The Second War in Heaven

The Hereford Engagement

The forces which will fight against Heaven gather in Hereford, in a valley which Lord Devereux has prepared with supply lines, fortified areas, and a final spot at the base of the valley where the gate to Heaven will be opened. Present are Lord Devereux and the 31st Hereford; Nathaniel Medici, the artificial man, with a device which he claims will be immensely helpful in the conflict; Archbishop Henry Lockett, in the company of an army of the devout men and women of Albion, willing to arm themselves and fight in the name of God and Albion, and to lay down their lives if necessary; Ares Jones, armed with a sword which seems to shine in his hand like the sun; rank upon rank of Golems from Prague – some in dark plate armour, controlled by the nervous young General Rosenthal, and kept far away from those more traditional clay golems, who seem hastily armed for war, but who nevertheless are prepared to fight until their destruction in the care of their human captains and Theurges; Alexander Gray of the Horticulturalists; Don Inigo Arista, who claims to have a map of Heaven itself which will guide the forces; the men of the East India Company and their great Cloud-Base, bedecked with dragons, under the charge of Megan Annwn and Wilson Mandrake; a force of dark-clad and well-armed Spaniards, sent from some unknown source, but who nevertheless seem willing to fight alongside the Anglicans in the name of preserving Heaven; and Thou-Shalt-Not-Suffer-A-Witch-To-Live Jones. Before all the arrangements are done, a detachment arrives, composed of old soldiers, the devout and anybody fit to fight for Albion and follow orders. The leader announces that he comes from Lady Weaver who got the message to those Archbishop Lockett couldn't reach.

As the forces prepare for their strike into Heaven, Archbishop Lockett gives a stirring speech which stiffens the sinews and warm the hearts of all those who hear it, and which is greeted with a rousing cheer from the forces – both military and civilian – that prepare to assault into the Celestial Realms themselves.

“Brothers! The time is fast approching when Humanity shall prove its strength. The Daemonic hordes of Dalemburtus attack Heaven itself, and we have been called to protect her. I look around today and see a sight that fills me with joy. I see Anglican next to Catholic, next to Jew, and today I am proud to call them brother. For regardless of a man's faith, he has shown himself to be devout. Today I draw no distinction between our faiths because we all answer the same call – that of our Lord Almighty. For he is the same God for us all, and we should do well to remember it. Let us today stand brother next to brother, basking in the love of our Lord. Today, my friends, show heart. For today we do not fight just for King and Country. Not just to protect our families or our lands. Today we fight for the soul of every man that has ever, or ever will exist. We fight to protect the souls of Adam and Eve, Moses, David, Abraham. We fight for them all. Not just this we fight for those to come, the world we stand on my change. Borders move, Empires rise and fall, allegiances change, but Heaven is there Eternal. If we fail today, then we do not just damn ourselves but every man. But we shall not fail, for we have the power of faith; let the Demons come – they shall not find us unprepared! Remember this day, my friends, as it shall be the day Humanity shows its worth. Remember this day, my friends, as it will be sung by the Heralds of Heaven for many millennia. Remember this day, my friends, as the day Hell suffered it worst defeat. Remember this Day!”

As the preparations begin, several Theurges sent from Anthony Sutcliffe begin to lay their hands upon the troops, delivering, in concert with the various Priests present, a series of blessings which they claim will protect the mortals from the corrosive effect that the purity of Heaven might have upon their tainted souls. The soldiers' armour seems to shine brighter everywhere these Theurges pass, the gathered militias stand straighter, the banners flare more brightly in the morning breeze.

At the far end of the Valley, with artillery and infantry sighted and laid out upon the spot, Witch Jones and a number of Theurges from Prague gather in preparation and hasty consultation. Several small white artefacts are placed in a rough arc on the grass of the valley floor, and as the military forces hold back, the Theurges prepare a great working to open the gates of Heaven itself. As the chanting rises to a fever pitch, and Jones and the Theurges are seen to bleed openly from the eyes and nostrils, yet never ceasing in their devotions, first one angel – then another – then a third appears from thin air, clothéd all in light, armed and armoured for Holy War. As a split begins to open in thin air, rotating and brightening until it is almost too blinding to look upon, the Angels take up the strain of this great Gate; forcing it apart with main strength, shoulders straining like that of Samson, ten great Celestial Beings hold the gap between Hell and Heaven.

As the Theurges retreat from the gate, the mortal forces surge forward in a coordinated assault. The 31st Hereford are the first into the breach, and the other mortals pour through in their wake, as immediately they strive to control the area within the Gate.

As the gate opens, the amassed forces see a small human figure talking to a bestial demon of darkness with a tormented human head upon its shoulders. As they look closer, they see it is Nathaniel Medici – and the nearby demons are looking toward him instead of toward the gate!

As the army enters Heaven, taking advantage of this distraction, Medici puts his box on the floor and then quickly looks away.

The top of the box opens up, and a deep red light shines out. The demon with the human head looks into the device, and suddenly goes still. Its body shrinks, fades, stretches and is pulled inside. However, the head on top does not shrink – as the Demon changes, the head falls off and rolls to Medici's feet.

The other demons nearby, also looking toward the device, are also pulled in – including the larger Demons which had been talking with the first victim. And at this point, the Demon army starts looking rather upset with Nathaniel Medici. They start to move forward – but the forward ranks also start being sucked into the device. But as they move to flank him, Medici picks up the box and the head and starts running in the opposite direction. The box closes, but through the black glass it is glowing a deep but bright demonic red.

However as the Demon forces start after Medici, ready to tear him to pieces, an army of angels and mortals tear into the rear of the distracted Demon army, killing large numbers. Medici takes advantage of the distraction to run away, trying to get around to the gate back to the mortal realms but having to keep away from the Demon army so as not to be torn to pieces.

Fight on the Plains of Heaven

Later, you find it hard to remember precisely what Heaven was like. Moreover, you find yourself disagreeing with many others who were there; what you saw, what you did, who smote whom. It is as if you have awoken from a strange and vivid dream, and cannot be precisely certain of all the details.

You remember an astrological chart you had been shown before the battle, drawn up by Eliza Gamut and Gwen verch Morcant; and you remember, as you entered the Gate, the stars and letters suddenly glowing white before you, as if a warning was coming. You remember using the warning from the chart to avoid – a trap? A demon? Some more esoteric danger? You cannot quite be certain; but you know it saved your life.

Certainly, there was a battle. And you were on the front lines. (Or were you at the rear, with the support troops?) Certainly, the clash and torment of the Angelic forces fighting the demons of Hell itself split the air, and almost seemed to split your skull in two; it seems that the Celestial beings raised the very mountains of the Plains of Heaven as weapons against one another, that their cannons were the roar of great waterfalls, that their siege-weapons could have destroyed continents. You remember Don Inigo, frantically gesturing and waving with his parchment; you remember detachments and battalions of mortal men wheeling and forming at his directions, and those who did not heed his word… fell? Arose? You know that you never saw those men again.

You know you fought bravely. You know that the Angelic Hordes were bolstered by your arrival. And you know that, striding through the gates just after the mortals, was a shape and form you had never seen before; a shape which did not speak, but whose words echoed in your head as if etched into your skull –

The one Sutcliffe has sent me. I am here.

That terrible shape, that thing like a man but twenty times the height of a cathedral, striding over a blasted and broken landscape of white pillars and golden walls – that being of destruction, of purity, of absolute holiness – passed over you, and you remember a feeling of terrible relief, of gratitude, that it did not cast its gaze upon you. For where it looked, demons broke and ran, howling; where it touched, the very substance of the outskirts of Heaven itself buckled and split. Where it spoke, men fell gasping to their knees and exploded into light. Behind it, walking in its wake, tall and noble, the being who was once Anthony Sutcliffe.

The Theurges of Prague, crying aloud that there is a Throne upon the battlefield, gathered hastily to split the forces that none may come into too close contact with this… thing, this being, this Angel above Angels.

You remember seeing Prince Richard (but how did he come here?), with a sword shining in his hand, striking at the serried ranks of demons and crying aloud “For Albion! For Albion!” as two Angels – the names Harachel and Asoniel make their way into your mind, though you know not how – guarded his right and left flanks.

You think you remember seeing your parents on the front lines, shoulder to shoulder with the Spaniard men and Hereford's troops. You think you remember seeing a great lion, roaring aloud as it sank its teeth into the black ichor of the Daemonic hordes. You think you remember dying, and rising again.

For much of the battle Medici is seen at various times off to the side of the Demon army, frantically trying to run past them but repeatedly cut off as the Demons regroup to try and fight off the mortals.

However, as the mortal forces start to retreat back to the mortal realms, the Demons' flanks are left unmolested, giving Medici a chance to run through – activating his Demon Trap again briefly to catch the Demons who try to stop him. On the other side, Medici is quickly escorted off the battlefield by a couple of Hereford troops.

Personalised Section

This part of the briefing was different for each participant.

Henry Lockett

You remember the army of the devout at your back, and the demons before you. You remember the words of your own speech ringing in your ears as you hefted a sword and, in borrowed and uncomfortable armour, strove to maintain a clear and sound mind upon the plains of Heaven. You remember seeing about you the people of Edinburgh – but surely they were not here with you? Yet they fight as strongly as the real soldiers, even though they seem slightly transparent.

You remember the preacher from that Scottish church you knew as a child, the old kindly man who died when you were young. He stood over you just as a blow from a Duke's terrible mace had struck you to the ground, and offered you a hand with a kindly, familiar smile. He dragged you to your feet and clapped you on the shoulder, you think. And then the fight began again, and all was chaos and light.

Ares Jones

Among your brothers once more, though in this base mortal flesh, with the sword of Michael in your hand, you do your best to keep the mortals alive. None of them seem capable of understanding that the lands of Heaven are not like mortal lands; and as they slip and tumble on the changing terrain, your feet are sure and certain under you. You stride like a captain about the host of Demons, slaying where you can, saving the mortals where it seems appropriate. The imps and hordes of Hell fall like a bitter rain about you, returning to their damnation.

Walter Devereux

Through the fight, there is an angel at your back. “Shemhazai”, it calls itself in a breathless moment between charges. It addresses you as Walter. “I have been sent from one I think you will not thank. But I will help you nevertheless.”

You think you remember seeing the angel transform into the shape of a wolf (a wolf you have seen once before, in the distance) and leap upon the throat of a Knight who threatened your standard-bearer, worrying it to the ground and tumbling into a chaos of flailing limbs and screaming fight. You think you remember hearing the voice of your father rallying the troops behind you; but they respond as if the voice comes from your own throat. You certainly recall roaring the insults that Alexander Gray had taught you at the Daemonic hordes, and seeing knights and Dukes infuriated beyond measure, beyond sense, beyond strategy, at the sound.

You think you remember weeping as you fought, though you cannot remember why.

Inigo Arista

The terrain is confused and broken. The map changes from moment to moment, and it is only by summoning every reserve of courage and concentration that you can call out directions from the paper before you.

You think you remember Don Carlos fighting beside you, but when you turned to look, no-one was there. You think you remember walking through the streets of the city where you were born, but they were full of angels and demons, fighting. You think you remember everything, and nothing.

Alexander Gray

You remember speaking with Angels and Demons. You remember the Daemonic hordes breaking and running at your words; you remember the Angelic rallying at your cries. You remember a moment of calm, an odd eddy in the swirl of the battle – and you remember your father, tall and strong, appearing before you with a hand on your shoulder and telling you to fight on, before vanishing to be replaced by a platoon of Angels ready to fight at your command.

Anthony Sutcliffe

You remember stepping into Heaven in the wake of the Throne, that awful, inexorable power. You remember feeling… drawn… to the centre of the fighting, closer and closer to the plains of Heaven itself, away from the outskirts; you remember that your fight was as much to retain a hold on the self that was once mortal, the self that knew there was a fight here, as against the demons. You remember your Theurges' blessings cast over the soldiery, raising them up, helping them resist the awful power of the outskirts of Heaven.

You remember the light, most of all.

Witch Jones

You remember your initiator into the Rosicrucians – the old man who died years ago, before you ever came to Court – fighting beside you, with a smile on his face as he struck down a demon who would have taken your head. You remember the awesome power of the Gate tugging at you, demanding to be released; you remember the thought that the demons would overwhelm you before you lured them out into Hereford, and you remember fighting on nevertheless – for if a holy man cannot fall nobly in Heaven, where can he fall?

You remember the bible fast at your breast, the sword in your hand, the Angels arrayed about you like celestial lieutenants, or commanders. You remember crying between the forces of Heaven and Earth, rallying the men every time they seemed about to break.

You think you remember seeing your grandfather, somewhere in the chaos. You think you remember seeing every dead childhood friend, every lost hope, every path not taken.

The Retreat to the Valley

As the forces retreat out of heaven and back to Hereford valley, they clear the way for those that remained in Hereford to have clear shot at anything coming out of the gate to heaven. Consulting charts prepared by Eliza Gamut and Gwen verch Morcant, Lord Devereux appears to have a good idea of the directions the demons will go when they leave the gate, and directs the forces to be best able to counter the threat. As well as the conventional forces following his direction, there are also a considerable number of angels apparently under his command. Somehow, whether by intention or accident, Prince Richard is seen on the front line, propping himself up with a stick in one hand, and wielding a sword that shines with an almost supernatural light in the other.

The Cloudbase hovers overhead as the troops gather. In the rocky underbelly there hang a flag of Albion and one of the EIC, as well as a number of cannon posts. There are also a number of caverns from which draconic heads regularly appear, to peer with idle curiosity at the men below. The dragons occasionally emerge to visit one another, and from their size and the sheer weight of their ornamentation it is clear that these are some of the oldest dragons, who can rarely be persuaded to risk their lives.

As the first of the demons are drawn through the gate the Cloudbase sweeps in to hold the gate and prevent the defenders in Hereford from being overwhelmed. Angels spread the gate apart, so that the island can pass through, though still it is a tight fit. Once inside, the dragons pour out of the caverns, following directions from Megan Annwn, covered by canon fire and barrels of gunpowder thrown over the edge of the island and onto the demonic hordes.

Two demons in particular are targeted by the dragons, identified by those knowledgeable in infernal matters as Duke Arioch and Wurm Ouroboros. They are even pursued by the dragons as they flee for the mortal realms, raked with claws and teeth and white-hot dragonfire.

Demons pour forth from the gate in incredible numbers, almost overwhelming the forces of Albion just by sheer weight of body. Lord Devereux's cannons manage to hold many at bay, but against the numbers, all hope begins to drain from the defenders. Undeterred, however, Lord Gray flies above the fray on the back of his dragon, calling something in a harsh, tortured sounding language. At his cries, however, many of the demonic forces seem to lose hope; indeed, a great number of imps from the attackers seem to sink into the ground in an attempt to escape, and even some of the dukes of hell seem to waiver in their conviction. Although none understand it, Lord Gray's cries are taken up as a battle cry, and the forces of Albion charge anew.

As the fighting gets bloodier, and the demonic hoards continue to pour forth, the forces seem almost evenly matched, but it is clear the infernal realms have the upper hand. That is, until twelve ranks of mechanical men of some ilk, led by General Rosenthal of Prague begin to march forward. Marching through the ranks of Albion's men, they set about the demons with fervour. Although they seem unable to approach the gate to heaven, they are, by this time, able to get close enough to make short work of the lighter forces of hell, and together, they even manage to bring down one of the dukes.

Those looking in the right direction at this point notice Prince Richard, beset upon three sides, but fighting valiantly considering his wound. Isolated from the main force, it seems clear that he will be taken down shortly, and it is only through his impressive swordsmanship that he is still alive. Lord Devereux, in a desperate bid to save the royal, signals a gryphon down and flies to the beset prince, throwing him what appears to be a goblet of some sort, although later none agree as to what was actually passed. Prince Richard manages to catch the object, and upon drinking it, seems immediately recovered, and sets about the beasts with renewed energy, casting his cane aside and wielding his sword with a fantastic strength.

Later, this is identified as the turning point in the battle. Rallying on the Prince, the forces of Albion begin to force the demons back. Lord Devereux's cannons fire with renewed vigour upon the central mass of demons, as the main force begins to surround the demons, worrying at them from the edges, destroying them piece by piece. The battle remains long and bloody, and the death toll is massive. However, between the Horticulturalists' creatures, the 31st Hereford's conventional forces and those amassed from elsewhere, the sorcerous golems of Prague, the angels fighting on the side of Albion, and Lord Gray's demoralising taunts and cries, those demons that had made it through the gates of heaven are variously destroyed, torn apart and banished back to the infernal realms.

As the angels holding the gate open find the struggle to keep the gate open worsening, a retreat is called. The Cloudbase struggles to make it back to the gate, and the troops hastily retreat from its path. This turns out to have been a wise move as it shudders to a halt on a hillside and resists all attempts to make it move or take to the air again. A number of the dragons are still fighting back through Heaven to the gate when it closes.

Examination of the Cloudbase indicates that the time in Heaven has damaged the alignment of the Sorcero-Theurgic nomenclature matrix which allows it to fly.

The fight is over. Heaven is preserved, and those Angels which retreated with the troops into Hereford cry aloud a victory-call; for those demons which remain in the Celestial Realms will surely be swiftly and decisively destroyed. There is no hope left for the Infernal Assault. The men of the Mortal Realms have come to the aid of Heaven; and their aid has not been in vain.

Exhausted, victorious but much bloodied and with terrible losses in some quarters, the troops begin to return to their homes, leaving behind them a blasted and devastated battle-ground where once there was a green and verdant valley at the heart of Herefordshire.

bonus.heaven.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/14 10:52 by helen