The child quivered in fear, clutching the flimsy wisps of her mother's dress.
"He's evil! I'm scared!"
The adult sylph looked up, slightly fearful herself that there was another invasion by the Realm of Evil. She'd lost many sisters in the last invasion. Her troubled eyes cleared slightly when she beheld Gabriolis.
"Oh, honey!" she knelt and took the quivering child into her arms, "He's not evil!"
"But he's so dark and evil-looking!" the child protested.
Gabriolis knelt too, thinking to reduce his height which might seem fearsome to a frightened child. He smiled gently too.
"Ahhh!" the child hid her face deeper in her mother's skirts and shivered uncontrollably.
"I will go," Gabriolis told the mother, realizing that the child's fear had gone beyond what a few kind words could calm.
"I'm sorry," the sylph replied, but Gabriolis could see the relief in her eyes too. He nodded his head and sprang up into the sky, opening the dark wings that had replaced the white ones he had been born with.
He reflected as he flew to the remote point of land that had become his sanctuary and refuge from such misunderstandings all too often lately.
He had been an angel of Light during the last invasion by the Realm of Evil. He had been honored and excited at being chosen as one of the defenders of the Upper Realm of Good. He remembered how his commander and friend Lark had laughed at his eagerness, while still trying to remind him that this was serious business. He had calmed down before the fight and fully realized the danger and importance of what they were doing.
His caution didn't matter. He had been wounded, badly, in the very first attack and fallen to the ground in a remote area between the Realms of Good and Evil.
Shortly after his fall, he felt the unmistakable rasp of a dog's tongue on his arm. He'd turned his head to see Doppelfanger, the two-headed guard dog standing over him. Lark's lithe form descended from above on extended wings.
Gabriolis had been elated. Surely Lark would gather him up, take him home and help heal his broken wings. Certainly his best friend would help him.
Lark's eyes had been distant when he looked at him. He kept back as he directed Doppelfanger to watch over Gabriolis. Lark then...left.
Gabriolis didn't have a name for the feelings that filled his heart at that moment then...now he knew they were called rage, betrayal and despair. His best friend left him to die on a rock in a Realm not even their own! With only a monster dog to witness his passing!
Redda had descended next, attacking and chasing off the faithful Doppelfanger and twisting Gabriolis' new and powerful emotions until Gabriolis had used those emotions to forsake the Light, deny his white wings and warp his form into the evil-seeming guise he now wore.
Oh, Gabriolis had become truly evil. He had willingly followed Redda and done his evil bidding, attacking the Mon Colle Knights again and again. He'd tried to break their spirit, especially Mondo's, and their belief in the ultimate power of friendship. He had to. If he could do that, if Mondo and Rachna could feel the same despair that he had felt, if he could break their trust in their friends, he would be justified. It would be Lark who had made him become evil, not he.
But he couldn't break them. And finally, it had been Mondo's extended hand of friendship, the extended arms and love of his sister, Spectra, and his own innately good nature that had brought him back to the Light. The dark and confusion in his soul had melted away when Spectra and the Angel of the Oceans had told him what had really happened that fateful day. Lark hadn't abandoned him. Lark had taken his place in the fight to defend him so that the side of Good would win. He'd left Doppelfanger behind to guard Gabriolis because he had known...Lark had known that he wouldn't return from that battle.
Redda had taken the golden opportunity of an angel of Light weakened and confused, taken Gabriolis' naivety and brought him to work for the side of Evil. It was Redda who had betrayed him, not Lark.
Since the time he'd finally realized that, Gabriolis had used his power only for good, helping Mondo and Rachna, guarding the outer perimeter of the Upper Kingdom, apologizing to Doppelfanger and numerous other actions to expiate the evil he had done while he was Redda's willing minion.
He felt older and wiser, and his soul was again as light as it had been before he lost his white wings. Still...
Gabriolis descended to the rocky point where his life had changed so drastically. Doppelfanger was away, perhaps hunting for his dinner. Gabriolis didn't mind. It was the solitude he was seeking.
He brought forward and looked at the dark armored wing that was now his. He pulled a lock of the hair that was the same color as partially dried blood into his sight and reached up to touch one of his horns. He mystically removed the dark armored glove, armor that none of the Angels of Light had ever worn, and looked at the dusky purple hue of his skin.
"I truly am a demon," he mused aloud.
"Only in form. Not in heart," Spectra's soft tone said behind him.
"Spectra," he greeted his little sister by her name, "But I..."
"...I no longer belong in the Upper Realm..." he finished in a broken voice.
"Oh, Gabriolis!" Spectra swept forward with those wonderfully open arms and embraced Gabriolis, dark wings, horns and all, "Of course you do! You are an Angel of Light, no matter what your form looks like!"
"I terrify those who live there. Lark would hate to see what I have become. My foolish pride..."
Gabriolis' head slumped to his sister's shoulder. A moment later, his shoulders shook with the force of the sorrow he still tried to contain.
"You've never cried," Spectra told him softly, bending her knees and bringing Gabriolis down to the ground partially in her lap, "Never cried for Lark, never cried for yourself. It's time to let the tears go, so that you can start to heal."
His first anguished wail was painful, echoing across the rocky peak. Spectra brought her wings forward to enclose her brother. She held him across her lap and made for him a haven to express his sorrow. He finally cried himself out, and like an innocent child, slept.
Spectra played gently with the locks of his hair. Though the color was wrong, deepened from the rosy-dawn tone his tresses had been, they were still angel-soft as his hair should be. Her hand brushed across one of his horns and Spectra realized for the first time that it was bone that had somehow pushed out from her brother's head. A glance at where his wing quivered across her knees as he slept showed that the armor plating across the top was an extrusion of bone as well. She shivered slightly; Gabriolis' transformation appeared to have been agonizingly painful.
Something pushed against her hand. Spectra looked up from studying her brother to see Doppelfanger begging to be pet, just as a normal dog would.
"Of course!" she whispered to the dog, stroking his heads and scratching behind all four ears. The poor dog was in heaven, entranced by her touch. Spectra wondered if anyone ever came here anymore, except for Gabriolis. The poor beast was probably lonely! Doppelfanger finally curled up, leaned into Gabriolis' side and napped himself.
"Somehow, I must find a way to bring peace to my brother. Gabriolis has suffered enough!" Spectra thought in her inmost mind. The Light that exists within all angels agreed and Spectra had a faint impression of two words, "Fear not!"
The rainbows that were her responsibility could wait. Spectra cradled her older brother during the first peaceful sleep he had since his transformation and wondered how she could help him.
"Spectra Angel?" a soft, still somewhat childish voice brought Spectra out of her musings. She looked up into Rachna's wide green eyes.
"Hello, Rachna, hello, Mondo," she greeted them, "What brings you here?"
"I felt...a call...almost. To come here," Rachna explained.
"Oh. I'm sorry. I was just thinking how I could help Gabriolis. I didn't mean to summon you!"
Spectra knew that since the successful and peaceful merging of Mon World and Earth, Mondo and Rachna were important to Mon World. They were still active as the Mon Colle Knights, coming to Mon World to assist whenever they were needed. Since they functioned for the side of Good, they were especially sensitive to those of the Upper Realm, coming at a moment's notice. Spectra hadn't meant to summon them.
"Gabriolis needs help?" Mondo asked. Spectra had to smile gently. When he was still evil, Gabriolis had made breaking Mondo's trust in his friends his quest. Mondo had never let that deter him, instead, helping to bring Gabriolis back to the Light simply by offering the friendship that Gabriolis had felt betrayed him. She wondered if, accidentally summoned as they were or not, the Mon Colle Knights could somehow help Gabriolis now.
"Even though he has returned with his whole heart to Good and the Light, Gabriolis stills appears like this," Spectra cleared her wings to reveal Gabriolis sleeping across her lap. Rachna's eyes softened to see the fearsome Dark Winged Angel so peaceful, "It is causing him pain now, in the Upper Realm, isolating him from the support and love that he should expect as an Angel of Light. He doesn't blame those who now fear him, I know...but..."
"But," Mondo knelt himself and gently brushed a lock of hair from Gabriolis' face, "he feels like he doesn't belong. I've wondered why he didn't transform back... I've always wondered what he looked like before..."
"Oh! He was beautiful!" Spectra enthused in the way of all siblings, "My older brother had the softest white wings, the prettiest blue eyes and the color of his hair made me think of the rose of dawn."
"Wow!" Rachna breathed, "That does sound beautiful!" she observed as she looked down on how Gabriolis appeared now.
Mondo couldn't quite envision it. Gabriolis looked too strong and too...warlike to him to ever appear so...effeminate. Of course, he did understand how Gabriolis would not really fit in with the denizens of the Upper Realm now, appearing as he did. Truly, the only place he would look like he belonged would be the Realm of Evil. Mondo shivered. There was no way Gabriolis should ever return there!
There was no way he could ever appear on Earth either. Some of the more normal monsters and the human-appearing inhabitants of Mon World would sometimes visit Earth. There were a few areas where the people knew that the monsters who visited weren't dangerous, but most of Earth didn't understand or even know about the merge with Mon World. The angels were careful about letting people see them when they visited to make certain that nothing happened to disrupt the peace of Earth. Mondo wondered if there truly was no place at all for his friend anymore, except this sad and lonely mountain peak.
"But now..." Spectra looked down at her brother again, "If he had been the angel he was, he couldn't have helped you, Mon Colle Knights. He is...fearsome now, but his transformation brought power that has helped the side of Good too. If he were to return to who he was before...that power would be lost. I think, that is one reason he hasn't turned back. And another...he doesn't feel he is worthy to be an angel of Light again. He is good again...but his soul is still tortured. I wish he could find peace."
While Mondo and Rachna looked with kindness upon her brother, Spectra pondered the powers and magic she could use. She couldn't see how any of them could help her brother, but she had witnessed, all the angels had, how the Mon Colle Knights could bring forth the full potential of any monster they merged with. She had been elated when Gabriolis had, in his own arrogant way, asked the Knights to merge with him against the Dread Dragon.
"That was..." Mondo began.
"It wouldn't help..." Rachna replied. Evidently the Knights were communicating in the special way they had, soul to soul.
"Spectra Angel..." Rachna hesitated.
"Could we...merge with you? Maybe there is a way to help Gabriolis!" Mondo, as always, charged forward decisively.
Spectra considered for a moment, then eased Gabriolis' head and shoulders to the ground next to Doppelfanger. When she stood, she towered over the Knights, who took a step back in trepidation, evidently wondering if perhaps they had insulted her.
"What do I do?" she asked.
"Oh! You will let us?! Thank you, Spectra Angel!" Rachna replied.
"Don't worry! We'll do it all!" Mondo added.
The magic that was theirs alone, the ability to merge their spirits with a creature of Mon World flared.
"With us...you can...do it!" Spectra felt their two souls align with hers, increasing her abilities to their ultimate extent. She felt as though each one, Rachna and Mondo, were by her side, helping her with their entire being. Infused with their supportive power, she looked over at Gabriolis.
Wings cupped around her brother defensively, wings very similar to her own.
A bowed head raised and stunned angel eyes looked into hers.
"Well met, Spectra! You can see me?!"
"LARK!" Spectra called, dashing forward to embrace her friend. She passed right through him.
"I have no substance, as you can see," Lark apologized, indicating his translucent form, "But I have watched over Gabriolis ever since..."
"So you know all that he has been through," Spectra realized.
"Yes. My poor friend! If I had known I would have..."
"You did what you had to do. Even if you had known, you would have done what needed to be done. None of us faults you for that! Even Gabriolis understands," Spectra comforted, "If not for your sacrifice...we would have lost the battle for the Upper Realm."
"But Gabriolis is still paying a heavy price."
Spectra looked at her brother again.
"There has to be something we can do!" Mondo's resolve was firm in Spectra.
"Spectra Angel, surely there is something you can do while we are helping you!" Rachna added.
"Hello, Mon Colle Knights," Lark addressed them.
"You...you know we are here?!" Mondo asked.
"Oh, yes. And I cannot thank you enough for helping to bring Gabriolis back to the side of Good," Lark smiled down at Gabriolis again, "And you, Spectra."
"I never stopped loving my older brother," Spectra replied.
"Yes...love..." Lark mused, "That might be the key..."
Reviews, comments and constructive criticisms are always welcome! Please feel free to email me also if you see something awkward that needs to be clarified or fixed. I need all the help I can get!