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*Sneak Peek* Angel story


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I began this as a His Dark Materials fanfic back in 2007 and was inspired to return to it. Since it is quite far removed from the actual plot of those books, I decided to adapt it to an original piece. It's set in Biblical times, perhaps some time around 1000 B.C. Here is a little bit of what I've written so far. One thing I'm doing here that I've never really done before is head hopping. Only between these two characters, and I think it works pretty well. What do you think?

 

 

Jair awoke suddenly. He felt a presence in his home, but could see nothing when he sat up. The hut was dark but for the faint embers of his fire, but he was a hunter with keen eyesight and yet he could not see the presence he felt so strongly. But then, in a room full of shadows, it is hard to tell one shadow from another.

Movement. Jair sat up straight and stared into the shadows. He crawled out from under his furs and crept across the dirt floor, closer to the fire. He blew on the embers until a small flame flickered, and then he saw the smoke swirl around a shadow that was not a human shadow. A shadow that stood in the room, cast by no light. Jair instinctively reached for his knife.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ whispered the shadow. ‘I will not harm you.’

Jair frowned and lowered the knife. He blew on the embers once more, and again the smoke danced about the shadow, making it more visible. ‘What are you?’ he asked, realising that this was a more important question than ‘who’.

‘I am a watcher,’ replied the shadow. ‘I am the sort of creature that your people call angels.’

‘My father saw an angel once,’ said Jair. ‘He said it shone bright as the sun. You are no angel.’

‘Angels come in different forms, Jair,’ said the shadow. Its voice was clear, pure, and could not be identified as male or female.

‘How do you know my name?’ asked Jair suspiciously.

‘As I said. I am a watcher. I have watched you and your village for some time. My name is Epheriel.’

‘Why are you watching me?’

‘I am watching your village,’ Epheriel corrected him. ‘Watching you is . . . part of that.’

‘If that is true, then why are you in my house in the middle of the night?’ asked Jair. ‘Why are you not up there, watching the entire village?’

‘I came to warn you,’ said Epheriel. ‘You are the best hunter and greatest warrior of this village, are you not? There is someone amongst you, Jair, who harbours evil intent. Someone who wishes to destroy you. I am not yet certain who it is, but he bears ill will towards you. I am guarding you.’

Jair sat still next to the fire for a little while, looking at the shadow in the dark. He blew another cloud of smoke towards it and watched its features grow a bit clearer. It was man-shaped, slim. Its form shimmered like the air on a hot day. Its face was human and carried a warm, kind smile, and its wings, he now saw, glowed faintly. It was beautiful.

It had not tried to hurt him yet.

As if reading his mind, Epheriel said, ‘Go to sleep. I will wake you if danger comes. I will be here, watching.’

Jair nodded. He believed the angel. He had a strong feeling that a creature like that could not lie even if it wanted to. He crawled back under the furs on his bed of hay and after a while, he fell asleep.

 

Jair woke up the next morning to find bright sunlight streaming into his hut through the window and the smoke hole. He sat upright and looked about the hut. He could not see the shadow of Epheriel anywhere. ‘Watcher?’ he whispered. ‘Are you there?’

‘I am here,’ replied the voice of the angel. ‘You cannot see me in all this light. But I told you, my name is Epheriel. Your monkey brain is not too small to remember that, is it?’

Jair frowned. ‘I remember. There is no need to be sarcastic.’

Epheriel was silent for a moment. ‘I apologise,’ it said at last. ‘I am . . . unused to conversing with humans. I shall try harder.’

‘And I shall try harder to call you Epheriel,’ said Jair and smiled.

Epheriel shivered upon hearing its name uttered from those lips and it longed suddenly to touch them. So much so that it hurt to see that bright figure before it. There was something special about Jair. His goodness shone brighter than most angels.

‘Get dressed, Jair,’ it said. Even though Jair could not see where he was looking, Epheriel turned away from his nakedness as he stood. Humans, it knew, were shy creatures who felt shame about their bodies. Epheriel found it strange, for God had made them that way because it was the most beautiful form He could imagine. Epheriel had never understood why, until now.

‘So, who is this person who harbours evil thoughts?’ asked Jair.

In its awe of being so near the young man, Epheriel had nearly forgotten about its original purpose in coming here. ‘I do not know,’ it said. ‘That is why I am watching you. So that I will be able to tell you when I find out.’

‘How will you know?’ asked Jair, pulling on his rough linen tunic.

‘My perception of feelings is vague,’ said Epheriel. ‘I can sense a thought or feeling in someone, but if here are many people present I cannot see who the thought or feeling belongs to.’

‘But now, with only you and I, you can read my thoughts?’ Jair turned in the general direction of Epheriel’s voice and tried to see it. He thought he saw a shimmer in the air and focused on that.

‘I could, but I choose not to,’ said Epheriel, who stood a bit to the right of where Jair was looking, the shimmer but a trick of the light.

‘And what if I were the one harbouring evil intent?’ asked Jair, giving up his search and tying on his leather belt.

‘You are not,’ replied Epheriel simply. ‘I sense the thought when you are not present, and why should you harbour such hatred toward yourself?’ It chose not to mention the light of goodness that shone around the young man at all times.

Jair said nothing, tied his knife to his belt, and exited the hut. He always rose with the sun, and only a few people had emerged from their huts to begin the day’s work. The men who had been on watch throughout the night were returning to their huts to sleep until midday. Epheriel followed Jair down to the stream, where he filled his waterskin. Epheriel remained silent. He knew that Jair felt his presence, like he had in the hut the previous night.

‘Are you male or female, Epheriel?’ he asked, taking a sip from the skin.

‘Neither,’ Epheriel replied. ‘Angels have no sex.’

Jair nodded thoughtfully. ‘I see.’ It made sense. Why should angels have gender? They were immortal beings, unlike humans, and they did not, he supposed, reproduce as humans did. The thought made him blush and he turned away from Epheriel’s voice, setting off back towards the village.

As they reached the village again, Epheriel suddenly felt the evil intent. It was overwhelmingly strong and it was forced to stop. It felt as though something clenched at its entire being and crushed it briefly. But then the feeling ebbed and Epheriel looked around fearfully. There were more people about now, but he could not be certain which of them had thought it. Women were walking down to the stream to fetch water for cooking. Men were talking loudly, children were playing, and two young girls were chatting in hushed tones, glancing occasionally at the young hunters and giggling. They gazes lingered on Jair and Epheriel could sense their emotions clearly. It felt a pang of something it had not experienced before and realised that it was jealousy.

Shaking its thoughts, Epheriel pulled up close to Jair and whispered in his ear, ‘I felt it again. Do not answer now, but try to think: Whom here do you not trust?’

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