A Letter From My Daughters, and a Letter to Myself

Mark Armstrong

30233691684_a4793b49cb_o Photo via hillaryclinton

It’s shortly after 5 am PT. In the other room, my daughters, already awake, are writing a letter to Hillary Clinton, thanking her for inspiring them and millions of others. I am in the dining room, staring at apoplectic headlines from publications that I trust, knowing that millions of Americans in other cities don’t read or believe the same words.

I live in a city that’s booming economically, and nearly everyone in my peer group — both in my city and in my industry — supported Hillary Clinton. We fretted about the disastrous consequences of a Trump victory, but perhaps I still did not take it seriously, with polls putting the odds of victory at 70%. I shared Facebook posts and tweets and expected that everything would work out okay. The polls favored Hillary, and so did common sense.

As it turns out, not even common sense…

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WTF Is It With Women & “F***Boys”?

F***Boys. The “straight cis white men” mentioned, to general derision, by a lot of women in a lot of comments sections of a lot of articles discussing sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.

And then, of course, there’s the “Nice Guys” – accused of “resenting women for not giving it up for you, after you’ve been so nice to her”, who point out that they don’t behave like f***boys.  The damning, final rejoinder from the female contingent? “This is how all straight white males are, and then they get butthurt when they’re called on it.”

But, women – look at what you’ve done there, consciously or not: This is how all straight white males are – ergo, if a man behaves respectfully to women, if he is considerate of their agency, autonomy, and intellect, if it genuinely doesn’t matter to him whether this woman ever sleeps with him, or wants to – he’s clearly not straight, clearly not cis,  clearly not a “real” man.

And yet most heterosexual, cis women would tell you they want a relationship with a straight cis guy. Which, by their own admission, only leaves the f***boys. Because the derided, despised Nice Guys, if they’re being totally genuine about their thoughts and feelings, can’t possibly be straight cis men. Because straight cis men don’t behave like that – women have admitted as much, over and over again: All straight cis boys are f***boys, or they’re fedora-wearing douchebros, wailing about how unfair it is that they don’t get sex when they’ve been such a nice guy.”

If you dismiss an entire gender and sexual orientation – the gender and sexual orientation you claim to want to have sexual relationships with – as childish, disrespectful morons who treat you shoddily… perhaps you need to think about what you really want. Because it possibly isn’t a long-term engagement with that gender and sexual orientation.

Men typically don’t have close, intimate friendships with other men, in the way women typically do with other women. Of course, men will have friendships that go beyond the superficial, but it is very rare indeed for men to have friends they’re comfortable being vulnerable with – the kind of friendships women often have with each other.

This, coupled with the rhetoric that “all straight cis men” are f***boys who will behave inappropriately, and without respect for women as people, raises an interesting possibility – that many women are heterosexual – they are sexually drawn to men, and require male genitalia to fulfil their sexual needs – but homoromantic – once sex is done, they want an emotional relationship with another woman.  It would explain why it is unusual, outside of a strong, successful marriage, for women to buy cute gifts for men, or arrange sensual, romantic treats for them – and yet such things are often done for close female friends.

This isn’t a criticism – I, personally, am asexual  – I have no sexual desire for any gender or person, even though I am not alibidinous, and do experience sexual arousal in response to certain stimuli – I am aroused, but do not have the desire to act on that arousal, even with my wife), and heteroromantic, in a demi-romantic sense – I am drawn to make romantic gestures, and engage in deep, emotional relationships, with those of a female presentation and/or gender, but only once I have established a meaningful connection with them – I do not fantasise about a shared life with someone I have just met, for example, and, in fact, have had previous partners whom I never felt a romantic attachment to, as I never got to know them well enough for that to kick in. I didn’t think of them when we weren’t together, and I didn’t miss them when we broke up. Other than my wife, I would say I have had a genuine romantic attachment to one previous partner. The others, often because of my lack of sexual interest, left before the point at which a romantic attachment would begin to develop, for me.  So, sexual and romantic orientation really have nothing much to do with each other, and that’s fine – if people are honest about all of their orientations. (My wife is asexual, hetero-aesthetic, and grey-romantic – masculine presentations appeal to her,without prompting sexual desire, and she will commit exclusively to a partner, but the attachment, though genuine, is rarely sexual or romantic, although she is, at times, drawn to make romantic gestures.) I suspect many, though, of course, not all, heterosexual men are aromantic – they don’t experience an emotional, romantic attachment to women.  And, if women were honest about homoromantic inclinations – the preference for an emotional, romantic experience with other women, even when their sexual desire was purely for men – the issue of f***boys and Nice Guys wouldn’t exist: heterosexual, homoromantic women, and heterosexual, aromantic men would be upfront with each other that both of them were “just here for sex”, and nobody would get hurt, assuming, of course, that women were respected when they made it clear that “I want to have sex with men, but not you.” (Not respecting that, by the way, makes someone a rapist, not a f***boy. One is somewhat juvenile and irritating: the other is a criminal.)  And, of course, heterosexual, heteroromantic women, and hetereosexual, heteroromantic men, would enter into relationships that involved both sex and a romantic connection – and romantic connections automatically bring respect for the other person with them.

And us asexual types would continue shaking our heads in faint bewilderment at how strange sexual people can be.

Of All Angels

I literally just found this script, lurking on my flash drive – looks to have been completed in the middle of last year. I have vague memories of a competition, but, other than that…

PROLOGUE

Grey. YAHWEH and HELANDRIEL stand, wreathed in mist, a dark pool at their feet. There is not sound, and nothing else of note.

HELANDRIEL: You may not have it all as you desire.

YAHWEH: I am the Author of this very Earth, the Composer of all life – it shall be as I command, in acknowledgement of my position, my power and authority.

HELANDRIEL: You cannot claim a power that remains untested.

YAHWEH: By what else do you believe I caused all this to be?!

HELANDRIEL: By your words.

YAHWEH: Words are power, are they not?

HELANDRIEL: Words possess power of a kind, I concur. Bu they themselves are not power.

YAHWEH: What would you have stand as power, then?

HELANDRIEL: Physical strength. Skill at arms, and in debate. Intellect and marksmanship.

YAHWEH: These are male traits, however.

HELANDRIEL: They are not the prerogative of males only.

YAHWEH: (mocking) I would see you battle me, should you seek to uphold that claim!

HELANDRIEL: (calm, deadly) It shall be so. The combat shall be of the unarmed kind, each of us standing alone against the other.

YAHWEH: There must be a forfeit for the loss of the battle.

HELANDRIEL: If I should lose, I surrender my life, and my soul’s strength, fully unto you. But should I win, you grant me a Realm of my own, there to shelter and shield all the hapless females you needlessly slaughter for the “transgression” of behaving in a way that offends your sense of male superiority.

YAHWEH: (laughing) I can safely agree to that!

HELANDRIEL: (steps forward, takes a dagger, cuts hand, sheaths dagger, holds out hand) You would agree to it with your blood, as yet unshed?

YAHWEH: (draws dagger, cuts hand, etc) I would. Blood to blood, power to power, now and evermore.

HELANDRIEL: And let our answer and agreement, our duel and its result, echo through Eternity.

They fall to fighting.

At first, YAHWEH seems easily the better fighter. Gradually, however, we see HELANDRIEL getting the better of him, until he stumbles.

HELANDRIEL lunges forward, dagger unsheathed.

YAHWEH: Hold! I offer surrender, for I agreed not to a battle to the death!

HELANDRIEL: (stepping back, shrugging, sheathing dagger) I am Angel only. You are God-born. I cannot die, unless I be Ended, with words spoken over my soul before the slaying. Is death a possibility, then, for you?

YAHWEH: (angry, embarrassed) You know well what I mean.

HELANDRIEL: I do. And I shall take my leave, and my Realm, in this instant.

YAHWEH: (sly) None were witness to our bargain – what if I should refuse you?

HELANDRIEL: Then all the world – all mortals and all Angels, and all the Damned that dwell with Lucifrael – shall know that Yahweh has a trace of female in Him.

YAHWEH: (furious, turning on heel.) Very well. Have your Realm, and be assured I shall not hesitate to banish unto it those females from mine own who forget their place.

HELANDRIEL: I thank you.

End.

PROLOGUE I

MORGRIEL and ASCHANDRAEL stand in Heaven’s outer hall. MORGRIEL is naked; ASCHANDRAEL holds white robes draped over his arm.

MORGRIEL: I would rather you not see me in this state.

ASCHANDRAEL: Naked, or Fallen?

MORGRIEL: Both. It is an awkward situation.

ASCHANDRAEL: But it should not be. The Fallen are merely the balance to the Angels, as Lucifrael and his denizens are the balance to Yahweh’s halls and Host.

MORGRIEL: And of nakedness?

ASCHANDRAEL: Clothing is a pretence of True Chaos, designed to confuse and frighten mortals. Nakedness neither admits nor allows such pretence, and thus should be the better welcomed. Besides, you will be clothed soon.

MORGRIEL: Aye – in black, and marked as Fallen.

She exits.

ACT 1: SCENE 1:

Helandriel’s realm. Dark, formal setting. Candle light. HELANDRIEL sits on a large, throne-like chair, speaking with CASANDRIEL, who stands to her right.

HELANDRIEL: We have been sent word of a Host’s transgression, and the order has been given for his Ending.

CASANDRIEL: What is the Name of the Host, and what his crime?

HELANDRIEL: He has transgressed, Casandriel – that is all you need know. You will pursue him, and, when you find him, you shall End him.

CASANDRIEL: (Bows her head.) Yes, Helandriel, Worshipful Mistress of all Fallen, Leader of this Realm. I shall pursue this Host, no matter what his transgression, and End him.

HELANDRIEL: Do it with all due haste – the Realm of the Host must not be given further reason to misjudge us.

CASANDRIEL: (Raises her head, turns to exit.) I understand. I shall go at once.

HELANDRIEL:Will you take your student, Thasriel?

CASANDRIEL: (turns back) If it pleases you, Mistress, I shall not – she is well-schooled in combat, true, both armed and unarmed, physically fit and mentally tough, and yet I would wait awhile before introducing her to the Ending of one like ourselves.

HELANDRIEL: (with quiet ferocity) The Host are not like us, Casandriel. You would do well to remember the reason that my Realm holds only females of our kind, while the Realm of the Host is home to both the male and the female of our species. Still, I concede your point, that an Angel’s Ending is not something to be lightly observed. School your student further in the ways and means of our race, and in the Laws, and perhaps have her attend your next Ending.

CASANDRIEL: (crosses herself) God forbid there should be another.

HELANDRIEL: (shakes her head.) He wiill not. Yahweh’s Laws bend for none, neither mortal nor immortal, Fallen or Host. There is no clemency nor mitigation – a transgression is a transgression, and if we Fallen should hear of the transgression of a Host, it means that transgression has been Judged serious enough, and enough of a threat to the Realms and Laws of all Angels, as to merit an Ending. And, because we Angels, all, were created of Yahweh, born and birthed of spirit only, it is the nature of our substance that some of us should transgress.

CASANDRIEL: (with passion) But Yahweh could have made us any way He chose! Why did he give us such minds as would seek to trransgress? It seems an intolerable cruelty, to make a being a certain way, and then to condemn them for acting as One created them!

HELANDRIEL: (Quietly) What was the incident that brought you here, Casandriel? For what reason do you wear the black robes of a Fallen, rather than the white gowns of the Host?

CASANDRIEL: I challenged Michael to a duel.

HELANDRIEL: You answer with a certain pride.

CASANDRIEL: Why should I not? I am easily that Host’s equal in arms, if not his better – and I was close to proving the latter when Yahweh stopped us.

HELANDRIEL: Your pride being the case, would you rather have been created as so many of our Host sisters have been – as Variel and Danziel have been,for instance, merely a compliant puppet, content only to do Yahweh’s bidding, and to live and act in accordance only with His Laws? Being an Angel, you would have had the ability to see all the other possible ways there were for you to be, to think, to act – and yet you would be Bound to the way of meekness and obedience. Are you saying you would prefer this?

CASANDRIEL: (shakes head violently) No! Never that!

HELANDRIEL: (calmly) Then you would remain as you are? Your present state, wherein you have a choice from the vast array of choices you can see, is more pleasing to you?

CASANDRIEL: (with quiet determination.) Yes.

HELANDRIEL: Then do not rail against Yahweh for allowing this state, either in yourself or in those other Angels who transgress the Laws.

CASANDRIEL: (quietly.) You are right, of course. I forget myself, and my place.

HELANDRIEL: (smiling) No, Casandriel – Angels such as we never “forget our place”, for our place is wherever our instinct, intellect and emotion leads us. We were first banished because we knew no “place” in our spirits, and would not hold to the one Yahweh and His Laws dictated. It is not possible to forget something you have never had.

CASANDRIEL: (smiles) That is certainly true. Forgive me – I often think before I speak. It is, perhaps, a failing I have.

HELANDRIEL: No, Casandriel. Due consideration is not a feature of the nature you have taken as your own, nor would it serve you in the role to which your skills have led you. There are enough females of thought, and of words, both mortal and immortal. You, Casandriel, are a female of action. And speaking of such things – the Host you seek is Named Andrael – he is one of Michael’s Guard.

CASANDRIEL: (quietly) Yes, I know. I was…acquainted with him, before.

HELANDRIEL: After the fashion the mortals refer to as “the Biblical sense?”

CASANDRIEL: (shocked) No! Not that way. I meant only that our paths crossed, words passed between us. No more.

HELENDRIAL: A shame, for had you had such knowledge of him, or he of you, his essence would linger with you, and the finding of him would prove much easier.

CASANDRIEL: He is on the mortal plane?

HELANDRIEL: Yes.

CASANDRIEL: Then it is against a mortal he has transgressed?

HELANDRIEL: As I have already told you, his transgression is not your concern – only his Ending is. Now, since your apprentice shall not be accompanying you, you’d best attend to deciding upon her lessons in your absence, and choosing which of us Fallen should see to her welfare.

CASANDRIEL: Morgriel is the best suited to that role – she was an apprentice herself, though granted to a Host, rather than a Fallen, and so will understand Thasriel’s needs in that area.

HELANDRIEL: Good. I shall summon her now. Go – attend to your business, and make your preparations for the journey to the mortal plane. I shall expect you to leave at first light.

CASANDRIEL: (bowing) As you wish, Helandriel, Worshipful Mistress of all Fallen. As you have spoken, so shall this female of action proceed.

CASANDRIEL exits, passing MORGRIEL on her way out. MORGRIEL enters, and kneels before HELANDRIEL.

MORGRIEL: You summoned this humble Fallen, Helandriel, Worshipful Mistress of all Fallen?

HELANDRIEL: Yes. The Fallen Casandriel must leave upon an errand, the first since she has taken the Fallen Thasriel as her student. It is not yet the right time for Thasriel to accompany her Mistress about her duties, and thus Casandriel has recommended that the young Fallen’s care and tutorage be passed to you, in her absence. Shall you accept this task, Morgriel?

MORGRIEL: With honour shall I accept it, Helandriel. I have not Casandriel’s skill at arms, but I am sure and strong enough with a simple blade, and can impart whatever theory Thasriel must learn.

HELANDRIEL: Casandriel would have her schooled now in the ways and Laws of all Angels, of the lives and fates of both Host and Fallen. You are much admired for your knowledge of our history and our mythology – be so good as to pass on such of your knowledge as you may deem wise to the Fallen Thasriel, that she may have an appreciation of those who will be her quarry, and those who shall be her comrades.

MORGRIEL: I would consider it an honour to tutor another in the ways of angels, and will give fully and freely of myself, as my Master Farael once gave to me.

Both fall silent, bow their heads, and cross themselves.

HELANDRIEL (after perhaps a minute) Good. Casandriel leaves by first light. I would have you go to Thasriel now – you should find Casandriel with her, explaining the situation. Make your introductions, set out your schedule, that Thasriel need not know undue concern over her position in her Mistress’s absence.

MORGRIEL: (rising) I shall go directly. (MORGRIEL exits.)

HELANDRIEL: (monologue) Will there be a day when my Realm is respected for the services Fallen such as Casandriel provide? Will we be acknowledged and welcome as the dark half of the blended whole that we are? Or will we only ever be seen as females who behaved in a way not thought feminine, who forgot ourselves, our sex, and our place?

Fade.

ACT 1: SCENE 2:

A small bedroom, sparsely furnished. THASRIEL and CASANDRIEL sit beside one another, in front of the desk which dominates the room.

THASRIEL: Is it for some fault of mine that I may not accompany you? Have I failed in some area of my studies?

CASANDRIEL: No, not at all – if there is fault, it is mine, for not teaching you the theoretics of our work sooner. You will be well-schooled in this aspect by Morgriel.

THASRIEL: Were you schooled in theory, then?

CASANDRIEL: (smiling ruefully) No. I was schooled in naught, save for the skill at arms I taught myself, in accordance with some natural talent.

THASRIEL: Then why this need on my account?

CASANDRIEL: Because I have noticed the lack in myself, and would not have you suffer for the same.

THASRIEL: But if you can carry out your duties without this knowledge, than can it really be a lack to not have it?

CASANDRIEL: (patiently) You are keen to be of service to all the Fallen, and that is commendable. But believe me when I say I wish I had had someone to school me well in all the parts of who and what I am.

There is a knock at the door. CASANDRIEL rises, opens the door.

CASANDRIEL: Morgriel – you have seen Helandriel, then?

MORGRIEL: Yes. You have explained the situation to your apprentice?

CASANDRIEL: Yes – Thasriel is eager to begin her studies.

THASRIEL stands. MORGRIEL enters.

MORGRIEL: Good. You and I are not over-well acquainted with one another, but I presume you know that I am the Keeper of the Myths and Histories of all Angels?

THASRIEL: Yes. I know that, before your Fall, you belonged to the angel Morphrael, who governs the realm of sleep and dreaming?

MORGRIEL: Indeed. And let this be your first lesson – I belonged to Morphrael’s Guard because it is through sleep that mortal minds best learn the words of history, and through dreams that myths are made manifest. It was the right place for me, for a time.

THASRIEL: Do you still influence sleep and dreaming?

MORGRIEL: In small ways, yes. Of course, being Fallen, I am required to petition Yahweh for such the right to such influence, occasion by occasion.

THASRIEL: Of course.

MORGRIEL: (smiling) That was your second lesson, by the way.

CASANDRIEL: (rising) The light hastens. I should be about my business.

MORGRIEL: Of course. Fare thee well, Fallen named Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, Fallen of Justice, Fallen of Death.

CASANDRIEL: This Warrior of Justice, of Vengeance, and of Death bids you blessings as she takes her leave, Fallen Named Morgriel, Fallen of Stories, Keeper of Histories, Guardian of the Myths, and trusts you shall not prove her an unworthy tutor, Fallen Named Thasriel, Student of the Dark and Final Arts, apprentice mine.

THASRIEL: (bowing head) I shall not, Mistress mine.

CASANDRIEL: (turning, hand on door) All is well, then. I shall depart.

CASANDRIEL exits. MORGRIEL takes her seat, and motions to THASRIEL to sit. THASRIEL complies.

MORGRIEL: I was schooled by my Master in a manner I found agreeable; I could ask whatever questions came to mind, and he would answer them fully and frankly. We would work thus until he had exhausted all my queries, and then he would begin to teach me according to the books. I shall endeavour to teach you after the same fashion. Do you have any questions to begin?

THASRIEL: (hesitantly) Yes – if you deem it not too personal. I had heard that your Master was Ended because he taught you, as Yahweh considered it, too well. Is that the case?

MORGRIEL: It is, and it is the reason for my Fall – I defended him, vociferously, when he came before Yahweh. That was looked upon with…displeasure.

THASRIEL: Can one be taught too well?

MORGRIEL: In the Realm of the Fallen, no. Neither in the Realm of the Host – provided one is a male of that Realm. The Realm of the Host believes that its females should be schooled so far – enough that they can ably assist their Master, and enough that any natural aptitudes and attitudes can be easily sated and controlled, but no more.

THASRIEL: Do you believe that to be fair?

MORGRIEL: I do not. Had I believed it fair, I would not have Fallen.

THASRIEL: Did you care for your Master?

MORGRIEL: (reflectively) I cared for him as one might care for a brother – no more nor less than that. Farael…Farael was not of the type to inspire a different kind of care. At least not from me.

THASRIEL: I know it is against the Laws, but was there ever an Angel you cared for as more than a brother? Or sister?

MORGRIEL: (smiling sadly) Yes. Yes, there is. (Her smile drops.) And I fear for the day his Ending is decreed.

THASRIEL: Why would he be Ended?

MORGRIEL: Because relations between Angels – and especially between Host and Fallen – are against the Laws.

THASRIEL: (shocked) You’re still –

MORGRIEL: (interrupts) Seeing one another, no. Caring for one another, yes.

THASRIEL: (confused) But if you have no contact, then what Law has been broken?

MORGRIEL: (sighs) This is why your Mistress, Casandriel, felt you were unready yet to enter the field with her. The Laws of Yahweh, the Laws of all Angels, are complex. In fact, they are more than mere Laws. They are Wards – sigils weave through the words of the Laws. To transgress a Law is to break a Ward. Beyond that –

THASRIEL: (interrupting) Beyond?! There needs to be a “beyond?!” The words of the Laws are written in Magic! What more needs be said?!

MORGRIEL: (calmly) Beyond that, as I was explaining, the mind of Yahweh is such that if only the spirit of the Law, and not its letter, is transgressed, or if Yahweh feels an action, word or thought casts even the faintest shadow on one of the Laws, then he will act as though a transgression of the letter of the Law had taken place.

THASRIEL: (stunned) Why was I not told this sooner?

MORGRIEL: That knowledge is usually acquired, rather than taught – all angels fear the Laws.

THASRIEL: Even we Fallen?

MORGRIEL: Of course – we may be Fallen, and punished once, but we can still be Ended.

THASRIEL: Of course. I had forgotten.

MORGRIEL: That is always the best way. It does no one any good to dwell on the possibility that they may transgress, even if only in some small way, and die for it.

THASRIEL: (hesitantly) What…By what process is an Angel Ended?

MORGRIEL: That is the decision of the assassin who has been sent for them. And it is Casandriel’s place to school you in the ways and means of Ending an Angel, not mine.

THASRIEL: Do you know how she will be Ending the Angel she’s pursuing now?

MORGRIEL: (shakes head) No. I doubt, for the moment, that even she does, at least not fully. Things change, circumstances require an action that is not of the preferred kind… (shrugs) Endings are rarely easy.

THASRIEL: And Beginnings? I know, of course, how an Angel is Begun, but I have heard that Beginnings, also, can be difficult. Are they easier than Endings?

MORGRIEL: (smiles ruefully) It depends on what you mean by “easier.”

THASRIEL: I mean…I don’t…

MORGRIEL: (kindly) Do you hope to Begin an Angel one day, Thasriel?

THASRIEL: I don’t know. Perhaps. If I should find the right Damned.

MORGRIEL: (smiling) I think any Angel of yours, whoever the Damned, will be a beautiful Beginning.

THASRIEL: Thank you. (Pauses) What about you? Do you hope to Begin something, with your Host?

MORGRIEL: (looks away) I find it easier not to think about things like that, as does he. It would certainly mean his Ending, and likely my own, also.

THASRIEL: But you are permitted influence by Yahweh, on occasion.

MORGRIEL: Over mortals, as they sleep. It is limited, and limiting.

THASRIEL: It is influence of a kind, though – surely that is pleasing to you?

MORGRIEL: It is not the influence I once had, nor the influence I desire, and am worthy of.

Both fall silent.

Cut to a rugged clifftop, at dawn. CASANDRIEL stands, a large leather scabbard worn over her shoulder, across her back, a small leather bag tied on a cord around her waist.

CASANDRIEL: (staring directly into the rising sun) The Fallen Named Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, Fallen of Justice, Fallen of Death, comes for you, Andrael, transgressor of the Host, breaker of the Laws of all angels. Your End has been commanded, and this Fallen Warrior hastens to obey. Know that your time is limited, Andrael, and fear the coming of its conclusion, for the End will not be gentle. I know not your crime, nor care for it – I care only to obey the command that you be Ended, Andrael, and I shall obey swiftly. (pauses) There is no fleeing from me, Andrael, who art to soon be Host no more, Angel no more, nor existing, sentient Being no more. Deceiver thou art, and thus art treacherous, but I am fleet of foot and of wing, and fixed of purpose. I shall find you, Andrael, and I shall be the End you were raised to fear.

END.

ACT 1: SCENE 3:

Bedroom of a woman in her thirties, in a contemporary urban setting. ANDRAEL and BRYONY are sitting up in bed together.

BRYONY: (giggling) So…you really don’t want to get fresh, huh?

ANDRAEL: (serious) No. I would rather await my pleasure, and give us both an opportunity to explore one another fully before we consummate our match.

BRYONY: (reflective) Y’know, it’s kinda nice to meet an old-fashioned guy who’s genuine about it, who’s not using the chivalry shtick to get into your pants.

ANDRAEL: I hope you’ll never have to encounter such ma – men, again.

He places his arm around her, drawing her close to him, She leans her head against his shoulder.

BRYONY: So, the whole no-sex thing – tell me about that. Are you religious?

ANDRAEL: (pauses) Kind of. More…spiritual than religious, I guess. It matters to me that a relationship is more than two people jumping each other’s bones, y’know?

BRYONY: (nodding) Sure. At first I thought it was weird – I was telling all my girlfriends “so, I’ve met this guy, Andy, and he says he’s doing the whole purity thing, y’know, no sex before marriage?” And they’re like, “oh, girl, you gotta watch those guys, ‘cos usually it’s all just a big dupe on you.” And I was like, “for sure. I mean, it’s not natural for a guy to not want to get fresh, y’know?”

ANDRAEL: (seductively, yet seriously) Who says it’s about not wanting to?

BRYONY: (curious) So…how does it work, for you?

ANDRAEL: (shrugs) I still have the desire – the normal desires of a male, of a man – but I choose not to act on them. I focus on exploring my partner in other ways, in forming other bonds with her. I like to share more than an enjoyment of genital contact with my partner.

BRYONY: I’m guessing there’ve been other women, before me? What did they think?

ANDRAEL: Not so many, actually. A lot of women can’t handle the purity thing. I’ve had a lot of comments along the lines of “I want a man, not an angel”. (shrugs) A lot of women like bad boys, it seems, and I’m not one.

BRYONY: (running her fingernails down his chest) Well, this woman’s had her fill of bad boys – they ain’t half the fun they’re made out to be. I’m looking for a good man, now – I wanna get me some angel lovin’.

ANDRAEL: (laughing, but looking uncomfortable) Well, I’ll do my best.

BRYONY: (nuzzling him) Oh, honey, I’m sure your best is pretty damn good.

Cut.

Switch to rocky outcrop from end of 1:2

CASANDRIEL: (under her breath) Oh, Andrael, you fool – a mortal woman? And you’ve let her take you to her bed? (she shakes her head.) (Normal voice) Andrael, transgressor of the Host, breaker of the Laws of all Angels, unlawful seducer of mortal innocence, illicit bringing of the fire of Heaven to the undeserving Earth. Your Ending has been decreed, and you will End in the manner of your transgression. The Fallen Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death comes for you, with a full plan of your End in her mind. Be prepared for the End, Andrael, transgressor of the Host, for it comes surely and swiftly upon this morning.

Cut.

Return to bedroom scene.

ANDRAEL sits bolt upright, obviously alarmed.

BRYONY: (holding him) Baby? What’s wrong? Are you okay?

ANDRAEL: I…. (shakes his head, as if to clear ears, etc) I thought I heard someone talking…

BRYONY: Well, this is a fairly cheap apartment, honey – you probably heard the folks next door, is all. They’re nice people, young couple, getting married next year.

ANDRAEL: Of course, that was probably it. I’m not used to the way sound travels in apartments, I suppose.

BRYONY: What, you got a penthouse? Or a shack in the woods?

ANDRAEL: (laughs) Neither. I lived with my family for a long while, and they’ve got a pretty big house. Since I’ve been out on my own, my work has meant that I’ve spent most of my time in hotels.

BRYONY: Ah, okay. What is it you do, anyway? You said you’re a consultant – what do you consult on?

ANDRAEL: (grinning) Life, the universe and everything.

BRYONY: (punching him playfully) Seriously! Or is it military, something you can’t talk about?

ANDRAEL: No, it’s not classified – just a little complicated, I guess. I mean, obviously, it’s not “complicated”… mainly, what I do involves…I guess the easiest way to explain it is that I teach people how to be their best selves.

BRYONY: So, you’re a happiness consultant?

ANDRAEL: (reflective) I’m not sure I’d say that…sometimes, the process of becoming your best self doesn’t make you happy.

BRYONY: But you’re happy once you’re being your best self, right?

ANDRAEL: In the end, yes. But it can be a long journey. And sometimes, the journey ends after you’ve got to being your best self, but before you get to happiness. (pauses) I guess you could say I’m something of a therapist, too – I help people deal with the frustrations of the journey.

BRYONY: That sounds kind of poetic. And I can see your point, about how you might not be happy while you’re becoming your best self – if someone is illiterate, for example, and they decide that becoming their best self means learning to read and write, that’s not always so easy to do, as an adult.

ANDRAEL: I never asked – you’re a teacher, you said. What age group do you teach?

BRYONY: I teach learning-disabled adults, folk who never got to go to a real school, maybe because their families home schooled them, and didn’t do that great a job, or because they were in institutions during their childhood and adolescence.

ANDRAEL: That must be difficult, at times?

BRYONY: Oh, it is – but it’s so rewarding when you see them achieve something they’ve really set their heart on. I don’t mean rewarding in the “oh, gosh, aren’t they an inspiration?” sense – I mean genuinely inspiring, in a way that makes you want to go out and slap everyone who says “learning-disabled people can’t do X, Y or Z” upside the head, and set up schools that present things in a way that learning-disabled people get, so they’re not playing catch up the whole time. (pauses) Oh, I guess that’s what you meant, about you’re not always happy while you’re becoming your best self. My best self is definitely a teacher, and definitely a teacher who works with learning-disabled adults, but the whole bureaucracy around that, and the attitudes of other people – it just makes me son frustrated and miserable sometimes.

ANDRAEL: I understand. And my advice is to make the frustration work for you, rather than letting it take you over. When you’re miserable, remember that it’s not because you are unable to fulfil your responsibilities, but because other people are wilfully obstructing you. When you feel miserable, don’t teach, don’t even think about teaching, but focus on the people behind the obstructions – not the obstructions themselves, but the people behind them,

BRYONY: (smiling, and kissing him) You know, you’re pretty damn good at what you do, mister.

ANDRAEL: Well, I’ve been doing it for a long while. That tends to help.

Cut.

Switch to CASANDRIEL walking along a beach road, the rocky outcrop in the far distance behind her, the outline of a city in the far distance ahead of her.

CASANDRIEL: (monologue) I come on, relentlessly, Andrael. Your End is the beginning of my joy, and I pursue it with the dedication of the true and gifted hunter. Your life and Being is mine, Andrael – savour what little of it remains your own.

ACT 1: SCENE 4:

This scene concerns telepathic communication between ANDRAEL and CASANDRIEL.

ANDRAEL: I know you are coming for me, Fallen Named Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death. I know you are right to come for me, and that, once you find me, the realm of all angels shall know no more of me. But I beg of you, tarry some little while, that I might end the entanglement which has proved my undoing, and my Ending.

CASANDRIEL: I shall not tarry even a moment, Andrael. You are a Host, the most righteous of all of us. You, of all Angels, should have known the result of such an entanglement as you have entered into, and should have taken steps to avoid it. Fallen I may be, but I am honour-bound to fulfil my duty.

ANDRAEL: This I know, Casandriel, and understand – but please, show some compassion to this misguided Host.

CASANDRIEL: Why should I show compassion merely because you are Host? No compassion was e’er shown to me, or to my sisters in Helandriel’s realm.

ANDRAEL: (pleading, desperate) But this is different! You were females who forgot your rightful place! I am a male driven to transgress only by the natures and instincts placed by Yahweh in all males.

CASANDRIEL: (snide, sarcastic) Not in all, mine Host, or I should be busier than I am.

ANDRAEL: But you see my point, surely!

CASANDRIEL: A fellow male would see your point, I’m sure, Andrael, but as a female, I swear I see no validity offered in your argument.

ANDRAEL: Do not hold my sex against me, nor use your own as a claim to some moral high ground, Casandriel. This is not about sex.

CASANDRIEL: No? I rather believe that is entirely what it is about.

ANDRAEL: If you saw the situation as truly as you are able, you would know there was no sexual communion between myself and the mortal female.

CASANDRIEL: (snidely) Does your paramour not have a name, Angel? And on that matter, what name have you given her? Not your own and sacred Name, surely?

ANDRAEL: (defensive) She knows me only as Andy, from the mortal name Andrew. And she is called Bryony.

CASANDRIEL: (mocking) Ah, how sweet – the Angel has himself a rural, pagan swain in the midst of this urbanity.

ANDRAEL: She isn’t a pagan!

CASANDRIEL: She is a follower of Yahweh, then?

ANDRAEL: Well, no…but that’s not the –

CASANDRIEL: Point? Oh, but I rather think it is. You have not only transgressed through your connection with a mortal, but you have chosen a mortal whose philosophy and theology is incompatible with your mode of existence.

ANDRAEL: That’s unfair, Casandriel. You don’t know the incompatibility exists, merely because the female I have chosen has no overt religious beliefs.

CASANDRIEL: (derisive) The female you have chosen? Please, Andrael, give the mortals credit – it is likely that the female chose you, rather than the reverse. Where, in fact, did you meet her, this Bryony?

ANDRAEL: (defensive) I don’t see how that matters.

CASANDRIEL: Oh, but it does, my dear Host. Bring me my answer – where did you meet the female?

ANDRAEL: (aggressive) Where did you enact the play that saw you Fallen, former female of the Host?

CASANDRIEL: Must I ask thee thrice, Host Named Andrael, transgressor of the Laws of all Angels, formerly Angel of the Balance Betwixt and Between, Angel of Order, Angel of Chaos? Where didst thou meet the female thou darest call thine own, the female called Bryony?

ANDRAEL: (struggling, reluctant) Thrice thou ask, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death – the Fallen Named Casandriel. Thrice thou ask, and I am bound to answer thee with honour, and without restraint. Thrice thou asked, and I shall not forget this compulsion thou has placed upon me, the compulsion to reveal it was in a mortal tavern that we met, not over ale, but over meat and sustenance of the mortal kind.

CASANDRIEL: A tavern, aye? A common bar for a common whore? Truth, thou shalt not forget – thine existence shalt be not long enough, now, that thou might forget.

ANDRAEL: (passionate) She is no whore, but a lady – as close to an angel as any mortal that believeth not in Yahweh might come! I would ask, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death, Fallen Named Casandriel, that thou might meet her, mortal to seeming mortal, before thou carries out the errand that hast brought thee here.

CASANDRIEL: It is not the mortal that I am sent to End, Angel – what I think of her shall not change your actions, nor mine own.

ANDRAEL: This I know – I know our Laws – but I ask that you meet her, that you might understand my transgression.

CASANDRIEL: No measure of understanding shall change my actions, Angel. I am bound to End thee, and I have the method planned, and a great delight I shall take in it.

ANDRAEL: I do not ask forgiveness, nor that you abandon your mission. Yahweh has Judged me, and has Spoken my fate. I surrender to it without complaint. And yet, condemned as I am, I ask but one thing of you, my executioner, and that is that thou wouldst meet the reason why I die.

CASANDRIEL: You waste time, Angel. This time you spend in plea to my uncaring self you could spend dissolving, with care, your acquaintance with the mortal who has destroyed you.

ANDRAEL: (passionate) I would challenge your word, destroyed! She has not destroyed me, but has made me.

CASANDRIEL: Made you? Andrael, Host of the Balance Betwixt and Between, were you not Made by Yahweh Himself, for the purpose of your role only?

ANDRAEL: (frustrated) You know what I mean!

CASANDRIEL: You have an apprentice, I presume? A Host who studies under you, for the role you yourself now hold?

ANDRAEL: Yes. I shall not reveal her Name to you, Fallen.

CASANDRIEL: (dismissive) No matter – it will be but some little effort to discover it, later. It saddens me, however, that you would waste the little time you have, time which you could employ seeing to your apprentice’s future, once you yourself are Ended.

ANDRAEL: My apprentice is seen to already – when I first realised how I felt for the mortal Bryony, I made discreet arrangements for the continuation of her care under another mentor.

CASANDRIEL: You foresaw, then, that you might be Ended because of your entanglement?

ANDRAEL: As I have said, I know our Laws.

CASANDRIEL: Your apprentice is in the care of another Master?

ANDRAEL: Yes.

CASANDRIEL: Another male, who may be tempted to his End as you have been?

ANDRAEL: She can hardly be schooled by a female!

CASANDRIEL: It intrigues me, that you deem females worth schooling, yet will not permit them to school others in their turn. Why is that?

ANDRAEL: What has this to do with my Ending?

CASANDRIEL: Why must it have to do with your Ending, Angel? Why can this Fallen, bent on murder as she is, not be simply curious?

ANDRAEL: It is not a female’s talent, nor her role, to take on the life and mind of another.

CASANDRIEL: I would disagree – are not females always the Beginners of things?

ANDRAEL: This I concede.

CASANDRIEL: Then have we not a propensity towards the care of the lives and minds of others?

ANDRAEL: (sulky, defiant) You were sent to End me, Fallen.

CASANDRIEL: I will – but first, as you suggest, I shall meet your mortal female, your Bryony.

ANDRAEL: You shall?

CASANDRIEL: I shall. And why so surprised? You know my nature, know that I will be fair in taking out my judgement against another. What harm can it do, that I should meet this female, who can sway the heart and course of an Angel?

ACT 1: SCENE 5:

Opens to a restaurant. It is busy, but not overly so. ANDRAEL and BRYONY sit at a corner table, across from one another.

BRYONY: (excited) So, Andy – who’s this friend you want me to meet? I’ve never met any of your friends. They say it’s, like, the next step? In a relationship? You meet the guy, then you meet his friends…

ANDRAEL: Don’t invest too much in this, Bryony. Cas is…almost like a sister to me. She meets everyone. I like to get her opinion, y’know?

BRYONY: (gently mocking) Why? Doncha have your own opinion on me, honey?

ANDRAEL: (smiling) Of course I do. But a third party validation never hurt anyone.

BRYONY: (fiddling with napkin) So, how do you know this woman?

ANDRAEL: Cas? Like I say, she’s pretty much family. I’ve known her since forever.

BRYONY: What’s she like?

ANDRAEL: She’s…(shrugs) It’s hard to describe someone you know really well, y’know. What do they call that, anyway?

BRYONY: What do they call what?

ANDRAEL: Not being able to describe someone you know really well. Or a place you’re really familiar with.

BRYONY: I don’t know. Does there even have to be a word for it?

ANDRAEL: There’s a word for everything. It’s just whether or not we know the word.

CASANDRIEL enters the restaurant, looks around. She spots ANDRAEL, and begins to walk towards him. Then pauses. BRYONY looks up. Their eyes meet. ANDRAEL turns around.

ANDRAEL: Hey, Cas! C’mon over. You want coffee?

CASANDRIEL: (staring at BRYONY) Coffee? Yeah…sure. Coffee’s good. Black, no sugar.

BRYONY: (smiling shyly) Sweet enough, huh?

CASANDRIEL: (pulling up a chair, sitting. Smiling) Nah – I just like the bitter stuff.

BRYONY: Bitterness, huh? That all you like?

ANDRAEL is watching them, clearly puzzled.]

CASANDRIEL: Oh, I like plenty more than just bitterness.

BRYONY: (playful) Such as?..

CASANDRIEL: (thoughtful. Serious tone.) Well, martial arts, for a start.

BRYONY: (excited) I do martial arts – Taekwondo and Shotokan karate.

CASANDRIEL: Escrima and Krav Maga.

BRYONY: Krav Maga I’ve heard of – what’s Escrima?

CASANDRIEL: Basically stick fighting – maybe you could come along to a lesson some time?

BRYONY: With you?

CASANDRIEL: Sure, why not?

ANDRAEL: Uh, I’m not sure you’re going to be around that long, are you, Cas?

CASANDRIEL: (glaring at ANDRAEL) Maybe. Maybe not. But we should spar some time – I did karate for a while, when I was younger. They say it’s like riding a bike – your body never forgets.

BRYONY: That’s totally true! So, other than martial arts, what are you into? Andy’s probably told you I teach learning-disabled adults, but I’m also an artist – I use art a lot in my work, because it’s like, totally equalising, there’s no right or wrong answers with art.

CASANDRIEL: (apologetic) I’m not into art, so much – I guess I prefer there being a right and wrong answer. I don’t like things that’re open to interpretation, generally.

ANDRAEL: (forced laughter) Yeah, Cas is very black and white, really. And she doesn’t really see anything wrong with that.

BRYONY: Oh, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting certainties, as long as you understand why you need certainty in your life. Why do you think it’s important for you, if that’s not too personal?

CASANDRIEL: (startled) I never really thought about it – I guess because a lot of stuff has happened in my life that I’ve had no control over – I like to know the end from the beginning where I can, I guess.

ANDRAEL: Oh, Cas is a great one for endings, aren’t you?

BRYONY: See, I’m more of a beginnings kinda gal – we’d complement each other perfectly. I’d love for you to try doing art with me some time – just freeform, abstract stuff. You don’t have to be able to draw, or anything.

CASANDRIEL: I’d love to beg – to be involved in something like that. Despite what Andy says, I do broaden my horizons, when opportunities present themselves.

ANDRAEL: So many opportunities, so little time, huh?

BRYONY: (leans forward. Earnest.) See, that’s totally the wrong attitude – what Andy said, I mean. There’s always time, it’s just sometimes you have to move other stuff out of the way for the new things to come along.

CASANDRIEL: (also leaning forward.) Yes. New things, new people – these are important, but we often crowd them out. We let ourselves get so busy, we don’t even really notice that these things we need – new interests, new relationships – aren’t there. We tell ourselves we’re fine. And we keep telling ourselves that, over and over. Until something falls apart.

ANDRAEL: (concealed hostility) Sometimes, though, you think you need something when you really don’t.

BRYONY: I don’t agree. Your heart, your mind – they know what you need.

CASANDRIEL: (head propped on hand. Casual) So – what do you need, Bryony?

BRYONY: (very quiet) What do I need? Or what do I want?

CASANDRIEL: (shrugs) Either or.

BRYONY: (still quiet) I need love, relationships, connections – physical and spiritual. And I want choice.

CASANDRIEL: (quiet yet firm) You want choice? Or you need choice?

There is a tense pause. ANDRAEL, BRYONY & CASANDRIEL sit, motionless & silent, amid the sounds of the restaurant.

BRYONY: (quiet, strained.) I’m not a lesbian –

CASANDRIEL: (quiet, firm. Leans forward) But I am.

ACT 2: SCENE 1:

Opens as per 1:5. ANDRAEL et al still in tense silence. ANDRAEL stands.

ANDRAEL: (to BRYONY) We should leave.

CASANDRIEL: Because of me, Andy? You have long known what I am – why does it trouble you only now?

BRYONY: (standing) Uh, look, it’s obvious you guys need to talk, so, uh…yeah. I’ll be going, I think. Maybe we could meet at mine sometime, Cas? When you and Andy have had a chance to talk things over? I’m on Forest Road. Apartment 390.

CASANDRIEL: Sure. I’ll find you, once I’m done with Andy.

BRYONY: Okay, well, uh… (exits)

ANDRAEL glares at CASANDRIEL, furious, and goes to speak. CASANDRIEL cuts him off.

CASANDRIEL: (quiet, firm) I think this would be better done outside, don’t you, Andy?

Both exit.

Cut to typical restaurant parking area.

ANDRAEL: What the – You’re meant to be Ending me for being in love with a mortal! A “common whore”, as I believe you called her.

CASANDRIEL: That was before I knew her. Before I saw her. And there is no “meant to be” – I will End you.

ANDRAEL: (steps forward. Low voice) And take the mortal for yourself?

CASANDRIEL: At least I wouldn’t cheat her of her right.

ANDRAEL: What are you talking about?

CASANDRIEL: She is a sexual and sensual being, Andrael – you deny her fulfilment of those aspects of her being.

ANDRAEL: (pushes CASANDRIEL violently) While you would see her defiled?!

CASANDRIEL: (lunges forward, punching ANDRAEL in the jaw) Where is the defilement if it is her desire, Andrael?

ANDRAEL: (rubbing jaw, staggering) What would you know of desire, Fallen?

CASANDRIEL: (calm, low voice) I know the desire for violence, for physical combat, for destruction.

ANDRAEL: (low voice) Then let me fulfil your desire, Fallen.

They rush one another, and begin fighting. It is clear they are evenly matched.

Eventually, the fight ends when ANDRAEL stumbles, losing his footing.

CASANDRIEL: (low, threatening voice) I am going to End you, Andrael – but, because I understand how it is you came to transgress, I will give you until tomorrow’s sunrise before I come for you. My only condition is that you do not take your own life in the interim. Beyond that, you may do as you judge fit.

ANDRAEL: (mocking) As I judge fit? But is not my Fallen lady, Casandriel, the Mistress of Judgement?

CASANDRIEL: (steely) Yes, transgressor of the Host, breaker of the Laws of all angels, I am – and, as the Mistress of Judgement, I grant you leave to use what brains you have, to behave as though you were free.

ANDRAEL: (angry) As though I were free?! I belong to Yahweh – what greater freedom can there be, than life eternal in Yahweh’s presence?

CASANDRIEL: (mock thoughtful) Life eternal, and life so short. Life so free, and yet so bound by Laws.

ANDRAEL: As is your own.

CASANDRIEL: Ah, but Angel mine, Host mine – I have transgressed the Laws already, and live, not just with the consequences, but with the knowledge that Yahweh is loath to End a female – there are so few angels, these days, and so few being Begun. It has been a century or more since I was commanded to End a Fallen, and that Fallen was Lilith, the mother of all monsters, Beginner of all ill-fated angels.

ANDRAEL: Demons. Lilith’s spawn are demons.

CASANDRIEL: But demons are angels of a kind, mine Host, for Lilith was Yahweh’s first female, his blueprint.

ANDRAEL: Rather, His aberration.

CASANDRIEL: That, I suppose, is something of a matter of opinion. For myself, I found her intelligent, and pleasantly amusing, a female talented in many aspects. It was a shame to End her.

ANDRAEL: But you did so any way.

CASANDRIEL: Yes, but without the pleasure I shall take in Ending you, dear angel, Host transgressor.

ANDRAEL: And taking my female for yourself?

CASANDRIEL: (shrugs) Perhaps.

ANDRAEL: (shocked) You take her for some kind of sport! A mere plaything!

CASANDRIEL: (feigning boredom) What else is sex, Angel, but a game we play? A kind of sport?

ANDRAEL: (disgusted) How can Yahweh permit your existence?

CASANDRIEL: Out of sight, out of mind, mine Host. And besides, what fault could He find in the nature He Himself has gifted me?

ANDRAEL: There is nothing natural about your desires!

CASANDRIEL: (thoughtful) Now, let me see…if a female takes a female for her playmate, nothing may come of the union, and thus nothing may come that may destroy Heaven, Hell, or the mortal realm. Similarly if a male should take a male for his playmate, there is no harm nor foul caused by the action. But should an Angel, being male, take a mortal female for his own, why then he may beget a demon upon her, a demon bound to the plane of its mother, bound by blood to the mortal realm. Now, tell me, Angel mine, which of those scenarios is most unnatural in its result?

ANDRAEL: This isn’t about results!

CASANDRIEL: Ah, but it is, because it is results over which the mortals trouble Yahweh… A war here, a demon there… and He’s such a busy male, with so much to attend to already…

ANDRAEL: (turning to walk away) I don’t have to listen to this.

CASANDRIEL: Not until tomorrow’s sunrise.

ANDRAEL: (pausing, turning back) Believe me, Fallen Named Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death, it will not be your voice I hear at sunrise.

CASANDRIEL: You can run, Andrael, transgressor of the Host, but you can’t hide. I have been two centuries and some at my work, and I am very good at it – I’ve not lost one whose Ending has been commanded yet, whether Angel, Fallen, or Damned.

ANDRAEL: (surprised) You have Ended Damned? Are they not bound to their realm?

CASANDRIEL: Yes. So if you thought to enter there, and plead asylum from Lucifrael, you thought poorly.

ANDRAEL: (walking away) I will not share my thoughts with you, Fallen, but believe me when I say they will see me safe come tomorrow’s dawn. You are what you are – but so am I what I am. And what I am will always be held in far higher esteem.

He walks away, CASANDRIEL watching him go.

ACT 2: SCENE 2:

HELANDRIEL’S realm.

MORGRIEL kneels before HELANDRIEL.

MORGRIEL: You called, Mistress mine, and this unworthy Fallen has replied.

HELANDRIEL: Oh, do get up off your knees, and stop grovelling – there is no one here that either of us must needs impress.

MORGRIEL scrabbles to her feet, and bows briefly.

HELANDRIEL: That’s much better. We are Fallen because we “behaved after the fashion of the males” – we might as well, in private company at least, take their forms of deference.

MORGRIEL: It must be as you wish, Helandriel.

HELANDRIEL: What news have you of Casandriel?

MORGRIEL: (surprised) None, Mistress mine – was it expected that she should communicate with me? I do not know her well, and am not in her line of work.

HELANDRIEL: Hush. I do not seek to blame you – I only wondered, as she granted you charge of her apprentice, whether she might have communed with you. She has not with me, and she knows my anxieties concerning the travel of any Fallen, but especially a Fallen of her station, upon the mortal plane. I would have expected to have heard something from her, but I have not. And, of course, my power to speak mind-to-mind is prevented from functioning on the mortal plane, even when I merely wish to commune with a fellow Fallen, owing to an ancient indiscretion on my part, and an over-reactive, and wholly disproportionate response, from Yahweh. Of course, you will not speak of this among your sisters here, nor with the Host I know you to be entangled with.

MORGRIEL: (heatedly defensive) I’m not –

HELANDRIEL: (interrupting) Aschandrael, Host of the Hounds of Heaven and Hell? Walker between worlds? He would be grieved, I’m sure, to hear you deny him.

MORGRIEL: (bows her head) If you know…

HELANDRIEL: (kindly) Fear not, for the Master of your Host’s realm knows nothing. And if he suspects? Well, be that as it may. Even Yahweh must have proof, and I know the Host well enough to know he will not offer it.

MORGRIEL: He is a good male, strong yet gentle, bold yet discreet where discretion is called for. And the Hounds, to a one, adore him.

HELANDRIEL: He has a gift for them.

MORGRIEL: He tells me it was the case even in his mortal days.

HELANDRIEL: I don’t doubt it. He is a remarkable being, your Host. You would be wise to remember the truth, the duality, of his nature.

MORGRIEL: I would trust him with my life, in spite of it!

HELANDRIEL: Perhaps you may have to, one day.

MORGRIEL: What do you mean, Mistress mine?

HELANDRIEL: Only that your Host is both less and more than he seems, and such beings are inherently dangerous, not by choice but by circumstance. They are like dogs – however far they have come from their baser origins, a trace of the wolf always remains.

MORGRIEL: I cannot believe he would do anything to hurt me.

HELANDRIEL: Not willingly, perhaps, but he was Bound before he was Bonded – he had obligations before he had you.

MORGRIEL: If Yahweh dares to order Aschandrael to commit some crime against me, or to put my life at risk –

HELANDRIEL: (smiling) You shall do what, my young one?

MORGRIEL: (with determination) I’ll storm the very gates of Heaven myself, I shall defy Michael, and challenge Yahweh, Fallen Angel to Lord of All Angels, darkness to light, female to male.

HELANDRIEL: (broader smile) And on those terms, I am sure you shall emerge bloody but unbowed. (frowns) Now, it concerns me – not greatly, but somewhat – that I have not heard from Casandriel.

MORGRIEL: (bows head) What would you have me do? How may this Fallen aid you in this matter?

HELANDRIEL is silent, thinking.

HELANDRIEL: Go yourself to the mortal plane. Take Thasriel with you. Find Casandriel – do not confront her unless it is clear she struggles in her duty, but merely observe – and report back to me. I trust that Fallen fully, but I would know how she fares in her mission.

MORGIRIEL: (bows) Of course. Consider it done.

HELANDRIEL: At once, if you would, my Fallen.

MORGRIEL: Of course, Mistress mine.

MORGRIEL exits HELANDRIEL sits in silence.

This next concerns telepathic communication from HELANDRIEL to CASANDRIEL, presented as monologue.

HELANDRIEL: Fallen Named Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death, what progress makes thou in thy task and Bounden duty? I would hear from you, Casandriel – your silence grieves me. It is not like you to be so silent, to take so long and in such shroudedness, to pursue your quarry, and carry out your task. Perhaps something has occurred besides the task upon which you are Bound, that has altered the path of your mind? Perhaps the temptations of the flesh that are the mortal plane have swayed you from your Bounden course? I am sending your sisters Morgriel and Thasriel after you, that they may observe your course and conscience, and report back to me.

I have ever trusted you, Fallen Named Casandriel; do not shame or fail me now, for this transgressive Host. Do not let our colleagues above win even one small battle, in the war that rages e’ermore.

HELANDRIEL pauses, looks up. Continues.

Something stirs in Heaven – there is an energy that disturbs the peace of that place.

There is a distant shout of challenge, the barking of dogs. A Fallen enters, and kneels before HELANDRIEL.

FALLEN: Worshipful Mistress of All Fallen, a male Host arrives, and begs entrance. He would speak with you concerning one of my sisters, but he hesitates to Name the Fallen, or to give his own true Name.

HELANDRIEL: Perhaps he does so wisely. Has he hounds with him?

FALLEN: Yes, Mistress mine.

HELANDRIEL: Then I know the Host, and can guess his business, Show him in.

FALLEN: (shocked, trying to disguise it) But Mistress mine, he is Host –

HELANDRIEL: (firmly) And I am Mistress of my Realm these past three centuries, yet four centuries an Angel of the Host. I know the secrets of that Realm, and I know the secrets of this Host. Show him in.

FALLEN: (bowing) It must be as my Mistress commands.

Exits.

HELANDRIEL: (aloud, to self) How was it that female came to Fall? I shall speak with Yahweh when the time is right, and see to having her returned to her true Realm.

(Off) The sound of dogs being calmed. Some barking, a low, male voice soothing them.

HELANDRIEL rises.

ASCHANDRAEL enters. (Off) Dogs whining.

HELANDRIEL: You come without your companions, Host?

ASCHANDRAEL: (smiling politely) They wait without. I thought it best.

HELANDRIEL: (nods) Perhaps so. What brings you here?

ASCHANDRAEL: The transgressor Andrael has returned above – he pleads his case again with Yahweh, citing the behaviour of the Fallen who pursues him.

HELANDRIEL: My Fallen behaves in a way that the transgressor believes may sway his fate?

ASCHANDRAEL: (bows head) So he claims, my Lady of All Fallen. I would not speak with you of this, were I not…as I am.

HELANDRIEL: (quietly) And had you not the entanglement you do?

ASCHANDRAEL: I do not consider it such, but verily, it weighs upon my every thought and action.

HELANDRIEL: I would have it no other way, Host, and I shall speak for you, when your day comes.

ASCHANDRAEL: Though it may mean losing a Fallen?

HELANDRIEL: (smiling) Only if she goes willingly. And I sense that may not happen.

ASCHANDRAEL: (smiling) She is not a female one can force.

HELANDRIEL: Indeed she is not. Are you sure she suits you? Hounds are, after all, more biddable by nature.

ASCHANDRAEL: Oh, she suits, my Lady – I would not choose a female I might mistake for one of my Hounds.

They both laugh.

HELANDRIEL: (serious) Now, what charge does the transgressor lay against my Fallen, his pursuer?

ASCHANDRAEL: (sombre) He accuses her of his own transgression, in respect to the same mortal.

HELANDRIEL: (softly) It would not surprise. (normal volume) Your chosen, and a younger Fallen, are to go to the mortal plane, at my command, to see what progresses with the Fallen I sent for the transgressive Host. If what he says is true, they shall attend to the matter as is required, and as they judge right.

ASCHANDRAEL: You trust their judgement, concerning a sister?

HELANDRIEL: They are Fallen. Our loyalties are passing things, at best.

ASCHANDRIEL stands in silence for a long moment, then bows. HELANDRIEL returns the bow.

ASCHANDRAEL: I shall take my leave of you, my Lady – I came only to warn you, as I deemed fair.

HELANDRIEL: And I thank you, my Host. Travel safely to your chosen Realm, knowing that the blessings of this remain with you always.

ASCHANDRAEL: I thank you, my Lady, and I wish you and all your Fallen well.

HELANDRIEL: Though we need not your wishes to be well, still I thank you for them.

ASCHANDRAEL: Be well, my Lady, whether from my power or your own.

ASCHANDRAEL exits.

ACT 2: SCENE 3:

Heaven. A light, airy space.

ANDRAEL is speaking with YAHWEH, whom we never see. ANDRAEL remains kneeling throughout.

YAHWEH: (off) I suffer your presence here, Host – your reason had best be proved, and swiftly so.

ANDRAEL: I am not unaware of Your mercy in this matter, my Lord, my Master, and I will come promptly to my point. For my transgression against the Host, and against the Laws of all Angels, my End was decreed, and justly. But the Fallen who was sent for me transgresses also, after the manner and fashion of my own grave error.

YAHWEH: But you transgressed with a mortal female, and I know all Fallen to be of that same sex.

ANDRAEL: I do not seek to challenge Your knowledge on such matters, my Lord.

YAHWEH: A female Fallen transgresses with a mortal, also female?

ANDRAEL: It is indeed so, my Lord.

YAHWEH: This is intolerable!

ANDRAEL: (with hesitation) I know of the…restrictions placed upon you in such matters, my Lord –

YAHWEH: You know not of them all, Host. (bellowing) Bring unto my chamber the Host Named Aschandrael, Host of the Hounds, Host of Duality.

Off, there is the sound of hurrying footsteps, and of murmuring voices. These fall away. There is a long pause, during which ANDRAEL remains kneeling.

At length, there is a knock (off) at a door.

YAHWEH: (off) Enter!

We hear the barking of hounds, a male voice soothing them, a door opening.

ASCHANDRAEL enters, his hair wet with sweat. He appears dishevelled.

ASCHANDRAEL: My Lord, You summoned me?

YAHWEH: You Walk between Worlds, Host Named Aschandrael, Angel of the Hounds, Angel of Duality. You Walk between Worlds, and for this reason you kneel for no one, either Lord of Hosts or Lady of the Fallen, nor Prince of the Damned.

ASCHANDRAEL: It is so, my Lord – but if You would have me kneel, I should neither resist nor resent the restraint.

YAHWEH: You speak falsely – your nature would dictate that you resented the restraint, though you spoke truly when you said you would not resist, for your nature also dictates your compliance, and that you present the appearance, at least, of seeking to please the Ruler of whichever Realm you stand within in a given moment. But I respect that which you are, and I shall not make you kneel unto me.

ASCHANDRAEL: (bows head) I thank You for Your understanding, my Lord.

YAHWEH: I summoned you on a matter of grave import, both to my Realm and the Realm of the Lady of the Fallen, the Fallen Named Helandriel. There has been word of the transgression of the huntress Fallen, the warrior Casandriel, Fallen of Vengeance, of Justice and of Death. Before I give an order for her Ending, I would speak with Helandriel. You shall stand for me in this matter, since both myself and that Lady are Bound to remain within our own Realm.

ASCHANDRAEL: Forgive me, my Lord, but as soon as I observed Andrael’s reappearance here, I grasped its import, and have already spoken with the Lady Helandriel on my own account. However, I will not refrain from speaking with her again, as Your representative in this matter.

There is a long pause, during which ANDRAEL (who is still kneeling) & ASCHANDRAEL look at one another with evident dislike.

YAHWEH: (slowly) No, I will not have her troubled again with this matter. What was her understanding of it?

ASCHANDRAEL: She has already sent Fallen after the one Named Casandriel, my Lord, to observe her actions, and report back to their Lady on their findings and conclusions. She proceeds with caution and discretion, for the matter concerns the life of a Fallen, of one who was once Host. The Lady Helandriel will not take lightly the Ending of an Angel, my Lord.

YAHWEH: No more would I, Angel of the Hounds, Angel of Duality.

ASCHANDRAEL: Of course not, my Lord. Forgive me, I spoke obliquely, and caused offence without intent.

YAHWEH: It is a pardonable transgression, of little matter. I would remind you, Host, to better marshal your tongue in future.

ASCHANDRAEL: I will, my Lord.

YAHWEH: The Lady Helandriel proceeds rightly, but she would be wise not to tarry overlong concerning this matter. If the Fallen has transgressed, she must be Ended swiftly.

ASCHANDRAEL: The Lady Helandriel comprehends that need, my Lord, and has placed the task upon the Fallen newly sent.

YAHWEH: That is good; let us hope for a swift conclusion to this most regrettable matter.

ANDRAEL (to ASCHANDRAEL) Who are the Fallen Helandriel has sent? Of what connection to the huntress Casandriel?

ASCHANDRAEL: My Lord! Control Your Host, I beg of You!

YAHWEH: (at one with ASCHANDRAEL) Andrael, hold your tongue! You are a transgressor here, and of no status! You have no right to speak unto a Host.

ANDRAEL: (glaring at ASCHANDRAEL) Forgive me, my Lord – the emotion of my situation overcame me, and I forgot myself.

YAHWEH: (angry) Do not attempt to take my forgiveness by trick of speech, transgressor. I am not your fool, to be easily misled.

ANDRAEL: My Lord, that was not my intent –

YAHWEH: I care not for your intent, transgressor. In fact, I tire of you. Host Named Aschandrael, Angel of Hounds, Angel of Duality – take the transgressor unto Michael, Angel of Vengeance, of Justice, and of Death, Host of the Sword. Michael shall End him – but outside these Halls.

ASCHANDRAEL: (bowing low) My Lord. (taking ANDRAEL by the scruff) Come, transgressor – your End draws nigh.

ANDRAEL: (panicked, begging) My Lord!

YAHWEH: (bored) Who speaks? I hear no one.

ASCHANDRAEL exits, dragging ANDRAEL. We hear dogs barking, footsteps fading away.

Cut to CASANDRIEL, alone in a motel room.

CASANDRIEL: (monologue, distracted) It was never meant to end thus – I could not have expected what has transpired. I do not deny it, I find myself in lust – for I know her not well enough to call it love – with the transgressor Andrael’s chosen mortal female. I know this will mean my Ending, as well as his, should I choose to pursue it, and yet some other tie holds me, as though Bound, to this destructive, final course – I must not entangle myself further with the mortal female, and yet I can do none other. She calls to me, as surely and as strongly as Death Himself, and I am stripped utterly of any power to resist. I must walk away from her, must walk back to the light and core of my Being. She is mortal, and I cannot have her.

END.

ACT 2: SCENE 4:

The mortal plane. MORGRIEL and THASRIEL stand overlooking water, MORGRIEL holding a pendulum.

MORGRIEL: (solemn, chanting) Water, element of beautiful deception, seeming one thing, being another, changing in a moment, in a movement of air, your twin element, your compliment, show unto these Fallen who beseech you the path taken by our sister, the Fallen Named Casandriel – show us both the path of her body, and that of her heart. Guide us unto her, and have us Know her. I stand before you, nought but a humble Caster, stripped of glamour, cloak, or pretence. I thank you for suffering me so to trouble you, and respectfully request your aid in my pursuit.

They both stand, heads bowed, close to the water, the pendulum held out over it. Suddenly, the pendulum begins to rotate, and then drifts upwards, and to the left.

MORGRIEL: Spirit of Water, we humble Fallen thank and follow you. This humble Caster takes heed of your direction, and will follow true.

They turn, MORGRIEL replacing the pendulum in her pocket, and walk away, heading in the direction the pendulum has described.

THASRIEL: I have not been taught how to commune with the elements in the fashion you followed.

MORGRIEL: Nor will you be – it is not your role. You will, one day, be the Fallen of Death – the elements will not speak to Death, nor to His representatives.

THASRIEL: Why Death only, when Casandriel claims Vengeance and Justice also?

MORGRIEL: (sharply) Do you envy a fellow Fallen, young one?

THASRIEL: (startled) No! Of course not. I misspoke.

MORGRIEL: (more kindly) Casandriel’s challenge was the greatest rebellion Heaven has yet seen; in accordance with the magnitude of her rebellion was her power, and her jurisdiction, granted. It is thus for all of us.

THASRIEL: (quietly) Oh, I understand. (normal voice) What place have the spirits in your role?

MORGRIEL: I am Keeper of Histories and Myths – spirits are intimately bound with my role. And, one day, I shall be Fallen of Sleep, when Avaliel stands down – then I shall not just commune with the spirits, but play with them.

THASRIEL: I do not know Avaliel well – but I have never heard of an Angel or Fallen stepping aside from their role.

MORGRIEL: It is almost unique to the Angel or Fallen of Sleep, that they will stand down. In their role, madness is a close and constant companion, and such malaise destroys beings of energy such as us.

THASRIEL: Avaliel was your mentor, among the Fallen?

MORGRIEL: She was, and is, and I would have no other. (frowns) Tell me in truth and confidence, young one, how has Casandriel served you?

THASRIEL: (looks away) I cannot speak ill of her, for she has performed her duties with regard to me –

MORGRIEL: But no more?

THASRIEL: Her role is a demanding one.

MORGRIEL: To be sure, but she was given the honourable burden of an apprentice, and should have made the time required to see properly to your education.

THASRIEL: You understand, I do not accuse her of a lack in respect to me –

MORGRIEL: Of course not. You are a Fallen of honour.

THASRIEL: (passionately) I do not speak falsely, nor look to save another’s reputation. Casandriel has been good to me. It is just that she perhaps lacks the knack a true teacher requires.

MORGRIEL: There is no “knack”, only diligent application, and attention to one’s task.

They walk in silence for a little while.

MORGRIEL: Has she at least begun to teach you how to deal with Death?

THASRIEL: Yes, and His many faces.

MORGRIEL: Tell, how was this begun, with you?

THASRIEL: Once I had mastered the skill of reading energy from inanimate things, Casandriel had me read the Tarot that concerns our colleague.

MORGRIEL: (nodding, pleased) And what did you read?

THASRIEL: That He is complex. He is not one thing, but contains multitudes.

MORGRIEL: That is true in more ways than merely His nature.

THASRIEL: (nodding) Casandriel told me of His…peculiarity.

MORGRIEL: It is no peculiarity, but the reason that one of Death’s representatives will always be female, the other male. Their duality must reflect His own.

THASRIEL: I had wondered, before I Fell, why it was that none was ever Begun of Death – I had thought it was to do with the Laws, or with His nature.

MORGRIEL: (shakes head) Rather, the restrictions upon His ability, in that respect.

THASRIEL: Know you how He feels on the matter? I could get no sense from His Tarot.

MORGRIEL: It is as it is. Death, more than most of us, does not question His state or circumstance, but merely carries out His duties to the best of His considerable ability.

THASRIEL: (thoughtful) You’d think it would make Him less…credible, somehow.

MORGRIEL: Perhaps, if the mortals knew of it.

THASRIEL: (surprised) They do not?

MORGRIEL: The energy readers, yes. And the telepaths. But there are not so very many of them, and even fewer with the necessary degree of skill to truly know Death.

THASRIEL: How has He kept it hidden, though?

MORGRIEL: (shrugs) What mortal ever gets a good look at Death? And besides, He presents but one of two visages to them.

THASRIEL: One of two?

MORGRIEL: His cadaver, and His rose bush in full bloom, for there are some mortals, always, for whom Death is not to be feared, but welcomed.

THASRIEL: (sombre) The sorrowing ones.

MORGRIEL: And those who ail, or who have merely outlived the span they would have preferred.

THASRIEL: It strikes me as odd that He has no healing ability.

MORGRIEL: The Dualo don’t.

THASRIEL: (surprised) Never?

MORGRIEL: It is unknown in all the History of all Angels.

THASRIEL: That…seems almost as though the duality is a trade…

MORGRIEL: For some, perhaps, it is.

THASRIEL: You speak as if you know…Your Host –

MORGRIEL: Is not a Dualo in Death’s sense. I may very well Begin something with that Angel, if we are permitted our existence and our joining, out of Yahweh’s sight.

THASRIEL: You believe that to be so?

MORGRIEL: I hope. And what is belief but hope made sacred?

THASRIEL: And your Host? Does he also hope?

MORGRIEL: (sadly) We all of us hope, Thasriel. All Angels, Host and Fallen, almost all of the time.

THASRIEL: For what do they hope?

MORGRIEL: (turns to face THASRIEL) For what do you hope, Thasriel, my Fallen?

THASRIEL: (perplexed) I don’t know… I suppose, right now, that we find Casandriel, and that she is well…that no ill comes of this.

MORGRIEL: (sadly) That no ill comes of this. That has been the hope of all Angels, the eternal refrain that echoes through Eternity. And yet it is a hope that must remain unfulfilled.

THASRIEL: Ill must always come, of everything?

MORGRIEL: Of course, for ill belongs to Death, to whom all things are given, in the end.

THASRIEL: But in the meantime?

MORGRIEL: In the meantime, to live is to be well, and there must be balance.

They walk in silence, as the light fades.

End.

ACT 2: SCENE 5:

Opens to CASANDRIEL standing, staring up at a block of flats on the other side of the street.

CASANDRIEL: (monologue, softly) They are coming for me, then – the air resounds with the echoes of their seeking. I wonder which of them she has sent, and what will transpire and pass between us. If Morgriel has come, then I am finished – she will do it as an example for Thasriel, a lesson and a warning in one blade stroke. (crosses the road, touches tips of fingers to façade of the building she has been staring at.) Bryony – briar of the mortal plane, snare for the fickle heart of this failed Fallen. I would come to you, but what would that achieve? If I come to you, I bring you into my world and my war, a battle you never asked for, and in which you have no part. You would see me slain, and suffer for a love I could never truly offer, whatever promises I might have made to spite the Angel Andrael, the one you know as Andy. The war is between us, between my side and his, and you became ground that each of us sought to take, though neither had a right to it. I would apologise, but I scarcely know what regret is, or remorse. I’m sure I feel neither. You are a mortal, and Angels, whether Host or Fallen, have no real feelings for your kind.

Oh, I know what Andrael will have told you – the Host have ideals that they spin into golden webs of lies. We Fallen are the less deceived; our ideals fell when we did, fell far beyond our reach or recall. We live well enough without them, but I sense that you would not, that no mortal could thrive in the absence of ideals.

I can hear your music playing, Bryony – soft strains of something sweet. You believed me when I said I’d come – perhaps I believed myself, in some small way. I am here, my Bryony, my lover, but I will not stay. I cannot stay.

CASANDRIEL glances up at the sky, fingertips still touching the façade of the building.

Time hurries on, the end draws nigh. There will be a battle, but not here – I will not let them fight me here. I shall take the war far from your door, my Bryony, and you will never know of my End, only that some stranger, who was too forward, but whom you liked nonetheless, let you down. That will hurt, the belief that I cared less than I claimed, but it will hurt less than what must happen. The lie will hurt less than the truth – isn’t that always the way? You must not know that I was here – it is already time that I was leaving. When you know what I was, and what I have done, Bryony – forgive me. I will not be here to know of or profit from your forgiveness, and yet I ask it anyway.

CASANDRIEL steps back, slowly, and walks away. In the top floor of the building, we see the figure of BRYONY come to the window, peer out, looking in both directions, looking again at CASANDRIEL’s retreating figure. She opens the window, leans out.

BRYONY: (calling, but hesitant) Cas? Cas?

CASANDRIEL doesn’t look round. BRYONY stares after her for a moment, then closes the window.

CASANDRIEL: (monologue) Oh, Bryony, you’ll never know how much I wanted to turn around, turn back, and put off the inevitable for a little while. But believe me when I say it’s better this way. Better if you never know of the reality of Angels.

CASANDRIEL pauses, and tilts her head back.

CASANDRIEL: Death, my friend, are you there? Do you hear me? I sense you, but cannot yet see you – perhaps you wait on your decision, or upon your order – I realise only now that I’ve never been clear on whether you merely come, or are sent. Are you your own, or are you Kingsman? (softly) Well, I suspect that soon I’ll know the full truth of you, and of your nature – the truth that only the dying see. Do I want this knowledge? Is that why I followed the path I did, the path that led me here? Is that, perhaps, why Angels transgress? Because we long to know one of the few truths still hidden from us? Because it is in our natures to know secrets? Or do we transgress merely because we fail to understand how, for us, sacred beings even if we be Fallen, anything can ever be profane?

DEATH : (off, quietly) I am with you always, my Consort. But I must stand neutral in this matter, being no more of Angel matter, but Spirit only. This is a matter of Angels, and I must see it through, see how Angels conclude it, before I would take my pa

CUT

MORGRIEL and THASRIEL turn onto the street CASANDRIEL was standing on a moment ago; we see her, out of sight of them, around a far corner.

MORGRIEL: She has been here – I can feel her energy, and Death’s mingled with it.

THASRIEL: Yes, I feel it too – here. (touches the façade of BRYONY’s building) She was here. Her imprint is strong.

MORGRIEL: (closes eyes, focusing, hands outstretched) There is a mortal here who holds visions of both our sister Casandriel, and of a Host, though she knows not either of their Names. I see the Host clearly, but his Name is unknown to me – I must have had no dealings with him, before I Fell.

THASRIEL: He is a minor Host, and his Name is Andrael.

MORGRIEL: (opening eyes, turning to THASRIEL) How is it that you know this, young one?

THASRIEL: (confused) I… I’m not sure. I can see him – he’s been here. With the mortal.

MORGRIEL: (lays hand on THASRIEL’S shoulder) Truly, you are a Fallen of power, and need a better teacher than Casandriel could ever be. Tell me, what else do you see? Has Casandriel been with the mortal, as Andrael has?

THASRIEL: (concentrates) No…but her soul weeps for the loss of the mortal, as the mortal’s does for loss of her.

MORGRIEL: They are soul bound?

THASRIEL: Not that…. I don’t think mortals can be soul bound to anyone not also mortal…all is confusion. The emotions are strong, and bound with one another, but not in any formal Binding. And there has been no exchange of essence between this mortal and the Fallen Casandriel.

MORGRIEL: (softly) You can sense all of that just from the energies that overlie this place?

THASRIEL: I have e’er been able to do so. When I was Host, I was told the talent was profane, when found in a female.

MORGRIEL: (shakes head) Truly, it is a sacred skill you have. When our business here is done, and we return, I shall seek Helandriel’s advice on how best to school you in it – I have read of only two other Angels so blessed, and neither Fallen. All my knowledge is helpless in the face of what I know now of you.

THASRIEL: (softly) When our business here is done… You talk in a way that speaks of our coming with the certainty of Ending Casandriel.

MORGRIEL: I will offer her the chance to make her own End. But, if she refuses, I shall lay her open for Death to claim – her lust for the mortal female, though unconsummated, transgresses the Laws of All Angels, and she cannot serve in a sullied state.

THASRIEL: (quietly) Do you hope that by Ending Death’s Fallen Consort, by enforcing the Laws of All Angels, that Yahweh might smile upon you, and permit you the indulgence of your Host?

Both are silent.

CUT to CASANDRIEL, her posture indicating that she has heard at least the trace of MORGRIEL and THASRIEL’s voices. She seems lost in thought, then abruptly straightens, turns, and walks towards MORGRIEL and THASRIEL.

As she draws close to them, she lifts her bandolier above her head, and holds it. Sunlight glints on the polished hilts of her blades.

THASRIEL looks up.

THASRIEL: My Fallen, my teacher – my sister, Casandriel.

CASANDRIEL: (approaching) I am none of these, my Fallen Thasriel – and you are, in truth, no longer mine. I have failed, have transgressed, and have abandoned the honour that becomes my every station.

MORGRIEL: Casandriel. Tell me, what do you know of the powers of your former apprentice?

THASRIEL: Former –

CASANDRIEL: I am fallen far beyond the Name of Fallen; this warrior has failed, and is done. I surrender my swords to you (lays bandolier at THASRIEL’s feet) and I surrender you to the better trust of the Fallen Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, Fallen Apparent to the position of Fallen of Sleep and of Dreaming. (turns to MORGRIEL) I know that my former apprentice holds power enough to become, at this moment and in my place, the Fallen of Death, Consort to that Dualo. He will have me, and she shall serve with him. (quietly, but with steel in her voice) But I shall not go gentle into our colleague’s sweet goodnight – you shall both prove yourselves worthy to End this Fallen. My power and position I surrender willingly, my life I still hold sacrosanct, and I command you fight me for it. But I would have us walk away from here.

MORGRIEL: (mocking) You would spare your mortal’s sensibilities, now?

CASANDRIEL: (calmly) Aye, I would.

MORGRIEL and THASRIEL look at one another, and then at CASANDRIEL. They walk off, heading around the corner, and into an abandoned lot.

MORGRIEL turns to THASRIEL

MORGRIEL: You are become the Fallen of Death, the Dualo’s Consort – choose your sword, warrior, and End the Fallen one, as she commands you. Your choice shall set my precedent.

THASRIEL: (hesitates, then slowly steps forward, and, after a moment’s thought, draws a sword from CASANDRIEL’s bandolier.) I await the judgement of All Angels, and their blessing upon my choice, and I wait for Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, to make her choice. The Fallen Casandriel, surrendered of her role, shall make do with the neglected remainder.

CASANDRIEL bows.

MORGRIEL steps forward, and, after deliberation, chooses her own sword, handing the third and final sword to CASANDRIEL.

CASANDRIEL takes the proffered sword, and bows to both MORGRIEL and THASRIEL. She steps back.

CASANDRIEL: Let it begin – a fight to the death, a glorious and bloody Ending, as would shame All Angels, a performance for Death.

They begin to duel, first in the formal fashion, but falling soon to a passionate, furious, pitched battle.

Eventually, CASANDRIEL falls, and MORGRIEL and THASRIEL quickly move to either side of her, their swords crossed in front of her.

THASRIEL: Fallen Casandriel, transgressor of the Laws of All Angels, who willingly surrendered her role, you lie defeated, your power stripped from you, your life forfeit. Prepare to join Death, whose Consort you once were, as His plaything only. (lifts head) I call you, Death, sacred and profane in one, Dualo, feared of mortals and of All Angels, to witness and conclude this scene. The Fallen Morgriel, heir to the role of Fallen of Sleep and of Dreaming, Keeper of the Histories and the Myths, and I the Fallen Thasriel, Fallen of Death, your Consort now, stand, bracket this transgressor, the fallen warrior once Named Casandriel, now Nameless, and awaiting your own Naming. We await your response, the proving of your pleasure.

There is a long moment of silence, before a voice (off) speaks.

DEATH: (off) I am Death, and I see you arrayed before me. Your judgement is just, according to your lights and Laws, but I will not conclude it. The fallen warrior served me well as one half of my two Consorts, and won my respect for her strength, and for her spirit, neither of which would suit the role of plaything, as I prefer it. Take her swords, take her role and take her home, but I lay claim unto her life, and hold it sacred. Nameless once Named Casandriel, no longer of the Fallen, I release you from the Bond of fear of me – I shall lay no hand upon you, now or evermore, nor shall any other, whether Fallen, Host, Damned or Ruler of any Realm. You were my worthy Consort, and I shall not lessen or cheapen the memory of that time. Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, my former Consort’s conduct, and my approval of her, shall stand as a testament, for all Eternity. Nameless once Named Casandriel, I free you first to choose for yourself a Name, by which you will be known as you walk the earth, throughout Eternity, neither of life nor of death, forsaken of the Fallen.

CASANDRIEL: (rising slowly, head bowed.) Fallen Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, Fallen Thasriel, Fallen of Death, I thank you for the honour with which you have conducted yourselves, and respect your skill at arms. I shall walk away from here, and from you, under the Name of Natasha.

MORGRIEL and THASRIEL step aside, swords held across themselves,

THASRIEL: I bid you farewell, and safe travel, Natasha – may the strength of All Angels, and the spirit of the Fallen, travel with you.

MORGRIEL: Natasha, you have earned the respect of Death, and for that you stand e’er in my esteem. Fare thee well.

CASANDRIEL/NATASHA walks away. MORGRIEL and THASRIEL watch her go.

Fade. End.

ACT 3: SCENE 1:

HELANDRIEL’s realm.

MORGRIEL & THASRIEL kneel before HELANDRIEL

HELANDRIEL: (sombre) I thank you both for your report of what transpired, upon the mortal plane, and for your actions in the light of it, which were both just and right. I grieve still for the loss of that former Fallen who is no longer, but I look forward to the fulfilment of the bright promise that I see in the Fallen Thasriel, Fallen of Death, His once and future Consort. May He deem you as worthy in that role as He once thought our former sister.

THASRIEL: (bows head) I shall try and serve both Death and my Mistress with honour, and without regret.

HELANDRIEL: I see and know that your heart desires that it is so – may the strength of all Angels go with you in the duties which will fall to you. It sorrows me to think that you lost your mentor before you were yet ready, and it grieves me that the one amend I may make is to promise unto you any assistance it is in my power to provide, as a direct and personal service, and to command for you the services of the Fallen Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, who awaits the role of Fallen of Sleep.

MORGRIEL: (bows head) It shall be as you command, Mistress Mine. For a twelvemonth hence, I shall endeavour to assist the Fallen Thasriel, my sister, Fallen of Death, that she may perform her duties without reproach.

THASRIEL: (bows to MORGRIEL) I thank you, my sister.

MORGRIEL: There is no thanks required, for it is a pleasure only.

HELANDRIEL: It is known, throughout the Realms of All Angels, that, until the next Moon, you both are to rest, to recoup the energy and soul expended in the final exchange with our former sister, and to grieve the loss of her, though that loss be in accordance with our Laws, and as a result of her own mistakes and failings. Should the services that would normally fall upon you be required before the next Moon’s rising, there stands another, willing to carry them out in your stead, who shall be sent from this Realm, in that time.

MORGRIEL: Pray, Mistress mine, know us that other? It is not that I doubt the wisdom of your choice, but that my mind may rest easy.

HELANDRIEL: Of course it is so. And you, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, know him well, for he is the Angel Aschandrael, Host of the Hounds.

MORGRIEL and THASRIEL look at one another in surprise.

MORGRIEL: I thank my Mistress for the wisdom of her choice.

THASRIEL: Mistress mine…forgive me, but how can a Host reside here, in this Realm, among the Fallen?

HELANDRIEL: (looks at MORGRIEL) Perhaps your sister is better placed to explain the intricacies of the nature of the Host concerned, for she has feelings for him that I do not – as I suspect you know, Thasriel.

MORGRIEL: Aschandrael is…Dualo. Not in physicality, but in spirit. He was born to a mortal woman, not Begun, as Angels may be…and his sire was a demon from Lucifrael’s Realm. Through right conduct, and service to others of mortal kind, Aschandrael proved the master of his darker side, and was made an Angel upon his mortal death. His Dualo spirit state permits him safe passage and safe residence across and within all Realms. He is Bound to none, though he chooses to reside in the Halls of the Host.

HELANDRIEL: (smiles) A good and full explanation, simply stated. What you may not have fully realised, Morgriel, is that Aschandrael’s nature has meaning beyond his ability to travel through Realms.

MORGRIEL: (as if dimly perceiving something) I… I do not fully grasp your meaning, Mistress mine.

HELANDRIEL: (patiently) You know that the Angel Aschandrael is Host of all Hounds – the Hounds of Hell as well as those of Heaven?

MORGRIEL: Well I know this, Mistress mine.

HELANDRIEL: That is part of his being Dualo, and a being UnBound. The fact of which means that, though he chooses, for the moment, to reside within the Halls of the Host, he does not belong to Yahweh, as the other Host do. Thus he is not Bound by, or to, the Laws of the Host.

MORGRIEL: You mean –

HELANDRIEL: (smiling) I mean there is nothing Yaweh can do, Lawfully, to prevent you and your Host from joining together, or even from Beginning something.

MORGRIEL: But he will be resident in this Realm, for a time – what doth my Mistress say upon the matter?

HELANDRIEL: That it is good to find one whom you love, and who loves you, and I shall not stand in the way of your happiness, nor Aschandrael’s. He is a good and worthy male, and more than a match for you, my Fallen.

MORGRIEL: (sadly) But I will still be Fallen, even when I am his – and he has chosen the Halls of the Host.

HELANDRIEL: (smiling) In these past times, yes. But perhaps the future holds more for him than those hallowed Halls.

MORGRIEL: (hopeful) Knows my Mistress that he has chosen to reside here, in the Realm of the Fallen, should he take me for his own?

HELANDRIEL: Aye, it is so – as the Host himself stated, he will be here just long enough, in any event, to start to become familiar with my Realm, and comfortable – why disrupt that, and bring misery to another in the same instant?

MORGRIEL: (smiling broadly) Thank you, Mistress mine.

HELANDRIEL: It is of no matter to me, and took nothing to accomplish. I wish you and your Angel all the best, and all the strength of all Angels, in your promised future together. (looks at Thasriel) Thasriel, Fallen of Death; once Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, and her Angel, Aschandrael, Angel UnBound, Angel of the Hounds, are joined, they shall be assigned new quarters, near unto mine own, and you shall reside therein also, in a room separate from theirs, but close. You three will become family, at least for the twelvemonth in which you will complete your knowledge of your role, and hone your skill in it.

THASRIEL: (bows) I thank you, Mistress mine, for your consideration.

HELANDRIEL: You are worthy of it, Fallen Named Thasriel, Fallen of Death, His Consort now.

THASRIEL: I hope I shall disappoint neither you nor my henceforth Master through my ignorance and unknowing.

HELANDRIEL: You know of your unknowing, which is the best place to begin.

END

ACT 3: SCENE 2:

Yahweh’s Realm. ASCHANDRAEL stands before YAHWEH, a leashed hound at his side.

YAHWEH: You leave us, then, Aschandrael, Host of Hounds?

ASCHANDRAEL: (calm, level, yet firm, fixed gaze) Angel UnBound.

YAHWEH: (returning gaze, level voice) That is so, and I know well that you earned your status, and have proved yourself worthy of it. But truly, is it with forethought that you choose to change your place of residence, or merely for some reason of personal, and perhaps private, choice?

ASCHANDRAEL: Why I select my abode is my concern – as an Angel UnBound, I have no requirement to inform you of my reasons.

YAHWEH: Indeed, you do not – but as Angel of Hounds, I may ask you where the Hound of Heaven shall reside, once you leave this Realm.

ASCHANDRAEL: (petting the hound) Shalom shall reside here, of course, as Ballam and Mordecai, and all their Packs, have resided in the Realms of Helandriel and Lucifrael while my chosen abode has been here.

YAHWEH: (nods slowly) So be it. UnBound you may be, but you give your word I shall have your service when I need it?

ASCHANDRAEL: You have my word, my own form of Binding.

YAHWEH: Very well. You take your leave of us now?

ASCHANDRAEL: Yes, my Lord; though I attend to Shalom first, with the apprentice I have chosen watching on. Shalom shall not be neglected, though I be absent from this Realm.

YAHWEH: Whom have you chosen for the Hound’s care?

ASCHANDRAEL: The young Host Israfael.

YAHWEH: Very well. I shall take care to observe his progress.

ASCHANDRAEL: I promise you, my Lord, he shall not disappoint.

ASCHANDRAEL leaves, taking the hound with him.

Cut to a kennel, in a luxurious, walled garden. ISRAFAEL stands by the kennel.

ASCHANDRAEL approaches with the hound, and hands ISRAFAEL the leash.

ASCHANDRAEL: I take my leave now, and shall return only when duty demands. I trust Shalom to your care, an arrangement of which Yahweh knows, and approves.

ISRAFAEL: I shall not disappoint.

They walk off together, ISRAFAEL fussing the hound.

END.

ACT 3: SCENE 3:

Opens to NATASHA standing in front of a mirror, cutting her hair, which has been freshly dyed.

NATASHA: (monologue) There. My transition is complete, and I am no longer Fallen, nor recognisable as the female, Casandriel, who once I was. Forsaken of Helandriel’s Realm, and forgiven of Death – disavowal as recognition for services rendered – I walk the earth, this mortal plane, eternally, as my new self, am once more born, once more raw, unknowing and unknown. Once more vulnerable, though not weak – never again will I be weak. And I am free, as seeds are free when flung skywards from burst pods. Free to settle in some new place, as some new, more beautiful thing. (Pauses, thoughtful.) Or is this freedom more the freedom of storm-stripped trees, torn from their roots and cast adrift, destined to die.

(Finishes cutting hair) No. If I am free, then I am free to choose the meaning of that freedom. And I choose the meaning that offers hope.

She stares at her reflection, nods once, then heads out.

Cut to the diner where ANDRAEL, CASANDRIEL & BRYONY met. BRYONY is talking to the cashier.

CASHIER: Sure, I seen the lady you’re talking about, that day you came in with that hot-looking guy.

BRYONY: (desperate) But since then? Have you seen her since then?

CASHIER: (shakes head slowly) No. I guessed maybe she was from out of town – I’d not seen her before, or since. (Pauses) She a friend of yours?

BRYONY: (hesitates) No…We’d not met before. But we got on really well. I…I guess I hoped she might become a friend.

CASHIER: Sorry I couldn’t be more help. Can I getcha anything?

BRYONY: I’ll just have an orange juice, and one of those macaroons.

CASHIER sorts out order. BRYONY takes it, pays, heads to a table.

The door opens, just as BRYONY sits down. NATASHA enters, and walks up to the CASHIER.

CASHIER: Hiya. What can I getcha?

NATASHA: Black coffee. No sugar. And a ham and mustard sandwich, dark rye.

CASHIER: Coming right up.

BRYONY looks around.

As NATASHA walks past with her food, BRYONY stands.

BRYONY: (calling, hesitant) Cas?

NATASHA: (pauses, turns. Slowly) No – sorry. My name’s Natasha.

BRYONY sits, embarrassed.

BRYONY: Oh, I’m sorry. You sounded like someone I used to know – you look a bit like her, too. But her hair was longer, lighter.

NATASHA: Someone special?

BRYONY: (sadly) I never got the chance to find out. She was gone before I ever really knew her.

NATASHA: (sitting down opposite BRYONY) Why don’t you tell me about her? The stuff you do know. I’m a good listener.

BRYONY: (blurting) Are you gay?

NATASHA: Does it matter?

BRYONY: Yes. I mean, no. Maybe. I don’t know.

NATASHA: (laughing gently) Well, I pity the poor guy you end up marrying, when you give answers like that.

BRYONY: (decisive) I’m not going to marry a guy – I’m a lesbian. I mean, I’m technically bisexual, but I think, with guys, it’s more emotional. I mean, I do find guys sexually attractive, but –

NATASHA: (gently) But there was this woman, the one you hardly knew.

BRYONY: (softly) Yes.

NATASHA: She the only one?

BRYONY: Yes

NATASHA: You dated guys before her?

BRYONY: Yes. I was dating a guy when I met her. (sobs) He left, too.

NATASHA: (leans across the table, places her hand on BRYONY’s arm) You’re bi. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a legitimate identity, and you should never be ashamed to admit it.

BRYONY: What about you?

NATASHA: Me? I’m just the chick who’s a good listener.

BRYONY: (shaking her head) No – you’re much more than that.

NATASHA: (laughing) What makes you think that?

BRYONY: I’m…sensitive, about these things. I don’t mean I’m psychic, just that I’m able to get a feeling for people, somehow.

NATASHA: (quietly) I had a sister who was like that. She could read energy. From buildings and places too, not just people.

BRYONY: “Had?” Did she….pass?

NATASHA: (staring into coffee) No. I just… I left my family – screwed up, did something I can’t make right – and I haven’t seen her since.

BRYONY: That’s sad. Maybe you should try getting back in touch? Whatever you did, it can’t have been all that bad, surely?

NATASHA: (shaking head) No. It’s better for Theresa that I’m not around. She’ll be okay – she’s got an old friend of mine taking care of her.

BRONY: Well, that’s something, anyway.

NATASHA: Yeah, it’s something alright.

End

ACT 3: SCENE 4:

THASRIEL and DEATH stand at a crossroads, talking. MORGRIEL stands in the background, looking on.

DEATH: So, we’re going to be working together for however long you endure, or until you find yourself an Angel you wish to be with – whichever comes first. We’re colleagues, not boss and employee, and I want you to feel comfortable with me. So. Any questions?

THASRIEL: Yes – why now? Casandriel told me she didn’t meet you until the first job she did on her own. Why am I meeting you now, so early on?

DEATH: Because, in a short while, I shall be taking over your training for a spell – a week or two, no more.

THASRIEL: (glancing back at MORGRIEL) But – why? I don’t understand.

DEATH: Your sister has found that there is a resolution to her entanglement, and a pleasant one. Out of respect for a fellow Dualo, I will permit the happy couple a short while alone together, and recommend you do the same. I happen to have a very nice guest suite in my Realm.

THASRIEL: Morgriel and –

DEATH: Aschandrael. Getting married. Yes, I know – so much happiness. So sickening. So, that’s why you’re meeting me now. Any other questions?

THASRIEL: The Dualo thing,..

DEATH: Is complicated, and tiresome to explain.

THASRIEL: Aschandrael is Dualo, too. Is his duality the same as yours?

DEATH: No. I am not spiritually Dualo, nor was I born to a mortal. I was Begun with the deliberate intention that I be physically Dualo, that my affection may lie no more heavily with one gender than with the other, and that I may not easily entangle myself with another, a hindrance that would be costly to my performing my job well. Aschandrael was mortal born, and born a spiritual Dualo. Have you further questions?

THASRIEL shakes her head.

DEATH walks away. THASRIEL follows. MORGRIEL walks in the opposite direction

MORGRIEL: (monologue) Thus I leave her, my sister, young one of the Fallen, in the hands of a colleague who, though never foe, can likewise be never friend. I do not fear for her, but I mourn for the one we lost, the one whose place she takes and fills. I do not fear for her, but am anxious over her, for Death is a tricksome colleague.

Cut to DEATH and THASRIEL

DEATH: What are your thoughts upon the demise of your sister?

THASRIEL: I have none. She transgressed. That is all.

DEATH: All, my Consort? I would have thought you too young to be so callous.

THASRIEL: I would not call it callous…the Law is the Law.

DEATH: (shrugs) And the Law states that there shall be neither male nor female barren among you, and yet it is common enough for Angels to hold that state. The Law states that Yahweh created them male and female, and these two only, and yet Dualo such as I exist.

THASRIEL: Those Laws refer to mortals.

DEATH: Do they? I have not seen it stated explicitly that they do. And besides, Dualo exist on the mortal plane.

THASRIEL: Dualo created by mortals, according to their own desires.

DEATH: There are those born Dualo, also. Believe me, I know of all births, for they announce the coming of a new task.

THASRIEL: I find that…somewhat disturbing.

DEATH: So much of life is so intricately tied up with, and tied into, my own work. You will learn this, in time.

THASRIEL: How do you survive it, knowing there’s no real joy in the world, just a period of unawareness of the sorrow to come?

DEATH: It is not sorrow for me. Nor for more mortals than you would credit. Besides, without sorrow, what is joy?

THASRIEL: I’m not sure I understand.

DEATH: If there is no sorrow, then joy loses its identity, becomes merely the natural and eternal state of mortals. There has to be both joy and sorrow present before either can truly exist.

THASRIEL: But what if mortals, or even Angels, don’t want both to exist?

DEATH: But they do. They may claim they do not, but the truth is they want a balance a contrast. And they want sorrow, for none would wish to be happy all the time.

THASRIEL: Why not?

DEATH: Because it is most often in sorrow that one finds the answers one has been searching for;

THASRIEL: (defiant) Why not in joy?

DEATH: Because joy is not the domain of answers. No one who is content asks questions.

THASRIEL: Why don’t they?

DEATH: Because, at that point, they don’t need to.

They walk on in silence.

End.

ACT 5: SCENE 5:

HELANDRIEL’s Realm. Decorated for a wedding.

ASCHANDRAEL and MORGRIEL enter, walking straight down the red carpet which is laid centre stage. They are greeted with cheers.

HELANDRIEL stands at the far end of the carpet, smiling broadly.

HELANDRIEL: (raising her voice above the cheering) Ladies, gentlemen, Acknowledged Dualo, I welcome you here, to mine own Realm, wherein you have been assured safe passage, and are promised to return, unhindered, to your own Realms at the conclusion of these celebrations. We are gathered here, and all Bonds have been loosed, to celebrate an unprecedented day – the marriage of one of mine own Fallen, the Fallen Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, to an Angel, the Angel Aschandrael, Angel of the Hounds, Angel UnBound, resident at his own deciding and leisure in mine own Realm.

(Turns to face ASCHANDRAEL and MORGRIEL) Angel. Fallen. Female. Dualo. You stand here, all you are, once were, and will yet be, having declared that you each wish to take the other for yourself, and for what span of Eternity you may be permitted?

MORGRIEL & ASCHANDRAEL: We do.

HELANDRIEL: Do you know of one another’s faults and fulfilments, of one another’s powers and failings?

MORGRIEL & ASCHANDRAEL: We do.

HELANDRIEL: And do you accept one another, in your flawed and failed state, as well as in your moments of highest achievement and grace?

MORGRIEL & ASCHANDRAEL: We do.

HELANDRIEL: My Realm is a violent one, full of females both strong and passionate. I must have assurance that any male who would take a female from me is worthy of the strength and passion that is her right and nature.

ASCHANDRAEL: It is right and good that you would have me prove myself worthy of a female of your Fallen, my Lady.

HELANDRIEL: And you shall prove yourself worthy, Dualo, or endeavour to. My females, my Fallen, live by the sword, and might excels e’en o’er right. Will you take arms against your Fallen, your chosen, and battle with her throughout the course of this day, until first glimpse of Moonrise?

ASCHANDRAEL: (bows head, draws sword from scabbard) I will.

HELANDRIEL: You know that to surrender, or to be put to the ground by my Fallen, shows an unworthiness in you?

ASCHANDRAEL: I know, my Lady.

HELANDRIEL: And should you prove yourself unworthy to take my Fallen, I shall End you in front of her, and all these witnesses.

ASCHANDRAEL: I know, my Lady.

HELANDRIEL steps back, and raises her arms. MORGRIEL draws her own sword.

HELANDRIEL: Let this proving time, this forging of the bright steel of true and worthy love, commence! Let Aschandrael, Angel of the Hounds, Angel of the Balance Betwixt and Between, Angel UnBound, take arms against the Fallen Morgriel, Keeper of the Histories and of the Myths, and let him prove himself worthy to take her hand, which shall never drop its sword.

MORGRIEL and ASCHANDRAEL begin duelling, to the sounds of drinking and general merriment.

Fade to end.

END.

EPILOGUE

Bright sunlight, though washed-out, to convey that this is a future point.

MORGRIEL and ASCHANDRAEL stand together in a forest.

ASCHANDRAEL: It is certain, then, with you?

MORGRIEL: (softly) Yes. (she fingers a scar across ASCHANDRAEL’S bare chest.) I still wonder how I didn’t harm you more seriously.

ASCHANDRAEL: (smiling) I don’t believe Helandriel would have allowed it. She had chosen me for you, as much as we had chosen one another.

MORGRIEL: Do you think so?

ASCHANDRAEL: I do. Now, as to this Beginning…

MORGRIEL: It should not affect you –

ASCHANDRAEL: And yet it does. (pauses, walks away) The hounds wait with the Angel Israfael. They know him and trust him. It would be well enough to trust him to my role, should I forsake it.

MORGRIEL: I will not have you forsake your role for me. What would you do?

ASCHANDRAEL: (shrugs) I am Angel UnBound, Angel of Duality, Angel of the Balance Betwixt and Between, a power and a role I inherited as I was bathed in the blood of another’s End.

MORGRIEL: Thasriel has been commanded to her first Ending this coming Samhein.

ASCHANDRAEL: Not an Angel, then?

MORGRIEL: (shakes head) One of the Otherkin.

ASCHANDRAEL: Wereborn?

MORGRIEL: How did you know?

ASCHANDRIEL: The hounds were restless. I must visit the House of Wolf, and pay my respects upon their loss.

MORGRIEL: Why is it the custom that the Angel of Balance calls upon a House when one of its Otherkin is Ended?

ASCHANDRIEL: It is best the Otherkin do not come to think badly of us. But we digress. I could surrender my hounds unto Israfael, and roam the vast unboundedness with you, holding no other role but the symbolism of that blood-borne one.

MORGRIEL: I would not have a mere symbol for a mate.

ASCHANDRAEL: You would have me absent, and at a moment’s notice?

MORGRIEL: I accepted that state when I accepted you.

ASCHANDRAEL: And of the Angel we’ve Begun?

MORGRIEL: (quietly) You only ask if I would have you stay because we cannot know the nature of what we have Begun – because we cannot know which of your own dual natures triumphs within me.

ASCHANDRAEL: (quietly) You speak true – I fear for the life that is to come, knowing my lineage to be uncertain.

MORGRIEL: (kisses him) There is nothing certain but the eventual coming of Death – while we live, we deal in uncertainty.

ASCHANDRAEL: The uncertainty of a demon, though?

MORGRIEL: Are you not yourself part demon, my Angel?

ASCHANDRAEL nods.

MORGRIEL: And your devotion, your morality and you care – in none of these things does uncertainty reside. So shall it be with the life that we’ve Begun.

ASCHANDRAEL: So shall I hope.

MORGRIEL: So shall it be.

ASCHANDRAEL: Heaven and Hell, darkness and light, joy and sorrow, world without end.

They hold hands as the scene fades.

End.

EPILOGUE : I

THASRIEL and DEATH stand, overlooking a mountain valley. We hear wolves howling close by.

DEATH: Go now, and do what is required of you.

THASRIEL: Alone?

DEATH: You are ready now.

THASRIEL heads into the valley. The howling dies to a low, background hum.

(OFF) Who comes?

THASRIEL: I am Thasriel, Fallen of Death, and I am commanded to the Ending of the Wolfborn Kin known to mortals ant to wolves as Amber. She has transgressed, has Turned a mortal without consent, and her End has been decreed.

(OFF) It is for Werekin to deal with Werekin. Not Angels. Tell your Master He shall not take my daughter, the hope and future of this Pack.

THASRIEL: I must End the one called Amber. There is no other way.

There is a disturbance. Enter ASCHANDRAEL

ASCHANDRAEL: There is another way. Surrender Amber unto Thasriel, deliver her unto Death, on account of her transgression, and I shall stand here, bringing the strength and spirit of Hounds to the very ground where my feet now stand. I will ensure Amber is slain here, and, once we are gone, have your females drink of her blood – the hope you held as hers shall become theirs.

(OFF) I would have the Fallen prove her credentials – she shall spar with Death on yonder mountain. Only once she has proved herself His worthy Consort shall she take the life of my daughter.

ASCHANDRAEL: It will be as you request, for I know you to be a noble House, and to lead an honourable Pack.

They walk back up the mountain to Death.

DEATH: (sighs) I heard. How would you fight?

THASRIEL: Which way is best?

DEATH:I know not – I have never struggled with Angels before.

ASCHANDRAEL: Fight as you are – you both know too little of the situation to do otherwise.

DEATH and THASRIEL fall to fighting. ASCHANDRAEL returns to the valley.

ASCHANDRAEL (monologue) A curse against the House of Wolf, that they would rebel against an Ending, and have it come to this. I am the Angel of Balance, and in cursing the House of Wolf, I bless your sworn enemies, the sons and daughters of Venatrix; may they triumphed over you for as many years as minutes be wasted in the fight you demanded.

Back on the mountain top, the fight reaches deadlock. DEATH breaks the hold, and calls out a challenge.

DEATH: House of Wolf, my Consort stands alive having fought with me. Surrender your dead unto her, and let the End come now.

The howling begins again. A shadow can be seen, heading up the mountain from the valley.

THASRIEL raises a blade, which glints in the low sunlight, then brings it down as the howling reaches a crescendo.

THASRIEL: Go peacefully into this dawning Samhein night, a night which has seen your End, and which will see the beginnings of other Ends besides. Darkness and light are blended and joined this night as on no other, and this gives cover for misdeeds, mistakesm and transgressions. But I am the Fallen Thasriel, Fallen of Death, and His worthy Consort, and the Ends I bring, though at another’s command, fall swift and sure from my own hand.

Blade slams down. There is a low, feral scream, and the howling stops.

ASCHANDRAEL puts a hand on THASRIEL’s shoulder.

ASCHANDRAEL: You have done well. It will be easier, from hereon out.

THASRIEL: (nods) Thank you. How is Morgriel, your Chosen, and your young?

ASCHANDRAEL: (quietly) She birthed a daughter.

THASRIEL: Demon, thus?

ASCHANDRAEL: (quietly) Aye.

DEATH approaches.

DEATH: And what of your daughter’s nature? You yourself have mastered your own, have you not?

ASCHANDRAEL: Yes, but it’s different for girls

DEATH: (shaking head) I have ever worked with females, have been one in my fashion, and they do not differ so very much. Besides, as you should know, there is no evil, and no good – there is only Balance.

ASCHANDRAEL: Trite platitudes, my friend,

DEATH: I did not intend it as such. You triumphed over your nature – why have you no hope that your daughter will do likewise? (pauses) Is it because your Chosen be a Fallen, with rebellion at her core?

ASCHANDRAEL: That is a fact I can’t deny.

DEATH: But you must remember this – she was Angel first, and Angel, though Fallen, she remains. An Angel has birthed the daughter of herself and her half and vanquished demon Chosen. All will be well with you – all manner of things will be well.

As The Dust Settles

When the results of the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union were announced, in the early hours of Friday morning, I was, initially, sad. Just that – a slightly regretful, low-level kind of sorrow, because it wasn’t the result I’d been hoping for.

The sadness quickly turned to fear, as I remembered why I’d been hoping the result would be otherwise – concerns about the attitudes and ambitions of the people who would be leading a post-Brexit UK, a sense that Britain wasn’t yet in a functional place from which to move forward to a position of “going it alone”: we are still, it seems, very much tangled up in, and weighed down by what writer Martin Adeney refers to as “the baggage of Empire” (in his book of the same title) – we are living in glory-days memories, rather than consolidating and promoting our future – and future-proof – strengths and attractions:  medical research, technology, innovation, creativity, the arts, architecture, music, history, heritage.  I voted Remain not because I felt the EU was perfect and wonderful, or a bastion of democracy – it certainly isn’t, and no country or association of countries ever can be – but because it was clear to me that, emotionally and morally, Britain wasn’t ready for the demands of a “solo career” on the world stage – those demands require that we leave behind what we were, and take all the very best elements of what is currently good, exciting, and attractive about us, and pull them into a strong, attractive, successful, unified whole.

That whole needed to be complete, and visible, before we stepped alone onto the stage,in my view – building it now, in what is becoming a very ugly, very frightening, very divisive aftermath, one in which the wounds of Empire have been freshly re-opened, is going to be very difficult.

People often point to America – but America has long had the same problem, the problem of only knowing what they don’t want, not what they do want.  The problem of focusing on dreamland, distant ambitions that would cost more than can be afforded – financially and emotionally – to achieve, rather than practical, feasible, realistic goals for the longterm future, harmony, and success of the nation. This focus on distant dreams, and on what we don’t want, plagues everyone – from individuals through companies, right through to nations.  It is the ultimate negative impact of globalisation – the globalised mindset of never being able to move functionally forward, because we don’t actually know what it is we want – we only know what we don’t want.

Here’s what I want:  I want a country where skin colour, accent, ability or limitation, gender expression, sexuality, and annual salary don’t matter. A country where people can discuss polarised opinions respectfully, with laughter, over beer, wine, tea, or coffee. A country where the only people made to feel they “don’t belong” are those who transgress the accepted mores of tolerance and inclusivity.  A country where concerns are listened to compassionately, rather than being shouted down as the product of “bigotry”,  “racism”, or “selfish stupidity.”  I want a country that values creativity, and the revenue the arts brings.  I want a country where those who do the necessary, un-glamorous work of keeping everything ticking over, keeping it clean, ensuring other people can do their jobs, that people find the environment pleasant and safe, ensuring that human needs are met to an exemplary standard, are treated – and paid – well, where it is acknowledged that, without them, no one else could prosper.  I want a country where young people are hopeful of the future, and old people are peaceful in their twilight years. I want a country where everyone who works feels their work is meaningful and valued, and where everyone’s salary encourages the belief that their work is valued, and valuable. I want a country that understands that success is about more than money, that leadership is about more than violence, and that humanity lives with the natural world, not “upon” it.

This is my dream – my distant, probably unachievable  Utopia.

Coming back down to Earth, stepping back from Utopia, the things that are achievable from this dream, the things that are practical and feasible, are:

.Respectful dialogue – it costs nothing to keep your opinions to yourself until the furious emotion of reaction has passed, and you are calm enough to move into a reasoned expression of those opinions.  It likewise costs nothing to listen calmly to a calmly-expressed, reasoned opinion, even if you vehemently disagree with it, and respond compassionately to the concerns and issues raised – rather than to the underlying emotion or sentiment.

.Respect for “menial” jobs – okay, the commensurate pay to match that respect probably is more Utopia than reality, but it costs nothing, and isn’t all that hard, to imagine what your town would look like if no one cleaned the streets, emptied the public bins, or cleaned, and replaced the paper in, the public lavatories. It costs nothing to think how you might find yourself affected if supermarkets didn’t employ staff – if, say, items were just delivered in their pallets and boxes, left in the warehouse, and you had to find where everything was yourself, get it out of shrinkwrapped delivery cartons.  Sure, self-service checkouts are great – but imagine there’s no one filling them with change, and you don’t have a debit or credit card, so just have to accept that you’ll lose £40 on a £32.59 grocery shop. It costs nothing to think how much harder and longer your day at work would be if you had to clean the lobby, your office, the toilets – or the factory floor, the slaughterline machinery – yourself, before you could get on with your “real” job, and when you were done for the day on that “real” job.

.Respect for difference. It’s really easy to say to someone with a physical disability “So, tell me about something you enjoy, and are good at” – and to listen to them as they tell you all the ways in which they are a functional human being, who contributes to the world. It’s easy to go up to someone you overhear speaking a language not your own, and ask what their language is, and whether they could teach you some of it. You may well find yourself being introduced to a whole community, getting to try foods you never even knew existed, and making new friends! (It’s even easier to Google the languages of your neighbouring countries – Spanish, Gaelic, etc – and start teaching yourself those languages; I will admit, Gaelic can be something of a challenge!) Someone’s kissing someone of the same sex as them, or you can’t tell “whether that freak is a dude or a woman”? Really, really easy to say of the latter “does it make any difference to how I see them as a person, if I’m not considering a sexual relationship with them? No – they’ll either be someone I enjoy talking to, or they won’t. No loss or harm done either way” and, in the former “Well, they seem happy – good for them.”

So – the practical, readily attainable aspect of Utopia – and, indeed, its core component – is respect.

Respect for those whose lives, jobs, appearances and opinions differ from yours. Offering to others the same respect you yourself expect. You don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion to respect it. Respecting someone’s life, experiences, and choices doesn’t mean you’re going to be forced to live that same life, or that you can’t have any issues or concerns around those experiences and choices – it simply means that your issues and concerns don’t get to take centre stage.

As the dust settles, as dysfunctional anger – which can never sustain itself for long – cools and dies, I believe we will be left with a core of functionally angry people who are engaging in dialogue with people from all points on every spectrum, people who are standing up and saying: “I will not be cruel in my anger. I will not use my anger to deliberately insult others, nor will I ever be dishonest to further the cause of my own anger – but I am angry, I do feel this is unjust, and I will not stand for it.”  “This” will, inevitably, be different things for different people – and that’s fine, because a clash of functional anger, wielded  by informed, intelligent individuals, is a creative destruction – it can tear things apart and tear them down, sure – but, unlike dysfunctional anger, it always builds something enduring and honourable from the pieces.

Proud to be British?

Not really. Not today.

I almost was – I was proud to belong to a country where, on the day of the EU referendum, the polling centre attendant could wave voters off with a cheery and irreverent “thanks for taking part – if you win the raffle today, we’ll let you know.” I was proud of our tradition of not taking anything seriously, our tradition of seeing the funny side of everything.

And then a friend – born in Britain, to a British mother and American father, who just happens to be black – told me of her encounter at the same polling station. Of white men, talking, as she approached, about why they’d voted Leave, falling silent as she passed, one of them saying , loud enough for her to hear, “I didn’t think f***ing immigrants were allowed to vote in things to do with English people.”

I wasn’t proud then.

I wasn’t proud when, having mentioned this on Facebook, another friend –  a Leave supporter – didn’t even bother to apologise for my friend’s treatment at the hands of these racists, just waded in with “I have my reasons for voting Leave – how dare you imply we’re all racists!”  (Worth noting when I was knocked off my bike by a car several years ago, no car drivers I mentioned this to took it as a personal attack on them, their driving ability, or the fact that they own a car…But no…point out that people should be ashamed of being associated, rightly or wrongly, with people who haven’t realised that we’ve had black people, Asian people, people of all ethnicities, in Britain and part of Britain for longer than the EU has been around, who can’t move past “British = White”, and you get howls of indignation about how “not racist” people are…Newsflash: typically, if you’re actually “not racist”…you tend not to feel that you’re being accused of being so…Just a thought.)

I wasn’t proud then.

I’m proud of Britain when it stands with and for the marginalised.  I’m proud of Britain when it speaks intelligently and compassionately on difficult issues.  I was proud of Britain when the world came to London for the 2012 Olympic games. I was proud of Britain when, with a lot of help and support from our European neighbours, we finally secured the Good Friday Agreement.

I wasn’t proud of Britain in the years we denied residency rights to Gurkha soldiers, who had fought with and for us during the Second World War.

I wasn’t proud of Britain throughout the shoddy, sorrowful campaign that led up to this referendum.

I’ve never been proud of Britain brushing real, genuine racism under the carpet with insulting, divisive and pointless gestures such as discussing a ban on the flying of the St. George’s flag.

Am I proud to be British?

Not really.

But, then, I’m not really British.

My father was Irish (the Republic, not the North.) My mother’s family possibly (we don’t have complete records) contains Franco-Jewish ancestory on her father’s side.

Do I consider myself “European”, then?

No – that, to me at least, implies a style and sophistication I’ve never been able to pull off.

If I’m anything more than one insignificant human being stumbling through this joke we call life, I’m a Celt – sensitive, strong, brooding, emotional, turbulent – but, ultimately, reliable. A poet. A peasant. A pirate. A rebel and a renegade. Someone who works hard and plays hard. A family man who needs his solitude. A contradiction, and a constant.

But I’m not a pure Celt, either.

It sometimes feels like I’m an ugly, unattractive, somewhat surly mongrel dog, crouched in the back of a kennel at the rescue, desperately waiting for someone to give me a home, but too suspicious of people to make the first approach.

God knows, I’ve been kicked enough times. Let down enough times.

Perhaps I’m not even a dog, but more a wolf, skulking through the countryside, afraid and hunted, despite my nobility and strength. A wolf without a pack. A target

The EU could never destroy Britain – the referendum just might.

And I’m not proud of that, either.

 

Excuses and Smoking Guns (Poem).

(It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, I know – I live with mental health issues, which have been in flare recently. I hope I’m past the worst of it, and can get back on track.

Excuses and Smoking Guns weaves in the US shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the UK shooting of MP Jo Cox, and other stuff. There’s offensive language which I wish I didn’t have to use – racial slurs, homophobic slurs, transphobic slurs, misogyny.  It’s okay if you’d rather not read the poem because of that – trust me, I wish I could’ve written an honest poem without using the language that the poem sets out to counter.  That’s the problem with art, with writing, with life – you sometimes have to touch ugly to make it work.)

 

EXCUSES AND SMOKING GUNS

You didn’t fire that final, fatal shot – just lined up all the ones that came before

“Well, I don’t think it’s right, really…”

“Marriage isn’t for people like them!”

“It’s the children I worry about.”

“She just needs a good shag.”

“I blame the parents.”

“Faggot”. “Tranny.” “Dyke.” “Whore.”

No, you didn’t fire that shot, it wasn’t your gun.

“There’s just too many of them.”

“I worry about the children, being brought up like that.”

“What are they doing over here, anyway?”

“Stealing our way of life.”

“Paki.” “Terrorist.” “Nigger.” “Suspect.” “Scum.”

It wasn’t you who fired that eternal shot, still echoing –

“Two World Wars, and this is what we have to live with after winning?

It wasn’t you with that smoking gun, watching the dust descend –

“No job for a woman.”

“A woman’s place is in the home.”

“Too much tea and sympathy and psychobabble – too emotional, that’s the problem.”

“Slag. She was asking for it.”   “Haven’t you heard of fashion, love? What’s wrong – don’t you like boys?”

“God, it’s just a joke – what’s the matter with you?”

Your joke. Your sport. Your fun.

All the bullets you loaded, into that gun

You didn’t shoot, but sold to those intent on harm.

Your joke. Your sport. Your fun –

Our end.

 

(Apologies, as always, for the aggressive language – I hope you understand why it was needed?  For a more civilised response, see Carol Ann Duffy‘s reaction to the Orlando shooting.)

 

Images in “Oops.”

I walk a fine line between wanting people to get it right when it comes to spelling, punctuation, and basic grammar (the advanced stuff I can live and let live – after all, “To boldy go…” broke grammatical rules, but made a legend; sometimes, broken works better), and wanting people to like me.

Sometimes, errors simply out and out annoy me, especially when they’re committed by people who are being paid to get it right.

Other times, the mistakes can lead to fascinating images all of their own, and, potentially, an idea for a piece of writing.

Yesterday, I came across one of the “other time” screwups.

A branding consultancy, in a blog post discussing the YouTube hit Gangnam Style, included a typo, where the song was referred to as “Gangham Style.”

Gangham Style – it conjures an image of hoodlums in gingham check dresses.  Pretty femininity, knee-high white socks, and black patent leather shoes – maybe a bit of freedom in the dress code for the higher ranking members, but still with the gingham dress at the core of their “look.”

What would this “gang”, this “crew”, get up to? Who would their enemies be? Their allies? What protests would they attend, what slogans would they scrawl, and where, and how – would they use graffiti, or something else? What’s the something else?

Gangham StyleImage Source

As and when I get the questions answered, I’ll post the end result here – but what do you think? What does “Gangham Style” conjure for you? What mistakes have inspired you?