Not at all times have been so bold

In the brown book in my sabretache there was the tale of an angel who, coming to Urth on some petty mission or other, was struck by a child’s arrow and died. With her gleaming robes all dyed by her heart’s blood even as the boulevards were stained by the expiring life of the sun, she encountered Gabriel himself. His sword blazed in one hand, his great two-headed ax swung in the other, and across his back, suspended on the rainbow, hung the very battle horn of Heaven. “Where wend you, little one,” asked Gabriel, “with your breast more scarlet than the robin’s?” “I am killed,” the angel said, “and I return to merge my substance once more with the Pancreator. “Do not be absurd. You are an angel, a pure spirit, and cannot die.” “But I am dead,” said the angel, “nevertheless.” You have observed the wasting of my blood – do you not observe also that it no longer issues in straining spurtings, but only seeps sluggishly? Note the pallor of my countenance. Is not the touch of an angel warm and bright? Take my hand and you will imagine you hold a horror new dragged from some stagnant pool. Taste my breath – is it not fetid, foul, and nidorous?” Gabriel answered nothing, and at last the angel said, “Brother and better, even if I have not convinced you with all my proofs, I pray you stand aside. I would rid the universe of my presence.” “I am convinced indeed,” Gabriel said, stepping from the other’s way. “It is only that I was thinking that had I known we might perish, I would not at all times have been so bold.”

– Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer

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