I know he feels protective of Lidia, but it may be more important to mention that feather.
"Okay." Nathan swallowed another bite of lunch before he continued. "I'll cut to the chase: I think Gula was wearing one of your feathers in her hair."
Alton very nearly choked on the sip of water he'd just taken. "She what?"
The writer winced. "She was wearing a black feather in her hair when I saw her. I'm pretty sure it was one of yours, unless there's some other reason she could have been wearing it..."
"Doubtful." Alton rubbed his temples. "I'd wondered how she'd managed a human form, being severed from her host. I couldn't imagine she'd somehow gotten another one; doing that requires... never mind." He shook his head and sighed, smiling uneasily. "Please tell me she didn't look much different than she did at the factory, when you first saw her."
"No, not much, just less... piggy." Nathan tried to smile back. "I'm guessing the Sins can't take human form on their own?"
"No, except for Superbia and, on occasion, Invidia. They are the most powerful of the sisters, after all." Alton put down his fork and ran his fingers through his hair. "Well, so much for them not getting a hold of some of my magic. At least the feather is weak and Gula is not exactly the smartest of the seven. With the feather's magic used to give her human form, it will be of little use to any of the others. It's power will have been drained."
Nathan let out a sigh of relief. "Well that's good. Still, what do you think she's up to? You think she's trying to get Gloria back as a host?"
Alton hummed, pressing his fingers together. "I don't know. She may just be clinging to her because of familiarity. She could still be helping Superbia. We'll just have to wait and see." He frowned. "Nathan, I've been thinking lately about Pride's motives, and I'm beginning to have some doubts. The more I consider it, the less sense it makes." He removed his glasses. "You remember how I mentioned she has tried to rise against me before?"
"Yeah." Nathan raised an eyebrow. "You think Avaritia was mistaken?"
"No, I'm sure that's what she's up to. But I don't think it was her idea." The angel's eyes narrowed. "Pride is Pride because she already believes she's the best. The only reason she ever plays these power games with me is because someone has convinced her otherwise."
The writer sat for a moment, mulling over what he was suggesting. "But... who would? One of the other Sins?"
"No. They are set in their natures and won't act outside of them."
The way he said it, Nathan wondered if he already had someone in mind. "Well," he said carefully, worried there was a reason he was being roundabout. "Who could?"
Alton closed his eyes. "Another angel."
"An... an angel, like the one who attacked you yesterday?"
"That's one possibility. But there are two more."
Nathan stared at him, picking up on what he was implying. "Alton," he drawled, almost laughing. "You don't really think Micah or Gabriel would have done this, do you?"
"I wouldn't rule it out." The angel opened his eyes and stared earnestly at him again. "Remember, Biblically speaking, they are my enemies. We have a measure of free will compared to the Sins, but not enough to go against that. They may not want to interfere with my game and take me down like this, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't."
"I don't think I've ever heard anything so stupid." Nathan could barely believe Alton was even making this suggestion, and that laugh finally escaped. "I'll give you that the Bible makes you enemies, but this? Have you forgotten how freaked out they were over the condition of your wings? And I don't think they'd try to get the evil that you control to overthrow you because, let's face it, if the Sins succeed, who's going to control them?" He shook his head. "If you're so worried, why don't you ask them directly? Neither of them can lie, after all."
"No, but they can deceive." The smile Nathan had kept vanished with the serious look Alton gave him. "You mistake an inability to lie with an inability to be dishonest. There are more forms of deception than simply speaking. They can be just as evasive, deceptive, and manipulative as I can. They simply cannot give you any information that is wholly false. Never assume that, just because most angels cannot lie, they cannot trick you." By now, Alton's cheeks and eyes were very red, the idea that the other two might be working against him clearly distressing.
Still, Nathan wasn't convinced. "I still doubt it," he told him, trying to keep his voice calm, for his sake. "And look, we already know there's another angel here without explanation. If I were to make a bet, I'd say that Raphael is the one that put the Sins up to this. Just because we only just saw him yesterday doesn't mean he wasn't here sooner. Maybe he was here before you sealed Virtue off, and you didn't sense him because you didn't think to look for him. I think you're getting worked up over nothing, Lumiel."
Alton calmed a little, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "Maybe," he conceded. "But I completely forgot about a legitimate reason he could be here. I should have timed my game differently, but I forgot to take into account the possibility that it would run into December. Because of Gabriel's role in Christianity, and the sanctity Christians have placed on that month, he is relieved of his duties as Death starting on the first." He frowned. "Without an angel of death within the barrier, another would have to be drawn in to fill the void. Divine obligation and belief override my powers, no matter how strong. In five days, Gabriel will be on holiday, and someone else has to take up Death's responsibilities. Raphael is perfectly suited to the task, despite our personal differences. He was probably the nearest angel of death and, recognizing my work, has decided to use the opportunity to get a few jabs in at me in the meantime." He drew a deep breath, then buried his head in his hands. "This is chaos beyond my orchestrations, and I don't like it."
Nathan felt a tug on his sleeve. Lidia looked at him with a tiny pout, her brows knotted tightly. They'd been talking without regard to her sitting there, and hadn't been signing anything for her to understand."Why is he sad?" the child asked with her hands. "Is something wrong? Is he hurt?"
"No," Nathan signed to her with a sigh. "He's frightened."
"He's afraid he's been betrayed."
Lidia pouted even more, turning to Alton and rubbing his shoulder. She whined, trying to get his attention, but he only looked up briefly before he buried his head again. Lidia's little lip began to tremble as she turned to Nathan again. "How can we cheer him up?" she asked.
Nathan drew a deep breath. He wasn't sure himself.
My head hurts, and things just keep getting more complicated. But one step at a time. Alton clearly thinks there's a good possibility that either Micah or Gabriel might be involved with the Sins uprising, as ridiculous as that sounds, and I don't think I'll be able to convince him otherwise without some sort of proof. But where can I get proof? Maybe, if I talk to them, I can find out...
What should I do?