Chapter Sixteen

“Get wisdom!  Get understanding!  Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.  Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you.”  Proverbs 4:5-6 NKJV

“She’s awake!”

Folly’s eyes sprang open. Her cheek stung.

Religion, inches from her face, had his hand raised and was staring at her with wide eyes. He seemed reluctant to drop his hand, but he did anyway.

Faces hovered above her, and they all looked frightened. Even Lucifer. Especially Lucifer.

“What did you see, Folly?”

His voice was strong, belying the terror in his eyes.

Her eyes rolled as she stared around the room, trying to take it all in. One second, she was there; the next, back here. The one place worse than all others. The one place she didn’t think could compete with any other for the agony of its existence. But there was a worse place. Heaven—destroyed.

Tremors shook her, and she fisted her hands, trying to make them stop.

“Death! Give her something!”

Her mind grasped for something solid. Remembering what drove her to this obscure room. Right. Running, trying to escape the tormented souls who wouldn’t let her go. Then…that.

She closed her eyes, only wanting to block all she had seen.

The voices tittered around her in snarls and grunts, but she pushed them away. She just wanted them to leave.

She opened her eyes as Death pushed his way through those thronged around her. Her mind barely registered it, and he hunkered down before her. She still saw veins full of poison—killing, destroying.

He forced her mouth open. She half-heartedly resisted, weakly tugging her face away, almost wondering what he was doing. He gripped her face tighter.

Wedging a flask between her lips, he upended it.

Folly gagged and jerked away, spewing the noxious yellow goo on those closest.

Cries and curses followed, but Folly didn’t care. She only wanted the vile liquid out.

Forcing her head back, Death plugged her nose and poured the rest of the contents down her throat.

Choking, she fought, prying his hands off of her, but he didn’t let go until the poison snaked its way down Folly’s throat.

Her throat burned as the acid scorched it. It ignited a trail of heat down to her stomach and revolted.

Jumping to her feet, Folly doubled over and retched until nothing more would come. It sizzled as it splattered, going up in acrid smoke.

Death cursed and moved away, but soon came back, another flask in his hands.

She held up her hand and gasped for breath as he came toward her.

“Touch me again and I’ll tell the next angel where you keep the keys to death, hell, and the grave.”

His surprise was fleeting, quickly replaced by a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Oh, you would, would you? You don’t know where I keep them.”

Folly shrugged, not saying a word. She didn’t have to. Death was paranoid enough to take her threat seriously. He stroked those keys obsessively when he thought no one was looking.

“Enough of this! What did you see?” Lucifer demanded. “You were asleep for three days. Asleep. Like the creatures go to sleep. That is unheard of—we don’t sleep! Is something wrong with you? You must have seen something. What was it?”

Folly’s eyes darted around the room while her mind scrambled for something to say. The vision was too fresh in her mind—too bleeding—too raw for her to share. Yet. If ever.

Lucifer took a step closer.

Her mind grabbed hold of something.

“The son!” she blurted.

Everyone stared at her. The color drained from Lucifer’s face.

Folly tried to get her mind to work. Her mouth to form words. To forget the other vision, if only for a little while.

“Here.”

“Here,” Lucifer repeated. “With us?”

At his thunderous look, Folly rushed on.

“In chains. Disgraced. We get to torture him.”

Glee erupted on every face except one.

“Truly, Folly?” gurgled Famine, her face uglier with her smile than without.

Folly nodded but kept her eyes on Lucifer.

“Get out.”

The other fallen angels obeyed Lucifer, taking their time. Celebrating. Making plans. All too thrilled with the good news to notice he wasn’t happy.

Death lingered, shamelessly eavesdropping as he stood just outside the open doorway.

Folly glared at him, but he smiled back, his white eyes softly glowing in the darkness.

Lucifer came close and leaned forward, dropping his voice.

“You screamed, ‘No!’ for almost an entire day.”

Her eyes flew wide.

“You—you wouldn’t let me help. Torment him, I mean.”

“You said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Her mind scrambled.

“I—I was begging your forgiveness. So you would let me. Help.”

He leaned closer.

“I don’t believe you,” he whispered.

He held her gaze for an eternity.

She trembled, unable to break the gaze, unable to force any other words out of her constricting throat. Fear enveloped her—just as it did him—and still he stared.

Spinning, he swept out of the door. Folly sucked in a full breath and collapsed against the wall, oblivious to the pain the wall seared into her flesh.

Death peeked around the corner and captured her gaze, holding it for too long a moment. His eyes held a promise. Of what, she didn’t know, but she was certain she never wanted to find out.

Sweat dripped from her forehead, running in rivulets down the sides of her face. The longer she was trapped here, the worse her enemies got.

 

“Wisdom! My father sends me to be anointed king!”

He ran to her and clasped her hands in his.

“That’s wonderful, Solomon—”

She was still basking in the Lord’s glory. His next words slammed into her without warning.

“Marry me,” he blurted, interrupting her.

“Wha—what?”

“Marry me.”

He gently, tenderly kissed the backs of her hands. His fervent eyes held pleading.

“I need you with me more than ever. I don’t know how to be king! How to rule—how to lead. I need you—and the Lord—to show me how to walk, how to stand. I need you—”

Wisdom snatched her hands away and stumbled back, his words finally penetrating her stupor.

“Solomon!”

“You can live here with me, instead of at the Lord’s side in Heaven.”

“Solomon, you don’t know what you say!”

He laughed, his joy ringing through the chamber and out to the terrace beyond.

“Don’t worry. I will ask the Lord for your hand. He has promised to lead me—to prosper me, but I know it will be so much better with you at my side.”

He came to her, gazed at her with all the passion of a man in love. He lifted his hand, and let his fingers trail down the side of her face.

“Say yes, my love. Say yes.”

Tears filled Wisdom’s eyes, but they did not fall.

“You don’t know what you ask.” She strangled out the hoarse whisper.

One tear fell.

He swiped it away and chuckled.

“Of course I do.”

She shook her head.

“No, Solomon, you don’t.”

“I’ll ask anyway.”

He kissed her. One light, feathery touch. His lips barely grazing hers. Then he was gone.

She watched him leave, her heart pounding within her.

Then she was barreling. Barreling through the roof, into the sky, straight for the tallest mountain. Tears streaming, heart breaking, she tore through the air.

Landing on a mountaintop with a poof of powdery snow spraying into the air, she screamed. She screamed again and again. Looking to the sky, tears streamed down her face.

“Maker.” Her voice barely wafted past her mouth. “I need you.”

And she was in His arms.

She sobbed as He held her, stroking her hair, her back, her wings.

“Is this a test?” She hiccupped. “Do you test me?”

His hands spread peace throughout her, but her heart still shuddered in pain.

“Do you love him?”

She pulled back, staring at Him with wide eyes.

“Of course I do! More than any other that has walked before him! He listens to me.”

The Maker smiled tenderly.

“It’s why I love him too. You didn’t answer Me. Do you love him?”

She tilted her head and stared at Him. She had just answered Him. Then it crept into her heart what He truly asked.

She buried her face in Love’s garment.

“I could never give You up for him. Never.” She groaned. “Why is this so difficult? I wanted to help him, not hinder him! Oh, Solomon.”

She grieved for the precious man far below her, who, yes, she admitted to herself, a life with him would be pleasant, even for only the wisp of time the creatures now stayed on the planet.

“Do you want to marry him, Wisdom?”

Wisdom stared at Him, shocked.

She shook her head, then stopped. Slowly, she nodded.

“Do you love him?”

She nodded again.

“I—I’m not sure how it happened, Master, but—yes. I do.” She stared at Him, each tear reflecting the glistening snowflakes that hovered around the pair. She lifted her chin. “But there is something You have that he could never give me.”

“And what is that?”

“You. Your love.”

His smile warmed her.

She had to ask.

“Is—is there a way?”

They had this conversation long ago. But it had meant nothing to Wisdom then. She hadn’t been able to fathom why an angel would choose a creature over the Maker. Now she knew.

“Not without disobeying Me. Not without—separation.”

Her gaze pinged to those wallowing in their fallen state.

“It isn’t worth it.”

“No, it isn’t. I’m sorry, my love.”

She stood back and rubbed her arms, her eyes seeking Solomon’s form far below her.

The King’s gaze followed her own.

“Even now he asks for you.”

She shuddered and slammed her eyes closed.

“Would you—would you tell him for me? Please? I don’t think I can face him again, not after…”

Her voice trailed off, and she lifted her fingertips to her lips.

Love gently took her hand and kissed her cheek. His eyes were compassionate.

She lifted trembling lips, trying to smile.

He kissed her again and was gone.

Rubbing her arms against a chill that had nothing to do with the snowflakes, she watched their conversation, leaning forward without knowing it.

 

“Oh, Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth!”

Falling to his knees, then his face, Solomon launched into a lengthy and eloquent prayer.

Ten minutes passed.

“So you see why I, the most humble of men, must beg of you for Wisdom’s hand in marriage.”

A smile played about the Lord’s lips.

“That was quite some prayer.”

A smug grin lifted the corners of Solomon’s mouth.

“Thank you.”

The Master turned serious.

“It is a compliment that you love her so, but I cannot allow you to be married.”

“But…but, why not, my Lord? I have done all you asked—I have followed your precepts, kept your word, and followed the laws of my father, David. You gave me Wisdom when I first asked for her, but, now that she’s done with my teaching, I want her by my side for the rest of my days! Didn’t you ordain marriage? Didn’t you say it was good for a man to leave his father and mother…”

The King held up His hand.

Solomon held his tongue. Barely.

“Solomon, you don’t know what you are asking. I have seen your admiration for her, but I want you to look at Me the way you look at her. Your worship and love belongs to Me alone, not to Wisdom.”

The King shook His head when Solomon spread his hands and opened his mouth.

“Solomon, I’m going to tell you a story. Perhaps you’ll understand. Before the days of the great flood, many angels took wives for themselves among the daughters of men, even though I told them not to. Powerful creatures were born. Some gigantic, some incredibly smart, fast, strong—and full of far more evil than any of my creatures could imagine on their own. They taught my creatures their wickedness, and killed and hurt many of them, enslaving them.”

Solomon sputtered.

“I know, I know, my love. That would never happen to you, and you would teach your offspring to love Me as much as you do.”

Solomon nodded in satisfaction.

“The thing is, your children will have a choice. They choose whether they love Me or don’t. I can’t allow super-human creatures to once again turn hearts away from me, or hurt great masses of my creatures—my humans—again.”

Solomon stood rigid.

“Does Wisdom have a choice in this?”

The King nodded.

“She does. But I think you will find her answer the same as before.”

“I would like to ask her. Please.”

The please sounded like an afterthought.

“You would go against Me in this?”

Solomon blanched. He cleared his throat.

“N—no, Sir. I just—I thought I could, well, you know, maybe—”

“Change My mind?”

Solomon swallowed hard.

“Well, um, yes.”

The King smiled.

“You won’t.”

Solomon looked down and breathed a heavy sigh.

“Can’t I at least ask her?”

Love shook His head. Always so stubborn. Always so adamant to go their own way.

“I will send her in.”

Turning, He left Solomon’s antechamber.

 

Wisdom could see Solomon’s self-satisfied smile.

“You heard?”

Wisdom took a deep breath.

“I did, Master.”

“And?”

Wisdom reared back, mouth open.

“I can’t believe You’d have to ask, my Lord. Of course I wouldn’t go against You!”

Seconds ticked away. Solomon looked impatient.

“Do you care for him, my Wisdom?”

Unexpected tears filled Wisdom’s eyes. She studied Solomon’s strong form, his regal bearing.

“You know I do. He is perhaps the most beautiful creature you have made yet. None compare to him, not even his father, David. And he listens to me.” She looked at Him with wide eyes. “Do you know how rare that is?”

His eyes crinkled at the corners.

“I do.”

“I could spend the rest of my days loving him. But there is just one thing I could never get past.”

“And what is that, dearest Wisdom?”

She stared at Him earnestly, fervently.

“He could never love me as much as You do. I could never give You up for him.”

The King nodded once.

“Thank you, Wisdom. Your words mean a great deal to Me.” He nodded toward Solomon. “I’ll be close, if you need Me. I do not envy you your task.”

He faded from sight.

She stared at Solomon with trepidation.

“Nor do I.”

 

“Folly, I have an assignment for you.”

Folly moved forward, standing before the garish throne that towered above her. For once, she wished she could remain completely invisible to Lucifer.

She glanced at Lust, who, perched on one of the claw-like armrests, draped her arm possessively across Lucifer’s shoulders. She smiled sweetly at Folly. Too sweetly.

Folly scowled at Lust. Crossing her arms, she faced Lucifer defiantly.

“What is it?”

“Wisdom.”

A beat.

She shook her head, certain she had heard wrong.

“Excuse me, did you say—Wisdom?”

The voices in the room blended together, creating a loud buzz in her ears.

Lucifer nodded once.

“I’m sorry—how is Wisdom an assignment?”

The jeers and cackles clashed with the buzz, compounding a terrible headache.

Lust jumped in, but Lucifer didn’t seem to mind.

“Oh, you know, we just thought—since you’ve been having so much trouble with her”—here Lust shared a secret smile with Folly.

Folly’s heart plummeted. She gritted her teeth. Payback for not telling Lust that Wisdom had been assigned to the boy, Solomon.

“That you would jump at the chance to take her out, once and for all.”

After a pointed glare, Folly returned her full attention to Lucifer.

“And what makes you think she can be taken out at all?”

Lust opened her mouth but Lucifer answered.

“She is reeling from the loss of her precious Solomon and the close of her school. Solomon turns more and more to idols and women—which is, in a way—another idol.” He smiled at Lust then sought out Religion, bestowing another rare smile on him as well. “She knows war and judgment is coming to the maker’s “chosen people,” and she feels helpless to stop it.”

“How did you—?”

“If there was ever a time to take her out, it is now.”

Folly studied the ground before her, blood pounding in her ears. She couldn’t face Wisdom again. She couldn’t.

“How did you know all of that?” she whispered, finally lifting her eyes to meet his.

“I just did.” He looked smug. “You start today. She goes to warn the Israelites of impending judgment. War. Invasion. You will find her in the city of—”

“But—!”

Her sharp voice burst from her without warning. She bit back the rest, not wanting to see if Lucifer could somehow make her sentence worse.

He glared at her.

“It’s not a discussion. Go. Distract her. Wreak havoc. It’s what you do best.”

Folly turned to leave, numb.

“Folly?”

She looked back at him, her face stoic, lifeless.

“Need I remind you what will happen if you fail me?”

She turned and walked out.

It didn’t matter if she failed. She was going to her doom, whether she failed or not.

 

Wisdom and Folly: Sisters by Michele Israel Harper, Chapter Sixteen © 2014.

Elizabeth by MagicnaAnavi on deviantART.com.  http://magicnaanavi.deviantart.com/art/Elizabeth-460806793

Used with permission.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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