Edward stood outside of the doors that led to his lord's audience chambers. His entire being quaked with excitement because he was about to be ushered into the presence of his lord and master. In fact, the honor that he was about to receive was even greater than that, for Edward was not only going in front of his sovereign lord, he was going to enter into the presence of his god.
Edward was not a human being; he was a member of the special race of beings that were alternately called angels, spirits, or sometimes, simply, guardians. His appearance, to those who possessed the ability to see beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm, was stunning. With the exception of the large feathery wings adorning his back, he had the appearance of a tall muscular human. Everything that could be "seen", from his broad, tanned shoulders to the stoicism and detachment in his eyes, suggested that here was a creature who had done and seen more than anyone should, or would want to.
As he stood before the golden doors, Edward's heart was filled with pity for all humans, particularly the humans what he was assigned to protect and minister to. After all, they could not truly say that they spoke directly to God. However, he reminded himself, I can't say that I regularly speak directly to God either. All of his reports concerning the humans that he oversaw went straight to his superior then passed, with others, to the archangels; it was they who stood before the throne on a regular basis. This was how things had always been done. Until now. Now Edward was meeting with Goth, the Lord of Light himself. Such a thing was almost unprecedented. Edward clearly remembered the last time he had beheld the face of his lord, but it had been during the War, and remembering events of that time always reminded Edward of other things that had happened then, things which sent his spirits spiraling into the black pits of melancholy and sorrow, so he did not allow himself to think of those times often, if at all.
Why does he want to see me? Edward wondered. What could be going on? Edward could think of nothing he had done, seen, heard, or otherwise knew that could possibly be of enough interest to such a great, powerful, wondrous being as to occasion this meeting.
Edward's revere was suddenly interrupted by the opening of the huge, ornamented, golden doors that lead to the chambers of his master. The doorman, a slender, bookish spirit, peered out at Edward and spoke; "The Lord will see you now."
Edward stepped thought the doorway and into a room that was filled with the most glorious light imaginable. The illumination permeating the chamber had an almost palpable force. The spiritual energy accompanying the light was likewise unbelievable. One could virtually touch the power; as though it were a physical force, a blanket that you could pull around you and use to warm your cold soul.
Though the light was bright enough to cause serious injury to any mortal being that might have looked upon it, Edward's spiritual body basked in the powerful energy of the radiance. He absorbed the spiritual energy of the light and, as he did, her felt his strength increasing rapidly. For this light had no earthly source, it was not so mundane. The illumination infusing this room came directly from the body of the being sitting in the throne at the far end of the chamber. Everything about this being screamed power, majesty, strength, and beauty. As Edward's eyes fell upon this magnificent visage, he fell upon his knees in reverence and his mind filled with one overriding thought, My God, thou art so glorious! In thy very existence are our hopes realized!
Even if Edward had been standing and looking at the figure, it would have been hard to make out any details in the being's face or body. The light was too pure, too bright, for anyone to see its source in detail. That, however, did not matter in the least to Edward, after all, who in their right mind could honestly expect to look upon the face of God freely?
As Edward knelt in worship, the room suddenly began to thunder as the lord spoke from the throne.
"Hello my angel."
"M-m-my n-name is E-Edward, Lord."
"Yes, Edward, I know." The being smiled.
Edward composed himself, "My apologies, my lord in dealing with humans one forgets and begins to act as they do."
"Completely understandable, Edward. Please, report... how are the saints under your protection doing?"
"Don't you know?" Edward asked, and the winced, he had screwed up again.
The benevolent smile never wavered, however, "Alas, I have been distracted by recent developments, so please, indulge me."
"The Saints of Douglas are excellent sir, they worship faithfully in every waking moment, and often in their sleep."
"Perfect." The being's voice trailed off as he stared into space.
"My Lord, might I ask a question?"
"Go ahead, my son." He replied, shaking his head as if to clear his thoughts.
"Why was I asked to report directly to you instead of my superior as is the norm?"
"Simple... I am going to assign you a task."
"And what will that be, Lord?" asked Edward, hope and wonder filling his voice.
Rather than answering, the being stood and walked towards a window, he gazed out of it lovingly. Then he spoke, "The Enemy has held this world in his grip for long enough don't you think?"
"Oh, yes sire! Too long, I think."
"Yes, too long." He smiled and Edward's heart was instantly filled with incomprehensible love and adoration. "I have several plans in progress right now to begin to change that, but I have to be able to place the people I want in places that are held, in totality, by the Enemy. Anyway, I am going to place you in command of a group of spiritual warriors and your task will be to pave the way for our people. Take out their warriors so that our people can be smuggled in safety."
"But, why me sire? Why not one of the Captains of the Host? I am nothing sir, simply a small spirit. I am no great champion like some I could mention."
"It is because of your seeming insignificance that have chosen you for this task. My other champions are all involved in other tasks at this time, besides, they are each watched closely by the Enemy. The missions I have in mind for you need to be done in a relatively covert manner. It is not time for the great and final battle. Besides I know that you are capable of this duty, more capable than some of the great commanders I could mention."
"What is to become of my charges? Who will look after my city and my people?"
"I have instructed the Prince of Onchan to take charge of your saints in your absence. As the two cities adjoin each other, this should prove to be no hard task."
"My Lord is wise. I know Felix, and my heart is set at rest to know that my people shall be well looked after."
"Your men are waiting for you outside. You are in charge of their training. You have two months to prepare them for their first mission."
"Yes my Lord, I thank you for your faith in me and I will try to live up to your expectations." With that, Edward stood, turned, and, with his wings lying flat against his back, walked from the room.
Edward fought back a giddy type of dizziness as he left the audience chamber. He could not remember ever feeling half as content and happy. The power that he had absorbed from being in the presence of his master was almost more than he could handle, he felt. His elation was shown visibly, to those who happened to see him, he positively glowed with spectral energy.
An older spirit was standing in the waiting room when Edward exited the audience chamber. Upon seeing Edward, the weathered old veteran snapped to attention and saluted. This was unusual enough to catch Edward's attention; no one had ever saluted him, not seriously anyway. Some of his friends in Douglas had tossed off salutes, but those had been meant teasingly; this one obviously wasn't.
"Can I help you?" the new commander asked the grizzled soldier.
"Sir! Sergeant Major Martin reporting for duty, Sir." The elderly warrior announced in a crisp voice.
"At ease, Sergeant Major."
"Yes sir." Martin relaxed slightly, but not much, as he snapped from attention to parade rest.
"Why were you waiting for me here Martin?" Edward asked.
The gruff Sergeant Major snapped back to attention before responding, "I was ordered to introduce you to your new troops, sir." then he returned to parade rest.
"I see." Edward was becoming uncomfortable with Martin's strict formality. He knew that only time would allow the sergeant major to become more relaxed around him, but the warrior's rigid postures were beginning to make Edward tired. He found a solution quickly, however. "Well then, walk with me, Sergeant Major. You can fill me in on the way."
The elderly veteran fell in beside, and a half-step behind, his less experienced commander. "What would you like to know about them sir?"
"Well, for starters, have you always been with this unit?"
"No sir, I joined up with them about ten years ago, right after I was transferred from European duty."
"Why did you get transferred?"
"Requested it, sir. There isn't a whole lot of anything happening in Europe right now. I wanted to be where the action is."
"Understandable. So you've been with them for ten years? You must know them pretty well then."
"Aye sir, I suppose I do know them."
"What can you tell me about them? How sharp are they?"
"There's not a better fighting unit in the entire world sir, none that I've ever seen anyway. The only time we lose in combat exercises are when we're outnumbered, and only then if it's more than four-to-one against."
"Impressive!" Edward was impressed too. He had never heard of a combat unit with that kind of reputation. "You said exercises, though. Do they have any real combat experience?" Yes sir, they do. We just finished a one year active duty rotation about six months ago. Only unit to ever go through an entire rotation without replacing a man."
"You went an entire year without a single casualty?"
"Now I'm truly impressed Sergeant Major!"
"Thank you sir."
"Have you been informed of the change in our mission profile, Martin?"
"Yes sir, I have, and so have your squadron commanders."
"Good, then you know that I'm going to have to make some serious changes in our training schedules, right?"
"Good, I'll want you help with that Sergeant Major, so keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for any good ideas you come across."
"Aye aye sir. Here we are sir."
Martin stopped beside an archway with a pair of open doors set inside it. He motioned for Edward to go first and then followed the young commander into the courtyard. Edward looked out upon his men for the first time. My men! He thought, heart swelling with pride, and suddenly he felt overwhelmed by the burden of responsibility that had been laid upon him. Can I do it, he wondered, or will I fail my lord miserably? Then he looked into the faces of the men that he was to lead into battle. He saw many things: fear, bewilderment, and even ignorance. But on every face he saw a few things that were the same, he saw honor, he saw courage, and above all he saw a fervent desire to perform all that was necessary to accomplish the task set before them, to destroy the Enemy and all of his supporters. He knew then, without a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happened he would always be proud of what this group would accomplish.
Then Sergeant Major Martin stepped away from Edward's side and stood before the mass of warriors. "Fall in!" he snapped. All of the angelic warriors snapped straight and stood without motion in six groups as he shouted again, "Captains, Post!" In response, six soldiers jogged forward, each around their respective group. When they reached the center of their companies, they turned to face the Captain of the Guard, once again locked into a position of attention.
The Captain of the Guard took a single step forward and executed a sharp about face. Edward knew what was expected of him and walked quickly and precisely to stand directly in front of the burly angel. He saluted the Captain of the Guard by placing his right fist on his left shoulder. The angel returned the gesture, bowing slightly as he did so, and stepped to Edward's left side. Edward looked closely at his Captains. He decided that he liked what he saw. They were young, but had the look of battle-seasoned warriors, every one of them. He was sure that they each had their own strengths and weaknesses, which he would discover over the next two months, however they looked like a team of able leaders. He knew that he would be proud of them in the end. No matter what happened.
Then the burly Captain of the Guard spoke, "Commander, I present to you your captains, Mikhail, Armand, Robert, Tristan, Wan, and Melissa." The angel spoke each name slowly, and as he called each name, the owner bowed his (or her) head in acknowledgement. Once again, the thought overwhelmed Edward, My men!