The column of light extended either way into infinity, so bright as to cut the mind’s eye to even contemplate. It was The Judgment of God, and Xaphan was trapped within it. Pinned in midair, wings spread to their fullest span, arms and legs akimbo like a celestial insect, the apostate angel watched helplessly as the Seven Angels Who Stand Before God hovered, circling him.
“What is my crime, then?” Xaphan asked. “Daring to ask if the design of these heavens we were made to build originated from God, or the vainglorious Viceroy of Heaven?”
Lucifer Morningstar’s countenance, normally bright and a thing of beauty, soured at Xaphan’s words, becoming a dark and heavily shadowed thing, despite the ever-present light.
“Tread careful, creature, for I know your name be jealousy,” Lucifer said through pursed lips. “Though you wear the guise of my brother, still will I smite you.”
“What right have you to question our brother?” said Gabri-el, Ruler of the Cherubim, and the Governor of Eden.
The corners of Xaphan’s mouth curled slightly. “Free will grants me that right. Is that not our entitlement? I have made no secret that I believe this to be Lucifer’s heaven and not God’s own, and I intended to prove my theory.”
“By attempting to set Heaven ablaze?” Lucifer said.
“Attempting? Did it not burn?” Xaphan replied.
“I cannot understand why he would harbor hatred toward the Celestial Choir,” said Micha-el, leader of the Celestial Armies, Angel of Destruction and Vengeance in the name of God.
“Hatred? Xaphan stated that he was only exercising his free will. Do we all not have that option?” said Rapha-el, Guardian of the Tree of Life in Eden, and Chief Ruling Prince of Second Heaven.
“Xaphan’s heart is filled with pride, not hatred,” said Uri-el, Angel Who Watches Over Thunder and Terror, and the Cherub who stands at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword.
“Be that as it may, Uri-el, his free will was honored when he chose not to assist in the construction of the heavens,” said Ragu-el, Angel of Earth, and keeper of the Trumpet of Ice and Snow.
“Precisely,” said Remi-el, Angel of True Divine Visions. “He had no right to set asunder the fruits of our labor. Xaphan could have exercised his free will in any number of non-destructive forms, such as leaving the celebration, if it offended him so.”
“Perhaps, but did we do our brother a disservice by not opening his opinions to debate?” said Razi-el, Giver of Divine Mysteries.
“And what of God’s will, Razi-el? Lucifer was appointed viceroy by the Almighty! Should Xaphan’s will supercede Morningstar’s own?” Gabri-el looked from face to angelic face.
“Free will is a gift we should not accept lightly,” Micha-el nodded.
“Agreed. There must be rules set in place to govern the use of our free will.”
“And a punishment to be meted out should one of us fail to adhere to the guidelines? I do not agree,” Rapha-el said.
“If we do not make an example of Xaphan, then what keeps the rest of the Choir from repeating his mistake?” Ragu-el asked.
“Mistake?” said Uri-el. “Xaphan made a conscious choice and acted on it! He is our equal in all things! Who are we to judge him?”
“I must agree,” Remi-el added. “Who are we to judge? We are the Shadowside of God. Only God should hold judgment upon the Mal’akh.”
“A good point, which leads to an interesting question: Why has God remained silent and allowed these things to happen?” Razi-el asked.
“Enough!” Lucifer’s tone was a knife. “True, the voice of God has grown silent within me. That is why I have called you together. To decide the fate of Xaphan. The only vote not cast here will be mine. As God is hushed, so too shall I be. Your options are to either: Pardon Xaphan, Strip him of his celestial nature, Imprison him, or End his existence. Cast your ballots.”
Gabri-el was the first to break silence. “Our pardon, Lucifer. Not bearing the mantle of viceroy allows us to forget its burden. Since pardoning Xaphan is out of the question, and the other sentences are too ghastly to imagine, I vote for imprisonment.”
Rapha-el, Uri-el, Ragu-el, Remi-el and Razi-el concurred with the imprisonment vote.
Lucifer turned to Micha-el, “What say you, Micha?”
“I choose none of the options you present, brother. Though I agree an example must be set, I opt to wait until God has spoken,” Micha-el said as he flew away from the table. “Until such time, I will not be party to such gatherings.”
Gabri-el turned to follow. “Micha! Wait–!”
Lucifer, suddenly at Gabri-el’s side, placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. “Let him be. Our brother is exercising his free will.”
“Xaphan, you are sentenced to imprisonment on Raquia, the Second Heaven, until the Word of God dictates otherwise. As part of your sentence, you are commanded to construct your own prison by hand in the same manner by which the heaven you destroyed was built.”
Xaphan considered his punishment a long moment before he spoke “What is the definition of Free? Is it having no obligations? And the definition of Will? A disposition to act according to principles? Then does not Free Will mean the freedom to make choices without obligation or divine intervention?”
The Seven could not find fault in his logic.
The column of light melted off Xaphan.
“Thank you, but I decline.” he said politely and flew off.
©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys