by Robins aka Nuada Silver Arm
The gapped-toothed picket gate swung shut with a squeal of stressed metal. Rotting and rusted, it was much like the church before me. A large stone building, once white but now faded all to gray. The only color came from the brownish lichens that splattered about the crumbling stone walls in a relentless attack. Stopping for I minute I looked at the unprepossessing site. It wasn’t my church, wasn’t even a church I had ever seen before. But it was a church, and right now that was enough. It would have to be. I needed to pray; I needed peace.
The winter wind cut at me, pouring down the mountains with the churning gray clouds. Normally I didn’t mind the clouds, and I love the wind in my hair. But today was different. When the winds had awoken and the clouds had come in, there were things among them, shining ones that flew in and out of the churning mass. Their voices carried to me, sounding like the wind, a song that pulled at something inside. The silver voices whispered and sang of things that I had never known, but seemed more important than breath.
Closing my eyes I tried to close out the voices. I stood still for a moment, letting the wind knife me, concentrating on the light touch of my hair being blown about my face. The voices rose up again, telling me to remember. To remember the wind of my passage blowing back my hair, a golden mane behind me. To remember riding the wind with flushed cheeks and parted lips. To remember things that could only lead to insanity.
I opened my eyes again, resignedly looking at the strange church. My eyes climbed the faded carvings on the facade, and there just beneath the gable was a stained glass window. Perfectly round, it alone was unfaded by the leaden day. It shone slightly with a thousand colors. The wind blurred my eyes, so I couldn’t make the picture out - but it made me feel safe. With this reassurance I strode quickly up to the church’s double doors.
The old doors swung open easily, the neglect of the gate had no place here. The wood was polished till it nearly glowed, the hinges bright and silent. I walked over the threshold into silence. Behind me the door swung silently, firmly shut.
The inside of the church was even more empty than I had expected. There were only a few bare wooden pews, all drawn up near the altar. The walls were gray and undecorated, the floor smooth worn stone, the few pillars straight and unmarked, even the alter was stark and simple, with only a white undecorated alter cloth and a cross. Yet in the center of the bare floor, between the doors and the pews, fell the colored light from the window. Muted now, but still brighter than the rest of the room.
I took a few cautious steps forward, my footsteps echoing loudly about me, looking for a priest, or any other human being. There were none in the echoing, empty room. Briefly I thought about calling out, but it seemed wrong to disturb the quiet that hung so gently over the room. I stood undecided for a few moments, then walked forward to get a good look at the magnificent window.
Seen from this side it was much larger than I had thought., it took up the whole of my vision as I gazed at it. About the border in green vines wove intertwining, or maybe it was just one vine endlessly flowing through itself. On the vines were roses red and white, blossoming inwards. Delicate petals were turned toward the bright yellow light that radiated from the central figure. There, filling the mass of the window was a figure of glory. Tall and perfect he stood, robes of white and rose whipping about him in a great wind. In his right hand was a sword, long and golden. In his left was a scepter, crowned with diamonds. On his brow was a star. Behind him, beside him, about him wrapped his wings. They were great and white, the wings of a heavenly swan, and they were filled with healing. From under these wings radiated the light, from in these wings came the power and the glory.
I stared up at the seraphim, remembering a song that I had heard once, so long ago. As I stood there that same song seemed to rise up, ever so softly, from somewhere deep inside the church. Listening more closely I realized it was not a dream. Somewhere, in a hidden room, a choir was singing. Their voices grew louder as I listened. The bass became distinct, carrying the strength of the song to me. The soaring of the sopranos came next, with the wind below them and the sound of joy beside them. I still couldn’t hear the altos or the tenors, but suddenly I needed to with all my being. The song that I heard was the same song as my heart’s, and the fact that I couldn’t hear all of it, that I could not make out the words, was burningly painful. I felt tears began to well up as my breath grew short.
I turned away from the seraphim to try to find where the music was coming from, to find where the choir sang. It seemed to be from somewhere behind the altar. I took a step towards the sound, and a darkness fell across the light from the great window. Startled I turned back, and saw what seemed a thousand struggling wings rise up behind the glass. For a moment they blocked out the light with their motion, their frantic flight. A thousand shadows fought each other with frantic flutterings, and then were gone.
“Pigeons.” I murmured. Just pigeons, and in a second they were gone - leaving the window free.
Then the light fell upon me like a wave of wanting. Gone was the muted gray of the winter sky. Directly through the glass the sun shown, spilling its rays on me. I stood, near blinded by the glory as the warmth fell across me. Green vines encircled me, and the roses brushed gently about my back, my sides, a soft path across my cheek. Their sweet smell filled me, and I could feel the wind of spring blow gently though unseen leaves.
The chorus swelled, no longer distant, to fill my ears. The song ran over me with words I had never heard, but knew like love’s first kiss. It filled me, it lifted me into the light. Running down my spine the sound and the light became one, like lighting across my skin. The roses seemed to be singing to me. I was lost in a sea of light and sound that gently enfolded me, caressing gently but with the sweet urgency of a summer night.
From the center of all the seraph stepped forward. Feathers stirred gently on his wings with the wind of his passage, and glory shone from underneath. His scepter and his sword were in his hands, on his face a look of joy.
In a voice of thunder, in a voice so soft he spoke. “I welcome thy return.”
My eyes blinded with tears, and I could not reply, could not tell him of the joy of coming home. For the light and the sound was no longer about me, they were in me, and I was in them. It seemed for a moment that I was the light and the sound, so greatly did they fill me.
I don’t know how long I was swept into this state, time didn’t have meaning any more. I was lifted free when the seraph reached down and took my shoulder in a gentle hand. “Rise up,” he said.
Only then did I realize that I had fallen to my knees, that I was bowed forward across the cold stone. I tried to stand, but the light was still upon me and I had no strength. I put my right leg under me and pushed myself up, but my knees gave out and I fell back. My legs would not support me, the weight of years seemed too great. The light seemed to dim and the music quieted. It seemed as though I was slowly being lost to the world, even the summer smell of the roses faded into the growing dark.
I tried to speak, but my throat choked closed. I licked my lips and forced out the words, “I cannot; my legs are too weak.”
He reached down again and with humor in his voice said. “I did not mean to thy feet. I meant rise up upon thy wings.”
I sat and stared at him, uncomprehending. He gazed calmly back and nodded once. Slowly then I reached behind me with my right hand. Feathers met my fingers, tickling me. They were none so soft as I had imagined feathers to be. Slowly, ever so slowly, I looked behind me.
Wings rose up out of my back, great white wings that spread out so that they filled my vision. I gazed at my wings and willed them to move. I felt muscles flee, powerful muscles that ran across my back, through my arms, over my shoulders and down to the center of my chest. I concentrated and pushed. With a single burst that sent my new muscles aflame with life I brought my great wings down.
The music and the light returned, as great as before. They surrounded me, they filled me. I had wings. I could fly. And my wings were full of glory. No longer did the glory of the seraphim surrounds me. The healing from my own wings spread about as I lifted them again.
I was free now, the seraph’s head was below my feet and the arch of the ceiling was with- in my reach. I felt the air move against my wings, pulling the out deliciously as they swept down. “I can fly!” I cried as the wind blew my hair into a vortex about me. “I have wings!”
I looked down to the seraph, but he was gone. I was alone in the room that my wings filled. The light and the song were gone from the room, but my wings remained. I swept them down once more, then spread them out - letting myself softly to the floor.
The ground welcomed my return. My toes touched lightly, lowering my the last inches. I felt a new lightness, a new strength in my legs. The earth would always be there to welcome me, but it no longer held me.
I wrapped my wings about myself with a great rustling of feathers. They were large enough to wrap all about me, and were warmer than any blanket. They cut the chill that had settled into the room and replaced it with a warmth. “I will never forget you again.” I whispered, rubbing the soft inner down across my cheek.
I was surprised at my words, but only for a moment. Somehow I knew they had been true. I had always had wings, I had always been able to fly. I could ride in the wind with the shining ones. I had come to church to find the peace, and I had. But I had also found more - I had found wings.
A crash sounded behind me. I spun, letting my wings fold safely behind me. Standing by the altar were five men and four women. One of the men, dressed in the somber black of a minister, had knocked the cross to the floor. He stared at me for a long moment before scrambling to pick it up.
One of the women, a blonde with a flowing sundress spoke, “Who... What are you?”
I looked back at her and realized I had no answer.
“Are you an angel?” A man wearing a yarmulke asked. I wondered what he was doing here with a minister in a Catholic church.
“No.” I answered, knowing that much somehow. “I am...” I stopped, unsure what to say.
The minister set the cross on the altar and said “No, he is not an angel. He is one of the fae.”
I looked at him for a moment, then at the cross. I nodded, “Yes I am.”
Several of the men and all of the women shifted uncomfortably, but the minister seemed more amused than anything else. “You didn’t know that till I told you, did you, son?”
My wings fluttered behind me, a gesture that I was going to have to learn to control. “No,” I paused a moment, unsure of how to address him, “No, Father, I did not.”
“You are very lucky. There are some of the Chorus who consider your kind to be wicked.”
I opened my mouth to protest but he waved me down. “No, I know you are not. The fact that your change came upon you here shows that much.” I felt relief at his words, and it must have shown because he smiled as he continued. “I also know others of your kind. Perhaps you would like to be taken to them? They can answer your questions.”
I looked at the man for a moment, a million questions coming to the surface. How did he know about my change? Why was he here? What the hell was going on? But I ignored those to ask the most important question first, “There are others?”
Baron Elathan smiled down at the tousle-haired child before him. She looked back with wide eyes and an O of pleasure on her lips. “The rest you probably can guess, child. I was brought here,” the Baron gestured about the hall, “much like you were. And like you Grinall taught me of our kind.” The girl nodded eagerly. “Oh! I really don’t know what to think about that story. I mean it wasn’t weird or anything. It was almost the same as my chrysalis!” She practically bounced with excitement, so pleased that she knew about the beautiful Baron and how he got his wings.
Elathan smiled, “Well of course your chrysalis was different.” he reached out and tousled her hair, scritched behind her ear, “You are a pooka, after all.” She smiled,and he asked, a bit uncertainly, “How did your chrysalis happen?” An impolite question, but he doubted the girl would mind.
He was right. “Well you see it all started with a giant slurpy, a plate of spaghetti, and a mule....”