“The Envy Of Angels” Excerpt from Chapter 3: “Veneration”

angeldeco1

Hello dear friends, hope you’re having a marvelous weekend! I’m still working away on “The Envy Of Angels”, and absolutely loving it so far. This fictional worlds cries out to be expanded into a novel sometime, and for now it’s a project I’m putting on the back burner. That said, here’s a new snippet from the latest…Tristan of Steelbend has earned a new name and title, though some still doubt his humble origins. Pure intent and skill overcome adversity, and draw the adoration of angels. This is our first glimpse at one of the Seraphim–an unsettling experience to say the least. Tristan finds they’re not exactly like what he was raised to believe in. First draft version, so beware of occasional errors 😉
******
It was a short drive to the Temple grounds. Our party being of priority status, we cleared the security gates with ease.

“Here we are,” Chairman Ness said. “The home of the angels. Have you ever seen the like?”

I swallowed, shook my head. “No. This is…incredible.” Pressing my fingertips to the window glass, my eyes traveled upward, along the bold lines of the fluted edifice. Striated columns of white stone jutted near to the clouds, edged in delicate tendrils of gold and silver gilding. No doors or windows, only the monument of the Archangels adorned its blank perfection. From the loftiest spire, the statue watched over the tumultuous square below, its serenity cast in pristine alabaster against a halo of radiating chiseled bars.

The Chairman handed me my harp. “Today, if you’re lucky, you may see one of the Seraphim. They don’t leave the Temple often, but they love a good festival, especially those thrown in their honor. One thing you’ll learn about angels, young man, is they’re drawn to powerful emotions. Much like a moth to the smoldering doom of a candle.”

“That’s very strange. I was taught angels are above the existence of mortals. To me, emotions are far too capricious for beings as pure as the Seraphim.”

Chairman Ness laughed. “They’re pure of body and spirit. Yet some part of them seems touched by the human condition, as we in the Kingdom have witnessed many a time. Come along with me.”

Swarms of people littered the vast central courtyard before the Temple proper, spilling onto the streets below. Banners of silk and tasseled garlands festooned every corner and aisle, flapping cheerfully between market stalls and pillars. Fresh hints of sea salt, incense, and roasting delicacies caressed the air. Children’s laughter coalesced with the jaunt of a hurdy-gurdy player, his pet monkey wearing a small halo and silver wings.

We climbed wide marble steps to the highest terrace. Chairman Ness presented his authority clearance to the guards at the top, and they politely waved us through. A broad grandstand filled much of this plaza, men and women dressed in formal attire huddled over musical instruments of every kind. Tuning strings and woodwinds droned upon my ears, and I couldn’t hide a smile. I gripped my harp, walking a bit ahead of the Chairman.

“Wait, Mr. Herald. These old legs of mine can’t keep up with your eagerness.”

I fell back a pace. “I apologize, sir.”

“No need to be sorry. I believe you’ll find the Chorus is your destiny.”

A portly man in a featureless black robe turned to greet us. “Most esteemed Chairman, how wonderful to see you on this momentous day.”

Chairman Ness grinned and shook his hand. “Indeed. I have someone you must meet. Conductor Dmitri Elias, this is Tristan Herald, newly titled the Bearer of Beatific Song.”

I bowed my head. “A pleasure to meet you, Conductor.”

The Conductor scrutinized me with a slight frown. “Such a title for such a young person. How old are you, son? And where were you born?”

“Seventeen, sir. Out of Steelbend.”

He sniffed, wafting condescension. “And I see you bear a harp. Are you adept with this most rare of instruments, being from the most spartan of worker settlements?”

“I am. And I sing as well.”

Chairman Ness interrupted. “If I may, Conductor, I came here personally to present Mr. Herald, as his skills are extraordinary. You must hear it to believe so beautiful a sound exists outside of the Host.”

The Conductor lifted a brow. “Truly. Well then, let’s have a show of it. Play your best. A hymn to the Seraphim, as this is their commemoration ceremony.”

I nodded, and sat upon a nearby pedestal, Resting the harp upon my knees, I breathed the heady wind. The sky seemed close, sunset encroaching, blackened by the silhouette of the Temple against the shroud of twilight. I drew upon everything I knew of the Seraphim, and what I hoped to find in their blessed Kingdom. Then I plucked a melody, forming from the bastions of my soul. A hymn of my own spontaneous design, my voice frolicked with the cadence of inspiration.

“Ye breathless guardians watch and sway,
“Upon the blessed edge of day,
“Of joy and love the music rings,
“Calling the kiss of angel’s wings…”

I sensed the gathering crowd, heard their sighs. It sounded as if someone wept, and another prayed. Stirred by their passion, I sang louder.

“Come sing their praise, the blessed few,
“As fleeting as the morning dew,
“Who stand and watch, though ‘ere we sleep,
“And hurl the darkness to the deep…”

Lost in song, as ever I was, the soft rustle of feathers and gossamer robes eluded me–until the Seraph was upon me.

Conductor Elias’ voice trembled. “By the Host…Archangel Izidkiel comes for the boy’s song.”

Snapped into awareness, I opened my eyes, finding myself inches from a masked face. Sharp aquiline features embossed into a veneer of gleaming silver, no openings for the actual eyes and mouth. Only a solid facade, metallic stare locked in what almost seemed an unspoken query.

I was petrified, stopped singing, and my jaw dropped.

“No…keep playing, you fool.” the Conductor hissed. “Don’t invoke its displeasure.”

Transfixed, I could only gape at the creature I witnessed, so unlike what I imagined the Seraphim to be, and yet so familiar–a figment of a dream, or a reflection flashing upon the grasp of moonlit water. It bent before me, searching. Everything about it was preternaturally tall, ambling grace. Its limbs and torso were slender as bare twigs in spring, a miraculous vow of imminent life flushing beneath pale flesh. All white, near blinding, the skin of the angel was smooth, yet appeared rigid as sanded marble. Long pale hair entwined with strands of pulsating silver, curtaining the artificial smile, lips frozen in near mischievous intention. It wore only a misty wrap of cloth around its otherwise nude form, neither distinguishable as male or female The chromed fin ornaments upon its helmet mirrored the hawkish stretch of brilliant ivory wings. It said not a word, only cocked its head in a sharp twitch, much as a bird tilted one eye to evaluate.

Startled by its ethereal oddity, I nevertheless obeyed the Conductor, and finished my performance.

“Fair as stars winking on the wave,
“They linger still, our hearts to save,
“Most blessed angels, hear our plea,
“And guide thy Kingdom By The Sea.”

Silence so heavy it hurt my ears settled over the dumbfounded audience.

The angel remained frozen, stiff as a corpse, though beautiful beyond mortal reckoning. One lissome arm flicked up, its fingers latching to my chin. The tip of its nails pierced inconsequential layers of skin.

Something murmured within the Host, words teasing at the edge of comprehension.

I dared to answer, though I knew not the question, nor if I spoke appropriately. “Praises be, Holy One.”

Long wings branched forward. Wisped plumes brushed my cheek, so shining white they might shame the morning snow. The masked face loomed closer, until I felt its breath. I never fathomed an angel might breathe, but it was soft and warm, sweet as the honeyed rose. Every delight I might conjure was contained within a gentle rush.

The Archangel Izidkiel stroked my face between its exquisite palms, and pressed its cold, metallic lips to my forehead. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, it flapped into the fading dusk, and disappeared within the pinnacles of the Temple.

Shuddering whispers slurred through those gathered about me. I glanced up, and met the widened eyes of the Chairman Ness and Conductor Elias.

The Custodian nearly choked his words. “You…Bearer of Beatific Song. How worthy you are to bear the title. Welcome to the Sacred Chorus, child whom the Archangels cherish.”

I was as shaken as the others. My heart leapt with rejoicing that I’d received such adoration from the highest of all, yet uncertainty prodded at my gut. The angel’s touch seared into me, and I still felt the tingling remains of it upon my skin. So much love, almost too much, it leaked into my senses as if an uninvited guest.

The adulation I received from the Chorus and the people of the Kingdom thereafter staunched the shameful sensation somewhat. I played with the great orchestra that night, and found the place I’d longed for all my young days. The dwindling dread spun to the bottom of my concerns. I’d secured my position as a favored one of the Seraphim. Now, I had a vow to fulfill. I still had Miss Lee’s ‘face device. As the most true of gentlemen, it was my solemn duty to return it.

“The Envy Of Angels” Opening Scene

erte3

I’ve been working more on my decopunk retelling of Poe’s “Annabel Lee”. Revised the opening scene some more and have done more world-building. It’s shaping up to be a very intriguing tale. I’m sticking to the very Poe-etic sense of dread as much as I can, and this is not a happy bedtime story. All I can say is, the Seraphim are really damn creepy…At any rate, here’s the intro as I have it currently. Still first draft so watch for falling typos and such 😉 Image is “The Angel” by Erte.

Waves tremble and weep, with the secrets they keep,

In a kingdom by the sea;

‘Neath the moon wan and pale, the wind moans the tale

Of a maiden named Annabel Lee.

~~*~~

The day I met her was the first day I ever beheld the ocean.

Never had I dreamed to be in the wondrous Kingdom By The Sea. Dark waves crashed against the shore, gray upon gray, mists receding into a nearly indecipherable horizon. Salt spray settled like a gentle veil over my skin, the eternal roar a symphony upon my ears. I threw back my head as the wind sliced past, reveling in the wild chill.

Music, the passion of my soul, rushed in time with my heart. A melody of hope formed within my mind, and I sat upon a rock with my cherished harp. My fingers flew across the strings, each note a declaration. The past and its misery was behind me. Lyrics swirled with the intricate sound. I sang to the open sky, to the gulls crying upon sharp white wings, the vastness of water and stone.

When I finished, a pattering applause startled me. I nearly dropped the harp in alarm, turning to face my audience.

“That was beautiful.” A girl on horseback smiled nearby. Muted blue riding attire accented the striking azure of her eyes. Her dappled gelding snorted and tossed its mane, rattling the shiny metal bit.

With haste I removed my flat cap, to appear a gentleman. Instead, I felt a fool, staring with my mouth agape.

“I apologize for startling you,” she said. “I heard you singing, and had to see who played such lovely music.” She dismounted, and walked toward me, the horse plodding obediently behind.

I ran fingers through my black undercut, hoping it wasn’t shabby and windblown. My throat tightened as she drew closer, and I noticed how pretty she was. She was young, close to my own age of seventeen. All I could mutter was, “Thank you.”

Clutching her reins, she sat next to me. “What’s your name?”

“Tristan. Tristan of Steelbend.” I was of the workers’ caste, thus I possessed no surname of note. Rather, those of my class were identified by birthplace.

“Steelbend? I’ve never heard of it.” The horse stomped, and she stroked its gray nose. A silver-threaded monogram glistened on the breast of her riding jacket, displaying a symbol of outstretched wings–the emblem of the Seraphim, marking her as one of society’s elite. She extended a palm gloved in soft kid leather. “I’m Annabel Lee. Do you live here in Hosanna?”

I fidgeted, setting my harp down to shake her hand. “No, I…well, I hope to. I just arrived on the shuttle. I’m headed to the Examinations Office, but I wanted to look at the sea first. I’ve never seen it before.”

 “You’re one of the new hopefuls? Well, I do pray you pass the test. You’ve more talent than most of the lackluster composers within the Host.”

“Thank you, again. I’m not certain I can live up to such a high compliment. But I do hope to be accepted. I’ve dreamed my entire life of being here, and finding renown.”

“You will.” Her grin bore amusement. “Did you come to the beach for inspiration?”

Stunned at having such a conversation with a strange, beautiful girl, I nodded. “Yes. It’s difficult to explain. When inspiration strikes me, it’s like hunger, and demands its own way.”

A fetching blush bloomed upon her cheeks. “There’s no need to explain. I’m an artist, too. I ride here every evening for the same reason.”

“Truly? What do you do?”

“I’m a poet. And it’s what I want to be in life, but my father doesn’t approve.”

I’d never met another young person who shared my love of artistic pursuits, let alone one as gorgeous as Miss Lee. “Parents seldom do. My own insisted I work in the rfoundries, as the rest of my family has done for generations. But I can’t deny it. ‘Tis why I’m here, where people appreciate refinement. Not many steel workers enjoy a ballad or an ode these days.”

She laughed, a wisp of dark brown hair lashing free of her tight coif and riding helmet. “I imagine not.” Those brilliant eyes implored, deep and blue as the ocean itself. “Sing me another song, Tristan of Steelbend. Your favorite this time.”

I set my harp upon my lap, and dared a flirtatious smile. “Certainly. But only if you promise to recite one of your poems for me afterward.”

“Agreed.” She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, twirling her crop in anticipation.

“This is one of my own compositions. It’s about a man who drowns in a shipwreck, and his beloved searches the shores for him every night after.”

Her expression grew wistful. “Please begin.”

“Not a sound did her foot make

“Upon sand and breakers tossed,

“She watched and she waited,

“Many years and a day

“For the love she had known and lost…”

I sang with all my sorrow, my rage, my determination to find a better place. Closing my eyes, cold sea air circling through my lungs, the harp strings cried my purpose aloud.

When I finished, her eyes shone with tears.

“There you have it.” I shrugged, though I was pleased to see her so moved. “Now, let’s hear yours.”

“My work is all contained within the Host, so it’s best I show you this way.” She reached into the pocket of her trim jacket, and withdrew a small device. It resembled a compact mirror case, polished black bakelite with a chromed geometric inlay of an angel. “Are you ‘faced?” she asked, flipping the object open. Within, an interface node extended its miniscule sensors.

I blinked, taken aback. “No. In Steelbend, only the administrators are allowed such connections.”

“How is that possible? Everyone in Hosanna is ‘faced.”

“Well…think of it this way. You don’t need access to the Host when your only reason for existing is to pour and pound steel for twelve hours a day.”

Her brow creased in disbelief. “Oh. I never considered that. Well, this won’t help you then.” She closed the device, and set it aside on a flat part of the rock. “Thankfully, I’ve committed a few of them to memory. This one’s called ‘Awake, The Stars Do Fade.’”

Describing Deco

As many of you know, I’ve been on a quest to both define and refine the subgenre ‘decopunk’ for some time now. My story in progress, “Beauty In The Bones”, has come a long way in this, and now I have a new short in the works, “The Envy Of Angels”, which is expanding the concept further. It’s been a challenge to find the right words and descriptors to properly capture such a unique aesthetic, but I’ve collected a list, which has been helpful. Here it is, in all its wordiness. If anyone has anything to add to this, please let me know!

Art Deco Characteristics. Materials, and Patterns

aerodynamic

absorbing

adroit

arc

arched

aggressive

angular

aesthetic

alabaster

atmospheric

alternating

astonishing

avant-garde

angular

assertive

aluminum

abstract

asymmetrical

balanced

branching

bold

brass

bronze

banded

bright

bakelite

blocky

carved

corrugated

chic

checkered

cornice

classic

curves

clean

continuous

curl

chevrons

complementary

contemporary

complex

conceptual

cubism

chrome

contrasts

concrete

circular

convex

collage

cartouche

crystal

columns

concave

decorative

daring

dazzling

delicate

dense

detailed

dimensional

diagonal

disruptive

distinctive

distinct

distinguished

divine

diverse

dreamlike

dynamic

defined

dominant

eclectic

embellishment

elaborate

emphatic

embossed

emergent

energetic

exuberance

enameling

engaging

enigmatic

ethereal

edifice

eave

evocative

exotic

explosive

expressive

extreme

electric

ebony

elegant

faceted

facade

fascinating

figurative

fluting

fanned

furrowed

fluid

fresh

fresco

faith in progress

futuristic

functional

geometric

graceful

garish

gable

grooved

glamourous

gaudy

gilded

glass

glorified natural forms/bodies

hard-edged

horizontal

herringbone

impeccable

infused

ivory

intense

interlocking

intertwined

inscription

inlays

jagged

lacquer

luxurious

legendary

lavish

lissome

linear

labyrinthine

layered

luminous

lyrical

marquetry

manufactured

mass-produced

monumental

monolithic

metallic

marble

meandering

modern

motifs

mural

mosaic

mythical

new

orientalism

ornamental

octagonal

orderly

outlines

organic

polygons

paneling

pillar

pristine

punctured

pyramid

parallel

rectangular

rigorous

rectilinear

ridged

relief

repetitive

round

radiant

robust

ribbed

rigid

reeding

refined

rich

stylized

sculptural

stela

striped

sinuous

sparse

stimulating

stunning

striated

sublime

stylish

straight

symbolic

stepped

simple

smooth

slab

strong

symmetrical

stainless steel

stained glass

swirls

stucco

spherical

streamlined

stepped

striking

sweeping

sharp

spiral

shiny

serrated

sleek

synthetic

sunburst

triangular

toothed

trapezoids

terracotta

tiered

terraced

utilitarian

unconventional

varied

vivid

V-shapes

veneer

vertical

vitrolite

woven

zigzags

ziggurat

8 Sentence Sunday

Here’s a little snippet from my new decopunk short story, a retelling of Poe’s “Annabel Lee”. It’s titled “The Envy Of Angels, and starting to take shape nicely.

*******

The day I met her was the first day I ever beheld the ocean.

Newly arrived to Hosanna with my entire life in a single carry-on bag, and my cherished harp tucked under one arm, I ventured to the elongated viewing window at the shuttle port. In my seventeen years of life, I’d dwelled behind the dreary walls of the workers’ arcology known as Steelbend. Never had I dreamed to be here, in the wondrous Kingdom By The Sea. Dark waves outside crashed against the rocky shore, gray upon gray as the mists receded toward a nearly indecipherable horizon. Awe and elation filled me at finally reaching my destination, and seeing its splendor with my own eyes. The past and all of its misery were behind me, now. It was time to make a new start, beneath the watchful eyes and wings of the blessed Seraphim.

Chapter 30 of “Beauty In The Bones”– Old Bones To Pick

Chapter 30 of Beauty In The Bones is up! Silas and his elegant mother, Octavia, attend the greatest opera performance in recent memory. Amid the splendor of a grand art deco theater, they meet with Holten Jaster, Silas’s capricious uncle, to discuss an urgent plan for revenge. Needless to say, a family with this many skeletons in the closet can scarcely hope for a pleasant outing.

https://www.wattpad.com/179788387-beauty-in-the-bones-chapter-30-old-bones-to-pick

https://hollygonzalez1.wordpress.com/beauty-in-the-bones-chapter-30-old-bones-to-pick/

“Transmission”–My dieselpunk pulp story is now live on Wattpad!

My dieselpunk pulp story, “Transmission”, is now live! Check it out if you want a wild ride filled with forthright do-gooders, Nazi conspirators, twisted genetic experiments, and cute but enigmatic critters who happen to make one a superhuman 😉 The entire issue is packed with fantastic SF, so be sure to check it out!

https://www.wattpad.com/177024332-tk22-the-best-of-2015-transmission-holly_gonzalez