Read Sentinel of Heaven Online
Authors: Mera Trishos Lee
SENTINEL OF HEAVEN
By Mera Trishos Lee
Text copyright © 2014
Mera Trishos Lee
All Rights Reserved
I have a man
for all seasons; this book is dedicated to the four of them with respect, and
with great love.
Thank you, Kyrios
Muse, for being yourself – if a face could launch a thousand ships, your
beautiful eyes alone most certainly launched my writing career.
Ethan – you should already know why and if you ever forget, I will be here to
Muad’Dib – It is well with my soul, and will continue to be, because of you.
And thank you,
Ever-Fixed Mark – for making all of this not only possible but necessary.
Epilogue: The Dragon At The Heart Of
A few hours
before dawn Moira woke to the sound of something heavy falling hard into the rose-bush
outside her window. She stared at the slats in the blinds, almost certain it
was a meteorite until she saw the flailing shadow of one long-feathered wing.
A bird? A
swan or goose of some sort, maybe? Why would it be threshing around in her grandmother's
rose-bush – was it hurt?
She sighed and
blinked slowly, debating with herself on whether or not to go outside to try to
(they can break a man's arm, didn't I hear that somewhere?)
when the thing in the rose-bush gave a low and human-sounding groan of pain.
Not a bird.
Moira sat up in bed as fast as her back would let her, heart freezing and
racing all at once. She flipped her old housecoat on over her nightgown and
shrugged into the sleeves, hesitated, then picked up the cane beside her
nightstand – good sturdy white ash; baseball bats are often made of the same
wood. The heavy military-grade flashlight was in its place on the counter closest
to the kitchen door. She flipped open the locks and limped out onto the back
porch as she turned it on, letting the beam sweep the formerly placid night.
turned the corner of her tiny house her first impression was of leaves and
feathers scattered all around on the chilly grass. The wings in the center of
the bush stretched again... higher and higher now, their tips even with the top
of the roof. Nothing on earth had a wingspan like that.
the bush, her cane sinking into the soft dirt at each step. Curiosity and
caution warred in her mind.
reached out, hands searching for the edge of the decades-old hedge and wincing
away from the wicked thorns. Moira dropped the Maglite on her foot and didn't
even feel it. It rolled away into an old gopher hole and tilted upright,
illuminating the impossible scene.
The being moaned
again, branches cracking as it tried to stand. From among the withered foliage
a head emerged, half-hid under a mane of wavy steel-grey hair matted with leaves
cried, barely aware she'd said it out loud – but the figure paused in the
moonlight. After a few seconds with no other signal from her it sighed and tried
to blow the hair out of its face.
She bit her
lip and stepped forward, bending as best as she could to peer into the brush. “Set
your right foot down, slowly. Now, move your left towards it a little... yes.
Then down. Good. See if you can get up now.”
withdrew, folding slightly. More creaking from the bush as the weight of the
creature moved off of it, onto the ground. For an instant the world itself
seemed to tilt; she felt suspended between reality and hallucination, almost nauseatingly
disoriented. Was she dreaming?
tightly muscled arms disappeared again, moving closer to the torso to begin
pushing aside the branches and forging a path to freedom. Without thinking she
braced her goodish leg and reached in with the crook of her cane to help turn
aside the worst of the thorns.
at her feet in the next moment was not human.
He looked it,
in some ways. Two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet; a face, now that his
hair had fallen back. Not handsome, but strong and striking – it was the
visage of a fifth-century Celt, both brutal and canny. A naked, blood-covered
the cane firmly at her side and rested on it again. Naked, yes. Male, yes.
now. Those were new. Pale as ice under the stars, they had to have a span of
at least twenty-five feet. They curved protectively around him as he raised
his hands towards his face; in the beam of the flashlight she could see the
flesh was raw and shocking red on his palms and fingers, beginning to blister.
This is an
, Moira thought.
Of what type yet, I'm not quite sure
He looked up
at her with beautiful sky-blue eyes, and his face twisted with pain.
“I can help
you,” she heard her lips saying, “but we have to go inside. Can you stand up
for me please? I can't lift you.” She gestured with her cane by way of
did nothing, only stared.
understand English?” she asked.
once, just a gradual incline of his head.
“I can clean
you up and help treat your wounds, but I can't do it here. I'm not strong enough
to lift you or drag you. Please, stand up if you can.”
The night was
still around them. She became conscious of her breath steaming in the
darkness. The stranger lowered his gaze, then lay his forearms on the ground
and rolled sideways onto his elbows and knees, mindful of his grievously burned
hands. After some consideration he pushed himself up into a kneel, then a
crouch, then winced and eased himself up.
and up... and up,
She must have
been more distracted by his extra appendages than she'd previously realized;
until he towered over her solemnly Moira hadn't noticed the sheer size of him.
He had to be bordering on seven feet tall. Perfectly proportioned, however –
it was as if someone had taken an athlete of regular height and enlarged him in
all dimensions perhaps a quarter more. His shoulders were wide and powerfully
muscled. His torso tapered like a wedge to the ridged plane of his abdomen.
her mind helpfully reminded her. A massively tall mother-naked winged man,
covered in dirt and blood and rose leaves. Standing in the November cold in
her back yard.
she said at last. “You'll have to duck; my ceilings are unfortunately very
low. Please come with me.”
turned, wondering if he would follow. After a few steps he did.
as large and unwieldy as he seemed, he moved with a smooth quiet grace where
his injuries would allow. Even the splintered planks of the old patio barely
creaked under his footfall. She stood back and held the door open for him so
he wouldn't have to wrangle with it. Obediently he folded his wings tight and
tucked his head down, turning slightly to fit his shoulders through the door.
“Sit down in
here, will you?” she suggested. “I'll get the first aid kit from the linen
again as much as the immediate surroundings would allow he examined the ancient
wooden table and its two spindly chairs without much confidence, then settled
slowly to the linoleum floor in the center of the kitchen and exhaled.
the hall and just out of sight behind the closet door Moira filled her arms
with clean towels and washcloths – and sank her teeth into the topmost one,
rocking back and forth silently.
is not human. This being... this creature...
Go ahead and
say it, Moira.
You believe an
angel crashed into your rose-bush in the middle of the night, Moira. You've
invited him into your house to bandage his wounds like some sort of crippled
Disney princess. What's next, Scrabble and hot cocoa?
Are you awake
Did you take
too much pain medication yesterday evening? Is this one last burst of
hallucination before the endless dark?
absolute stillness of her house his breathing was audible. He grunted softly
as he shifted position. With the scratches, the rising bruises, the burns on
his hands... he must be hurting.
Moira slid the
old plastic first aid case onto the top of her stack of terrycloth and edged
the closet shut with her bad leg, leaning against the opposite wall. She found
him close enough to the breakfast table for it to be a suitable staging area
and dropped her supplies there, bending carefully to fish in the cabinets for
her largest pot.
“I figure the
first thing we do,” she answered the silence, “is to clean you up as much as
possible; then we can see how much damage you've got and what we can do to fix
it. I think I've got some salve for the burns if it's not yet out-of-date.
You'll have to tell me how you got those, eventually.”
She filled the
pot with warm water, as much as she felt she could safely lift. Her back was
beginning to sing its Ave Maria but she couldn't leave him like this, not with
his plaintive blue eyes on her.
like I can call an ambulance for him, either.
and set the pot on the floor next to him, pulling a chair closer and sinking
into it with some relief. Taking the housecoat off and balling it up in the
small of her back between herself and the seat helped to support her
“Do you have a
name?” she asked as she rinsed the first washcloth and wrung it out. Startled,
he opened his mouth to reply – but no sound emerged. He hesitated, then
pressed his lips shut and shook his head once, slowly. The motion made him
wince again and he ran the back of his wrist over his forehead, brushing aside
a matted grey lock that revealed a thin stream of clotting blood.
“Easy, there –”
She gently pushed his hand aside and stroked his hair away from his temples and
over his shoulders, taking his chin in one hand to turn his face towards her
ministrations as she washed away the blood and grime. Her probing fingertips
found nothing more than a swollen knot under his scalp. “You must have a head
as hard as rock; it probably hurts like a mother but it doesn't feel as if
anything's broken. Do angels get concussions?”
He rolled his
eyes up at her, his expression wry.
Ahh, nothing else busted here, although it looks like you may wind up with a
black eye...” He had soft lips for a man, almost out of place on such a
hardened face. She cleared her throat and washed out the cloth.
He tilted his
chin to expose his neck to her without her direction. She wiped across the
flesh over his collar bones and the top of his chest, finding nothing more than
some bruises and minor scrapes that bled briefly again and quickly closed. The
tiny faded leaves stuck at random on his skin she plucked loose as she found
them and dropped in a pile at her side.
His arms and
legs appeared to have gotten the worst of it; she spent several minutes
tweezing bark and wicked-looking splinters out of a gouge on his left bicep
before it was clean enough for her to feel comfortable padding with gauze
secured in place with tape. The water in the pot was turning pink and cloudy
by the time she washed his calves and feet, using up her largest adhesive
bandages on the deeper scratches. She poured it out and refilled with fresh,
leaving the dirty cloth in the sink basin.
meteor showers were supposed to be early this morning. I had wanted to step
out on my porch and watch them for a while but I forgot, I guess.”
too much medication and passed out...
He gazed up at her solemnly. She
shrugged and leaned over to wash down his sides, steadying herself with one
hand on his massive shoulder.
“When I first
heard you, ahh... land... I'd thought you must have been a meteorite, it was so
loud. Right outside my bedroom window, you see.” She sank down onto her knees
beside him; he stretched out on his side facing her to give access to his
chest, as calm and unselfconscious in his nudity as any animal would be.
He looks like
a man, though. Like a human man. Not exactly every day you're sponging off
random men in your kitchen, Moira.
lightly over his pectorals, then started down his abdomen. You could see every
muscle outlined under the skin; he would have made a perfect artist's
reference. He arched a bit under her touch, his eyes drifting shut.
When her knees
began to bother her Moira slumped sideways onto the outside of her good thigh,
almost stretched out beside him. She finished her work at the very base of his
torso and didn't dare go any farther, only pulled her hand back and examined
him entirely. He appeared so relaxed... he could even be asleep.
, she sighed to herself.
When her gaze
finally came back to his face those deep blue eyes were watching her through
his thick eyelashes, calm and faintly amused.
goddammit! It's not like he can read my mind!
she answered him, willing her blush to fade. “You'll have to stand up again
for this.” Dutifully he rose and followed her to the sink. She turned the
water to luke-warm and craned her head to look up at him.
Moira said up into the craggy face turned down toward hers. “Both parts of
this are going to hurt. I don't have a spray-hose on this sink; the house is
too old and I haven't spent the money to have a plumber to put one in yet.
You’ll have to rinse your hands under the faucet.”
He nodded once
again and she backed away to give him the room. Only the hectic jump of the
muscle in his clenched jaw betrayed any pain – his eyes held no expression
other than concentration as he passed his badly-burned palms back and forth,
letting the water carry away the dirt and debris.
Standing at a
distance like this, able to watch him unnoticed as he focused on something
else, Moira could see that his wings were in terrible disarray. Many feathers
were broken, stripped, shredded; some even outright missing. Would he still be
able to fly like this?
something and someone this large be able to get airborne in the first place?
his efforts, she nudged him out of the way to soap her hands up to the middle
of her forearm and rinse them clean with the hottest water she could stand.
Toweling dry, Moira sat down again in the chair; he sank into a cross-legged
pose at her feet and laid his hands palms-up in her lap.