The dirt road is full of the ants of human society. They jitter about in random direction; eagerness tingles in their toes. I do not know why I’ve come. The invitation crumbles in my palm. To ignore his request would be too rude even for I. And despite my solitary bout through the spiritless plains of African forests, I could use his company. No one else’s would do.
Angels arrive at my feet, dropping to their knees in the mud, pledging their featly, pleased to see me healthy. I’ve been absent from the world for a dozen years. I hadn’t intended to show my face again after relinquishing my clan, but if nothing else, I could say goodbye.
I wear garb over my tresses, hiding what I can. A necklace drapes down between my breasts. My outfit consists of the fashion from this 14th-century English society, fitting in as I must. A heavily laced dress, thick and expensive material, if only to keep up with my superficial rank.
In the forest, amongst the trees and nature, I have no status. I have no care. It is I and it is freedom. There is no ruckus to annoy the gentle current of trees, no human voices to destroy the sweet music of animals. Within them alone, I am only a Soul they love, and we are of equal components. They do not bow, and they do not feed me praise. We are equal, as Father intended us to be.
Here, I am trapped and caged, thrust into a culture that tells me I am better. Stamped with a title I do not want and forced into a role I no longer care for, I act the way they expect, if only to keep composure.
Taking a deep breath, I follow the steel-covered soldiers as they lead me to a wooden building, tall and leaking of human Souls.
The establishment is surprisingly breathtaking. The stage is vast and empty, ready for its players. Hundreds stand in the forefront, chattering away in bubbly giddiness while the higher end of society sits up in the bleachers further back. I climb the multiple steps until I sit on a sturdy dais aside the mighty and reposed Dane Monte.
Heedless to the action flittering on about him, he reads steadily with a book propped up on his knee, said leg thrown over the arm of his chair, an undignified position to a man of his station. He pays little attention to my arrival, and I pay even less than he. We haven’t seen each other in two thousand years, but what is such time between us? It is no more than a week, a little less than a month. We have stunted emotion left, and it is quite impossible to conjure enough of it to have a simple conversation, let alone pretend or act falsely.
I untie my cloak, and a servant takes it away. Our position is hidden well. Sheets keep us guarded from any straying eyes. I feel over forty Angels within our range. Three runes wrap our location. There is a chance we might get away with seeing the entire production without a scheming undead attempting to steal our Souls.
Despite our power, bravery or stupidity provokes enemies. One Erelim alone is a ninety-six percent chance of failure and death if it is a well-thought-out strike with enough powerful foes to destroy the entire fleet that surrounds us. There is still no chance of success, but it will not be seen as a complete waste of time considering how much one will be honored for getting so far.
Two Erelim, though a tasty treat to be sure for any wicked Soul, would be an ultimate catastrophe.
“What nonsense is this?” I fold my fingers in my lap, staring at the structure of the stage.
“Welcome to the Globe and the King’s Men.” Dane waves a boorish hand before flipping a page in his book. “Where have you been?”
I rest my head back against the panel of my chair, “When did you reach Earth? I should have felt you arrive. If I thought you would come, I would have given you the Range. I hear rumor Isis’ only destroys it with her incompetence.”
He hesitates, deciding whether to respond or to continue reading. After a moment, he reluctantly closes his book and places it snug against his hip. His eyes move out toward the crowd. The players come out onto the stage ready to begin their show.
“Isis will do fine. She learns. If you are interested, why don’t you return?”
“No. Never.” I murmur, listening to their loud booming voices, struggling to ignore Dane’s look of interest. He desires to understand my reasoning for abandoning the clan. Could I admit that the responsibility became too heavy? I doubt my voice could sound past the thick wall of my pride.
“Met worries.” He slowly begins.
I instantly regret coming. “He always does.”
“When you didn’t show for Charu’s service, there was talk.”
“There is always talk. You aren’t one much for talking, are you, husband?” I use the term harshly to hurt him as he has done me by bringing up Charu’s death. I did not want to think of it. I had been there when the Fallen Elder ripped her apart. She had sacrificed herself so that I could flee. It was selfish of me. I couldn’t use my Light. Mother Nature would find us and being so defenseless, it would be only a matter of time before she discovered me, alone. I could only run. I was a coward. Dane inflicts pain upon me for what reason?
He blinks. “You are changed. Transcending does not suit you.”
I fasten upon him. “And what would you know of it?”
“I can see it well, darling. For I am as you are.” I narrow my eyes, unwilling to look deeper at his Soul to see if he speaks true. He does not lie, I know that much. “We bore the same life, my sweet wife. It only fits that we reach the same pinnacle at the same moment. I imagine Tymician is no different.” He smiles, reaching a bold, thick finger and touching my cheek, at which I swiftly pull away, “Do not peer so foul. It has been too long for any odium to loiter between us. We are God’s Three Lambs. We should all excel together, it would please Father.”
I find myself unable to keep the frown upon my lips. Dane is rarely cheerful. He does not speak often, and when he does, it is words of the negative counter. If it is not that, he simply gives a rendition of no helpful refute at all. Perhaps he is in a good mood.
So long ago, Dane and I married under the pretense of love. He had been a hopeful, happy man then. He was full of optimism and confidence. Even when humans chose to murder us.
There is nothing resembling physically of that man here, the Soul is still the same. I loved his Soul more than I loved my own.
If I never had a Soul Mate, I could have loved Dane forever.
“You are the one that is different, my lord.” I murmur with a smile stretching on my lips. “Is there a reason to this change?”
Dane shakes his head, digging his book from his lap to resume his reading, “No cause.”
A servant rustles up the steps and lowers to their knee, “Pardon the interruption, your graces. But there is a Newborn Angel who desperately wishes for your audience. She will not heed our warnings.”
I glance to Dane, who is careless about the problem, leaving it to me. I wave a hand, allowing them to bring her. I haven’t seen one ounce of this production. Perhaps I will purchase the script. If Dane is interested in it enough to search me out in the wilderness and invite me to see it, he must enjoy it. Despite our apathy toward one another, I do care much for him. I will force my interest into his delights.
“Get your detestable hands off me.” I hear the unmistakably Italian course through multiple voices of English. A woman, cursing and battling the soldiers that guard her as they shuffle her up the steps. She jerks her arms out of their fingers every other step, flailing about as if they are maliciously harming her. Her brown eyes glare darkly, daring anyone to say a simple word so she may spew foreign words back in their face. She would be beautiful with her soft brown skin shining if she didn’t approach as a demon ready to eat my Soul.
I cover my lips, attempting to hide a smile. She is only six hundred years old and dares to have such a vigorous bite. I do not doubt she will become something grand if anyone is brave enough to become her patron.
She stands before me and I watch as she only increases the rise of her chin. My brows upswings. The act of defiance is astounding. She refuses to bow. This honor, to stand before two Erelim lords will never come again, and I have graciously bestowed her welcome, and she denies me reverence? If I were still within my clan, I would have her whipped or sent to the Ruling for judgment. I fasten on Dane, hoping he will do something about her disobedience, only to find him hiding his laughter behind a heavy hand. Her brashness tickles him. I have never seen him so amused.
“Do you know this woman?”
He shakes his head, flicking his hand away, peering at his book as if it contains all of his curiosity.
The female interrupts, a slight I can barely handle. “My name is Anna Martholow. I didn’t want to miss my chance to tell you. I’m going to be the greatest Angel this world has ever seen. They will erase your name, forget it ever was, and replace it with my own. So enjoy this while it lasts.”
Speechless, I can only look to Dane. He’s covered his eyes with his vast hand and shakes his head, a silent chuckle upsetting his chest.
There is something he doesn’t tell me. I look back to the brash woman, but she is already gone from my sight, happily pounding down the stairs and away from the building before I can respond, “Who the hell was that?”
Ariel, please help her.
My brows knit. A voice so close to my ear it burdens me. It differs from the one buzzing in my dream. I groan, shoving aside the drowsiness and forcing my lids to part. My mouth is dry and full of cotton. It is a side effect of the drug they force upon me. I swallow harshly. It burns.
Another dream. A memory sparking more memories. I am gaining back every moment I’ve lost. The anesthetic they continuously douse in my blood is supposed to keep my mind from unlocking the doors I’ve placed in the portion of my brain, but I’m adapting to their medicine. My cells are learning to manipulate and weaken its potency allowing me to relive my life gently.
I’ve thought of everything while I was in my catatonic phase. A little while more and I will learn the reason I’m here.
“You’ve returned.” I sit up, groggy and unsure. They’ve restored my preferred guardian, Mark. After revealing their intention to keep me here while the world suffers above, they fear my response. Mark is the only one I will not attack. Regrettably, he has become a trusted friend. “Did they hurt you?” I shift my leg aside and gesture for him to sit beside me.
His brows knit, surprised by my sudden change in demeanor, but he keeps a warm smile, taking a seat. “Hurt me, your grace? No, of course not. They were upset and reassigned me. I shouldn’t have revealed what I did.”
Mark lies to me. His Soul disturbs. It shakes and shudders. They were torturing him. There is nothing on the outside that tells me different. There are no wounds, no marks. He is Fallen. He heals instantly. He has no blood.
But I am a healer and know the signs of truth.
I stare at him, a smile soft upon my lips. “You have an Angel mentality. How long have you been Fallen?”
He makes an odd face, thinking. “About a thousand years.” My eyes widen. “I know, I’m a rare breed. Become an Angel, you usually Fall right away but I loved Heaven. I loved God.”
“What made you change?”
“A lot of things. It wasn’t just one simple thing. Humans, Nature, Fallen, but mostly Angels themselves. I was tired of their bullshit.” He widens his gaze, looking at me, “Forgive me, your grace.” I grin, giggling. He’s relieved at my response. “I wanted to help, and I couldn’t because of my status. It was looked down upon. So I Fell. Hell isn’t so terrible. Lucius doesn’t bother me. I can do whatever I want, and so I chose to do this.”
I fold my hands over my lap, “You’re a brave man. Not many could leave after so many years.”
“It was difficult. I had many friends. I gave up Elder status and all the privileges that come with it. Now I’m your servant. I think I got promoted somehow.” He smirks, making me chuckle.
Our humor dies away, and he continues to stare. He is a sweet man, and though yearning for the touch of another, I pray he does not do what his eyes desire. It will ruin what I like about our friendship. He is safe. I cannot feel threatened right now or I will have no friend in this entombed casing.
He swallows, “Another movie?” His eyes drop, thankfully abandoning any potential ideals he had floating in his mind.
“No.” I shift and grasp his hand. So suddenly, his attention is wide and terribly fearful. “You are going to get me out of here,” I whisper on soft lips.
His eyes flip back and forth on my face, “How?”
“There is a tunnel. Twelve hundred feet to the left of here.”
“There’s an elevator. They’ll shut it down. There are Shrouds everywhere. You can’t use your power.”
“Destroy the Shrouds. By this technology, you’ve taught me. Electricity.” I murmur.
The door opens to my prison, and David stands at its entrance, perhaps unwilling to come closer. His hands clasp behind his back as he stares, impassive. “Whispers are a sign of scheming. Is there anything you would like to share with us?”
I rest back against the wall. “I was simply asking of Lucius’ threat to Earth. Mark remained silent to my upset. You train your dogs well. Would you like to answer my inquiry? Or do you plan to retreat as a meacock of a man?”
David bows his head, a form of surrender. He flicks his hand, “Mark will you prepare Erelim Elder Ariel’s lunch for her please?” Mark’s hazel gaze flicks back to mine before he does as he’s bid, hurrying out of the room. David saunters in, odd enough, and I wonder what it is he wants. “You have watched many movies, your grace—detailed accounts on the human revolution. I am afraid, however, we missed an entire generation of people. It is impossible to show you everything. This is the world we are speaking of, and you have had only four days to view it.” My brows knit in trepidation. There is a reason for his words. I only have to figure it out. “These dreams you have been having. Would you care to inform us what they are about?”
It wouldn’t do me well to lie. He is searching for a falsehood. I must stall while Mark does as I have bid. I need their attention completely on me. “There is a man.” He appears interested. “He calls for me. He asks me to save her.”
“Who is this man and who is the woman?”
“I know not the woman. But the man is one of my clan members. He was my protégé. Alexander. A child once, but he should be a thousand years by now. He needs my help. He would never pray. His pride would not let him. He is in danger and pleads for me.”
He digresses nothing. David has learned that my perception is far better than most. He hides himself well in his shell. “Anything else?”
The answer I gave is not what he was looking for. Something I have said sparked his interest. “It would help both of us if you simply told me what you would like me to say, sir.”
He straightens his back and looks to the far wall beside me. An abnormal posture to be sure. “‘How tame, when men and women are alone, a meacock wretch can make the curstest shrew’” He looks at me before continuing, “’Give me thy hand, Kate. I will unto Venice to buy apparel ‘gainst the wedding day.’”
My eyes drop to my clasped hands in my lap. My blond hair lays as dead weight against my chest, straight and flat. He speaks of Shakespeare; the very play Dane subjected me to in my memory, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. I used a word I should not know. He caught me on such a base level.
He smiles, pleased with himself. “We knew you went to that play with Dane Monte in 1592. That was the last time anyone saw you for another three hundred years but first, you bought every Shakespearean novel that existed at the time before you disappeared. We conveniently left out any information on the Elizabethan age. Your memories are returning, aren’t they, your grace?”
“Vaguely,” I admit. I’ve been caught, and I do not like it.
“Caused by the Messiah.”
“Very true. It was a sad day in Heaven. Sadder still as his majesty Metatron wondered about your presence.” He approaches the bedside, no longer so fearful of me. I’m a withered beast in his eyes. He has proven his weight in gold and I’m no more frightful to him than a Newborn babe. How powerful he must feel. “My lady Ariel, we mean only to help you. Lying to us will get you nowhere. We want your memories to return. It can help us.”
The lights begin to flicker. The machine beside me is constantly watching my heart’s beating, and my brain waves fluctuate as powerful electric currents cascade through the internal drives and overload.
I flip my eyes and watch the bewilderment arrive on David’s face. “Help you? Why would I help you, sir, when I mean to destroy you?”