The Girl with Enormous Wings
Cariel ran down the hall of the dark castle, desperate for escape, and as soon as she made it to the door, she took flight.
Cariel was a winged one, a child of the gods, a magical being. Her kind had many names—angel, sirin, valkai—though they were called Seraphs in this world. Not many of them were left, having passed into myth and rumor more than anything else. The rest had been captured, enslaved, and hunted to near extinction.
Because of this, Cariel had to keep her wings hidden, folded on her back, tucked under a cloak, and she rarely was free to fly. Her weak wings now ached as she tried to propel herself through the air. But that pain was nothing like the pain she felt in her heart.
Tears burned in Cariel’s eyes as she crashed through leaves and branches, the image of her mentor’s death still fresh in her eyes.
The old magician was more than her teacher – he’d been like her father, her friend. And now he was dead, his blood soaking into the ground a few hundred feet below her.
“Gambol, my old friend,” their host had said when they entered the castle only minutes before.
“Pirias,” her teacher said. Cariel remembered how quickly her teacher’s arms flew open to greet the man, so friendly, so trusting.
She’d noticed how quickly their host’s eyes had darted to her, never leaving. But she didn’t make anything of it at the time. She was a girl with enormous wings—she certainly wasn’t something people saw every day.
“It’s been too long, old friend,” Gambol said. “I was so happy when I got your request to meet.”
“Ahh,” Pirias said, “I know. But I’m so glad you were able to make it. You and your servant.” The old man’s eyes were still on Cariel.
“She’s not my servant!” Gambol said, not anger, but intensity taking his voice. A smile rose to Cariel’s lips. Though she and her kind were powerful, they’d long been treated like pets, like slaves. But Gambol had never treated her that way, and she appreciated it.
“I meant no offense,” Pirias said, “I have a winged companion too.”
Cariel got the distinct impression that this man had never used the word companion before to refer to the creature that stepped out of the shadows.
It’d been years since Cariel’d seen another of her kind – and the other seraph she’d seen had been old and encaged. The creature before her was incredible. He stood at least a head taller than the average man. He was blond, very muscular, handsome, though he had a severe look about him. Cariel couldn’t imagine him smiling. She was more impressed with his wings than his looks anyhow. They were full and feathered, silver-blue, the color clean metal, and they looked twice as strong as hers, which were dusty black like her hair. She imagined how strong his wings must be, trying to guess at his wingspan and imagine how far and fast he could fly.
She often had to keep her own wings strapped to her back, hidden under a cloak so no one would know what she was. But when she and Gambol were alone and in his rectory, she was able to fly about freely, though never far as she was indoors. She always did love working with him in the library, one of the tallest rooms in his house, stretching at least three stories high. How she and he delighted when she was able to swoop up and snatch a book he needed from the top shelf, both smiling and laughing as she brought it down.
Her wings were nothing compared to his, and she felt self-conscious in the room with him.
Now, above the forest, she was already struggling and she’d only been flying a few minutes.
A vicious, monstrous snarl roared past her, her fear more than anything propelling her forward as silver-wing Seraph pursued her.
“A serapheen,” Pirias said, using the old world for female seraphs and practically drooling. “I haven’t seen a female one in ages…” he said, stroking his chin.
It was at this moment, Gambol began to get uncomfortable, realizing his old friend was more interested in Cariel than reconnecting. He knew how rare Seraphs were; it was part of the reason he protected Cariel. Gambol had found her in a dark market, chained, caged, crying. She looked no older than six, but Gambol knew that Seraphs aged about half as slowly as humans. The merchant said she was almost twenty and ready to mate, but Gambol knew should couldn't be more than ten or twelve. He traded everything he had to purchase her and had protected her ever since.
Cariel cursed herself for not having paid more attention. If she had, she might have noticed the attack, might have been able to save…
But she was too distracted with sight of the male Seraph before her, whose eyes were also intently focused on her.
She didn’t catch exactly what happened, but she suddenly heard Gambol scream:
“Are you crazy!?! They’re not animals! You can’t buy, sell, or breed them!”
By the time Cariel looked to her mentor, Pirias was on top of him.
“Go! Cariel, you must get out of here!”
She, of course, had no plan of leaving her mentor. But Pirias struck him dead before she could even move.
“Lorathan, don’t let her escape!” Pirias ordered the male Seraph, who quickly jumped after her.
Cariel was barely able to get away from him, fleeing down the hall.
She lowered herself, skirting the tree tops and not seeing Lorathan behind her, she looked for a place to rest and process what had just happened to her when Lorathan burst up through the forest canopy.
Cariel screamed. She turned away. Her wings struggled to gain speed and height, but the Seraph was too fast. Lorathan grabbed her legs and pulled her into the forest.
“Where do you think you’re going? My master and I have plans for you.”
Cariel ignored his words and the pain that was searing her body as she hit the trees and fought to get away. She was able to kick him off, adrenaline on her side more than skill, and began to fly away again.
But Lorathan was better at flying than she was, and he was stronger. He deftly maneuvered around the trees while she scraped and scratched against them. Soon, she was in his clutches again. He grabbed her heel and swung her into a tree. It knocked the breath out of her and deeply bruised one of her wings. She wasn’t sure if she’d be able to fly until fear and panic made her.
“Why are you making this so difficult?” Lorathan called after her. And again, he quickly grabbed her.
Cariel crashed into a tree again. The two tussled like hawks fighting in the sky. Cariel was able to scrape and get a few good kicks in against Lorathan, but in the end, it was of no use.
Lorathan grabbed her with his strong arms, dragged her through the tree tops, branches slicing her soft skin, and pulled her into the open air. He dragged her a few hundred feet high, and Cariel felt panicked as she looked around. She’d never been this high before.
Then, Lorathan dropped her.
She screamed and stretched out her wings, trying to catch herself—but she was too hurt. She couldn’t catch the air. And she fell.
Lorathan watched her tumble for a few seconds, and when he was convinced she wouldn’t be able to escape him, he swooped down and grabbed her. He snatched her hand and carried her to a mountain ledge where he dropped her harshly to the ground.
Her knees ripped open on the hard rocks, and tears filled Cariel’s eyes as her body was again flooded with pain. She folded her injured wings behind her and moved as far from the ledge as she could.
Lorathan landed softly on his feet beside her.
“Why are you doing this?” she sobbed.
But he just smiled, grabbed her by the neck and forced her to her feet.
“You shouldn’t have run. Are you ready to cooperate now?”
A strangled sob escaped her throat as fire filled her eyes. She wasn’t going to do anything for this man, not after he’d killed her mentor.
“Never!” she spat in his face.
Lorathan chuckled and spun her around.
Before she had time to think about what he was doing, he grabbed one of her wings and snapped it.
Cariel let out a tremendous sob and fell to her knees. It was the worst pain she’d felt in her life.
“Cooperate or not, you're not going anywhere now.”
Her wing fell limp behind her, and tried to reach around and feel it, assess the damage. Even the slightest touch from her fingers caused excruciating pain. She wondered if she’d ever be able to fly again.
“Ours is a noble and powerful race,” he told her as he pulled leaves and dirt from his clothing, hair, and feathers.
She looked at him with wide eyes, not understanding his point, not caring.
“But we’ve been hunted almost to extinction.”
“I know,” she said bitterly, a mad bark of a laugh escaping her. “but if you care about our race, maybe you should keep trying to kill me!”
Lorathan read her confusion and smiled. He stretched out his massive wings and ruffled, resettling his feathers.
“Oh, Serapheen, I’m not going to kill you.”
It was only then that Cariel realized that in addition to pulling the leaves and twigs from his hair, he was also pulling off all his clothes.