Chapter Nineteen

Wisdom walked beside the young widow, rubbing her shoulders as she sniffled.

“Lord, I trust in You. I praise You as my Healer and Redeemer, and I will serve You for all of my days. I pledge my life to You. Oh, but Lord, I miss him so much!”

A sob cut off the rest of her prayer.

Wisdom wrapped her arm around the woman’s shoulders, and she curled into Wisdom, soaking in her strength.

The widow’s trembling voice lifted in a song of praise to her Creator as she walked the deserted road.

Wisdom nodded at the contingent of warriors behind her, pulling ahead of them slightly. They remained close, but respectfully allowed some distance between them.

Wisdom started to murmur in the woman’s ear.

“Kill her! Kill that one!”

Wisdom’s head jerked up. A great host of fallen angels swarmed her and her charge.

She snapped her wings wide and stood between the creature and the fallen angels plunging toward her from the sky. She reached for her sword, but stumbled forward as she was tackled from behind. She struggled, but couldn’t move as beings piled on top her.

“Cut them off! Cut off her wings!”

Wisdom blanched as panic clawed at her throat.

They weren’t after the creature.

They were after her.

Her head whipped around as she desperately sought the angels who had been with her. They were nowhere to be seen. Just hoards of blackened, warped angels. Her warriors’ cries and sword clashes could be heard from far away.

Searing pain scorched the base of her wings. She tried to jerk away, but too many hands held her captive. With each slash of the fallen angel’s sword, Wisdom cried out. Finally, she wailed, “Maker! Help me!”

Arms corded with muscle wrapped around her waist and ripped her from their midst. Wisdom’s piercing scream followed them as they soared far above the Earth and the fallen angels.

She stared as her wing drifted far below her, bright stains of crimson marring the white beauty, until her tears blurred the image. She blinked and caught sight of the woman, staring around her in confusion, looking utterly lost and hopeless.

Michael clutched her to his chest and barreled for the Maker and Raphael.

“But my charge…”

Michael tucked her head against his shoulder.

“Shhh. Your charge will be cared for. You need to see the Master.”

Wisdom nodded, her vision going dark before they reached the City’s gates.

 

Wisdom drifted far above the field of flowers, letting the gentle wind stream through her hair in its caress. A caress that felt like the Maker’s touch. Wisdom’s wings stretched far on either side of her.

They appeared motionless, except for the imperceptible ripple that shook them intermittently, keeping her in the air.

Wisdom lay prostrate, hundreds of feet above the grassy fields dotted with vibrant flowers. She stared at the sky, unblinking.

Colors drifted around her, teasing hair strands, her face, her gown, her bare toes—but Wisdom didn’t notice.

She didn’t see the peaceful sky pulled tight above her head.

She just tried to keep the darkness at bay.

And failed.

Gnarled hands had reached for her wings.

She flinched. She hadn’t seen them coming. Wisdom slammed her eyes shut.

They had seized her. Cut her off entirely from her escort of Michael’s finest.

She hadn’t expected an attack so swift or so sudden.

She squeezed her eyes tighter.

Searing pain had wracked her body as feathers were torn from her wings—as they tried to hack her wings from her. They hadn’t a chance heal as fast as they were being ripped apart.

She had felt powerless. Overwhelmed. Unable to fight back.

She had been on her way to Jerusalem and the temple, guarding a recently widowed woman named Anna whom the Lord found very precious. She had been unable to perform her duty. She had failed. Again.

A rebellious tear broke free from its prison and trickled down her temple.

Soothing hands chased her tormenters away.

Her eyes popped open. The gentle kneading continued. She let her eyes drift shut and allowed peace to consume her.

The hands cupped each feather—most of which were brand new. They traced each line of her wings—the one the Creator had newly fashioned for her, then the other—and erased the pain and desperation. When her last tense muscle relaxed, the hands drifted away.

“Come talk, dear one,” He whispered. “I am always here for you.”

Wisdom sighed and opened her eyes.

Folding her wings, she dropped to the field below. Snapping them wide at the last second, she landed heavily, taking time to preen and fold them tightly behind her.

She turned and faltered.

“Michael?”

He had a gentle smile on his face.

“I can come back later.”

“Oh, no! You’re fine. Stay. I just thought…”

She glanced around.

“He said He would see you after we talked.”

Wisdom sagged with relief, then laughed at herself. For one crazy moment, she thought Michael had been caressing her wings. She chuckled and shook her head.

“What do you need, Commander?”

 

Finding the vial she was searching for, Folly snatched it from the shelf and uncorked it. She cringed as her nose stung. Holding her breath, she downed it and fire lit her belly.

She threw the bottle against the wall; its smash almost satisfactory. The throbbing pain in her burnt wings lessened. Barely. The potion did nothing for the despair in her heart. Each time she took the vile liquid, she swore it would be her last.

Sweeping toward the door, she paused next to the slab that served as Death’s operating table.

Weariness overtook Folly, and she longed to be able to recline, to rest as she had a lifetime long ago. Staying on her feet constantly, staying alert constantly, hurt so very much.

She gingerly perched on the table’s edge.

Grinding her palms against her closed eyes, Folly sprawled on her back, fire and ice seeping into her shoulders from the miserable rock. At least this was the one place that was less painful than all others—that cursed bed she hated oh so very much.

For once she didn’t jerk away from the pain. For once she didn’t try to smother the tortured cries.

She tried to use them to drown the images in her mind, but it didn’t quite work. It only added to the torment she felt.

“Well, what do you know. She still loves her sister.”

Folly bolted upright and stared at the intruder with wide eyes.

A million excuses crowded her tongue and tripped and fell all over each other.

“Save it.” Death held up his hand. “I saw your face when we attacked her.”

Her excuses died, and she stuck out her chin.

“If that’s what you think, I don’t know why you’re here talking to me about it instead of snitching to Lucifer.”

He smiled, the sight chilling Folly to the depths of her freezing soul.

“It’s all about timing, my dear.”

“No one calls me that but Lucifer,” she snapped.

Again that catty smile. Folly wanted to claw it right off his face.

“And the maker.”

Folly flinched.

“Oh? You hadn’t forgotten? Perhaps you miss him too?”

Folly’s stomach clenched and roiled. She forced herself to cross her arms and roll her eyes. She tried to ignore the fact that she desperately wanted to cry, “Yes!” Instead, she said, “You still haven’t told me why you’re here.”

Death shrugged.

“It’s my room. My sanctuary.”

Folly still didn’t like him barging in on her. She had thought he was gone on a special assignment.

Turning his ghastly head, he stared sightless at the row of vials molding on his shelves.

“Do you know what I do, Folly?”

Folly huffed and hopped off the table, stomping toward the door.

“I don’t have time for this.”

“And I say you do. Sit.”

Folly stopped at the door, hating herself. Slowly, she turned around and leaned against the doorway.

“Make it fast.”

Death smiled and pointed at the rock that supported her.

“That burns.”

Folly jerked away as intense heat spiked in her shoulder and shot down her arm. She glared at him, certain he had hurt her on purpose, but he only smiled that maddening smile and kept talking.

“What I do? So glad you asked.”

“I didn’t.”

“Each creature is given a set time on Earth—a long life, as it were—and my calling is to hasten that end with a satisfactory premature death—especially if they end up here—whether by disease, addictions, vices, ‘accidents,’ what have you.”

Death crossed the room and started mixing potions, filling the air with noxious fumes.

Folly gagged and waved the tendrils of acid away. She had started to wonder if he combined toxins to create the most putrid odor possible—now she was convinced.

“In other words, I try to find the most inconvenient time for them to pass on—on the verge of reconciliation, making an impact in another’s life, having a child to raise or protect, about to repent and turn to the maker—and make sure they never see their promise fulfilled.”

He shrugged.

“Of course, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes they are too well-protected or aren’t making enough of an impact for me to bother with—”

His hands stilled, and a gleam sparkled in his white eyes. His voice took on a hushed reverence.

“Those are my favorites. Those making the biggest impact, taken before their time, when it is most inconvenient. It is damned difficult to do. Such a thrill.”

He stared at the wall, falling silent.

Folly groaned. “And your point?”

Folly’s shrill voice broke his trance. He glared at her a moment before turning back to his mixtures. Folly grinned. She loved the few times she was able to ruffle the creepy specter’s calm.

“My point, my dear, is exactly that.”

His hands stilled and he stared at the rugged wall. It smoothed into a glass-like sheen, and his uncanny eyes pierced her in the reflection.

“I haven’t told Lucifer yet because it’s all about the timing. I will wait until it is most inconvenient. For you.”

Gooseflesh raised on every inch of her skin as he held her stare.

The rock crinkled back into its jagged state, and air rushed back into her lungs. Hot, stale, stench-filled air.

Death ground something into a fine powder and sprinkled it over some bubbling goo.

“You may go.”

Folly fled, vowing to herself to never enter his chamber again. Unless it was most inconvenient for him.

 

Wisdom waited for Michael to speak. He rarely spoke, and, when he did, he chose his words carefully. Wisdom felt no impatience, rather letting the sweet bird song wash over her as she waited.

“Can you tell me what happened? Do you know?”

The birdsong turned sour as Wisdom’s fists clenched. Forcing her muscles to relax, she sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“They attacked—like you said—and I wasn’t prepared—like you also said.”

“And my warriors?”

Wisdom blushed and looked away.

“I was separated from them.”

Michael nodded thoughtfully.

“They were better organized than even I expected. How are your wings?”

Wisdom stifled the flash of pain that threatened to overwhelm her. Praise the Maker they hadn’t severed both of them. She had never felt such intense physical pain in her existence.

“Healed. The Maker is good.”

“That He is. I’m glad they didn’t succeed, Wisdom.”

Wisdom’s glance was sharp.

“They can’t succeed but what the Lord allows, right?”

Michael smiled.

“Are you trying to convince me or yourself?”

Wisdom gave him a sheepish grin.

“Both.”

“Thought so.” He sobered. “They cannot succeed but what the Maker allows, yes, but you also have to be ready to hear His voice and heed His warnings. Much agony can be spared if you focus on Him and Him alone.”

Wisdom nodded and glanced away. She thought she had done that. Apparently not.

She searched for the bird’s trill, but he had grown silent. Wisdom squirmed, finally asking what she didn’t want to know.

“Succeed—how? Surely they couldn’t have killed me? Surely they couldn’t have severed my wings permanently?”

She turned wide, frightened eyes on Michael and tried to still her trembling hands.

Michael’s face turned unreadable.

“That is for the Master to reveal to you in His time. It’s His plan for you, not mine. Go. Speak to Him. When you return, I have your orders. If the Master doesn’t give them to you Himself, that is.”

Wisdom nodded and leapt into the air, straight for the King’s private chamber.

 

Wisdom and Folly: Sisters, Chapter Nineteen by Michele Israel Harper © 2015. All rights reserved.

Sunlit Angel by Dallas-Williams on deviantART.com © 2014-2015.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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