Blackfeather – Chapter 1

Kate threw the pipe under the scaffolding and hurried down the path to her car. Her hands trembled, her knees were weak. Had anyone seen her, running through the graveyard, flustered and grubby, with a suspicious bundle? She had just stolen something from a church and she didn’t even know what it was.

As she fastened the seatbelt and started the car, she remembered her promise to Reverend Pilling. She swore and raced back to the rear of the church, locked the vestry door and hid the key beneath one of the three plant pots arranged in a triangle near the wall. If anyone had seen her, they hadn’t bothered to investigate what she was up to. Back in the driving seat, she took a deep breath.

Just an hour ago she’d been standing at the lych-gate, looking fondly up at the church where she’d been christened, preparing herself for an afternoon away from the office, researching the family tree of a new client. Scaffolding covered the walls instead of ivy, and mesh screens had been fitted over the stained glass windows to protect them from falling masonry and vandals. By the look of things, repairs to the roof had begun just in time.

She blew away the flurry of snowflakes that danced round her head with a puff of hot breath and pushed a wind-whipped strand of hair back under her woollen hat with a gloved hand, then shouldered her bag, unlatched the gate and made her way up the path to the porch. The iron hinges squeaked as she pushed open the heavy wooden door. It was the perfect accompaniment to the whistle of December wind that played through the bare branches of the trees and it sent goose bumps up Kate’s arms in spite of the layers of warm clothing she’d piled on.

Inside the entrance stood a Christmas tree, its branches as yet untrimmed and at intervals down the nave were leafy green wreaths and swags of ivy, laid out ready for someone to fasten them in place. The decorations brought back happy memories of candlelit Christmas Eve carol services, and being carried back to the car in her father’s arms afterwards, too sleepy to walk.

The rainbow of light from the tall medieval stained glass windows was reflected on the arched stone wall opposite and Jacobean box pews, lined up in rows down the nave, mirrored the dark oak beams in the ceiling. At the entrance to each pew was a small posy of flowers, placed in a conical holder. A couple of sparrows and a plump wood pigeon had found their way in through a hole in the roof and while the pigeon perched on the curve of a wall monument, trying to sleep, his feathers puffed up for warmth, the sparrows chirruped and chased each other from beam to beam.

Kate watched them for a few minutes until an elderly man wearing the ubiquitous grey suit, black shirt and dog collar of an Anglican vicar, emerged through a door in the north wall, half hidden by a second row of arches. When he saw Kate, a wide smile formed on his face. She grinned back as he strode towards her, carrying his cane rather than admit his need for its support by leaning on it, and vigorously shook her hand.

“Goodness me, Kathryn, you have grown up,” he said with a chuckle. “You were just this high the last time I saw you.”

He held up his hand to chest level, then tapped the cane on the stone floor three times, a habit he’d developed soon after acquiring it.

“It’s been ten years,” she said.

“It can’t be!”

Kate nodded.

“Well, tempus fugit, as they say. You must be surprised that I’m still here. Though I think it won’t be long before I’m replaced by a woman. The Bishop is keen to increase the congregation and move with the times. There’s a vicar in the city centre you know who gives sermons dressed as a clown”.

He turned away, then muttered, “Idiot!” under his breath. She heard him, nonetheless and pressed her lips together to stifle a giggle. The Reverend tapped his cane again.

“Well, I expect you want to get on with your research?” he said, adjusting his glasses and turning to look over his shoulder at her with eyebrows raised.

She nodded once more and he led the way down the narrow aisle, between the pews and through the wooden door into the vestry. To their left was Reverend Pilling’s office, but they entered the room opposite, a room filled with shelves of leather bound books, where the church archives were kept.

“I’m afraid I can’t stay, Kathryn. One of my parishioners has suffered a bereavement and I need to get the funeral arrangements underway. I’ll go out the front and lock the main door, but I’d be grateful if you’d lock up round the back and leave the key under the pot when you’ve finished.” He handed her a large, old-fashioned brass key. “I must be off.”

He punctuated his words by tapping the cane a further three times and disappeared back the way they’d come.

Kate sighed with contentment. She loved the solitude of working alone in old buildings and began making herself comfortable, placing her notebook on the table in the centre of the room and laying her outdoor clothes over the back of a wooden chair. She took her time, walking a circuit of the room and running her fingers over the red, leather spines of the books. The dates were stamped on each one in gold lettering and when she found the one she needed, she pulled it from its place and laid it on the lectern on the table. Then she sat down and opened the notebook at a fresh page, wrote the surname of the family she was researching in capitals at the top and opened the register.

Her client had appointed Sharpe’s, Genealogists and Probate Researchers to finish his family tree when he could get no further on his own and had got himself in a muddle with the various records he had so far accumulated. Peter Sharpe had assigned the project to her.

She lost track of time as she worked, poring over the names and dates in the archives until the real world faded away. Anything beyond the book in front of her and the room in which she sat ceased to exist. She was copying the details with meticulous care and double checking the records already provided by the client when she was startled by a loud, reverberating crack and thundering echo from inside the church. She paused, listening for any other sounds before calling out.

“Hello? Is anyone there?”

There was no answer, but it was unlikely that anyone would have heard her from the thick walled room. It couldn’t have been a door banging shut. Reverend Pilling had locked the main door and this had sounded like a large, heavy object falling on stone. Something from the roof, maybe.

It was quiet now, too quiet, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to concentrate properly until she’d investigated the cause of the noise. Kate put down her pencil and left the sanctuary of the archives, passed through the vestry and emerged into the hushed church. The sound of her boots scuffing on the paved floor echoed round the building. There was no one there and nothing out of place that could offer an explanation for what she’d heard, but as she skirted the Norman font and turned toward the chancel, she found the culprit.

A huge piece of masonry, probably loosened by the roofing contractors, had fallen from high up in the east wall. It had crashed to the floor, miraculously missing the choir stalls and altar table, and landed smack in the centre of the chancel. The only damage was a broken flagstone.

Kate edged towards the slab, glancing nervously upwards with each step. A triangular piece of paving stuck up from the floor at an angle and she nudged it with the toe of her boot. It twisted and fell inwards, revealing a cavity below.

People were often buried beneath church floors, in fact there were other grave slabs nearby, but Kate couldn’t see any carvings on this one, not even worn ones. She crouched down and swept the palm of her hand across the stone’s smooth surface, confirming the absence of an inscription.

She felt along the jagged, broken edge of the flagstone with her fingertips then gave an experimental tug. It didn’t budge, so she pushed her hand into the hole, up to her wrist. Something tickled her and she pulled it out again. The tickle continued, travelling up her arm along with the spider, and she jumped to her feet, shrieking and shaking her arm, brushing furiously at it to dislodge the tiny creature. She hated spiders. When she was sure it had been flung far away from her, she took a deep breath. Her heart pounded and she looked back at the hole with trepidation.

Leave it, she thought. Whatever’s in there isn’t worth it.

She walked away, got as far as the font, stopped and blew out her breath in a long, slow sigh. She was far too curious to let it go.

I don’t believe I’m doing this, she thought, pushing the sleeves of her jumper up to her elbows, and steeling herself to try again.

It took several deep breaths and a number of false starts before she plucked up enough courage to thrust her hand all the way into the hole. It was deeper than she’d expected, but about a foot below the surface she felt something cold and solid and flinched away from it. When it didn’t move she touched it again. Beneath a thick layer of dust she could make out a surface covered with small bumps. Her trembling fingertips traced along the edge of the object, found a corner and continued on until she’d returned to her starting point. The object had depth to it too and with her arm as far into the hole as it would go, she felt all over it, building up a mental image, like a blind person touching the face of someone they’d never met before. It felt like a box.

She brushed the dirt off her hand and pushed herself up, sitting back on her heels to survey the floor around her. The piece of mortar she squeezed between thumb and forefinger crumbled to dust. All the other stones were cemented in place, but this one had been packed round the edges with dirt. It had compacted over the centuries, giving the illusion it was fixed in place like all the others, but if this had been a burial, why had it been left loose?

Go on, dig it out.

The thought was in her head so it must have been her own, but it didn’t feel like something she would say.

She looked around, chewing at a fingernail on the hand that hadn’t been in the hole, while she weighed up her options and wondered how long Reverend Pilling would be gone. She dreaded to think what he was going to say when he saw the damage to his church. Was she really going to do this?

With the decision made, she retreated to the archive room and rummaged through her bag for something to help remove the dirt from around the stone. The old nail file she found would have to do. The box was too big to come out through the hole, but if she could loosen the flagstone she might be able to lift it.

What if I get caught? she asked herself.

 We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Her inner monologue was really playing devil’s advocate today.  It didn’t even sound like her any more.

Go on then, it prompted

It took her fifteen minutes to scrape the dirt away. She stood at the unbroken end; bent over with both hands in the hole and pulled it towards her with all her strength. She managed to raise it an inch or two before the weight of the stone pulled it down again.

Unwilling to admit defeat, Kate scanned the church for something to use as a lever and was surprised by how dark it had become. The late afternoon light had faded to dusk, the church had turned gloomy and the silence settled like a heavy, wool blanket. Even the birds had gone.

The air felt electric, like the moments before a storm when you were just waiting for it to break, and the prickling sensation at the base of her neck made her feel as though she was being watched from the shadows. She shook her shoulders, trying to dispel the idea.

There was nothing she could use inside the church, and she knew better than to even think of using the medieval silver candlesticks adorning the altar, so she slipped outside to search beneath the scaffolding among the discarded rubble. The snow had started to stick and was already filling up the gaps between the stacks of roof slates leant against the wall. She turned up a length of steel pipe and after testing its weight decided it would do the job.

With one end in the hole and using the fallen stone as a fulcrum, she pushed down on the pipe. The flagstone raised enough for Kate to thrust in her spare hand and pull out the large casket that had been hidden there. She released the pressure and the flagstone thudded back into its original resting place. She held the box up to what remained of the light and examined it. Something shifted inside and she screwed up her eyes in an effort to peer through the keyhole on the front.

A rustling from the choir stalls made her jump again. With heart in throat she wasted no time in sweeping the dirt into the hole, back filling the crevices and tidying up as best she could before someone came in and discovered her. When she was satisfied the scene looked as undisturbed as she could make it, she rubbed the loose soil from her hands and wiped them down the front of her jeans, leaving dirty, grey streaks.

What now? she thought as she sat on a nearby pew with the box on her knee. She pulled at the lid, but it wouldn’t open.

Take it home.

Oh no, that was a step too far. She was no thief and whatever was inside was probably an old church relic or a saint’s bones, placed there when the church was built. It was one thing to remove it from the crypt so it didn’t suffer further damage but to steal it..? She shook her head. She would leave the box on Reverend Pilling’s desk with a note explaining everything and phone tomorrow to ask him about it.

With the note written and the box placed squarely on the Reverend’s desk, she took one last look at it and stepped away.

Don’t you want to know what’s inside?

She straightened, tossed her hair back over her shoulder, and firmly pulled the door of the office shut.

Satisfied she had done the right thing, she went back to work. She sat down at the desk in the archives room and picked up her pencil.

What if someone comes in and takes it before the vicar gets back?

       Why would anyone do that?  she thought in reply.

It would be much safer in here with you.

That was true, she could watch over it until she had to leave, at least. Reverend Pilling might be back by then and she could give it to him personally.

That’s right, it will only take a minute to get it.

She got up and moved towards the door and suddenly found herself rooted to the spot.

You don’t have to do this, Kate.

“What?” she said aloud.

Where had that come from? Was someone else here with her? She was sure she had heard someone speak.

“Who’s there?” she called. “Reverend Pilling, is that you?”

There was no reply. She turned the brass knob of the door, but it wouldn’t open. It couldn’t be locked. Unless someone was on the other side.

She heard whispering and stiffened as she tried to hear what was being said, but all she caught were snatches of a few words and phrases between what sounded like two people arguing.

shouldn’t be doing this… can’t interfere…

       …she should know… what if she wants to…

There was a pause and the door was released and Kate stumbled back a step.

Take the box before someone who shouldn’t does.

The thought was so forceful and induced such an overwhelming sense of fear for the safety of the box that Kate hastily packed up her work and a few minutes later was back in the vicar’s office.

“I’m sorry,” she said to the air. “I don’t know why, but I need to know what’s inside. I’ll bring it back. Promise.”

 

And that’s how she found herself fleeing the scene of a crime.

In the time it had taken her to free the box, the road had been obliterated by a layer of snow. Kate restarted the engine of her cherry red VW Beetle and with a quick look over her shoulder pulled away from the church. The back end of the car swung out into the road, but she managed to regain control and accelerated out of the village onto a narrow, unlit country lane.

The branches of the trees on either side of the road reached so far over they met in the middle and interlaced like an arch of swords formed by a military honour guard. The tunnel they formed made it so dark Kate could hardly see where she was going. She hunched over the wheel, her eyes squinting through the blizzard of snowflakes that battered against the windscreen, obscuring her view even further.

She had thrown everything into the back except the box, which lay on the front passenger seat. She tried to focus her attention on driving, rubbing her hand over the inside of the windscreen to clear the mist her breath made on the glass, but the box, thrown about by the movement of the car, jerked forward and teetered on the edge of the seat. She pushed it back, looked up and gasped in shock, jamming her foot onto the brakes.

The man had appeared out of nowhere, and as Kate’s car sped towards him, he looked straight at her and smiled.

 

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Sinking The Titanic, An Alternate History

Titanic – Ship of Dreams

There are many conspiracy theories surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, from insurance fraud to a mummy’s curse, but none of them mention Malachi.

It’s generally accepted that one of the contributing factors to the tragedy was the lack of access to binoculars.

David Blair

Second Officer David Blair photo from Mail online 2007

Malachi’s involvement in the sinking is based on the real life figure of second officer David Blair, who had been due to serve on board Titanic, but had been removed from the ship’s staff a few days before it sailed and simply forgot remove the key from his pocket and leave it for the crows nest binocular cabinet.

At the inquest, Fred Fleet, the ship’s lookout,  was asked how much difference access to the binoculars would have made. His reply was “Enough to get out of the way.” A blunt, but honest summing up of the situation that caused the death of 1522 passengers and crew

In Immortal, things happen slightly differently in that Malachi deliberately boards the ship as the passengers and crew are preparing to leave port and removes the key, placing it in his own pocket before walking swiftly away.

The only trace of this event in history is inside Malachi’s memories, viewed by Ashrafel as he searches Malachi’s mind for an answer to his own question about the woman who haunts his thoughts.

The chain of events that lead to bigger things fascinates me – the forgetting of a crucial key, the stray ember that leads to the burning of a city – some people call them coincidences, others synchronicity, but what if there’s more to it than that. What if these events are predetermined and all someone had to do was prevent one little thing that sets of the entire chain –  would the sinking of the Titanic have been prevented if Blair had left the key?

The Devil is in the details as they say!

The Missing Key

Immortal is available as an ebook and in paperback from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

Would You Be Tempted by Immortality?

Immortal Final Cover 5 x 8   The title character of my latest novel, Immortal, is a man who has lived for two thousand years.  Tricked into a deal with Lucifer he has spent immortality as the instigator of disaster and a cause of  chaos in the human world. Given the name Malachi, meaning messenger or prophet, he has almost  forgotten his real name or how he became Lucifer’s pet. All he knows is that he hates what he must  do, but to refuse would mean losing his soul to the eternal torments of Hell for far longer than he has  been alive.

   The inspiration for Malachi comes from a biblical character called “the rich man’s son”. When he  asks Jesus how he can enter the kingdom of Heaven and be given eternal life he is told that he must  renounce his worldly wealth, give up his possessions to the poor and follow Jesus. Only then will he  be rewarded with riches in Heaven.

   The young man cannot accept this, he doesn’t want to give up his comfortable life and I found  myself wondering what he would do if he was offered immortality under different terms. If someone, a stranger, had told him he could not only keep the wealth he already had but accrue even more, be powerful and attractive and spend the rest of time doing anything he wanted in return for nothing more than a few “little jobs” as and when necessary – would he be tempted? Would he resist and question the stranger’s motives? Or would he jump at the chance to live forever?

Once the deal is done it cannot be taken back and Malachi finds himself in an impossible situation. Forced to do Lucifer’s bidding Malachi is at first appalled, but the ever present threat of Hell’s horrors keeps him at his post. Shunned by his own kind he comes to hate humanity and vows to carry out his work with zeal, but revenge is not so sweet and overtime this hatred turns to self loathing and a desire for oblivion.

We have met Malachi once before in Blackfeather, the first book in the series, where his role was to persuade Thomas Whittle to kill an angel and win immortality for himself. Without Malachi’s interference Catherine Whittle would not have died and Ashrafel would not have been exiled from Heaven. Now, five hundred years later, he meets Ashrafel again and all Hell could break loose.

Over the next few posts I’ll explain Malachi’s involvement in some of history’s disasters.

You can get Blackfeather from: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk,

Immortal is released tonight, at midnight, click here to purchase Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

We Need To Talk! – Another Immortal Excerpt.

She had made up her mind before Brian finished speaking and was now driving towards York. The dream, coupled with what Brian had told her on the phone had not only piqued her curiosity, but had kindled the first glimmer of hope since “the incident”.

Ignoring Brian and the curious looks that James and Nathan threw her way, she hung up her coat and frowned down at the piles of work on her desk.

‘Alright, Kate?’ James said.

‘Hmm,’ she grunted.

‘Happy New Year,’ Nathan offered.

She gave him a non-committal look before grunting once more then gathered an armful of folders and moved them from one side of the table to the other. They twisted in her arms and before she could recover several files began to fall, spilling their contents across the desk and onto the floor. The boys stepped forwards to help, but she held up her hand and waved them back. With a sigh she bent to pick the papers up noticing a sealed, slim white envelope among them. It was addressed to her, beautifully handwritten in a flowing script that reminded her of the engraving on the silver casket. Her pulse quickened as she tore it open and reached inside, something silky brushed her skin and her fingers curled away from it. The colour drained from her face. She already knew what it was before pulling it out into the light – a jet black feather. Along with this unmistakable calling card was a note, written in the same hand that had addressed the envelope.

We need to talk!

She flipped the note over. There was no signature, but the reverse had an altogether cheekier and not at all angelic message.

p.s. I wouldn’t have waited five hundred years 😉

Incredulous she raised an eyebrow, if the note hadn’t come from Ash, then who? Were her colleagues playing a joke on her? She looked quickly round at them, but neither James nor Nathan had ever known Ash and Brian no longer seemed to remember him. There was only one other possibility. The image of a tall, dark stranger standing with Ash at the bottom of her garden came to mind. Could the message be from the Watcher she had unknowingly met in Monty’s Rock Club the night she had gone to meet Brian and found Ash instead?

But Ash was gone. Wasn’t he?

Surely there was nothing more to say. Unless…

 

Behind her, the boys, who had been chatting quietly, suddenly became silent, listening instead to the sound of steady footsteps approaching the door. Kate stuffed the note and feather back into the envelope and slid it out of sight between the folders just as the handle began to turn. The sound of Brian clearing his throat caught her attention and he gestured at her to close her gawping mouth. As she slowly turned her eyes back to the door she was gripped with an uncanny sense of déjà-vu.

The man in the doorway looked round at the four silent, expectant faces before him. He was tall, blonde and pushed his wayward fringe off his face to reveal green eyes. But the resemblance to Ash ended there and Kate let out the breath she’d been holding and flopped onto her chair in disappointment. Though his eyes were green, they were pale and unremarkable, with no spark of fire in them and handsome as the young man was, Kate felt no attraction to him, no connection at all. The hope she had nurtured that Ash had found a way to return to her blew away like a paper bag in a storm.

The man stepped forward, held his hand out to Brian and said,

‘Hello, I’m looking for Peter Sharpe.’

It was enough to make Kate want to scream.

‘Sam,’ said a perfectly pleasant, but ordinary voice above her. When she looked up he was grinning at her, a puckered, thin, pale scar ran from beneath his right eye along his cheekbone and disappeared into his hairline. It was fine, but jagged and spoiled the symmetry of his face and Kate stared at it until she realised he had offered her his hand and she shook it, giving him a weak smile.

‘Kate,’ she said, her voice husky with unshed tears, grateful when he moved on to the boys.

She stood up, put on her coat, shouldered her bag and was taking the envelope with its mysterious message from between the files when Brian said,

‘Why don’t you give Sam the guided tour, Kate?’

She glared at him, why was he picking on her? Couldn’t he see all she wanted was to get out of there? He simply folded his arms and sat on the edge of his desk as though he could wait forever. Kate sighed. Brian had done a lot for her the last couple of weeks, not least arranging the rebuilding of her living room wall and replacing the French windows. He’d removed the blasted, twisted remains of the cherry tree too and planted the rhododendron bush in its place, though he didn’t seem to remember any of it. She knew she owed him a favour. So, instead of running back home to hide from the world she took off her coat, laid it over the back of her chair and turned reluctantly towards Sam.

‘Come on, I’ll show you how things work around here.’

After a couple of hours Kate had come to a disturbing conclusion about their new colleague. Sam Hale had arrived fresh from a postgraduate degree, newly accredited and completely clueless. She had spent most of the morning, not only showing him where everything was, but explaining exactly how genealogy and probate worked. She wondered exactly what it was that had persuaded Peter to employ him. In the end she had set him to work searching the censuses for one of her probate cases and left him to it. If there were any problems Brian could sort it out.

Spread across her desk was what remained of The Markham Family Tree. She stared at it for several minutes a frown of anguish on her face as she remembered the close connection she shared with the names on the list then buried her face in her hands at the futility of it all. When she emerged she was surprised to find Sam watching her. She shut the folder and flung it in the top drawer of her desk. Sam was still staring in her direction and continued to do so until she started to feel self-conscious and began to squirm beneath his gaze. At that moment the sun chose to peek out from behind a cloud and a strange shaft of light lanced the room illuminating Sam’s face. His eyes suddenly flared with incandescent green fire that sparked and glittered the way she knew only Ash’s could do. Kate, transfixed, watched in shock as Sam’s whole face seemed to metamorphose into an altogether more familiar face.

Throughout the whole extraordinary episode he simply gazed back at her as though nothing out of the ordinary was taking place, and then he smiled at her, that warm, loving, lopsided grin that she missed so very much and before she knew it Kate was on her feet, her chair toppling over behind her. The clatter it made seemed to break the spell and as quickly as it had come, the light faded. Sam was just Sam again and Ash’s face was just a memory.

You can buy Immortal here

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

Immortal Book Extract Chapter One

The figure, perched on the highest point of York Minster, had his eyes closed and his arms outstretched as though he was about to take a swan dive off the building. If the tiny figures below, intent on checking their texts and posting morning selfies, had looked skywards he would have drawn quite a crowd, but humans rarely bother to look up.

“Where are you little brother?” the figure said, sending the thought out far and wide in all directions.

He crouched, looking out over the city and waited for an answer. He had been searching for more than two weeks now, asking the same question over and over with only silence in return. No one knew where Ashrafel was. No one had seen him, sensed him, or even heard a rumour. The only word from above was that Ash had not returned home, but they could not tell him where he had gone instead. Could not or would not? The Watcher thought the latter. How could they not know where he was? He got the distinct impression he was being fobbed off.

Careful not to tell him an outright lie but evasive enough that he learned nothing, he had pestered them to the point that they no longer bothered to answer him at all.

Well, he could play games too, he knew better than anyone how to bend the rules and he had no intention of leaving his investigations there. There were other ways to find out what he wanted to know. He would just have to get creative.

You can purchase Immortal here

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

The Angel of Mons

angel of mons painting 2On 23rd August 1914 both the English and German forces believed they had witnessed a miracle. Some saw St George and a legion of bowmen others said that angels had surrounded the English in a wall of protection. Whether it was divine or supernatural intervention or not, the fact remains that the heavily outnumbered British Expeditionary Forces were being forced to retreat under heavy fire. Something turned the tide.

A further tale has it that a group of soldiers belonging to the Coldstream Guards got lost in the Mormal Forest and became aware that they were close to being discovered until a tall, slim female figure appeared to them. She wore a white flowing gown and appeared to be glowing. The soldiers followed her across a field where she showed them a hidden road which allowed them to escape.

The Bowmen and Other Legends of the War by Arthur MachenArthur Machen, a Welsh author, published a short story entitled “The Bowmen” on 29th September 1914 and insisted that this was the inspiration for the story of the Angel of Mons, but would this story spread far enough to account for the tales told by English and overseas forces alike?

One of the other ideas to account for the tales is that fog and rain caused unusual cloud formations or poor visibility that gave rise to unusual sightings, but this can be discounted since the sun came out from around 10 am that day.

I have used this enduring piece of folklore in Blackfeather to place Ash at a a turbulent time in history where his path crosses not only with one of Kate’s previous lives, but also at a crucial moment for Kate’s Great Grandfather. By saving Arthur Parkes’ life Ash ensures Kate’s birth in the future – the discovery shocks him. Perhaps someone should have explained to him that time is a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff 🙂

You can read a more in-depth investigation of The Angel of Mons by Alan S. Coulson MD, PhD. and Michael E. Hanlon here.  They even include pictures, maps and theories on the legend.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

You can also connect with Nel on Facebook and Twitter

 

Angels – The Good, The Bad and the Misunderstood.

This post takes another look at some of the themes in the Blackfeather universe in order to clarify how some of the mythic beings and characters fit into the story. These may be different to the generally held beliefs about these beings in the real world.

ANGELS, DEMONS, FALLEN ANGELS AND WATCHERS

lucifer

Lucifer photo credit: felipe gabaldon

ANGELS
As mentioned in the previous angel lore post, angels or more precisely, guardian angels, shadow their human charges from birth. They are invisible, unless they choose to show themselves and reside in an etheric or energy body on a higher plane than our own.

There are many different types of angels, or hierarchies, but they don’t feature in Blackfeather so I won’t go into them here.

THE WATCHERS

There are only one thousand Watchers on earth at any given time. They do not age, but inhabit semi-physical bodies that can be “killed” in one of three ways; self sacrifice for a human life, breaking the neck and an angelic sword, otherwise damage to the body heals within moments. They retain many of their angelic powers (more of this in a later post), but spend most of their time visible and look just like any other human being. The only things that give them away are their taller than average height and their eyes, which have intensely coloured irises and an oddly mesmeric effect on anyone who stares too long into them.
The primary mission of these supernatural beings is to prevent Lucifer and his demons from having too much influence on the earthly realm. As we mentioned in our previous post, there are many instances where humans have reported miraculous escapes from life threatening situations and have walked away without a scratch from certain death. It is The Watchers they have to thank for their good fortune. A Watcher will voluntarily take the place of a human in such a situation and appear to “die”in his place. His angelic soul then returns to heaven and another takes his place thus maintaining the balance between good and evil.
Whilst they roam the earth, Watchers are, to all intents and purposes exempt from normal angelic rules. They can partake in all earthly pleasures, including sex. In fact one Watcher in particular enjoys his time on earth so much that he has avoided returning home for many, many hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Watchers and fallen angels can tune in to the location of all their brethren around the globe, no matter where they are and can communicate with one or all of them, telepathically. They can sense the presence of demons but demons cannot sense them. A distinct advantage in the Watchers’ favour.
They rarely advertise their true nature by displaying their wings, but if they do, you will find they are black.
FALLEN ANGELS
Fallen angels are angels exiled from Heaven for certain misdemeanours or crimes.
They share all the characteristics of The Watchers, but a fallen angel has one purpose while on earth and that is to right the wrong he has done and redeem himself to God’s satisfaction. Only then will he be allowed to return home, to Heaven. A fallen angel (and The Watchers), will do their best to blend in with the era in which they find themselves, and they have even been known to take a job if it will further their cause.
Fallen angels are rare. At the present time there is only one fallen angel on earth and that is our hero, Ashrafel.
Their wings are also black.
DEMONS
A demon is very similar to a fallen angel in so far as he is exiled from Heaven for crimes against God and, they too, inhabit physical bodies. However, demons cannot redeem themselves and return to Heaven. They are classed as “unforgivable” and will never be allowed home. Demons can also be “killed” releasing their demonic souls from their bodies, at which time they return to Hell and rebuild the body they inhabited or choose a new physical human representation to inhabit.
Demons came into being when Lucifer rebelled against God. He and his followers were banished from Heaven, but they also retain angel-like powers. They cause much mischief on earth. It is the domain of The Watchers to prevent this mischief thus preventing Lucifer from gaining a strong foothold here. Demons are extremely vain, are almost always well dressed and supremely arrogant. Their wings are black shot through with red. Some say this is to represent the human blood they have spilled, Lucifer’s are completely red.
A FINAL NOTE
All angelic and demonic souls are indestructible by all except one weapon. An angel’s sword. During the war in Heaven all angels carried such weapons and The Watchers and Ashrafel still have access to their swords in an etheric, less deadly format and only use them in extreme circumstances, but they were confiscated from Lucifer’s army after he was defeated by Michael. Only the legendary Malakh Rozeach – The Angel Killer – persists in its physical form here on earth. It is a most deadly weapon for it not only releases the soul of an angel or demon, it can also destroy that soul.
It is virtually impossible to tell any of these beings apart, so if you pass an incredibly handsome young man in the street, who is taller than the average human and whose eyes are of an unusually bright colour, you may be looking at a Watcher, a demon or a fallen angel, so be on your guard until you are 100% certain of their intentions.

Nel Ashley is the author of Blackfeather – a Fallen Angel Paranormal Romance  and Immortal, the second book in the Blackfeather Series. She is currently working on her third novel, Persephone Reborn, a vampire romance influenced by Greek mythology.

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