Noble Sacrifice: Chapter 7: Too Good to be True
Blinded Angels: Book 1: Noble Sacrifice
Moriah awoke rested, at ease with her life in a way so foreign to her. She refused to open her eyes. Yesterday, she discovered the world of magic and mystery she’d longed for all her life. What if she opened her eyes and found it was all a dream?
She stretched out under the perfectly comfortable sheets in a bed someone must have enchanted to encourage deep, dream-filled sleep. This wasn’t her bed. None of her friends made enough money to afford such nice sheets.
Reluctantly, she opened her eyes and gazed at the intricately interlaced wooden ceiling. The freshness of the air greeted her, and she couldn’t help but smile. It was real. It was all real.
Everything about this place was magical, including the shampoos and soaps that they had provided for her to get ready for the day. Even the water in the shower seemed to wash her concerns and cares away.
As usual, Moriah woke up before her friends, or at least none of them were downstairs by the time she got down there.
Sister Lydia sat with another sister at the table when she got downstairs. Steam rose from the fine porcelain tea cups and sparkling forks and knives rested on their empty plates.
Each sister read her own leather-bound book without title or cover image.
It surprised Moriah to see an Asian member of whatever order the sisters belong to. In the world she came from, religion often broke down along racial lines so to see them sitting peacefully together warmed her heart.
She didn't know what the protocol was. Should she join them, sit at another table, or attract their attention. The only thing she was certain of was that she didn’t want to irritate or annoy them, so she just stood at the bottom of the steps and waited for them to acknowledge her.
Sister Lydia glanced up from her book and waved her over to the table. “This isn't a restaurant, you don't have to wait to be seated.”
Moriah’s cheeks burned hot, “I didn't want to disturb you.” She walked over to the table and sat opposite the sisters.
“I don't think that would be possible.” Lydia smiled and put her book down. “Technically, my only duty today, is to look after you and your friends.”
Without asking for it, a plate of eggs, bacon, and buttered biscuits with strawberry jam appeared in front of her. It was exactly what she craved. She glanced around to see where it had come from.
“The domovoy here are good at their jobs,” Lydia said. “You are new here, so they wanted to impress you with your favorite breakfast. Did they get it right?”
Moriah took a bite and nodded.
“That's good. The first night I was here, they picked up on what I thought would be appropriate for me to ask for instead of what I actually wanted. So I ended up with a bowl of plain broth.” Lydia chuckled.
“For my first breakfast, they made me a hamburger and french fries, because all I could think about on the way here was trying more American food.” The other sister said without a hint of an accent.
“This is Sister Luna Shin.” Lydia said. “If you like, she can show you around after you finish breakfast.”
Sister Luna giggled. “I am not used to living in a cloister. I miss meeting new people.”
Moriah smiled. “I would like that.”
Moriah poked at the eggs on her plate. Were they chicken eggs or something else? They tasted rich and buttery, unlike anything she had ever eaten. She’d never had breakfast that good in her life, but didn't want to embarrass herself by asking too many questions.
When she finished eating, Sister Luna agreed to show her the convent’s library.
The sunlight burned her eyes as Sister Luna guided her across the courtyard. Strange birds sang from the trees, songs she’d never heard before. Beautiful melodies that raised her spirits.
Opposite the dormitory, the library towered over all the other buildings within the ancient stone walls. Through the large oaken doors, they entered a small foyer that opened up into an enormous labyrinth of shelves and stairwells leading up into rings of books and shelves going all the way up the tower.
At the ceiling, luminous shapes marking planets, stars and constellations floated freely. She recognized many of the symbols from the astrology books she’d read. The others intrigued her.
Everything smelled of musty, old paper and aged leather. Tables and chairs covered the main floor. Light flashed from a few sisters here and there, studying ancient tomes and testing incantations.
Luna stopped, spun around, and asked, “is there anything in particular you’re interested in reading about?”
Moriah glanced around at all the books in the tower. “How do I choose?” She didn’t know how to answer that question with any word other than everything, so as she too often did in an unfamiliar situations, she kept quiet.
A mischievous glint twinkled in the corner of Luna's eye, and she smiled. “I know something that I think you will love.”
She led Moriah to the back of the tower and pointed up.
Moriah’s breath caught in her chest.
A painting of a brown-skinned angel with a white blindfold and dress hovered over a flooded classical city. The wing on the left was black with shadows, and the right wing shown with vibrant red and black feathers. Between her hands, something red glowed brightly.
“Who is that?” Moriah asked.
“Amaresh.” Luna said reverently. “That was the day she tried to use the stone of heaven to save Talan tesh from the wrath of the deceiver.”
Moriah reached up to the painting. She didn’t touch it. That was the last thing on her mind.
The blindfolded angel’s expression stoically defied the horror unfolding around her. Flames crackled and hissed as they licked the surface of the flood water.
People screamed in the background as the angel chanted. Her voice a rebellious melody standing in the breech between life and death.
Amaresh turned to face Moriah and smiled.
Moriah jumped back.
Luna was gone.
“Can you see me?” Moriah asked.
Luna emerged from the stacks of books. She stopped and examined Moriah. “Are you alright?”
Moriah had no words. She struggled to make a sound only to hear herself say, “are the paintings alive?”
Luna grinned. “Not always. They move, but sometimes, they take on the life of their subject. Why? Did you see something?”
“Everything.” Moriah said, shaking her head slowly as she dragged her attention from the painting.
Luna flashed a tight but friendly smile. In her arms, she held what appeared to be a book made of glass. She set it gingerly on a nearby table and pulled up two chairs.
“I think you will need one of these.” Luna patted the seat of the chair next to her and waited for Moriah to sit down. “This is a question book. I still love reading them. This one is about history.”
Luna opened the book, but there was nothing in there except for the distorted surface of the table.
“Now, you hold it with both hands, and ask a question.” Luna said.
Moriah grabbed the book with both hands and formulated the perfect question in her mind. But what constituted the perfect question? Should she ask about the covenant she’d heard them talking about last night, or the painting she struggled to drag her attention from?
The glass frosted as if filled with a cold liquid, and words and images appeared as if inscribed on paper.
Tiny figures stood before the stylized form of living mountains. As they moved, the mountains took on an increasingly humanoid figure.
The letters resembled calligraphy from an illuminated manuscript, but she didn't recognize all of them.
She must have had a strange look on her face, because Luna pointed to the offending letters and explained what they were.
With a little practice, Moriah found it easy to read. It was a story of a terrible war against a dragon called Nyx, and how two Giants foresaw a second war coming.
Moriah slumped back in her chair and gazed with amazement at the magical glass book. “I can't believe they were able to cover up all of this.”
Luna smiled. “My father always said, that's why they invented the dark ages, so they can explain the loss of all that history.”
“Everything else before that, they said it was a little more than myth in legend.” Moriah shook her head. “How many people know that this is our actual history?”
“Probably not too many. Lies are easier to spread than a conspiracy is to maintain. Most likely, they believe the lies, and no longer have to work to suppress the truth.”
“And the sad thing is, they would write me off as crazy if I tried to tell anyone about any of this.” Moriah gazed longingly up at the portrait of Amaresh among the flames. “Does this thing have her story in it?”
After reading about the adventures of the blinded angel, Amaresh, for hours, Moriah’s thoughts pressed on her mind. Everything she learned in school was wrong. Well, not wrong, but different in the details. This history showed her a world that she hoped, dreamed, and prayed for all her life. Her muscles tightened in her chest and her blood slid like cold, dull blades in her veins.
Like a silent prayer, she whispered, “what is magic?”
The book responded with three words, “connection and passion.”
Moriah closed the book. Those words were so simple, too simple. It must have hid the genuine answer.
“Luna.” Moriah sighed her name as she failed to let go of her anxiety. “What can I do to ensure that they will let me stay.”
Luna tilted her head to the side and repeated the question to herself. “Just tell them you want to stay, and sign the covenant. I can get you a copy of it if you want to read it.”
“It can't be that simple. No one just offers you the keys to the kingdom without wanting something in return.”
“Please don't take this the wrong way, but what could any of us possibly want from you?”
Moriah blinked a couple times.
“Not to be rude, but it's going to take time for you to learn how to use magic properly, for you to become a member of society in full. Until then, and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but what use would you be to any of us?”
“You see, that's exactly the point. I am of no use to anyone. So, why would they let me stay?”
“Because you wanted to.”
“Really? That's all it would take?”
“And you would have to sign the covenant. I really don't understand why you were having such a hard time understanding this.” Luna scratched absentmindedly over her right eyebrow.
“Because where I come from, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
“I don't understand what you mean by too good to be true. Do you think all of this is too good to be true? This is just our life. This could be your life too, if you want it.”
Moriah stared into Luna’s eyes and watched the fires of life glimmer within them. It was remarkable that she couldn't understand what it meant for something to be too good to be true.
She smiled, but the fear lingered within her that somehow she just wasn't good enough. How could she deserve to live in a place like this?
Luna touched the back of her hand lightly before taking it into her own. “You are safe here, or at least as safe as you can ever be in this life. Don't worry about it. There isn't a test. No one is going to judge you on account of your past.”
What a foreign concept? “Then how exactly will I be judged?”
“Is this some kind of game? What are the rules?”
Moriah leaned back in her chair. Luna really didn't understand her. It wasn't the magic that made this place so strange, but the attitudes of the people here.
Moriah squeezed Luna's hand before withdrawing her own. “No, it's not a game. It's just going to take me a while to let that sink in. I'm not used to being treated, well, I don't exactly know the word for how you're treating me, but it's different.”
“Honestly? I think that might be the word you're looking for. I don't have anything to hide. We don't have anything to hide. So we don't have any need for the lies that you've grown up with.”
The first time she was called a child of the lie, it felt like an insult. It was as if they were saying something bad about her parents and grandparents. She felt like they were judging her.
Now, it appeared so much more descriptive. All of her worries, doubts, insecurities were centered around how she was going to save face in front of the strangers so they would allow her to be one of them. She didn't want them to think she was a fraud.
Maybe she was more of a child of the lie than she ever could've imagined before they pointed it out to her. Every moment of her life, she had to judge the nature of the people in the room, and adjust her behavior to fit in, or at least not to stand out too much.
After a lifetime of worrying about what everyone else thought about her, how was she supposed to just flip a switch and not care anymore? Was it even the right thing to do?
Honestly, how could one simple word change in meaning so much in such a short time? She never thought she was being dishonest, but she rarely let people know too much about her. She changed how she acted so she would be safe, never too loud, never playing into the stereotypes that others expected.
Some of that came easily to her, but she well rehearsed the rest, taught to her by her parents and her friends, who just wanted what was best for her.
It was impossible to believe that life could ever be quite so simple, but she hoped that it could.
The simple, seductive idea that she could just be herself, and not have to look over her shoulders, or worry about who in the room might wish to do her harm, or at the very least wish the worst upon her, was inviting.
Despite all of Luna’s protestations, such a world really did sound way too good to be true.