The city lay in a hollow of a valley, so it had been easy to surround it completely.
In the centre of the city, the dome roof of the temple stood out clearly from the other buildings; it was the house of the Goddess as well as a temple for the Creator.
"The troops are in position, not even a mouse can leave the city without us knowing.", Commander Barateon said.
A guttural laugh came from Arantheal's throat. "Only you believe that, Commander. We are fighting against gods here, not against vagrants."
Arantheal anxiously looked to the sky.
"What do you see, Arantheal?", Barateon asked, a little frightened.
"I saw him long ago, he has been following us the whole time..."
"Who followed us? Shouldn't we quickly storm the city then?"
"No. Wait here, I will go alone..."
Horrfied, Commander Barateon opened his eyes wide. "You want to conquer a city all by yourself?"
Arantheal grinned, quite maliciously. "Leave it to me, Commander. I do not doubt I could conquer a city by myself, but I just had another idea..."
At that, he grabbed the reigns of his monstrous warhorse and spurred him.
"Wait for my signal.. there is no victory over Tel Imaltath."
Narathzul Arantheal cried and dashed up to the city.
Beating its wings gently, the raven landed on the grass in front of the city. He had been watching Arantheal the whole time, now was his chance for revenge. With what seemed like a gesture, the raven turned back into its original shape. Arkt grasped the hilt of his sword and stepped through the open gates of Xarmonar into the open streets. The streets were as if swept empty, just like the gates. Nobody seemed to be here. Although night had fallen, lights were burning in the houses. Arkt knew that Arantheal had ridden into the city alone, he had seen him. There was no better chance for revenge. Revenge on Arantheal for executing his beloved Zelara. He had to pay for his crimes against her and against humanity.
The Arch-Seraphim looked around. Nothing. No one to be seen. There were also no dead people or anything that would indicate a battle.
Cursing quietly, Arkt continued on.
Without knowing where to go, he found his way to the centre of the city; the great plaza with the massive temple of the Creator was as empty as the city itself. Or was it? At that moment, the doors of the temple burst open, people stormed towards him, it was the citizens. Their faces were serious, and frightened...
They began to form a circle around Arkt, in panic the Arch-Seraphim turned around and watched what was happening.
What was going on here?
One of the figures, whose face was hidden by a hood, pushed his way through the crowds and stopped just a few feet in front of Arkt.
Then he pulled his hood down.
Arkt looked into the icy cold face of Narathzul Arantheal, standing before him in a monk's robe.
"I've been expecting you, Arch-Seraphim", Arantheal whispered so quietly that no one but Arkt could hear him - "now I will test how loyal you are to your Gods... how much you are led by your feelings, how far you would go for them.. and if you master the art of forgiveness."
"I am an Arch-Seraphim, nothing you lead into the field can cut me down!", Arkt shouted so loudly that everyone could hear him.
"Is that so, oh great Arch-Seraphim? Citizens of Xarmonar, as I have told you, we have here the leader of the army that has surrounded your city!", Arantheal's voice thundered throughout the plaza. "Only the Gods know why he has dared come here alone, but we will use this traitor as a warning!"
The crowds booed.
Arkt's hairs stood up on the back of his neck, he clutched the hilt of his sword tightly.
"What are you playing at, Arantheal?"
"As I have told you, citizens of Xarmonar, he will lie and deny the fact he wanted to level your city! But we will not fall for these lies, kill him, this traitor!"
"Arantheal, what have you implanted into the minds of these people!?" Arkt's voice had become an angry hiss.
"Go on, Arch-Seraphim, now show us how loyal you are to your master!" A bitter grin appeared on Arantheal's lips. "Go on, show this traitor what it means to tangle with Goddess Irlanda's people!"
Arantheal pushed his way through the crowds again and disappeared out of Arkt's sight.
The citizens took up clubs and pitchforks and stood around the surrounded Arch-Seraphim.
In despair, Arkt looked around; mere slickers like these people were no threat to him, but then again, they were innocent.They were innocent souls, Arantheal had told them a lie and made them believe he was behind the armies that had surrounded the city.
They were innocent..
Children, women, elders!
Killing innocents was against every oath, every law he had sworn to abide by.
He was the Guardian of the world, no executioner.. what would the Gods say to that? But he could stop Arantheal, here and now, thus avoiding further bloodshed and revenging Zelara. So, Arkt had no choice.
Incertitude led to destruction.
Uncertainty to death.
He could afford neither of them.
He knew what was to be done.
At any price.
In anger, he grasped the ironclad handle of his two-handed sword tighter.
As hundreds of citizens around him came rushing towards him, Arkt murmured quietly to himself. "May the Gods forgive me for this bloody deed, may my soul be shown mercy for the injustice I will bring upon these people. May the Creator have mercy on their souls, for they must be sacrificed for the freedom of the world."
Pattering rain started to fall as Arkt, tears in his eyes, plowed his way through the screaming crowd of people, ending life after life.
A fast, painless death...
Blood covered the plaza, mixing with the rain and the bitter tears of the Arch-Seraphim.
After a few minutes, all was calm; with a quiet sigh, Arkt sank to his knees in exhaustion and leaned on his sword. He was covered in drops of blood.
A terrible feeling overcame him. This deed.. this slaughter was burnt into his headt, his flesh, his soul forever.
A tormented cry of pain echoed through the temple of Xarmonar.
The light of the flickering candles threw a faint light upon Arkt's skin.
The seraphim knelt down on the stony floor and clasped his hands to his chest in prayer.
"Two hundred innocent souls." He whispered.
Silently, Arkt opened his eyes and strengthened his grasp on the handle of the knife he was holding in his hand.
Slowly and gently he began cutting his arms and legs until his whole body was covered in little cuts.
He thought this was the least he could do for penance...
Without faltering he began to pray, prayed to the Gods for forgiveness for his deeds. This deed.. he had acted in revenge. Sacrificed a whole city to bring Arantheal to the gallows. Behaviour the Gods would never approve of.
Peals of laughter rang out from behind him.
"Impressive. Very impressive.", Arantheal's voice was to be heard.
How dare he!
"You will pay for this!"
The Arch-Seraphim's voice was dripping with anger as he raised his hand to Arantheal.
Arantheal was lifted up a few metres by Arkt's magic, the magical threads around him held him in iron cuffs.
He wanted to capture Arantheal by himself and bring him to Inodan to put him on trial there. He would have risen an honourable hero who had overthrown the Tel Imaltath. Now he had to return as a bloodthirsty avenger of Irlanda's people. He would be banished as Arch-Seraphim, he was sure.. that meant that honour had no meaning any more. Arantheal had to die. Not in Inodan. Here and now!
He deserved nothing but an agonizing death for what he had done.
"Then do what you came for, Arkt.. bow to your anger, let revenge take over!"
In haste, Arkt grabbed his two-handed sword and shouting, rushed towards Arantheal, but just in that moment Arantheal cast a counterspell.
Arkt's blade fell to the ground with a clang, he lost his footing and was thrown backwards where his body crashed through the wall of the temple with brutal force and landed on the pile of corpses in front of the temple.
Deftly, Arantheal climbed through the hole that Arkt had made in the wall and stopped in front of the seraphim lying on the ground.
It was raining harder, now thundering streaks of lightning were striking around them, engulfing the scenario in an uncanny atmosphere.
The water had diluted the blood of the dead and now the entire plaza was stained red.
The corners of Arantheal's mouth were twitching in amusement.
"So predictable. I knew you would come into the city. Look at yourself, Arkt. Now you are wading in the blood of those you had wanted to save... I told you I would test you to see how far you would go. And that was your test. What did I say? I will test how loyal you are to your Gods. Had you shown loyalty, you must not have killed these people."
Arantheal crept around the corpses on the ground like a beast of prey. Arkt no longer had the strength to get up, his thoughts were as if paralysed...
"And now look what you have done, Arkt. You are a murderer. I despise murderers. If anyone lost a life by my hand, it was always with reason. They were victims ofa battle for freedom. For their freedom. They died for something meaningful, for something great. For the whole issue. These people died for no reason!", Arantheal said, nearly laughing. "Yes, your motive was revenge. The people here are only victims of your thirst for revenge, you sent them to their graves because of your revenge! It is your fault! Tyr will never tolerate that."
Arkt heard a whimper, as terrible as it sounded, he was right... would Tyr ever forgive him?
"Haven't you realised it yet? Thirst for revenge only increases your own suffering. That was your test. And you have failed. Now you must pay the price. The price for having lived for nothing but your revenge. Your Gods will not give you salvation or forgiveness, and your Creator won't either. You thought you could save the world... and you didn't know what a hate was lurking within you. You see, even if you deny it, deep down inside we are the same. WE ARE THE SAME!", Arantheal screamed at the seraphim lying on the ground.
"If that is so...", Arkt whispered, "I will destroy Tyr, and you too! No one can stop me, Arantheal. What you can do, I can do too. If Tyr casts me out, if you become Tel Imaltath, I will become something better..." Arkt summoned his remaining strength, changed into the shape of a raven, suddenly he felt new power, powerful beating wings took him away from this bloody battlefield, against the stormy winds, and only the rumbling of the thunderstorm drowned out Arantheal's laughter far below.