|By Mark A. Brown (Cybersnark) on Monday, June 6, 2005 - 01:48 pm:|
(Explanation: I recently studied [University English Honours BA] Milton's Paradise Lost, and Milton's characters, coupled with the ensuing discussion of heroic archetype, mythology, and symbolism planted the seeds of this.)
EXPOSITORY DATA: Earth is occupied by three races: humans (the most populous), dragons (the wisest and oldest), and faerie (the most powerful). The faerie are divided into pantheons (much like human nations), and are worshipped as gods. The most powerful of these was once the Annunaki, who ruled Sumeria.
Eventually, a small group of faerie developed a belief in something as far above them as they were above humans. These faerie became the Angels, and broke off from the Annunaki. Unlike other pantheons, the Angels didn't have a king, but were ruled by a council of Archangels (who sought to determine God's will).
Eventually, the Angels schismed; one faction (led by Michael and his assistant Ariel) wanted to guide and protect the humans (as the dragons had been doing before the Angels conquered the area), while the others (led by Satan and his lover/general, Lady Sin) wanted to focus on their own apotheosis and leave the insignificant mortals to their fate.
As the war progresses, Ariel teaches magic to the humans in Eden (a dragon-built habitat/school), arming them with iron-based (faerie-killing) weapons to fight against the Rebels. Then Satan infiltrates Eden and starts recruiting from the human mages, eventually breaking Eden and allowing the human mages ("witches") to scatter among the un-educated human tribes that cover the world.
Eventually, the Angels "create" a pocket-realm (Hell), identical to Earth except that there's no Spirit/Magic (which means that any portal created on Earth is one-way, and can't be opened from within Hell), and begin to banish the Fallen, rendering them powerless.
The story begins at the end of the war, when the Rebels have all been cast out, except for Lady Sin, who remains at large with her personal guard.
The story follows two young Angels named Uriel & Azrael, who we first see swearing vows of fealty to the Host and to God. We meet Ariel, the "Angel of Wisdom," and get a glimpse of Angel society, the Citadel (visually based on Plato's Academy), and exposition about the history of the war and where we are now, highlighting Azrael & Uriel's friendship. Azrael is not-quite-right --there's some unspecified trauma in his past that has stunted his emotional growth. Uriel, being a friend, doesn't pry, trusting Azrael to share when he's ready.
Elsewhere, Lady Sin (wearing a demonic-looking mask) plots to rescue her lover and restart the war. She wants to destroy the Angels, believing them a threat to all other pantheons (like her own people, the Annunaki). She creates (or has someone [the audience-proxy who hears her plot exposition] create) a cloak capable of carrying magic into Hell, and a tool capable of cutting a hole between the realms. They will be wielded by her son, whom she has prepared in secret for this task --Azrael.
Ariel finds Azrael & Uriel (discussing whether or not Hell [with matter but no Spirit] implies the existence of another realm [with the Spirit but no physical matter] --Uriel thinks that both worlds sound equally horrible [no sound of music, no sight of beauty, no touch of a loved one]), and takes them (as her backup) to investigate reports of Lady Sin's presence --seemingly building an army. The mission turns out to be a trap by Sin's army of human, dragon, and faerie/Angel rebels. Azrael & Uriel escape, but Ariel is destroyed by a sort of magic-nuke (massive destruction, no chance of searching for remains).
Back at the Citadel, the Angels mourn Ariel and prepare for war (Azrael & Uriel have informed them that Sin has fused her small detachment of Fallen with humans and dragons). Azrael returns to his chambers to find Sin waiting for him: it's time.
Uriel gets tapped to help with the Citadel's defenses.
Sin takes Azrael to her fortress (an abandoned dragon-temple, with reptilian imagery everywhere) and prepares him for his mission to rescue his father (giving him the cloak and the scythe). Here we get the exposition detailing the Angel's perspective of Hell (they created it, and it's filled with shadow-like reflections [humanoid, but reptillian, with dragon-like features], echoes of the dragon-temples they used to house the openings) and the truth (the Angels didn't create it, they just discovered something that already existed --and was inhabited by innocents before the Angels dumped the Fallen there).
Uriel studies a map and thinks he knows where Sin's hideout is, but can't get any of the Archangels to listen to him.
In Hell, Azrael (using some of his limited magic to take demon form) finds a group of refugees (demons, clad in skins and dirt) trying to escape from a warlord. Among them is a young girl (about 10 years old), who's lost her parents and brother in the war. She invites Azrael to travel with them, and they find a village.
Sin's forces infiltrate the Citadel, slipping through the defenses as though they know all the secret blind spots and passwords.
The village welcomes the refugees, sharing what little food and shelter they have. As the refugees bed down in inns and barns, the girl pulls out a flute and pays the villagers back with a song that draws a tear from Azrael. Later, he tucks her in (a manger, for the Biblical inversion), and she tells him not to worry; the warlord's men won't be able to get in. They're safe here.
Uriel realizes what's happening and sounds the alarm, then assumes command (taking the initiative) to reorganize the defenses and regroup.
Later, Azrael sees someone sneaking through the village, and confronts him. The boy explains that he's cut a deal with the warlord --he'll open the village gates, and the warlord will let him join his army (from there he'll eventually take it over). We also get exposition describing how the Fallen are reincarnated in Hell when they die; even their souls can't depart. When the boy identifies himself as Satan, Azrael recognizes his father and unmasks himself. Satan is overjoyed to return to Earth, but Azrael asks him to wait until they can protect the village (he doesn't want the girl to die). Satan accuses him of still having loyalty to the Angels, and reminds him that his very nature betrays them. They argue, and the warlord attacks anyway, using catapults.
Sin sees (using magic from a distance) that her army is being blocked, and realizes that Uriel has taken command. She seems pleased.
Azrael rushes back to the girl, finding her crushed and dying. He's forgotten to recreate his mask, and she sees him in his human-like form, but isn't scared --her last words are to tell him that he's beautiful. Meanwhile, Satan has opened the gate, but the warlord rides up and kills him without even noticing him. The invaders find Azrael standing in the street, waiting for them.
The Angels repulse the invasion, and Uriel finally gets to reveal his discovery to the Archangels. They rally, and set out to destroy Sin's stronghold.
Dawn breaks over the demon village, revealing the aftermath of a slaughter. Not one living thing remains of the village or the army. The silence is broken only by footsteps, as a cloaked figure stalks away, carrying a red-stained Scythe.
The Angels arrive at Sin's hideout and are ambushed by a massive army. The token "epic combat" clash is unlike those in Troy, City of God, or LotR (more like them as filtered through Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, or House of Flying Daggers); each Angel and Rebel is individual and superpowered. Some fight with swords, others with short daggers, others with spears, or arrows, or clubs, or bare hands, or magic (fireballs, lightning, forcefields, beams, explosions, super-strength, everything). Some look human, others look like monsters, some are flying, some are zipping around the field too fast to see, etc. Utter carnage. Uriel realizes that they've been outsmarted, and realizes who Sin really is. He breaks ranks and rushes off to stop her, realizing that all of this is a distraction (which means that something's about to happen).
Elsewhere, Azrael emerges from the portal and confronts his mother. Sin reveals the remaining exposition (the origin of the Angels, the beginning of the War, the attempted genocide of the Annunaki), and Azrael defies her. She accuses him of betraying her --betraying both sides of himself. She removes her mask, revealing (to the audience) that she's Ariel. They fight (big action sequence, Ariel/Sin's sword versus Azrael's Scythe), and Uriel arrives in time to see Azrael kill Ariel. Uriel confronts his friend, but Azrael shrugs him off; his friends tend to end up dead. If Uriel is fortunate, they will never meet again.
The other Angels arrive after Azrael leaves, and Uriel describes what he saw. Something neither Angel, nor Demon. Michael asks what it was, and Uriel says simply "Alone."
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