Stairs

Salvation: Chapter 3

After the first meal of the day came more hammering. Gadreel had begun tightening his muscles and blinking his eyes tight through the sound of each nearby hammer strike, but the feeling soon abated. It wasn’t long before the blisters on his hands grew elsewhere, bursting and leaving a cold slickness upon the raw areas left behind.

The light of the day had nearly pierced the clouds above. The door of the constable’s shack that guarded the edge of the yard opened. The silver-toothed man and his accompanying brutes, the ones that had brought Gadreel amongst the others, stepped out. Some of the prisoners stopped the movement of their arms to look upon them, while others knew better.

“Back to work! Those not working obviously don’t need the food, am I right?” He sneered, eying the prisoners. “Except you, feathered one.”

Piers glanced at Gadreel as he set down the tool and marched across the yard. “I knew it wouldn’t be long for you.”

Gadreel followed obediently, being led back to the main building where it seemed the constable lived and worked. The big men shut the door behind him and stood in his way. The silver-toothed man examined him up and down, pulling on the shawl down his back covering up the bulk of his naked wings. “Still no flight for you.”

“Have you now decided to hear the words I am dutied to speak?”

The sliver-toothed man came back around and examined Gadreel with squinted eyes before arching his hand back and replying with a slap across the face. “Your words are nothing but nonsense. Your body… those wings at your back, too, are inhuman. What else do you have hiding on your body? Talons? A fish’s gills, teeth of venom?”

Gadreel clenched his jaw as the sting of the slap abated. “My presence here is decreed a mission of peace… of salvation.”

The silver-toothed man folded his arms. “Keep your nonsense to yourself. The scholars and apothecaries that live in the castle desire to lay eyes on your body. So that they might determine what you are.”

“If that shall ease your qualms,” Gadreel declared, lowering his head.

The silver-tooth man growled and snapped, allowing the brute behind to take up Gadreel’s neck in his grasp. Before departing the building, they slung his shawl back over his head and back, blocking out his site of all but the movement of his feet.

The road through town climbed upwards. The cobbled that paved the ground resembled the stones that Gadreel and the others had been working towards busting apart in the work yard. Further along, the path turned to square bricks, growing moss, and climbing up one step at a time to someplace higher.

At the top of the stairs, the constable spoke to the guards at the gate. “We have the stranger.”

“Go inside.”

The interior beyond the doors was warmer and lit by candles and fireplaces. The orange light flickered and glowed against the walls which were made out of stone and not wood like the shacks the town’s prisoners were moored. Gadreel followed without complaint through the halls until they were met with those to whom the meeting had been promised.

“Well, well.” They were met behind a set of doors.

“Just like I said,” the constable boasted.

Three men, older, with wrinkles and thin hair, leaned, backs-bent forward, before Gadreel. “Do what you like. He’s not a delicate one,” the silver-toothed man added, shoving him forward and yanking off the shawl.

“Let’s have a look,” the first man mumbled.

“Have him undress,” said the second.

The already torn and loose clothes were pulled off Gadreel and left to settle at his ankles. His skin grew goosebumps, but he knew offering any reaction would gain him no favor.

“Fine skin, hair, and build,” noted the third man, pulling on and examining Gadreel’s fingernails and further below. “He’s intact, uncut, as well.”

“Disgusting,” the silver-haired man as well.

“Perhaps a sign of nobility,” The second man asked. “You found him where, again?”

“The town square. Showing off those spare limbs of his. Back before they were plucked of plumes. People came to us, though, speaking of a winged man.”

The older men trounced around Gadreel, eyes scanning his arms and shoulders and finally his back, the bare wing-like appendages hanging in the vicinity of his shoulder blades.

“There were once feathers here upon these… appendages?” the second man stroked the coarse, scaly skin with a single finger.

“They were bulky. Likely rife with nits and bugs.”

“Can you fly, sir?” The third man asked, finally returning to Gadreel’s view.

“I feel as if… it was possible at one point. But not with this body.”

The first man caught up to the third. “You have other bodies?”

“Where I was… before.”

The third man nodded, “Tell us about how you got here. Where you called home before.”

“Before…” Gadreel’s mind filled with clouds, any memory of a time before his arrival outside of the town absent. “I do not remember. But it is a place called… Heaven.”

“Heaven?” The second man asked. “I’ve never heard of such a land. Have you?”

“I haven’t.”

“No.”

The sliver-toothed man grunted. “He said he came here to spread word.”

“Who’s word?” The first man shook his head with a hiss. “The leader of your land, Heaven? A King? Or an Emperor perhaps?”

Gadreel perked up. “The Lord. He is the creator and leader of all things living, all things that have lived, and will live.”

The silver-toothed man smacked Gadreel in the back of the head. “You will speak no such words! The only lord recognized upon these lands here is the good King who sits upon the throne of this castle; for it has been his family line that has taken care of this land and our people for centuries. It has been his own blood that hath sewn this soil to allow us to prosper.”

“Calm yourself, constable,” the second man said. “Dress yourself, man of heaven.”

Gadreel crouched to bring the clothes up back around him, fastening the trousers and hiding the bare wings once more.

“This man speaks in riddles, it seems,” the first man glared at him with studious eyes. “He comes from a land called heaven, speaking of a man whom he calls his Lord.”

“A powerful man,” the third man added.

“He has said he is a messenger.”

The silver-toothed man shook his head. “A message of war, then? Invasion?”

The second man adjusted Gadreel’s rough collar and looked into his eyes. “What does your Lord desire for us?”

“Salvation,” Gadreel said slowly.

“That means nothing.”

“To be saved.”

“By what means?”

“I doubt the man knows every detail.”

“But it is a threat.”

“To save us from ourselves?”

“From what he seems to think our Kingdom is doing to us.”

“And from what point of reference?”

“Enough!” The silver-toothed man interrupted the exchange of words. The three old men stared at him, then Gadreel, who had barely moved from the spot. “When does your salvation come?”

Gadreel shook his head. “It is something you must accept on your own.”

“Are there more of you?”

“More, yes, I believe. I… feel them. But I have been placed here, solely.”

The silver-toothed man shook his head. “Your insight has been… productive, gents,” he said with contempt. “This matter now, I assume, must go to the king. His court, the guards, the scouts on the borders who might have seen something.”

“Aye.”

“Yes.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Well, I won’t have him going anywhere, then. Good day.” The silver-toothed man grabbed up Gadreel by the hand behind his back and turned him about. “Until we hear from the King, you will return to the others where you can’t spread more of your rumors and threats. Move, now.”

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