Over the course of the next few days, Azel was trapped in the little room at the top of the church. Each day, Father Kane would come to her to talk. She didn't mind the conversations that they had, Father Kane would always invite her to talk about whatever was on her mind, and allowed Azel to do most of the talking. It wasn't so bad, but there was something about the way that Father Kane listened that made her a little uncomfortable. She talked about her home, about the Yanata and their simple life in their little valley. She talked about the struggle she'd had about her decision to leave, and the arguments that she'd held with herself about it.

All the while, Father Kane listened, and there was something slightly unsettling about the way he listened. While she talked he smiled with quiet patience, but also with a slight pinch to his brow. Whenever she talked about her home and her people, that same small crease on his brow appeared, and she could tell that he wasn't quite sure about what she was telling him. So she stopped, and instead asked him questions about life in Resin. He seemed surprised that she wanted to know anything about Resin, or the way of life that they'd made for themselves. He answered her questions of course, but each time he would ply her with his own questions about her.

The questions became more and more uncomfortable, and less and less patient. She wasn't sure what it was that he wanted to know, but even though she answered his questions as best she could, it was clear that he was unsatisfied with what he heard.

It wasn't until he started asking her about Borland that she started to realise that he'd been expecting for her to talk about him. Azel had no idea what to do, as she truthfully had no information to give, but at the same time she didn't want to do or say anything that might upset him.

When Father Kane wasn't up in her room talking with her, Azel was left alone for most of the day. Her only company was that of herself, staring out the window at the people below, and occasionally Gar would come up the stairs to bring her food.

After the initial fright had worn off, Azel had grown to quite like Gar. He was quiet and gentle, taking extreme care with each step he took and with every move he made to do so without disturbing anything. With his substantial size and rippling muscles across his arms and powerful legs, he could have easily put a hole in the wall just by turning around too fast. He was always very timid around her too, as though he was afraid that she would be frightened of him again. But each day Azel smiled at him when he arrived with a full plate of food, and he smiled too, in the strange way that his oddly shaped face would allow.

On the eighth day, Azel sat by the window, leaning on the windowsill and staring down at the people going about their daily lives. She'd learned a lot about their routine throughout her stay, and was able to discern quite a lot about what they were doing just by watching. She'd guessed when she'd first seen the fields of neatly arranged plants, that they were for food. Back in the valley, there'd never been any need for anyone to purposely place plants anywhere to harvest them. The hanging-belly fruit grew wild at the edge of the forest, and whenever anyone was hungry they simply took any fruit that was ripe. So it was a strange and exciting concept for Azel to discover when she watched these people purposefully plant their crops in neat lines in an empty field, and take all the food from another field of fully grown plants. She wondered why they needed so much food. Surely there was more than enough to feed everyone in the village. But of course Azel had no concept of ideas such as money, trade, or even winter. The ebb and flow of the seasons was not something that ever reached the mountaintop valley, and therefore the weather was always good for green and growing things.

Her wings were itching terribly as she sat there. In the small room she barely had enough space to stretch her wings out to their full length, which helped her restlessness a little bit, but it wasn't enough. She wanted to fly. She needed to fly. She'd never gone so long without flying ever before, and she could feel her muscles twitching with the need to exercise.

She heard Gar coming up the stairs. It was impossible to miss hearing Gar approaching, since every step he made up those wooden stairs sent them squealing in protest to announce his arrival. The door clicked open, and he carefully manoeuvred himself through the doorway that was too small for him, and stepped inside to place another plate on the floor by Azel's bed of straw. He smiled at her, and turned to leave just as he always did.

"Please don't go," said Azel softly. The beast stopped at the doorway, and turned his head to peer at her over his shoulder. She stood up and walked carefully over to him. She was still scared of him a little, mostly because of his intimidating size, but she knew without a shadow of a doubt that there was no malice or violence in him.

"I'm alone here," she said. "I'd like it very much if you would stay with me, just for a little while."

She reached out with both hands to tentatively take his one massive hand. He watched with quite puzzled patience, and let himself be led over to the far wall, where she beckoned him to sit down. He carefully lowered himself down to the floor, but the floor boards still creaked with each step, and he landed on the floor with a thump. Even when he was sitting down, Azel was dwarfed by his size. Father Kane was a head and shoulders taller than her, and Gar was head and shoulders taller than him. That meant that when Azel stood next to the sitting form of Gar, the top of her head didn't even reach his shoulders.

She stood carefully beside him. She was still nervous of being so close to him, but he watched her every movement, and was careful to make sure that he didn't hurt her. She reached up and felt the rough fur on his arm. Her fingers dug into the warm and surprising softness. She stroked the fur, examined his patterns with childish curiosity. Gar let her be, and watched with contented patience.

After a while, Azel climbed up onto one of Gar's crossed legs, and was then tall enough to reach his face. She examined the tufts of hair on his cheeks, touched and stroked his long ears, all the while with Gar turning his head obediently as Azel satisfied her curiosity.

A few minutes later, Gar found himself holding a sleepy Azel in the crook of his arm. She snuggled close to his warm fur and closed her eyes. Gar lifted his spare arm, and with such infinite tender care, he gently touched the feathers of her wings, gently stroking down her back.

He purred gently and carefully held the now sleeping Azel in one arm. Before long he leaned his head back against the wall, and fell asleep as well.

It was a beautiful day, and Father Kane was doing his best to enjoy and appreciate it. He hadn't been able to get a lot of sleep over the past week, because of all the excitement over the young girl's arrival. He stood on the steps leading to the door of the church, so that he could face the sunset and give thanks to Borland for such a prosperous and fruitful day.

"Hello, Father," said Conan. He approached the foot of the stairs and stood patiently to one side. Father Kane sighed inwardly, but forced a smile anyway.

"Good evening, Conan. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Have you talked with it today, Father?"

Conan was a very tall, thin, and severe looking man. Most men in Resin chose to let their hair grow long each winter, and only cutting it short in the spring. The same went with their whiskers, it was something that the men did only occasionally, not caring so much about their outward appearance, so long as it was clean and properly maintained. Conan, on the other hand, chose to shave his head every single day, despite the fact that he was capable of growing a full head of hair. He always let his beard grow though, even though he kept it trimmed short. It always made people wonder and whisper about him, even from the start, but Conan didn't seem to mind. In fact, Father Kane was under the distinct impression that Conan enjoyed the attention.

"I do wish you'd stop referring to our guest as 'it', Conan," said Father Kane. "Even if you doubt her divinity, you can at the very least refer to her as 'she'."

". . . I will try, Father," said Conan, but he didn't look like he really would.

Father Kane didn't like Conan. The main reason for this was because Conan had a tendency to be a cruel and unforgiving man. He was the one in charge of judging and residing over any transgressions that happened in the village, and doling out appropriate punishments. It was necessary work, and truth be told Conan did it extremely well. But the problem was that he also seemed to enjoy it, which was part of the reason why everyone in the village preferred to have nothing to do with him if they didn't have to.

But not only that, Conan had a tendency to interpret the history of Resin differently than Father Kane. As Keeper, Father Kane was charged with the maintaining and recording of the village's story and history. He was the spiritual leader of Resin, and thus their guide and interpreter of Borland's will. It had been a position he'd inherited from his father, who'd inherited it from his father, and his father before him. In fact, the position of Keeper could be traced back all the way back through Father Kane's family line right up to Tobias Kane, the first Keeper, and the one who had led their people through the desert after they'd been struck down by Borland.

From their history, the village Keeper was charged with reminding the people of their purpose, and their sacred charge: to work, and provide for themselves, just as Borland had commanded. There were other stories to tell as well, events through their history that developed as time went on and the village grew, and with each story was a lesson to be taught. The Keeper's job was to interpret those stories into lessons that applied to the people, so that any mistakes of their past would not be repeated in the future.

Father Kane's interpretations and lessons, along with those of his family before him, had been centred on the theme of redemption and forgiveness. The fact that Borland had told them directly the course of action they must take to be granted his forgiveness made this easy, and Father Kane always tried to preserve this message in a positive, and loving way. Conan, however, always seemed to learn very . . . different lessons from the stories.

"I have not talked with her today, Conan," said Kane. "Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering if you've reconsidered my suggestions, Father."

"I have not reconsidered. What you suggest is awful, and not only that it is blasphemous."

"But she has not proven herself yet, has she, Father?" said Conan. "You've said as much that she doesn't even seem to know who Borland is. That on its own should be proof enough!"

Father Kane sighed. Despite what everyone might think about Conan, he was the most devout and faithful of all. He attended every sermon without fail, sitting at the very front of the church every time.

"The fact she has WINGS should be proof enough for YOU!" Father Kane snapped. He was starting to lose his patience, which was something that happened fairly regularly when Conan was talking to him.

"But Father, remember the legend of the faithless," Conan urged, leaning forward. He was whispering now, and for good reason. People were passing by on their daily chores, and the faithless was a subject that about as controversial as could possibly be. Father Kane hushed him into silence, and craned his head to make sure no one had heard. Then he grabbed Conan by the shoulder and practically dragged him inside the church, and making sure to close the door firmly behind them.

"I told you I did not want to talk or hear about that ridiculous legend ever again!" Father Kane said in a harsh whisper. His finger waved angrily in Conan's face, but as always Conan was impassive and patient. "It is nothing more than that! There's no evidence to suggest that such an event ever happened."

"Until now," said Conan coolly. Kane sighed again with exasperation and was forced to turn away and rub his temples. Talking with Conan always resulted in a headache for him. Borland knew that it wasn't his fault, he was just trying to do his own part in carrying out Borland's divine will. It was just a shame he was so misguided.

"I told you, she has wings, Conan," said Kane with forced patience.

"And yet she has no knowledge of Borland. If she truly were one of Borland's faithful, whom he had spared when the rest of us were struck down, then she would have seen him, basked in his presence, or at the very least been told of him by her family and others of the faithful in the sky palace."

Father Kane hesitated. This was something that had been bothering him for the last few days. In all of his conversations with the girl, she had not said a single word about Borland, like he'd been expecting. She hadn't even mentioned the sky palace, but instead talked about a valley inside a mountain, as if such a thing could ever be possible!

"There is no question that it . . . she is one of Borland's first children," Conan went on softly. "But if she does not know Borland, if she's never even heard of him, then how could she possibly be one of the faithful, or for that matter, one of his divine messengers."

Father Kane was getting anxious now, as for once Conan's argument was actually starting to make sense. He'd been waiting, expecting without any doubt to hear from the girl about Borland, about his message of deliverance, but he'd listened in vain. His doubts had grown, and now so was his dread as the impossible conclusion arose that Conan might just be right.

"And if she's not one of the faithful . . ." he said.

"Then she's one of the faithless," said Conan in quiet triumph. "The story says that not all of our people were struck down, because that's how we know the faithful exist. But what if there were others who should have been struck down, but in reality escaped their fate, and hid from Borland's wrath, with their wings intact, and living in perpetual sin?"

This was the source of a long-standing argument between the two of them. The legend had come about over a hundred and fifty years ago, not long after the first were stricken down, and were led to this place to build their home. Tobias' son, the second keeper, had read and re-read his father's account of the events, and postulated a theory about the faithless. He was admonished by his elderly father when he first told him, but after Tobias died, he brought his ideas forward to the rest of the people. He received a mixed reaction, and in the end decided to forget about it, and never speak of it again. But it had been too late. His theory had been heard, and then whispered about, and then openly discussed as a plausible idea. Over the years it became legend, and since then Keepers have forbidden its discussion, due to its highly volatile nature.

But now, after almost two centuries, a winged girl had arrived in their village, offering no proof that she had any knowledge of Borland. That left only one possible explanation.

"You may be right," said Father Kane, reluctantly. Conan closed his eyes as smiled a small smile of vindicated satisfaction.

"Thank you, Father," he said softly.

"But that doesn't mean that we need to do anything quite so . . . barbaric as you suggest," Father Kane said. "Regardless of what her ancestors may have done, she is innocent."

Conan opened his eyes again, and stared at Father Kane. He was a frightening sight. The sun had well and truly set now, and the moonlight was shining in through the stain glass windows to bathe the two of them in ghostly, almost otherworldly light. In this setting, with the light reflecting off his shaved head, and from his wide, blue eyes, he looked like a terrifying creature.

"Are we innocent?" he said in his same, soft and gentle voice. "What have we done to anger Borland? Nothing. It is our forefathers who brought about his wrath, and yet we, and all of their descendants that came before us, are still being punished for their sins. We carry the sins of our fathers on our shoulders. So does she. The sins of her ancestors are laid down upon her, and yet she does nothing, nothing, to redeem herself, or seek forgiveness."

"But we can't do this," Kane protested. "It's far too cruel."

"We must carry out Borland's will, Father. If we remain true to the will of Borland, then one day he will return, see what we have done, and be pleased. If we suffer this girl to remain unpunished, then we will only disappoint Borland once more, and never receive our divine reward."

Father Kane's head was spinning. It had been a long week, and if truth were told he'd been having similar thoughts, although not quite as cruel or menacing ones, as he stared up at his ceiling on late sleepless nights. Now, the truth that he's been unable, or perhaps unwilling, to see was laid out before him as clear as ever. He felt like he wanted to cry.

"Very well," he whispered, too distraught to do more. "We'll carry it out tonight."

Conan put a fraternal hand on his shoulder, and Kane couldn't help but shudder at the touch.

"Fear not, Father," said Conan. "We're doing the right thing."