The angels in question aren't angels in the "pretty people with wings" sense, they're more of horrific flying abominations that share the gilded and glowing aspects with the angels most would think of. There's varying forms, but the kind I'm working with here are the only ones with recognizably humanoid features, specifically the upper torso, arms, and head. Their limbs are distended and awkwardly long, but their wings are the largest part of their body, of which they have 4. They are also absolutely titanic in size, their horizontal wingspan being around 20 meters on average.

Culturally, the angels are fairly incomprehensible as their language is spoken through blowing air through the holes covering their featureless faces, sort of like a church organ, so they can't communicate with any other species. They are also (seemingly) malevolent, and are obsessed with causing pain to other species. Most angels do so by using magic that creates scorching golden flames that cause indescribable agony in any who touch it, but the numerous lesser forms carry weapons instead.

To elaborate on the limitations of what they can carry, they generally do not wear clothes but some wear jewelry or accessories, but none are seen having tools or bags with them. What they wield is limited to what they can fit in their hands.

I can't think of what would be a functional weapon for a legless, flying creature with extremely long arms. Swords wouldn't make sense, as those are intended for fighting while spending extended periods of time close to the target. I also want to incorporate their cultural aspect of causing extreme pain, but I'm not sure how. Ranged weapons would be fine but because of their anatomy and lack of ability to wear things, carrying ammunition like arrows would probably be implausible. What kind of melee weapon would make sense for their anatomy?

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    $\begingroup$ The question is unclear: does it have to be a physical weapon that is hand / limb carried? Does it have to be a melee weapon or can it be hurled or a projectile firing weapon? Are energy-like / magic-like weapons permitted? $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2021 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ You own the world, do whatever modifications you need to make the story work. There is absolutely no reason at all to lock yourself down on one particular design if that prevents you from telling the story you want. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ Preferably a physical weapon as the smaller angels have limited magical abilities compared to the more powerful ones, so them having a melee weapon to fall back on would make sense. $\endgroup$
    – Apotheosis
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ "they're more of horrific flying abominations" - oh, so they're like the original idea of angels in a biblical sense. Just don't give them melee weapons. If they're interdimensional energy beings just give them the ability to manipulate the fabric of reality and disintegrate enemies on contact. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ I hereby recommend "Strangled by Haloes" as the answer to your question, the name of the first book in your series, and, twenty years later, the heavy-metal band inspired by your book series. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 17:28

13 Answers 13


Some things that come to mind:

  • They use sonic attacks, since they have an interesting vocal setup. This could stun groups of creatures with pain and work well as a defensive measure.
  • An atlatl / spear thrower would take advantage of their already long arms to get some freaky fast spears. Malevolent creatures could barb their spears and coat them in some kind of pain-inducing poison.
  • A bow would let them attack from a distance. I can imagine that their strong chest and back muscles would let them handle higher draw weights than a person might, at the cost of only being able to do so while gliding or soaring.
  • They carry caltrops, which they litter near ambush sites to prevent their prey from escaping to cover. It won't take too many to really mess with people.
  • Bags of large darts that they'll drop en masse on targets. Depending on lift capacity for the angels, this could be more or less effective. They could also train other flying creatures as basically beasts of burden that would carry more of these for them.
  • If you want them closing to melee range for some reason, a pike (or other weirdly long spear) would work well, and their long arms would let them get that much extra reach when stabbing.

A society of such creatures would probably have people who specialize in each weapon and use the others less.

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    $\begingroup$ I realize this was written before edits, but it seems odd the OP wanted a melee weapon and no bags; and here all but the last are non-melee weapons using bags. The last is simply "use a long spear". Seems odd the OP would check this -- you don't have to pick the one with the most votes. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ OP didn't specifically say "no ranged weapons" just that it may be implausible. Maybe they liked the sonic attacks suggestion? $\endgroup$
    – William
    Sep 11, 2021 at 15:46

Breakaway barbed whips

You could tie these to wings. They would need a lot of skill to use, but you could fly down to enemies, wrap the whips around enemy body parts, and fly away. The barbed whips would stick in their body parts, disrupt equipment, and cause agonizing pain.

Poisoned darts

They could hold a number in their many mouthes, and release these at enemies. The agonizing poison would rip people apart.


Carrying around a pump filled with oil is pretty easy. An angel can swoop down and ignite the oil with magic, burning lots of mortals at the same time.

Glass, rocks, and sharp things.

It's easy enough to just fly up high and drop stuff on the enemy. Cut their feet, slice them apart, all while out of bowshot range. Let them die from a thousand cuts.

You can dip each shard of glass or rock in diseased flesh or poison for added fun.

Long spears

Flying creatures are very vulnerable to having their wings ripped apart. If you want to fight close, why not use a lance? You can charge enemies, piercing and penetrating them, or you can stab them from afar.

You can also include spears with tips that break off, leaving a painful reminder of your presence.

  • $\begingroup$ Rather than depend on the short range of flamethrowers. I'd probably go with the Greek fire-filled pot. Can be dropped from greater distance, splatters cloying flaming goo. Combined with a screeching terror noise, and you have a living Stuka dive bomber. Napalm death, anyone? Totally doable with medieval tech. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 10, 2021 at 0:40

Spears and longswords.

You said it yourself:

What kind of melee weapon

So unfortunately this:

Swords wouldn't make sense, as those are intended for fighting while spending extended periods of time close to the target.

Almost becomes a moot point.

Anyway, spears and very long swords should give them an advantage in that they could pierce or slash enemies from a safe(r) distance as they fly over their target.

Spears have been used in the past for tactical reasons wherever having more range than your opponent was a boon. There is an old samurai saying that in open battle, the right time to draw the sword is "when you run out of arrows and your spear is broken". According to Myamoto Musashi, spears are weapons for the open field. Still according to him, in closed spaces, a long sword would be preferable.


Have you ever had one of those days? A day where it doesn't matter how many times you look at the word "delicious" you just keep spelling it "deilcious?" Yeah... My answer is based on the idea that these beasties are 20m tall. But in reality they only have a wingspan of 20m (thanks for pointing that out, @mwarren). That means they weigh about 87 lbs (analysis based on the Wandering Albatross) and are the size of slender pre-teen children. Not a lot of threat here. The result is that most of my answer, which was already a 2nd attempt for misreading the Q the first time, is pretty much fun... but meaningless. Except for the section that starts, Important:. That section applies regardless the size of the creatures.

OK, Let's try this again

My last answer, which I deleted, completely reversed the question. Sorry about that.

What kind of weapon would the angels use, given that they're not prone to wearing clothes or carrying tools?

  • Trees — and this shouldn't be underestimated, at 66-feet (20 meters) tall, they could uproot and effectively swing absolutely massive trees.
  • Boulders, a handful of rocks, heck... a handful of dirt would be formidable coming from a creature this size.
  • They could just step on people, the tallest known dinosaur is the Sauroposeidon, giving you a reference point for the size. The average human would only stand as tall as the angel's ankles. Heck, they could fall to their knees and start slapping the ground with their hands like humans would a big old spider (yeah, yeah, yeah, a spider standing as tall as our ankles... you'd do it if you weren't scared of spiders, though, wouldn't you?).
  • Spittle — Stop laughing! This would be a terrifying weapon! How would you react to being hit with, what, 10-20 gallons of water starting with pressured force and falling at 32 feet/s2? In a similar vein, if combat is near a river or lake, they could simply scoop or slap the water with their hands to create equally terrifying waves of water. And I'm not going to but mention urine.

IMPORTANT: You did NOT specify the defenders. Different weapons would be used for different defenders. I've given you a list that assumes these creatures are fighting human-sized combatants. If you're asking what one angel would use to fight another angel... given the conditions you've specified, they'd simply use their fists and ignore the marquis of queensbury's rules.

Keep in mind that weapons (if you're inclined to use a weapon) are a function of the defender as much as the attacker. What do angels eat? How would they kill and prepare that meal? It would suggest basic knives (HUGE by human standards), but even a fork or spoon would be a frightening weapon in the angel's hands. If they're vegetarian, then they may not have any tools at all. Remember they'd be eating plants, probably the limbs and leaves of trees. Unless you design them otherwise, they'd have trouble even seeing the seeds to plant them (unlikely to have agriculture). The size of these creatures provides some uber-cool limitations that would impact what they'd likely consider to be a weapon.

Think through how the angels live their lives, because most weapons started with simple kitchen and farming implements.

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    $\begingroup$ I think 20m is the wingspan, not height. $\endgroup$
    – mwarren
    Sep 9, 2021 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Apparently no legs, so the "stepping on" might be more of a body-slam. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2021 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @mwarren You're right. I read the question twice and missed that both times. But if the Wandering Albatross, the terrestrial bird with the widest wingspan, has a span of 3.7m for a bird that weighs 7.26 kg, then 20m would make the Angels about 39.24 kg or a scant 87 pounds. Huh, that means these aren't large creatures, they're the size of pre-teen children with wings. Oh, that takes the fun out of it (although my "Important" section still applies). $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2021 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact do note that you shouldn't assume everything scales linearly... supposedly lift scales with surface area = the square of the wingspan, so you'd be looking at around 212lb of lift, so still roughly human sized. do also note that given the wingspan is 20m, at 39kg they'd basically be just a pair of wings $\endgroup$
    – somebody
    Sep 12, 2021 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @somebody You're probably correct, but let's examine it. The largest wingspan known is probably the Quetzalcoatlus clocking in at 15.9m, mass 227 kg and length 10.4 m. The mass would support your argument... until you look at that length and proposed wing-surface-area diagrams. I made the assumption that the Angels were basically birds - and within that limit (feathers) mass scales linearly. It's because the longer a feather is, the less lift it can provide vs. the mass (*continued*) $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2021 at 22:14

I think you can rule out any weapons that are designed to be swung (either side to side or overhead) repeatedly, as without being braced against the ground (or a rider in a saddle of a larger creature) it would be difficult to control their own bodies using such weapons (consider the effects of throwing even a light ball quickly while playing water polo, then adapt to trying to maintain position in mid air using wings at the same time as offsetting the swings of your weapon). Besides going into melee while still trying to fly just above the ground near your opponent would seem to give up any advantage flying gave them anyway.

That leaves two options I can think of, with missiles fired at range being the first - and direct fire missiles of any sort also seem like a bad idea as well (whether bows or firearms of some sort) - trying to fly in one spot while aiming at a remote target and keep your attitude is going to make for very low accuracy (which only works if there is going to be a lot of them to fire at once). I guess dropping something (maybe explosive or burning) would work though, although the mass and amount of times they can attack would then be limited by how much ammunition they could reasonably carry, which presumably would be quite low - think of the trouble larger birds have getting off the ground, so adding lots more mass is going to be hard to justify.

The other possibility is to parallel medieval knights or cavalry and use the mobility and speed of their flying to impale their enemies with something like a lance or spear as they "charge", or maybe something like a sabre used to cut down on enemies heads and necks as they fly past - this has the advantage (for your requirement) that it is mostly a cutting weapon because you don't want your weapon to get stuck in an enemy as you charge past, although they usually also have a sharp point for if you get bogged down and want to do damage as far as you and your weapon can reach, which may not be as much of an issue for these Angels with their even greater range of mobility.

So I could see either Angels with a lance charging at a something like a phalanx (or something along similar lines with shields and spears) - they can't attack too vertically or the Angel will crash into the ground as they follow through from the attack, but they would be able to change the direction of attack fairly easily, although still needing enough space/time after turning to get back up to speed to make the most of it. Of course solid hits are mostly going to be fatal, except limbs which would be more disabling but hard to do deliberately/repeatedly.

Alternatively with a sabre or similar weapon I could see them flying past repeatedly slashing and cutting each time, and as they are likely to stay around head height (or maybe slightly higher) and strike down on their opponent as they pass, most hits would be to the face, arms and neck.

Combating this would probably be spears again (at least for any melee fighters, maybe protecting archers to shoot at them in the air or as they approach) - you certainly want some range on your weapon to reach the opponent as they fly past, the shorter the weapon you wield, the smaller the window of opportunity to strike at them. Bladed polearms are unlikely to be useful as they are difficult to swing from side to side (while maintaining balance) - usually you are chopping downwards on the enemy (axe like), or using it to keep them at range while using either a pointed end to do the damage, or something like a hook to drag them down and remove the enemies mobility.

Defenders with swords would at least be able to protect themselves reasonably well, but counterattacking would be difficult as the Angel would likely be past them by the time they can strike, although maybe they could damage the wings as they go past, especially if they can parry the sabre in a way that allows them to immediately carry on into an attack as part of the same movement.

Overall I would try to analogize the Angels to mounted soldiers - weapons to take advantage of their mobility relative to their opponents, and tactics to avoid losing or wasting this advantage are going to make the most sense.

  • $\begingroup$ This seems to meander at the start. You start by saying no swinging weapons, but then say sabres later on (which are swung). Then you rule out thrown weapons -- but there's no need to say what won't work, just say what works. But the sabre idea seems good. A cavalry sabre makes ghastly, bloody (one of the OP's requests) slashing wounds on a ride-by. Lances seem less good: they break, and are trickier when someone throws themselves flat. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I ruled out melee weapons that could be swung repeatedly - a sword used in melee requires continual balance adjustments that I think a 20m winged creature in the air would have difficultly doing (and would tend to telegraph its intended moves), swinging once while riding/flying past just requires practising a single move (and the position of the body afterwards doesn't matter so much as you are riding/flying past the target so have time to readjust). $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 8:24

I think the lesser angels would be chasing the curtails of the greater angels. I feel like it would make sense for them to scurry after the greater angels and collect any feathers that the greater angels drop.

I'm assuming that with 4, 20 meter long wings, that the feathers would all be larger and thicker. They would make good weapons themselves. The lesser angels could sharpen the quills of the feathers and fashion some sort of weapon from it. Perhaps make darts as you mentioned, or make arrows out of them.

They could collect the feathers and wear a ring of them around their waist or neck. The higher number of feathers a lesser angel collects -- the higher up in the pecking order they are because that means they follow the greater angels more closely, they're more devout. They are also stronger because they have more weapons/artillery at their disposal.

It also goes both ways, the more followers a greater angel has, the stronger the angel essentially is. Because the lesser angels would gravitate to whomever had the largest/strongest feathers.

It would be a fun concept.


What is your technology level? And what is the number of angels you are dealing with? What is their physical resistance? Gatling gun (19th century) seems rather efficient. Moving upwards with technology, microwaving (late 20th century) them would work even better. Moving downwards, Zhūgě crossbow (early first millennium) could work as well. Greek fire (1st millennium) could work, too.

If you are desperate and your technology level is really low, you might want to capture such an angel (using e.g. nets made of bronze chains, or just sturdy wet animal hide) no matter what your casualties, and given they "do so by using magic that creates scorching golden flames that cause indescribable agony in any who touch it", force him to create the flame and direct it towards other angels by whatever means you are able to persuade him.

  • $\begingroup$ Technology level among most species is comparable to pre-firearm medieval times, still using things like swords, polearms and bows. The angels can somewhat subvert this with magic, as magic is generally hard to come by but easily utilized by the angels in particular. $\endgroup$
    – Apotheosis
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ I think you have the question backwards: I think they're asking what these creatures would carry, not how to defeat them. $\endgroup$
    – William
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:53

These creatures are massive and airborne, so a little bit of leverage and reach is all they need. shears

Pointy ones for the well armored, or for skewering and tossing at others. For the second, well, humans have already optimized how to deal with moderately fast small objects. Scale this up and toss in some finger-width barbed wire to up the sadism factor and we're good to go.


My first answer would be a bow and arrow or weighted darts but you said melee.

They have range and height advantages so it would be detrimental to give those up and get close when they don't have to. However, lets look at melee weapons:

It all depends on how strong they are and how strong their flying ability is.

If they match their target or their flight strength cannot lift their target, you want a serrated slashing weapon; something that won't get stuck in the target which would either cause them to lose the weapon or would ground them with the target (losing their flight advantage). The tactic would be to fly by (preferably overhead) and make slashing attacks as they pass. Note that the serrations don't do much for combat effectiveness but you said that they were sadistic and having to make more passes to create more ripping wounds sounds about their speed.

If they are strong compared to their targets then some kind of barbed spear or hook would work to scoop the target up. then they can let the target dangle from the weapon impaling them as they fly off. If the target is a bit feisty, drop them a time or three from a non fatal height and re-grab them.


Rocks, trees any thing that can be dropped. Let gravity do the work for them. If they must have a more traditional wepon perhaps a club for smashing large monuments.


If they are much bigger than their victims and can easily lift them into air a speargun would do.

Otherwise you can remove the hook from the spear and keep the line to recover the spear.


The fantasy weapon YouTube channel Shadiversity did an entire piece on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX02-O2dB9Q

His conclusions were either:

  1. Flechettes (weighted spikes) dropped from above
  2. Bladed shoes to be used as part of a swoop attack (the idea being something that could do solid damage on a slash but not get stuck in people, so that the creature could regain altitude immediately with its weapon)
  • $\begingroup$ I thought of this too upon seeing the title, but Shad's video focused on the traditional winged-humanoid version, which the question specifically says is not what we're looking for here. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2021 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler Shad was looking mostly at the mechanics and leverage of using weapons while a winged creature, so there's still plenty to learn. The big question is whether or not these creatures have legs. $\endgroup$
    – Zags
    Sep 10, 2021 at 20:23

My first thought is:

Dimensional bending

These are Cthulhu tier horrors. Possibly multi-dimensional. What you are seeing may only be the maddened form your brain can manage to give what is actually a single extension of a higher dimensional horror. It's possible that every creature is actually a "finger", if you will, of a single creature from a higher dimension, reaching in to our space to fiddle around. It doesn't need a weapon. It doesn't really even understand the concept or likely think of its actions as specifically hostile in that it doesn't recognize other creatures as even being sentient.

It's more like, "Oh, what's this? It's neat the way this bit seems to be filtering this fluid. Let me examine that." (Story: "The creature leaned forward, stretching its arm towards Sam, who was too horrified to move. Without so much as a tear or a ripple it simply reached into Sam, and when it pulled its hand away, it was holding a kidney.")

Or "What is this pesky fly trying to do? Excuse me. I am trying to study this machine", thinks the creature, as it casually swats Sam. Being that it is actually a multi-dimensional monstrosity whose total mass is far more than can be seen, when it casually swats Sam away, not really intending specific harm per se, it basically hits him with the force of a wrecking ball. Sam's mashed up corpse is found half a mile away, in a tree.

If anything, the problem would be developing a way for anything to fight it. Some sort of disruption effect that only impacts the way higher dimensions connect, perhaps... Sufficiently powerful and directed, it can make a creature simply vanish, as the controlling entity gets a sensation somewhat like touching a hot stove and pulls its "finger" away...


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