When Gideon was first told what his next assignment would be, he refused. He was a warrior, not a babysitter. His place was alongside his brothers fighting their never-ending war of good verse evil. Of the Angels from Paradise against the Demons from Hell, the Fallen, the damned. With his mismatched family whose unyielding loyalty to each other had been forged on the battle field, saving the humans from horrors they did not believe existed outside of fairy tales and myths.
Unfortunately, the powers that be did would not take no for an answer.
Vehemently – yet respectively – voicing his displeasure, Gideon transitioned down to the small tent where the child he was charged with keeping safe slept in the bundle of furs on an worn woven rug. The small caravan was quiet as it was late in the cold desert night. Deftly stepping over the parents who slept by the door, Gideon took notice of two older children who slept only a few feet away from his charge towards the back. Lying next to the babe was another toddler no more than two blinking up at him with a small smile on his lips, instinctively knowing the stranger in their midst dressed as one of their own in a black robe belted at the waist, long open coat and headdress that covered his blonde hair and most of his face, leaving only his blue eyes visible, and wearing enough weapons to slaughter a small army was of no threat to them.
Innocence is wasted on the young, Gideon thought with a grimace.
Their ability to sense danger adults were too caught up in their own angst to see. To be able see mystical creatures hidden in this wondrous world during a time they were too young to remember.
Removing the cloth that covered his lower face, Gideon smiled at the young boy as he knelt down next to the infant that called to him. Turning his eyes to the little one he frowned. It was not that he did not like babies; it was that they were fragile little things, and his hands were made for wielding a sword and breaking necks, not taking care of a creature that would break if he sneezed too hard on it. He wondered what was so special about someone small and innocent that he was charged with guarding it with his very existence.
Are you here to take care of my baby sister? the two-year-old’s thoughts broke into Gideon’s.
Yes, little one, Gideon answered looking at him.
She’s very special isn’t she, he frowned, his eyes grave as he looked at his sister.
Yes, youth was wasted on the young. Even though he had no information, the toddler instinctively knew something was special about his baby sister. Probably knew more than Gideon. Before he left, Gideon had tried to glean information from his superiors. All they would tell him was that if any harm came to her, he would not like the repercussions. That was when they opened a window into hell, showing him what was instore if he failed. Not that he needed an incentive. As much as he disagreed and let them know his objections, repeatedly, he would do as they asked with everything in him. It was what he was created for.
Yes she is. What is your name little one?
Aaron, the toddler thought proudly.
And your sister’s? he asked looking down at the babe.
Zahara, he answered with a smile. I will help you protect her from the bad people. His expression grew grave as he gazed at his younger sister. They have been hunting her for a long time, searching. Longer than I can…. The toddler stopped, as if he was about to say something that he knew he shouldn’t. You protect her? he asked again, his tone a plea.
Gideon frowned at the boy, a chill creeping up his spin. I will protect her with my life.
Looking down at his sister, Aaron nodded. Okay. Suddenly he smiled brightly at Gideon, the graveness from a moment before gone, and chimed, Night!
Once the toddler was settled down and asleep, Gideon turned his attention back to the infant. She was awake now, and as he looked down into her dark chocolate eyes, all his questions grew. How could one so young have a soul so old? So…pure. And what did Aaron mean they had been hunting her? She was only a few weeks old. Nothing made sense.
Tentatively he reached out his hand, his finger extended to touch her cheek. The baby cooed and wrapped both of her incredibly tiny hands around his finger, squeezing it before bringing it to her mouth to suck on. In that instant, Gideon was lost.
In the thousand years that followed, Gideon realized what Aaron had meant by a long time, and that if he wanted to survive the hell that had been unleased on the small child, he would need help. Enter his brethren. Some of the fiercest, deadly warriors known in the universe, their souls forged in the fires of Heaven and honed from centuries of fighting whatever foul creature Hell spat out at them, they were loyal to him to a fault. These men he trusted, no other. Not even those who claimed they were Heavenly Divine.
From that first day, it seemed as if every demon in existence tried to either take the girl or kill her. Yet it was not until the tenth year of her third life Gideon realized why they wanted her.
They were living in what is now known as Mayan Ruins deep in the Honduras jungle. Beloved daughter of the chieftain, Ixazaluoh was rarely left unguarded due to the attacks from what the natives thought were a roving tribe that had made it its mission to steal the princess for their own. Gideon and his comrades new the truth. They were Fallen, come to take what Heaven was so zealously guarding. What their enemy, Gideon was holding so close to his side.
Gideon had made sure he was the head of her personal guard, and that his men were dispersed throughout the grounds. Usually he had at least two of them close at hand at all times, but they had been pulled away to take care of a disturbance on the other side of the city. So he was alone with Ixazaluoh when they were attacked in one of the fields. Trained to defend herself by Gideon, she did not hesitate to join in the fray. What stunned Gideon, and he’s pretty sure those who attacked them, was as Ixazaluoh turned towards one of the demons who was disguised as a human male, she recognized it what for what it was and did not run screaming in terror. Snarling its name in Mayan as if his very existence disgusted her, she stared the demon down until it shrank back in fear. Somehow, even though they knew she was special, the demon saw past the mortal shell of the soul of a slip of a girl and saw her for what she was. Old and pure and powerful. It was also when Gideon realized, whatever the Fates had designed for her, it would change the universe as they knew it.
Zahara, Ixazoluoh, and in this new life time Sara. Different variations of the same name throughout her lifetimes, and where it sounded so simple, when it rolled off Gideon’s tongue it made his heart skip a beat and always brought a smile to his lips.
With each death and each rebirth, Gideon’s feelings for his charge grew and changed. Each death had become harder to endure, each rebirth a relief that she was not gone from him forever.
Number one rule for what mortals called guardian angels is you do not fall in love with your charge. Being as old as he was, Gideon was very well acquainted with the dangers of falling in love with a mortal, no matter how old the soul was. But he found that arguing with one’s heart was a losing battle. Still, if the powers that be found out about how he felt about Sara, they would pull him away from her, and that would not do. To not be able to see her smiling eyes every day, watch her sleep at night. Ease her nightmares with a brush of the back of his hand on her cheek, or whispered soothing words in her ear. To allow someone he did know or trust to keep her safe was unthinkable.
On those rare occasions when Gideon was called away for some other business, or tracking the demons who were rumored to be hunting her, there was only one angel he trusted with her safety. Talon, his most trusted sometimes obnoxious friend. Well, if Gideon was truthful Talon was always obnoxious. Because his inability to keep his temper, or mouth, in check, Talon would have been exiled a long time ago if Gideon had not reminded his superiors of Talon’s bravery and loyalty, or his skill on the battlefield. Of the atrocities they had all endured in this never ending war. And while Talon grumbled about what he called “babysitting duty”, Gideon knew he would give his life to keep Sara safe. Not only because of his unwavering loyalty, but because Talon saw what Gideon saw. That there was something about his mortal that was special, powerful. They just could not figure out what.
Today Gideon was hundred miles away checking on a lead he had been given about a powerful lord from the hell realm plotting to kidnap Sara. A false lead, as it turned out. He was about to go find the bastard that gave him the bad information and slowly gut him, when a wrenching deep in his soul that was so powerful it took him to his knees and left him gasping for air. Something had happened to Sara. When he could finally concentrate past the pain he tried to sense her.
It was as if she never existed. She was just…gone.
Pushing himself weakly to his feet, Gideon stamped down the growing terror threatening to disable him further, pulled in his strength and in a flash was standing next to Talon who was glaring at something in a store window. Around them the mortals walked by, unable to see the two six foot five armor clad warriors, continuing on with their day without a care in the world while Gideon felt as if his was ending.
“What the hell happened?” Gideon gasped leaning heavily against the side of the window. Why was he so weak?
“I’m not sure,” Talon answered his voice stiff with anger. He did not like it when something happened right in front of his nose, and this he never saw coming or was able to stop. It just smacked of sloppiness, and sloppy he was not, but that was exactly what had happened. There had not even been a hint of demonic presence or use of magic. He blinked and Sara was just…gone. “One moment she was standing here looking at something in the window and the next she vanished.”
“What do you mean vanished! How can she just vanish?” Gideon snapped standing straight. The world abruptly tilted, bringing a groan from him as he closed his eyes slumping back against the brick wall.
“What is wrong?” Talon asked his anger replaced with concern when he saw how pale his friend was.
“Not sure.” Bending over at the waist, putting his hands on his thighs, hanging his head, Gideon tried to suck air into his lungs. “Hard…to breathe.”
Talon studied his friend for a moment; an errant thought he quickly dismissed flitting through his mind. After the last betrayal, the one that had hardened the angel’s heart to stone, Gideon had sworn off women. Something only Talon knew. Nevertheless, the way Gideon was acting….
Again Talon dismissed this thought. Gideon never broke the rules. Bent them every once in a while to the point of breaking, maybe, but never broke them. Especially this one. Falling in love with a charge was the biggest taboo of their kind, and it meant immediate exile from heaven if caught.
Pushing that disturbing thought aside, he pointed to the window and said, “The bigger question is, how Sara is in there?”
This time taking it slow as he straightened, Gideon looked where Talon was pointing. Inside the store were different sizes of TV’s. All flat screen, all high definition, except for one. It looked like one out of the 1950’s. Big, bulky and everything in black and white. Even the movie playing was old. Something about a circus.
“I don’t under….” Then he saw her. Inside the black and white, dressed in tight crop pants, canvas shoes, button down shirt that was tied at the waist and a wide headband holding her long brunette hair from her face was Sara. She was talking to someone who looked vaguely familiar. On closer inspection Gideon sucked air in through his teeth. “Lizza,” he snarled.
“How the hell did she pull Sara in there? She doesn’t have that kind of power,” Talon snapped, completely stunned.
“She must have had help. Either way we need to get Sara out of there,” Gideon growled. Placing his hand against the glass, magic tingled up his arm. Yes, a very powerful spell. One he had never seen or felt before. “There is only one place Lizza could have taken Sara. I want you to gather the others and meet me at the doorway into His realm.”
“We can’t go in there without permission!” Talon gasped.
“Don’t tell me after all the wrong you’ve done in your existence, you’re going to balk at this one misdemeanor?” Gideon asked in disbelief.
“Even I have my limits,” Talon snapped. After a moment of watching Gideon stare at the black and white as if memorized, Talon voiced his concern. “But I’m starting to wonder where your limits are.”
Gideon’s head snapped towards him. “What do you mean by that?” he asked, his voice harsh, but his eyes told a different story. There was fear there. Something Talon had never seen in his friend’s eyes.
After a moment of hesitation Talon looked away, shaking his head. “Nothing,” he muttered dismissively. However, as far as he was concerned the matter was not over. Gideon had saved his ass more times than he could count, and Gideon was the only one Talon counted as family. Whatever was wrong with his friend, however far Gideon decided to bend or even break those rules he always quoted at him, Talon would not abandon him. Even if that meant exile. “I’ll gather the others and meet you at the gates. Give me ten minutes.” Then he was gone.
Gideon stood stock still, staring at the spot that Talon had just vacated, the same dangerous thought going through his head. Just how far was he willing to go to save his charge? And the unasked question, why?
Turning back to the screen he watched as Sara began to realize something was not quite right with her surroundings. As he had learned through the ages, Sara Cantrell was important enough to have the most dangerous ruthless warriors the heavens possessed assigned as her guardian. He did not think those who gave him this assignment would chastise him for going into His realm without asking them first. A little voice in the back of his head asked if it really mattered, because if he was honest with himself, he knew would have gone after her even if they forbade it.
As the creatures around Sara started to change into their true forms, time for questions and misgivings were at an end. He had to get her out of there before it was too late.
Chapter 1 Chapter 3
Copyright © 2017 Heidi Barnes