The sounds of clanking filled the room when they dragged in the prisoner.
Almost like bells, Anahera thought. What was that saying?
“Every time a bell rings, an angel grows its wings,” she muttered. She leaned forward in the front row and the wooden bench creaked, a whisper against the grumbling chains.
“What?” asked her sister, Charmeine, sitting beside her with her arms folded.
Anahera shook her head. “Nothing.”
Charmeine reached over and gripped Anahera’s hand.
Two guards clutched the prisoner’s arms as they walked him down the courtroom. They wore cloaks as dark as night, a sharp contrast to the man in white between them. Chains wrapped around his every limb like iron pythons, snaking even around his neck. The shackles clattered against the floor as the guards shoved the man forward.
Almost like bells.
Across from the judge’s bench sat a high-backed chair covered in red satin.
The guards walked the man past Anahera and her heart thudded. She could smell the sweat of the prisoner. She stared at him, willing him to look around.
There was beauty beneath those chains. Strong arms. Bright eyes that did not meet hers.
Anahera watched as the guards forced him into the high-backed chair. She swallowed hard and ignored the whispers of her brothers and sisters in the benches around her.
“Peace, Ana,” said Charmeine. Her sister squeezed Anahera’s arm and gave her a warning look. Anahera nodded curtly before turning back to the prisoner.
“All rise,” said another guard by the door to the courtroom, where the guards had just dragged the prisoner. Anahera stood, shaking, refusing to tear her gaze away from the shackled man.
The doors thudded open and a man in white cloak, not unlike the prisoner’s, marched into the courtroom. He walked down the center aisle, his nose held high, and stepped around the high-backed chair without taking a glance at its occupant. He took a seat behind the judge’s bench and cleared his throat before finally looking down at the prisoner.
“One month of testimony, of evidence, of law, for a moment of justice.” The judge’s eyes flashed.
“Michael, please,” whispered the man. His quiet voice echoed around the room.
“Gabriel,” said the judge, Michael. “We do not interfere with the humans. We watch, and we learn, but we do not interfere. And you have interfered in the most...lawless...way imaginable. You have saved.”
Anahera felt her heart drop and her vision blurred red. An innocent life! she screamed in her head. What are we, if not protectors of the innocent? What are we, if not protectors of life?
“She was just a young girl,” whispered the prisoner.
“Young girl, old man, goose, bear--when our Creator decides it is their time, we do not interfere!” said Michael in a low, creaking voice.
“Please, Michael,” pleaded Gabriel. “Brother. Please!”
Michael cleared his throat. “I, First in Command to our Creator Almighty, Leader of the Winged Ones, Lord of the High Court, do hereby sentence the archangel Gabriel… to the flames of Hell, for eternity.”
“No!” Anahera rose to her feet and lunged toward her lover. He craned his head around and met her eyes, finally, before shaking his head.
“Stay back, Ana!” he said fiercely. “Stay back!”
Charmeine grabbed her cloak and pulled, hard. Anahera sank into her arms. “Peace, sister,” whispered Charmeine. “Peace.”
Gabriel looked toward Michael. “Please, Brother, Lord Michael! Please! Anything is better than the flames of Hell, anything, please--”
“Enough!” roared Michael, standing. “Away with you!”
As the guards took Gabriel away, Anahera’s sobs echoed through the halls of Heaven.
Anahera shivered as she walked past the empty cells. Her breath clung to the air and she could hear a faint dripping somewhere close.
“Here,” the guard said gruffly, stopping in front of a cell. “You have five minutes.”
“Thank you, brother,” she breathed, touching the guard’s arm. She could see the blush even in the dark, and he cleared his throat before unlocking the cell door.
“Not too long, sister,” he murmured before glancing around and walking to the end of the hallway.
“Ana,” said a quiet voice near the back of the cell.
Anahera rushed forward and sank to her knees, wrapping her arms around Gabriel. He didn’t wear as many chains as he had that morning, though a few still wrapped around his ankles. Blood dripped from a gash on his cheek and soot covered his face. She tucked her head into his shoulder and sniffed.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured.
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I should’ve--I should’ve told you to leave her alone, to let her die….”
“Ana.” He pulled back and looked her in the eye. “What are we, if not the protectors of the innocent?”
A warmth filled her as Anahera gazed at her lover, and she put her hands on his shoulders. “We are nothing.”
He nodded. “A little girl, running in front of a truck… how could I not step in?”
She sighed. “You are too good, Gabriel. Too good.”
“A too-good angel. I never thought I’d hear that.” He gave her a weak half smile, and she caressed his cheek.
“It’s not fair,” she whispered. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his cheek, right above the gash. “The fires of Hell…”
“The fires of Hell. Anything...anything would be better than this.” He looked at her pointedly. “If...if you are prepared.”
Ana straightened and widened her eyes. “Anything?”
He would know what she truly meant. Are you sure?
He nodded, and closed his eyes.
Anahera took a deep breath, and pulled a dagger from inside her coat. With a cry and a mighty slash, she severed Gabriel’s wings from his body. He yelled out and slumped into her arms.
“Thank you,” he whispered. There was a flash of light, and he was gone.
Anahera stared at the blood on her hands as the guard’s footsteps thudded toward her. The blood was dark--a cherry red that reminded her of kisses with Gabriel in the moonlight, back before the humans.
“Anything,” she whispered.