Forgotten Angel

Chapter Four

Lyra was surprised at how leisurely of a traveler Father Malachi was. Every morning he let her wake up on her own, ate an unrushed breakfast, stopped for lunch, then set up camp when they came to a spot that had an unusual tree or pretty flowers growing. Oddly enough, Lyra wasn't annoyed by this at all. Even though her main goal was to see the major cities, she found herself enjoying the scenery they traveled through. Her ears became more acute to the sounds of water or birds, so that she would be able to point in a direction for them to explore. They always drifted back to the road though, because as Malachi said, their goal was to end up in a city eventually.

As a result, it took them awhile to travel anywhere. In the first week they passed a small town like the one Lyra had come from, and Malachi arranged for them to stay the night there in the church. One of the advantages to being a priest, Malachi had explained, was that there were always warm beds waiting for him everywhere he went. Lyra never saw him asleep. After she laid down each night, he would get up and disappear somewhere, then when she woke up his mat would already be packed.

Once she asked him where he went every night, and with sparkling eyes and a secret smile, Malachi had answered, "To say my personal prayers, of course."

Lyra wondered why he had to vanish to pray. If he had offered, she would have gladly started to pray with him. But she got used to his unusual quirks, and it wasn't long before she opened up and started pouring out her heart to him.

"Does that count as a confession?" Lyra asked. "You are a priest."

"Yes, I think it does." Malachi smiled. "Forgive me for saying this, but I think that was the best sin I've ever heard."

"Well I hated her. She was supposed to be my teacher, but all she ever did was belittle me. She deserved it."

"I admire your creativity."

Lyra couldn't help but smirk. "She almost lost her job, because by the end of the week the town had become convinced that she was a habitual drunk."

"As a man of God though, I advise you to repent and vow to never seek revenge on someone again. Just as you didn't realize the effect that your actions would have, she failed to realize the extent of the impact of her words. What she needed was for her fallacies to be forgiven, not punished."

Frowning, Lyra tried to push away the feeling of guilt. She had felt it before, when she watched her teacher tearfully explain that she did not drink alcohol and that she did not know why she was waking up inebriated. Father Malachi was right, but she did not want to acknowledge that her actions had been wrong.

"Look." Putting a hand on Lyra's shoulder, Malachi pointed at the horizon. "A town. It looks like it'll be a big one too. I bet that there will be a hotel for us to stay in."

"Aren't we going to stay at a church though? That wouldn't cost any money."

Malachi shrugged. "I feel like staying in a hotel."

"For a priest, you seem awfully secular sometimes."

"Only on occasion. I can't preach all the time, lest I start spouting false doctrine."

Lyra giggled. "I guess that's right. Well Father Malachi, lets hurry up for once. I want to get to town before nightfall."

"Didn't I tell you that you didn't need to use my title?"

"Why would you tell me something like that anyway? Aren't people in the church supposed to be obsessed with their ranks and titles? I called Father Tristan 'brother' once, and he was quick to correct me."

"I suppose I'm rather unique, but I don't want to be placed above my friend and traveling companion by having an extra word placed in front of my name."

"Malachi . . ." Lyra said slowly. "That's just too weird. I'm calling you Father."

"All right, Father Malachi it is then, as long as you don't act like I'm forcing you to call me that."

"No, of course not. So what are hotels like?"

"They're big buildings, with many different rooms for people to stay in. You'll see, soon enough."

Lyra nodded as her heart pounded. Suddenly she was nervous. "Are the people going to be friendly?"

"I can't say. I've never been to this town before. I hope they will be."

"What if they're mean and they tell us to leave?"

"Then we'll walk right on through and continue traveling. We don't need to try to stay somewhere that we're not wanted."

"I think that sounds good."

But as the sun sunk lower in the sky and they drew nearer to the town, Lyra couldn't fight the anxiety. It was big. There were a lot of buildings, and so many people moving around. Watching her in amusement, Malachi commented that the town was nothing compared to a city, let alone one of the major cities, and Lyra stuck her tongue out at him for saying that. When they passed the first building, Lyra reached over and grabbed Malachi's sleeve. He shook her off, then wrapped his hand around hers.

"Excuse me," Father Malachi called out to a woman nearby. "Can you direct me to a hotel?"

She stopped and looked at him. "Don't you want a church instead?"

"No. I want to get my daughter a room at the hotel. Where is it?"

The woman pointed. "Down that way."

"Thank you."

"I'm not your daughter," Lyra said.

"If I'm a Father, then how are you not my daughter?"

"Oh, you meant it that way. I don't think that woman realized what you meant because of how you phrased it, and you're holding my hand with your left so she couldn't see your celibacy ring."

"Lyra, I think you're tired. Why else would you be so fixated on what that woman thought?"

Lyra suddenly found herself blushing. "I am sleepy," she muttered.

"If you don't mind, after you settle in at the hotel, I'm going to the church to introduce myself to the clergy members."

"You don't want me to come?"

"I want you to rest your tired brain. My beautiful child, sleep is essential for all of us."

But sleep would not come. Sitting at the window alone in her room, Lyra stared outside at the moon. She was tired, but she wasn't. She didn't know how to explain it. Perhaps it was because she was in a new place that her mind wanted to keep moving while her body wanted to stop.

Sitting down on the floor, Lyra pulled on her shoes. She would walk around a little bit, exploring enough to ease her curiosity before returning. Besides, Father Malachi had been gone for awhile, and she was sure that she would get back before him.

Opening up the door, she stepped out of her room and crept down the hall. It was a beautiful night, bathed in the bluish hue of a full moon. Lyra was instantly caught up in the wonder of the air, and she craned her neck backwards to look at the stars. Even though they always appeared the same, Lyra loved the beautiful sparkling blanket that covered the earth at night. Turning left, she started wandering down the street.

A shadow detached itself from the side of a building after Lyra passed it and moved in the same direction she was. Lyra wondered if the man was out for a stroll like she was, or if he was heading home to his family. Looking back, Lyra saw a black shape walking next to the first. So he had a friend with him. She was sure that he was heading somewhere specific then. They were walking faster than she was, so they had to have a target.

Someone tightly grabbed Lyra's arm, causing her to jump and scream.

"Lyra! What are you doing?"

"Oh, Father!" Lyra laughed sheepishly. "I couldn't sleep, so I decided to take a walk."

"Don't you ever do this again! Don't ever go anywhere by yourself! Understand?"

Lyra hesitated. Malachi was angry at her. "I don't understand."

"Those men are still following you."

"Huh?" Lyra turned to look at them, but Malachi yanked her to face forward again. "Following me? But they could just be going home."

"Don't be so stupid and trusting."

Lyra recoiled as if Malachi had hit her.

"Not everyone in this world is good. Although I can protect you from the devils who wander the earth, I can do nothing to protect you from them. It is impossible to fight a human and still be a servant of God and Heaven."

"I'm sorry." Lyra swallowed back the tears that were on the verge of spilling out. "I didn't think that I would be in any danger."

"We have to avoid those men and get back to the hotel."

"Why can't we just turn around and walk past them?"

"Because they might pull out weapons on us."

"Oh." A new sense of fear bubbled up inside Lyra. They really were in danger. "How are we going to get away?"

"Walk faster," Malachi ordered.

Lyra skipped as Malachi increased his pace, then looked back. "They're speeding up too."

Malachi broke into a run, dragging Lyra by the arm and moving so fast that she couldn't catch her breath. Turning a sharp corner, he pushed her into a wall then pressed himself against her, clenching his jaw as he watched the road. His fingers dug at the wall as the two figures moved past, turned around and peered down the side of the building, then moved past.

Letting out a deep breath, Malachi whispered, "We might be safe now."

Lyra nodded as best she could. She could feel Malachi's heart pounding in his chest, and it seemed that hers wasn't moving at all. He stepped back and grabbed her hand, pulling her back into the street and swiftly walking toward the hotel.

It wasn't until they were back in Lyra's room that Malachi spoke again. "I'm sorry."

Lyra looked down, unsure of what to say.

"Please forgive me for being so harsh with you. I was scared that you would get hurt, and I would never be able to live with myself is I allowed something to happen to you."

"What would they have done?"

"You'd rather not know. I'd rather not think about it."

"Why did they keep following us after you showed up?"

"Well . . . some time ago I realized that to an intoxicated person, I look like a flat chested woman. They probably thought I was just a girl, and at this hour it would take a large group of women to deter men like that."

"I didn't know it was so dangerous."

Malachi pulled Lyra into a hug and sighed. "We're all right, and that's what is important."

A/N: Again, unedited. Yay!