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Avenger Assembled

Angelic Visitation (IC)

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Heyzel was nothing if not straightforward: the angelic ambassador was a man simply incapable of deception. Still, his knowledge of the modern world was still somewhat scanty. When he wanted to make an appointment with the curator of the Hunter Museum of Natural History, he simply flew there. Descending out of the sky on a glorious summer's day, the winged warrior of the skies landed neatly on the museum's front steps amid the shocked exclamation of visitors. His theologically-inspired appearance was unusual, even in Freedom City, and after all the museum attracted visitors from out of town who weren't used to men flying down from the skies. Much less angels.

He walked right through the glass doors, folding his wings behind him against the heavy crowd in the lobby, and headed straight for a security guard. "Hello. My name is Heyzel, the Freedom Angel. I wish to speak to the curator in charge of the Sword of Mercy."

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Edward was slightly annoyed that he'd been interrupted in the middle of his morning coffee break. Oh well, he thought, I'll just have to finish reading that article later. Putting down his copy of Anthropology Monthly, he headed down to the lobby to greet his strange visitor.

The guard's description had not prepared Edward for the truly unusual appearance of this guest, but he gathered his wits and strode forward as confidently as he could manage. "Hello, I'm, ah, Mr. Elphinstone, the curator of this musuem," he said, somewhat nervously. "I was told you, um, wanted to speak with me?"

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"Yes, hello," said the angel, glowing with a powerful, almost supernatural presence. In Romanesque armor with a spatha strapped to his back, he vaguely resembled certain late Western Imperial depictions of angels, though here and in living color. "My name is Heyzel. I'm told you are one of the most skilled antiquarians in the city. I need to see the Sword of Mercy." Though polite, it was a statement, not a question.

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Edward realized he needed to do something to keep this from becoming more of a scene than it already was. "That, ah, particular item is no longer on public display, I'm afraid," he said, truthfully. "Um, why don't you come up to my office, and we can talk about why you need to see it? If it's really that important, I'm sure we can arrange something." He took a step back and turned slightly, indicating that he would lead the way to his office.

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Those deep brown eyes regarded Elphinstone for a moment before nodding. "Yes, let us do so." He followed the other man discreetly, or as discreetly as a man with arching white wings and in ancient armor could be. "You have a lovely museum," Heyzel said with simple honesty. "I am impressed that mortal men and women could hold so many artifacts of power without danger from within...or without."

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"Why, thank you," Edward responded as he led them through an 'Employees Only' door and through the hallways to his office. "Of course there's danger, but that's why we've got security systems. And Daedalus helps out sometimes with researching or guarding the more dangerous items." His voice dropped into a quieter, almost conspiratorial tone, "To tell you the truth, a lot of the displays are actually faked. Most of the stuff with real power is kept down in the vault."

They arrived at his office, and he offered the angelic being a chair. "Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee, perhaps?"

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"Yes," said Freedom Angel calmly. "You've shown particular wisdom in avoiding any artifacts that are the product of the Adversary." Despite his bulky wings, he easily took a seat as he said, "The Sword of Mercy is a divine artifact, blessed by Heaven. One of my predecessors had a role in its creation. I need to make sure your museum is giving it the respect it deserves."

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"Fascinating!" Edward exclaimed, "are you saying you can confirm that its power is of divine origin? And did you know the one who imbued it?" He calmed down after a moment, though, and realized that there was a chance Heyzel might not approve of the way he'd been using the sword to fight crime.

Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him, Edward thought. "Anyway, it's, um, still down in, ah, the vault, as far as I know," Edward lied, nervously, "I, uh, haven't taken it out since I last cleaned it, er, a few months ago, I think. I could, um, send someone to check on it, if you like."

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The angel focused his eyes on the curator for a moment, steepling his long fingers before the bridge of his nose. "The Sword was blessed by the Angel of Mercy," he confirmed. "So that the one who wielded it could strike true, but strike with a clean heart. Violence is not a sin, Mr. Elphinstone, it's the correct use of violence that makes a sinner or a saint. And the correct use is, as with anything else...with mercy." He caught the lie in the man's words and looked disappointed. "Let's look together, shall we?" he asked gently. "I can think of no one better to do the job than you."

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"Alright," Edward sighed, recognizing that look that told him Hayzel wasn't convinced, "let's head down there, then."

He led his guest down several flights of stairs to the sub-basement level where the most dangerous items in the museum's collection were kept in a steel vault. "Normally, you wouldn't be allowed down here," he said as he worked the keypad and various other security mechanisms on the vault door, "but I feel like I can trust you."

Edward entered the vault and led the angel past rows of crates and display cases to a mannequin hidden behind several piles of boxes. The faceless plastic body was dressed in a business suit, with a domino mask on its head and winged sandals on its feet. Strapped to its left arm was a large Greek shield, and in its right hand was the Sword of Mercy, which seemed to almost glow in the dimly lit space.

"See? I told you it was still in the vault."

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Freedom Angel's own sword was in his hand in a moment, the blade glowing with the pure, white light of truth and justice. The Sword of Mercy glowed a little brighter in the mannequin's hand, bringing a smile to the angel's face as his blade faded away. "Yes. Yes, this is the real sword." He turned and looked at Elphinstone, his face serious. "The blade was empowered by the agents of the Creator, Mr. Elphinstone, in their efforts to build a better world in His image. The wielder of the blade must be a man of true heart and uncommon valor. Whatever the sinful temptations of the world, whatever wrongs his society might tell him are right, he must be willing to battle for truth, justice, and mercy."

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Moved by the angel's words, Edward didn't even think to try to maintain his fiction any longer.

"I am willing," he said softly, and a little hesitantly, "at least, I think I am." He paused to consider the implications of what he was saying, and then continued, almost as if talking to himself. "I mean, this all started as just a way for me to protect the museum, you know? Someone's got to keep these things out of the wrong hands, and it just made sense for me to be this guardian, this protector of my little domain. But there's more to it, isn't there? Something bigger..." He trailed off, lost in thought.

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"You take Heaven's burden upon your shoulders. It is not one to be taken lightly." He laid a hand on Elphinstone's shoulder, his grip sure and reassuring. "If you ever need a friend, curator, seek me out at St. Stephen's Church in Lantern Hill. Even in your darkest and most fearful hour, you are not alone in your struggle. All righteous men battle for justice in their own way. And in some places, particularly in this city, they battle exceedingly well."

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Edward somehow felt honored to have this strange being's approval. "Thank you, Heyzel. It's good to know I've got other heroes out there I can count on. And I'd be glad to assist you in anyway I can, especially if you come across anything else that ought to be protected here." He considered for a moment, and decided that the interruption to his coffee break had been worth it. "As long as you're here, would you care to see the rest of the museum? I'm sure this isn't the only artifact we have that you'd be interested in, and I wonder if you could tell me anything about a couple of other supposedly divine relics we've acquired."

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The angel of freedom walked with Elphinstone through all the museum, pronouncing a gentle judgement on artifacts divine and otherwise. He had far more than a layman's knowledge of history and theology, which is about what one would expect, really. Eventually they came to a Byzantine fresco that had survived the sacking of the city by the Turks in 1453. Heyzel nodded at the question posed to him, agreeing that it had been taken from the walls of the Hagia Sophia, preserved in a Turkish bath for centuries before Western archeologists had purchased it in the 19th century. "When the Turks took the city, they slew great legions of men, women, and children alike. It was all of a piece for warfare in those days." As he looked up at the saint's image on the wall, the angel's face grew shadowed. "They killed the men before this wall, and sold the women and children there into slavery. I've heard it said that such cataclysms were sent to test the faith of the righteous. There must have been better ways..."

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Edward nodded seriously, impressed by Heyzel's knowledge, but also picking up on his somber tone. "I must admit I know more about the facts of what happened than the reasons behind them," he said, "though I suppose it's comforting to think there was some meaning or purpose for such atrocities. It's hard sometimes for a man in my sort of profession to remember that these were real people, real deaths, and not just dates and records."

He paused to consider the artwork once more, before voicing a question that had been in the back of his mind since not long after meeting this angelic being. "If I may ask, that is, if it's not too rude... what is your purpose?"

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"I thought...I thought mankind deserved better than their allotment," said the angel, showing the first hesitation Elphinstone had seen from him. Not that he was trying to be deceptive, rather that it was simply hard for him to discuss. "The infinite justice of Heaven may provide justice in the world beyond this one, but for the span of mortal life in this one, the world can be cold and unfeeling. As ambassador, I hope to bring that justice to men."

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"A worthy cause, my friend," Edward said with feeling.

As they arrived back to the Museum's front entrance, Edward paused to shake the angel's hand. "It was good to meet you, Heyzel. I'll stop by that church some day, but remember, you're welcome here at my museum any time." As they parted, Edward stopped to think for a moment before heading back to his office. It's time I tried some heroics outside my museum, he decided, Thank you for opening my eyes to that.

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