Never Cut Off An Angel's Wings
by, Smeagol's girl

This is dedicated to someone no one knows...

Somewhere in Valadia...

An orange glow filled the small kitchen and gradually began to fade with each passing minute. It blanketed everything in the kitchen and stretched over the bent over form of Maerie, who was scrubbing the last of the dinner dishes clean in the sink. Above her she could hear the sounds of her father scrambling around, trying to find a clean pair of slacks to wear. It was an important night for him, and was supposed to be for her. Tonight was the night that Mama Kate was going to be executed for treason, and it was all thanks to her father who had made the first accusation. When they had found the controversial books in her basement along with evidence of her practice in magic, her father had been built up like a hero and had developed an ego that matched.

The sentence for the practice of magic (or what they prefferred to call 'witchcraft') was death by being burned at the steak. Their laws were absolute and there was no way around them. Maerie had often thought their punishments were too harsh, but had been told very sternly by her father that it was not her place to say such things, so she kept her mouth shut. The last person who had been caught speaking out against the magistrate had gotten his wings cut off.

The thought of it made Maerie shudder and her own wings fold inwards, tighter against her back. It was not the pain of the procedure that haunted her. Wings were the source of their soul, their free spirit. Though the couldn't fly, when they were cut off, they would wander around like a zombie, never smiling again, barely ever speaking. It was as if their source of happiness had been permanently removed. Most often, the people who had their wings removed would kill themselves, feeling it was a disgrace to both them and their families if they allowed themselves to keep on living.

"Mae!" called out a voice, and she snapped out of thought and turned to see her father hurrying down in the nicest pants he could find (pants were the only article of clothing the men wore, so it was very important that they looked good). "These will work?" he asked, turning around. "Or perhaps I should go for a different color?" Maerie shook her head, knowing that the only over colors of pants were white, which stained too easily, or bright red which was purely dreadful on him. Black was fine.

"Your pants are fine, father," she said, offering him a halfhearted grin. Her mind was far from happy, just knowing where she had to go today... "You'll impress them all." She turned back to the dishes and finished up.

"Yes... well then..." he stuttered, frantically checking himself to make sure his trousers were not wrinkled, his hair was not running wild, and there was no dirt on him anywhere. "H-hurry up! We don't want to be late." Maerie nodded, and waited till he was gone before rolling her eyes. She couldn't understand why he was in such a rush. Executions were not uncommon and yet he was acting as giddy as though it were his first time attending one. And she had never understood why the people seemed to love them so much. They never struck her as entertaining.

She scrubbed at the last dish lazily, taking her time with it, pretending to actually want to do a thurough job. It wasn't long though before her father came running down to the kitchen and scolded her. Reluctantly she finished up and walked out the door with him, the fading orange of the sunset now gone and the moon now providing the only source of light.

Around them, people were eagerly leaving their houses, traveling down the dirt road with them, talking about how excited they were, and what a good thing it was that there was some justice to be served to the 'trouble maker' or the village. Almost everyone could only say bad things about Mama Kate, as they so fondly had named her. She had been like a mother to all of them, always ready and willing to help and give her assistance where it was needed, often times without ever being asked to. No one would have ever believed a month ago that Mama Kate would ever break a law. No one, except for Maerie.

She had loved Mama Kate, and having no mother herself, Mama Kate was like her mother. When she was young and needed someone to watch her while her father worked, Mama Kate did it. When she had been bullied by one of the boys who lived down the road from her, Mama Kate had stood up for her, telling that boy off and letting Maerie know she would always be there when she needed her. Maerie's most fond memory of her was when she had turned thirteen and her father had gotten in an arguement with her before leaving for work. Maerie had been left so upset that she had packed up a small napsack and had sworn she would leave and never come back.

Mama Kate had seen her leaving the house and called her over for some fresh baked monkey bread and a glass of milk before she could go. As Maerie ate the steaming cinnamon monkey bread, Mama Kate began to tell her how awfully bad she was going to miss her, and how awfully bad her father would miss her. When Maerie hadn't been phased by this, Mama Kate called her into her living room and brought out an old portrait of her mother.

"Your mama was just as lively as you, child," she had told her with a smile. "And your father... well your father was not the sort who knew how to have fun. But when he met your mother he fell head over heals, and she taught him to smile and laugh once in a while." Maerie smiled. She had no memories of her mother, having lost her at a very young age, but for some reason, looking at the portrait, she could almost remember her laughter she had dark hair like hers, and dark violet eyes. Maerie had gotten her father's blue eyes. She had always been smiling, at least that was what Maerie knew from what people had told her. "Your father loved your mama so much, "continued Mama Kate. "And when she died, a lot of us didn't know what he was going to do. But then we realized... she wasn't gone. She had left a part of herself behind for your father."

"Where?" she had asked, licking the sticky cinnamon off her fingers. Beaming, Mama Kate reached over and gave Maerie's shoulder a squeeze.

"You," she answered. "And its your job now to take care of your father, because if you don't... no one else will."

For reasons beyond her, Maerie felt tears begin to prickle the corner of her eyes, and she rubbed her palms over her eyes, pretending her allergies were acting up. Beside her, her father, who was still oblivious of this conversation that had taken place almost five years ago, looked as nervous as ever. Truth be told, Maerie hated what he had done to Mama Kate. She had loved Mama Kate as a mother, and still did, and hated her father for doing this. What had she ever done to him?

Just thinking about it made her feel even more bitter, but as she glanced up at him and saw that his once brave and certain face had turned to nervous and timid, she realized that even though she didn't agree with him, he still needed her as badly as he did five years ago when Mama Kate had made that clear to her. She reached over and took his hand and offered him a comforting smile. "Mamma Kate," she thought to herself, "forgive me."

They walked past the village and into the forest, the crowd growing and the gossip spreading like a wild fire. It made Maerie feel sick. Not two weeks ago, all these people could only speak good of Mama Kate, but now, just listening to them, one would think that she had been nothing but treacherous since the day she was born. They were pathetic, she thought to herself, and if she was not afraid of being executed herself for conspiracy, she would have been speaking out against them. But she was too afraid to die right now and kept her lips sealed, hating herself for every minute of it.

They came to a clearing, and because her father was the one who had 'brought this villain to justice' the two of them were allowed to stand front and center, two heroes watching justice take place. Maerie merely hugged herself and kept her eyes on the ground. She did not want to be there, but there was no choice. She would have to listen to the screams of Mama Kate as she burned to death, smell the burning flesh, and watch until she was burned away into a skeleton.

Beside her, her father shuffled his feet a little, and fidgeted. "N-not nervous, are you?" he asked her. Maerie shook her head, still refusing to look up. Her father knew about her love for the old woman, and placed his hand on her shoulder in understanding. "She got me by surprise too," he said softly. "But evil's best mask is the face of an innocent person." Maerie cringed. Mama Kate was not evil. She had never been near evil. The only thing evil about this whole thing was the people who stood by, cheering on this rubbish. She shrugged his hand off her shoulder and looked up when the cheering grew louder. She felt like crying when they brought Mama Kate out.

Mama Kate was an elderly woman, rather tall, and quite plump. When they brought her out, there were bruises all over her face from being beaten, her hair was a mess, and her clothing was dirty from sitting in a dungeon for a week. She reaked from not having bathed in all that time, dirt lined her face, and her hands were tightly bound behind her. She looked horrible, and Maerie fought to keep the tears from leaving her eyes. They escorted her through the crowds as people jeered and spat at her. Her eyes were downcast and she said nothing. Maerie gasped when she got a better look at Mama Kate's back. Her wings were gone.

Maerie could feel her heart breaking, and as Mama Kate was escorted past her, the elderly woman looked up at her. Knowing that her soul more or less was gone made Maerie want to look away, but Mama Kate shook her head, almost as if telling her it was all right. Everything was going to be all right. There was a faint light in her eyes, almost gone, but it was there. Not even the loss of her wings had taken it from her. Mama Kate had told her once that the only way any creature could lose its soul was if someone let them take it from them. Maerie had never understood that, and she still didn't. Part of her was convinced that the light she had seen in Mama Kate's eyes was her own imagination.

The guard behind Mama Kate, tried to shove her forward, but Mama only moved if Mama wanted to, and Maerie knew that. Mama Kate leaned over and kissed Maerie's cheek goodbye and then allowed them to escort her to the steak. The tears she had been holding in rolled down her face, and she didn't care who saw them. Not even her father.

They brought the old lady to the steak, and turned her so she was facing the steak and then tied her. Anger filled Maerie's heart. That was the worst sign of disrespect for executing someone. Her father had told her that that was only reserved for the most wretched executions. To think that Mama Kate was being compared to the likes of that made her feel so angry, but whether or not it upset Mama Kate, she could not tell.

The magestrate said a few words, but Maerie wasn't listening. She only watched as the tears fell down her face and the people cheered and shouted horrible things at Mama Kate. Finally, the guards surrounded her with torches and one by one tossed them into the pile of straw surrounding her bare feet. The flames errupted almost immediatly, and Maerie stood still, watching as she was burned away. Beside her, her father was smiling, showing so pride again, and no doubt feeling like a hero.

Maerie felt anger burn up inside her, and she stood still, watching until it was over and the guards came to collect the remains. The smoke filled the sky that night, and the next morning it blocked out the sun. When Maerie went to bed that night, her mind was overrun with haunting images of the execution, and part of her was still in denile that it had happened. But when she woke up the next morning and realized Mama Kate wouldn't be coming over to cook her breakfast, or say hello, she felt her heart sink. And as she wandered into the kitchen, she looked out the window and smiled. At least the sun wasn't shining...