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They followed the surging mass of humanity, like trout swimming downriver; a part of the current, but not of the water. Eyes blue and brown studied the people, noted eager smiles and nervous laughter, the clean clothes which seemed a shade too fine for everyday use, the way hands strummed strings and twisted moving parts on the musical instruments everyone was gathering. Also, they noted the absence of children from the throng. Young adults, certainly, but no little children.

The crowd came to a halt, even though individual people were still struggling to get forward or just maintain their position. Over the peoples' heads, the façade of a three-storey palace of wood rose to blot out the sun. It was not a hugely refined structure, but it possessed a barbaric splendor and some opulence; parts of the building had visibly been gilded!
People all around were muttering to each other – and doing voice exercizes, such as one might do before getting down to some very serious singing.

A man with a handlebar moustache gently jostled the woman still wearing her hood and whispered: “Head to be uncovered, please. This is holy ground.”
He flinched at the sapphire-eyed stare that was directed at him, then again when the woman reached up to undo her hood... and then he blinked, surprised.

She was not exactly ugly, this second woman, but also not exactly beautiful. At best, she was handsome, but also... exotic. Her skin was the deep dark brown of oakwood, her cheeks sunken from either hunger or some consuming passion. Her hair was black as jet, and tied back in a simple braid, like a soldier's braid. But her eyes... Just the word 'blue' did not do them justice. They were the malevolent blue of the sky at midday, the merciless blue of polar oceans, the blue of sapphires on the hilt of a sword protruding from your heart...

All of these thoughts flashed through the man's mind and were gone in an instant, left him blinking with surprise and confusion. The dark woman's gaze had already moved on; she moved her head minutely, seeking ways to bypass the crowd, and found one. A brief hop and clamber later, she had made her way onto the roof of a small outhouse by way of a fruitseller's cart. The proprietor of the vehicle had voiced a lacklustre objection before returning his attention to the palace.
The dark woman had ignored him. She sat cross-legged, watching the palace like a hawk watches the valley in the early morning, intent on even the slightest interesting movement. She did not even turn around when her travelling companion clambered up to squat directly behind her.

“Quite the amazing smell you've discovered,” the beautiful woman murmured, her hands on the shoulders of the dark one. “So, when do you think the show starts?”

The dark woman did not reply, but her shoulders tensed – at the very instant that the people stopped talking and strumming. The distant trumpet went Blort again, and the sound seemed to be coming from the highest tower of the palace. All around, people started to sing, harmonizing with admirable speed. The musicians picked up the harmony in a heartbeat, using their music to underscore and strengthen the sound of voices, rather than overwhelm them.

The complete effect was smooth, practised, and frankly beautiful. No other word would do.

The beautiful woman let out a little sigh of genuine pleasure and leaned against her travelling companion, who failed to do the same. On the other hand, neither did she try to shrug off the weight pressing against her. Whether this was because she was enraptured by the music or because she was too focused on the palace to notice the flirtation was anyone's guess.

“I really like that one, there,” the beautiful woman said, languidly pointing at a young girl in a tan smock, chestnut curls barely touching her shoulders.
The girl's voice was indeed one of the finest in the chorus rising around the two observers; full of hope and worship and deep longing, it could have made her a fortune in any of the more cultured cities in the north and east.
“You know, you could take a look,” the beautiful woman noted, reproachfully. “She looks a lot like a pet I used to have, back home. Genevieve. She liked to sing as well, as I recall. I wonder how she's doing now. She was always so...”

The dark woman's shoulders tensed as the music rose to a crescendo, and the beautiful woman found her eyes swivelling to the palace's highest balcony. Up there, high above the adoring crowd, the glass doors were swinging open without the benefit of hands to move them. A light shone out between curtains of thick velvet, which started to flap as in a high wind – but a wind that was blowing out of the room, not in. The light was pale and clear, like moonlight, only brighter.
The people sang and played louder, their harmony seeming to reach for the unseen stars, or maybe for the sun, which was somewhere behind the wooden palace. Or maybe they were calling for the swelling, surging light, which strode out onto the balcony – and sang back at them, its voice a clarion call, inhumanly beautiful and pure. The light resolved itself into a form of equally inhuman perfection, neither man nor woman, like a marble statue of an ancient god come to life. Wings beat at its shoulders, feathers whiter than any swan's, but more like an eagle's in form.

Messenger,” the beautiful woman hissed in the dark woman's ear. She stared at the apparition with loathing; its beauty was too glorious, too perfect, and made her feel flawed and dirty. She cared not for the sensation. Not at all.

Still, the dark woman did not reply – but her back and shoulders were rigid, and she barely seemed to be breathing.

All around them, the people sang and played their instruments. Now the gorgeous creature's voice wove in and out of their collective music, like a snake coiling through a field of tall grass. Its music was stronger, finer, than anything the gathered humans were capable of producing – and they knew it.
The harmony started to crumble as individual singers grew uncertain, musicians found their hands trembling too much to continue, and the beautiful whole fell apart. One by one, they all fell still – with one exception. A woman, her eyes closed in rapture, her body swaying to the song of the snow-white being above her, played a hand-held harp. Her fingers moved so fast that they became a blur, and the tune she plucked forth was nearly a match for the song now wrapped around her.

With a dull Snap, the creature opened its wings and stepped off of the balcony. A gasp rose from the crowd, but the being floated down like a leaf without ever missing a note, its arms opening in a gesture of welcome. It never touched the ground; it just wrapped its arms around the harpist, who never stopped playing – and then turned its back on the crowd and floated back up to the balcony. Inside it went, carrying the woman, and the curtains and doors closed behind them, cutting off their combined music.
Silence reigned for a moment. Then someone started to cry, was shushed by their neighbours, and the crowd slowly started to disperse.

The beautiful woman noticed the signs of exhaustion in the people; the trembling hands, the hoarse whispers, the slumped shoulders and bent backs. Clearly, these people had given their all to please the glorious being in the wooden palace, and each and every one felt robbed not to have been taken into its embrace and carried to the secret delights inside the palace.
She laid her hands on the dark woman's shoulders, which were still tense as stone – and sank them through cloth into flesh. Now the dark woman responded, twitching slightly to dislodge the nails piercing her flesh. The beautiful woman just sank them in again.

“You saw what I did,” she whispered, her mouth a bare inch from the dark woman's ear. “You saw.”

“The dead man told me there were angels where he came from,” the dark woman said, turning her head just far enough to see her companion with one cold eye.
Cold, but clouded. Her gaze was distant, thoughts moving in its depths like fog on the water.

“How can the earth stand to have Messengers walking on it? Why does it not cry out and rupture?” the beautiful woman demanded. “Why are the skies not weeping fire, the wells not vomiting up blood? Where are the giant locusts, how is it that the sun and moon are not rotting in the sky? And most importantly, if you knew there were Messengers here, why did we come?”

Now the dark woman turned fully, her eyes clear once again, but darkened by her frown.
“Can you not tell?” she asked.

The beautiful woman blinked.
The roof of the outhouse creaked as she edged back from her companion, who made no move to stay close, but she ignored its protests. She looked up. She looked down. Left and right, she looked, Without and Within.
And she smiled; a smile that mixed anger and a perverse delight.

“There are no Messengers here.”
A bit more material this time. Just a smidgeon.

And yes, I left it ambiguous who said the last line on purpose. You can decide who said it for yourselves. In fact, let me know who you think it was! ^_^ I'd really love to hear more from the people who read my work.

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:iconmercenaryblade:
MercenaryBlade Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Interesting stuff. False angels? Hmm.

I like your descriptions of the dark woman's eyes.
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:icongrendelkin:
Grendelkin Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you. ^_^ I love them, too.
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November 25, 2016
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