Jedrick stepped through the door
and into swaying reeds. Eddies of light swirled overhead, confirming
that he’d entered a safe haven on heaven’s fringes. Still, his hand
drifted to the hilt of his sword as he scanned the sea of deep grasses.
Anything could be hidden here. If the songs were true, several things
“Stand down, Captain,” a voice
off to his left drawled. “This is a friendly neighborhood. And I can
vouch for any strays and layabouts.”
Turning to the angel who’d
served as way-maker, Jedrick struggled to hide his surprise. The long
copper hair tucked behind pointed ears—fairly typical. The brown
leather jacket, snug jeans, and motorcycle helmet—definitely not.
The Caretaker offered his hand
in human fashion. “I’m Aleff. Thank you for taking time away from your
Flight to audition.”
Jedrick gingerly clasped the
other angel’s hand, which was dainty by comparison. “Let your thanks go
to God, who guided me here.”
“So!” Aleff’s grip tightened.
“Who can say?”
“Don’t be coy. Impress me with
your qualifications.” The Caretaker squeezed harder. “Have you ever
been a mentor before?”
“I taught in the enclaves, but
no. I have had no apprentice of my own.”
“And you’re a Flight captain.
Lots of names under your hand. Do you really think
you can give a cherub with special needs the attention he requires?”
Jedrick chose to ignore Aleff’s
posturing. He calmly extricated his hand. “You have voiced my two
greatest concerns. Even so, God Most High has placed a choice before
“Take him, or leave him?”
“I would prefer to meet him.
Aleff’s lips quirked into a
humorless smile. “Turn around.”
Jedrick pivoted as a scrawny boy
scrabbled onto the roof of a hut—the only structure in view. In denim
and sneakers, he looked human enough. But as he took a running start,
light blossomed around his shoulders, and wings unfurled in hues of
cream and yellow. After an initial dip and wobble, the young angel
righted himself, catching an updraft to carry him higher. Jedrick eyed
the boy’s progress critically. His wingbeats were completely off tempo,
and he struggled too much against winds that should have been his
“He doesn’t know you’re here,”
Aleff said. “Otherwise, he’d never own up to these antics.”
“What is he doing?”
“Trying to be good enough.”
“Goodness has little to do with
“I wonder if he would agree,”
“Has he been taught anything?”
“Oh, the usual. He’s good at
history, middling in the sciences, and a shockingly bad speller. His
teachers always want to see him more involved, but Marcus is a complete
slacker where extracurricular activi—”
“No. I meant in the enclaves.”
“He’s never set foot in one of
your enclaves." Aleff warbled, "We never let poor Marcus join in any cherub games!”
How could this angel make jests?
Jedrick felt the stirrings of annoyance.
“On the bright side, he knows
more about being twelve than most twelve-year-olds.”
Jedrick tracked the boy’s
progress as he wavered through a turn. “He was never given to an angel
of his own order?”
“Marcus has been with me since
first sneeze, and it pleased God for him to be brought up as a human.
He and I never stayed long in one place, but we’ve been at it long
enough for him to think and act like a typical kid. Only he’s not,
and that’s starting to cause problems.”
“He’s a cherub,
Jedrick.” Aleff drummed his fingers on the motorcycle helmet. “Marcus
was made for war. He wants to dress up in armor and bash at things with
“Then let him.”
“That’s the general idea. But
not without proper oversight.”
Jedrick turned his attention
back to where Marcus flew in artless circles. Faint snatches of a song
reached him. One of David’s psalms by the sound of it. “What do you
know of me and my Flight?”
“I’m afraid tales of your
renown haven’t reached us here.”
He cut to the point. “I have
experience with Grafts.”
Aleff’s eyebrows arched.
“Shouldn’t you have mentioned that a tad earlier in the interview
“You asked about me, not my
“You have a former Graft in
Jedrick took great pleasure in
answering, “One former. Six current.”
“Sly boots.” Aleff actually
looked miffed. “You’re overqualified.”
Without another word, Jedrick
unfurled emerald wings and leaped skyward.
Aleff’s voice touched his mind. Are
all cherubim this impetuous? Scratch that. I already know the answer.
But there’s something you should—
The warning came too late.
As Jedrick swept into tight
formation with Marcus, just under the boy’s left wing, Marcus’s voice
vanished with a squeak, and he attempted a backward scramble that
killed his momentum. His wings crumpled like tissue paper.
Jedrick dove after the
plummeting boy, catching Marcus by one arm and towing him out of
danger. Very little effort was required. Was there ever a cherub so
small? If memory served, even the newest of newfoundlings had more
girth. Aleff must have tampered with Marcus’s physique so he’d pass as
human. “I apologize for my sudden appearance.”
“You’re a Protector.”
“I am.” Jedrick was amused that
this seemed to impress the boy. “So are you.”
“How did you know? Did Uncle Al
Marcus’s voice was light as a
child’s, but his gaze was too guarded to belong to an innocent. Jedrick
was used to teaching reckless newfoundlings to think before charging
into battle. Here was caution in need of encouragement. “I knew you
just as you knew me. We are cherubim.”
“Guess so,” he mumbled, looking
Landing amid endless grasses,
Jedrick set Marcus on his sneakered feet and drew himself up to his
full height. Folding powerful arms over his chest, he weighed the
consequences of his next words.
Marcus also straightened, for
all the good it did. He was barely half Jedrick’s height, but his
bearing was a match for any angel of their order—fierce, direct,
combative. And endearing. Jedrick made his choice.
“Why’d Uncle Al let you in?”
“I wished to meet you.”
“I am called Jedrick.” Offering
an upraised palm, he asked, “Is this not your name?”
“No way.” Marcus edged closer
and touched the letters newly etched into Jedrick’s skin. “For real?”
“Your name is under my hand;
your life is under my protection,” Jedrick declared. “My strength and
my sword are your support.”
“There is no mistake.”
The boy fidgeted. “Uncle Al!”
Aleff immediately appeared.
Marcus blurted, “My name’s on
“Under,” Aleff gently
corrected. “Your name’s under his hand.”
“But … is that okay?”
“He’s a magnificent specimen of
cherubic prowess. Isn’t he what you’ve always wanted?”
“Yeah, but don’t I need to go
to school and stuff?” Marcus stuffed his hands deep into pants pockets
and hunched his shoulders. “You said you found a new spot for us.”
“For you." Aleff shook his head. "I’m not going with you this time.”
The boy’s expression barely
changed, but Jedrick responded to the sudden tension in the air by
letting his wings ripple forward. Would Marcus understand such a subtle
reminder that a mentor’s wings were his apprentice’s shelter?
Marcus didn’t even notice. “I
thought you were joking about putting me in an
Aleff rolled his eyes, but he also stepped close and stroked his
charge’s hair. “I think you’ll find these plans aren’t mine. They’re
God’s … and therefore good.”
Marcus only nodded, but Jedrick
found himself on the receiving end of a cautiously curious gaze.
“It’s okay to be happy, Mr.
Truman,” Aleff said. “You should be ecstatic. Not
many captains take on apprentices.”
The boy’s eyes slowly widened.
“The captain of a Flight?”
Since his first offer of support
had been too subtle, Jedrick chose a bolder course of action.
Unsheathing his sword, he gave it a twirl and drove its point into the
ground. Tapping the blue gem set into the hilt, he said, “See for
Marcus soon found his own name
carved alongside the other members of Jedrick’s Flight. After a
thoughtful pause, he asked, “Are they all Protectors?”
“You and I are the only
The boy relaxed.
Aleff jumped in. “Splendid as
this may be, I need to cut things short. If we don’t leave now, Marcus
will be late.”
“For?” Jedrick asked.
“Endless paperwork and awkward
introductions!” Aleff made a scissoring motion with his fingers. “I cut
most of the red tape, but your new apprentice still has to jump through
Slightly bewildered by the human
lingo, Jedrick said, “Which means …?”
“Change! In one fell swoop,
young Marcus has gained a mentor, a captain, a Flight, and—newsflash—a
foster family.” Aleff elbowed Marcus. “Which will be your undoing, do
you think? Swordplay? Or sisters?”
Angel Unaware, Part Two: “New Kid”