She knew he hadn’t always been like this. He’d tried to explain once.
“This whole angel/demon thing is bullshit. Really, we’re all just here. You accept your nature or not. Ours are just more pervading than humans’. More spirit, less form.”
He’d been an Illudian, a being she’d have once called an angel. They watch over spirit travelers, usually humans, keeping them safe from the hateful, hungry forces that dwell just outside consciousness. And he’d failed. She never had gotten him to tell her how. But the others like him denied his continued existence, as if he’d died when he couldn’t take his own self-loathing anymore and had cut off the shimmering silver-blue wings common to his kind.
That had been an eternity ago in human terms, on a different world somewhere in the realms of possibility. Since then, he’d wandered in human form, fighting countless battles against nightmares, but never staying to watch over anyone.
She glanced up at him, waiting as she prepared the song to shift her mind upward. Physically, he was near-perfect, but the conflict that radiated from him drove even the least sensitive mortals away.
Despite that rage and the swirling madness he barely held in check, he was one of the more powerful guardians she’d met in her travels. Even the shadowed fear-forms that stalked most humans on the other side shrank away from him in terror.
She shuddered, remembering. In the early days of her journeys, she’d taken simple spirit guides with her. But the fear lurking in the darkness had overpowered them. It would have consumed her if he’d not happened by then, drawn by the unknowable winds that moved him through the dreamverse, banishing it back into the inky blackness from which it had come. He hadn’t waited long enough for her to thank him.
Her other guardians told her he was a Fallen, one of the few who neither sought redemption nor had been taken by their destructive urges. She’d Called him on occasion now and then when she needed a message sent into the Deep Dream and no guardian nor fey nor spirit guide could take it.
But now she needed protection. For she had questions only the Watcher could answer. And long ages immersed in the mass delusions and depredations of mankind had warped the ancient consciousness and twisted the dreamscape around it into a maze of malicious terror. Guardians couldn’t be asked to go; no daemon powerful enough to go freely could be trusted; and no lone human or even circle could hope to escape unscathed.
The Fallen knew madness and fury, breathed it every agonizing day of their existence. But they could not be bound long, and no spell or song of compelling held true in the domain of the Watcher.
“Of course. The others say I can’t trust you.”
“Do they now?”
Though he sounded amused, his eyes held something else, but the force of them was too much for her. She changed the subject.
“Why are they so hostile toward you?”
The flat denial. A denial of all his former, glorious existence.
“It’s more than that, and you know it. Tell me.”
“Is that a Command?”
His expression twisted into a self mocking smirk. He knew she hated direct orders and she knew well that most had no effect on him. But she still didn’t know why.
“No, it’s not. I was just curious.”
He sighed, and for a moment, the weight of his old grief washed over her in waves.
“I shouldn’t be here, according to their rules.”
This, she’d heard before.
“No Fallen, none, has ever stayed within the mortal sphere so long as I have without being…taken. I fly in the face of what they think they know.”
His voice twisted sarcastically, as it often did when he spoke of other guardians. She hardly noticed, the shock of his assertion was plain on her face.
“Yes, they’ve lied to you. They really don’t know what we are any more than you do. And as far as how this lovely spiritverse of ours works, they haven’t a clue.”
The spite dripped from his voice, but it was more than that. For an instant, she saw clearly the moment of his own betrayal so long ago and the timeless questioning he’d done in the eons since.
“You’re stalling. Besides, according to your precious guardians, I’m a lunatic anyway. Let’s go.”
He was right about that. But she wasn’t sure as she began the song of travel which possibility scared her more: that he was crazy or that he might just be right.