There should be fewer errors here. The scene in Part 2 where Noah warns his son about the new angel is gone from the final draft. I don’t want to telegraph too much and it makes the meeting with Fahrael, below (which I like much better) unnecessary. Enjoy!
I watched him work with the angels. He had them dismantle Michael’s high chair and use the wood for benches for the angels to use between shifts.
The foreman instructed the angels with the same singing language that Michael had used, but where his had sounded like marches and strident arrow-song, the new foreman’s song was like that of the birds, lilting and pleasing to the ear. The angels seemed to enjoy his words
Where Michael was an authority, he was a friend. He smiled often, and slapped backs and played jokes. I watched him saw the legs of a bench, so when five angels on their break sat down, the leg snapped and they all tumbled into a heap. The foreman howled with laughter, and even the angels smiled, and shook their heads and shook their fists at him.
The ship, the ark, was taking shape, looming out over the heads of the golden-haired angels who busied themselves like ants in its shadow.
It was not long before materials were needed, the nearest forests stripped bare, and even their stumps pulped into something useful.
The neighbors over the river and beyond the forest bore a plenty of wood and metals for nails, guarded by high walls.
The materials we needed, guarded by an army of many times our number. My father and the Foreman discussed plans over soup and bread, in the foreman’s tent, a single lantern flickering orange flame-light across their faces, across the fabric walls, dancing in their bowls.
”We need that wood, and the metal they have. I have knowledge of materials and metallurgy that may help us.”
”They have no copper,” said my father. “A heavier metal, too hard to work, too scarce to be useful.”
”I have ways,” said the foreman. I had never seen an angel eat before, and he did it so naturally that I questioned whether he was one at all.
”I do not know if that is appropriate,” said my father, warily.
”He would not have asked me to help if He did not wish me to use my knowledge,” said the Foreman. “Ease your mind.”
”What do you wish of me?” said my father.
”I will require an extra hand. No angel will do. He must be young and weak, to allay suspicion.”
My father sighed. “I will send Ham with you. His mind is elsewhere, but sharp and clever when focused.”
”Perhaps I can teach him focus,” said the foreman. “He is loyal to you, yes?”
”All of my sons are loyal, none no more than the others. He will do as I say.”
I did not think my mind was elsewhere. I did all that was asked of me, without hesitation and never with a question. My father’s comment stung, soothed slightly by his compliment of my mind. I did not fall asleep easily, as the excitement of an adventure grew within me.
A day later, an angel was at the house to take a pile of freshly mended tunics to the angels at the work site. It waited patiently for my mother to finish folding them.
The angel spied me pealing carrots and sat next to me. He smelled of sweat and wood dust, and though no angel had bathed in the months they had been working, his hair was bright and golden, and spilled around his feminine features.
I made conversation, as I had never done with an angel. While at first they had been otherworldly and odd, seeing one now was as common as seeing a thrush or a snake.
I extended my hand as the foreman had done to my father. The angel looked down at my hand and grimaced, and looked away. “Do not greet me thus,” he said. “You are not him. “
”I-I’m sorry,” I said.
”I am called Fahrael,” he said, still looking away. “I am an angel of Creation. My hands worked the seeds that made the plant that made the food that you work with yours.”
I peeled carrots while he watched a flock of birds wheel across the distant sun.
Finally, he said: “We have seen the way you look at him.”
I stopped, stunned.
”I am sorry,” I said.
”You must be careful, Ham. You must not listen to him. He does not think like the rest of us. He has powers of persuasion. He can make you believe things you know you should not.”
Young pride made me speak: “Nobody can make me believe anything.”
”I do not mean magic or spells. There is no trickery. He thinks for himself. He has a perverse way of thinking, an aberration. He calls it Reason.”
”But we all have that,” I said.
”No, you have it. You have freedom of your conscience. We obey. We do not think.”
”He does not obey?”
The angel shook its head.
“You are traveling with him, yes?”
”Yes. We leave tomorrow.”
”I must warn you, child,” he said. He placed his hand on my shoulder. It felt weightless, like an armless sleeve, with the slightest tingle of warmth through my tunic. “Do not do what he says. Question everything he tells you. The way to the kingdom is shut to him, but not to you.”
”Shut? Why is it shut?”
”He is to be questioned. That is all you need know.”
The foreman and I walked a few miles to the crossroads to an inn, its windows alight in the dusk with the orange light of lanterns. I watched the foreman negotiate for the terms of the barter. He smiled, he laughed, he slapped his knee, he bought food and drink. He bought some for me, to which the men of the other villages scoffed and cajoled him, for I was his servant.
At this the foreman lowered his head, and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, his eyes lined with the moisture of tears or harsh smoke, he looked at the leader of them and said: “I am no servant and nor do I keep them.” The weight of his words sagged dropped the room to a languid tension. Some seemed afraid, others angry. The man who said it apologized for his joking, and gave me ale, which came in a small, stone cup.
”I’m sorry,” I said, careful to lower my eyes as I spoke to a superior. “I do not drink.”
More jokes, and even the foreman joined, slapping me on the back and ruffling my hair. Before it grew to suspicion, of a young man who will not drink a single drink among new friends, the foreman changed the subject.
I did not know if the foreman expected the yokels to cave and negotiate poorly after many rounds of liquor, but had he, he would have been surprised. That although they drank in excess of wisdom, they never lost their footing on the art of negotiation. The conversation wound its way back to the topic of trade.
They needed something more than what we had. They had iron and plenty of it, and others had wood, plenty of it.
The foreman removed a dagger from his belt and placed it in its scabbard before the men at the table. They rubbed chins and eyes wide, asked him what his intentions were, glancing at the weapons of the others, at the exists, at me.
”Take it,” said Fo
reman. “Examine it. It is a gift.”
The leader did so, the man with the braided beard and dusky skin.
The knife was crudely crafted, with simple leather strips on the handle.
”Silver?” He said, testing the edge on the table. “
”It is stronger and sharper than your processes can make, unique to that blade. There are no more like it. There are no men alive who know the means of its creation.”
”Then how was-
The dagger passed from hand to hand as each man examined it.
One of them mumbled something about magic, and this was passed with it.
The foreman caught the word as he watched them, and raised his hand. “No magic, my friends. It is real, and I can show you how to make it.”
”Is it difficult?”
”At first, yes,” said the Foreman. He smiled a little. “But it will get easier.”
”And in return?”
The Foreman smiled full toothed, with brighter teeth than seen in the mouths of infants. “I require materials, and no questions asked.”
”You did not drink,” said the foreman, as we traveled the next day. He had secured the materials he needed, in exchange for teaching a blacksmith from each of the villages, who would arrive with the first shipments. We journeyed alone on our mules and horses, side by side through the plain.
”I am not allowed to,” I said.
”According to whom?”
”My father,” I said, “Of course.”
”Of course,” said the foreman.
”How old are you?”
”15,” I said.
”The age of manhood,” said the foreman, grinning.
He said nothing more of it, gave no hint of disapproval. But the look he gave me when I did not accept the offered cup was disdain and confusion, the look my mother gives when I say something uncouth and she overhears me, or when I get angry and lash out. It was an unsettling look, and I felt guilty for having earned it.
I asked him about himself.
”Michael wasn’t very talkative,” I said. “None of the angels are. But you’re different.”
”You’re sure I’m an angel?” he said.
”I assume so,” I said, suddenly uncertain. “You’re different in a lot of ways. You talk a lot. You’re nice and friendly. You play jokes on people, and I’ve never seen an angel play with a dog before.”
The foreman was silent for a long while, for what seemed like miles.
”I am an angel,” he said. “Of a certain kind.”
”There are kinds of angels?” I said.
”Oh yes,” he said. “But they are all essentially the same.
He said it sadly, with a sigh at he end. We walked on in silence.
© 2006 by James Hazlett Foreman