Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Angel of the Window by Loren Presley

Radiant angel Luxia and her faithful companion Corbett, a giant seagull, embark on a grand and dangerous Odyssey in Loren Presley's epic fantasy

The small angel floated amongst the world of the Stars and the Moon. The nightly heavenly bodies shone serenely in the dim, blue world all around. And though she knew it was all around her she almost never opened her eyes to see it. She spent most of her time with her face in her hands, crying.

She was a most beautiful angel. Her long hair was a shiny, glimmering, silvery blue, and glistened like bright moonlight on the ocean. She wore a beautiful, white dress that shone with luminosity. Perhaps her dress's light came from something else, as the moon gets its light from the sun. Her eyes were bright, glowing blue, yet not quite blue. Not a color seen ever on Earth, but it was a most gorgeous color, and would have reminded anyone of the color blue.

Her wings had long, snow-white feathers, and they sometimes shone a hint of rainbow in the light they reflected. And over her head, the angel had a most beautiful star. It was small, compared to the stars that were huge and far away. The star over her head was about the size of two of her fists put together, and it shone brilliantly in white light and hints of rose, purple, green, blue, silver, and other unearthly colors.

All of the angel's radiant beauty made it so difficult to tell she was sad. If one were to look upon her now, her beauty might confuse him for just a moment before he realized she was crying. And even when she was crying she did not look nearly as sad as she truly was.

After she was finished crying she slowly lifted her head out of her hands and revealed her young, pure face. She looked up at the stars around her, and some below her, and even down at the mysterious, dim surface below that stretched out as far as she could see. She looked almost quite peaceful, but it was clear in her expression that she longed for something, as she floated in the world of the Stars and the Moon.

She felt the cool, serene air on her face, looked out on the stars and the bright pale moon.

Then she looked out to a strange, but magnificent light shining a little way off, and wished she could go there. She had tried many times before to go to the light, but she never could. She was stuck in the world of night. Luxia, the crying angel, bowed her head and kneeled perfectly in the air, in quiet sadness.

When she looked up again, her eyes caught sight of a large, silhouetted mountain, seeming to stand up from the dark surface below. It looked like a comfortable place to walk and sit on for while, so she flew quietly to it, her dress flowing in the air, as she softly rode the winds.

Once she set foot of the mountain, however, she realized it was soft and feathery. She was puzzled.

Suddenly the mountain moved. A big, black shape rose up in front of her, and a round, shiny eye looked at her.

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Luxia, her glowing eyes wide. It was the head of a seagull! A giant seagull, with black and gray feathers.

The enormous beast looked at her more closely. Luxia saw her terrified reflection in its shiny, dark eye.

But then, to her surprise it's eye blinked with some benevolent, yet cunning expression and he suddenly appeared very kind.

"An angel?" the bird said. "I didn't know there were still angels in the Night World."

The angel was rather shaken by such a surprising meeting. The most suitable thing she could think to do was to bow. "I'm the only one as far as I know," she said. "I'm stuck here."

The seagull shook his head. "That is sad, indeed," he said. "But the Night World is a very beautiful place."

"I know," said the angel with a sigh. She turned away and stared off into the stars, now much more at ease with the fowl. "But it's lonesome here, and I wish I could go and be somewhere else."

"Lonesome?" the bird said, a little surprised. "Then you've been here longer than I thought. How long have you been here?"

"Oh, I've always been here," replied the angel.

"Always..." said the seagull. "That makes me very sad. Why didn't you go with the others?"

"Others? Well all I know is that I woke up a long time ago and found myself alone here. And I've been here ever since."

"Is that so?" said the bird. "I thought all the angels left the Night World a long time ago to their home, after they were made. You must have been sleeping when they left."

The angel bowed her head in regret.

"It's not your fault, I think," said the bird. "Angel, may I call you by your name? I find you most lovely."

"It's Luxia," replied the angel.

"Luxia," said the bird. "And may I call you a he, or a she?"

"I am neither, but you may call me a she, if you prefer," said Luxia, and she was beginning to notice that a light breeze began to blow. It made her hair and dress dance and the seagull's feathers flick.

"Then I shall call you a she," said the bird. "I am Corbett, and I have chosen to live here, in the Night World. I watch everything that can be seen from here. I am very old, and my right wing is crooked."

"Oh, but you don't look old at all!" said Luxia.

"Nevertheless, I am ancient. I am still strong and healthy if that's what confuses you."

Luxia's eyes glowed green with fascination, and yet not green, but an unearthly color like it. She looked to the light in the sky, the one she had tried to get to many times. Maybe Corbett knew what it was.

"Corbett, do you really see everything from here?"

"Yes. The stars, the moon, and also the black-gray, misty surface below us."

"What is the surface?" asked Luxia.

"It's another world below us called Earth."

"Earth?" said Luxia, looking down from the edge of the seagull's back. "What's it like?"

"Well, if you have eyes as good as mine, you can see it for yourself. But I will explain it to you. Earth... it has stars like there are stars here, but they're not nearly as beautiful as they are here. It has land and water and air and light, and many other things. A sun, a moon like there is here, planets, and their moons, and many other wonders like nebulae and black holes and gases."

"Does anybody live there?" asked Luxia.

"Well... yes." He said nothing more about Earth. "But please tell me, Luxia, for you are too lovely a creature to be sad, where is it you would like to go if you have been here long enough?"

Luxia looked to the light. It was a pure, snow-white light, and very still and calm. Some of the light flowed out like white clouds, but she could not see them move either. Many stars were around it. She had always thought it looked like a Window in the sky. A beautiful, tall, arched Window, with light shining too bright for her to see what was on the other side. It looked so close, perhaps just a few miles away.

Luxia looked back at Corbett. "I would love to go there," she said, pointing to the light. "I wonder so much and so dearly as to where that Window goes," she said.

"Then why don't you go there?" said Corbett.

"But..." Luxia began to say, but then she thought twice. She had never succeeded in reaching the Window before, but the way Corbett said it, being the powerful, magnificent bird that he was, made it sound like it could be done. Maybe she hadn't tried hard enough before. She looked to the Window and rode the breeze towards it.

As she flew, she thought she must be going very slowly, but when she looked back to the mountain rising up from the dim, misty Earth below, she saw she had traveled a great deal. But as she continued to look to the luminous Window, she thought she must not be going anywhere.

She called back to Corbett, "I'm trying to go there, but it doesn't seem to be getting any closer!" Corbett didn't seem to hear her, and once she noticed this, Luxia flew back to the great bird. "Why doesn't it get any closer?" she asked him. "It looks so near, but it seems to get farther the more I fly towards it!"

Corbett's beak had a natural smile to it, and his eye blinked with agreement. "Yes," he said. "That is because it is not so close. It is very far away, and it is not a small Window, but a very big one. It goes to a very beautiful and wonderful place."

Luxia's eyes blinked with curiosity and a slight hope. "I never knew it was so far. But what makes it look so close?"

"The light from the place where the Window goes to is pure light. It comes from a very bright and glorious heavenly body in its sky. The night is so bright that it cannot be called night there, but something higher than night. And the light is always the same, even when the heavenly body sets. So, Luxia, when the light shines out the Window, it doesn't lose any of its splendor. It is the same over there as it is over here. And that's what makes it look so close."

Luxia could only imagine the sight of such a star and such a place, and it seemed so much within her reach, but in truth it was so far. "If the Window is so far and I cannot fly to it, how will I get there?" cried Luxia.

Corbett's eyes blinked with a devious expression, but it was actually a very pleasant look. "I can take you there, if you'd like," he said. "I am much bigger and faster than you are, and should dearly like to help you."

Luxia brightened with elation, but then was very concerned. "But, would I fall off if I rode you?" she asked.

"Not if you hold onto my feathers. I may be old, but even my feathers are still strong on my body. And they won't come out." Corbett was already beginning to stretch his wings.

Luxia immediately knelt down and grabbed his big, soft feathers with her hands.

"Are you ready, Luxia?" he asked.

"All right," said Luxia with excitement. "Let's go!"

Corbett's gigantic form lifted off the tall mountain on which he had been standing, and he was soon airborne.

As he had first jumped off into the air, Luxia thought for certain Corbett was too big and too fast for her to stay on, but as he glided, she thought it was easy. She felt almost no speed. Just a steady glide, and yet as she looked back at the mountain coming up from the Earth, watching how far it got she knew she had never traveled so fast in her life. There was little wind in her face, only a playful breeze that her hair waved in. Stars were bright all around her and the whole night seemed to sing serenely.

Corbett's silky feathers glistened in the light. He flapped his wings little, and such long wings he had for a seagull, and only let himself glide powerfully, like a Concorde, only quieter. Even though one of his wings was crooked, it didn't seem to bother him at all.

What troubled Luxia was that Corbett didn't seem to be going straight to the Window. "Corbett," she asked, "Where are you taking me?"

"I am taking you to the moon first, to ask him what we must expect on the journey."

"The moon? But... the moon isn't a person."

Corbett must have been smiling to himself. "Yes, he is," he said. "At first sight the moon looks like a dead, pale globe. But if you look closely you can see his face."

Luxia looked up and tried to see it for herself, while Corbett talked more. "The moon has better eyes than mine and he can see for millions of miles. All the way to the Window. I would like to ask him what the path to the Window is like before we leave."

Luxia watched as Corbett's glide brought her closer and closer, and if she looked very carefully she could almost see a pair of eyes, and a wide smile.

Soon the moon was so close its surface began to flatten and she could make out the mountains and rocks upon it.

"Hold, on Luxia!" said Corbett and he flapped his long wings to bring himself to a halt, and his great webbed feet landed in the dust. "You may get off and walk around if you like," he said.

Luxia flew down to the surface of the moon. As she looked upon at the lunar sky, she was surprised to see a new arrangement of stars. Many stars appeared where there had once seemed to be very few.

Luxia also saw a peculiar sight in front of them. Three tall crosses stood up from the ground.

"It is good to see you again, Corbett, my friend," said a deep, powerful voice. Luxia felt the moon shake.

"As you," replied Corbett.

"And your angel friend wants you to take her to the Window?"

Corbett did not say anything at first, but then he faced Luxia. "He's talking to you," he said.

"He is?" replied Luxia. She looked up to the sky, and put her hands to her mouth. "Yes!" she answered.

"Very good," said the moon. "I have been watching you for some time, Luxia," said the moon.

Luxia was flattered and surprised.

"Now for your request, Corbett," continued the moon. "The world of the stars and the moon is as ever, and flight will be easy. Be forewarned, however, that a squall has formed in the Elusian Paradise. Steer clear of it. And past the Paradise, in the Ridge of Shadow, the anemone tree is dormant, so fly quietly as not to disturb it. Beyond the Ridge you will reach the Cosmos of Snow and remember to stay above the clouds there."

"Of course," Corbett responded.

"Following the Snowy Cosmos, you will pass through the Mists of Drear. Fly slowly and carefully."

"Or I shall crash," Corbett said.

"Pass the Mists of Drear and you will reach the Gateway to the Window."

"That sounds like a long way to travel!" exclaimed Luxia.

Corbett's kind, energized eyes looked to her. "It is, Luxia. But nevertheless it would be an honor to take you to the Window." He looked away and spoke again to the moon. "Thank you, my friend! When I return, we will have an enjoyable talk about the journey!"

"I look forward to it," said the moon's deep voice.

Corbett looked back at the angel. "Are you ready to go, Luxia?" he asked.

Luxia grinned joyfully, her most lovely face beaming with the purest, most luminous joy. "Yes. I can't wait to get there!" she flew up to Corbett's back and held onto his feathers. Corbett looked to the stars, flapped his wings powerfully, disturbing the moon dust, and soon was soaring so high that the flat-surfaced moon began to curve in roundness again.

"Remember, Corbett," said the moon, his voice no softer than before. "Beware of the Black Fire!"

"I shall!" he replied, and Luxia soon found herself soaring in Corbett's swift, quiet glide through the cool, calm air of the Night World, headed straight for the Window.

Luxia's eyes were wide and glowing. She was finally on her way. She would finally make it.

The air brushed her face and hair and dress, and she could even see the stars move as she passed them. When he looked back, the moon had become very small and disc-like. "Luxia," said Corbett. "You can let go now."

"What?" exclaimed Luxia.

"It's all right. You won't fall off."

Luxia looked down at her hands, thought a moment, and carefully loosened her grip a little at a time. She did not fall off. She could hardly believe that she was just sitting gently on his back at his dazzling speed. "How is this happening?" she asked Corbett.

"It is my stream of flight," said Corbett. "You are no longer riding me, but the air I carry with me as I fly."

Luxia's whole form glowed. After many years of being alone and stuck in the world of the stars and the moon, it was wonderful to meet friends who wanted to help her, and to be doing such amazing things. She carefully moved into a comfortable position with her legs stretched out in front of her, and watched the cosmos go by.

After only a short while, however, the angel noticed something. The deep indigo sky-world was turning to a bright green, and there were fewer and fewer stars. The world was disappearing.

"Luxia," said Corbett, "we are leaving the Night World now."

Luxia got back into a kneel and held onto Corbett's feathers again. "Where are we now?" she asked, her lights' colors turning white with a hint of violet, her eyes glowing gray.

"We are entering into the Elusian Paradise," replied Corbett. "I don't think you can see it yet, but you will as we get closer."

Luxia leaned forward and focused. Soon, the green color all around her turned to a light blue and it became very luminous. She looked around and thought she could see a sun sitting in all the brilliance, a sun with white light and colors she had never seen before. She could see such beautiful, enormous white clouds all around her, and it was hard to see what color the sky was, because the sun's light in between the clouds was so bright. The air began to feel a little warmer, and it had the smell of flora.

Then up ahead, a land appeared out of the light luminosity. The land was full of trees and tropics. Luxia's eyes brightened at all the new sights.

Corbett flew over the land, which was covered in brightness, and Luxia looked down over it. "This is the Elusian Paradise?" she said.

"Yes," replied Corbett with some satisfaction in his voice. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

"It's so very wonderful," said Luxia. The light in the world made her own light seem to fade all around her, but at the same time, covered her with its own. She saw trees and many colorful exotic plants, plants much more beautiful than on Earth. She saw wide meadows and flowers everywhere.

Way off in the distance though, she thought she saw a violent cloud and a cold wind blowing over the trees. She thought that must be the squall the moon had been talking about, and surely enough Corbett was going nowhere near it.

Up ahead, she could see a grand water fall pouring into a great river. She watched as Corbett's giant, beautiful form swept closer and closer to its white waters and rainbows. When he soared over it, Luxia felt a little of its mist and she passed right through one of the rainbows.

As Corbett glided powerfully over the enormous cliff from which the water fell, Luxia realized she did not see anyone. "Corbett," she said, "does anybody live here?"

"No one lives in the Elusian Paradise, but sometimes others will come to spend time in it and visit for a while. It's a quiet, glorious retreat."

When Luxia looked up, she was amazed to see the Window. Shining up ahead. It looked a little closer, finally, than it had in the world of the stars and the moon. Luxia's eyes shone with glee. It seemed to be sitting right up ahead in the air, in front of the clouds.

"Corbett, look! The Window!" she exclaimed.

"Yes," Corbett replied delightedly. "But we still have a long way to go."

Luxia could then see that it didn't seem to be getting as close as it should be, and realized she had forgotten about the illusion it made. The sight of it made her ache with want to be there, but she knew she was on her way, and that satisfied her. She was finally going to the Window, and she could wait.

The Elusian Paradise seemed to go on for miles and miles. Luxia sat leisurely on Corbett's feathery back, full of lovliness, and just gazed at the Window, always thinking that Corbett was about to fly right into it or that it was trying to move away from them. But every time she realized it had gotten a little closer. She was elated all over again.

Luxia spent so much time looking at the Window that she did not noticed a range of dark mountains up ahead, with a sky-wide layer of ominous clouds looming over. She did not realize they were leaving the paradise until some of the dark clouds were high over her head. It began to grow dark.

"You will have to hold onto my feathers, while we're in this world, Luxia," said Corbett, some quiet suspense in his voice. "I will be changing speeds from time to time."

Luxia held onto Corbett's feathers just as he flapped his wings to slow down. He seemed to be entering into a dark wasteland, with big, many-branched trees standing still in the nooks of mountains. Corbett flew very quietly farther in, and soon the light from the Elusian Paradise disappeared behind them.

Luxia remembered the moon speaking of a world like this. She couldn't quite remember the name. "Corbett, where are we now?" she asked.

"Speak, quietly, Luxia," replied Corbett. "This is the Ridge of Shadows. It is the home of a great tree-beast called the anemone tree."

Luxia peered over Corbett's long wing, down on the many trees. "Which tree is it?" she whispered.

"They are all the anemone tree. It comes up out of the ground in many places," said Corbett.

Luxia gazed at every tree with astonishment. She could hardly believe that she was looking at the same tree every time. For the long, quiet moments, Luxia was silent, and watched as Corbett cruised through the mountains. She could still see the Window, like an opening of pure white sunlight peeking out of the clouds.

Then Corbett began approaching the greatest part of the anemone tree. If Luxia had not known that all the trees were the same one she would have thought this one was surely the anemone tree. Its trunk was short and wide and the many thousands of branches reached for the sky. She felt Corbett slow down once more, headed straight into the dense branches.

"Corbett, you'll crash!" Luxia exclaimed, keeping her voice quiet.

"Shh! We must be very quiet here. Trust me. It's not as dense as it looks."

As Corbett approached the tree, Luxia saw that he was right. The branches were far apart enough for him to fly through safely. Corbett twisted and tilted as needed to avoid the branches, and Luxia rode him in the quietness and suspense. The branches became denser as he flew deeper in, but it did not last long. Soon the branches began to spread apart. "We're almost through," said Corbett.

Suddenly Luxia saw a figured branch curl. Her glowing eyes widened at the sight. Then other branches began to curl.

Then to her great surprise, a whole limb rose and swung at them. Luxia ducked and lay close to Corbett, who quickened his pace and dodged the other branches and limbs that tried to get at them. They swung violently, hitting each other. Corbett suddenly accelerated, maneuvering through the branches with surprising reflexes and Luxia held on tightly on her turbulent ride.

Then at last, the branches disappeared and Corbett swept away from the great tree. All was calm again. With the mountains cleared as well, they were leaving the ridge.

Luxia looked back on the shadows and watched as the anemone tree shook and swung about.

Corbett began to chuckle. "That was a close one," he said.

"What happened?" asked Luxia. "Why did it try and get us?"

"My wingtip brushed his limb and woke him up. The anemone tree does not like to be disturbed when he is dormant."

"He seems like such a dangerous creature!" said Luxia.

Corbett blinked once and smiled. "The anemone tree isn't bad," he said. "Just grumpy. Perhaps too grumpy. If we had not been so close to the outside of the ridge he might have swallowed us up in his branches and beaten us!" he said amusedly.

"I do not like to think of that," said Luxia, a little more relaxed.

Corbett looked back at her. "Am I frightening you Luxia?" he said, with such readiness for apology.

"Oh, no," Luxia reassured, patting his head. "Not too much."

Luxia looked ahead, but she couldn't see the Window. She began to worry, her eyes scouring the horizon for it. Her hair and dress flapped in a cool wind. "Where's the Window?" she exclaimed. There was only darkness.

"Don't be afraid, Luxia," said Corbett. "There are clouds up ahead that block its light. You can't see the clouds yet, but hold on, I have to climb upward!"

Luxia held on tightly and felt Corbett's magnificent ascent. They passed through the dark clouds, and all was quiet.

Suddenly, something tickled Luxia. She looked around, wondering what it was. Then she saw something sparkle, like a star. Then she saw many of them, falling gently like starry snow-flakes. As Corbett continued to climb through the air, she found they were passing through strange glowing mist, with what seemed to be tiny stars lying in it, like the dense Milky Way. Soon there was more of the mist, until it was all around them. Before Luxia knew what was happening, there was a very thick mist in front of them, growing brighter and brighter. "Just a little more," said Corbett continuing to ascend powerfully.

Luxia suddenly felt the tickling all around her, as a dense mist swallowed her up. And then, as Corbett passed up through it, Luxia found herself soaring over a thick bright sea of clouds.

Luxia's eyes beamed blue, and she flapped her luminous, bright feathered wings. "Where are we now?" she asked, amazed.

"This is the world of the Snowy Cosmos," said Corbett.

Luxia gazed at the clouds as Corbett swept over them. They glowed and sparkled, and indeed looked almost snowy. She especially liked the wind of this world, blowing excitedly. It made her dress flap with a very pleasant sound. When she looked up, she had never seen a blacker, more beautiful sky. There were many stars too, different stars than she had seen in the world of the stars and the moon.

"It's so beautiful here. But what are the clouds made of? What makes them glow?"

Corbett eyed her pleasantly. "It's stardust," he said. "It came from a beautiful white sun that exploded a long time ago, not long after the beginning of world. It was as bright and dense as these clouds are now."

Luxia watched as a cloud came closer to her. She curiously put her hand out and as the clouds passed she touched the hundreds of tiny stars and smiled in the thrill.

When she looked ahead, however, she found that she still could not see the Window. "Where's the Window, Corbett?" she asked.

"We are high above the clouds and we cannot see it from here," he explained.

Luxia spread her legs out and sat comfortably again. Her eyes longed, but of course her radiant beauty kept her from ever looking too sad.

"Oh, I wish I could see it," she said. "Are we almost there? It's been such a long journey and I can hardly wait."

Corbett bowed his head and smiled inside, happily. "Yes, Luxia. We're almost there," he said. "But the world of the Snowy Cosmos is an enormous wide sea. It will take a long while to cross it."

Luxia took comfort in knowing the Window was close. She was on her way. She would soon be there. In the meantime, she had a beautiful new world to gaze at as she passed through. She smiled and watched the clouds swiftly rush past her, and then gazed up at the dark, starry sky, with such beautiful, peculiar stars.

Time passed and Luxia enjoyed every moment in the Cosmos of Snow. She asked Corbett, "How far have we gone?"

"We still have a long way to cross," he said casually.

Luxia looked up at the stars, her eyes glowing white. "I should very much like to sleep under a world like this," she said. As an angel, she didn't need to sleep, but she could if she wanted to. She stretched her arms, spread her wings and lay down in the soft bed of feathers. She looked out on the passing sea for a while longer. The ride was swift and powerful, but quiet and easy. She closed her eyes and slept.

Corbett looked back on her with his cunning look in his eye and his pleasant smile. He then turned his eyes forward and watched his path, knowing he carried the beautiful angel with him. He was honored.

"Luxia! Wake up!" came Corbett's voice suddenly.

Luxia opened her eyes, and sat up. She found that they were still in the Snowy Cosmos.

"Luxia!" Corbett's voice persisted.

"What is it, Corbett?" Luxia asked, easily awakened.

"There's something ahead of us," replied Corbett. There was suspense in his voice.

Luxia kept her eyes up front, glowing with color, and looked ahead.

Suddenly, a cloud of darkness appeared in front of them, followed by thick, black smoke. Everything, the sky, the stardust clouds, began to darken. Then shooting up in the distance, was a red, burning pillar of flames.

"It's the Black Fire!" exclaimed Corbett.

Luxia gasped at the awful sight. "The Black Fire?" she asked.

"A hideous monster, who enjoys nothing more than bringing eternal misery to other creatures," Corbett explained

Another pillar of flames rose, bigger and nearer this time.

"It's getting closer!" Luxia exclaimed.

"He will try and drag us to his world of pain and despair, from where there is no escape!" cried Corbett.

Suddenly, Luxia heard an awful, threatening, malicious cry from the fire. A black shaped appeared, seeming to race towards them.

"What do we do?" Luxia cried.

"Don't be afraid!" Corbett said, with strength in his voice and a piercing look of defiance in his eyes. "I've shaken the Black Fire before!"

The Black Fire raced toward them, a large black round body, trailing smoke and embers. Luxia thought for certain it would crash into them, but Corbett suddenly took a powerful turn, evading it. Luxia was so taken by surprise that she almost didn't grab onto his feathers in time. She felt the heat brush past her.

Corbett turned sharply the other way and faced the Black Fire, flapping his great long wings backward. The Black Fire curved around, and came flying towards them, no wings and all round and malicious. It was like a hot cannon ball, screaming and growling horribly. But Corbett suddenly made a cunning drop and glided under it, Luxia holding on tightly. Corbett's flight was much more powerful and unpredictable now.

When Luxia looked back, the Black Fire was tailing them. Corbett curved and tilted left and right, but the Black Fire was not shaken. However, Luxia could still feel confidence in Corbett. She could feel it in his movements and see it in his eyes. He knew what he was doing.

Soon the Black Fire was right on Corbett's tail. There was such a feverish heat and stench in its presence. The black, round form spat fire and embers.

Suddenly Corbett made an abrupt turn and Luxia thought for sure they would lose the monster. But they didn't. The Black Fire had followed them perfectly, and was now at Corbett's side.

When Luxia looked up at it, she shuddered. It was black and shiny and had many short legs on its round, bulgy body, like a giant bug. And yet not a bug. Nothing like a bug. Something completely repellent and disgusting. It kept changing shape and size like it was made of hot oil. Then suddenly it opened its one, big, fiery-red eye. It looked right at her. It was all too frightening, and Luxia held tightly to Corbett and shielded herself with her wings, shining mother of pearl, before the menacing creature.

Then she heard Corbett's voice ring out like a trumpet. "You fiend! Don't you remember me? You will not take us to your domain, you despicable beast!" Luxia felt Corbett dive. She held up to his feathers and hoped it would be over soon.

When she opened her eyes to see what was happening, Corbett was beginning to escape the Black Fire. He shot right through a dense layer of star-dust. The clouds parted in the wake up his flight stream. Luxia saw that the Black Fire was not following, but behind them she saw the deep orange light of an explosion and thunder called eerily over them. But Luxia was not afraid anymore. The Black Fire had vanished.

Corbett flapped his wings to slow down, and they now drifted gracefully in a calm, cloudy place.

Corbett's eye looked back at Luxia. "I am sorry we met the Black Fire, Luxia," he said. "Are you all right?"

Luxia rose up on her knees holding his feathers with one hand and spread her luminous wings, looking around the clouds. "I am now," she said. "But I never knew that such a... an evil creature existed."

Corbett nodded. "The Black Fire was once the most beautiful creature in all the world, but a long time ago he turned to evil ways and became the most horrible thing ever to live. He wanders the world, seeking only to bring misery to everything that is good, and is now our mortal enemy!"

"I'm amazed it didn't drag us down to its lair."

Corbett laughed gently. "He is a very frightening sight and presence to be in. But it's actually rather difficult to be degraded to his home. You have to let him take you there. You have to choose to go. But nevertheless, he is very powerful..."

"Well, at least we're safe now," said Luxia.

"I apologize again," said Corbett, "that you were in danger."

Luxia smiled gracefully to him. "I feel much safer than ever with you, Corbett."

The seagull looked forward. "How that gives me comfort," he said.

In the next, long moments, Luxia rode among the clouds and was quiet. She wanted to enjoy the beauty of the Snowy Cosmos, but little by little she began to notice that the clouds were changing. They were not as luminous and white, but gray and wispy. A dead silence was in the air.

Before Luxia knew what was happening, Corbett spoke. "Luxia, we have to slow down now. We are entering the Mists of Drear." Luxia held onto his feathers and felt the power of his flight soften as he brought himself to a very slow glide. Before long, Luxia found herself covered in the gray mist. She tried to see in it, but she could hardly see anything besides Corbett. "I still can't see the Window!" she exclaimed.

"We are not far now," replied Corbett reassuringly, and rather delightedly. "First we must cross the Mists of Drear. And it is not a very beautiful place..." He spoke quietly and there was a slight suspense in his voice.

As Luxia rode she looked from side to side. At times Corbett would turn a little. Fist left, then right. She could hardly see why, but she thought she saw enormous dark, pillars behind the mist. The air was eerily cool and still, aside from Corbett's gentle flight.

Then, strange sounds came. Quietly at first, but soon clear. It sounded like distant lamentation. Luxia looked around but she could hardly see past the mist, and it was getting thicker. "What's that crying and screaming?" asked Luxia.

Corbett turned and evaded a pillar. "Those are the sounds of those who are grieving," he said.

"Grieving for what?" asked Luxia.

"Different things," replied Corbett. "Those who are badly hurt or saddened end up here. Many of whom have been attacked by the Black Fire."

Luxia shuddered and for a few moments said no more.

Soon the crying was very clear and coming from down below them. Luxia's light glowed in the mists. She looked over Corbett and thought she could see many, many people lying down below, if they were people, for many of them looked badly disfigured. "I think I can see them," she said.

Soon the mist was so thick that even Corbett was becoming veiled.

"Hmm..." said Corbett, his eyes fixing. "The mists here are too thick for me to fly safely. We'll have to land," he said, and gently descended to the floor, or whatever it was that they stood on. "We may have to walk the rest of the way," Corbett continued.

Luxia spread her wings and floated off Corbett's back. When she landed on the floor she saw that they were surrounded by the grieving people, all lying and moaning. They all seemed so despairing and stricken with grief and infirmity.

Luxia put a hand to her heart. "Oh, it's... it's so awful..." she said. She floated to the side of a weary thin woman who looked so ill and was crying painfully, as if something awful had happened to her or someone she loved. Luxia knelt to her side and helped her sit up. "Oh, poor woman," she said. "What's happened to you? Tell me." But the woman did not answer. She only let her head fall back limply. Luxia gently let her down and wiped her head.

She then quickly turned to a man, who moaned and despaired. "Oh, please tell me. What's happened to you?" she asked. The man said nothing, only groaned in her arms.

Luxia turned to Corbett. "They won't speak!" she cried.

Corbett nodded sadly. "They cannot hear or see you. They are overcome with grief," he said.

Luxia bowed her head, sadly.

"Come, my dear Luxia," said Corbett. "We will be at the Window soon."

Luxia rose to her feet. "Yes," she said. "Oh, but how I wish we could do something."

Luxia and Corbett slowly trod through the mists. Nearly all through it, Luxia could not help but try and tend to the many grieving people along the way.

Then, as Luxia walked among them, her eyes suddenly fell upon a man who looked so badly bruised and beaten and filthy. He was dressed in long, stained robes and clothes that looked like they would have been very fine, if they were not covered in filth. He was lying on the floor, not moving, a distraught look on his face.

"Oh!" exclaimed Luxia, hurrying to the man's side. She knelt down by him. "This one looks almost dead!"

She at once began wiping his face with her dress. He looked so battered and so near total despair. Luxia had to save him.

Corbett looked down at her. "You know you may not get him to wake up," he said.

"I know," said Luxia. "But I must do something to help him."

As her white dress of light wiped the face of the man, the very wounds and bruises wiped right off of him. When his face was finally clean Luxia saw also that much of the grief that had been on his face was gone.

Then, suddenly, his eyes moved. Luxia's eyes opened and shone white. Corbett looked with amazement and hope as well. The man opened his eyes, and looked at Luxia.

Luxia was amazed. She smiled with joy.

The man's eyes looked almost frightened and stricken, but not with grief. With astonishment, as he looked at Luxia. After some difficulty of trying to speak he said, "Are you... an angel?"

Luxia nodded, still smiling. "Yes," she replied.

The man closed his eyes and groaned. Then he opened them again. "You're so beautiful," he said. He sat up, his once broken body seeming strong and healthy once more. "Did you... save me?" he asked.

"I did. And I'm so glad you're all right!" replied Luxia.

"Oh... thank you!" said the man. "Thank you... thank you, thank you!"

"Only an angel's healing touch could have saved you," said Corbett happily.

"Oh, angel," said the man, "Please I must know your name now that I've seen you!"

"It's Luxia," replied the angel. "Please tell me yours."

The man bowed and shook his head. "My name? Oh, no. You must not know my name. It is a very bad name. It's so full of degradation!"

"Oh, but I must," insisted Luxia kindly.

The man looked up. "Oh, if you must, Luxia, I will tell you. Oh, no! Please let me only tell you that... I am from Earth. And that... I was a prince."

"A prince," replied Luxia, impressed. She happened to look down at his hands and suddenly noticed they were covered in filth. "Oh, your hands!" she said. "Let me clean them," she took them and began wiping them with her dress.

At this the prince suddenly began to weep. Big tears spilt from his eyes.

Luxia quickly put her hands on his face. "Please don't weep," she said consolingly. "You're all right now."

The prince shook his head. "Oh, no! No! A beautiful angel like you should not be comforting me."

Luxia looked at him curiously. "But why shouldn't I?" she asked.

"Because I am a very wicked and cruel prince!"

Luxia shook her head. "Oh, no! No you're not," she said.

The man stopped crying and looked up at Luxia. "But I have done such terrible things. The Black Fire came to me disguised and slowly corrupted me. At the end of my life I discovered I was in danger of him, and I tried to escape. I tried, but he was so powerful. I did everything I could to keep away from his fiery pit, and in doing so I thought how I could have been so blind, to let the Black Fire get to me. I thought I was worth nothing, having done my cruel deeds. So I ended up here."

At this he put his face in his hands and wept more. Luxia pulled him to her and embraced him. "It's all right," she comforted. "You're sorry now."

"Indeed," said Corbett.

The prince slowly drew away from Luxia. His eyes were now very dry. "Do tell me, beautiful Luxia. What is an angel so lovely as you doing in the Mists of Drear?"

"Well," said Luxia, "I was on my way to the Window."

The prince's eyes widened. "The Window?" he said. He stood up in his stained robes and spread his arms out to Luxia. "If I may," he said humbly. "Please let me come with you."

Luxia brightened. "Of course!" she exclaimed "You shouldn't be in a place like this."

The prince folded his hands. "Thank you, Luxia. Thank you! However can I repay you for everything you've done for me?"

"I don't want anything from you, good Prince," Luxia reassured. "But it will make me very happy if you'll come with us to the Window."

The prince closed his eyes and shook his head. "Good prince, you say? Maybe if you say so, but nothing can change the deeds I've done. From now on, I ought to be called Fallen Prince of Earth."

"Well, I don't think that's a very good title for you," said Luxia, her eyes shining sympathetically.

"But as long as you're good now, I suppose it's safe to say that you did fall," said Corbett judiciously.

The Fallen Prince looked up, "Very well," he said, "but let's go. Right away!"

"Yes," said Luxia.

They all began walking through the mists, past the tall dark pillars and the many suffering people lying about. Through it all Luxia could hardly bear seeing them, the way they were. She folded her wings and looked at them sadly. "If only there was more we could do," she moaned.

Corbett's head bowed sadly.

The Fallen Prince sighed. "Despair..." he said. "I shudder to think of it."

Soon however, as they walked, the cries of the grieving fell behind them. It grew very quiet.

...Luxia looked from side to side. The Mists of Drear were clearing and she began to feel excitement around her.

Then as the mists in front of them grew thinner, she thought see saw light up ahead. The light made an opaque effect behind the mists. Luxia began to feel such joy enter her. "That light... is it?"

"The Window," Corbett nodded, his beak in its natural smile, and his eyes twinkling delightedly. "We're almost there."

Luxia put her arms out, feeling for the end of the mist. The light grew brighter and brighter. Everyone felt such joy from it.

Finally, finally, at last, Luxia came out of the mist and beheld the Window. It was big and bright before her, just a little way away. It was surrounded by stars and suns shining in a bright sky. Just at its base she thought he saw the outline of a gate.

"We're here!" cried Luxia. "The Window!"

Suddenly, without warning there was a fearsome tremble, a veil of darkness, and the Black Fire appeared before them, menacing and terrorizing!

Luxia gasped. Corbett and the Fallen Prince kept still in its frightful presence. It blocked the light from the Window and sat in front of them, all round and ugly, spreading flames and smoke and ash. Luxia shook and trembled before it, afraid that at any moment it might swallow them up or spew flames at them.

"The Black Fire..." exclaimed the Fallen Prince.

"It's back!" exclaimed Luxia.

"He's jealous," said Corbett. "The Window is the gateway to a beautiful world of undisturbed joy. He will try and stop us at any cost!"

Luxia looked up at the great bird. "How are we going to get past him?" she shouted.

At once the Black Fire erupted in a jet of towering flames, and roared. Corbett spread his wings and his eyes sharpened. "Away with you, old wretched fiend!" he said with a ringing scree. The Black Fire roared louder. "Complain all you want, but don't stand between us and our destination!" Corbett continued.

The Black Fire rumbled like thunder. The air was hot and burning, and stank with the Black Fire's stench. But it did not move from its place.

Corbett lowered his head to Luxia. "Don't be afraid, Luxia. Fight him. He cannot stand to be defiled!"

Luxia shook her fists and gathered courage, though it was hard in the face of all the Black Fire's evil power. "Stay away from us!" she shouted in her beautiful voice. "I don't want anything to do with you!"

At this the Black Fire grew in size, like a great shadow. Its flames glowed red and its smoke was pitch black.

"Don't you hurt us!" Luxia persisted.

The Black Fire rose high above them and opened its eye menacingly.

The Fallen Prince stepped up in front. "Do you remember me?" he exclaimed. The Black Fire's eye looked at him. "You will have me no more. Luxia saved me, and she is far more awesome than you'll ever be. Be gone with all your flames! You have no power while we stand before the Window!"

The Black Fire began to shake furiously. And then, suddenly, it closed its red-hot eye, and began to shrink. It shrank and shrank until it only appeared as a little black droplet of oil, and jumped frighteningly away, like an uncannily horrible flea. The smoke cleared and the air cooled... and then, the pure light from the Window shone forth before them.

Luxia stepped forward, relieved that the enemy was gone. While looking at the Window and being near it, Luxia forgot all her fear. Her eyes shone and sparkled in the light of the world beyond the Window. "It's so beautiful," said Luxia. "I've finally made it!"

Corbett nodded, pleased to see how happy she was.

The Fallen Prince stepped up. "Come, my friends," he said. "We're here!"

They all ran as fast as they could to the gateway. Luxia could not wait to get through and see the beautiful place beyond it. When she came to the gateway, however, she stopped at the sight of a giant guard, with a golden rod in his hand. His eyes turned to the party and his hand went up. "Stop!" he said.

Luxia didn't know the meaning of this. "Please, can't we come in? We've traveled so far..." she asked.

The giant put forth his staff. "Tell me who you are and what you wish to do in the world beyond the Window?" he said in a deep, resonant voice.

Corbett stepped forward. "I am Corbett," he said dignifiedly. "With me I bring the lovely angel Luxia. And the Fallen Prince of Earth."

He was hardly given a chance to say anything else, for at once a loud majestic voice rang out from deep within the Window. "The Fallen Prince of Earth? Let them in! At once! Hurry, now!"

The giant stepped back and the gate suddenly opened as if by itself. Before Luxia knew what was happening she and Corbett and the Fallen Prince were stepping through the Window.

At first Luxia had no idea what was in front of her. The light nearly blinded her. And yet she thought it was truly a wondrous light. In the next moments she thought her eyes were beginning to adjust to the brightness. When at last she could open her eyes, a most beautiful world appeared. She was walking down a paved road, with such beautiful lively gardens and plants of such wonderful kinds. Above her was a tall, tall building, constructed of such a fine material. There were other buildings like it everywhere, with stone and marble stairs spiraling up to higher floors. There were gorgeous fountains and parks and fields. Twice she spotted small pedestals with large crystalline marble balls on top as decoration. A majestic orchestra was playing music from somewhere, a tune that filled her with thrill and wonder.

In the distance, behind the buildings were blue mountains, nothing like the mountains on Earth. Their beauty surpassed everything Luxia had ever seen. As the music played birds flew by, as if heralds to the tune. The sky was such a perfect blue, and at the same time the light from the heavenly body of this world surged with awesome power, and yet as blazing as it was, it was so gentle to the eyes. There were beautiful trees in the parks and by the buildings and along the roads and everywhere were people of all kinds from many different worlds, walking and laughing.

Luxia tried to see it all at once. It was so wonderful to finally be here. She began to dance and laugh.

"Hurry, Luxia!" Corbett called kindly. He was walking with the Fallen Prince down an enormous decorative hall, paved with gold, or something like gold. Luxia followed them in and looked up to the top of the hall. It looked as if a whole row of skyscrapers could fit inside. Suddenly, as Luxia looked up at the golden glowing ceiling, a whole cluster of angels appeared. Other angels. She saw them look down at her, crying in sweet voices, "Luxia!" "Luxia!" "Hello, Luxia!" "We missed you, Luxia!"

Luxia was overjoyed at the sight of them. Each angel had such a different, unique face and features so that no two were alike. "Hello, everyone!" she waved as they flew around her. "I missed all of you too!"

"Were you scared?" "Don't fall asleep next time, Luxia," said the laughing angels.

"Hurry, Luxia!" called Corbett firmly, but still he was perfectly pleasant in his tone of voice.

Luxia told her angel brethren she would be back and hurried on, though still quite confused as to where she was going.

At the end of the hall was an enormous, decorative door which two guards opened as they approached. A bright light shone from the doors and as Luxia stepped through them, she found that her eyes needed to adjust once more. Once they had, Luxia saw she was in a throne room. A king with such a long colorful robe was sitting on an elaborately built throne, and the Fallen Prince was running up to him.

Luxia saw that his clothes had been cleansed from theirs stains and were shining in the light.

The King rose from his chair and embraced the prince. "My son!" he exclaimed. "My son! My son! You're all right!"

"Father!" the Fallen Prince addressed as they held each other tightly. "If it hadn't been for Luxia I would still be rotting in the Mists of Drear!"

The king looked at Luxia with wide jovial eyes and gazed at her in the deepest, most magisterial gratitude. "I am King Nicolas, one of many men made a ruler in the world beyond the Window. Is it true that you saved my son from the woe of the Dreary Mists?"

"Yes, sir," said Luxia, bowing again.

King Nicolas folded his hands in gratitude. "Lovely Luxia!" he said. "I am eternally grateful to you! Please! I wish to hear all about you and how you came to save my son." He put an arm around the Fallen Prince. "Come, my boy! Sit with me, at my right hand!"

With a clap of his hands, he motioned for his servants to bring him the throne of his prince, and two brought out a marvelous chair with gold and many jewels. It was almost more beautiful than his own.

"Father, please don't give me such a beautiful throne," said the Fallen Prince. "After all I've done I don't deserve to rule by your side."

King Nicolas kissed his son. "My son. I could have lost you. Now I have you again, and you're all right with me... this is a new life for you! You were once in danger of the Black Fire, and for all those years I was worried sick for you, and now you're grown up and are free from his evil flames. From now on, my son, you are the Saved Prince!"

Once they were seated King Nicolas gestured for her to tell her story.

Luxia told it all to the best of her magnificent ability, and Nicolas and his son, and Corbett in the back of the room, and all the servants, listened carefully. Her only interruption was when Nicolas said, "Oh, do come on. Please get to the part when you rescued my son."

When she was finished he clapped many times with gleeful gratitude. "Such a wonderful course of events!" he said.

He turned to Corbett and stood up. "And you, Corbett? It is you who has brought this beautiful creature all the way to the Window?"

Corbett took a step toward the king. "It was my pleasure to do such a small, kind deed for the lovely Luxia," he said.

At once the king saluted him with hands raised. "I thank you, mighty Corbett. Is there anything I can do for you? Why, I see your wing is crooked? My surgeons will fix it for you if you desire."

Corbett laughed with a twinkle in his eye. "I thank you, kindly, your greatness. But it does not bother me. I am perfectly content with it."

"As you wish," bowed the king respectfully. He then turned to Luxia. "And you, my dear! You have made my very happy, because you have given me my son! What shall you have from me? Name it!"

Luxia looked down and tried to hold back a flattered smile. "Oh, sir. I do not need anything from you. If you please, I only wish to stay here and live in the world of the Window."

Suddenly she stopped as a thought entered her head. She looked up to King Nicolas. "If you please, sir. There are so many poor people suffering in the Mists of Drear. They are suffering miserably. I could not bear to see them the way they are. I have always longed to be here, and now I long to share this joy with others. I would only ask, since you are a wise and just king, that you help to bring them here, to this joyful bright, world!"

The king listened carefully to this, and when she was finished, he rose his hands and clapped once very loudly. "Done!" he said with such devotion and enthusiasm. All the servants and Corbett nodded in agreement.

The king's scribe came right to his side. "Make a decree that our most caring and bravest men and all angels, and all dwellers of this luminous domain who are willing, are to help the grieving in the Mists of Drear to recover, and to bring them to a home beyond the Window!" Nicolas cried. He then turned to Luxia, and beckoned her. Luxia stepped forward to the King's throne. "Luxia," said King Nicolas. "Is it your wish that you go and help those in the Mists of Drear?"

"Oh, yes sir. If I may," said Luxia.

The king took a sword crafted of a gorgeous, righteous metal. "Then, please kneel," he said. Luxia kneeled with her hands folded. Nicolas placed the flat of the sword on her shoulder. "Then, Luxia, Angel," he said, "I make you the head of all the service men, women, angels and all who will do this. You will help bring these poor souls to the domain beyond the Window, because you were not afraid to care for my suffering son when his spirit was dead."

Luxia opened her mouth in awe.

"From now on," said the king. "You shall be called the Angel of the Window! Arise, Luxia."

Everyone cheered and hailed Luxia as the Angel of the Window. Luxia only kept her hands folded. She glowed fantastically, in all her rays of colors.

When the cheering was done, Nicolas rose his hands. "Gather! Everyone in the Domain of the Window. This day will be made a feast day in honor of Luxia!"

"Oh, you needn't do so much for me, sir," insisted Luxia humbly.

"No, no! My sweet one, I insist!"

Corbett stepped forward. "If you please, you greatness, I will excuse myself. I am anxious to return to my home in the Night World."

The king nodded. "Very well, good Corbett. Perhaps another day." He called to Luxia. "Come, Luxia. You will sit at the head of our feast table!"

"Wait, sir," called Luxia. She ran to Corbett, and embraced his soft feathery head in her arms. "Good-bye, Corbett," she bid. "I'll never forget you."

Corbett's kind pleasant eye blinked. "I will remember you every day of my life, my lovely Luxia. I am glad I could make you happy, and I am honored that I carried an honorable creature as yourself."

"I hope I'll get to see you again soon."

"I promise," said Corbett. He turned and Luxia watched as he took flight and disappeared, to make the long journey back to the world of the stars and the moon.

In the next hour, Luxia joined King Nicolas and the Saved Prince and all her angel brethren in the celebration.

Afterward, Luxia began her service as the leader of the heavenly hosts who took care of the grieving victims in the Mists of Drear, and defended all who were vulnerable from the clutches of the Black Fire, making trips to the Mists and caring for the crippled and the disfigured and the miserable. And way off in the world of the Stars and the Moon, Corbett talked with his friend, the moon of the adventure, as they had after all of Corbett's earlier days and adventure and glory that had made him the seasoned traveler that he was.

In the days to come Luxia enjoyed her new home in the world of the Window, and Corbett at times paid her respectful visits, and in the further days to come, he would often take her to other worlds to see and be in.

When all had been saved from the woe in the Mists of Drear and the powers of the Black Fire were broken by Luxia's love, service and protection, Luxia enjoyed many a day of beauty and yore, and returned to being a humble angel, living with her kind in the world beyond the Window, though her life had been graced with many a won heart, and very special friendships.

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