It took a goodly while, but when Micco was finally reassured that there was no blessed wine left, he squeezed open eyes the bloodshot color of a Wintermass tapestry. Damascus had placed himself on the Angel’s left, and kept nudging Eve, with his potbelly flank, as far right as he would dare. As far right as he could comfortably manage without looking meek.
The Angel King Micco swatted aimlessly with his right hand, thus, at Eve’s shadow. Eve whimpered and cried so hard that Micco thought himself successfully beating the woman at first, for as the gray streak raised her arms to the top of the walls and cowered against the ceiling, Micco swelled with wrath. And then a swat down, and Eve’s shadow recoiled. Damascus stamped a tiny hoof over her real foot to make it all stop.
“Oh! Eve, how are there two of you?”
“King Micco, I shall happily point out the real Miss Evil, the Sorceress, the Tramp Tripe—”
“How dare you, you phallus-headed, grimy old goat—”
“…Once you give the order to engage war with the Fringe, my King, I will leave you two finally alone. Know the altar servers where your hallowed armor is kept? By the time you’re done, we’ll have become ready to make you ready, Majesty.” and Damascus shouted through the door, for the young boys to go and get it.
“Cock for brains!” Eve spat, “…And may the rest of your body be hen-pecked to death.”
“Oh? I see that perhaps I should not have yelled at my Giselle, that time. Clearly, you two Eves are not well acquainted after all. Though it is no comfort that you got up to something so heinous by yourself. Micco, do you see what your other favorite little pet has got up to? Both she and Cymen are useless.”
Micco was leaning against the wall now, crying against Eve’s shadow. “Poor little mortal thing, I never meant to hurt you. And you have but one measly little life. Little, so little…”
Eve thought, at least it seemed that she did, and then crouched to make herself even smaller.
“Vulnerable little soul-vessel! I’m so sorry, forgive me. Please forgive me, forever, for what I’ve done against you, and you, and all of you. I only ever wanted a fresh drink.”
“Your Holy Majesty, the real, trifling Eve is over here, just beside me. Down there, use your nose…”
Then, the altar boys arrived. One was swinging a smoky boat, the other held aloft a book, the third leaned miserably on a tall cross. The fourth was jostled on all sides until, at last, he rubbed his eyes free of tears and announced that they couldn’t find any angel-armor.
“Who would steal sacred armor—it’s too big for anyone else. Unless, someone thought to stick it in her nest and sleep against it…”
“Don’t look at me.” Eve flared, “I never fancied that King Micco had anything more than the flimsy toga, which wears him.”
“Then one of you boys must have stolen it. Oh, there will be a grand and frivolous punishment for all four of you, until someone squeals.”
They all went coward and shame-faced.
Micco had such fast emotions. “The same man who stole my armor, must have also stolen all the blessed wine!”
In that case, all four altar boys immediately accused Micco. Eve gently inquired what sort of weed they were constantly burning in their swinging, metal boat?
It became a circus, with everyone offended and shouting at once. Damascus reared up on his hind legs, bucked in the air, his fat body sprawled and stretched slightly athletic, like a fussy baby, and then he tucked in his long chin. The oversized equine head flipped him instantly upside down, the horn followed—evidently heavier, like throwing a hammer, and he sliced the air between the mortals and their immortal king in a perfect, gold-half streak. Damascus landed with his hooves kicking in the air, and the sharp horn stuck in a joint between slabs of black-veined marble tile.
Micco backed away, and snatched a laughing Eve along with him. The rest were decidedly silent.
“Damascus…” Micco flexed a bicep just underneath Eve’s chin, and her laughter died in breathless, frightened quivering. “The power of Heaven is greater than that silly horn. Don’t you dare be so foolish as to speak a word to Him against me.”
“The armor of an angel,” and his narrow jaw was able to move the entire lower half of the body, “is as strong as unicorn bone. Now I see that I could have always done whatever I wanted with you, Miccolangiolo. And if I order just one of my ordained boys to call the lightning down, we would have a direct talk with whomever made me, and your supposedly missing armor, according to the book of Resolutions.”
“Chapter five, verses twenty-six to thirty-seven?”
“And regarding Eve, I don’t care anything about that waste of a womb, except to make her understand once and for all that Mist-Maven Giselle, and Mother Superior Margarethe—bah, I suppose Cymen counts as well—they aren’t with me for nothing. But their reason for being with you… oh, with that angel-armor somehow always gone, the drinking, and everything else, I think it’s obvious… we’ve all been with you, yes, for nothing.”
Eve begged quietly for Micco to let her go. Micco craned her neck back further. “Damascus. So, you… were always your own grandfather? You are the one wrong, when you never said!”
“Don’t shout. It’s simple. None of us ever die, really. But you, Heaven-made, you don’t seem like Archangel Miccolangiolo at all, moreso a sliver of what the Angel-General could have been. Tell me, has Heaven deteriorated so far? Is that why you were cast off here, in the mortal realm with no armor I’ve ever seen, only heard you brag about, and a desperate taste for drink? Are we at war with the Fringe now, truly? Or, is it because fires in Heaven have yet to be put out, that you don’t wish to reveal your true self through re-engaging the Crusades?”
“I could never start a fight with my father—the Father.”
Damascus pointed a hoof skyward. A flicker of cold-white energy bloomed in the cleft of one silver hoof, and licked down over the swollen fetlock. “Again, I have always been an open channel. I am not afraid to ask to be sure, or for the sake of the Mist-Maven, or Margarethe’s Chapels… are you so very sure that it is not necessary for me to ask Him, right this moment, what and why you really are here?”
Micco let go of Eve. “No, that is not necessary. I am myself, and in this situation, I am only doing what is right. I am still an angel, aren’t I? This is all, around me, still blessed, is it not? And, also there’s a war on. A war that must be won.”
“Fine then, let’s go fight it.”
“But we do not need an Angel back in the Crusades, the second Crusades! Also, why did you ever tell me that you were a fourth generation of unicorn? If I had known, Damascus, I would have never treated you so. Haha, Cymen would have never been an issue.”
“Don’t try and bribe me now, Miccolangiolo.” Damascus whipped his tail, kicked in that direction, back-flipped himself right, and landed butt to them all. “It was more a lie for Giselle and the ladies, than for anyone else. When it comes to siring new flesh and ideas, you see, quite a few of them hate to learn you are too oo-oo-oold.” Damascus brayed, pointed with his horn, and the altar boys quickly heaved the doors back open.
“Damascus, please don’t leave me with him!”
“You don’t even know why you are saying that, Miss Evil.” Damascus told Eve as he ambled down the many large steps.
“Well, if not for my lessons—it sounds sinister but I barely understood a lick of all that versing back and forth?”
He’d gone down two already and just the double crest of his white rump was visible. “Eve and Micco, be lucky that the halo prevents me from going any further than these White Walls, thinking any further… you treacherous two do whatever you want with each other. But stay far and clear away from what is now my war, when the Fringe has got to be dealt with. And you be lucky, too, wherever you are, Cymen Ruecross, that prophecy prevents me from straying any further than your mortal cause…” then Eve couldn’t see or hear any more of the Unicorn. The servers’ incense wafted up over the brink of the cliff down to the Chapel, making the altar seem far smaller and vulnerable than it did from the other side, a lone egg in the nest.
Now, another peculiar feeling. All along, Micco had been able to lean down from his perch and watch it, do whatever he wanted to it, smash it, pluck it out.
“Robin the Hood was the last man who threatened me like that, King Micco.”
“And what did you do to him, sweet darling?”
“I made myself into a column of flame and burned him up.”
“It’s a pathetic threat to make at an immortal person, and especially when you took your friends and protectors in the process. It would be just as ineffective now.”
“I want to go downstairs, back with all the people and Damascus. Where it’s safe.”
“No.” the large double-doors slammed shut. Eve found herself crawling backward, directly into Micco’s warm stomach. The angel hugged her. “You are still my charm. Even if it takes them forever to realize it, you are mentioned in prophecy as well, Damascus will need you again before long.”
“It’s just a name, any name. I could have easily been Jane, Darlene, Golashabelle…”
“No, you are Eve. Not the same Eve, she was covered in wiry black fur of course, but still an important one. Scripture forecasts and recalls itself, you will see.”
“No, I don’t see. I don’t understand. I just want to eat and sleep, fuck regularly and be done with this place!”
“Oh, ho. I know your pain.” Micco turned Eve around in his large lap. He was as large as a father, but as ruddy-cheeked as a young man. “In fact, scripture prophesies that you and I are meant to be very close friends. Don’t you want that with me? I always wanted that with you.”
Eve began to cry.
“Shh… quiet now, dear. Let’s leave the book of Resolutions behind for now, it disturbs me too. We will back-track to the beginning, and from there, I can tell you what I mean. I am actually a very nice guy. You can relax here in my lap as I tell these stories. Then, when they’re all done playing war, or else dead, we can come out from behind the altar and start over, if that is what it takes.”
“You aren’t the Angel Miccolangiolo at all, are you?”
“What Cymen the Ruecross does not know about the General of Heaven, cannot hurt him.”
Once upon a time, and as far West as a mortal can try to walk, the Father began life.
Forget about man and woman. Disregard the angels, also, for now. The Father created beasts, before any of those, their grunts and grindings the very prose—
“Oh Micco, please don’t rhyme, I’m frightened enough already—”
The candle-light by which He created Man.
“And women too? Whenever they leave that out, I’m prone to wonder. Though, to Scripture’s credit, if my life came about on accident, all my misfortune would make a great deal more sense.”
Yes men and women were made together, but animals came first. Perfectly first. So very first that it is hard to comprehend how pristinely simple they are, and ever shall be, forever and ever…
Oh, I haven’t heard that word in so very long, Eve you are giving me chills. But let’s both… calm down a little. Animals get everything right. Birds are made to fly, and flies are made to digest dung, horses to ride, and rats to chew through grain, fish to gape up at rain when it ripples across the water surface above. Love. Eve, love, can you imagine how perplexing it was, then, when the Father made men in his own image and they did not, refused—precisely—to act as he did? All we angels peered over his great muscled shoulders in the painting, leaned on his wide arms and gasped at how wicked it was, that a creation should misbehave. Men cooked their food, refused to eat it raw. They made weapons and hunted unfairly, they dug up the earth and forced it to get pregnant and bear more corn or fruit than was first intended… you all are savages, really.
And that too. Well, not just yet then… the Devil Queen and her Hellions came later. At this time, however, at the beginning of time, a beat before never-ever, The Father was upset to see creation go a bit wrong. And so he made more animals, a few select races, to tempt man back into innocence with their undeniable beauty, and then keep him there with that rare, and inspired wild wisdom. Such were the Unicorn, and the Fairy, also the Pegasus, but those are all kill’t now—
“Oh, I suppose I can imagine that flying horses were fun to catch and ride.”
Ride? Oh no, eat. So delicious… and you can tell it was the angels’ fault for that extinction—for frying pegausae wings in white heaven-light and anointing oil.
“That is a terrible joke, Micco.”
Ah Eve… dearest Eve. You know me, don’t you? Well then, let’s skip past the original sin of knowledge, the snake and all of that, past the banishing from Eden the Garden, and the first Angellic War, where Miccolangiolo—ah, well, he emerged as General and the Devil Queen went down, down under the earth to sulk at souls that clambered beneath the soil to cast themselves into eternal flame…
“But I hadn’t known about any of that?”
Gentle now, gentle. Listen to me. Easy tongue, soft, slipping past lips, tempting teeth but not to bite… don’t look into my mouth either Eve, you had better not, or I shall never finish. Cymen said something like that to you, once. But enough of being distracted… here, my teeth chatter, and I wish I could drink again.
But my most wandering point, however, was that there was always a difference—a purposeful and intended difference between the simple beasts who came first, the human beings who came second, and the legends now called Damascus or the myths whispered about the Mist Maven.
The Father gave these sacred-beasts bones as hard as Heavenly steel, so that they could benefit from the experience of being immortal, though not fall prey to that kind of arrogance, through having flesh.
“Oh my, are Angels arrogant, King Miccolangiolo of the most Grand and Frivolous Effort? And that isn’t even your real name.”
I hope that your playing with me is a sign that we are on the mend, as friends. But yes, there were problems in Heaven, a civil war and many reforms that followed. And now angels can fall in love and make children, pass on knowledge, hunt… well, I am forbidden to speak about it to outsiders. Sacred beasts represented both the wisdom of heaven, but also the practicality of mortality. A love for life, and its penultimate creation was instilled in all of their hearts—the Father made them witnesses to the Snake-and-Apple test and its failure affected them all deeply. The trauma of it remained with them for generations, and even today, sacred-beasts are very sensitive to cruelty and injustice. Why else do you suppose Damascus can get so rude?
“I assumed he just wasn’t getting any.”
I shall… I shall laugh at that later, for we are at the most—HA! Alright, calm down now… we are at the most tragic part of the story. Humanity did not respond kindly to the help the Fairies, Unicorns, and the other tender, sacred races offered them. Many of these beloved creatures were hunted down. The Unicorns, especially, have a very tumultuous history, with the Great Grand—that’d be the true name of Damascus being determined to keep in the open, and then the warrior-chief of all those sacred beasts who retreated and chose to use their miracles only to protect their lands and promote their own survival, becoming Mavericks and Mavens of the Mist. The first Mist Maven, I believe, was a Fairy Queen, and then some other generation, it was a Gnome, and then a Yeti, after that was a primeval jackelope, so you see, the title has been passed back and forth. And they had wars against one another, and peace-treaties, confederations, rogue spy societies, and so forth…but today, the ruler of the Mists and all those who dwell there is the displaced Giselle, whom, I hear, felt drawn out of her loneliness and to Damascus…
“Who must have lied about his age, in order to seduce her. Oh, that pervert!”
More than likely, it was to prevent her finding out he was the reason for the schism between the Mists and the Grand… and well, yes, in order to fuck her once she fell for him.
“Oh, poor dear. Shouldn’t someone tell Giselle the truth?”
Would you like to be stabbed through the middle by, whom I just conveniently learned, was the very first Sacred Beast, the Great Grand himself, first Unicorn, the only mortal creature with permission to speak directly to the Father and ask him a favor?
I’m not about to have a trivial conversation with the Creator and make him angry with me for no reason. He can see all of your sins, Eve. I simply ask people to bathe and take the sacraments. But the Father… let’s not imagine what upsetting the Master of the Universe would be like, all because you may want to end a war between what are petty tribes in his eyes, or to sleep with a man you want, or… who knows what else?
The Grand are all chained down in gilded cages by now, or hiding here behind the White Wall with me—I like them very much actually, and it saddens me to know how they suffered. But as for the Mists, they accomplished what they always set out to, I suppose. They exist, somewhere, outside the realm of knowledge of Man. And though Mankind is suffering, lusting for death and forgetting the names of its lands and lords, the Mists are well and healthy in all their dimensions… I’ve lost you. Think of a cut jewel. The world is more like that, made up of layers upon layers of existence. But, for some reason, there are no more Unicorns and Giselle was willing to abandon her varied peoples to come here and join with Damascus.
“I’d say that it’s romantic, except that I never see her.”
Nor do I ever see her. Nor do I think it’s romantic. The creature is being taken for a ride, and a bad one, if you are ever lucky to see her and Damascus together, you’ll see exactly what I mean. And they get Unicubs now and then, but their babies rarely survive beyond the wall. Giselle also refuses to help GAFE in any way except to get under Damascus from time to time, or try to convince Mother Margarethe that the Mists could use Chapels… and she is the most pleasant, beautiful creature I have ever come across. If not a lady in form, then she is one in spirit, to be sure.
“Micco, this turned out not to be a story at all.”
It wasn’t? I must have forgotten something then…Oh yes, I forgot all about you. Eve. So then, what does Eve of Eves have to do with any of this?
“Yes, tell us.”
Giselle. She is the best way for me to explain it… she has her own role in this life, her own place and power, yet she also accepts that she must be the mate of an important man. Or, male. You are Eve in name only. It’s a mask for who you are. Mother Margarethe is also an Eve, and my mother too, I suppose, since I ended up here. But you are especially Eve, pristinely Eve. Perfectly perfect, the penultimate. You are meant to be an exceptional damsel and mate.
You will be flint. You will be hot water, you will be pressure in a cave. A catalyst. Or, rather, a Damsel.
“Please make up your mind Micco, or whomever you are. This is all giving me a headache.”
A Damsel in Distress is a person trapped in unique state of feminine desperation. A male or female with a squelched mind, body, spirit, soul, sexuality and energy. This person’s plight is juxtaposed with a kind of twisted hope that, despite real circumstances against them, they may actually emerge with their innocence and dignity intact. And so, this is a heartbreaking cat and mouse between hope and desperation. We don’t know whom to root for: the cat would end the dance and the mouse would only prolong suffering in this case. But yet, if the mouse could escape and eek out a meager existence for just one more day, then that would be an impressive victory, which even the Cat would then smile feline and gently bow his head and accept.
You aren’t meant to be saved, Eve, but to find someone who needs to be a hero and then pick him up. Bolster the Cat’s resolve.
“My father once told me never to try and change a man…”
But in a spiritual sense.
“Not in that sense either. Besides, I’ve sworn off of all men, animals, minerals and vegetables for that matter. I won’t break a promise to myself.”
You are obsessed with Cymen Ruecross. I sincerely doubt it was a good promise to make in the beginning.
“Could my hero be a woman then?”
That depends. Do you enjoy sleeping with women?
“I… I think that I’d rather not answer that. I don’t like the way you are looking at me, Micco.”
The angel king leaned in, stroked beneath her chin and kissed her. Call me David.
Breathy, “Are you a hero-in-waiting, David?”
Just the seven hundredth son of my father. I didn’t even do very well in school. And, I’m a drunk. So you see, we are close friends already. We have so much in common.
“So then why are you kissing me, if you aren’t anyone special?”
Maybe I want you to change my luck? Or, maybe I’m hoping that, if you didn’t believe my story, then at least it’s something to pass the time while the war is going on?And, I can’t believe you of all is complaining… you’re not as fun when you don’t seem as easy.
“Micco… I have faith.” This was soft, and it seemed all that she would say, until Eve spoke up out of her shivering palm again. “And so many other people love you, and believe in you. And you want to commit something that you once described as near to… beastiality with me… Is this who you are, when you are sober?”
“It’s that you remind me of an angel-woman, somehow. Such tangled hair… women in heaven tangle their hair on purpose you know, because with so much perfection, the tangles are irresistible. Wild, rustic, mortal. Evil. But I can’t get into any of those places up there without my father’s Grail, do you understand? He hardly misses it, but I do. Now, and if you like me, you should be strong enough. Go on, you’ve had the lessons I proscribed. Just… change right into an angel.”
“I can’t, incarnation doesn’t work like that. Angels aren’t animals, Micco. In fact, you would know that if you’d studied more closely. Whatever your name is… I worshipped you, I said beads for you before the altar, beside Margarethe, and whenever I was most distressed, before my bedtime—”
“Oh yes, I like you saying that.”
She tossed her head back, as if struck, falling down, hand throwing up. “How? How can you say this to me.”
Micco said, “I know you, Eve. You’ve been baptized, remember. I know what your heart longs for, what your sins are, what you want the Father to bless you with. I am even aware of what your loins need. And trust me, you like it.”
“I’ve suddenly added angel-men to my list.”
“Oh come on! It’s why you told Cymen all those stories. It’s why he told you about Vischte. Don’t look at me like that, he’s been baptized too, of course. And now I’m telling you a lovely story… about myself. Don’t you want me more?”
She said this next-all, shivering. “I suddenly realize the difference between you and those, made up and true, who got on my list. I felt so attracted, wasted so much time, beside-them, because I thought they were good-men. They did good things, or else longed nobly for them. But you, I thought that you, most of all…” And her voice was tinny and soft, Eve, in the pale light, in her blur of tears, feeling her littlestness, had become a faint moth flitting away. The angel who called himself Micco watched her with bemusement, attempted to snatch her back in his large white fist, but Eve slipped beneath the seal of the door, floated over the stairs below while he was so smiling, transfixed, then was gone.
Micco rose from the floor, tore down the sheets from his bed, cast them even more down, stamped on them, yelled. “Oh Eve—I hope you go straight to Hell!”
1 Tie Me to the Tree :: 2 But First, a Snack of Strawberries :: 3 Five Love Stories :: 4 Robin in the Hood :: 5 Even Crispy Children :: 6 A Good GAFE :: 7 Last Chance Through the Flames :: 8 On the Rogue, Damascus :: 9 White Wall :: 10 Saint-Makers and Uniform Wearers :: 11 Tempering the Ruecross