A Report to Blandine
by ednoria and edwardstanford
(Originally written in June 2003)
Gaudior and Zenaniel appear close to Blandine’s tower, which rises far overhead in an always-twilit sky. A light blazes at the top. It can be seen easily across the Marches, all the way to Beleth’s tower, as Gaudior well knows. There was no light when he Fell. Blandine erected it as a beacon for those lost in the Marches, and the Fallen who find it in themselves to repent. She has never forgotten them, nor given up hope. The beacon has, predictably, become a source of derision in Beleth’s camp — the scornful “She’ll leave the light on for ya” has even found its way into an Earthly advertising campaign.
After safely disposing of Zenaniel for a few minutes, Gaudior goes to make his report to Blandine. He sees her standing on her private balcony, gazing out over her domain. Her flock of dreaming souls swirls and bobs below her, shepherded carefully here and there by her Servitors. She studies each dreamscape in turn, as if she could read its secrets, as perhaps she can.
She sees Gaudior approach, and beckons to him, silently inviting him to join her. Gaudior ascends to the balcony, passing several Servitors engaged in their various tasks. One occasionally nods at him in passing; speech is somewhat superfluous in Blandine’s Tower.
Her balcony is beautiful in an austere way. The floor is flagged with stones of varying hues of blue, seamlessly fitted together. The railing is one continuous piece of veined white marble, seemingly unsupported. The only ornament is a sphere, perhaps as large as Blandine’s outstretched arms, composed of many rings, all slowly rotating in and through and around each other. It reminds Gaudior somewhat of the ancients’ view of the Earth as a fixed planet in the heavens, surrounded by the celestial spheres, and the more and more intricate models that evolved to explain the wayward motions of the planets. Except that this is far more complex, and because there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of rings, in all colors and sizes, it is impossible to tell whether anything occupies the central position at all. It is absolutely silent as it spins several inches above a low slender pedestal of immaculate alabaster. Blandine once told Gaudior that Eli made it for her, though she has never said what it is does. Knowing Eli, it could be almost anything.
Although she is as composed as always, Gaudior can tell this is one of her better days. Perhaps she has had a significant victory over Beleth, or perhaps one of her Servitors has discovered an exceptional dreamer. She smiles at him with real warmth and asks for his report.
Gaudior clears his throat nervously, then speaks up firmly, saying "My Lady, it pains me to have to make a complaint. While our fellows have done their duty as they see fit, I fear that have done lasting, if not irreparable damage to one of our brethren. I do not think the situation calls for immediate action on your part, but I would very much appreciate it if you could ensure that the case in question is judged by the Seraphim Council, and then not hastily. I sorrow that I must plead for you to undertake a potential confrontation with elements of the Council, yet I think that in doing so, I act as you would have me do. Hear, and you shall judge.
“As you know, Asiel sent our team to Austin to determine what, if anything, Rumah had been planning. While there, we discovered that Druiel, Angel of Teen Death, of the House of Christopher, had begun to interpret his word in highly questionable ways, when he arranged for the death of his Role’s girlfriend in an automobile accident with our vehicle. We were understandably disturbed, especially poor Reziphel Ofanite, who was driving. We enquired of our host in Austin, Tomas, and learned that Druiel’s fellow Angels were concerned and confused by his behavior, which followed a previously established pattern.”
Here Gaudior pauses. He looks both angry and uncomfortable.
Blandine stands quietly, one hand lightly brushing the marble railing as if it were a cat. Her gown is of blue and silver; it is difficult to tell where one color ends and the other begins. A necklace of dreams, shimmering like pearls, glows softly as she speaks. “A difficult Word for one of Children’s Servitors. I have not met Druiel, but he would not be the first to be struck down by an ill-chosen Word.” She glances briefly across the Marches, towards Beleth’s Tower; the movement seems unconscious. “I understand your aversion to Druiel’s actions, but surely this is a matter between him and his Archangel. There must be more to this; I have not seen you so angry in many years.” Her eyes hold his.
Gaudior takes a deep breath. His image wavers into a blur, then firms. He is now shining with a cool blue light, in Celestial form. The light that he radiates catches the scales lining his body, and brings out the iridescence in his soft wings. It mingles gently with the light of Blandine’s necklace. His wings beat lazily, suspending him above the balcony. His voice becomes deeper and more resonant, but at the same time calmer and softer.
“Indeed, My Lady, I was saddened at what I heard, but not infuriated. I know as well as any, and perhaps better than most, how the contradictions inherent between a Word and one’s allegiance can twist a Celestial. In my own case, the result was happy: clearly it would not have been for poor Druiel. I asked Tomas to set up a meeting as soon as might be: I wanted to help. I also told my teammates of my concern: they needed to know that my focus would be elsewhere from our mission for a time. Also, I wished to warn them: I thought, and think, that there exists a possibility that Druiel has been the target of a subtle plot by our Adversary to destroy him, while remaining within the confines of the truce. My former self would have delighted in such work.
“My colleague Shilom was distressed, as were we all, and spoke of the need to eventually inform the Inquisition if Druiel did not reform. While I found this course distasteful, I could not in truth disagree: if Druiel did not repent, then he was a danger to himself, his charges, and his fellow Angels. I confess I have little enough love for the Inquisition, yet the Council does often temper their… zeal, let us say, with sense. But I also thought that it was important to talk to Druiel directly first, to learn what had driven him to this extreme, and to see if I could reach him. My colleague agreed that this was a wise first step, and agreed that I should investigate, and keep her informed.
“I contacted Druiel in a diner: it was quite crowded with mortals, but who notices a teenaged boy talking to a little girl eating an ice cream float? Perhaps he has taken his little sister out for a snack.
“He was highly agitated. I told him who I was: he apologized for having involved us in a mortal death. I told him of my concern as to where his path was leading him: he became highly nervous, and somewhat aggressive: prepared to fight or to run, and unsure of which to do. Clearly he was aware that his way had become uncertain, and the path he trod led to no good end: clearly, too, he was repelled by this, not attracted. I concluded that his danger was as great as I feared, but that his prognosis, with treatment, was excellent. No rot had reached his heart: he was, as any of us may be, confused and scared, but not malicious.”
There is a small disturbance in the air nearby. A Menunite, faceless and formless, is briefly visible as it whispers something into Blandine’s ear. She answers just as quietly, without looking away from Gaudior. The Menunite pulses once, and silently fades away. If he concentrates, Gaudior can see it moving across the balcony back into the tower.
Gaudior pauses briefly to smile at the Menunite, then continues.
“Unfortunately, his agitation at violating his purpose, coupled to his fear of Christopher’s reaction when his deeds came out, had reduced him to an unstable state of terrified paralysis. In that state, he might have done nearly anything. I needed to calm him down, so that he could examine his options: I was confident that once he did, he would realize that confession, and surrender of his Word, were the only path he would care to contemplate. And that the sooner he did it, the less it would hurt.
“I assured him, as a Seraph, that I was not there to harm him, and that I understood his dilemma. We talked for some time of the penalties he might face if he turned himself in.”
Gaudior begins to look uncomfortable again. This is an odd sight to see in a Celestial: the light that shines from him is no longer cool and restful, but hot, pulsing, and unsettled, although its color has not changed. It no longer migles gently: nearby objecs are thrown into harsh relief or deep shadow. He continues, a trifle hastily:
“I – I found it therapeutically advisable to share some of the details of my personal history with him. I needed him to know that I understood what he faced, that I could sympathize with him, and that while he would be judged, I would not judge him. I also needed him to understand that his misdeeds could be faced, and survived – and perhaps, one day, forgiven.
“I was making real progress. He was becoming less agitated: his vessel’s breathing slowed. His words had never been untruthful, but they became — well, you understand — better harmonized. He was coming to face his misdeeds, and would, I think, shortly have been prepared to turn himself in.
“And then Dominic’s goons came busting in and wrecked much of what we had achieved. I thought for a moment he would attack them — and a word bound angel is no mean opponent. I talked quickly — I am afraid that I may have misled them, though I spoke no actual untruth: I implied that I was working under Shilom’s orders — but I had to prevent a confrontation.
“I managed to calm him again, slightly: he agreed to go with them, and I promised to appear for him at his trial. I found no hard evidence that he was victim of a plot, but found nothing to rule it out, either.
“But that isn’t the hardest thing for me to bear, my Lady. Shilom had sent for a Triad without waiting for me to investigate, after promising otherwise. She had misled me, and knowingly used my gifts to achieve a goal she knew I found abhorrent. I feel much as a human does after a rape: a teammate, one I loved and trusted, has betrayed me. In my former life I accepted such things as a matter of course: but isn’t that how we’re different?”
Blandine is as still and cold as the railing she now grips. The area around the balcony has gone very quiet. It is as if everyone and everything has just taken one giant step back from the rage and pain that, for one brief moment, shone in her eyes.
When she speaks, Gaudior has to strain to hear.
“It does not always end this way.” And a little louder, “It will not always end this way.” She glances again at Beleth’s tower, but this time it is deliberate. “I will not allow it.”
She turns back to Gaudior. “There is always betrayal. Always. Sometimes it is deliberate, and that is certainly the most painful.” Another glance. “But there is no betrayal so final, so foul, that it cannot be redeemed. That belief is what makes us different. Even Dominic believes that.” She shakes her head. “But he is not as patient as I am. And neither are his Servitors.”
Turning away from the railing, she walks to Eli’s creation, and watches the wheels spin. "I will speak to Christopher. We may be able to work out a compromise. I would not want Druiel un-made in haste, though that may be his Fate.
“But you. You must return until you are summoned to his trial. And you must deal with your comrade as you can. I do not know how to advise you. I am no Elohite, to pretend that such pain can be dismissed without thought. I can only say this — Shilom may yet redeem herself in your eyes. If you could come back to me, to this,” her gesture encompasses the Marches, “then there is hope for Shilom. Her journey is not nearly so long or so hard.”
She moves back to the railing, her dress whispering softly as it caresses the balcony floor. “Are you satisfied, my Seraph?” Her tone is light, though her eyes are troubled.
Gaudior’s voice is quiet, gentle, and firm. His wings still beat the air slowly, but no longer lazily: each beat, when it comes, is a sharp snap.
“I thank you, my Lady. I will do what I can for Druiel, even if it be only to hold his hand while he is unmade, and I am grateful that you will involve yourself for him.
“As for Shilom, well, for your sake and hers, my Lady, I would endure worse than this.”