Angari has carried Zach to the edge of the Barrier Wood where eagles have been seen, spying on the fallowfolk and hunting small game. They spend the night a short distance away…
Zach woke just before daylight. Angari handed him another loaf of waybread and a flask of water. The Alari’s thoughts came to him, “We found a clump of bushes in which you can hide while we capture the eagles. You will be far enough from the Wood to watch, but under cover so as not be seen. Be sure to keep your sunglasses in your pocket. The light is dim here in any case so you shouldn’t need them.”
Angari was right. By sun up Zach was safely hidden in the bushes a short distance from the Wood. The day was as bright as a day on earth, but not so bright as to hurt his eyes as it usually was in Windfallow. He saw Angari and the other Alari position themselves above the Wood waiting for an eagle. They did not have long to wait. A single huge bird appeared in the sky just to their west. It soared over the meadow beyond and Zach knew it was hunting small game.
He watched as Angari flew toward it, remembering that Alari were invisible to creatures of earth. But suddenly the eagle, which had been flying at some height above, stooped and dived directly at Angari. The move was so unexpected Angari had no time to dodge the plummeting eagle. The blow knocked Angari from the sky and he fell heavily to the ground a few yards from where Zach was hiding.
Zach started to run to him but the Alari’s thoughts came in loud and clear. “Stay there! I am not hurt, just winded. There’s something wrong. That eagle saw me! How can that be?” Zach could sense his mind working. “Wait. They must be controlled by demons.”
Movement above him suddenly caught Zach’s attention. Dozens of eagles were swirling above the Barrier Wood. The other Alari had dropped to the cover of the trees, and their thoughts were flying back and forth to Angari even as the Alari feigned death. He heard Angari’s call for more assistance and a swarm of tiny Alari settled on the bushes around Zach.
Angari mindspoke again, “I must lie here while we talk so the eagle will believe he has killed me. Listen closely. These birds are either demons themselves or they are controlled by them. We cannot hope to win this battle in our own strength. You who are hiding in the Wood size down and join those in the bushes around Zach.”
There were immediately dozens more Alari in the bushes. Angari’s thoughts came again. “Now, all of you take a position where you can touch Zach and each other. We must pray for the Maker’s strength to fight this enemy. When that has been done, rise just to the underside of the top branches of the Wood. Now, let’s pray.”
Alari arranged themselves in small circles on Zach’s head, shoulders, knees—anywhere there was room—and now the prayers streamed to Heaven. Zach was aware of the power of the prayers the Alari raised and added his own, marveling again that the mighty Maker was his own God.
Though the Alari did not change size, they began to glow with the brilliance Zach had seen only when the Great Bells rang in unison. It was as though tiny fires were burning all over Zach. He closed his eyes to shield them from the brilliance and though he did not see the Alari dim down and rise to the treetops, he felt their absence and opened his eyes.
All he could see was Angari lying in the meadow. The other Alari had completely disappeared. He strained to see them in the trees, but they were too small and too well hidden to detect.
Then, Zach saw Angari stand and launch himself back into the sky. The eagle had been watching and immediately flew to close with the Alari, screaming defiance. Now Angari let his true nature be seen. Glistening wings and shining white garments equaled the sun in brilliance. The trees themselves exploded in fire as the other Windfallow angels rose to meet the challenge. Zach hurriedly put on his amber glasses, praying as he had never prayed before.
The eagles that had been circling above faltered before the onslaught of light. Then, as though goaded by some inner command, they attacked the Alari. They tried to gang up on individuals, but each angel attached himself to one bird and evened out the fight. Zach could not understand why the Alari did not overpower the eagles. The birds were slashing at the faces and arms of their opponents and were growing in size and power. Zach could stand it no longer. He jumped from the bushes and cried aloud. “Help us, God! We need all your strength!”
And for the second time in his life, Zach saw the archangels standing at the four compass points. They stood many times higher than the tallest tree and their wings spread so far they almost touched the one standing on either corner. A great shout arose from the archangels and Zach saw the eagles collapse like pinpricked balloons. A small black cloud rose from the wood and was snuffed out by the breath of the four great angels. At that moment the four disappeared. Only the Alari remained and each held the limp body of an eagle.