Short Story – Wings of Ash

This is a canon short story which takes place directly after the events of Gravity Lies, so in a way this is somewhat spoilery for the ending of that story.  ~Vera

He didn’t know what else to do. For the longest time he just stayed away from all living beings, both in the physical realm and the spiritual. He couldn’t let any of his once-comrades see him like this. Certainly not his commander. She would most certainly end him if she knew.

Finally, he went to the only person he could think to go to. The guardian and gatekeeper between the two realms. Though it was his mission to keep humans and Fallen alike away from that sacred place, he always made time to listen to whoever may wander near.

Cynder stepped toward the gates slowly and saw the great gatekeeper there in all his fearsome angelic glory, flaming sword in hand to ward off any unwelcome. But as the fallen angel approached, the guardian spirit shifted into a physical form and gazed at Cynder, staying silent and waiting for him to approach.

With an apprehensive sigh, Cynder approached, his head bowed slightly. “Chamuel, I wasn’t sure who else to come to.”

Chamuel gazed back at him before sheathing his sword and folding his hands behind his back. His gaze pierced through Cynder as if he were looking straight through his physical form to see the essence of his spirit. “Go on, then. I am listening, little angel.”

Cynder breathed in deeply before lifting his gaze to meet the archangel’s. “I am… Fallen. Or at least I’m supposed to be, but something strange is happening to me, and I don’t know what.” He rolled his shoulders and his wings unfurled from his back. They were a mix of broken, charred black feathers and pristine glowing white ones.

Chamuel gazed at him for a moment then slowly began to approach in such a way as one might a wild animal in hopes of not scaring it off. “May I?” he asked. Cynder let out a bit of a shaky breath before nodding his head, his body tensed. Chamuel laid a gentle hand upon one of Cynder’s wings, his touch light.

After a moment, Chamuel’s eyes began to glow white. “You are coming back into the light. You could slip back into your fallen state easily, but if you so chose, you could return once more to the glory of heaven.”

Cynder stared at him for a long moment, breathing out shallowly. “How is that possible? I thought once one became Fallen, there was no going back.”

Chamuel ran a hand over Cynder’s wing, lightly pulling out one of the charred black feathers which crumbled to ash in his fingers. A soft white feather peaked out from where the other had been, and Chamuel smiled. “Our Father will not turn those away who seek Him. He will grant you an audience, should you wish it.”

Cynder let his eyes fall shut, his wings drooping slightly. “I have… nowhere left to turn. Even if I wanted to return to the state I’d been in, Jophiel would certainly destroy me once she found out what I’d done.”

Chamuel stepped closer to him and murmured, “She won’t if you join another’s garrison. You will have our protection. Father’s protection. I’m sure she would lose interest at that point anyway.”

Cynder was silent for a long moment, wings twitching ever so slightly. “I am unsure what I want. Everything feels so out of place and out of my control. It frightens me.”

Chamuel laid a hand on Cynder’s shoulder, giving him a reassuring squeeze. “Talk with Father and I’m sure you will get the answers you seek. He will not turn you away.”

After a pause, Cynder nodded his head, peering up at Chamuel once more. “Yes. I shall go and see Father, if you would let me pass.”

Chamuel stepped away, drawing his sword once more, turning to the side to let Cynder pass. For any humans, the path would lead to nowhere, but for the divine it was a pathway back to heaven, back to their home. Cynder took the first step forward and inhaled deeply as he made his way back to the place he had abandoned millennia ago.

Within the glories of heaven, the tainted essence of his Fallen nature began to burn. He shuddered at the feeling, wanting to return to Earth once more, but that was certain death. Here, nothing was certain.

Father’s presence enveloped his whole being and at that point he knew there was no going back, no escaping what he’d been running from for so long. He did not dare to lift his eyes to meet with Father’s; he didn’t feel worthy enough to do so.

Father, I…” He could hardly find the words to speak, though it didn’t matter much. Father knew exactly what he wanted to say already. Cynder shuddered slightly as he felt a touch on his wings, burning him at first, but it soon changed to a warm, comforting sensation.

I know why you are here, child. You needn’t be afraid. I will not cast you aside or turn you away.”

Cynder let out a shaky breath, still keeping his head bowed. “I’m lost. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I am… frightened.”

You need not be any longer, my child. I have you now. You are safe. You will find rest here.”

A hand touched Cynder’s chin, lifting his face up to at last look into Father’s eyes. He had been expecting to see disappointment, or anger, or judgment; anything else but what he did see: happiness that His child who had betrayed Him and cursed His name so long ago had at last returned to Him.

He was unsure of how long he stayed in Father’s presence. It felt like an eternity. No words needed to be exchanged between them. All he needed was to feel Father’s presence to know what was to be done next. He wouldn’t be going back, at least not as he was. He wouldn’t become Fallen again.

When he was released from Father’s presence, the archangel Raphael stood before him, silent and still. He held his hand out to Cynder, and once Cynder took it, Raphael took him away to somewhere safe.

They appeared in a small, mostly barren cottage. Raphael gestured to an open backed chair. “Sit. I will need to heal you.”

Cynder obeyed, settling into the chair, his wings resting at his sides. Raphael stepped behind him, examining the wings carefully before letting out an almost inaudible sigh.

While I will endeavor to be gentle, there will still be pain. Nothing you can’t endure though, I’m sure.”

Cynder breathed in and nodded his head. “I am ready. Go ahead.”

Raphael began his work, carefully removing all the charred and broken feathers which crumbled to ash in his hands. With each pluck, Cynder felt a jolt of pain, but he managed to contain himself, hardly making a sound and only flinching on occasion. When at last Raphael had cleared them all away, he swept the remaining ash off with a wave of his hand, leaving Cynder’s wings pristine and white.

That is all I can do for now,” he said quietly. “You may be weak now, but as your spirit heals, so shall your physical form.”

Cynder twitched his wings, tilting his head back to gaze at them. They looked fragile, as if they could be torn easily. He shivered a little and let out a heavy sigh. He couldn’t remember a time when he felt so weak, save perhaps when he first found out he had become Fallen.

Raphael stepped in front of him again, eying him quietly. “If you are to join my garrison, you will need to learn the skills and techniques of what we do. You will be using your powers to heal rather than hurt. Learning this may take some time, of course.”

However long it will take, I am willing,” Cynder said. “After… speaking with Father, I know this is where I belong.”

Raphael nodded his head slightly. “Regaining this power will strengthen your spirit as well. You will feel like yourself once more. You will feel whole.”

Cynder glanced down at his hands, flexing his fingers slowly. “The desire to heal rather than hurt… I believe such a desire is what brought me back in the first place.”

Is that so?” Raphael knelt down in front of him, taking Cynder’s hands in his own and examining them. “What gave you that desire?”

Cynder’s lips twitched before murmuring, “I met an unloved child who wanted nothing more than for someone to care about her. And the strangest thing happened then: I was the one who started to care. I had… never felt such a thing before while I was Fallen, so I’m not sure what made her different.”

Raphael gazed at him a little curiously. “Father often seems to use children to bring others closer to Him.”

I was… going to take her life initially. I made a deal with her to do so. But in the end I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. I had seen all she had been through and knew she didn’t deserve anymore pain and suffering. All I wanted was to keep her safe, to protect her, but…”

But what?” Raphael asked, raising an eyebrow.

Cynder swallowed and shook his head slowly. “I knew, in my current state, I would only be more of a danger to her. So I left, once I made sure she was safe. That’s when I noticed I had started to change.”

I see.” Raphael stood slowly, releasing Cynder’s hands. “You made the right decision in coming here.”

Well, it was either that or wait until Jophiel found out what had happened and have her smite me,” Cynder muttered.

Raphael got a dark gleam in his eye then, his voice soft but deadly. “She would not be able to, nor dare come near you now that you’re here.”

Cynder gazed at him for a moment, then said quietly, “Raphael, thank you for giving me this second chance.”

Raphael made a bit of a noncommittal sound before shrugging his shoulder. “No thanks needed. It is part of my duties as a leader.”

Cynder quirked his lips faintly and murmured, “And as a healer, it seems it’s part of your duty to give the broken hope.”


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