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 Fourteen: Night Guard
The members of Jedrick’s Flight understood the complexities of service as a Graft, so they rarely interrupted Marcus during school. Still, Harken reached out to him in the middle of class. Warm and polite, the Messenger’s thoughts inserted themselves into the young cherub’s mind. “Peace, child.”
“Only a change in plans. I have permission from your mentor to change the venue for evensong. Can you get away early tonight?”
“A concert at my church. We’re performing Handel’s Messiah.”
Harken attended Trinity Presbyterian, the same as Russ. That’s the annual deal my neighbor’s been talking up.
“The very one. Given the nature of the performance, the angelic contingent will be out in full force. But more importantly, the Pomeroy family will be in attendance, and that means Taweel and Tamaes can save you a spot. Interested?”
Yeah, please. I’d like to go.
“We’ll watch for you,” Harken said, his deep voice full of gladness. “Come, join the heavenly chorus.”
Just then, Ransom leaned over to whap his elbow. “What’re you grinning about?”
Marcus only shrugged and smiled a little wider. ♦♦♦♦♦
By the time Marcus arrived at the church, stragglers were finding seats while the orchestra tuned. He’d never seen so many angels indoors. Out of necessity, most stood with wings furled and weapons sheathed. Full-grown warriors towered over him, mostly hadarim, which made sense. They were drawn to their charges.
Marcus didn’t recognize any of the wing patterns of the warriors he passed, and that gave him a chance to practice reading their rows. Stitchery at collars and cuffs told an individual’s name and Flight placement, as well as parts of their story. The deeper the embroidery on their raiment, the longer their service to heaven. Jedrick had given him his initial lessons, for every cherub needed to be able to read Weavers’ rows. But Marcus had been surprised when Taweel took over—reviewing the patterns, testing his speed, expanding his vocabulary, and even introducing him to a Weaver.
Someone at the front welcomed the crowds and made some announcements. Marcus threaded through the crush of angels in the aisles, earning several second glances.
Would help if I could see.
Milo’s voice reached out. “They’re on the right side, near the front. Under the window depicting the parting of the Red Sea.”
Marcus snorted. Ironic much? Again … would help if I could see.
“There’s room up here for a short flight.”
“The same guys who have you wing-bound can set you free. Ask for help.”
Gotcha. Marcus touched the arm of a nearby cherub and pointed up. “Mind giving me a boost?”
Orange eyes blinked, and the warrior asked, “Did you mislay your mentor, young one?”
Color crept into Marcus’s cheeks. “Not exactly. But I have friends waiting on me.”
The Protector scanned the trim on Marcus’s raiment, and with a low chuckle, he said, “My apologies, Marcus. You’re no more newfound than I am. Peace.”
“No problem. Happens a lot,” he said, touching palms with the other Faithful. “Give me a toss?”
“Nice and easy,” said the other cherub, offering nested palms.
He launched Marcus into the wide open space between high ceilings and stained glass windows. Cream and gold wings burst open and stretched wide as Marcus climbed.
Milo swished past. “Follow me!”
Marcus swung into line with only a little bit of wobble. But he suddenly felt on display—the smallest, clumsiest cherub—and hoped he wouldn’t grab more attention by colliding with a column, wall, or window.
“There we are,” Milo said, pointing to a spot near the tympani and bass players.
Taweel raised his arms and beckoned with both hands, and Marcus swung his way. But controlling his descent in close quarters was tough, and he nearly overshot his teammates. Tamaes saved him by snagging Marcus’s ankle and sending him tumbling into Taweel’s waiting arms.
From beneath a billow of smoky purple wings, Marcus muttered, “Okay, that was kind of embarrassing.”
Taweel grunted, and Tames said, “I doubt anyone noticed.”
Milo, who’d likely landed with both grace and precision, cheerfully added, “Guardians only have eyes for their charges.”
“You guys sure know how to pack the house. I feel kind of bad.” Marcus raised his voice to be heard over the applause that accompanied the conductor’s entrance. “Lots of Guardians are stuck out on the roof.”
“You take up very little space.” Taweel’s lip quirked. “Especially if you remain here.”
Marcus folded arms over his breastplate. “Not a chance. This isn’t exactly dignified.”
Tamaes gestured to two Hedgemates. “Is Ethan’s choice more to your liking?”
Craning to see, Marcus chuckled. Zeke’s pink-winged Guardian sat astride the broad shoulders of a mountainous Guardian. If Marcus remembered right, Alpheus belonged to little Jude Pomeroy. “Yeah, that works.”
So Taweel lifted him into place, and Omri greeted Marcus with a series of bright trills.
“May I?” asked Milo, who soon perched on Tamaes’s shoulders.
Ethan grinned a shy welcome, and Marcus said, “Yo. Where’s your kid?”
Jude Pomeroy sat on the pew beside his mother, eyes bright, legs swinging, but Zeke’s place was conspicuously empty.
“In good hands.” Ethan indicated Jayce Pomeroy, who strolled down a side aisle, his tousle-haired son casually thrown over his shoulder. They joined the rest of the family just as the baton tapped and the first notes of the overture sent a shiver of anticipation up Marcus’s spine. Music was good. Scripture set to music was better.
He was half lost in songs when his attention snagged on Prissie. His classmate wore a fancy red dress, and she’d tucked holly sprigs into the curls piled atop her head. But that wasn’t why she was lovely.
“She’s really into this,” he muttered.
Milo heard and answered. “Our Prissie has always loved Christmas.”
But something as fleeting as holiday cheer wouldn’t have drawn his attention. Hers was the soul-deep beauty of a life touched by eternity. Milo might count her as “ours,” but it was plain to anyone with eyes that she was God’s.
No scowls or scolding. No criticism or accusations. The Spirit’s presence overflowed in artless worship. Love by grace. Joy in peace.
Too bad Ransom’s not here to see this. Might break his brain. In a good way. ♦♦♦♦♦
Marcus cherished dreams. By entering them, angels could meet those Sent apart. Dreams linked him to Aleff and the assorted big brothers who’d always be his family.
Humans were different; they dreamed alone. Unless pressed upon by supernatural forces. Messengers were the most adept at traversing human dreamscapes. By the same token, fallen malakim could dredge up the worst nightmares.
When it suited His purposes, God could Send angels into the dreams of humans. And at other times, a Messenger might transport a human into the heavenlies, talking to them in visions. But Marcus had no personal experience with such things.
Marcus faced a rugged landscape—rutted paths, jutting stone, fitful winds. Dark clouds draped oppressively low, and the air vibrated with an eerie apprehension. Something was stirring. Something bad.
“What gives?” he whispered.
“Huh? Oh. Hey, Marcus.”
He whirled to find Ransom looking over his shoulder at him. In a moment of panic, Marcus checked to see if he’d blown his cover, but he was dressed normally—jeans, jacket, and his new sneakers.
“It’s always like this,” said Ransom. “Except for you. You’re new. Not that I mind.”
Jamming his hands into his pockets, Marcus eyed the sky. “Interesting place. Doing some cross-country training?”
Ransom laughed half-heartedly. “I don’t like this place much. It makes me choose.”
Marcus realized then that they stood at a crossroads.
“What’s the point of having choices if they’re all bad?” Ransom nodded wearily at one of the trails. “There’s no use going back. The old house is empty. Mom’s still gone.”
“Most of them. They take me places I don’t like to go—bad memories, stupid mistakes, dumb stuff I’d rather forget.” Ransom’s gaze darted from a heap of boulders to a stand of dreary trees. “But not picking is worse. If I stay here too long, the monsters come out.”
Stepping to his friend’s side, Marcus heartily wished for his sword. “You said most of them. Is there a path you haven’t taken?”
Ransom pointed at the slope he’d been facing the whole time. “Just this one.”
“It looks steep,” Ransom said. “It’ll be hard going.”
“I don’t mind.” When Ransom still hesitated, Marcus offered his hand. “Let’s go together.”
His skin was cold. His fingers were trembling. “Really? You’ll stay?”
Giving his best friend a tug, he pulled him along by the hand. “Staying with you—no problem. Staying to face your monsters—not happening.”
“If they do, my angel will come. He always does.”
Marcus set a brisk pace, wanting to get Ransom to safety. “An angel for backup? Not bad.”
“Yeah. Ardon’s the best.”
He turned and gaped. “Ardon?”
Ransom caught up to walk beside him. “He doesn’t say much, but yeah. I got him to tell me his name. So don’t worry. If things start chasing up, he’ll show up.”
“Only nice thing here. Except for you.” Ransom kept his gaze forward and asked, “What do you think’s at the top?”
“Anything’s better than this.”
By Marcus’s reckoning, they spent all night trudging—always uphill, always tough. But they made steady progress. The shadowy valley fell away behind them, and the clouds thinned. Murk and drear gave way to a shining pink sky, like a place forever dawning.
Ransom sank to the ground and leaned back on his arms, his gaze fixed on the soft wash of rosy hues. “Do you suppose this was always here?”
“Seems that way.” Marcus sat next to him, arms wrapped around his upraised knees. “Why’d you wait so long to try the hill?”
“I guess … because didn’t know it was the right way.”
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part 15: “Songwriter”