Army of the Light
"You know what is happening Imperius."
"And you mean to do nothing."
"What happens in the mortal realm does not concern us. Nor me. Nor you."
"I beg to differ."
Auriel remained in place as Imperius rose. Slowly, she noticed, and she doubted that was by choice. Diablo's claws had wounded the archangel's body, his pride, and by destroying Solarion, it was as if he'd destroyed part of the Archangel of Valour himself. The spear which he now leant on had none of the lustre that his former weapon did. And right now, all it seemed capable of was to serve as a crutch.
"You may disagree with me," Imperius whispered. "You may leave if you so choose. But I will not bring our realm into mankind's conflict."
"One of our own is behind that conflict!" Auriel shouted. "And another of our own may be dead because of him!"
"Neither Malthael or Tyrael are of our kind anymore," Imperius said, taking a step forward before collapsing back on his throne. "They mean nothing. They are nothing." He waved his hand out towards the window, to the setting sun. "Do you want to aid them, Auriel? You're free to do so. But if you so choose, you do so alone."
For a moment, Auriel wished for a sword. For a moment, she channelled her power through Al'maiesh. For a moment, she felt…like she wasn't the Archangel of Hope, and someone else. Something else. Only a moment. But that was enough.
"I may help alone," she whispered. "But then again, we've all been alone for so long Imperius. So I suppose nothing has changed."
The Gardens of Hope no longer lived up to their namesake.
Auriel walked through her domain, wondering if she too had failed her namesake. Imperius was without hope. If Malthael's reign of terror continued in the mortal realm, it too would be without hope, and without much more if that reign went unopposed. And Heaven would be without wisdom or justice. And without those, she wondered, what was there to hope for if it went unfulfilled?
Such is our fate, then? she wondered. To be without hope, without valour? Will valour turn to wrath, and shatter fate? Or will all fade along with hope?
She shook her head – mortal prophecies, she told herself. Mankind's way of searching for the unknown, to answers to questions angels had long since answered. But if the light of knowledge still remained in Heaven, the same couldn't be said for her realm. No light shone here. The trees were burnt, their saplings withered, and demon blood had mingled in the soil. Perhaps nothing would grow here, she reflected. Perhaps nothing should grow here.
"So perhaps you should seek solace elsewhere?"
Auriel spun around, again wishing for her sword. Not Al'maiesh this time. She was without hope, her realm was without hope, and her whip would be useless in restoring any of it. And, she suspected, useless against the being that shone before her. A radiant, golden being, like something from the Crystal Arch, yet not an angel.
"I am A'dal," it said. "A naaru of the Army of the Light."
For a moment, Auriel felt a stab of hear in her breast. She suppressed the feeling – Diablo's legacy, she told herself. Lingering terror. Along with destruction, anguish, and every other foulness he had left to her realm. But this wasn't Diablo. This was a being of Light. And for that reason, she told herself, she had no reason to be afraid.
"Why are you here?" she asked.
"Must there be a reason?"
Auriel let out a hollow laugh. "There is always a reason for coming here."
"And why is that?"
"Because we have been left without reason." Auriel turned around and walked over to one of the saplings, kneeling down and running a hand across its withered branches. "Too many of us are without reason. And some," she whispered, thinking of Malthael and shuddering, "have forsaken it altogether."
"Then perhaps I can give you new reason."
Auriel didn't turn. It happened too quickly.
She was on a battlefield. Or what would be a battlefield she supposed, as neither side had come to blows. On one, there were humans and creatures she didn't recognise. Some were like smaller humans, with beards and spanners. Some were taller, with pointed ears. Some were green and like demons, others blue, there even appeared to be walking cattle and black-and-white bears. And in the sky, dragons. Like Tathamet. Yet also not. And on the other side was…nothing. Only darkness. Oblivion. Like something she'd felt not too long ago, and hoped never to experience again.
And then the vision ended. And A'dal spoke.
"The Army of the Light," he said. "What I seek to forge. To save Creation against what is to come."
"And you seek my aid," Auriel said. She glanced around Heaven, at the dying light casting its glow on the shattered spires. "Our aid."
"There is more than one Creation," A'dal said. "There is more than one force of demons in existence. You have defeated one. Your kind have devoted your entire lives to it."
But not by choice, the angel reflected.
"And so, I offer your purpose. And so, I offer you a calling. To stand in the Light. To aid us."
Auriel remained silent. There was no malignancy in this being, as far as she could tell. His motives were sincere, and his Army of the Light, as…interesting, as it looked, could not be faulted either (physical appearances notwithstanding). But there was something else. Something that forced her to say, "I've been there before."
"Armies of the Light. Armies of darkness. Battles, and carnage, and death," Auriel said. "Another Great Conflict." She shook her head. "I fought in one. Never again."
"Has hope left you that much?" A'dal asked, his voice quivering slightly, blighting his otherwise melodious tone. "Will you shrink from your calling?"
Auriel lowered her gaze. The creature was right, she reflected. She had always answered the call to arms. All angels had. It may have been in their very nature, but still, they'd never shrinked away from their duty. And another conflict? It might be the thing Imperius needed to take leadership.
"I cannot speak on behalf of all Heaven," the Archangel of Hope said. "But I…I…"
She paused. She looked back at the trees of the garden. Withered. Dying. Dead. Like what was happening in Sanctuary. What had been happening in the mortal realm, and Heaven had let happen. It was the fault of the nephalem that Heaven had suffered, Imperius claimed. But they'd let that seed flourish, Auriel thought. Had let the tree grow and grow and grow, and cried foul when it sought to strangle them.
"I cannot aid you," Auriel said. "Not when others still need hope. Not when one of my own is reaping souls as if they were crops. Not when so much is without life, and so much is left to grow."
She lowered her gaze. She felt selfish. For all her words, she felt without hope. She felt like the being wanted to reach out and tear out her heart, to do to her what Diablo had done to Imperius.
"I respect your decision," A'dal said. "May the Light bless you. And may you find it in the dark."
But he disappeared. Taking his light with him. And as the sun set, darkness returned bar the glow of her wings.
Will you see Imperius next? she wondered. Ithereal, perhaps? Is it indeed fate to continue a war against darkness?
Perhaps. But there was another darkness gripping Sanctuary, and that, she told herself, had to come first. And…and she stopped walking as light was cast on her.
She found its source. And stared. Beheld one of the saplings. Glowing. She felt its light. Beheld its light. And felt, deep down, what was most important of all.
My thoughts on the Army of the Light aside (not to mention we probably won't even see it until the sixth World of Warcraft expansion at the earliest, what struck me is how arguably, the whole light vs. dark thing has already been played in the Diablo setting with the Great Conflict. Since that plot point was closed, maybe it's Warcraft's turn or something. Anyway, came up with this as a result.