The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 10

CHAPTER 10: THE SHADE

She lay there in the mud for a few minutes, not quite sure if she had gone mad. After all, she had seen some incredible things when she had had the fever. But the figure in front of her was real. She was seeing it before her eyes, not in her head. Slowly, she clambered to her feet, rivers of muddy water running off her now thoroughly soiled white night-dress. She took five steps, and stood at the right hand side of the figure. From where she was, she could just about see the tip of an elegant chin, the end of a nose, but everything else hidden by the folds of the hood.
“Hello.” said Marie quietly.
The figure started, and Marie realised that she had taken him by surprise. If this person was what she thought he was, then how was that possible?


The figure turned to look at Marie, and as he did he dislodged a lock of long golden hair and Marie realised that he was a she. A very beautiful she, with kind green eyes, long blonde hair, and a pale, delicate face that looked like it was good for smiling. She looked around seventeen, but very tall for her age.
“Ehm…hello.” said the angel, and she looked very confused. Her voice, while certainly pleasant, sounded very human, and not at all angelic.
Marie realised that she was expected to speak, but didn’t know what to say, so the angel spoke again.
“Terrible weather we’re having.” she said brightly.
Marie simply nodded.
“Would you like…aren’t you freezing?”
Marie nodded dumbly. Her teeth were vibrating madly in her head.
The angel smiled piteously.
“Here.” she said and with a flourish a great white wing, five times larger than a swan’s wing, ten times whiter, arched out from under her cloak so suddenly that Marie started but before she knew what was happening it was wrapped around her, the rain had stopped thudding on her head, and she was now very warm. The feathers of the wing felt softer than anything Marie had ever touched.
“Thank you.” she buzzed, as her teeth had still not stopped chattering.
“You’re welcome.” said the angel “It’s a bit stupid, don’t you think? Running around half naked in a thunderstorm?”
Marie nodded.
“What’s your name?”
“Marie Dashonde. What’s yours?”
“Sariel-Elohim-el-Yoli. ”

Marie stared at her blankly.

“You can call me Sariel.”
“Hello.”
“Hello.”
They stood like that in silence for a bit. Then the angel asked: “Marie. You do realise I’m an angel?”
Marie instinctively cast her eyes up to the wing that was sheltering her.
“Right, right, of course you do. But…am I the first one you’ve ever seen?”
Marie nodded.
“Do you ever…Marie, do you ever see things? Strange things? Things that frighten you?”
Marie thought, and tried to remember everything that had scared her, but somehow she instinctively knew that they were not what Sariel was referring to.
“Alright. Have you ever felt that time wasn’t flowing as fast as it should? Or as slow? Did it ever seem strange?”
Suddenly Marie jolted. She told Sariel about the time the rabbit had frozen in the meadow. How hours and hours had passed within a single thirty minute span.
“You…” breathed Sariel “They thought they’d found them all. Where do you live, Marie?”
“In that cottage.”
“Then your father…oh no.”
“What?” Marie asked. The angel did not answer.
“What?!” she almost screamed. And then it hit her.
“He’s going to die, isn’t he? That’s why you’re here.”
“Yes.” said Sariel, and she sounded utterly miserable.
“But…but…if you’re here, that means he’s going to heaven, doesn’t it? You’re to take him to heaven?”
“It’s not that simple Marie.” said Sariel “There is an angel present at every death. And there’s also a shade. We don’t know who actually claims the soul until the last moment.”
“You mean he might go to Hell?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Your father was a good man in many ways. He loved you very much, he was a good friend and he was a loving husband.”
“But he killed people.” Marie finished, and the words tasted like lead “He killed people.”
Sariel simply nodded.
They stood in the rain, silent as graves.
Then Marie screamed at the black thing coming at her through the rain..

“Doctor…”
“Not now!”
“He’s talking Doctor.”
“What?”
“I think he’s talking. I think he’s trying to say something.”
“Luke? Can you hear me?”
“Muuurrrrrrrr…”
“Marie? Marie, is that it?”
“Immmmmm…”
“Get the girl. She’s in the kitchen”
“No she’s not.”
“What?!”
“She’s gone. She must have gone outside.”
“Oh no, get her! Hurry! Hurry, you ass! He hasn’t…he hasn’t long left.”

She saw it…through the rain…wafting like black smoke…and it…the face…oh God…she couldn’t…she buried her face in Sariel’s side and the angel put a hand around her and held her tight.
“Ssshh.” she whispered “It can’t hurt you, I promise, it can’t hurt you.”
A Thing came through the rain, flying over the sodden ground, a flowing black cloak draped over its body. It stopped, and began to circle the angel and the terrified child she held. Marie could feel it, feel the terrible fear as it moved through the air. She felt sick to her stomach. She was clamped so tightly to Sariel’s body but still she felt vulnerable, alone, and terrified. Then, things became a hundred times worse. The Thing spoke. If your worst nightmare could find a voice, it would be the rasping, slithering tone that the Thing used now.
“Sariel-el-Yoli.” drops of rain shuddered and splintered as that voice violated the air “A pleasure as always.”

“And hello to you, Rashgiel-Chanhees-el-Goli.” said Sariel.

“And what have you got there?” Rashgiel sneered “A little Temporal? Isn’t she just adorable? Come now sweet heart.” he lowered his voice and whispered to Marie “Why don’t you turn around and give me a great big smile?”
At the command, her bones were no longer her own. Slowly, horribly, she felt her neck twisting around to stare the horror in the face. Stop, stop, stop.
She caught a glimpse of a pale face beneath the black hood, golden eyes that stared like a cobra facing a mongoose on a jungle track, grey teeth bared in a hideous snarl-grin, chalk skin stretched over the skull so tightly it looked like it might split. And she recognised the look in its eyes. She had seen that look in Monsieur Nogaret’s face on their first meeting, and here it was again, ten thousand times more terrible, festering on the visage of this thing. Then, mercifully, she felt Sariel’s hand on the back of her head, returning her to the safety of the folds of her robe, the terrible impulse to look at Rashgiel dispelled by the angel’s touch.

The priest solemnly intoned the last rights, the solemn Latin pronounced mechanically and without joy, and then the brown ointment was applied to the Hangman’s forehead. Doctor Toureil was bent over, his ear to Luke’s mouth as he whispered and his one aching lung struggled to expel his wheezing last words.

“That’s not very polite.” Rashgiel hissed to Marie “Your father should have taken the time to raise you better. Oh well. Too late now.”
“Leave her be.” Sariel said quietly.
Suddenly, all perverted mirth fell from the thing’s face and it hissed furiously: “It will command, will it? This half-breed soul, born in muck? It will bark orders to one who faced the armies of Michael, rent heaven’s face to bloody thirds and fell at the Dawning of the Grey? You presume too much, Sariel of the Ninth.”
At the last words Sariel’s wings sprang out from behind her and filled the sky, and the demon recoiled in horror at their fiery brightness. For a terrible second Marie knew they were going to spring on each other, and she would be caught between the two of them and mashed to pulp. Then…
There was a twitch in the air.
Angel and demon suddenly started as if they had been stung. As one, their heads snapped in the direction of the Hangman’s house.
Marie, blind under Sariel’s cloak, heard Rashgiel snarl “He’s mine!”, then a sound like a scythe slicing through the air and then she was alone in the pouring rain. Sariel and the devil were gone, vanished like they had never been, and for a second she wondered if she had simply gone mad. Then she remembered Rashgiel’s threat, and realised what it meant.
Her father was dead.

17 comments

  1. The fantasy side of the story has arrived! Awesome use of biblical stories for the shade’s boast, I really appreciate that kind of stuff.
    So did Rashgiel really take Luke to hell? 😦 I hope not.
    Poor Marie, I wonder how this is going to affect her. Can’t wait for the next chapter.

  2. Absolutely fantastic! I’m really intrigued and so looking forward to the next chapter. The only thing I would be a little iffy on is “If your worst nightmare could find a voice” because we’ve really been seeing the world through Marie’s eyes up till now and it might be better not to acknowledge the reader. Tiny qualm though. Love this story!

  3. Are you editing/redrafting these as you post them or are they in their (almost) complete state already and your just posting them? If the latter could I rudely request you post them a little faster? I’m really enjoying it, but if this is the length of your average novel then with the short chapters at one a fortnight it might be a long read. If there is work going into them still then I completely understand and will wait patiently.

  4. Well then I only apologise for the grammar and punctuation in the last post. I’m sure you know best when it comes to the material. Cheers.

  5. Brilliant, brilliant. You’ve given us some great suspense, a map of the rest of the main plot, a sense of the values at stake and a nice play on familiar supernatural tropes.
    I will be a bit tough this week, though, because as good as this is a few things are standing out:

    – This is going to hurt: there is one letter’s difference between Mariel and Marie and even if you never make a single typo, that’s going to become confusing very quickly. It’s a difficult thing to change a main character’s name when you’ve worked on something for a really long time – difficult, but not impossible. The hero of my current novel had his first name changed after three years for a different reason (I couldn’t take his old name seriously anymore, to the point where I was avoiding typing it). It’s hard. It might feel like Mariel has been recast. But it will make things so much easier for readers and editors – we’ll be able to focus on the story, instead of keeping track of which is which.
    – Second thing: the angel and demon dialogue. Maybe it’s just me, but phrases like ‘sweetheart’ don’t feel… scary enough, I guess? Likewise, ‘hello’. Incoming pedantry: ‘hello’ wasn’t used as a greeting unlike after the telephone was invented. There were many variants in use before then, but as far as I know they were used to express surprise or as a hunting call – and even then, that was in English. I think there should be a marked difference between the idiomatic voices of medieval French villagers, and those of ancient beings outside the mortal realm. In the case of ‘sweetheart’, maybe substitute something like ‘little one’, ‘little fool’ or ‘child’ – something that would translate across thousands of years. Unless the point is a sort of Good Omens-style subversion, of course, in which case, carry on.
    – Finally, a small thing: Marie wouldn’t know what a cobra and a mongoose are. Perhaps you could use a local variant (eg, substitute ‘asp’ for ‘cobra’, or whatever venomous snakes they have in France).

    I’m glad you’ve decided to post these more often and I’ll try to keep up!

    1. You’re right. You’re right. When you’re right you’re right and I knew this day would. I just felt that Mariel was “right” for the character but it’stime to change it. How do you feel about Meriel? Still too similar?

      1. Still too similar. It’s remarkable how easily readers can become confused – I once read a seven-book series where I was constantly mistaking a guy called Scamandros for one called Sunscorch (although they were both fairly minor, introduced at the same time, and having to wait ages between installments didn’t help). The other thing about Mariel, for me, is that the name puts me in mind of Muriel/Mariel from Muriel’s Wedding, a comedy from the nineties – but I realise that “you’re terrible, Muriel” is probably not a household phrase anywhere but here.
        If it makes you feel any better, I went through the exact same thing with Rik (as he is now called), making all the same excuses. The last straw came when I imagined what my favourite tutor at uni would say. “Find+replace” made the actual process of renaming painless, but it took me a while to adjust to the recasting in my head.
        As for what to rename her, when I’m stuck with names I usually hop on a name generator, find a specific meaning for the character and/or just fiddle around with letter combinations until something comes up. Eg, swap some consonants = Remiel/Ramiel, change the spelling = Ramael, drop a letter = Emiel, Amiel, Eriel, add a different letter to the new combination = Camiel, generate new names = Tamsael, Otiel, Katael… generators can be nearly useless though, because you usually have to click through a bunch of dumb suggestions like Asspip and Sexael and Ptljvbnc before anything appealing pops up.

  6. Ooh, liking the kind of Hebrew/biblical vibe you gave the angel’s name. I’ll admit on my first impressions of the supernatural characters so far that they could have been a bit more signature in some ways, as they’re pretty characteristic of the general Western mental image. It is early though, so maybe they’ll get fleshed out (so to speak) in ways that will make them more interesting and set them from the crowd as the story progresses. And your knack at portraying demonic terror shines yet again with Rashgiel’s irresistible command. If there’s one thing certain, you know how to bring a chill, and I like it.

    Rest in peace, Luke. We all know you were done for the moment the first raindrop fell. *holds back tears*

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