Feathers

✧ In the House of Cosmos, the Cherubim - one of the High Orders of Angels in the heavenly hierarchy - are training newborn Angels to take over the posts that were left open when God threw the traitors from Heaven. But can the eternally adolescent divines ever live up to the great expectations? Will any of them be suited to fill out the posts of the High Orders, or will the Cherubim have to throw them all down to earth as Guardians? And what happens if one of them is playing with the same thoughts that once led Lucifer to his rebellion? ✧

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When Evangeline woke up, she was immediately hit by a sickening wave of nervousness. She knew which day it was, but she still couldn't help but check the calendar. Yes, it was no mistake. Today was the first day of their weapons practice - something she had dreaded more than anything. She completed her usual morning routine - showering, getting dressed and gussying up - as quickly as possible before yet again collapsing on the bed. I will not survive this, she thought. They will realize what a sorry mistake of an angel I am, and then they will throw me across the borders. She rolled over to lay upon her stomach and looked in the mirror across the room. She tried to imagine what she would look like with wings. Big, majestic, strong. She sighed, realizing that if she was thrown from heaven during the next week, the soft skin of her back would remain unbreached forever. 

 

"Goodmorning, young divines" Shekinah said as soon as everyone were gathered in the classroom. "I will not say much to you today. You all know that you will begin training with your assigned weapons today. And as you may have realized, there are three different classes with three different teachers. For those of you assigned to the Large Weapons class, Michael will be your teacher. Ezekiel will teach those in the class of Small Weapons, and I will teach the Archery class"

Evangeline's heart made a little jump of joy when she heard Shekinah would be her teacher, but it wasn't enough to break through her worry. She shot Gabriel a nervous glance, and his brilliant smile made her calm down a bit. She wished she had been assigned to a class with some of her friends. Like this she would be all alone when they tossed her off. She bit her lip insecurely.

"Large Weapon students, meet Michael in the training yard. Small Weapon students, follow Ezekiel to the glade. Archery students, I will be waiting by the south-east wall" Shekinah said, then gestured for everyone to get going. Evangeline sent her friends a weak smile, collected all her courage and left the classroom with the stream of angels eager to start the classes. The south-east wall was the longest walk of the three. The training yard was just outside the main building, and the glade could be reached by a ten-minute walk through the forest.

"Evangeline, right?"

A shy-looking brunette grabbed Evangeline's arm in the doorway leading outside.

"Yes, that's right" Evangeline said, forcing a smile.

"I'm Dina. You're also in the Archery class?"

"I am. Nice meeting you, Dina. Want to walk together?" Evangeline offered. The girl thanked yes, a relieved smile across her face. Evangeline thought she looked very sweet. Her hair was about shoulder-length and had straight bangs. She wore a pair of big glasses that rested daintily on her freckled nose, but they didn't hide her doe eyes with their thick lashes. 

"Which weapon have you been assigned?" Dina asked curiously.

"Bow and arrows" Evangeline replied. "How about you?"

"Oh, I got a crossbow" she smiled, pushing her glasses further up her nose. "I wonder what it'll be like. Training with weapons"

"I'm sure it'll be fun" Evangeline lied.

"I'm glad they had that Weapon Ethics class. I think some of the guys would be too quick using weapons on Earth even if it wasn't necessary" Dina noted. Evangeline agreed, and the two girls kept chatting on their way to the south-east wall. Evangeline thought it was way too soon when they arrived. To her surprise, ten to fifteen angels were already gathered around the place where Shekinah was standing. Judged by a quick glance on the last people behind her, Evangeline thought they were around twenty angels in total. A beautiful dark-skinned female was standing by Shekinah's side looking very authoritarian. She caught Evangeline's gaze with a hard coldness that made Evangeline even more uncomfortable. 

"Everyone, please be quiet" Shekinah said, waving her hands at the young angels. "This is Sarysha. She's an archangel working on Earth, but she's famous in Heaven for her archery skills. Today's lesson will be very simple. I'll hand out practice bows and crossbows to try out, and Sarysha and I will walk around, teaching you bacis techniques and the alikes. Now, grab your weapon and find a target"

Evangeline noticed then that over twenty targets had been hung upon the golden wall that drew the borders of Heaven. Dina handed her a bow from a pile Evangeline hadn't even noticed, then grabbed a crossbow for herself. They grabbed their arrows and bolts and headed for the targets furtherest away from the others.

"You look pale, are you alright?" Dina asked her. Evangeline realized she'd been holding the bow so tightly that her fingers were white, and she loosened her grip with a gulp.

"When I said this would be fun..." she began, "I meant that I'm freaking out. I'm not afraid of weapons, nor using them. I'm afraid of what they'll think of me when they see my incapability in doing so"

Dina looked at Evangeline with her puppy-like eyes wide from surprise. 

"But you're so talented" she beemed. Evangeline smiled sadly.

"Not with a weapon, I am not" she explained. 

"Dina, Evangeline" Shekinah greeted the girls as she jogged up to them. "I'll just get you started with using your weapons" 

She proceeded to explain how each of the two weapons worked before helping the girls with their first shots. Evangeline squeezed her eyes closed when she let go of the string, sending off her first arrow. She missed completely, and it landed somewhere short of the target.

"Good try, keep them coming. When you run out of arrows, go pick them up" Shekinah instructed. "Now Dina, if you go practice at that target so you're both in a safe distance from eachother, I think Sarysha will come and give you some useful tips"

She then jogged off to help the other students. Evangeline shot a few more hesitant arrows without luck. She glanced at Dina who seemed to be picking up much faster than herself.

"Let me see you shoot" Sarysha ordered, suddenly by her side. Evangeline kept herself from sighing and raised the bow. When she was about to shoot, Sarysha stopped her.

"No, this is all wrong. Raise your chin. Straighten your spine. This arm has to be raised like this. Also, tighten your core. You have to be in control" Sarysha kept correcting her positure, and when she was somewhat satisfied, she told Evangeline to shoot. Obediently, Evangeline pulled back the string and released. To her great disappointment, it landed on the ground just like the others.

"Useless" Sarysha said hardly. "This is what they teach you at the House of Cosmos? How are you going to be an angel if you can't shoot an arrow will all that instruction I just gave you?" And with that, she trudged away in a manner that seeped arrogance. Evangeline stroked her collarbone trying to recover from the insult. This was exactly what she'd feared.

When the class was over, Sarysha and Shekinah asked the angels to gather around again.

"Good job today everyone" Shekinah said, "I'm glad you're not afraid to try something new. This marks the end of the lesson. Sarysha, is there anything you would like to add?"

"Not really" Sarysha said, but then continued. "The talent of this class is very... Variating. Some tries were excellent. Some were pathetic..." her gaze landed on Evangeline. "But you should all keep up practicing and hopefully, one day, you'll get it just right"

She said something more, but Evangeline had stopped listening. She felt nauseous. Dizzy. Without knowing why, she turned around, and by themselves, her legs led her away from the others, faster and faster. I am crying, she realized. Why am I crying? But she kept moving away towards a destination she was only now becoming aware of.

 

 

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