S.W.A.K. - The Couriers

By Diane J. Donaldson


Gabriel turned to the Ofanite, eyes blazing with flame.

"You will be my messenger, little wheel. Will you take my message and keep it safe until it is time? WILL YOU?" She reached for his face.

Nodding, the Ofanite closed his eyes as Gabriel leaned towards him, and he began to feel a heat that he had never imagined -- how could he? Fire had always been his friend. Her kiss was pain and molten flame and something else that flickered and vanished between them. He felt her withdraw, and as tears streamed down his face, he opened his eyes to see her tired, her fires banked. She turned and left without another word.

He knew what he would see when he next looked in the mirror -- the imprint of her lips on his forehead, a mark that would set him apart from his kindred, perhaps forever.

"I'd better invest in a few hats," he thought to himself, wiping away his tears.

An Ofanite of Fire who receives Gabriel's special kiss is known as a Courier by other Servitors of Fire. Three or four may be so marked every fifty years; there are less than a hundred altogether. Though Ofanim are normally immune to all of Fire's effects, the giving of the kiss burns. This may be why Gabriel only marks Ofanim -- perhaps they are the only one of her choirs that could withstand such heat.

The mark is visible somewhere on any form the angel takes, though it can be hidden. If a Courier's vessel is possessed by another being, the mark fades quickly, reappearing only when the Courier is again in residence. On a human vessel it looks like scar tissue from an old burn; on animal vessels it is burnt fur or feathers -- and it is always on the face. On an Ofanite's celestial form it shows as a small dark spot on one of its rings.

No one is certain what secrets Gabriel is passing on to her Ofanim, but Soldekai has several guesses. Perhaps they are memories or important knowledge that Gabriel is afraid to lose in her madness -- when she regains her sanity, they can be retrieved. Or perhaps they are messages that will be triggered when the Ofanite meets the right individual. What Soldekai has begun to suspect and fear is that they are divine prophecies -- that Gabriel has begun to censor herself in some cases, to refuse her role as a heavenly prophet. Although Soldekai is certain that she must have good and sufficient reason for doing so -- if that is indeed what she is doing -- he wonders what a prophecy might contain that could drive her to withhold it. And what if Gabriel has begun to receive prophecies not only from God, but from ... elsewhere? It does not bear thinking about. Yet.

Soldekai does take comfort in the fact that after marking one of her own, Gabriel becomes calmer, more sane, as if a great weight had been lifted from her.

Not many on either side know of the Couriers. Belial would love to get his hands on one, but so far he has been thwarted. Couriers are generally cautious beings (for Ofanim, anyway) -- they carry something of great importance to their Mistress, even if they have no idea what it is.


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