** If you missed the previous part, please read it here: Enigma – Part 3 **
** If you want to start at the beginning, go here: Enigma – Part 1 **
Sidaniel emerged from the black portal coughing, exhausting billows of soot and acrid fumes.
“Blech!” he coughed as he looked about.
Ahead of him, a corridor stretched out into infinity. Two large signs advertised ‘Aura Disentanglement’ and ‘Ballast Lockers.’ Gidmihr studied the latter sign’s small print.
“Small storage boxes rent for one Silverbarter per two centuries: four per millennium. Pricey, but hey, it’s a monopoly.”
“How’s that relevant to our—”
“Bear with me.” Gidmihr sped down the corridor, trailing smoke. Sidaniel followed him past endless rows of storage lockers, most of them showing a red ‘occupied’ status light.
Here and there, a few green dots split the monotony; other status lights blinked yellow, indicating the imminent return of the stored ballast to its former owner.
Gidmihr stopped at a vacant locker. “Fun fact: Raph averages one intelligent and truthful sentence per day.”
“Intelligent and truthful?”
“Consistently. Today’s gem was ‘Time is a construct affecting only mortal minds.’” Gidmihr magicked four gleaming Silverbarters from thin air.
Sidaniel stiffened. “Where, in Judgement’s name, did you get these?”
Gidmihr glanced at the coins. “Can’t remember. Maybe I found them on the floor somewhere, sometime?”
“You expect me to believe you found not one, but four Silverbarters on the floor?”
“I said maybe.”
“Irrelevant,” Gidmihr snapped. “Now listen. The soul can’t go back. And it can’t go on. Agreed?”
“Not without major—”
“Bla bla bla. Whatever. That leaves one option, no?” He turned to the locker. “It. Needs. To. Stay.” With each word, Gidmihr fed a Silverbarter to the locker’s coin slot, and its door sprung open.
“Ohhh no. No. No. No. You can’t possibly lock a soul within a ballast box!”
Ignoring him, Gidmihr popped the sphere in the locker. “Sure can. See? Fits perfectly,” he said, motioning to the setup with a victorious gesture.
Sidaniel bristled. “Maybe you can. But you should not. This is torture of…unprecedented wickedness.”
“Aww, thank you, Sid!” Gidmihr beamed. “But, unfortunately, it’s not. Time exists, but—as Raph reminded us so eloquently today—only affects mortals. This soul isn’t mortal anymore. No pain, no foul. So, unless you have another plan…?”
“I….” A cold breeze seemed to graze Sidaniel’s arms, and he shivered. He had no different or better solution. He was, quite simply, out of ideas.
“Didn’t think so.” Gidmihr slammed the locker shut. The bang rang in Sidaniel’s ears. “Next payment is on you. I suggest you find yourself four Silverbarters. Tick-tock, tick-tock. A thousand years go by like this.” Gidmihr snapped his fingers, smirked, and vanished into smoky nothingness.
Sidaniel’s feathers stood on end as he watched the chaos agent’s fumes disperse. He felt weak inside, as if some part had been chipped off and was now forever lost. He had failed. Enigma or not, this soul deserved better.
Sidaniel raised his palm to the locker’s upper left corner. A blazing light erupted and when he withdrew his hand, an ornately calligraphed E gleamed there, its outlines slowly fading. For now, this was all he could do to recognize the special contents of this storage box.
“I won’t forget. I’ll do better,” Sidaniel vowed, and stepped into thin air.
After her theatrical departure, Angel Laquiela had shrouded herself into her strongest mirror mist and returned to watch her junior council members’ struggle.
The challenge mattered, even if the danger wasn’t real. The myth of an Enigma’s destructible force had been carefully cultivated for two reasons. One was to test an angel’s character before promoting them.
As expected, Sidaniel and Gidmihr had worked the case together, opposing allegiances aside. Of course, the solution they came up with weighed harder on Sidaniel. Laquiela wished she could ease his mind now, but each angel had to find their own path. At their own pace. She could only wait, patiently, for Sid to find her. She wasn’t concerned for Gidmihr. He had probably forgotten about the affair already.
After Sidaniel’s departure, Laquiela stepped from her mist and placed a hand over the E he had left behind. Its lines had faded but the conflict and pain remained. The locker door opened to her touch. Carefully, almost tenderly, she picked up the crystal ball.
“Welcome home,” she said, smiling at the face in the sphere. The appearance of an Enigma was the first event in a new angels’ origin, and it had been a long time since the last one. Raphizal had come out on the Netherworld’s side. Maybe this one would turn out differently. “Let’s get you to recruitment. I can’t wait to see you in your wings,” she said.
Before she left, Laquiela placed a solved puzzle cube into the locker and resealed it. In time, Sidaniel would know to find her.