After stopping by the living room to pick up Adalrik and Quinn, Talon led Sapphira through a maze of tunnels that went steadily upwards until they reached a large cave. Walking out onto the cave’s ledge she gaped at the vista before her. Jagged edges of mountain tops as far as the eye could see. The sky a clear blue with a few scattered clouds in the distance. The warmth of the sun beating down on her was gentled by a cool breeze. If she had a picture of the perfect day hanging on her wall, this would it.
The need to stretch her wings, to soar in the open sky, feel the wind on her face through her feathers filled her with longing, but years of hiding what she was, who she was, was not easy to shake. Yes, the angels with her had spent many human lifetimes protecting her from danger; it still did not mean she could trust them. The only ones she could truly trust were her mother and Damien. Even though her heart argued she could trust Gideon, that little voice inside her questioned his love and loyalty to her. Especially after he had pulled away from her in the reception room. Why would he do that?
“Careful, Princess,” Talon cautioned next to her. “It’s a long ways down, and if I let you fall Gideon would make the rest of my existence very unpleasant.” When she looked up at him, he could see the question in her eyes, the hurt. “He doesn’t understand and he’s in pain. Give him some time. Show him that even though he considers himself half a man that you still love him.”
“How do you know what I’m thinking?” she asked suddenly defensive.
“Because I see the way you look at him,” Talon smiled. “And I know how fiercely protective he is of you. When we were in Hell and he saw you surrounded by those demons.” He shuddered. “I would not want to be at the end of his sword.” He hesitated.
“What?” Sapphira asked.
“You were his ward, his human to protect. Now that the spell is broken and your powers are returning things are different, and we don’t know how much your father told him about you. Lucifer is one of our greatest enemies. Falling in love with his daughter will not go over well with our boss, and I’m rather certain your father will blow a gasket.
“They used to be friends, you know. Gideon and your father. When Gideon saw the path Lucifer was taking, he tried to talk him out of it. Even went to earth with him in an attempt to stop him. Finally Gideon broke all ties. It wasn’t easy. They were like brothers, but to lose his place in heaven was not worth the love of a human. At least it wasn’t at the time,” Talon smiled when he saw pain flicker through Sapphira’s eyes. “When the powers that be tried to…coerce Gideon into betraying his friend, he refused. Still, Lucifer swore vengeance when he saw Gideon standing in the crowd watching as he was cast out. We found out later that there were those who told Lucifer that Gideon had betrayed him. Ever since then Gideon never trusted easily. Even now there are those of us who surround him he does not entirely trust.”
“He trusts you,” Sapphira countered with a soft smile.
The smile she received did not erase the sadness in his eyes. “It was hard won and the cost was great. But I would not trade his trust or friendship for anything…or one.”
“I don’t want to hurt him,” Sapphira assured quietly, unable to meet his eyes.
“You don’t, but you cannot promise you won’t.” There was no condemnation or anger in those words. Talon knew as well as Sapphira that her life was not her own, and there were many out there who wanted to either control it, or end it. Sapphira did not want to bring anyone down with her, especially those she loved.
Pushing those unpleasant thoughts aside, she closed her eyes, let her breath out slowly and concentrated. She would find her brother first then figure out where to go from there. Reaching out she searched for something familiar. Something that was Damien. There were those of their kind who could feel another’s power, know when one of them was close by. Know whether they were angel, demon or some other supernatural being. Within all the realms there were many creatures of power. But twins were special. They felt each other’s emotions, each other’s pain. Because of this, Sapphira and Damien had learned long ago how to shield from each other. If one became injured, the other would not be able find them because they felt the injury just as intensely. That, in turn, would incapacitate the twin. What little Sapphira had felt told her Damien was in bad shape and very weak. Only because of the horrors of their childhood was Damien able to hold that shield in place so Sapphira had a chance to find him.
Then she felt him. It was barely a whisper, but it was enough.
“There!” she pointed towards the east where a lone mountain stood taller than the rest. “On a ledge on that peak.”
“The Wards do not reach that far and to remain safe you must stay within them, so we cannot take you with us, Princess,” Talon said as his wings flexed out. Loghan, Adalrik and Quinn unfurled their wings from where they hid them and leaped off the edge, soaring towards where she had directed. God, she wanted to follow them, but her secret must be kept a little while longer. “Please help me stay in one piece by staying here, in one piece,” Talon implored.
“I’ll stay here,” Sapphira grudgingly agreed.
“That’s a good girl.”
And then he was following the others. Sapphira only hoped they would make it in time. Damien’s power was not the only thing lurking in the mountains, and what she felt was immense and not happy to be disturbed.
* * *
As Damien lay on the narrow ledge trying to catch his breath, the random thought that it was quite warm for so high up in the mountains cleared his head from the pain. Grabbing on to it, he concentrated on how good the sun felt, how different it was from the heat of his home realm. The beings of worlds like this one really did not understand how well they had it. The fresh air, amazing blue skies, colors not seen through the red haze that was a constant of his birth place. If he could, he would stay here, but there were those who would hunt him down to either take him back to his father for the hefty bounty on his head, or use him to lure his sister into a trap. Then again, he did not have many friends. He had spent too many centuries wreaking havoc in this realm as an outlet for his frustration of not being able to fight back when his father took his rage out on him.
After he recovered, he would come here, get the attention of the angels – the only other creatures he deemed worthy opponents – and burn off some of his frustration, hone his skills. Honestly he was surprised his father had not heard of his exploits. It was not as if Damien had kept his name a secret. One would think he wanted his father to know how powerful he was.
Then the spell was cast and he was too weak to even find his way into the sunlight, and truly too weak to fight his father.
Lucifer’s wrath when he found his daughter missing was something of legends. After a few hundred years of torture trying to glean information of his sister’s whereabouts Damien did not have, Lucifer chained him in the deepest darkest part of his dungeons where only the vilest of creatures lived. There the torment lasted for another six hundred years until one day the power to hide himself from others suddenly returned.
As his strength began to return in bits and pieces, Damien was afraid the spell cast to hide his sister was weakening. If so, that would mean she would be alone and vulnerable to attack from others, not understanding who she was or why they wanted her.
Knowing she was not in hell, once Damien escaped he began to look in the other realms, desperate to find her before their enemies did, before their father. The last place he suspected he would find her was in their home realm, the most dangerous place for either of them.
Fighting his father, the injuries Lucifer had inflicted on him, and the power it had taken to escape the Hell realm to get to this ledge had taken its toll. What he wanted to do was pass out, but first he needed to find Sapphira. She was here, somewhere in these mountains. He just could not pinpoint where. So he had called out to her. Unfortunately, she was not the only one who had heard his call. Something large and powerful lived in these mountains, had it had been sleeping. Now that it was awake, it was hungry and pissed.
Once again he tried to at least sit up, but that was not happening. Broken ribs, one broken wing, and a deep gash in his stomach where his father had buried his sword into him, barely missing vital organs, was still bleeding. It was amazing he had made it this far.
A loud roar bounced off the mountains and off his skull. Shit! The mystery of what lived in the mountains was solved, and it was the last thing Damien needed. What any of them needed. Now he had no choice but to move. Find somewhere not so out in the open.
By the time he managed to push himself to his feet the world was spinning and he was drenched in sweat. Leaning back against the rock, he hissed in pain when he jarred his wing. Shit that hurt! Eyes closed he tried to breathe through the pain. A shadow flicked in front of him, freezing the air in his lungs. It flew by a second time.
“Who the hell woke that thing up?” a familiar voice snapped.
Oh thank the Gods!
Damien sagged in relief, his knees collapsing out from under him. Strong arms caught him before he fell the thousand feet below.
“Easy,” another voice soothed, gently setting him back against the rock. “We’ve got you.”
Damien opened his eyes to find Talon a few feet away hovering in mid-air, sword drawn, apparently not happy to see him.
“What the hell happened to you?” he snapped.
“Nice to see you too,” Damien hissed with a fair amount of sarcasm. This only narrowed the angel’s eyes into slits. Centuries of hatred did not disappear because of one shared cause.
“We can deal with the pleasantries and bash each other’s heads in later,” Quinn growled, the expression on Talon’s face telling Damien that he would like to do far more than bash his head in. “Right now we need to get demon boy back to the compound. Can he fly?” This question was directed to Adalrik who was examining his wing. Loghan was the one keeping him from falling off the ledge.
“No. His wing is broken and he’s lost a lot of blood. I’m surprised he made it this far,” Adalrik answered with a note of respect in his voice.
“I’ve had better flights,” Damien hissed through gritted teeth as Adalrik turned his attention to the wound in his gut.
“I did not realize the son of Lucifer had wings,” Talon commented, his tone suspicious.
Damien looked up at him to see his expression matched the tone. Talon did not like surprises. Especially deadly ones. Well, the warrior was in for a whole shitload of disappointment, because once Damien found his sister the surprises were not going to stop.
“There is a lot you do not know about…us,” Damien said carefully.
Talon’s eyes narrowed again and he looked as if he was about to say something when another earsplitting roar vibrated down their spines, turning everyone’s eyes to the skies.
Winging its way around the side of the mountain, enormous in length and wing span, was a dragon. Its red scales gleaming in the sunlight, the dragon roared again as it saw food sitting precariously on a ledge and floating in the air. With another roar that showed its razor sharp teeth, it angled its wings and dove for them.
“Mother of all that is unholy,” Quinn whispered.
“MOVE!” Talon roared.
Adalrik on one side and Loghan on the other, they pulled Damien from the ledge and down the side of the mountain just as the dragon snapped his massive jaws where Talon and Quinn had been hovering only a few seconds before.
“How in creation do we fight that?!” Quinn yelled as they darted in and out between craggy tops of mountains and hills.
“We don’t,” Talon yelled back. “We need a distraction. Without his wings, Damien is no help maneuvering, and his blood is drawing the dragon to us. If we bring this thing home….” He did not have to finish that sentence. Everyone knew how much destruction and chaos a dragon could create.
Unfortunately for Quinn, he was the only one besides Talon free at the moment. That meant they were the bait. “I hate lizards,” he muttered angrily.
But before they could turn the dragon suddenly veered away.
“Not that I’m complaining, but where is it going?” Loghan asked as they came to a halt in mid-air.
“Sapphira,” Damien yelled hoarsely.
Talon looked at Damien, unsure if he had heard right. Nope. The fear in Damien’s eyes told him he had heard just fine.
“She called it,” Damien explained.
“How…? Nevermind,” Talon growled in disgust. No, he did not like surprises. And a girl who could summon a dragon was one of them. “Quinn!” he barked. “Make sure they get back to the monastery in one piece.”
Quinn nodded he understood and moved closer to the three struggling to stay in the air.
“Where are you going?” Adalrik called out.
“To save one little girl’s life so I can kill her,” Talon grumbled. Then he was gone, flying as fast as he could towards the compound.
“What is he talking about?” Quinn asked as they followed at a much slower pace.
“Sapphira can call any creature to her, including the forgotten ones,” Damien explained grimacing as pain lanced through him.
“Nice,” Quinn smiled with more than a little awe. “I haven’t heard of that power in a long time, and only to those of us higher up on the power grid.” The look he gave Damien was calculating. “So the lassie can call dragons. I guess the next question is, can she control them?”
“We’ll find out,” Damien muttered as his eyes turned towards where the dragon had disappeared. Once upon a time Sapphira could control the beasts, but that was a long time ago. Without him there, with their powers not fully returned, it was anyone’s guess what she could and could not do. He just prayed that if that power had not completely returned to her, Talon was not too late.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes