A Dance for the Fallen

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Betrayal

Instruct the Sons of Light to keep away from the Sons of Wickedness until the completion of the appointed time for the visitation of (the spirit of injustice) ... God will destroy all her deeds, bringing destruction on the removers of boundaries and He will inflict destruction on the assembly of wickedness.

--Dead Sea Scrolls, fragment from the Damascus Document


Ajeshah

I was in agony. Each step towards Tal’s healing tents shot pain up my limbs, even the bones that still held together threatening to succumb to fractures and strain. Mankind had done its worst; part of me was impressed. Even the monster built to overwhelm them could be toppled with a big enough rock. I would have killed them, all of them, the next time I was given the chance. Were it not for her.

The healing tent I was brought to had woven fibers dyed a pleasing brown, the ceiling arched up high so that no patient felt trapped. Tal had one of his human assistants lay me on a rug, before he dismissed him with quiet thanks. We were alone in that large, empty space.

“I wondered what he had planned after you took his eye,” Tal said, wringing out a cloth over a basin of hot water. “I was not expecting him to do this.”

I snarled as he cleaned a gash on my side, more when he plucked a large splinter from the wound. Still, I was grateful, even if I couldn’t show it.

“He explained to me why he bound you to his word. While I do not fully agree, I understand his fear. You were born too close to the chaos, and thus, you have affinity for it. That is dangerous for us all.”

I did not understand. It was strange enough that he spoke to me like an equal, but he spoke in a way that made me think he was revealing my lord-master’s secrets, which was all the more uncomfortable

He was quiet as he cleaned the rest of the gashes, and still while he set the bone. It was only when he began to wrap my wounds that he began to speak again.

“There are other creatures of consciousness, older than angels. Our Father’s enemy, beings born from the darkness at the edge of the universe. An accidental byproduct of the first act of creation, they feed on entropy. Father seeks order in his works--these things seek chaos, a breakdown of order, to fuel their existence. That is their sole purpose. We are six hundred in number; they are countless. In Heaven, where the rules are unchanging, we are protected from their touch. However, all change begets entropy, and Earth’s very nature is that of change. These Agents of Chaos are drawn to this place like a moth to the flame, and if they are allowed to take hold here, they will consume this planet and all Father’s creations.

“Michael and I are the only ones who know of them. Gabriel was the only one he allowed to touch creation itself, but Michael was the first Father brought to the edge of the universe to stare into the chaos. He wanted Michael to see them, to know what was at stake in the development of man. He had to know why they needed order. As for why this was kept from Gabriel, I assume it is because fear would have limited her ambitions for mankind, and Father wanted to know the true potential of what he had made. It was inevitable that the two of them would come to blows, though I doubt He expected you would be the cause.

“I was the second he brought to that far shore. Before Gabriel gave me flesh, I stood at the precipice of chaos with Father, so that I could study the forces of entropy to balance my knowledge of order. He told me that on Earth, healing would require both, as bodies here breathe in order and expel entropy at all times, and cannot be healed without maintaining that balance. I watched them, the countless Agents of Chaos consuming one another over, and over, shapeless yet brutal, everything collapsed in on itself, consuming itself over and over. It haunts me even now, the void they created, where all measures of time and worth vanish into dust. The silence there, so complete it swallows worlds.

“That is the fear that drives Michael, Saraquel. The more this world is ordered, the more entropy is reduced, the less it baits the hunger of the Chaos. The more this world defies structure, the more entropy it creates--the more the Chaos feeds. If the Chaos feeds long enough, eventually, it will all be consumed. And there will be nothing left but the void, swallowing even the memory of all that was.”

He gave pause, almost tired.

“I tell you this because you cannot speak, and because you more than anyone must understand. You must understand because you were made to fight the void, and your resistance to your purpose puts us in jeopardy. The fact that you cannot speak allows me to tell you, because speaking of the Chaos invites it closer. That is why only Michael and I know. It is why we do not speak of it to our fellow angels. Only Remiel may be similarly aware, though only from a distance, because Father did not want to risk losing more of us to the void than He had to.

“Seeing the Chaos made me quiet. Seeing it made Michael cruel. Be grateful that that sight will never be asked of you.”

Finished with his work, he helped me roll onto my stomach; he must have known it would be easier for me to sleep, that way. Tired, aching, and overwhelmed by all he had said, I was all the more grateful to have a night away from the tower.

“You still have hours of moonlight left,” Tal said, standing. “Rest, Saraquel. No doubt your wounds will heal before dawn. I will wake you then to return to Michael.”

I closed my eyes, desperate for sleep. I could still feel everything that had happened that day, each strike against my body repeated in phantom sensation as my mind began to drift. I still couldn’t forgive Mesh for what he had done, nor could I imagine Enme as an enemy. His talk of Chaos and order disturbed me only until my thoughts found their way back to her. That memory of being held there, her breast against my cheek once more, her arms holding my broken body--protecting me.

How was it she had come to be my protector, and I reduced to a heap at her feet? I could never let that happen again. It was I who should have been protecting her. What good was all my power if I wasn’t her shield? The purpose I had been made for meant nothing to me, now. I thought only of this new debt, to my new master. Wherever she went, I would follow. Whatever her desire, it was mine. As long as I lived, I would be by her side, until she refused me.

That would be impossible, with Mesh’s curse. Even if I escaped in the morning to go to her, he only needed to order me home and I would obey. Although I knew well what the Creator’s answer would be, before I could dream, I found myself praying again.

Release me, Father, I asked.

This time, there would be no reply.

In the morning, I was healed to scars. Tal removed my splint and though my arm was stiff, it functioned. He would escort me back through the city with a rope around my neck, under canopies and past the grand chapel, through the whispers and stares of men, women, and children on the street. I kept my sights set on the tower. Each step up the hill, I steeled myself for the coming reunion. Mesh would not be the same--I didn’t know what kind of master awaited me, now.

Rig greeted us at the gates. Tal handed the rope to him, no questions asked.

“Thank you for your service, Brother,” Rig said.

Tal nodded. He stood there, watching me until I was brought through the heavy doors. Two tall angels closed us in; I do not know their names. I was only aware of Rig, whose hands would be the last hold to my ropes before returning me to my lord-master.

He brought my up the stairs--towards my room, I thought, but then we rose past that. I was brought to Mesh’s personal quarters, where he awaited me. There he stood at the center of the room, a dagger at his waist, calm as he held it. I tensed. Mesh gestured that Rig bring me to him; he took the rope, and waved his lackey away.

“Leave us.”

Rig listened, as Tal had, no chink to be found in the chain of command. Too soon, we were alone in that stark chamber.

“Stand.”

Unable to disobey, I did so. I rose up, taller than my master, but hunched. I saw my own shadow across the stone floor, caught in the light of dawn. I saw my horns stretch up the wall, sharp as the claws that hung limp against my sides.

Mesh gazed up at me, drawing the dagger. I didn’t flinch.

“You were the best tool I had,” said Mesh, “that is why I allowed so much fault in my creation. Even now, I would have taken you back, had I not found something far more suited to this task than you.”

Mesh lifted my chin with the dagger, then lowered it. Grasping my horn, he guided me to bow to him. He kissed the top of my head.

“Goodbye, Ajeshah.”

When the dagger pierced my heart, I felt nothing. There seemed only a long period of stillness, time suspended, a quiet ringing in my ears. I thought I heard droplets patter the ground, reminding me of the first rains of summer. I thought of Enme, huddled under a tree in Eden, caught in the rain. She looked up at me when I arrived there, her face drenched, her smile warm. Her eyes were blue as the sky, blue as the river, the one too far away for me to have seen.

“Come here,” she had said, opening her arms to me. “It’s drier here.”

I stepped towards her, but I lost my footing. I fell. I tried to see her, as she slipped into darkness. I was still falling. Aching. Waiting for her to catch me.

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