The ground just kept coming closer and closer. Somewhere above her, or was it below her? Sara was spinning and turning so much she was not sure which way was up. What she did know was that the ground was coming. That was just plain physics.
Another angry ear piercing shriek told Sara that Talon was still busy with Lizza. He had tried to reach her and almost made it, but Lizza had swooped in and crashed into him, both of them tumbling out of sight, which in turn sent Sara spinning. Another ear splitting shriek, this one more pain than anger. Harpy came to mind. From what little Sara knew of Harpies, they were vicious creatures. She hoped Talon was strong enough to defeat the creature, or at least force her to run off.
“Got you!” A male voice grunted just before a body slammed into Sara, jarring everything including her back teeth. Arms, legs and something exquisitely soft enveloped her. “Hang on!” Talon gritted.
Even though he sounded calm, there was an underlining level of stress in his voice and body that told Sara they were not safe. Wrapping herself around him, she belated realized the softness she felt were his wings. If his wings were around her, how were they supposed to fly? No sooner had that thought finished itself, they hit the ground and all she knew was her back teeth were not only loose, they were rattling around in her head.
When they finally stopped rolling, Sara lay in Talon’s arms trying to relearn how to breathe. As her heart rate slowly lowered and her lungs began working, she realized that Talon had not moved. Her heart rate once more skyrocketing at the thought he was dead, she tried to move away from him so she could look him over.
“Shhh,” he hushed. “Lizza is looking for us. If we stay still she may not see us.”
Holding her breath, Sara did as he told. What seemed like an eternity, she finally felt Talon’s body relax. It did not last long. Sucking air through his teeth when he tried to move told Sara he was injured. By the hissing curses, it had to be bad.
“Can you move your wings enough so I can move off of you?” she whispered. Lizza was gone, but that did not mean there were not others lurking nearby.
“I think so,” Talon answered slowly unfurling himself from around her.
Sara carefully pulled away, doing her best not to jar the angel too much. Once she was free, she moved far enough away to give him room to stretch. Then it hit her. She was looking at an honest to God angel. His dark shoulder length hair did not quite fit the pictures of angels she had seen at church, but then again she did not take much stock in the human version of heaven. Something just smacked too perfect. Too boring. If God could make a world that so varied and wondrous and full of imperfections, then why could heaven not be the same way?
As Talon turned pain filled hazel eyes towards her and she was able to see his chiseled features, slightly crooked nose that looked like it had been broken one too many times, and lips that begged to be kissed, she realized he was just about close to perfection as he could come in her book.
“Are you okay?” he asked concern replacing the pain, breaking into her stunned silence.
Slamming her mouth shut and turning what she knew had to be a lovely shade of red at being caught drooling, Sara thought about his question. Was she okay? She had been too busy coming to the realization that angels and demons were real and she was apparently in Hell to really take stock of herself. That the blue eyes that haunted her dreams, her waking hours, that had made her feel safe, loved ever since her mother had become sick with cancer was in fact her guardian angel. One they left behind battling a monster with a sword. The need to go back and help him overrode her common sense until she realized that there was nothing she could do but hinder him. That demon…what was his name? Loathar? He seemed more than ready to use her as a distraction. She would not help the bastard by going back and doing just that.
What she needed to do was find a way out of this hell. Only problem was, she had no clue how she got here in the first place.
Looking around her, aside from the bad smell, the red haze and the burning lungs, Hell looked a lot like any other…forest? Thinking back Sara remembered seeing places that looked barren, desert like as they flew over. There were trees surrounding the castle they had been heading to. Maybe that was the forest they were in now. The thought of that dark place sent a shiver down her spine. Every cell in her body screamed to get as far away from it as she could. The entire place reeked of pain, death…evil.
“Sara!” Talon voice snapped, along with his fingers in front of her face.
Jumping at the sudden sharp noise, she returned to the original question. Was she all right?”
“Aside from some bumps and bruises, I think physically I’m fine,” Sara answered hesitantly. The smile Talon gave her said he understood the rest of what she was not saying.
“Except your mind is telling you that everything you have seen is fairytale, myth and shadows,” he said grimly. Pulling her knees up to her chest and tightly wrapping her arms around them, the only answer Sara could give him was a nod of her head. With a deep sigh that seemed filled with more than exhausted, Talon carefully rolled over onto his back. Rubbing his face with his hands that were covered in dirt, blood and other things Sara did not want to contemplate, he muttered, “Why is it always me that has to explain the unexplainable to the unbelievers?”
“Unbelievers?” Sara asked studying him now that he could not see her eyes taking in all of him.
In the pictures she had grown up with, angels wore anything from togas to nothing. Over six feet tall, Talon was covered in what looked like thick brown leather armor. The sleeves were short, but he had braces on his forearms that were studded with some sort of metal. A belt ran diagonally across his chest and around to his back. Since he was lying on it, Sara could not be sure if it was a scabbard or maybe a quiver. On his shoulders and shins were more of the studs. Extra protection maybe? Another belt at his waist held a long knife and other weapons she did not recognize. On his feet were leather boots. The leather itself was made up of different colors. The pants were brown, the shirt red with brown at the shoulders and sleeves. The boots a dark brown. All this leather and she could still see that he that he had the build of a well-seasoned warrior. Looking back into those hazel eyes that were now on her sparkling with amusement, she wondered why the angels she grew up looking at were not this gorgeous. Probably too sinful for those stuck up prudes she had to endure when her father dragged her to church on Sunday.
“Are you through taking inventory?” he asked with a smirk. He chuckled as Sara felt her face heat once again. “Don’t let Gideon see you looking at me like that.” He grimaced as he tried to move. “I’d like to live to see another sunrise. That is if we can escape this God forsaken realm first.”
Sara’s blush disappeared when Talon tried to get to his feet only to collapse back onto the ground with a groan of pain.
“What’s wrong?” she asked unwinding and moving towards him.
“The ground is too damn hard, that’s what is wrong,” he snapped. When he saw her hesitation at his anger, he softened his expression and tone. “Sorry. I don’t do well when I’m in pain. I think my wing is broken.”
“Which one?” Sara asked suddenly all business. She had plenty experience with broken limbs with a little brother who spent most of his time in the ER having one limb or another set. She also had designs of becoming a veterinarian, so any creature four footed or winged found its way to her so she could heal them.
“Left,” he hissed trying to move it.
“Keep still,” Sara admonished moving around him to reach the damaged wing. They were huge and a white so pure that even under all the dirt and blood they shone. Although on closer inspection of Talon’s, she found not only was it at a strange angle, but a lot of the feathers were missing too. “I think Lisa…I mean Lizza did most of this damage,” she murmured as she inspected the wing.
“One of these days I’m going to put an end to that backstabbing siren,” Talon growled in disgust. It quickly turned into a hiss as Sara touched the edge of the wing. “Careful!” he snapped, but there was no anger in his voice. Just pain.
“Sorry,” she apologized quickly. “So you know Lizza well?” she asked conversationally, her eyes on his wing.
“Unfortunately,” Talon groused, his voice tight with pain. “Before she became fallen, she…did something that none of us can ever forgive.”
“And that was?” Sara asked keeping the conversation going not only because she was curious, but it kept Talon distracted as she gently inspected his wing.
Talon sighed, the sound so resentful that it brought Sara’s eyes to his face. His expression was one that said his mind was on a long ago memory that was not pleasant. “That is not my tale to tell, I’m afraid. Suffice to say, after today, Gideon will not hesitate to kill her.”
“Because she brought me here?” Sara asked.
“That is one of the many reasons, and because she took something that was his.” Talon looked into Sara’s eyes, his dark with anger. “Something that he considers important to him.”
Unsure how to respond to his anger, because as far as she knew she had done nothing wrong and he was clearly blaming her for something, she turned back to his wing. After further inspection she decided that the wing was not broken, just dislocated.
“You’re in luck. Your wing is only dislocated. I need to set it if it is to heal properly,” her mind more on the how and less on informing Talon what she was going to do.
“Do you know how to do that?” Talon asked looking at her with a fair amount of skepticism.
Sara shrugged. “I’ve set my fair share of birds’ wings. Aside from size, I assume this will not be much different.”
“Birds’ wings,” his voice flat with skepticism.
For some reason this, out of everything else that had happened to her today, pissed Sara off. “Do you want it set or not?” she snapped.
“Okay, okay,” Talon soothed through gritted teeth. “I’m in no shape to argue with you. Just…be careful. Please,” he added in a more gentle tone.
Sara could imagine the thought of never flying again would be a frightening one. “I will be as gentle as I can, but it is going to hurt,” her voice apologetic.
Nodding he understood, with Sara’s help Talon shifted until he lay on his stomach with his upper half raised above the ground as he rested on his forearms. Already white and sweating with pain, he braced himself as he watched Sara moved around his wing, trying to find better footing. Wings normally were delicate things. The last thing she wanted to do was cause more damage. Tentatively she took a hold of it, one hand on either side of the joint that was distended.
“Ready?” she asked her voice breathy with uncertainty.
“Ready,” Talon answered through gritted teeth.
“One, two, three!”
There was an audible snap and Talon’s back arched as he head went down, eyes closed tight, trying to stifle his scream of pain. It was too much, though, and he collapsed flat on the ground, out cold.
As gently as she could, Sara arranged his wing so it lay in as close to a naturally relaxed position as she could make it. Then she inspected his right wing to make sure nothing was wrong with it. Like the left it was missing feathers and covered in places with blood and dirt, but otherwise it looked fine.
Glancing around her once again she wondered what she should do. Obviously she could not leave Talon unconscious and vulnerable. Especially since he had not been very successful in stifling his scream. If anyone was close by, they would have heard him. What she needed was a weapon. Looking at his back, Sara saw the empty scabbard and knew the sword that filled it must be somewhere close by. Digging around in the underbrush, she finally found it. Like him, it was huge and as she tried to lift it she knew it would be more of a hindrance than help. She needed something smaller. Then she remembered the knife on his belt. After dragging the sword so it was closer to him, and her, Sara carefully pulled the knife from its sheath. For her size it was more like a short sword, which was perfect, if she knew how to wield a sword that was. Oh well, it was better than nothing.
Sitting down a few feet away from Talon, she strained to hear anyone coming. Nothing. In fact, there were no birds, no insects, no noise of any kind. What did she expect though? She was in Hell. Anything as small as an insect was probably too scared to come out because there were far more bigger and scarier creatures ready to squash them. As if to emphasize that thought, in the far in the distance there was a scream of pure terror followed by howls of hunger. Yes, bigger scary things that roamed the shadows and would do more than take a little blood from her.
Looking at Talon’s still form, Sara prayed he woke soon. She was no match for what lived here, and to make matters worse they were actively looking for her. Talon said there were many reasons why she was brought here, and he had only listed one, so she still did not totally understand what these creatures would want with her, but something told her she really did not want to know.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes