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 Five: Class Clown
You can find Part 1 HERE
You can find Part 2 HERE
You can find Part 3 HERE
You can find Part 4 HERE
Marcus had been around the block a few times, humanly speaking. But standing in the presence of heaven’s Armorers and their Fourfold guardians left him feeling like a wide-eyed newbie. In his head he could reason it out. They’re angels. I’m an angel. We’re on the same side. Only these guys weren’t like anything he’d ever seen, and he had no idea how to behave. Let alone where to look. One person. Four faces. Which set of eyes am I supposed to look into? And how do you make friends with a sentient gyroscope?
He cleared his throat. “So . . . just stand there? Nothing else?”
“That will suffice.” Jedrick gestured toward the waiting opanim. “In the center.”
Marcus’s knees shook as he stepped into the interlocking rings of gold. “Y-yo,” he whispered as gemlike eyes winked at him on all sides.
“Fear not,” said the Fourfold with the face of an ox. His burnished feathers brushed the ground on either side of hooved feet. “The opanim are ready to—” His three brothers chimed in, their thoughts overlapping.
“Equip you for battle—”
“So calm yourself.”
“This is a place of peace—”
“Child of war.”
Marcus managed a jerky nod, and his gaze skidded back to Jedrick.
His mentor folded his arms across his chest, but his wings twitching restlessly around his ankles. Marcus wasn’t sure if Jedrick was edgy because he was edgy or because something weird was about to happen. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked so often about armor. Without really meaning to, the boy drew limp wings snuggly around his body.
“Wait!” Jedrick’s command rang out. As he strode forward, he took a gentler tone. “A moment, please?”
The Fourfold withdrew to a polite distance, and Marcus found himself swathed in emerald wings. It was embarrassing how much better he felt. “I’m fine,” he protested.
Jedrick shook his head. “Why are you afraid?”
“Were my explanations inadequate?”
Marcus fidgeted. “I know the words by heart. This is Ezekiel all over again, but it’s different in person. Way more real.”
Jedrick’s brows knit. “Your perspective is so . . . human.”
“Isn’t that the point?” Marcus wished desperately for his jacket, because he didn’t know what to do with his balled fists.
After a lengthy pause, Jedrick said, “I cannot share your earthbound days nor take part in the life you lead as a Graft; however, we are not on earth.”
Marcus’s gaze dropped. “Warriors shouldn’t need hand holding. Even I know that.”
The rings were certainly large enough to accommodate an angel of Jedrick’s considerable height. But the young cherub mumbled, “Is doubling up allowed?”
“Marcus, I am your mentor. That is, as you say, the point.”
“How come we’re here?” Marcus scanned the rows of fruit trees that marched toward a sprawling encampment. Having armor was a step in the right direction, but fighting? Way past his skill level.
Then two angels standing on the roof of a barn each lifted an arm in welcome.
“Never mind! I see them!” Relief added enthusiasm to Marcus’s return wave. He wobbled only a little as he spiraled toward a familiar pair of Guardians. “Taweel! Tamaes!”
“Someone has been to the forges,” Tamaes called, a smile stretching the long scar that ran down his cheek.
Marcus angled his wings for a landing and promptly tripped over his own feet. Taweel caught him by the shoulders, steadying the boy as he inspected the new armor. With a grunt, he declared, “All is as it should be.”
Even Omri made comment, though the little yahavim’s squeaks defied interpretation.
“You must be eager to begin,” Tamaes said.
Marcus glanced at his mentor and asked, “Are we starting something?”
Jedrick inclined his head. “We need to continue to build your stamina, but there is no reason not to check your aptitude with various weapons. Your teammates have offered to help.”
“But I’m your apprentice.”
“Very true, but I have neither their skill nor experience.” Jedrick explained, “Taweel was once the Overseer of a hadarim encampment, tasked with training up young Guardians, and Tamaes is a weapons master.”
“Not formally,” Tamaes protested.
Jedrick shrugged. “Practically, then. The title will undoubtedly be yours in time to come.”
Marcus studied the orange-winged warrior with new interest. “I thought you were a swordsman.”
“What other weapons can you use?”
Tamaes hesitated, and Taweel huffed.
Jedrick stepped in to answer. “All of them, Marcus. Every weapon in the hadarim arsenal.”
“As well as those used by cherubim,” Taweel added. “He was befriended by the weapons master of a nearby Enclave.”
“Whoa. Nice.” Marcus bounced on the balls of his feet. “I’m ready when you are!”
The three warriors exchanged glances, and Jedrick said, “Patience.”
Marcus wilted. More waiting?
His mentor chuckled. “We flew far today, and you need rest.”
“Tomorrow,” Tamaes promised. “There is no reason to rush. Your training will continue for years to come.”
“Lacing,” Taweel interjected.
Jedrick quickly agreed. “Every young warrior must learn the pattern for tying bootstraps. Practice.”
Stifling a sigh, he sat. Almost immediately, Omri pressed manna on him. “Thanks, runt.”
Marcus quickly undid the crisscrossing straps Jedrick had secured earlier.
The little angel stayed with him, crawling through his wavy hair and rearranging it.
“No wonder the big guy’s hair always looks so wild. You’re his stylist.”
Marcus hummed to himself as he rewove his laces. He was eager to show off his skills and glanced up to see if Jedrick had noticed. His mentor was engrossed in conversation with Taweel, but Tamaes was looking his way.
He strolled over. “You can already lace boots.”
“Yep. My brother taught me.” To Marcus’s relief, Tamaes didn’t bat an eye at his reference to human ties. Maybe Guardians understood, considering how close they stuck to earthly families.
“By any chance was this brother a Guardian?”
Tamaes took an apologetic tone. “Hadarim and cherubim use different patterns.”
“And this is Guardian style?”
Marcus groaned. So much for head starts.
On the first day of school, Marcus kept his head down and his hands deep in his pockets as he trudged through crowded halls. Uncle Al’s jacket couldn’t fend off the whispers and stares that followed him, but it was a good reminder of the important stuff. Go where you’re Sent. Be where you’re at. Do what you gotta. Even if your Sending meant repeating a grade for a few decades.
Marcus rubbed at the new blisters on his palms, courtesy of the blunted spear Tamaes had handed him the previous night. Who knew something as basic as a broomstick could be so brutal? His arms ached, and sitting was gonna be a treat after being knocked flat so many times.
Double-checking the number over the door, Marcus strolled into his classroom, which was already better than half full. Conversations buzzed. Cliques chatted. Even the teacher was shooting the breeze with a few guys, all smiles. Marcus was more than a little surprised to find Tamaes waiting for him. Except he wasn’t. The Guardian noticed his confusion and arched his wings pointedly over a girl with honey-gold braids all done up with pink ribbons. His charge.
Makes sense she’d be local. With a small shrug, Marcus ambled down the middle aisle, intent on laying claim to the central seat. Until he was blindsided.
“Marcus! Geez you’re late! How come you weren’t on the bus?”
An instant later, Marcus was in an undignified—and attention-grabbing—headlock. Conversations dropped off on all sides, so everyone heard Marcus’s gruff, “Yo.”
“How’d you get here?”
“Mrs. Turnquist drove.”
Marcus shrugged, uncomfortably aware that the whole class was now listening in. “Paperwork maybe. Parent-teacher stuff.”
They’d bumped into each other a few more times during summer break. Usually at the neighborhood park. A couple times during Ransom’s paper route. He pedaled slow and talked about nothing. Marcus kept up and kept quiet. It was no big deal.
“Bus from now on?”
“Good!” Ransom turned him loose but waved for him to follow. “I saved you a spot. Back row!”
Slouching into the seat at the back corner, Marcus watched his summertime acquaintance work the crowd. By the looks of things, Ransom had already introduced himself to a third of their class. And if the bell didn’t interrupt his progress, he’d probably have finished the job.
As part of roll call, the teacher called them forward. Ransom sauntered up, turned, and waggled his eyebrows. “My name’s Ransom. I’m not from around here, but I won’t hold that against you.”
Groans. A few laughs.
Marcus shuffled up beside him, and Ransom slung an arm around his shoulders. “And this is my friend Marcus. He’s new, too. Don’t hold it against him.”
More groans. Some girly giggles. Overall, it was the most painless introduction Marcus had ever endured. He hadn’t needed to say a word.
By lunchtime, there was no going back. In a small town where most people had known each other since kindergarten, he and Ransom were automatically lumped together. The class clown and his silent sidekick. Not that Marcus minded. Ransom’ll be easy to hide behind. Someone to grab all the attention so I can fade into the—Sneakers thudded and screeched to a halt behind him, hauling everyone’s attention straight to Marcus. “Uhh. Ransom?”
Marcus turned to regard the goof cowering behind his chair. “From?”
Ransom pointed to the girl with pink hair ribbons. “She’s worse than Kitten!”
She was furious; Tamaes was frowning. Marcus muttered, “What did you do, throw a newspaper at her?”
As the girl’s friends clustered around her with sympathetic noises, Marcus blinked in disbelief. “Did you tie her hair in a knot?”
The bell rang, and Ransom cheered, “Saved!”
Marcus sighed a silent If only, then swung forward in his seat, only to slam backward. The hand firmly planted on his desktop kept it from pitching over. Ransom’s guardian angel—the big, bronze-winged fellow—was all up in his face. Terrible etiquette where Grafts are concerned.
Marcus mentally groused, Do you mind? I’m in class here!
Holding his gaze, the Guardian said, “I’m Ardon, apprentice to Havilor. Marcus Truman, I’d like your help.”
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part Six: “Sparring Partner”