He stood on the mountain top and waited. The sun was just rising in the east and a cold wind blew. His long, dark hair was loose and blew around his face like an ebon cloud. It had been too long since he had walked the earth. He hadn't realized how much he had missed it.
He so seldom took human form anymore. With all those available to do his biddng it was rarely necessary. He found it ironic that belief in him swelled ever more and more without any overt action on his part. The media, the books, the films seemed to delight in making him their subject.
It disturbed him that they portrayed him as some red-skinned...creature...with a ridiculous tail and horns. A goat-footed beast who drank blood and craved human sacrifices? Had they READ the Book? Did they know nothing of their history? It was absurd and insulting to him in ways he was unable to explain.
Michael was late. They were to both be here at the sun's rising. In spite of all of the conflict and Michael's refusal to side with him, he was still fond of his brother. Fond enough that he smiled, remembering that Michael was perpetually late. It seemed an unusual failing in one in whom He placed so much trust. It seemed His infinite ability to forgive weakness was as capricious as it always had been.
Lucifer would wait...must wait for Michael and the news he would bring. It was too important, too momentous for impatience to be indulged. Lucifer MUST have an answer...must know. Nothing else was tolerable.
He was drawn from his thoughts by the arrival of Michael. He came from thin air to striding purposefully towards his goal. As was his wont, he took the form of a tall, well-built man. His silver armor glinted in the sun casting sparkles across his pale skin and his close-cut blond hair gleamed. Forever the showman, Lucifer noted.
While he still felt great fondness for the arch-angel, he could not resist the urge to bait him. Michael had always been such a prig.
"While neither of us may age, dear brother, it does not excuse wanton sloth on your part."
A frown marred Michael's perfect features and his mouth formed a moeu of disfavor. "Leave off, brother. I was detained about our Master's busines."
Lucifer's left brow arched up and a wry smile came to his mouth. "In point of fact, not OUR master. And am I the only one who finds irony in this? While I am saddled with the epithet 'Father of Lies', so many, many untruths are spoken in which I had no part. YOUR Master should be disappointed in his servants."
Michael stopped some feet away, ignoring the obvious taunts. "I am here now. That is what matters, is it not? I can just as easily find need to be elsewhere."
The effect on his brother caught Michael at a loss. The bravado and bluster melted like slush in the spring. His shoulders slumped and he looked unwell.
"No. Do not go, Michael. I spoke in jest and perhaps poor jest at that. It is just...I meant...I must know! Have you spoken to Him brother?"
It was the angel's turn to take the upper hand and a broad smile curved his lips. "But, of course I have spoken to him, my brother. I speak to him many times a day. I assume you intend to ask, have I spoken to him of your concerns?"
Lucifer bristled and flames danced in his dark eyes. "It is your time to leave off Michael! We stand on ground of MY domain and I will NOT be mocked! This is of too much import to be so dealt with. Now you will TELL me what I wish to know."
Michael made a dismissive gesture. "You have no power over me. But you do speak right that what we discuss is of great consequence. Therefore I tell you this. The Lord, our God, instructs me to say that his counsels are His own and his intents not subject to your query. You shall continue in your role and He in His until the fullness of days shall come to pass. Upon that day shall all be resolved between you, but that day is not now nor will it be until He shall deem it to be. Thus spake The Lord, our God."
"NOOO!!!", Lucifer screamed in abject disbelief, "This can NOT be! Almighty, my ass! He has abdicated his right to be called such. I refuse to believe that He cares so little about these his creations. It defies all logic. Did you say to Him all that I requested of you?? I can not see how you would gain by altering my words but alter them you MUST have!"
Michael raised his palms in a gesture of placation. "I spoke your words to him completely. As He sees and knows all, He did not need my intervention on your behalf. He knows what He does, brother."
"DOES He?!? If He does then He must know that He HAS to intervene. For ten millenia, I have abided by the terms of our compact. But enough! Every year millions, MILLIONS of souls are given over to my care. My burden grows larger and heavier than He can possibly understand. They come and come and come. I have no need to entice or trick or cajole! They freely give themselves over to the covert and overt commission of the most vile perversions of His laws. This can NOT be allowed to go on."
"Oh He knows, brother, He knows. The loss of each and every one of those souls pains him so very much more than words can express. He knows."
"Then, surely, He must commit. He must end his voyeurism and rise up to action. He must take them in hand. He must MAKE them obey Him. He must USE as much of his vaunted power as is needed to take back their destinies. To do any less is...unfitting...of a supposedly loving and benevolent father."
"This He will not do and you know it. Free will...choice...stands as one of the unshakeable cornerstones of His plans for Mankind. He can no more MAKE them bend the knee to Him than He could compel you to serve him in the capacity of that He intended for you to be. This he can not and WILL not EVER do. You must realize this."
"THIS is what I realize and THIS will you tell your Master", he spat the last word like unto an obscenity, "You must tell Him that, while He chooses to embrace apathy and inactivity, I will NOT. I choose to re-double my efforts. I will foment blood and fire...death and destruction. I will foster hatred and greed and intolerance and any other debilitating emotion these petty beings are capable of expressing. I will make of His world a charnel house. I will make the hideous reality of it far, FAR beyond the worst Chtonic horrors of those foolish Greek sodomites! I will lay to waste His temples, inspire His children to curse and revile Him in their misery. If it is free will He so treasures, I shall exercise MY free will to mock and profane His tenets to my final breath. I will make ALL that He has created putrid, vomitous offal and by my oath, I will MAKE Him act or I will laugh as He watches it all turned to ashes and dust by the strength of MY hand. If He truly WISHES me to be the 'Architect of Suffering', then such unimaginably EVIL blueprints will I craft. THIS you may tell that dodderer. Thus shall enmity ALWAYS exist between us and with my final breath, STILL shall I curse His name!!!"
With a tremendous gout of flame and a clap of thunder so monstrous that the very rocks broke asunder, Lucifer was gone. Michael remained where he had stood.
On the smooth features of Michael, Commander of the Armies of God, Arch-Angel and Prince of Angels, there appeared a single, glistening tear. He wept not for the fate of Man but for the his beloved brother, once the Lightbringer and Scion of the Lord, and for all that he had lost. For deep inside of Lucifer, Michael KNEW still beat the heart of an angel.