“Dareios.” Her voice was soft, delicate like a spiderweb and just as dangerous. I had learned from a young age to not mess with that voice, the one voice that seemed to reach me no matter how deep he was into the sea of exhaustion, no matter how turmoiled my mind was with problems and worry; she would reach me.
“What is it?” My voice was equally soft, dangerously soft considering how I had just been punching the living daylight out of the dummy in front of me, how I had bruises on my knuckles from the prolonged activity. In hindsight, stopping at five hundred would have been the wiser choice but I was never known to be wise. My face contorted slightly as I slowly, carefully, uncurled my hands from their balled up position, trying to massage some blood into my stiff fingers.
“You’re late. We were supposed to leave two minutes ago.”
Her grey eyes sought mine, laced with summer storms and angry skies. I knew I was in trouble right there and then, eye contact was to never be sought unless a serious matter was discussed. As I shifted uncomfortably under her calculated glare she pursed her lips, looking everything but satisfied with me.
“I can stall the Seraphim for a few minutes, I suggest you hurry.”
Her voice was cold as she turned on her heel an walked from the room, her waist-length white hair barely moving. A few minutes, that was all she could get me and luckily, that was all I needed as I quickly hurried into the locker room, stripping down to rinse off. The water was cold as usual - the Seraphim did not believe in hot water as it was not a necessity to get clean. Finishing my hurried shower I dried myself off and put on the usual uniform before tossing my exercise uniform into a bag.
Time to run.
Sprinting through the empty hallways I silently prayed that she had been able to buy me enough time, she was good at covering for me but I had taken more than a few minutes, probably about five to be honest, and as such the chances of my success was slim at best, especially considering that the Seraphim who taught this particular block was a rather menacing, eight-hundred year old being with absolutely no tolerance for slacking. Rounding the corner I could see the door to the lecture hall still wide open and a pang of thankfulness went through my heart.
She did it!
“-And while your theories on the Children of Cain are interesting, their predisposition for violence is still such a prominent trait that interacting with them is simply too dangerous. Now, if you will, Ms. Angeius, please do take your seat, class has been held for far too long already. You too, Mr. Angeius.”
The Seraphim turned her black eyes towards me, locking onto me like a deer in headlights, scanning me from top to toes as I stood frozen, praying to Aravat that I had not forgotten any part of my uniform. Seemingly satisfied she gave a curt nod and turned towards the rest of the class, shuffling her papers into alignment.
“As you all know,” she began, voice monotone and void of emotion, “tomorrow marks the Day where you will all be Assigned to your future, whether that is as a Seraphim like myself or as a much needed Ophanim. The possibilities are up to you, how well you score tomorrow will decide your future so do your best.”
“Well that was informative,” I muttered, sarcasm laced into my words as we exited the classroom, her right arm brushing lightly against mine. The entire student body was pressed together in the hallways, everyone trying to get to their lockers to grab the few necessities for their next block. For the two of us, the bell ringing meant a few minutes of freedom before we had to go to the Student Council meeting as we had to every Sixth Day. The Student Council, not really at all composed of a broad sample of the students - in fact it was only composed by the top ten, or, as the rest of the students called us, The Golden Ones.
That probably had something to do with us being the only ones allowed to decorate our uniforms with gold instead of silver, golden wings in our collars, golden cufflinks, golden shoulder tassels. An excessive amount of gold if you ask me but there was nothing I could do about it - rules were rules and they had been like that for the last millennia or so; ever since the first students passed through the doors of Academia de Angelis.
“Your sarcasm is unappreciated, Dareios, just like you know it will be unappreciated by the Seraphim conducting the meeting. Do yourself and me a favour and put it away into the deepest abyss of your spirit. I would rather not get in trouble again, my shoulders have still not recovered from that.”
Her tone alone made me shut up, if nothing else then because it made me feel incredibly guilty. I knew I had been the primary reason she had taken a beating for me. Now walking in silence we carefully snaked our way through the moving sea of bodies, looking for the empty hallways that would lead us to the council room in the west building.
“Esther, Dares, how wonderful of you to join us.”
The Seraphim spoke gently, unlike the previous one. Her eyes were the same black holes though and no matter how I had gotten to those they still creeped me out. You could never quite tell where the Seraphim were looking, it made for an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. Seraphim were the second highest of Angels, only triumphed by the Cherubim who were devoted to serving Yahveh. Once someone because a Cherubim you never saw them again ever. Seraphim were allowed to teach and many of them did. Those who chose not to were busy with matters of great consequence, both to us and to the Children of Cain.
She pointed to the only two empty seats left; one on each side of her. Dutifully I sat on her left and Esther on her right as we had so many times before. Sitting this close to a Seraphim was almost as unnerving as their black eyes, they had a certain presence about them, almost as if they knew something that we did not - which they probably did. Teacher or not, Seraphim handled paperwork only those from the Sixth Heaven and up were allowed to look at. Seeing as we, while attending Academia de Angelis, only were in the Fourth Heaven, there were not the slightest chance that we would gaze upon those documents.
“Dares, please, whenever you are ready.”
Right, initiate the meeting.
I rose slowly to my feet, waiting for everyone else to follow me so I could initiate the Council, and when everyone was standing, their gazes locked on me, I lifted my left hand.
“I vow now, to you my brothers and sisters,” I spoke gently, moving my left hand first to my forehead, “that I will abolish fear. I vow now, to you my brothers and sisters,” I continued, touching my lips gently, “that I will speak only truth. I vow now, to you my brothers and sisters,” I let my hand drop to rest on my heart, “that I will have faith and let Avarat guide me.”
“Avert guide us with his love and light.” Ten other voices answered me, my fellow nine students with great care and genuine love and the Seraphim with such gentleness as if she was speaking to a newborn child. As we all turned to bow to her she smiled, a soft tug on her lips, before sitting down, motioning for us to follow.
“Now, as you are aware, tomorrow is the Day of the Assigning, something I know many of you have been looking forward to, something I can assure you we, as Seraphim, have been looking forward to. Tomorrow you will enter the ranks of Heaven, whether that is as a Seraphim, like myself, a Cherubim, an Ophanim or a Grigori. Your Assignment will depend on your test results tomorrow, as will the Assignment of your fellow seniors. That is why it is exceedingly important that everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can.”
I knew this speech was the same every year for every Council but it still somehow made my hair stand on edge. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow I would find out my fate as an Angel, tomorrow I would find out how I was to serve Aravat. If I was lucky I would get into the prestigious Ophanim, the Warriors that protected us from the Fallen; Angels who had turned away from Aravat and His guidance. I shivered by the thought. Aravat was here to protect us and the Children of Cain. He made sure that they would not ruthlessly slaughter each other as their ancestor had slaughtered his brother. He made sure that we were protected; both from the Children and from the Fallen.
Arafat was goodness and light. Maybe I could become a Cherubim, a personal servant of Aravat, waiting on his every wish. I shook my head, that was no place for a young man.
“Tomorrow I want all of you to perform as we have rehearsed so often. I want tomorrow to be perfect, I want your ceremonies to be perfect. Most importantly, since a few select Cherubim will be there on behalf of Aravat, I want the ceremony to be beautiful. Esther, Dareios, I am assigning the two of you, as my top graduates, to greet the Cherubim upon their arrival. You are to report to the Seventh Gate at eight o’clock sharp. Your uniforms will be pressed and presentable. Have I made myself clear?”
Esther and I shared a look, our eyes locking momentarily before we both looked straight ahead and answered in unison.