Present Day – St. Denys
The time drew near. Seraph had an appointment to keep. She had thrown on her tan coat, sorting herself out whilst marching towards the door, Arakiel lying in its sheath. She looked up. Her path blocked. Zera leant against the overly large oak door, waiting, Ramiel too resting in its sheath.
Seraph stopped. He’s cheered up. Her eyes were drawn to his wedding ring. He wasn’t wearing it earlier. ‘Never took you for the sentimental type, Zera.’
‘I’m a complicated Angel.’
‘Does it hurt putting the ring on again?’
Zera was numb to the pain; it had become his most precious memento. He raised his hand so that the golden ring reflected the candlelight, his eyes treasuring the gleam. ‘Ever been married, Seraph?’
‘Shame.’ Seraph fortified her façade. Arakiel barked within its sheath. Ramiel didn’t need to react. It was plain to see. Didn’t expect that to be a soft spot, Seraph. ‘I imagine you could pick any man.’
‘That’s just it. Any man isn’t good enough.’
Zera laughed. He was no stranger to an uncompromising attitude. ‘Laylah would have liked you, Seraph. She was strong-willed, as you are.’
‘But as sassy?’
‘You would give her a run for her money.’
Seraph smiled, her heart touched. She really did inspire you. ‘So you like strong-willed, sassy women? I would say that you were the submissive type, but judging by how you trash-talked Saleos, I suspect you love giving your all. I must be nostalgic.’
‘Quite. But, there are key differences. You are unique, Seraph.’
Seraph accepted the compliment. Unique, huh? Coming from a Watcher Blader, that’s high praise indeed. Ramiel and Arakiel wouldn’t accept anything else.
‘I read her file,’ Seraph announced. Zera was not surprised. ‘She was fearsome. You, she and Valafar were the elite.’
Zera breathed in, desperate to introduce calm within his heart. It was his duty to inform Seraph of the details, but his heartstrings were scratching against his will. I envy people who can forgive and forget.
‘Laylah and I were a team for a decade. We married shortly after Valafar joined and for twelve years things were great.’ Zera bit his lip involuntarily. He paused, emotions slipping through his professional persona. He inhaled for five seconds, seeking objectivity in his words.
‘Valafar wasn’t the first to admire Laylah,’ Zera carried on slowly. ‘He never said a word, just cast the occasional tired glance.’
Completing each sentence proved arduous. Bridges had been forever burnt in his heart and any new ones proved fragile, easy to break. Zera sighed. His words sounded fictional now, written a lifetime ago.
‘One day, Valafar became compromised. He vanished,’ Zera explained, ‘The next day, he was a Fallen Angel wielding Shamsiel. He lured us to Debir by setting it alight. Laylah got there first; she didn’t stand a chance against the fury of a Watcher Blade.’ Zera found it impossible to continue, his despair obstructed him.
Seraph didn’t press, she allowed him time. Rushing this would be counterproductive. ‘It’s OK.’
Zera couldn’t look at Seraph, his eyes seeking shelter in a dull corner of the cathedral.
‘When I got there, Valafar had already won. It wasn’t a fair fight. He left me to burn. I’m not sure how I survived.’
‘But you did,’ Seraph reassured. ‘That’s the important thing, Zera.’
Zera didn’t believe her. Seraph could see his mind processing behind his eyes; he wasn’t hiding it. How much is running through your head right now? Your scars run deep. You’ve got one serious case of survivor’s guilt.
‘So what are we dealing with?’ Seraph asked.
‘Destruction incarnate,’ Zera bluntly replied, his eyes refocused on Seraph. The cathedral fell silent. Ramiel sparked violently, Arakiel trembled furiously within its sheath. Seraph recoiled from her blade’s reaction, Zera did not. He shared Ramiel’s distain. ‘Watcher Blades manipulate the environment to their advantage. Shamsiel destroys it.’
Seraph shuddered. What? I’ve never felt this kind of fear before.
‘How can we stop such a force?’
‘That’s where you come in, Seraph.’ Zera cracked a smile soaked in mischief.
Seraph furrowed her brow. Did I miss something?
‘What better way to train than spar against another Watcher Blader?’
Seraph smiled, her warrior instincts aroused. Ever since our spar, I’ve wanted a longer, more intricate fight. And so have you. ‘Barachiel surely won’t agree to that?’ Seraph posed.
‘He has, begrudgingly. He’s resigned himself to the hours lost filling in the paperwork for the insurance companies,’ Zera replied, laughing.
Seraph laughed too. I really shouldn’t be laughing. ‘So when?’
‘In principle, yes.’
‘You can probably guess where I’m going.’
Zera nodded, appreciating Barachiel wasn’t the authority Seraph ultimately answered to. Zera moved away from the door. Seraph needed to get moving. She opened the door, but before leaving she had one final thing to say. ‘Talk to Hani, Zera.’
Seraph closed the door behind her. Zera took a deep breath, Ramiel was quiet in its sheath. We might be making progress, Ramiel.