“I didn’t do anything, I swear!” Heifiel struggled against the two Powers who held her arms. Snot ran from her nose, mixing with tears. It was ugly and terrifying. Torralei looked away.
“Look at her!” Avourel pointed at the blubbering Seraphim then began pacing in front of his audience of angels. “She quakes in fear before my power. Shall I sentence her to endless torment for her misbehavior? Or should I be merciful?” He turned to one of the other Seraphim standing in a semi-circle in front of him. “Elnaril! What say you? You often worked with Heifiel as a pair. You know her best.”
“I say…” Elnaril looked around at the other Seraphim. Heifiel stopped moaning and waited for him to speak. Elnaril didn’t look at her. “I say, burn her.”
“No!” Heifiel pulled, trying to get away, and one of the Powers twisted her arm until she screamed and stopped struggling. “No, I didn’t do it!” She fell to her knees.
Avourel stopped pacing and face Elnaril. “Explain yourself, Seraphim.”
“She… She took your name in vain,” said Elnaril. “Sometimes, I even heard her be sarcastic.” He looked down at his feet. “I’m not surprised it ended up in murder.”
“Maybe you should have seen it coming, then,” said Avourel.
“I should have, I should have, absolutely,” said Elnaril. “I deserve to be punished.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Avourel, and turned to the next Seraphim. “Ilyrana. Wha say you?”
“I had absolutely no idea that she was capable of anything like this,” said Ilyrana. “Who in their right mind would disobey an all-powerful, all-seeing, infinitely kind and forgiving god of all creation? I mean, sure, I once saw her say that whoever designed the cloisters was an idiot. But I thought I must have heard wrong. After all, who could possibly say such a thing?”
“I once heard her ask for French fries with her meal,” said Hamalar.
Avourel stopped pacing again and stared.
“I mean, there’s no such thing as French fries,” said Hamalar. “I have no idea what the word means. Never heard it before. It doesn’t make me think of salty, oily, crunchy goodness in any way, shape, or form. I’m just repeating what I heard. That’s all. Never mind.” She backed up a step. “Forget I said anything.”
“Has anyone else heard Heifiel use forbidden words?” Avourel asked, then held up his hand when everyone started answering. “Don’t repeat the words! Just say yes if you heard her.”
A chorus of yeses followed.
“I always knew something was wrong with her,” said Elnaril. “I should have said something before it got this far. Maybe we could have saved her.”
The other Seraphim recalled more examples of Heifiel’s bad behavior. She’d complained about the food. She said it wasn’t right that her feet hurt so much. She wanted different clothes. Then it was the angels’ turn to give testimony.
Jannalor, the angel who liked to slap people hard on the shoulder, said that Heifiel complained about the color of the sky.
“She said the stones were too hard,” said another.
“She… uhh, she wished she had more arms. Yeah. Arms. Two arms wasn’t good enough for her. How dare she! She disrespected the most perfect and kind and generous god. The ingratitude stunned me. But uhh… I also thought I must have misheard her. That’s why I didn’t say anything. Nobody could be that petty and ungrateful.”
The next angel in line followed up on that theme. “And she said she wanted more eyeballs.”
“She wanted a third leg, too,” said another angel.
“She said she wanted more fingers.”
Torralei edged around the angel standing next to her in order to get next to Ninlein. “Are people just making stuff up now?” she whispered.
“No, of course not,” Ninlein whispered back.
“Am I going to have to say something?”
“But I’m new. I don’t remember her doing anything bad.”
“I’d try very, very hard to remember,” said Ninlein.
“What happens if I can’t?”
Ninlein nodded her head towards Heifiel. “Then you’ll be up there with her.”
When it came to Ninlein’s turn to speak, she launched into a long story about a trip into the jungle to look for a particular kind of fruit, and that Heifiel grumbled and complained the whole way.” The story was long and involved. Even Heifiel herself stopped moaning and started looking bored. “Then we finally get there. We’d been bitten by spiders, which is just as it should have been…”
Avourel gestured for Ninlein to hurry it up.
“Then she cursed the name of the most holy god Avourel when we found the fruit and it wasn’t ripe yet,” Ninlein concluded.
“For everything there is a season,” said the angel on the other side of Ninlein.
“And a reason that only the bestest and greatest god Avourel can hope to understand.”
“Glory in his power, glory in his power,” the Seraphim sang.
Avourel smiled and all the angels joined in the song. Finally, he cut them off and turned to Torralei. “And you, my child?”
Torralei panicked and looked around. She still hadn’t thought of anything. Did Heifiel complain about not enough bathrooms? Or was it someone else? She couldn’t remember. Finally, her gaze fell on the sacred tree in the middle of the plaza.
She pointed. “She said those apples were too sour.”
The other angels gasped.
“Oh, that’s a good one,” whispered Ninlein.
“Burn, burn, burn!” Elnaril chanted and the other Seraphim joined in. “Burn, burn, burn!”
Avourel cut them off. “We haven’t heard from everyone yet.” He turned to the last angel.
“I once had her say that she’d kill for a change of scenery,” said Elyon, the angel who threw out Torralei’s toothbrush. But it wasn’t her toothbrush, was it? It was Alosrin’s toothbrush.
The other angels gasped again.
“She basically admitted to murder right then there and there.” Avourel shook his head. “Let’s give her a change of scenery.” He turned around and raised his arms.
The Powers jerked Heifiel to her feet and Torralei could see a wet stain on the back of her robe where she’d been sitting on it. She’d peed herself.
She struggled again, looking weak and frail in the grasp of the two Powers. She tried to dig her feet into the ground, but couldn’t get any purchase on the smooth stone. She twisted and tried to make eye contact with the other Seraphim. “Why isn’t anyone defending me? I thought you were my friends!” She sobbed. “I thought all of you loved me!”
The Powers dragged her towards the gate. They were within a couple of steps of the silvery, shimmery surface when Heifiel finally pulled one arm loose and turned back. “Please, somebody, save me…” The Power grabbed her arm again and then bent down and grabbed her ankle with his other hand and lifted it up in the air. The other Power grabbed her other leg and she swung between them, facing downward, her shoulders twisted and her arms up and behind her. She looked up and screamed as her face approached the gate.
Avourel nodded at the third Power, who stepped away from the gate and walked outside the temple. They all waited, then the bell pealed once, twice, and a third time.
As the sound of the bell faded away, the two Powers holding Heifiel stepped close and slung her through but, instead of letting go, they stopped when just Heifiel’s head and shoulders were inside the barrier and looked back at Avourel for his orders.
He waved at them to bring her back. “I’ll be merciful.”
The Power pulled Heifiel out of the gate and dropped her on the stone floor.
Avourel walked towards her. “Hush, my child.” He looked up at the other angels. “In my infinite mercy, I have decided to scrub her mind. As she is only a Seraphim, not a Power, the memory of what lies beyond this gate would have been too much for her to bear. The pain and horror would have permanently scarred her.”
On the ground at his feel Heifiel tried to push herself up from the ground and moaned in pain. “What happened? Where am I?”
“I am Avourel, the lord thy god,” said Avourel. “Welcome to the land of Lamacoln.” The god spread his arms. “I have created everything that you see. These walls, I have created. The sun, I have created. The Seraphim, I have created them as well.” He paused. “You used to be a Seraphim, until you disobeyed and committed the most horrible of crimes. Now, you will just be an angel. Strip her off her robes and burn them.”
Ilyrana and Elnaril came up and pulled Heifiel’s white robes off her, leaving just the plain linen shift she had on underneath.
“Find her a set of angel robes,” said Avourel. “And, someone, sew a big red letter M on her chest. M for murderer. So that none of us ever forget her actions.” He turned his back on Heifiel. “From now on, she’s the lowest of the low. The vilest of the vile. The ground below our feet.”
“Oh, thank God,” Ninlein whispered. “I mean, thank the lord high god Avourel. This means that she’ll be doing the laundry.”