The High Heavens

Physical Structure

The High Heavens is a large, hollow sphere, like a miniature Dyson sphere just under 4400 kilometers in diameter. At first I thought nothing of this, but the more I saw of the Heavens the more this apparently random number bothered me. I sent a program on a data dive on the anchor world, and it came up with a possible answer. Apparently the local humans had an ancient measurement unit called a "cubit," and the interior of the sphere is exactly 7,777,777 cubits from one side to the other. Seven sevens, you'll notice. The angels (the race of the High Heavens) have a thing for numbers.

In the exact middle of the sphere rests the "Firestar," a ball of unstable space-time twelve kilometers in diameter that acts as a sort of sun for the plane. Usually you would expect something like this to destabilize and tear itself apart in a matter of days or hours, but this particular one is locked in some sort of dynamic equilibrium. Brilliant white prominences arc off of it at seemingly irregular intervals, but when I crunched my records the computer said that it was actually a highly advanced pattern based on the Fibonnaci sequence. The "lawful" part of this sub-plane's alignment started becoming clear immediately. I tried to get more information on the Firestar, but when I set my sensor for deep scan, it just shorted out.

The interior of the globe has a surface area of just over 60 million square kilometers. About half of it is covered by architecture, the other half by forests and gardens. The cities are made of almost entirely of marble and crystal, and have streets laid out in perfectly straight lines that criss-cross the entire interior surface (since all the angels can fly, they don't seem to serve a real purpose, but far be it from me to question subplanar denizens on their building styles).

The parks are filled with plant life, some of it apparently from the anchor world but most indigenous. All leaves are all a very pale green, almost white, while stems and woody parts are completely white. Stems and leaves branch off from the main parts of the plants in disturbingly regular patterns, usually in multiples of three or seven (but never six). They usually form patterns that resemble a menorah. Snow can often be found on the plants, ground, and buildings (but never roads), despite the fact that there are no clouds whatsoever and the ambient temperature is 23 degrees Celsius.

The focal point, and what could be considered a pole of the sphere, is the Grand Council Chamber, a megalithic coliseum that can be seen from any point in the Heavens. It is where the angels and archangels meet for Grand Council sessions to determine policy. All decisions are unanimous, at least by the time the session is over.

All of the above is inside the sphere. There is no outside. The bedrock-like substance below the cities and plants extends for 65.8 meters (777 cubits), and then it warps back on itself. If you were to dig a hole straight down, you would reach a point that far down where gravity suddenly ceased, and moving the slightest bit beyond would have you digging up, until you came out exactly opposite your starting point.

By the way, I don't recommend trying it. The angels tend to dislike people disrupting their order, or really any outsiders at all. You'll always get a warning the first time around, but the second time they have no inhibitions about inflicting punishment. I took a few plant samples, and a cherub showed up with a look that could freeze steel and a warning that I was not to disrupt the gardens again, or I would suffer the consequences. I did not want to find out what the consequences were, since the angels are an "eye for an eye, tentacle for a tentacle" kind of people.

Which brings us to our next point, the locals.

Denizens of the High Heavens

There are five types of native beings in the High Heavens. No more, no less, and don't you dare try to disrupt them. The lines between each are as tight as crystal and twice as sharp, which makes it very easy on me. Much easier than the Burning Hells, which is a taxonomist's nightmare given form.

The total population of the High Heavens is roughly 70 million angels. A little low for a sub-plane, especially when compared to the numbers in the Burning Hells, but they take the "quality over quantity" approach. Your average cherub is easily a match for half a dozen imps of the same grade, and the Burning Hells seems to compensate for this by sending lots and lots of imps or other fiends, despite the fact that they always lose (at least when attacking the High Heavens directly).

Unlike several other subplanar races, the angels are not, in fact, reincarnated souls of the locals with matching worldviews. They appear to have a more-or-less constant population, though I suspect it wavers depending on worldwide cultural beliefs and attitudes. Whenever an angel dies, its soul-analogue remains in a kind of limbo for a time (the duration based on how advanced in rank the angel was before its death. A day for a cherub and up to a week for an archangel. A son of the morning would probably take months). Once the limbo has elapsed, it is reborn as a cherub, appearing in a flash of light with its wings curled around it in a sort of cocoon. Armor and sword come with it, and I suspect that these are actually nonliving extensions of the angels themselves, quite possibly self-repairing.

The next few paragraphs detail several generalizations about the angels. Bear in mind that most of them do not apply to the sons of the morning, who are the great exceptions in the High Heavens. Now, for the generalities:

All angels have the ability to fly, provided by the glowing white, tendril-like wings sprouting from their backs. The wings are not flapped in flight, but use a type of magic to keep them aloft. They also double as extra appendages, often being used to wrap around fiends and fling them away.

All angels also have an innate magical resistance, which rises to total immunity in the higher ranks. This probably stems from the widespread disbelief in magic on the anchor world, or at least in the belief that reason and science are superior. Note that this does not prevent the angels from using magic, thus exhibiting human doublethink at its finest.

Angelic armor is gold and silver in appearance, though it is far stronger than either of these metals. The durability of the armor can sometimes exceed that of ferro-composites, even though it is completely nonmagical in nature. For example, an archangel's one-centimeter breastplate can deflect a one-centimeter sphere of depleted uranium traveling at 400 meters per second (the momentum absorbed might cause a bit of damage, but there is no penetration).

For weapons, the angels prefer their swords, which dance with colored flames (the color depending on the rank), and magic for those ranks which use it. If need be, however, they will use other weapons. The less precise and controllable the weapon is, though, the more loathe they are to use it. Crossbows and projectile weapons would be used with a twinge of distaste, though they would probably take well to sniper rifles. Catapults, ballistas, and nonguided missles would be a last resort, and no weapons of mass destruction would be used at all. An angel would sooner take on the entire Burning Hells him/her/itself than use a single antimatter bomb.

With that in mind, time for the specifics on each of the ranks:

Cherubim

Cherubim (singular, "cherub") are the footsoldiers of the High Heavens. I sent a dataprobe to do some research on the local beliefs. Apparently the prevailing image of a cherub, perpetuated by a bunch of painters, is a slightly pudgy child with small dovelike wings and nary a scrap of clothing on them. Those painters have obviously never met one. Cherubim stand 1.65 meters tall and have the physiology and musculature of a very strong human male. When fully extended, their wings stretch just under two meters from tip to tip, and can be used either as extra appendages or whips, depending.

Cherubim primarily use their swords and wings in battle. When drawn, the swords dance with ruby-red flames. It is slightly more powerful than a normal steel sword, and like all of the angels' swords, it never grows dull (though it can be broken if sufficient force is applied). A cherub's wings can be used as extra arms, and the touch of them to a fiend harms the fiend. For the most part, the cherub (and higher ranks of angels) feel no pain from this, until they get to the very high levels of the Burning Hells.

Cherubim have no magical abilities outside their flight and magical resistance, which I measured to be 50% (ie: damaging spells only do half what they would otherwise). Quite high for a being as low on the ranks as a cherub, but since the Burning Hells mostly fight with tooth and claw, it gets little use.

Cherub armor is full-body armor, from the helmet to the feet. They have no facial protection, thus leaving it as their most vulnerable location. All cherubim have striking emerald-green eyes set in smooth, chiseled faces resembling a twenty-something year old human male.

56% of the population of the High Heavens consists of cherubim.

Seraphim

If and when a cherub reaches a critical embodiment of being Lawful and Good, he withdraws into seclusion and wraps his wings tightly around him, forming a type of cocoon. After seven days like this, the wings unfold and a seraph (plural: "seraphim") emerges. The majority of cherubim never undergo this transformation, their physical embodiment not being sufficiently strong to bring them to the point of morphogenesis.

Seraphim are the High Heavens' dedicated spellcasters. Though they still carry a sword (with orange flames) and will use it if necessary, for the most part they stick to their spells. Their 75% magical resistance helps them stay alive whenever they get in battles with the Burning Hells' spellcasters. This is relatively rare because seraphim tend to stay near the middle or rear of the angelic hosts, so as to better concentrate on their casting. The relative scarcity of offensive spellcasters for the Hells also helps.

Most of their spells deal with impinging order on the universe, or at least a small part of it. Because of the local plane's rules, energy and matter must be conserved (though there are ways of getting around this). The angels have progressed to a point (or perhaps always been there) where their spells are perfectly calibrated to do a change with no net change in entropy for the system. Spells of cold and ice are particularly common, though a much wider range exists for them. With the cold spells, a corresponding increase in heat energy occurs elsewhere, though usually over such a large area as to be unnoticeable. Angelic magic usually appears bluish or white when cast.

Physically, all seraphim are female. There are no sexual liaisons between seraphim and cherubim, as there is no need or will (and probably no means) for reproduction. I really do not know why they have the two sexes, but I suspect it has to do with the anchor world also having two. They stand 1.75 meters tall, with wingspans of 4 meters. All seraphim have ice-blue eyes.

Seraph armor is basically cherub armor only stronger, with a few distinctions. First, there is a visor that covers the top half of the face, leaving only the eyes visible. Second, the visor and the armor covering the legs from mid-calf down are shaped into the image of golden birds' wings. And, obviously, the armor is shaped differently to accommodate their different physiology.

Incidentally, to any of you hormonally-drenched graduate students out there, I would not recommend trying to hit up a seraph for a date. She will say no. If you ask again, she will consider you fairly warned and take whatever action she thinks is justified by your behavior. Walking away, glaring at you, or stabbing you through the heart are all possible, depending on your approach and how much leer you put into your smile.

Seraphim constitute 32% of the High Heavens populace.

True Angels

The transformation from seraph to true angel is identical to that of cherub to seraph, except in this case it take seven weeks for the metamorphosis to run its course.

A true angel is basically a combination of a seraph and a cherub, only more powerful. They are equally adept at combat and spellcasting, and can switch from one to the other without even a pause. A single true angel is a very dangerous foe in a battle, and I recommend you do nothing to upset one. Ending up with a sword through your chest (abdomen, thorax, aortal segment, etc) is a bad way to go, through at least you'd get to see the emerald-green flames searing into your flesh.

True angels are asexual, neither male nor female. Their physiology tends toward the male side, however, probably due to it being better suited for combat. They stand 1.85 meters tall, and their wings extend 5.5 meters from tip to tip. Their armor is several times stronger than that of a seraph, and molded into shapes that look more grown than forged (considering I never saw one forge in the entire High Heavens, that's not too bad of a bet). It fits together almost fluidly, and does not impede the angel's movements in the least degree. Their visor completely covers their face, and though there are eyeholes I could not see anything behind them.

True angels have complete magical immunity, which extends in a field outward from their body for approximately one centimeter. This field does not include the wings, which are almost nothing but magic (I suspect that they may act as a sort of magical antenna, but I was unable to confirm this). The field does not prevent them from casting magic, but any magical attack or effect that comes in contact with it fizzles to nothing. If it in an area effect, it fizzles only in the immediate area of the field, and depending on the spell might even come back after the angel has passed by.

True angels make up 11% of the High Heavens' population.

Archangels

If and when a true angel becomes sufficiently powerful, it again withdraws into a wing cocoon, this time for the space of seven months. When the time has elapsed, an archangel emerges, ready to fight for Law and Good against the Burning Hells as the most formidable foe the Hells ever face on a regular basis.

Archangels are one-being armies. If you were to take a true angel's combat and magical abilities and cube them, that's basically what an archangel is. Few things below a Prime Evil can fight one of them and survive. In a fight against an Evil, the archangel is most likely going to die, though it is possible for it to escape alive (note: "escape," not "win," and it would almost certainly not be unscathed). If the archangel manages to goad the Evil, however, its chances of success increase remarkably.

Like true angels, archangels are asexual. They stand 1.95 meters tall, with a wingspan of 6.8 meters. Their musculature is definitely masculine, though they are far, far stronger than a human of comparable build. Every archangel looks exactly like every other archangel, as if they were stamped from a mold. The lower ranks of angels have a small degree of variance, which is completely eliminated by this time. How they tell each other apart is beyond me, though they seem to do it well enough.

Their armor is incredibly strong for something as thin as it is, and though it is not magical (they have the same magic-negation field as true angels) it can take incredibly brutal punishment. Archangels have no visor on their helmets, but their faces (if they have them) are hidden in blackness. They carry swords, which have cyan flames. An archangel's sword is all but indestructible, and could probably survive being in the heart of a star for several hours. Also, the sword can cut through steel as if it were warm butter (the trend from a cherub's sword to that of an archangel is a sort of continuous spectrum between the ranks, which I did not want to spend time repeating for each of them.)

The touch of an archangel's wing-tendril to a fiend can be deadly, as it basically slices right through hellspawn flesh and armor as if it were not even there (and usually makes that just the case, leaving nice tendril-shaped gashes across the fiend's body). For the most part the archangel feels no pain from this, but in the high-up levels of the Hells it can become damaging to them. Contact with a Prime or Lesser Evil would be agony for both parties.

Archangels are the leaders of the High Heavens, and they are the ones that preside over the sphere and all its activities.

Archangels constitute 1% of the High Heavens populace.

Sons of the Morning

It doesn't take a genius to see a basic series of progression through the ranks of angels. Bigger size, bigger wings, less visible face, etc. So when I ran across a being that looked like an elderly human only with glowing white eyes, I thought maybe it was a prophet or someone from the anchor world they had taken in. Thus I was caught completely unprepared when my backup sensor took one look at it and promptly exploded (I have the burns and cuts to prove it).

Sons of the morning are, basically, avatars of Law and Good. Think of them as the plane given physical form. They are incredibly powerful, moreso than any other single being in either the High Heavens or the Burning Hells. Using my ultra-shielded backup-backup sensor (be prepared, I say. That's also why I carry four different types of personal weapons), I was able to pull some readings on one.

A son of the morning has a mind like a quantum hypercomputer. They do not know the future, but they have the ability to take what they know now and extrapolate and guess, and a son of the morning's guess is an atom's breadth from certainty. This basically means that the only way to kill one is to take it totally and completely by surprise, which can hardly be done by anything less than a total avatar of chaos. The reason they are so hard to kill is because, if they decide to kill you first, you have roughly eight milliseconds to live. A son of the morning can use its mind to grok* a chunk of matter or space-time, then grok an alternate version, and with a thought change the first into the second. (*A word of Heinlein sub-Essef origin, meaning to comprehend something in its entirety. The full phrase is to "grok in fullness," which means to understand everything about an object.)

For example, while I was gathering data I was fortunate enough to witness a foray by the Burning Hells into the High Heavens. A portal opened, and scores of fiends of all shapes and sizes poured out. Cherubim and seraphim took care of most of them, but one that looked like a cross between a tiger and a triceratops spotted the son of the morning I was near. It took a running leap towards the son's back, then collapsed into a large pile of dust. Later review of my records revealed that it had frozen in the air for a fraction of a second, and then the atoms of its body lost all molecular cohesion and just fell apart. For a given area of space-time, a son could also do such things as change the value of the speed of light or plank's constant, create areas of intraplanar connectivity (wormholes and portals), or make it so that magic simply does not exist (this is different from the angel/archangel magic negation, which is itself a form of magic). The size of space-time thus changed is largely dependent on the magnitude and nature of the change (a small or unimportant change would be easier and could be done on a larger area than a large or fundamental change).

A son of the morning can change almost anything. There is a barrier of sorts past which they can't effect a change, simply because the changed state is different enough in either magnitude or nature that grokking the new version would destroy their mind. Whether it is physically impossible for a son to attempt this, or whether they simply know exactly how far they can go before crossing the line, is anyone's guess.

A son of the morning stands 1.6 meters tall, though it would probably be taller if not for a slight stoop in its back. The arms and hands are gnarled, like a human in advanced age. The face is completely unlined and their hair is purest white. A son's eyes are two glowing orbs of white light, the only outward sign of their power. They also have no wings.

Sons of the morning wear no armor or weapons, their only clothing being a simple white robe and sandals. I'm not quite sure whether or not they have magical immunity. Frankly, they don't need it, and I just wanted to get out of here with one of my sensors still in one piece.

Very, very few archangels ever reach the point at which they make the transition to son of the morning. Of those that do, only one out of ten survive, the rest being reborn as cherubim (due to their high rank before their deaths, they often spend as little as a few days as each of the lower ranks before progressing to the next transition, though their length of time as an archangel can still be quite long). It takes seven years for an archangel to morph into a son of the morning, and they spend the cocoon time ordering their thoughts in intense self-contemplation.

Sons of the morning rarely get involved in the Sin War, preferring to meditate and order their thoughts in harmony with the universe (or the universe in harmony with their thoughts, as the case may be). This is probably the only thing that has kept the Burning Hells intact, as not even a Prime Evil can stand against one and expect to come out of it in one piece (or at all). They are also fatalists of a sort, in that they know exactly how much they can do. If it is not enough to get the result they want, they do nothing, preferring to let things come as they may rather than fight the inevitable.

Due to their nature as planar avatars, sons of the morning are plane-bound, meaning that they cannot travel outside of any plane not directly anchored to their anchor world. Lesser angels can, but a similar, minor effect of this is that not a single entity in the High Heavens can form a portal to a location outside their own subplanar cluster.

In all the High Heavens, there are less than 500 sons of the morning.

Relations to the Anchor World

The High Heavens seem to have a tolerable relationship with their anchor world. They mostly stay in the background, tweaking things here and there in order to move humanity in accordance to their ideas.

One interesting note is that, while most of the anchor world's inhabitants believe in a god or gods, the angels do not. They see themselves as the be-all end-all of Good, and simply allow the humans to remain in their delusions so long as they serve the Heavens' purposes. They also barely pay attention to the other subplanes, seeing themselves and the Hells as the only important ones. One of these days that's going to get them in trouble, especially if they tick off one of the aforementioned gods (or, if a few of the sects are right, God, which could be very bad for them indeed).

The other subplanes don't seem to mind too much. For the most part they see the Heavens as a bunch of militant stuck-ups with a superiority complex. If you still want to vacation anywhere, I would suggest the other subplanes. The Chaotic Good one, which the natives call "Woodstock," is very interesting, for example. But that's for another report.



Introduction Burning Hells Conclusion