Chapter I

Ezemiah

The soft smell of lavender and cherubic innocence radiated from the small child Ezemiah had in his care. She smiled up at him gently from the floor, where she was doodling idly with an array of vibrant crayons.

Mariella was four tender years of age, diagnosed with autism, and a brilliant Prophet.

Her gentle brown curls bobbed softly as she took her gaze from Ezemiah's silver-blue eyes back to the blank page before her. She chose a sunflower yellow to begin her next prophetic masterpiece.

Her pale guardian took a seat next to her, flipping through the stack of used papers to her left—each one significant to mankind's future in some small way or another, whether mankind was aware or not.

Today's color was clearly that sunflower-yellow, and it graced nearly all of her works. Ezemiah interpreted them quickly, skimming them briefly and determining whether or not they were significant enough send up the line.

Yellow, yellow, golden yellow, purple and yellow, yellow, gold, yellow…

His busy fingers paused abruptly when a picture of nearly solid black lines broke this yellow pattern. He pulled the drawing carefully from the pile, trying not to smudge the oily crayon that was piled heavily on the page.

The waving lines broke only to highlight the individual hairs of a young looking girl with innocent features. She appeared to be around eighteen from the roundness in her cheeks, though deeply set eyes suggested she might be older.

Her face, which occupied only a small area on the page, was shaded heavily, but he could tell she would have been pale and pretty. Occupying the rest of the page were waving black streaks of hair. No other part of her body showed.

"Child" he cooed softly. "Do you know this woman?"

Without lifting her face to him, she peered up through thick black lashes. Her curls bounced as she nodded her reply before returning her focus to the sprawling page in front of her.

Ezemiah studied the picture for another moment, racking his brain for any spark of familiarity. He could feel the significance of the drawing, but couldn't quite interpret it. "Do you remember her name, Ella?"

She raised her head this time. She loved it when he spoke her name. She simpered fleetingly before she considered the question he posed.

She bit her tongue and closed her eyes in concentration, apparently trying very hard to remember. She shook her head and searched his face for his satisfaction and quickly found it.

He beamed warmly at her. "Thank you, Mariella." She had indicated all of the information she had, which was, in short, this woman in the picture was not yet alive.

She grinned widely and a high giggle of pleasure escaped her.

Again, her smile was short-lived. When she went to focus yet again on the artwork at hand, she shrieked in horror. Placed before her was the twisted face of a lusty Demon, with, unmistakably, her hanged body reflected in his liquid black eye.

She physically leapt with fright and buried her pretty face, twisted up in dread, into the white folds of his shirt. Paternally, he immediately pulled her closer and stroked her hair to console her rolling sobs.

Ezemiah dismissed her drawing as prophetic foreboding. Of course Demons would be coming for the children. This he knew already.

Something crashed outside Ella's bedroom door and her pale frightened face peeked out from over her guardian's shoulder to bravely confront the intruder, only to find that the intruder, though scary enough, was only her mother.

"Mariella!" The tired woman whispered harshly. "Get back in your bed right now!"

Her weeping daughter only curled herself up tighter in the protection of her guardian's tight embrace.

"You must obey your mother, Ella." Ezemiah nuzzled her scented curls gently.

Unable to deny her affectionate guardian when he used her name, it was all she could do to haul herself into bed.

Satisfied at her daughter's reluctant obedience, her mother closed the door behind her.

Ella struggled for a brief moment with her blanket, still sobbing, trying in vain to untangle them enough to take shelter in them. With incredible grace, Ezemiah rose, smoothed out her covers in one sweeping motion and tucked her swiftly into them, wrapping them around her with extra care on this particular night. He stooped to kiss her softly on the forehead and before he could rise again, she caught the front of his loose shirt.

She visibly held a sob in her throat and, though her fear was subsiding, she still breathed unevenly. A warm smile trickled across his face before he seated himself next to her and stroked her cheeks tenderly. She closed her eyes and he could feel her tiny clenching fist release him slowly.

When he was sure she was asleep, Ezemiah picked up the drawing of the unborn young woman and the fiery Demon and, with a last glace at his now-peacefully-resting child, he faded from the mortal world.

This was Ezemiah's first job as a guardian and, as he headed towards His Holiness Himself, he felt secure that he was doing a rather great job at it. This gave him some release, though still he kept his eyes downcast.

Now that he'd returned to Heaven, his garb had reformed to its natural state. Instead of a white loose cotton shirt and bleached jeans—the current human version of the angels' robes—he was fitted entirely in a long white robe that glowed—if it was possible for anything to look sinister and angelic at once—with a certain uneasy white evil. This was his armor. He needed no shield, but he was one of the few elite Angels to carry a sword at his side.

While Ezemiah was glad to be among the elite Angels, and though he didn't like to question His Holiness' judgment, he still didn't understand why there weren't more soldiers like him. All in all, it was a soldier's job to float around invisibly among humans and drive crushing blows of purity through the very hearts of Demons themselves, a task Ezemiah took great pride in.

Lately, however, there was an overpopulation of earth-bound Demons—so many more than the small force of Angels could wipe out single-handedly. Far more, even, than was properly balanced—which made his new task all the much more confusing to him.

Though he'd been doing an incredible job at his work and was, in fact, lined up to take hold of a position of great authority in the elite warriors, for some reason, His Majesty thought it fitting to demote him from duty to mere guardianship. Had he done something wrong? He didn't dare inquire on the subject, but took on his new task with a bow of his head.

Sure, the guardians were just one step below him in the hierarchy, but he still walked with his head down. It was the popular impression that Ezemiah had done something wretched enough to fall for, but God, being greatly fond of Ezemiah—possibly more so than of the other Angels—decided only to demote him and give him a second chance.

This, of course, certainly made even Angels far underneath him look down their noses at him.

Luckily, Ezemiah had short business in Heaven this time around. He found himself in the Lord's presence quickly enough and bowed, handing Him the two drawings as he did so.

The King drew in a long breath as He scanned the pictures briefly. In a dismissive waving gesture, the drawings disappeared from existence. "These mean nothing to you. Go about your business, but do not return to earth tonight," he assured Ezemiah. He smiled warmly at his faithful Angel, but his perfect face betrayed that, though perhaps the pages meant nothing to Ezemiah, they were significant in some way.

A bolt of panic ran through Ezemiah's body and he shuddered inwardly. Something terrible was going to happen—he was sure of it. One of the many reasons he'd been assigned to care for the child, though he was not as lowly as a mere guardian, was to provide extra protection for what the Lord described once as a "most preciously significant prophet".

She must have been a preciously significant prophet, too, since she fit all of the basic requirements. Firstly, she was female, of course, as it was impossible for a prophet to be male—with the exception of God Himself in Jesus' body—only because women will never be as revered as men, though they are naturally much more spiritually gifted—hence every human girl's personal Angel.

Generally, Angels were seen by their children up until their spirituality peaked around two years of age before the child's ability to sense the presence and form of her guardian dropped dramatically. The exceptions to this rule were prophetic children. Ezemiah expected to be seen by Mariella until around her thirteenth birthday when she reached her predicted spiritual peak.

This delayed peak was due to Mariella's diagnosed autism—which was true for all prophetic children. Their minds were simply focused in other areas. Mariella had an incredible artistic gift—not one that manifested itself as savant-like, since humans couldn't quite understand her talents—but one that Ezemiah could easily interpret the meaning behind.

And now, judging from this last drawing and the expression on His Holiness' face, Ezemiah double-timed his trip back to Earth. Once just out of God's conscious range, he bolted himself to the middle plane. He had a strong intuition that Mariella was in a great deal of danger, regardless of God's orders not to return to Earth.