Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and brimming bookshelves in Southern California, she’s been writing for more than a decade, but the Threshold Series is her first foray into fiction. Learn about Christa’s books, Bible studies, short stories, weekdaily serials, and more at ChristaKinde.com.
Part Sixteen: Rule Breaker
Marcus rode the bus, ate bagged lunches, and helped Ransom empty the convenience store’s bakery case, just like usual. But Marcus’s nighttime routine changed. Jedrick was finally letting him focus on the sword, and that meant a nightly flight to the Pomeroys’ farm.
Taweel and Tamaes were excellent teachers, but there were limits to how much they could help. So Taweel had arranged for Ethan to lend a hand during sparring sessions. As the smallest angel in the farm’s Hedge, Ethan was a much better match for Marcus. Most of these guys have swords that are taller than me.
“Have you had enough?”
“Not hardly!” grumbled Marcus. “Again!”
Ethan’s wings flashed out and back—a showy display that worked as a diversion but also lent speed to his thrust. Marcus met the blow and twisted away, then mimicked the move.
“Better!” Ethan exclaimed, charging in.
Weariness dragged at Marcus’s wings, but he shielded himself in time. However, the force of the blow sent him sprawling. “Uncle,” he groaned, rubbing at the back of his head.
Puzzlement flitted through Ethan’s soft brown eyes. “Uncle?”
“I yield.” Marcus accepted a hand up.
They stood atop the apple barn, panting slightly from their friendly match. Marcus’s gaze swung automatically to the battle lines, where ranks of cherubim flew in tight formations. Here and there, volleys of arrows blazed into the enemy ranks. Marcus couldn’t separate the garbled yells of the Fallen into anything sensible, but it must not have been good. His very soul rebelled against their blasphemy.
Ethan was frowning, too, but his attention was fixed on the orchard.
“Problem?” Marcus asked.
“None that I can see.”
Ethan was fairly outgoing for a hadarim, so their initial acquaintance was settling into easy camaraderie. Like my brothers, but with less teasing and fewer pranks.
With a soft noise of concern, Ethan knelt and prodded at this toes.
A moment later, both their mentors landed on the roof. Jedrick’s wings shifted restlessly. “An injury?”
“What’s wrong?” Conrad asked at the same time, his fingers already questing. “There’s no blood. A cramp? A bruise? A break?”
Ethan said, “His boots pinch.”
“You should have mentioned it sooner,” Jedrick chided.
Conrad pushed at the wiry black hair that hung about his shoulder in waves. “He’s laced into his sneakers more often than boots.”
Marcus sheepishly admitted, “I needed new sneakers, too.”
“Ethan’s also growing.” Conrad stood and cocked a brow at Jedrick. “Shall we take a trip?”
“To the opanim?” asked Marcus.
“Now?” added Ethan.
“And why not? I can speak to Trumble about the gap we’ll leave in the Hedge.”
Jedrick accepted with a nod. “Tonight. Together.”
The long trek to the forges became a training flight, with apprentices teamed up against mentors. Jedrick and Conrad stayed on the defensive, allowing their apprentices to focus on attacks.
“You’re stronger,” said Marcus.
“Perhaps. But I cannot match your strategies.” Ethan readied his sword for another foray. “Hadarim rarely initiate battle. Cherubim lead.”
So Marcus came up with the plans, and Ethan gamely followed him, flying together in tight formation. They chased their mentors and clashed with a satisfying crack of weapons. Marcus was so happy, he led out in a battle song, which the four of them were still singing when they arrived in a place where rings turned within rings.
New boots and honed edges led to more training when Jedrick requested a fresh sparring session with a Fourfold.
Marcus quailed at the prospect. “There’s no way we can win!”
“And …?” Jedrick inquired.
Ethan said, “I do not think victory is our goal.”
Conrad twirled his blade and took his stance. “Think a moment, apprentices. If you gain the skills you need by challenging your mentors, how do your mentors improve?”
“The same way.” Marcus searched the face of the Fourfold with hooked beak and piercing eyes. “By challenging someone stronger than you.”
“Ever and always,” agreed Conrad, gesturing for Ethan and Marcus to draw their swords.
Warm weather and longer days made everyone restless. As far as their class was concerned, summer vacation couldn’t come fast enough. June felt forever away, but May did give them a break.
Three buses carted their grade to a downtown museum for the last field trip of the year. Marcus and Ransom stayed at the back of the group, only half-listening to the tour guide. Ransom’s asides weren’t nearly as informative, but they were much more entertaining.
Marcus elbowed Ransom. “Incoming.”
Prissie Pomeroy threaded her way through the crowd and pinned Ransom with a glare. “You can’t goof off,” she hissed. “It makes the rest of us look rude!”
Ransom smiled crookedly. “Even you, Miss Priss?”
Her cheeks flamed. “The museum workers will think we don’t have any manners!”
“Relax. I know how to behave. Right, Marcus?”
Prissie glanced his way, then stuck her nose in the air. “I don’t believe it.”
Ransom spread his hands wide. “I didn’t hurt anything, and I wasn’t interrupting…”
“Ha! I heard you making fun of the museum.”
“I was expressing an opinion.”
Marcus was about to tell them that their class was moving on, but a still, small voice touched his thoughts.
‘Wait and see.’
So he bit his tongue and buried his hands deeper into his jacket pockets.
Another minute passed before Prissie realized they’d been left behind. “Now look what you did!”
“I don’t see how this is my fault. You’re the one who pulled us out of line.”
“Because you were saying mean things about the art!”
Ransom waved at the display in the center of the room. “It’s a pile of white plastic spoons.”
“So, I don’t like messy art.” Ransom gesticulated vaguely. “Art should be pretty and have nice colors. And it should look like something.”
“And you’re an artist?” Prissie asked skeptically.
“I know what I like. And that’s not it.”
“What is?” she challenged.
Marcus wondered why Prissie was pushing the issue. Wouldn’t it make more sense to drop the subject and start looking for the tour guide? If she disliked Ransom so much, why keep the conversation rolling. But Ransom clearly enjoyed egging her on.
“Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll let you know when I find it.”
Ransom aimed for the arched entrance into the next gallery. “Look, I don’t like anything in this room. It’s all blotchy and splotchy.”
Prissie trailed after them, all but wringing her hands. “Is this the direction our class went?”
“Nope,” said Marcus.
Her blue eyes widened. “Are we lost?”
“This one’s closer,” announced Ransom, pointing to an oil landscape. “Boring, but at least it makes sense.”
They breezed through rooms featuring different artists and art styles, but Ransom’s steps never slowed. His mood reminded Marcus of the dream they’d shared, only instead of finding the right road, he was looking for the answer to Prissie’s question.
He doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, but by searching, he might find it.
“Oh, hey.” Ransom slowed in front of a set of painted screens. The artist had scattered pale pink flowers across rice paper panels. “This one,” he said, gaze warming. “It’s pretty, and it looks like something.”
Prissie folded her arms over her chest. “They’re cherry blossoms.”
“How can you tell?”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “It’s obvious.”
Drifting over to the sign on the wall, Marcus said, “She’s right.”
Ransom’s eyebrows shot up. “Miss Priss knows her flowers.”
“I know fruit trees,” she retorted. “Ours bloomed just last week.”
“You have a cherry tree?”
Prissie huffed. “Don’t you know anything?”
“I know what I like. Hey, what’s this one?” He moved along the wall to another painted screen. “What kind of tree has red flowers?”
She hesitated, but followed him. “Quince.”
“What’s a quince?”
But her mouth thinned. “Which way do you think our class went?”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters! You’re getting me into so much trouble!”
“Doubt it,” Ransom said distractedly. “We’ll probably run into our group soon. This museum isn’t that big. There are way bigger ones in the city where I lived before. Hey, does this one have dinosaurs?”
“It’s an art museum, not a natural history museum.”
“Guess so.” Ransom ran out of screens to admire and drifted into the adjacent room. “Oh, hey! Rocks. They’re natural.”
Marcus was used to Ransom’s chattiness, but his friend’s running commentary had shifted. Is he taunting her or teasing her? Either way, Prissie responded with snap and vinegar. Marcus let his gaze slide to the far corner, where Tamaes looked on with a soft smile. Is she always like this?
Her Guardian’s answer came in earnest tones. “Thank you for distracting her from her fears.”
Marcus looked more closely at Prissie. She kept glancing around and rubbing her fingertips together. And she’s sticking pretty close to someone she doesn’t like. Marcus doubted the girl wanted his support, but maybe he needed it. Easing closer—but not too close—he said, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.”
Prissie wouldn’t look at him, but she was listening. “I don’t like this.”
“And he’s impossible.”
Marcus just shrugged.
“We’re obviously lost,” Prissie complained.
“Is there a hurry to be found?”
She looked at him then, all exasperation. “I don’t belong with you guys.”
Ransom beckoned furiously. “You gotta see these rocks. They must be worth a million dollars!”
Cut gems and sparkled alongside carved stones on a bed of black velvet. The colors brought Russ’s workshop to mind, but Marcus really preferred a Worshiper’s wings to cold stone.
“Hard to believe these were stuck inside a mountain somewhere,” said Ransom. “They’re rocks.”
“They’re treasures,” said Prissie.
Ransom poked the glass, leaving a smudged fingerprint in the process. “Every diamond is a rock until the pros get ahold of it.”
Prissie hesitated, a small frown on her face. “We had a lesson about that. How not every rock can be a diamond.”
“When was that?” Ransom asked. “Aren’t we in all the same classes?”
Since Ransom still looked confused, Marcus said, “Church.”
“You talk about rocks at church?” Ransom asked.
“It was an example,” Prissie said.
“Not every rock can be a diamond, but every human’s life is priceless. And we got to choose what kind of gem we wanted to be.”
Ransom looked between her and the displays. “So what are you? Diamond? Sapphire? Pearl?”
He leaned close. “You brought it up, so you have to tell!”
“Fine. I chose stained glass. I like it best.” Her glare dared him to make fun of her treasure.
“Your favorite jewel isn’t a jewel?”
“My favorite is my favorite.” Prissie stuck her nose in the air. “It’s close enough.”
Marcus tended to agree. He’d spent enough nights at the Pomeroy farm to know about the colorful panes in her bedroom window. She will delight in angels’ wings one day.
‘Well said, child of light.’
Ransom held up a finger. “In that case, I choose cake.”
Prissie favored him with a flat look. “Cake?”
“With frosting flowers, just like that painting. Pink petals and a piped edge.”
She rolled her eyes. “You just want to eat cake.”
“That, too.” Ransom’s eyebrows waggled. “Since my favorite is my favorite.”
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part 17: “Road Tripper”