Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rebuttal: How the Harry Potter Movies Succeed Where the Books Failed

An article written by Dave Thier at The Atlantic suggested that the Harry Potter movie franchise succeeds while the books leave something to be desired. As intended I’m sure, the article attracted fierce attention and riled fans to the point of wanting to criticize Thier as the columnist. I’ll admit that when I first read this article I was incensed enough to post on my Facebook page about his credulity as a serious freelance writer for an online newspaper. However, that being said, I want to take this column point-by-point and explain the reaction of an avid Potter lover and why I believe Their is irrefutably wrong in his assumptions.

The first problem with this article is that Thier states, “[The final theatrical installment of Harry Potter] has been able to take the Harry Potter story and turn it into the epic Rowling couldn’t manage.”  Pardon my spluttering response: excuse me, have you read the entire series from Philosopher’s Stone through Deathly Hallows?  Epic does not cover the entirety of Rowling’s world, plot and characters. She managed to take a story, or as the columnist says “an old one, and a good one,” and turn it into one of the top selling book series of all time.  From the moment that we meet the Dursleys in Philosopher’s Stone until the moment we learned that “All was well” the readers of the Harry Potter series have tirelessly slaved over every particular detail in Rowling’s successful works.

Perhaps the columnist hasn’t scoured the internet at three in the morning to discover an entire universe desperately devoted to Harry Potter and his creator.  From forums to role-play, to its own segment of Wikipedia, multitude of websites, and fan fiction, the internet is a vast source of experience for any fan who loves the Potterverse. Every fan who finds themselves in the thick of this online Potterverse will assumedly testify that Rowling weaved her tale so extravagantly, so meticulously, that four years later we are still debating every move of Harry’s life.  To slander this series based on its lack of grandeur is ridiculous. I know Christians who are less devoted to the Bible.

Harry’s legend is epic.  His story may be a timeless cliché of good versus evil, but it’s the powerful narrative that has captured the loyalty and hearts of people across the globe.

Thier mentions “The most memorable moments were never plot developments, but rather things like the introduction of Hogsmeade, the Quidditch World Cup, or the first reveal of Diagon Alley.”  Once again, the columnist has shot himself in the foot with a lack of understanding the Harry Potter series. These places and events were crucial to the development of the plot.

Without Hogsmeade, Sirius Black wouldn’t have had the opportunity to stalk Harry in Prisoner of Azkaban nor would Harry have had separation from Ron and Hermione in Prisoner of Azkaban in order to discover the Marauder’s Map from Fred and George Weasley.  Mr. Thier, might I say that without the Marauder’s Map, a great deal of plot development in the book would not have happened. 

As for the Quidditch World Cup, if this event had not been in place the reader would not have had the opportunity to learn about the Dark Mark and learn to feel a twist in the pit of their stomach while they obsessed for a chapter over who could possibly have died.  Additionally, the QWC is where we first meet Bulgarian Bon-Bon Viktor Krum who has a large part in shaping the plot in a matter of the relationship between Ron and Hermione, and also the realization that Xenophilius Lovegood wears the symbol of Grindelwald, the last known carrier of the Elder Wand, aka one-third of the Deathly Hallows.

And Diagon Alley – I’m sorry, dear columnist, but without this magical main street, how would the reader understand what it meant that Ollivander had gone missing later in the series if we were never introduced to his modest wandshop that is set in Diagon Alley?

Quite the contrary to Thier’s belief, the books did become darker as the series progressed. The columnist argues that “silliness butts up against severity throughout the latter books.” He asserts that “the tone could never quite catch up to the circumstances.”  These statements are true to both the books and the movies. The audience finds humor in characters such as Fred, George and Ron Weasley just as easily as they find fright in Voldemort and angst in Harry.

Ron delivers comedy interspersed with his dramatic element in Deathly Hallows Part 1 as he destroys the horcrux-locket and almost immediately gains the audience’s laughter as he barters for Hermione’s forgiveness by means of agreeing to visit Mr. Lovegood.  As a matter of fact, in the books it is Hermione who engages the reader’s sense of humor when she begins to bash Ron with a book and alleviates the tension with worry. The subtle difference to the readers of the book is that it’s not Ron that diffuses the situation and pulls the reader from the adrenaline rush received from the horcrux encounter, but a much more plausible escape via Hermione’s true character.

One of the more irritating things in the article is Thier’s poke at different characters and items that appear useless and jarring to him as a reader.  He cites Daedalus Diggle and implies that the circumstance of the visit from him to the Dursley’s home is contrary to the tone of the novel. Might I cite Daedalus Diggle in Philosopher’s Stone when he made his first appearance?  He is a small man, an extravagant man, who was known to set off fireworks at the first vanquishing of Voldemort. He excitedly shakes Harry Potter’s hand.  In the final book, Rowling stayed true to his initial character, as she does so expertly through her series, and allowed the reader to feel a sense of familiarity in times when things were changing drastically within Harry’s world.  This is not a weakness in Rowling, but a strength; it shows that while circumstances change and the world becomes more difficult to navigate, not everyone succumbs to pessimism and doubt.

Moreover, the columnist adds the use of puking pastilles to his list of silliness that besmirches the dark tone of the book.  However, what the columnist fails to indicate is that the puking pastilles are not used to destroy Voldemort or his Death Eaters.  They are used as a distraction by teenagers who are trying to undermine a figure of authority.  While the scenes involving the creation of the Skiving Snackboxes are comical, it is clear that these items are created by children to avert an abusive instructor.  Clearly, they couldn’t take their wands and curse her, and so they utilized their creativity and did what they could as school aged wizards. This doesn’t suppress the darker tone of the books, it merely shines an adolescent light, making them more realistic in their fantastic genre.

Now onto the gravity of the article.  The villain who has given this article its flimsy weight as it attacks the tone and narrative of the novel: Lord Voldemort.  Thier maintains that Voldemort is no more than a bully who “could never summon the sort of pure evil” as other characters within the genre such as Sauron or Emperor Palpatine.  Let me rebut this claim by stating that his pure evil mind is similar to that of many villains; he is manipulative, cunning and has no conscience. More than those generic malicious qualities, however, Voldemort has proved novel after novel that his intelligence, strategy, magical ability and search for immortality are additional toppings on the sundae of evil lords.  Furthermore, contrary to Sauron or Palpatine, no history is given on these villainous characters whereas Voldemort has a full history – depth that supplies the reader with a true and unfailing hate for who he was, is and becomes.  No, Voldemort is nothing like these other villains – he is much more developed and tangible.  Keep in mind, Mr. Thier, that it was not the movies that breathed life into Voldemort. It was Rowling and her powerful narrative and attention to the details that explained the story in full so that the readers were able to appreciate why these stories are being told. 

“Ultimately, he’s defeated by a trick of ownership over the elder wand – hardly a fitting end for a “dark lord.”” The columnist places an immense amount of his arguments on whims of superficial details without glancing at the complexity of the storyline. Voldemort wasn’t merely defeated by a trick.  He was defeated by himself and his inability to feel remorse for his actions. Our hero, the “whiny, adolescent” Harry Potter, so maturely gave Tom Riddle a chance to change, to realize that his actions were going to be the death of him.  And unlike any other villain I’m aware of, Voldemort chose his pride, his fear of death and, ultimately, his demise.  Obviously, the end of the Dark Lord is much more intricate than a trick devised by a clever wizard that could negate a good percentage of the series. 

It wasn’t enough for the columnist to insult Voldemort’s character. He goes on to say “[Harry] defeats Voldemort, but he never matures into the hero his story demanded he be.”  Every person who reads the books knows that Harry is an emotional and whiny teenager. And yet, we follow his story so obsessively because Rowling truly made us care for his life. Her narrative made us loyal to Harry, hopeful for his world and, at the bitter end, we cried for all that he had to endure as a child and what he would come to live with for the rest of his life.

At seventeen years old, how many people are mature despite any hardships in their lives?  This boy has had to come to terms with being an orphan, abuse, life-threatening situations, being a target for homicide, being labeled a hero, and being a leader all before the age of eighteen.  I think we can let slip the fact that he’s whiny and really appreciate that the world is on his shoulders – and he’s handling it the best he can while he saves an entire world.  Every character has to have flaws, and Harry Potter’s character flaw is that he is emotional and not very happy about his place in life. I wouldn’t be either, especially after being told that everything is happening around me because of a prophecy made about my place in defeating a dark wizard who, upon hearing said prophecy, wanted to murder me.

Again, the point is that Rowling made us relate to her characters and sympathize with their stories in a way that the movies simply cannot.  Without the setting, without the obsessive details, without the deviation from Hallows to erumpent horns, the book series would not have made the impact that it has on the world.  It’s the little things in Jo’s universe that millions of fans appreciate and the minuscule hints and red herrings that we dissect at every turn of the page, that keep her fans so passionately tied to the book series. 

In a couple of months, a website called Pottermore is opening to the public with even more excerpts and history lessons from Rowling.  If Dave Thier is right, and Rowling spent far too much time determining her details within the universe and left much to be desired in the way of darkness and epic proportions of the series, then I suppose the website won’t have much traffic and people clambering to figure out how to be one of a million to enter the site well before it opens to the public…

Friday, July 1, 2011

Know Thy Enemy

This scene was cut from the book for two reasons. A) It sounded far too preachy and B) it did nothing to move the plot along. In any case, I enjoyed it and thought that I'd share.

A smooth, quiet voice jarred Daniel from his spiraling thoughts about the coldness of a human soul compared to the scorch of his own body.

“Please tell me that you weren’t feeling sympathy for that drug addict.”

“Michael,” Daniel lifted his chin so that he was staring directly at his taller brother. “It’s good to know that you care. Tell me, what flaws have you found in me this time?”

“Nothing I haven’t pointed out to you before.” He winced at the smirk on Michael’s face. Perhaps he shouldn't have asked. “I have to say that you're getting better at managing the pain.”

“Taking in the pain is hardly an easy task. I suppose you wouldn’t know much of it, though. Araboth doesn't need two of me.”

Daniel nearly chuckled. His brother’s sand-colored eyes widened only a fraction of a millimeter, but it was enough to give him a smug, minuscule upturn of his lips.

“Iblis is growing restless,” Michael said, changing the subject. “He longs for the human girl that he helped heal with Gabriel. There’s been rumors that he’s been sneaking off to see Abaddon and Delilah.”

Daniel walked closer to his brother and gazed up at the galaxy of stars. As dark and tumultuous as the heavens were, he always felt more relaxed when he was lost in their glittering majesty. He let the silence float between them for several more moments before he spoke to Michael. “I saw them together. They were with a human called Eileen.”

“He’s in love with her.” Michael’s hands were locked behind his back and his face gave away none of his thoughts, but Daniel still caught the tiniest flex of his muscles. "Much like Samael is in love with Iridessa." The disdain clung to the beat in between his words and Daniel's response.

“Lust is much different than what Iridessa feels for Sam,” Daniel told him blandly, while raising a sculpted, pale eyebrow.

“You don’t think that we're lustful beings?” Michael turned half of his toned body toward his brother and allowed a rueful smile to twist his lips.

“Of course we are. What else would they Fall for?” Daniel asked, now irritated.

“You think that Iblis will fall, don’t you?”

“The signs are everywhere. He will Fall for that human girl and she’ll have his kin. She’ll die like they always do and he’ll be filled with so much hate that he won’t remember the beauty of our race.” Daniel never understood how his kind could ignore the law of Araboth. When Angels Fell, they joined the Fallen in Avarice. Daniel knew his brother well enough to know that he would not, could not, give up on this new human infatuation.

“Your lack of faith is troubling,” Michael whispered, turning back to the stars. “Is it because you spend so much time mingling with the humans?”

Daniel smiled and shook his head, allowing his body to relax. “No. It's because I'm not blind.”

Michael’s wings fluttered. A few feathers fell to Daniel’s feet. “I don't understand you. Do you believe we are all doomed to the fate of Abaddon and Apollyon and the others that Fell before them?”

A purple meteorite blazed through the sky, close enough to one of the dense stars to completely massacre it. The explosion caused both Angels’ attention to be drawn to the downpour of brightly colored sparks and balls of fire falling endlessly through the galaxy. Daniel took this momentary distraction to place a serene expression upon his face. Once the shards of light began to dim, he nodded his head, knowing that Michael would catch it out of the corner of his eye.

“If we can’t keep ourselves under a certain amount of control, then we are going to understand our Fallen brethren a lot better.” He kept his voice passive, as smooth as possible. The idea nagged at his instincts. All of them would Fall one day, he thought.

“Iridessa and Samael?” Michael prompted curiously, causing Daniel to lose his stoic stance for a moment. He glanced at Michael and instantly regretted it, thanks to the quirk of triumph displayed on Michael's lips. “Samael is your closest brother. How can you say those things about him?”

“Sam faces the Fall because of his love for Iridessa.”

“You seem very sure of yourself,” Michael said, in interest of his brother’s observations.

Daniel inclined his chin only an inch. “Unlike many of my kin, I keep a close eye on the shifts in our lives. Iblis will not take kindly to being separated from something he’s found so intriguing. It will cause a war in his heart.”

Both brothers were now facing each other full on. “Why?”

“Because when your heart yearns, your soul becomes attached to the object of yearning. Tell me that you would do nothing if the Celestia asked you to do something you knew was immoral?”

Michael's jaw was slack and his copper eyes were furious. “They would never.”

“And so we feel about those we love,” Daniel pointed out with a small smile on his lips and shrug of his broad shoulders. “Love clouds our vision, tempts us in a way that is blind to imperfection."

Michael contemplated Daniel’s words silently. Daniel watched his eyes narrow and widen as his mind worked around the truth of his words. After several more moments, Michael's wings were drawn tightly to his back, his eyes remained wide, his mouth was moving and emitting a very quiet string of words. “Of course, if you’re correct, it means that we are all susceptible to being damned.”

Daniel spread his wings. “Tell Dinah to be careful the next time she introduces a new pollen to their world, Michael. She's helping sustain the addicts.”

Having said his piece, Daniel flew away while feeling the familiar plea of a desperate soul needing his protection.

The man that Daniel was beckoned to was a smoker, a drug abuser and an alcoholic. His peace had been made over the years, but never as strong as the day that he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. At the age of forty three, the man had damaged his body, had ruined his stunning voice, and his soul nearly beyond repair. Like most humans faced with death, he prayed for forgiveness. Perhaps for the first time in his pitiful existence, Victor had done the right thing.

Kneeling by the hospital bed, Daniel stroked the hair of the man who was prematurely gray. Daniel's clear, blue eyes were strictly focused on a space just shy of Victor's face. His lips were pressed together, forming an unbendable line. No feeling for the man. No sympathy for his sickness or his death. Apathy came with his duty, just as easily as compassion.

"Please," the old man begged, his breathing coming out ragged and sharp. "I'm sorry. God, forgive me."

Daniel's fingers ruffled Victor’s thin hair, his mind focused on the pain that the older man was feeling, concentrating on his pleas. There was a moment of hesitation before taking Victor's life, but his reluctance was not to cause the man further suffering. It was the sharp, hot-wire pain near his liver that had shocked him. Daniel hunched over and grabbed at his side, closing his eyes in an attempt to remain silent. In the moment that Victor's pain engulfed him, the silence echoed around the hospital room.

Overcome with pain, Daniel used his hand to seize Victor's soul. It wasn't a complete soul, but it was not damned. Not evil. Still, after years of abuse to himself and the temple of his body, Victor was freed and cured of the demons that tormented him through life, thanks to Daniel. He tried to focus on the good that he was doing for this man, but a wave of absolute need washed over him. Daniel's hand slipped momentarily, his control on the soul wavered. He tightened his fist and pushed away from the hospital cot, his face not reflecting the explosion of pain that he felt.

The journey between Araboth and Earth was not significant to an Angel, but to the human soul, the space between existed as a form of Limbo. Souls were purified during the journey through the shifted dimensions. Sometimes the souls screamed, some cried, and some remained silent. The extent of their pain was determined by the way they chose to live their human lives. It had been a thousand years since the last time Daniel had known a peaceful transition.

After the pain ebbed out of Daniel's system and his mind was one hundred percent clear, he allowed his indifferent blue eyes to open so he could witness Victor's transformation. The shadowed patches in the fluid exploited the sin that he hadn’t repented. The bright clouds showed Daniel of the times he attempted to rectify the wrongs he had committed. Even stranger, Daniel noted, was that the lack of color in Victor's soul was not clear, but cloudy. Murky. As Victor's soul came into contact with the purity of Limbo, it hissed; the soul jerked and twisted, but Daniel kept his grasp. He kept his eyes on the soul, a steady stare.

The man’s voice was clearer and even now, not marred by the breathlessness of his humanly disease. His shout was like the cry of a raven, loud and piercing. “Help me! Make the burning stop!”

Daniel’s mouth was trained into a straight line, but his eyes betrayed him. He narrowed them and glared at the fluid soul that was held firmly in place in his hand. It was extremely rare that Daniel felt compelled to allow a soul to slip to purgatory. This man had lived a disgusting life of drugs and deprecation. He didn’t deserve the beauty of Araboth and The Eden. And yet, while Daniel thought it, he knew that the man would be cleansed, his past would not be a matter of the present.

Victor would be saved by the Celestia.

It was the first step to paradise. Daniel knew that the soul would stop struggling, it would become still and then he could leave it. Leave and never look back to this man. A man who had gotten lucky.

The man hissed, his soul whirring. Daniel tightened his hold and closed his eyes to gather strength. Yes, he felt the burning. It was everywhere; his head, his wings, his stomach, his feet. It was no wonder the soul in his hands was jerking around, trying to slither away.

Daniel remained silent as always while he examined the coolness of the soul against his warm, sunburst skin. He felt the torment physically. A war inside of his body, as though it was being ripped into millions of tiny pieces. This was his duty: to help these souls save themselves. He had to remember that. Daniel shook his head with his eyes squeezed tight to attempt to block out the pain.

And then, finally, Victor went limp. Daniel heaved a breath, a motion of tiredness to humans, one of relief for himself. His fist was unclenched as he listened to the quiet humming of Victor’s soul. The pain he felt only moments ago, so intense and debilitating, was slowly rescinding. Unafraid of causing himself more harm, Daniel opened his hand completely and allowed the soul to drift into the bright, open area. He watched it begin to blend in with the surroundings and spread his wings.
It was time to go home to and await the next soul in need of saving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tempting Iblis

Everything was a whirlwind of beautiful orange, red and yellow as the leaves swirled around his feet. Up in the trees, dead gray branches were losing their seasonal decorations, left to hibernate for the colder season that was upon the Earth. Daniel much preferred Autumn over the other seasons. It was a quiet time; humans seemed happier after absorbing all of that sunlight from the summer. Lower death counts. He wasn’t in pain nearly as often, and he spent a lot of time amongst the humans watching them live their lives so normally.

He found them both fascinating and infuriating. In a second, they could repent their wrongdoings, and in the next, they would repeat their actions. Their ancestors held the original stories of Yahweh in their minds and yet they chose ignorance because it was easier. Because the rules were less hard to abide by. It was the reason he both loathed and loved his duties to Araboth. Purifying them, bringing them home, proving to them that Angels and Gods are real. It was Daniel’s purpose, as Yahweh had told him numerous times before.

None of the other Celestia quite understood. They respected what he did, but there were constant whispers about his bleak outlook on the human race, and most of all, the low tolerance for pain that seemed to incapacitate him whenever he had to save a soul.

But when he was with the humans, he couldn’t hear the quiet murmurings of his kin. He was absorbed in the lives of the humans; their drama, their woes, their happiness, and their ignorance. At the same time that he wanted to shake them all and force them to believe, he wanted to be like them and forget the reasons and forget the pain.

“Just because you can’t hear them, doesn’t mean they’ve stopped talking.” A voice that he knew well penetrated his thoughts. A brother and a mentor. A friend. A confidante. With dark hair sweeping over his forehead, and stunning bright blue eyes, Iblis approached Daniel with hands inside of strange, human clothes. Jeans. And a coat that looked to be made of wool. “They worry about you, Daniel. Spending so much time among the humans is something others have Fallen for.”

Daniel scoffed and shook the sandy hair on top of his head. “I don’t lust after them, Iblis. They’re filthy. All of them. The Nephilim are beginning to Fall and it has nothing to do with the humans.”

“It’s because the Fallen get to them so quickly.” They were standing, facing each other on a busy street. Humans passed them by, not seeing and not feeling them. “I’ve been telling Michael for years that we need to guard them from birth. He won’t listen.”

“He’s too proud.” A light chuckle left Daniel. “What are you doing here, Iblis?”

His eyes scanned the crowd for a moment. The beat of silence gave Daniel time to really look at his brother. He seemed happier than Daniel had seen him in centuries. There was a glow about him. And he was more smug. Even for Iblis, who enjoyed wading in his uncanny ability to know things others did not. The faint hint of a smirk never quite left his face.

“I was informed that Levi would be here.”
“What is Levi here for?” Daniel was intrigued . They hadn’t heard much from Leviathan since he Fell so long ago. He’d taken two humans and produced two Nephilim from them. Daniel had been able to save one, but the other had been taken by the Fallen. “He’s not going to create another, is he?”

“Gor said that he was going to survey the prospective humans with Delilah.” Iblis shrugged, looking nonplussed. He lifted his hand and picked something off of his shoulder and rolled it between his thumb and finger. “Delilah always has been a whore.”

“Why are they creating so many Nephilim now? It doesn’t make sense. We save at least half of what they create.”

“Israfel wants an army.” Their eyes met and Daniel felt weighed down to the spot under the intensity of their blue on blue stare. “We’ve known this since he Fell. He wants to prove to Yahweh that he’s better.”

“More powerful.”

“Either way, there’s your reason.” Iblis stuffed his hands into his pockets and pretended to shiver with a smile on his face. “Cold here, innit?”

Daniel laughed. “How can you even wear that?” When Iblis cocked an eyebrow and tilted his head, Daniel clarified, canting a shoulder to indicate Iblis’s coat. “Isn’t uncomfortable around the wings?”

“Nah. Can’t even tell they’re bunched up in there, to be honest.” He began moving forward, bustling past Daniel with a steady, angelic pace. “Let’s walk, try and find Levi and Delilah.”

They were instep, whipping through the crowd without being noticed. No one budged as they slammed shoulders or accidentally pushed them into objects on the street. It was a completely different plane of existence.

Daniel turned his head toward his brother as they walked and searched. “Gor? He’s never given us useful information before.”

“Gor owed me a favor for bringing him the two-headed cat. You know how sick he is – likes anything that’s a deformity of nature.”

“Why did you help him in the first place?” Their pace slowed as they approached a break in the sidewalk. Over their heads was a large, cement and iron sign. The entrance to a park. “We’re not obligated to anyone but the humans.”

“I do it because I can. Give a little, get a little. Honestly, I thought that your time among the humans would teach you that much, Daniel.”

“They’re like sheep,” Daniel noted, eyes drawn to a couple that were pressed against a tree trunk. “They can’t function without each other. It’s like they’re addicted to each other. And they seem to hate each other. And everything they don’t understand. And everything that isn’t perfect. I’ve learned a lot about irony from them.”

Iblis’s laughter at his side stopped Daniel on his endless list of all the things he found wrong with humans. “Humans can teach us about interaction. We’ve only ever lived in Araboth. Look at how much more advanced they are. They can even love differently than we can.”

“Yes.” Daniel’s tone was biting sarcasm. “They can love each other’s neighbors and wives and children, even. They can have four partners in a bed at one time, or forgo their wives for their pets. Do you know they actually incinerate their dead pets?”

“What do you even care about that? The pets go with the Timbrae.”

“It’s just wrong, isn’t it?” Daniel nodded toward the humans that were kissing under a leafless oak tree.


Daniel struggled to find an answer. He was focused on the couple against the tree. A blond girl, shorter than the boy by a head, at least. Their lips were touching, and his hand was on her chest in a way that caused a bubble of revulsion. No, he never felt that way. He never felt the lust that the Celestia were supposedly susceptible to. Just watching the actions of the couple against the tree made him feel sick to his stomach.

“Because it’s wrong. All they’re doing is breeding more cattle.”

“You know,” Iblis began lightheartedly, putting his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. He steered them away from the couple. “Those references to livestock should probably stop before our brothers start whispering about you having an affinity for them.”

Daniel’s disgusted gaze met his brother’s, whose was the exact opposite and shrouded and mirth and jest. He shook his head, pursing his lips. “It’s a metaphor.”

They walked through the park on a dark, asphalt pathway that was lined with miniature, white picket fences. As Daniel looked one way, Iblis looked another. The sun was beginning to set by the time that they reached the other end of the park, and still they had spotted nothing. Daniel felt disappointed, frown lines appearing both at his lips and between his eyebrows.

“Looks like Gor lied. Are you really surprised?”

“No.” Iblis’s voice had gone distant, causing Daniel to look in the same direction. “He didn’t.”

In the middle of the open field of the park, three figures stood out, silhouetted in the falling sun. One, much taller than the other two, hovered closely to the obviously female body. Delilah. The ringlets of curly hair fell around her round face. She looked ghostly next to her company.

“How about that,” Iblis said too cheerfully for Daniel’s liking. “Looks like someone kept their word.”

Daniel only had a moment’s notice; Iblis took off like a shot toward Delilah, Levi and the human they had dragged with them. He slowed down as he approached them. He would never trust them. The only reason he was still around was for Iblis.

“Mara,” Iblis said, and Daniel heard the desire plain in his voice. It startled him, and yet he stood rooted to his spot, unable to move. A human? Iblis was lusting after a human girl?

“Iblis!” Daniel called warningly, watching his brother approach the girl with a gently hand outstretched to her face. “What are you doing? I thought you said-”

“I lied.” It rolled from his lips with such ease, Daniel actually shuddered. “Oh, don’t look at me like that, brother. What? Are your saintly morals unable to comprehend what you’re seeing?”

A tittering laughter mocked Daniel, whose eyes immediately sought its owner. Delilah, with a wide grin and sparkling brown eyes. She raised a hand and waved playfully. Daniel’s face twisted in a sneer. He almost growled at her. “Aw, Daniel. You’re much too precious. What did you tell him, Iblis? That you were going on the hunt for a poor, defenseless human? We know he loves them so much.”

Iblis laughed; crueler than it had been before. “I told him the truth, though I omitted what really had me searching for you. Gor asked that I give you this as a token of gratitude for all that you’ve done.”

Daniel watched as Iblis pulled a small, golden bird from his coat. It tweeted in his hand, an annoying and high pitched sound. He had no idea what it was for, but he knew that if the Fallen wanted it, it was valuable. Indeed, because Delilah snatched it away from Iblis and passed it to Leviathan. “Stow it away; we can’t use it now.”

“What is it?” Iblis asked, and Daniel found himself torn between attempting to fight them all and listening to gather more information. “A trinket?”

Delilah’s responding laugh was loud, booming, and sinister. “A trinket? It’s much more than that.”

“What are you doing here? Why did they take me from home?” A softer, frightened voice broke through the dark silence that followed. “My husband, where is he?”

Iblis’s attention immediately left Delilah and Levi. He reached out to Mara and stroked a single finger down the side of her face. “It doesn’t matter. You’re with me now.”

“No!” It was the first time that Daniel had budged since the whole devastating scene began. His wings spread widely and he flew, crashing straight into Iblis. With his hands pinning Iblis’s shoulders down, having the advantage of his full, winged weight on top of the other Angel, he pleaded. “You can’t! You’ll Fall if you do. She’s just a human girl!”

“I want her!” Iblis shouted, a drop of spit landing on Daniel’s cheek. “Ever since I helped Gabriel heal her, I’ve wanted her. Daniel. I want her.”

Daniel shook his head and forced his hands more firmly against his shoulders. “No. You can’t. You love Araboth. You’re an Angel, Iblis. Not one of the Fallen.”

“I’ve already betrayed you, brother.” Iblis struggled, but Daniel kept him down. “Let me get to her, or so help me G-”

“Don’t – don’t you dare take his name in vain.” Daniel was fuming, his eyes narrowed and wet. His hair was falling into his face and his muscles were twitching with fury. “She’s just a girl. A human girl.”

“While this has all been fun,” came the voice of Levi, deep and gravelly, “we must get back. Thank you for your assistance, Iblis. Your reward shall be waiting.”

A moment of weakness, Daniel turned his head back to watch Delilah and Leviathan leave, but they were already gone. In a beat, he was flat on his back with Iblis above him. Tears of rage swelled in his eyes. He reached back and slammed his fist to the side of Daniel’s face. Despite his instinct to defend himself, Daniel remained still and allowed Iblis to continue on. Blow after blow struck him, but he refused to flinch. Daniel’s face began to break under the pounding. Finally his cheek split open and bone crunched. Iblis paused.

Iblis obviously realized the grave mistake he was about to make. Daniel took pity on his brother and tried to soothe him. Droplets fell onto Daniel’s face, and it wasn’t’ until he opened his eyes that he realized Iblis was crying. Sobs racked the Angel above him, and instead of berating or lecturing, Daniel reached a hand up to the side of his brother’s face and caressed him delicately.

Iblis would Fall in time, Daniel thought despite feeling ashamed. It would not be today, not in the park and not while he still had Daniel by his side. But, he knew that his brother was not strong enough to fight the temptation of the human girl forever.

“I’ll take you home,” Daniel said tenderly through swollen lips. He took a deep breath and allowed a small smile to appear on his face.

Israfel in Love

Infinite time felt more harrowing when there was no activity in Araboth. It was silly that most mortals fretted about their time to die when all Israfel wanted was some kind of release from the plaguing expanse of forever. There was a whispering voice that told him what he felt was wrong, indecent, and even unforgiveable. Still, it didn’t stop him from wanting something different. He witnessed the vicious politics of other races. They were all pathetic to his narrow mind. All of them were an insult to the Angels that sought to protect humans.

For centuries, he watched his brothers act as slaves to the humans, and as time passed at a desperately slow pace Israfel noticed the lack of gratitude. They were all fools to think that the newest race of beings could understand what troubles were awaiting them in the universe. They ridiculously thought that there was nothing else in the vast planes of existence.

It wasn’t until he heard her voice that his thoughts were soothed. Her soft sound caressed him like he had never felt before. She didn’t ask for help, but for hope. The name he gave her was Lilith and he listened to her for days, even ignoring his brothers when they would call upon him at his temple. He could envision her silky, brown hair tied into a knot at the back of her head, little tresses of stray hairs falling onto her forehead. Over time, he found her beautiful; brown eyes that were deep like the mountain valleys and a figure underneath her robes that were curvaceous like a supernova.

He appeared to Lilith for the first time when she was alone. Even then she sat like a painting, still and pensive, staring out of her open window at the endless blue sky. It was better not to make a sound, he thought, but just to watch her as her silent desires washed over him. Lilith wanted to be free, too, she thought restlessly. Free like a bird in the sky or a fish in the sea. A relentless barraging of similar feelings raced from her, causing Israfel to take pity on fair Lilith who had the complexion of a porcelain doll.

Perhaps it was the first time that an Angel had spoken directly with a human and for that reason, Israfel should have exercised caution. Though his mind was inundated with guilt, he couldn’t resist talking to her. He wanted to know her. Maybe her voice would sound different out loud, or maybe she would hide her desires. Either way, Israfel wanted to lure her into his comfort. If he could placate her, maybe – just maybe – things could change for them both.

“Why are you sad?” he asked her gently.

Reaching his hand forward, Israfel touched her for the first time. Lilith turned to him, a forlorn gleam in her eyes. Her lips raised only a fraction of an inch on her slender, pale cheeks. It was then that he saw her true beauty. Ethereal sorrow poured from her, feeding into him and causing him to gasp. Never had he experienced an emotion so powerful that it would render him physically staggered. Is this what Araboth was missing – a radical sense of emotion that both elated and capsized its victim?

It was intoxicating.

“I am chained by my master. I am nothing more than a slave,” she told him in a soft whisper. “He has left for the day and I am stuck in his room to tidy his messes.”

Israfel’s eyes scanned her body, taking in the hollow of her throat and the sharp edges of her collar. As he followed the length of her arm he noticed that indeed she was chained at the wrists by a manacle which hardly stretched to fit her tiny bones. Its bond to a rusted silver post in the center of the otherwise immaculate, beige room seemed impossible to destroy. Impossible for any other human, he noted as a new emotion – anger? – began to permeate his sense.

“If I remove your irons, will you follow me?”

Lilith’s entire body turned from the window and as she stood to her full height, Israfel knew that she would agree to his offer simply by her very first smile. Her eyes strayed to a space just over his shoulder; it was the first time a human had ever laid eyes on real Angel’s wings. He fluttered them for show, though there was no betrayed smile on his face. There were serious consequences to his actions, and he could feel the weight of his brothers’ judgment beginning to fall onto him.

The only way to be free was to push it aside and into the darkness where he once hid his guilt. With his hand still on her shoulder, Israfel peered into her eyes and extracted the thoughts he had become so familiar with.

Freedom. The wings of a dove. Perhaps he will lead me home.

“You will have a place to call home with me,” he promised her, dropping his hand deftly down her arm to the shackle that bound her. “We will have a future that you can’t imagine.”

“Will I fly?” she asked still staring at his wings.

Israfel broke the iron cuff from her wrist and took her hand. “You will fly one day, sweet Lilith,” he vowed, “but first, we must Fall.”

As if he were severing his own set of chains, Israfel jumped through the window and dragged Lilith with him into his world. Pain shook him as they plummeted toward the cold, hard ground, and he knew that Araboth had let him go. He had easily Fallen away from everything his Angel soul had ever known.

Israfel would never forget the freedom that Lilith gifted him as he tempted her into his covetous underworld. He was the first Angel to break free of Araboth’s limits. It was a new era. Infinite time was renewed even as the clock began ticking faster.