The Least I Can Do

BY : InBrightestDay
Category: Fairy Tales, Fables, Folklore, Legends, and Myth > Myths
Dragon prints: 837
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

Additional Credit: The Archangel Luzurial and Officer Bernice Goldstein are owned by JayDee and are used with permission of the original author.

Preface: Back when I started posting my story The Woman in the Statue, I decided to post reviews of the story it follows, JayDee's dark and gory rapefic Whore of Heaven.  Rereading that story for the purpose of writing reviews was extremely upsetting for me, perhaps even more than it was when I first read it in 2008.  I wrote this story during the week after the reread as a way of dealing with the emotions WoH made me feel, sort of venting my sadness onto the page.  Unlike The Woman in the Statue, this is in-canon with Whore of Heaven’s original ending ("Every second hurt like eternity").

For those unfamiliar with either The Woman in the Statue or Whore of Heaven, know that a rogue demon attacked the Earth and God commanded that the angels stand back and let humanity handle the threat, lest they provoke a full-scale war between Heaven and Hell that would destroy Earth.  One archangel, Luzurial the Pure, could not stand to watch humanity suffer, so she went to Earth alone in hopes of vanquishing the demon.

She suffered horribly for her choice.

I've never been sure whether or not to post this, but elements of this story have come up in conversations of late, so I decided I might as well.  It landed here, as opposed to in Originals, because it contains several angels from Abrahamic folklore/mythology, but doesn't center on biblical events and so didn’t fit in the “Bible” category.  At any rate, here we go.


The Least I Can Do

January 1, 2007

“What do you think the punishment will be when she gets back?” Azrael asks, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.  Lailah doesn’t answer.  “She did disobey orders, after all.  Do you suppose she’ll be made a guardian for a few centuries?  Perhaps she’ll be given my job.”  This made him chuckle.  Luzurial would hate that.  Lailah takes a deep breath, in and out.  The two of them are bookends, in a way.  The Angel Lailah is Earth’s Angel of Conception.  She binds human souls to embryos and watches over all unborn humans, from the moment of conception to the moment of birth.  She has a wonderful job.

The Archangel Azrael has a terrible job.  He is one of the bringers of death and divine retribution, along with the Archangel Samael, the Creator’s swift and terrible swords.  He doesn’t actually carry a sword, preferring the flaming scythe he used during the Fall.  It fits him, he thinks; he is a reaper, after all.  Unlike Samael, who is so detached it’s unnerving sometimes, Azrael is by nature a gentler soul, which is perhaps why the Creator gave him the job.

His job isn’t always terrible, admittedly.  There have been times that he has enjoyed it, almost too much.  When he was tasked with Sodom and Gomorrah, he hadn’t felt very gentle.  He had enjoyed blasting the cities with divine fire, burning them until there was naught left of either but great, glowing expanses of molten rock.  The people of those cities had committed deeds so foul that no text ever recorded them.  Later mortals would think it a matter of men loving men, but Azrael had been there.  The people of those cities were vile, and it had felt good burning their wickedness from the Earth.

Luzurial would hate having that job.  She was always very close to the mortals, so killing any of them would be hard for her.  There are times Azrael feels that she resents him for what he does.  It’s somewhat upsetting to him.  They are friends, after all.

Lailah is quiet; unsettled.  Her deep blue eyes seem unwilling to meet Azrael’s, and she’s fiddling nervously with some of her long black hair.  At first Azrael thinks her irritated.  Luzurial was always so attached to the mortals, but this was still crossing a line.  After a moment, though, Azrael realizes that this is not what troubles her.

“Have you set your gaze to Earth?” Lailah asks, her eyes finally meeting his own grey ones.  “Have you seen what’s happening?”  Azrael shrugs, his wings amplifying the movement.

“Death,” he says.  “I’m very familiar with it, and I suppose there will be one more shortly.”  In spite of his dismissive response, Azrael knows how much the carnage on Earth hurts Lailah.  Given her role, she can’t help but think of the humans as her children, and has often referred to them as such.  “I know you hate to see your children suffer, but it will be over soon.  The remaining death will be quick, at least; we all know Luzurial doesn’t like to—”

“That’s not what’s happening,” Lailah says flatly.  There is a long silence as dread slowly builds, before Azrael chooses to focus on Earth, to see into the tortured city.

To see what is being done to his friend.

An hour passes, and there are no orders.  Azrael and Lailah seek out Michael.  As the angels of conception and death arrive at the foot of a grand pyramid wrought from marble and gold, they find the commander of the heavenly host being questioned, respectfully but firmly, by a mortal soul.  She is clearly a new arrival, as she is still manifesting the clothes she was wearing when she died, a police uniform in this case.

“I understand she broke the rules,” the mortal says, “but she was only trying to help, and you have no idea how grateful I am for her trying.  You’re Michael.  I’ve read about you in the Torah; I grew up hearing about you in prayers.  You must be able to do something for her.”  The archangel looks down and shakes his head, the human becoming more and more upset.  Before she can start again, Lailah steps forward, extending a hand.

“Bernice, dearest, why don’t you come with me?”  The police officer’s attention shifts to the new angel, confusion on the human’s face.

“Do we…have we met?” she asks.  Lailah smiles.

“We have, little one, a long time ago.  Please come with me.”  Placing her hand on Bernice’s arm, Lailah gently guides her away, and Azrael approaches Michael.

“Was the mortal right?  Has there really been no word?” Azrael asks.

“No,” Michael says, obviously as uncomfortable as he is.

“Why not?

“You know why not,” Michael says, fists clenching, working to control his breathing.  “It was her decision.”

“We were both thinking about doing the same thing.”

“I know.”

“She needs help.”

“I know.”

“She doesn’t deserve this.

“I KNOW!”  Michael’s wings beat once, a quantum of his frustration breaking loose.  He is a vessel for the Creator’s power, and the wing beats are like thunderclaps, the shockwaves echoing off the pyramid and rattling Azrael for a moment.  Folding his wings behind him, Michael sighs, and then walks away, unable to talk anymore.

Later, Azrael sits by the side of a great silver lake, still watching and hearing what is happening on Earth.

“Is something wrong?”  Azrael looks over to see another human soul, a child with dark skin and brown eyes, standing next to him.  Her name is Nefertari, a girl of ten years, and an innocent Azrael was ordered to take millennia earlier.

That was a night when Azrael’s job had indeed been terrible.  The firstborn of Thebes had done nothing to deserve death; they were paying for the infuriating stubbornness of their monarch.  Azrael’s only comfort that night was that he was able to take them in their sleep.  They had simply drifted off, warm and happy in their beds, and awoken in Paradise.  For whatever reason, Nefertari had taken to following the archangel and asking him questions.  He had been pleased to answer some of them (no, in spite of the wings, he was not Horus, for instance), but the insistent one about when she could visit her parents had been far harder.

Of course, that had made the moment when her family had arrived so much sweeter.  Nefertari’s parents had worshipped the gods of their nation, but they had also been kindhearted people, caring for the other citizens of Thebes and living the best lives they could, and that was what the Creator really cared about.  Luzurial had seen how Nefertari followed Azrael.  She had called him from his duties, that he might see the girl run into her mother’s arms.  He had asked her why she did it.

“I know your job pains you sometimes,” Luzurial had said.  “I wanted you to see something happy.”  Azrael had asked why, and Luzurial had simply smiled, her brown eyes warm.

“You are my friend,” she had said simply.  “It’s the least I can do.”

For just a moment, Azrael contemplates telling Nefertari.  The moment passes, though.  Neither she, nor her parents, nor any of the mortal souls here can help.

And in spite of having spent more than 3,000 years in Heaven, in many ways, Nefertari is still ten, and she should never have to know what Luzurial the Pure is experiencing now.

“This is nothing for you to worry about, Nefertari,” he says.  “Go back to your parents.”

The child is reluctant, but ultimately leaves, and Azrael watches Earth again, and he listens to his friend scream, and then, when she hurts too much to scream, he listens to her weep, and then finally she can’t even weep, and he listens to the silence.

The Archangel Azrael has a terrible job, sometimes for the things he must do, and sometimes for when he must do nothing.

140 trillion years later

The Earth is dark as Azrael comes down to land; the Sun no more than a particularly bright star now.  The sky is even darker, for stars no longer burn, leaving only stellar remnants shining faintly in the cosmic vastness.  The Earth’s atmosphere burned off long ago, scorched away by the Sun’s death throes, but that doesn’t matter.  Angels often breathe, but they don’t need to, and their wings are not bound by physics.  The world, melted and cooled, is smooth and featureless, save for an object up ahead.  It looks like a statue, a female form perfectly sculpted in some smooth, black material, untouched by time.  Slowly, Azrael walks up to it.

The mortals could have opened it, but they ignored it, and no natural phenomenon could break it, so the heat of the dying Sun had done nothing.

Agony radiates from it, the mental emanations paining Azrael as Luzurial the Pure screams and weeps behind her eternally open eyes.

Azrael could break it; a single blow from his flaming scythe would shatter the casing and set her free, but he’s been given very strict orders.

The defeat and torment of Luzurial had come after the archangel’s great Pride in her abilities, the Seraphim’s declaration had said, as well as her inability to trust humanity.  As punishment for her all-consuming Pride, the Archangel Luzurial is to remain in the shell where the demon left her, to suffer until entropy itself causes the material of her prison to break down.  Azrael knows roughly how long that will take, and the thought sickens him.

Luzurial’s torture in the coating has already lasted ten thousand times as long as her life before it, and less than a trillionth of her sentence has elapsed.  Azrael often wonders what she will be like when the coating finally disintegrates.  Will she remember the kind soul she was before all of this?  Will she remember the lives her compassion and courage touched?  Will she remember anything at all, save for pain?

She doesn’t deserve this, not in the least, and he hopes one day the Seraphim will reconsider, that one day he will be told he can free his friend.

Sitting down by Luzurial, he works his hand into one of hers.  He takes time to do this every day.  He’s not allowed to free her, so he holds her hand.  He hopes she can feel it through the pain.

She’s his friend, after all.

It’s the least he can do.

Author's Note: Like I said, this was written as a way for me to cope with my feelings after reading Whore of Heaven again, so take it for whatever that's worth.

While I wrote the story a while back, it has been modified somewhat since then, lengthening the duration of Luzurial's suffering to match JayDee's idea that the shell would only be removed by nucleon decay (which would take anywhere from 2 undecillion to 30 tredecillion years, depending on proton half-life), and including a location from another story, namely the silver lake from another, not torture/rape JayDee story, Jude's Tale, which you can read here:

Finally, I'll be happy to answer questions and just respond to reviews here:

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