herself each and every morning when she woke and each time she made it, her resolve only deepened.
Image: Angel Knight by JasonTN