I’ve been working steadily on my novella (Kingdom Come, book 1.5) these past two weeks. I’d hit a rough patch, I’m sorry to say, after my grandma died this past summer. I felt like I’d lost my mom all over again, so rather than write, I sat in the recliner I’d gotten from my grandma’s house and read. Then I read some more. And more after that. And then, three weeks ago, I spent two nights watching and re-watching Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2….
Not only have I let my readers down, but also my critique partners, and myself. I look forward to participating in my critique group again, and to writing many words on a daily basis. I have less time now that school’s underway, but part of me feels more regimented, and I thoroughly enjoy early mornings and late nights writing by firelight and candlelight. (I’ve become addicted to White Barn candles and just ordered myself two new candles to write by!) And I’ve discovered that writing with music is a big help.
In addition to reading, I’ve been running more, and ran a half marathon at the end of last month.(it’s something I’ve done for 11 years now, but I’m trying to train better than in recent years. As my dad told me, I’m no longer a youngin’.) Somehow my cousin and I are also signing up to run another half after Thanksgiving… I’m hoping that one won’t permanently damage my sore feet!
I look forward to telling you about the books I read (and enjoyed) when I get caught up in my writing schedule. I hate to disappoint you all with pushing back some publication dates, but I think the respite from writing may have soothed my writing soul some, and I’m happy to say I feel reinvigorated and inspired to continue this series.
Contemplating a final book in a series is a bit nerve-wracking. I hope very much to make it the best in the series, to make it exciting and come together in a way that you’re surprise and satisfied and, well, happy with it. Thanks for your patience.
I’m participating in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, which means at least 50,000 words will be written. My novels have been around 60,000 so far, so that means… it’ll be nearly done by December. Of course, after that it’ll need revisions, edits, and it will go through rounds with beta readers and my editor… so, there’s that. My hope is to have it in your hands by January-February, but I’ve learned not to make promises until I’m certain I’ll be able to keep them. I’ll keep you posted!
Until then, here’s a smidgen of the novella I’ll be releasing in November. It’s looking to be longer than I initially planned for. (The three chapters below are unedited… please read with that in mind!)
Much love, Cecelia ❤
The sound of metal screaming pulls me from my battle stance. All at once blackness descends upon our training grounds, cloaking its golden light with evil. I toss down my depleted bow and arrow and tighten the chains around my waist, gripping a Glory-filled sword. The bow and arrow shimmer before disappearing. They’ll be ready when I call upon them later.
With the cloud of smoke comes a smell so vile I nearly curl in on myself. Hyper-senses are both a blessing and a curse. The army of demons lower themselves, their every breath a puff of gray smoke that curls around our heads, arms, and legs. Angels from throughout the forest stop their workouts and band together to meet our enemies. We untangle ourselves from the tendrils of fog and release a surge of Glory, transforming our bodies. Protected by a golden aura of strength and courage, we prepare to battle, no longer muddled by a smoky haze or putrid smell.
“Mila, my sweet.” A voice, haggard from billions of years of hate and despondency, whispers in my ear. “We meet again.”
I refuse to say the demon’s name, but swivel, sword aimed at his chest. “What do you hope to gain from this?”
“Me, personally? Or, do you mean my group in general?”
I narrow my eyes and thrust the sword closer until the tip touches his scaly skin. Clothed in jeans and a black jacket, the button-up shirt below his jacket is open, revealing a green chest. His pupils are a blazing purple slit, his eyes black pits. The angel he once was is gone. Only the faintest resemblance can be found. Maybe in his chiseled cheeks or full lips, now spread across his wicked face.
When I don’t respond, he adds, “I’ve missed you.”
Revolted, disgust fills my mouth and I try not to gag. “You made your choice.”
“You were supposed to join me.”
“I said no, and I meant it.”
I look around. Nicholas is nowhere to be found. Archangel Michael isn’t far from me. He’s facing my direction, maybe watching me. Testing me. Time to up my game. I slide the tip of the sword up until it grazes my former friend’s Adam’s apple. “I’ll ask one more time. Why—and as importantly—how have you invaded this area?”
Never has a place this close to Heaven been so infiltrated by a swarm of Fallen as large as this. Especially a place covered in Warrior Angels. Lucifer has free reign—yet—but his minions? Not so much.
I glance over and find that Archangel Michael is indeed watching. And Nicholas has come into view as well, but it appears he’s distracted. I turn back toward the demon who’s babbling on.
“… all of this yes, sir and no, sir you go through.” He pushes my sword aside as if it’s a toy, ignoring the line of black ichor it releases from beneath his scaly arms. “You’d have none of it, if you changed your mind. Come with me.” He steps in toward me, so close his lips graze my ear. “I can promise, it’s so much better away from here.”
Shuddering, I jump back and flick the sword back to his chest. Before I can thrust it through, a cluster of his demon friends swarm us, grinning hideously.
“Mila. Still so pretty,” one says.
“Still so pure,” says another.
“Still so obedient.” My ex-friend, Legion, sneers.
There’s a flash of movement to my right. I pivot and leap straight up and out of harm’s way, landing behind my attacker. I whip around, intending to swipe my sword across Legion and his entire gang, but when my blade reaches the spot where he stood, he’s shoved one of his demon pals in front of him. I continue to slice through the lot of them, but Legion has disappeared, only his deep, rumbling laughter lingers in the polluted air. Having beheaded several demons, I rush to unwrap the detention chains from around my waist. While calling upon my core Glory, before I join their spirits in the realm I’ve sent them to, I see that Nicholas has joined the fight. Ducking my head, determined to do this quickly to get back to the battlefield, I push through the ward, the division lines rippling like a wall of water.
The Realm of Detention is a vacuum—no air, no light, time stands still. It’s a long, drawn-out minute, never-ending. The boundless space is both burning and freezing. I cloak my skin in Glory to remain unscathed. Holding out my left hand, palm facing forward, I pull the demon spirits toward me. Once I have them before me, I lasso my chains to encircle each in its own detention space with its own chains.
The final one is fighting me, but I pull as tightly as I can, still rushing more than I know I should to return before Nicholas can one-up me in front of Archangel Michael. Knowing him, he’s winning in detaining more spirits, giving instructions to that human charge of his, and commanding the nearby saints. It’s infuriating how he always winds up looking superior to me. Well, not this time.
I will earn the position at the head of the squadron of saints.
The click of the manacles isn’t as loud as it should be, but when I tug they seem secure enough, so I leave the demons to push back through the ward lines and rejoin the battle.
It’s beyond bizarre to see our training ground smeared with ugliness. Between the golden rays of shimmering light are streaks of smoke and billows of ash. The ground, usually lush and brilliant, is slick with demon ichor. Even the trees bend, duller, wheezing, as if trying to not breathe in the evilness of demon breath.
It’s their hazy breathing that seems to be taking its toll on Nicholas’s charge. She’s not looking so hot, and therefore he’s distracted. I roll my eyes. This takes away the fierceness of the competition. It’s hardly even. Yet, I puff out my chest when Archangel Michael takes note of my having detained Legion’s gang with a nod of his head.
As the battle wanes, Raze rushes up beside me. “Mila, what’s your deal?” My partner is dressed in black, protective Warrior gear, and his eyebrows are furrowed. He’s scowling.
Startled by his tone, I lower my sword just as one of the remaining demons drops from tree limbs above my head. Unprepared, Raze protects me, letting a flaming arrow fly, converting its demonic body into a pile of vile ash.
“What are you talking about?” I ask.
He turns, his eyebrows still lowered over amber eyes. “Word has it you’ve wreaked havoc in Detention.”
My chest quivers, that flicker of uncertainty returning. The manacles. I narrow my eyes at him before bounding through the ward’s streaming walls into the airless black world away from worlds.
What he said is true. Demons are releasing demons. I find the set of manacles that had detained the final demons I’d placed there earlier. Empty… and faulty.
There are other angels hidden by time and space that I can sense rounding up the rampant demons as well, which means I’ve messed up and others know about it.
The sounds of demonic laughter are hideous and echoing until I hold out both palms and release a surge of Glory, pulling the lot of Fallen to me as if by magnetic force. With the same force, I send forth links of chains, wrapping them round and round, ensnaring the wicked, tightly this time. I coat each manacle with enough Glory that there’s no way they’re not perfectly secure.
Exhausted, but certain my work is complete, I return to the training ground, still encroached upon by once-angelic creatures. I shudder to think that once we all communed together, singing and laughing side by side.
Bow and arrow ready, I spin slowly, surveying the area, scanning the spaces between each tree, searching among the golden tree limbs. Nicholas, shoulders tense and angry, retreats with his human charge. He must’ve been told to leave the area to deal with her. I tighten my lips and shake my head. My success here today will be bittersweet, what with his competition taken out of the equation.
“Mila.” Archangel Michael is beside me, though I hadn’t noticed him approaching. I chide myself for my mistakes today, but know he must’ve seen my artful fighting and the skill in how I was able to detain masses at a time. I’m much more efficient than my counterparts. There’s much I could teach a squadron that no other—not even Nicholas—could. Straightening up, I lower my weapon and face him, chin high.
“Sir,” I say. His eyes are golden and warm my face, paternal and caring. Yet, there’s something there, in his eyebrows and lips, something like dismay.
“You fought well today.”
I don’t smile, but blink and puff out my chest. “Thank you, sir.”
“But you must work to be more strategic and thoughtful.”
My Glory wanes and for a moment a waft of rank demon breath invades my nostrils. I cough. “Yes, sir.”
“Your impulsivity is a detriment that we can’t afford. Take care when you fight and detain.”
I nod, unable to speak through the stench.
He glances over to where Nicholas is retreating through the trees and he smiles. A smile that falters when his eyes meet mine once more before he moves on to oversee the other Warriors.
A smile that will propel me to fight smarter.
That will propel me to win, because the next time I will be the one who shines more brightly than Nicholas.
Charge or no charge, I will be the better Warrior, and I will be the leader Archangel Michael chooses in the end.
“Is everyone in agreement then?” Nicholas says, always taking control even when it’s not his to take.
The angels all nod. He pulls the ropes of the bells that hang from the center of the cave’s ceiling like a chandelier. Three chimes later, we rise to leave.
The slate floor, walls, and ceiling glisten as if wet from a recent rain. They shimmer though the outside light doesn’t reach beyond the entrance. Here, near Heaven’s gates, there’s always light. Standing with the rest, I push in my gold-rimmed wooden chair. My black tank top and leggings are covered in glittery specks from the sparkling soil, but also remnants of ichor and vileness from the battle earlier. I’ve yet to refresh and change. Rather than clean up, I want to get back to the training ground. It’s where I feel most right with myself. Strength. Leadership. Justice. It’s what I do, and who I am. There’s nothing more, or less, to my existence. My hands are empty and restless without a weapon in them, so I’m frittering and brushing myself off when Archangel Michael approaches.
“May I have a word with you, Warrior Mila?”
Immediately, I straighten, arms by my side, and raise my chin. “Yes, Archangel Michael. Of course.” My chest quickens as if I had a heart that had begun to race in anticipation. I’m not human, so I don’t have a physical body. Not like that charge of Nicholas’s. I’m still uncertain what she was doing in our training ground in the first place. First a human. Then demons. What next?
And, I can’t help but think the two are connected somehow. Who is she, and why does Nicholas have to watch over her? He’s no Guardian. He’s a Warrior through and through, like me.
Archangel motions for us to move farther into the cavern, down past dozens of chairs pushed up against the massive rectangular Meeting table. He stops and turns toward me when he reaches the head of the table. He lays tan hands upon his chair that rises taller than the rest.
“You understand the gravity of our situation.”
“Yes, this Meeting was very informative. Thank you for holding nothing back.”
He nods, lips firmly set in a straight line. “Every Warrior needs to know the circumstances and what we’re up against.”
I open my mouth to question him, but he holds out a palm.
“I realize there are a lot of questions yet, and as soon as I know the answers, I will share them.”
Closing my mouth, I shrink down, wondering how to contribute to this conversation, how to show him I can lead us to answers and victory. My leadership can strengthen a squadron of saints. We will overcome Lucifer and his army, no matter how strong they’re becoming, no matter what they’ve learned to do.
My mind is still boggled by what I learned during Meeting. Missing Guardians? Who’s taking them, why, and how? Where are they all?
He holds his hand together, palms facing each other. “As you may well know, we don’t normally give Guardians additional charges once his or her previous soul no longer needs guarding.”
I nod. Once a charge’s soul is without a body, there’s no more need for a Guardian. The soul has either been lost or won.
“We’ve now encountered an issue we’ve never faced before, however,” Archangel continues. “As of yet, we’ve carried on as before, and when a Guardian goes missing, we’ve not been replacing them.”
He pauses, so I cut in, “So, there are human souls, without Guardians, still in need of protection from Lucifer and his deceptive demons?”
The light, though pale, shimmers around me and the slate shines sleek and slick, like my pride and my skill. I straighten. “Sir, I will do everything I can to find these missing Guardians and detain the demons responsible so they can be returned to protect their charges. I understand the gravity of the situation.”
He puts his hand on my shoulder and lowers his face. “I know you do, Warrior, but that’s not what I’m asking you to do.”
He steps back and paces before moving down the length of the table toward the entrance, motioning for me to fall into step beside him. “Yes, Mila. Free will is always the gift we’re given, human and spirit alike.”
That quiver of nerves inside me has returned. I’m uncertain the direction this conversation is going to take. What could he possibly ask me to do that isn’t what I’ve already offered? I’m a Warrior. I protect souls on a large scale, en masse, by battling demons before they can get to them. Guardians are there to protect them individually, to urge them to follow Heaven’s Call and not be swayed by Lucifer’s deceptions.
We are within feet of the entrance when he stops again to face me. “There’s an important human whose Guardian has gone missing, and I’m certain it’s no coincidence.”
“Because of who he or she is?”
“She.” He nods. “She’s instrumental in Nicholas’s charge’s life, and now she’s an Unguarded. If her soul Falls, or even if she dies with a pure soul, we’re not sure what that will do to his charge’s will. We’re concerned.”
I still don’t understand what importance his charge has, why we’re worrying so much about her will at all, though I know each and every soul is valuable to Heaven. Before I can put forth my questions, he continues. “I’d like you to replace her Guardian.”
I start, jolt and step back from him, mouth open. Yet no words tumble forth.
A moment passes, then another. “B-b-… W-w-… H-h.” I cough, like I did earlier in the forest, as though a stench is choking me, to clear my throat and compose myself. “You mean, fend off any demon that may be specifically targeting her?”
He shakes his head. “I mean, become her new Guardian.”
“A Guardian?” I turn so my side is facing him, stare off, out into the trees. Light streams down in rays, pure and calming, true. Leaves wave, not because there’s a breeze, but because they sway to rhythm of angels’ voices that whisper through The Gates and across the training ground.
Nicholas is both Warrior and Guardian. Perhaps this is the test to even the score. Earlier, he’d had to battle and protect her simultaneously. The competition had not been equal. I turn my head to look at Archangel Michael. His face is smooth and patient. There’s not a flicker of doubt or impatience. He gives no indication that he’ll be proud or disappointed no matter my decision. Torn between training, fighting, and doing what is being asked of me, I waiver. I don’t want to see indifference and kindness and understanding in his eyes, I want to see pride. I’ve been training and fighting for nearly forever. Perhaps it’s time to take on a new challenge. Like Nicholas, I can fight and guard.
I tighten the chains around my waist. “Yes,” I say. “I’ll do it.”
He smiles and reaches forward, touching my chains. They disappear. “You won’t be needing those any longer.” He nods, a serious, concerned look in his eyes. “Thank you.”
He’s not worried about me. As he gazes out before us, I don’t believe it’s the forest he sees. I believe he’s seeing something beyond, and whatever it is, he’s worried.
A shadow falls over me as I let another arrow fly toward my target. I string another and whip around, but it’s not another demon attack. It’s Nicholas, lowering himself, his wide white and gold wings outstretched.
“Partner up?” he asks, face grim and serious, like always.
My bow and arrow shimmer and disappear as I reach instead for my sword, pristine and silver like my wings, which I release. Wings wide, my body in its battle stance, I nod. “Ready,” I respond.
We fend off one another’s attacks, circling round and round, dodging, zipping up and over, somersaulting around the lowest limbs of the trees, our moves nearly choreographed we train together so often. This is what I was created to do. Battle. Fight. Defend.
I jerk my chin up, motioning toward the air above us. “Take it up a notch?”
Without answering, Nicholas swoops his wings back and forward, once, pushing off the ground to rise above me. Not a second later, I join him and we begin our offensive and defensive dance, mid-air. All thoughts of Archangel’s and my conversation diminish, like the tendrils of smoke as the last demon either was detained or fled our training grounds.
The fierceness in my core is reflected in Nicholas’s eyes. He’s on fire as much as I am for the love of performing our duty to its fullest, of being the best. The only conflict, then, is that we both see ourselves in the position of leadership, of using our skill and knowledge to bring out the best in the saints and lower angels choosing to battle with the Warrior Angels.
“Warriors,” a voice below us calls. “Well done.”
Archangel is standing below, gazing up at us. Golden light spreads around him, Heavenly Glory following him, emanating from within. We lower automatically, letting our weapons go as they disintegrate and return to the weaponry ward.
He first turns to Nicholas. “You’ll need to go. Julia will need you soon.”
Nicholas clenches his jaw, and something unreadable flashes in his green eyes, but he nods and disappears as expected of him. Then, it’s my turn to face Archangel Michael’s eyes, golden and burning with the fullest of Heaven’s light within them. It’s nearly impossible not to be filled with love when looking in them.
“You’ll need to go as well,” he says, his voice warm and soft, understanding. My fingers itch already for a weapon, but I sense it may be some time before I hold one again. “First, see Clara.”
I start at the name. “Clara?”
“Yes, she’s retired and spends most of her time with the Cherubim and Seraphim, but she’ll be able to help you understand your new duty better than I.”
“Thank you, Archangel.” I turn to leave him, to head down the path leading toward The Gates.
“Mila,” he says, not moving from where he stands, so I turn back to hear what he has to say. “I thank you. It’s hard for you, I know, but you will do an exemplary job with your charge. I trust in you and know you are the right—the only—angel for this job.”
I nod, slowly, letting his words travel through my thoughts, debating how I feel about them. Does it matter whether I believe him? Whether I agree? “I trust your judgement,” I say. Even if I do not yet trust myself in this role, I don’t add.
My feet are bare, but I take a detour, through the trees, behind our Meeting cave, through the grasses where trees are sparse and flowers are plentiful, stopping by the East River to wash them. Though angels don’t have physical bodies like humans do, here, beyond the cosmos, our spirits take form and are complete to us as human bodies are to them. The difference being we don’t die. Humans weakened themselves, and are born dying; They suffer trials and illness and work. They rarely recognize the love they’ve received.
I kneel on the bank to splash water on my face and arms. The Glory flowing through the brilliant currents lifts my mood and reverses my negativity and doubt. It’s a good thing Archangel asked me to seek Clara. It’s been too long since I’ve been through The Gates.
The golden spires rise magnificently overhead, the tops invisibly high. I’m granted access and proceed through, nearly carried beyond the meadow and gardens by music and prayers. Joy builds as I move closer to where Clara spends her time. Saints and angels smile as I make my way. A river that flashes colors unimaginable to the human eye courses through The City. Peace is the breath both inhaled and exhaled here.
I reach the Thrones who escort me beyond where saints and lower angels come and go, to where perpetual praise and love flow. Choirs of angels sing songs of adoration and thanksgiving and glorious praise. All things good and right and true begin here.
The Thrones subdue my worries and fill my being with peace and utter rightness. They lead me through a grand entryway and leave me in a nave so grandiose, I can only begin to comprehend the enormity of all creation. Forever before me is light bright enough to light a universe and beyond. Voices in song and prayer and thanksgiving and petition ring out from every speck of gold hovering all around, like flecks of beauty pouring out of a pitcher too full to contain it; It must be shared.
I kneel, so overcome with emotion and happiness, joy at being. It’s not long—or perhaps an eternity—when a form lowers beside me.
The angel is brilliant, dazzling with age and goodness. She bows her head and we are each silent for a while longer.
“Come,” she whispers, eyes of amber like Raze’s smiling at me. “We have much to discuss.”
I rise and follow her, taking her hand. Thrones appear once again and move us through the passageways, formed by arching beams of light and warmth, until we are once again at the radiant river. We stroll along it, hand in hand, gazing out at The City. I wait, until she is ready to address me.
As we near the gates, she speaks, “It’s good to see you again, my friend.”
“You’re apprehensive.” She drops my hand to fold hers before her and nods to continue on. She leads me to an immaculate stone made of shimmering pearl. She sits and motions for me to sit beside her. She smiles at me before continuing. “I understand. I’ll tell you what I can to help you feel more comfortable.”
“Clara, why did you choose to become a Guardian after so long of being a Warrior like me?”
“It was a choice I made not so much because as much as it was consequently. The consequences of events I don’t have time to explain now. And knowing won’t help you with your task.” She pulls her long auburn hair up and ties it behind her head with golden blades plucked from the foliage below our feet. The sparkling strands flow from her hair. “Close your eyes and breathe in deeply.” She pauses while I follow her directions. “Tune out all outside sound, even though I know you don’t want to here.” I hear a smile in her voice. “Try anyhow.”
I breathe in the sweet scent of tranquility and flowers. Perpetual light dances behind my eyelids.
“Feel and feel deeply,” she instructs.
My breath catches before I remember I’m to be breathing calmly. “Feel… what exactly?”
“Not what, but where.”
I’d forgotten how cryptic Clara was. “A little more help here?”
As I breathe in and out and allow my breathing to drown out the distant water and chatter and song, I feel my fingertips and toes, the blades of verdure brushing against my calves, the smooth pearl below my bottom, the breezes and dew of Virtues kissing my cheeks.
I have no idea what, or where, I’m supposed to be feeling.
I open my right eye and peek at Clara. Her eyes are closed and her hands over the center of her chest. I mimic her.
“Find your core, where you zero in on your Glory when you fight.”
Oh, that where. Now it’s my turn to smile. “Got it,” I whisper, my palms hovering over my chest as if drawing power from a source.
“Good,” Clara says. “Now, that’s where you’ll feel for your charge, so you’ll know where she’s at and when she needs you.”
My eyes fly open, and I whip my head toward Clara, panic rising in my chest in place of confidence. “And what will she need me for? What do I do when I feel her, find her, sense she needs something from me?”
Her eyes take on a faraway look, as though she’s not looking at something from the present, but instead seeing through time. “Every charge is a little bit different.” Her eyes find mine once again. “You’ll have to learn what she needs from her.”
Clara must sense my unease and frustration, because she adds, “But generally, you’re a Guardian to help her see what’s right and good and true, to help her make choices that will keep her soul pure and clean, to help her choose to come Home when her physical life is done.”
She holds her hands over her chest again and jumps up. “You should go.”
I look up at her, surprise widening my eyes and mouth. “Go? Where?”