Time: Approximately two years prior to Hell for the Company
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. Sagnessagiel repeated these qualities as a mantra, a chant, a way to stave off the stray thoughts and questions that constantly assailed him. Why could he only guard the fourth hallway of the seventh sphere, where the most contemplative souls resided? Why could he not travel between spheres as some of the angels did? Why had he never seen another sphere? Or perhaps he had and no longer remembered? Could that be? Did angels…forget?
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. There was something wrong with him. Terribly, horribly wrong. Contemplative souls never wanted to stop and talk. He wasn't supposed to interrupt their contemplativeness, anyway. Was that a word? Con-temp-la-tiv-osity. Con-temp-lav-is-it-y.
Temperance. Patience. Contemplation. Why couldn't he simply meditate on the music of the spheres as he was supposed to? He had done so. Perhaps for hundreds of years, he'd done so successfully. What had happened to disturb his meditations? Another contemplative soul drifted by, serene and silent. To contemplate. I contemplate. You contemplate. He contemplates.
A trumpet sounded in the distance. There. That was it. The noise that had distracted him. Had been distracting him for some time. What did it mean? Was it louder this time? Perhaps coming closer? Did that mean something was going to happen? Nothing ever happened in Sagnessagiel's corner of heaven beyond the occasional silent drifting of souls. His bones itched at the trumpets' clarion, wings rustled, fingers tightened around his ceremonial spear. He wanted so badly to move, to speak, to do something.
But he was obedient, ever obedient, and stayed still, no matter how much he wanted to spread his wings and fly toward those trumpets. Something was wrong with him—these stray desires that had nothing to do with his purpose, his angelic duty. Down that path lay disobedience and rebellion, the path of the fallen. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
The trumpets were coming closer. He hadn't imagined it. A voice called out after each trumpet blast, Attend, angelic hosts! Demons have defiled the very firmament of heaven, daring to sojourn into the stars! Let those of courage and fortitude step forth to be counted among heaven's warriors beyond Earthly realms!
Asroilu, the guardian of the seventh sphere, and Iaoth, one of the captains of the anti-demon legions, rounded the corner into Sagnessagiel's hallway followed by four trumpet-blowing cherubs.
Sagnessagiel stepped away from the wall, spear gripped tight in his fist. "Me! Pick me!"
Unfortunately, he said it just as the cherubs blasted their trumpets again and Iaoth bellowed out his recruitment call. Neither Asroilu in his sky-blue contemplative robes nor Iaoth in his shining battle armor heard him.
"I do think you should move on to the next sphere, Iaoth," Asroilu said in his soft, pensive voice. "The guardians here aren't martial angels."
"They're guardians," Iaoth said with what seemed rather un-angelic impatience. "They'll be given a chance to volunteer like all the others."
"But their guardianship is, ah, largely ceremonial," Asroilu protested. "To add to the beauty of the sphere."
Sagnessagiel took another half step and both senior angels looked up from their lists, blinking at him as if they hadn't realized he was there. "Please, sir. I'd like to volunteer."
Iaoth flipped through his lists. "Who's this?"
"This is Sagnessagiel." Asroilu shot him a rather pained look. "Guardian of the fourth hallway."
Iaoth gave him an up and down inspection. "Well, he looks a likely sort. Veteran?"
Asroilu shook his head. "No, Sagnessagiel is too young to have seen the Great Rebellion and he's been safely tucked away here during later demon wars."
"Hmm. Your guardians still get the standard training?" Iaoth tapped his quill on his lists.
"Well, yes, of course, but—"
Iaoth suddenly pointed at Sagnessagiel. "You, guardian! Do you want to fight evil? Protect humankind in the vast panoply of stars?"
While Sagnessagiel wasn't certain what a panoply was, he straightened, trying to look properly stern and martial. "Yes, sir!" Of course, his little-used voice squeaked, ruining his efforts. His heart hammered so loudly, everyone had to be able to hear it, even the trumpet cherubs who were notoriously hard of hearing.
Iaoth ignored him for a long moment, writing on his lists. "Go on, then. Report to the fifth sphere for training. Weapons have…" Iaoth glared pointedly at Sagnessagiel's golden spear. "Developed considerably since you probably received yours."
"Thank you, sir!" Sagnessagiel did his best to keep his expression blank as he saluted and walked far enough away to spread his wings without striking the recruiting committee. With a powerful downstroke, he was aloft, his smile competing with the sun for brightness.
I'm going to see the galaxy. I'll experience things besides my single hallway now. This is going to be a wonderful adventure. And I am a protective guardian. They won't expect me actually to kill any demons.
Sagnessagiel reported to the angel sergeant at the gates of the fifth sphere, his heart overflowing with optimism.