“There’s a strange man speaking nonsense,” was one of many reports that day. It took little time for the constable to come across him, then to bind his arms and cover him and finally drag him back. They held tight to his shoulders despite his lack of resistance. “In here,” the boss directed to the side door.
The room was equipped for making food, with a fireplace and cauldron, shelves and cabinets on the opposite wall, and a wide wooden table in the middle. “Get him on there,” another direction was spat.
He was forced against the edge as the top was cleared, then yanked up by the two men on either side of him until his feet no longer touched the ground. He attempted to raise his head, but the brutes held his shoulders down tight. “Your actions reek of blasphemy,” he muttered, barely able to lift his head off the rough surface.
“Blasphemy? Don’t try to scare us with made-up words,” the boss grunted to the sound of the two thugs snickering. “Tell us, what does blas-fe-my smell of? Is it of fowl? Because that’s the odor I smell upon you. Strip him down.”
The coarse-woven tunic was yanked up his back and stretched up around his neck, revealing the wings beneath, lined with pale white feathers in delicate shapes. The boss’ hands grabbed at their ends and contorted them until the captive man’s back arched up. “Strange. They’re attached. Pluck the man clean. I could use a new mattress.”
The tearing of his follicles made his body wrench back and forth as his hands found the edge of the table. The boss held him down by his neck as the job was undertaken, the plumes being plucked by handfuls and spread across the table and dirt ground.
The boss leaned down, grabbing up a fistful of golden hair and yanking the captive’s head up with it. “When I heard of a feathered man, I imagined one plastered with tar first. Someone who had already decided to make trouble elsewhere,” he smirked, revealing silver-capped teeth. He took a feather from the floor and twirled its end between his fingertips. “These are yours alone, though, it seems? Your bones aren’t hollow like a bird's, are they?”
The captive’s head slumped back down as the silver-toothed man dropped it to examine the bare appendages leftover, bloodied and left to twitch in the cold air. “Well, at least now we won’t have you flying away on us,” he said, running a rough finger on the fresh, raw skin.
No force held the man down beside the lingering pain and shock from the assault. The sensation was new to him. Cold, hunger, fatigue, those all he had gotten tastes of, but this was different.
“Get a move on,” one of the brutes huffed. The captive was just able to push himself up when the forceful grasp lifted him the rest of the way. The old torn clothes were shoved back at him.
The rear door opened up to the cold air, the warmth of the day already replaced by the settling clouds. The captive fell to his hands and knees, attempting to catch his breath. The thin grass and dirt were wet with dew. Turning back, he could see the silver-toothed man jutting his finger across the yard to someone else.
Another prisoner approached, glancing down, then at the boss. “Yes?”
“We need this place cleaned,” the boss growled.
“A chicken? Or did you happen upon something bigger?”
“None of your business. Get it done.”
The door was shut and latched behind them. The captive finally found his breath and was able to push himself up. The cold had already spread goosebumps across his skin. The day had been warm enough to go without a covering over his top and allow his wings freedom, but the cold against the raw bare skin was too much. He pulled the stretched-out garments over his head and down his back once more.
The orange glow of a fire licked the walls of a wooden building across the yard, a wide space keeping him in by the use of tall fences of pointed timbers and rope. A few tired eyes fell upon him as he reached the source of the warmth, faces stained with dirt and exhaustion and age, all of them smelling of some measure of blasphemy. “A new body,” one said, shaking his head.
“Huh?” The captive answered.
“Not from these parts?”
“You got a name?”
Some nodded their heads in acknowledgment, others stared into the fire, imagining things more pleasant.
“This is not my place,” Gadreel said, finding a shiver work up from his back.
“The constable thought otherwise,” Some of the other strangers shook their heads, rolled their eyes, or stood and turned to retreat into the shacks surrounding the fire pit. “What did they decide for you?”
“Decide?” Gadreel shook his head. “It was decided that I come here and speak the word of his holiness. I am an angel of God.”
“God? You must have come a long way. I’ve never heard of anyone with that name. If you’re tired, you might sleep now. They put us to work at the first light of every morning.”