Prologue

 

Episodic Stories

 

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Rebecca gritted her teeth in agony as another contraction pulsed through her abdomen. Even through the pain she felt a burning joy and pride. Her son was about to enter the world, and despite almost everyone she knew shunning her for birthing ‘an abomination’, she kept her faith in him. How could the product of such love be evil?

            Just as she could feel another agonising spasm about to roll through her, the pain suddenly vanished. Rebecca smiled, knowing that her lover had finally arrived. “I am sorry that I am so late, my love.”

            She didn’t waste energy on speaking out loud, knowing that her love could hear her thoughts just as easily. “Do not worry, Samuel. The important part is yet to come.” It wouldn’t be long now, though. Rebecca could feel her son’s shoulders forcing their way out, a strange sensation to experience without the expected pain. She felt her energy returning to her as her son’s father worked on her body, fortifying it with superior endurance.

            Not long later she felt her lover’s voice in her head, emanating excitement and anticipation. “One more push, my love! I have given you strength enough to bring our son into this world with your next act. Do it now, and then you can rest.” Rebecca nodded, and forced her muscles into their most forceful action yet. A cry filled the room as her son took his first breath, and tears of joy ran down her face as she sat forward to pick him up.

            Rebecca gasped as she saw her son for the first time, with the tiny wings spreading out from his shoulder blades after being cramped in her womb for months. She picked him up tenderly and held him to her breast. She wiped some of the blood from the soft blonde hair upon his head as he took his first meal. Rebecca could feel his father’s joy burning alongside her own, and it was some time before Samuel spoke again. “What shall we name him, dear one?”

            Rebecca already knew who she wanted her son to be. “I wish him to help others with his power, I wish him to be a healer. I would name him Raphael. What do you think?”

            She immediately felt amusement rolling from Samuel, and he gave a kind of mental laugh before replying. “I think that my brother will have mixed feelings about that! It is a good name, Rebecca.” She could tell when he shifted his attention to the infant in her arms, but he still let her feel the words as well. “Raphael Goldsmith. Welcome to the world, my son. I hope your namesake will give you his blessing and aid you whenever you seek to aid another. Regardless, you will be blessed. I can make sure of that.” Raphael had finished suckling by now and his eyes had opened. They were an astonishing blue and Rebecca became lost in them, for how long she did not know. She felt nothing but the love she held for her son, and pride in creating a life. Almost as if he read her thoughts, Samuel spoke again. “I think I understand now one of the reasons He did not approve of us begetting children. To create a life… An achievement that some may feel puts them level with Him.” He paused, as if considering what he was about to say next. “Yet it is humbling at the same time, driving home the connectedness of Creation, and one’s own place in it.”

            Rebecca shook her head in wry amusement. “I know it’s in your nature, but now is hardly the time for philosophising. We need to cut the cord and clean him up.” As an afterthought she added “I’d like to get cleaned up myself, as well.” A flaming sword flashed out, severing the umbilical cord an inch from the baby’s belly and cauterising the cut at once. “Wasn’t that a little excessive?” said Rebecca calmly.

            “I might as well use what tools I have to hand.” Samuel carefully took his son and carried him to the font. Rebecca watched in awe as her child’s skin sparkled with a strange light where the blessed water touched him. His father washed him gently until he was clean, before passing over the befouled water. Afterwards it was crystal clear once more. While this had been going on Rebecca had been cleaning herself up with some damp cloths she had set aside earlier, and now had all the soiled fabric wrapped in a bundle on the stone floor. She managed to drag her protesting body up onto a pew, and watched as the wrappings burnt unnaturally fast, until all that was left was ash.

            Suddenly Samuel was in her head again, and he seemed concerned. “Can you move? The priest is here with a gang of men, and they want our son dead.” Fear gripped her and she forced herself to the font, but there her legs gave way and all she could do was lean over it, desperately trying to shield her newborn child. Raphael began to cry, seeming to sense his parents’ mood. Rebecca felt his father’s presence grow before her as he forced himself more into reality between the doors and his family. There was a moment of suspense where all that could be heard was the wailing baby, and then the doors burst open. Raphael fell silent at once.

            Father Drake strode up the aisle in a fury, shouting as he went. “How dare you birth such an abomination in the house of the Lord!”

            It was at this point that Samuel finally manifested fully. It was just about possible to make out a vaguely humanoid shape, and perhaps the suggestion of wings, but mostly there was just light. To look directly at him was like looking at the sun. “I would not bring my son into the world anywhere else.” The men behind the priest faltered, whether from fear or awe, or both. Drake, however, seemed undeterred, and his confidence inspired those following to overcome their hesitation.

            As the gang advanced Samuel gestured with an ethereal hand, and a line of fierce flame sprang into being before them. Rebecca could no longer see the men, but she allowed herself to relax somewhat, sure that the fire would hold them at bay. To her horror, she was swiftly proved wrong as the priest walked straight through the barrier, apparently unaffected. Fortunately the screams a short time later showed him to be an exception.

            There was but one man coming for her son now, but she was still too weak to defend him, or herself. Samuel moved back next to the font and spoke quickly, his voice intense. “He is innocent. Look at him for what he truly is, priest. I know you are a good man, for my fire did not burn you. Exercise mercy this day.”

            Father Drake paused and stared at Raphael for a long moment. Rebecca realised that she was holding her breath. “He looks just like a Cherub… How can I trust you, who has gone against His word?”

            “If I had Fallen I would not be standing on this consecrated ground. He is harmless, and helpless. Give him the chance to show you he is not what you fear, watch him if you must. He could be no threat to anyone for many years; you know it is right to stay your hand.”

            Rebecca could see the priest’s expression shift as he reached a decision. He nodded slowly. “For good or ill, I am responsible for the child now. I shall baptise him now and live with the consequences of my actions.”

            Samuel bowed to him respectfully. “Thank you, priest. We shall raise him such that you will not regret your decision.” The light faded as he reverted back to the faint golden glow which was usually all that marked his presence. “No need to fear for now. You are exhausted. Rest, my love.” Rebecca was vaguely aware of nodding and lying down before a deep sleep pulled her down into welcoming darkness.