Sapphira closed her eyes as she fell into the sensation of the wind flowing around her, through her hair, her wings. By instinct only, she weaved through the mountains as the dragon followed close behind, roaring at the joy of freedom that only flight could give. It was something that had been denied her for over a thousand years, even though she had not realized it. Now she knew what that feeling of longing that not even Gideon’s presences could completely erase, the feeling of something vital missing in her soul. The freedom of flight.
Flying in hell was exhilarating, but the true joy of it was diminished by the heat and thickness of the air that her angel side could barely tolerate. It was more necessity than joy that her kind flew in the pits of hell. Here, in this realm where the air was cool, clean, and the sun heated from above, flight took on a whole new meaning. Here the freedom was so complete that one could forget the ties that bound them to a fate they did not want. Freedom from the constant threat of being hunted down and used by whatever power that managed to imprison her.
When she fell off the ledge, the human emotion of the fear of dying momentarily paralyzed her. Then she remembered she was no longer human, that she was once again supernatural. Closing her eyes, she pulled on a long unused power and summoned her wings.
Normally angels, fallen or otherwise, and those demons that could fly kept their wings free behind them unless trying to hide who they were when walking around with humans or having to traverse in tight places where their size would hinder rather than help. When those instances happened, with only a thought their wings could be turned into elaborate tattoos on their backs. A vivid image of what was possible.
The spell that had been wound around Sapphira to hide her identity had taken even that tattoo away, leaving no trace of who she really was. When they arrived at the monastery and she started to regain her memories, she went into the bathroom to see if her wings had returned. At that time they had not, so pushing the unhelpful thought that they may never return aside, she closed her eyes and summoned the power that would bring them to life.
There was a moment of insecurity before with an unusual searing pain they burst forth. That was new. Except for the first time, there had never been pain before. No time to think about it now. The ground was coming up rather fast. Rolling over so she faced the upcoming uneven craggy rocks below, she spread those huge silver appendages that were as familiar to her as her arms and legs, gave one mighty flap and was off, the dragon close behind. The sense of freedom was overwhelming and she had given herself into it and the peace it brought.
Said dragon suddenly roared in warning breaking that peace, somehow making it sound exasperated at the same time. Opening her eyes, Sapphira found she was quickly coming to the end of a long ravine. Before her was a mountain side that looked quite painful if she were to accidentally slam into it. It would not kill her. Incapacitate her for a while, break every bone in her body, but not kill her. Not something she was relishing living through, with a slight angling of her body and a flap of her wings, instead of impacting she raced upwards, inches away from the face of the mountain. Then she was free of them.
Laughing with a joy that she rarely felt, one that filled her body with light and triumph, she headed towards the heavens. Halfway between the darkness of space and the planet, she stopped and hovered. Surveying everything around her. The skies far above with their stars winking down at her and the planet far below with its continents and oceans and white clouds. Up here in the in-between she was alone and could think. Figure out what her next move would be. Since the spell was now broken, the powers who wanted to control her would know she was once again active. They would come after her, that she knew, and they would not care who they had to kill to get to her. She could not put those she cared about in anymore danger. Gideon had already paid an unthinkable price when her father had torn his wings from him and burned them.
Frowning down at the planet below, she knew she could ask no more from him, no matter how her heart hurt at the thought of leaving him. Since the beginning he had been her constant, her companion, broken rules to be at her side. Leaving him seemed…cowardly, but was it fair to either of them to stay? Without flight he had a serious disadvantage against what would be coming after her.
“How many more surprises should we expect?” a calm voice asked behind her.
Sapphira stiffened. Without turning around she said, “I think you know.”
“Sadly enough, I don’t.” Drew moved so he faced her, his eyes narrowed in anger. “In fact, we’ve all been under the assumption that you were human, mortal. Now we find you are much more.” He looked at her wings with a fair amount of appraisal as they slowly fanned back and forth, keeping her in place. “Silver. Interesting.”
“What do you want, Drew?” she asked her own eyes narrowed. “Or maybe the better question is who is your master?”
This time Drew stiffened.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” his voice and expression going neutral; telling Sapphira he was lying.
“Who holds your leash, Angel, for you do have a leash? I’m surprised the others haven’t smelled it on you,” derision thick in her voice. The only reason Drew would have the kind of leash or mark of ownership she smelled, old with a tinge of rot, is if he had sold his soul of something that was not meant to be his. Some power or need. Something her father would have offered, although it did not smell like his mark.
“We all have a leash of some form or another, Princess. Some are just tighter than others,” Drew answered, his voice filling with a sadness so profound that Sapphira could not hold her anger because she knew he was right. Whether it was someone who was stronger than you, or rules that bound your hands that desperately wanted to help, to love, or a destiny you never wanted, true freedom was a dream for their kind. Only a few among them were powerful enough to stay free. The question was who owned Drew and what did he or she want from Sapphira.
“What does your master want from me,” she sighed.
“What everyone with enough power wants. To control you,” Drew answered softly.
Sapphira looked into the angel’s eyes and saw he was as unhappy with his role as she was with hers. Then she had to ask.
“Do you come from my father?”
“No,” he answered.
“Do you come from Her?” she asked looking up at the heavens.
“No,” this time his voice was a whisper. “You know she does not interfere in the outcome of her creations.”
“Yes. Free will and all. Yet we don’t have that do we, you and I,” looking back at Drew, her eyes sad. “The mortals are given free will, but us, the immortal; we were never afforded such a luxury.”
“We have it…to a point,” Drew frowned, looking down at the planet below.
Sapphira snorted, her gaze following his. “Yes, to a point. Then we are reigned in like an errant dog to be beaten back into submission.” She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, although it was not the cold of the air that chilled her, but something inside that could not be warmed by the sun. “I have spent hundreds of years hiding, years away from the only one that makes me whole. And even though he pulls at me with a yearning I understand all too well, I do not wish to go back,” she whispered. “I do not wish this destiny because I know the pain that awaits us is far more than the pain we have endured to keep me hidden from those who would use me. Use us.”
The last was said in a whisper so soft Drew almost missed it. Looking at Sapphira as she stared frighteningly down at the blue and white orb below them, he understood her fear. Where he may someday break free of his master, she would never be able to break free of her destiny. Just what that destiny is was still a mystery. His master only told him what he deemed necessary, although the fact that she could fly would have been a nice little tidbit. And the color of those wings. The bright silver that shimmered in the light. It was something he had never seen, and aside from her parents Drew was pretty sure neither had anyone else.
“What do you mean us?” he asked carefully.
Sapphira looked at him, her eyes not really focusing on him at first. As if she had responded to the sound of his voice but had not really heard him. Then she focused and her eyes turned wary.
“Who is your master?” she countered.
They were silent; each bobbing with the gentle stroke of their wings as they stared at each other knowing the other would not answer.
“Can you really leave Gideon without telling him why? Can you leave your brother now that you are reconnected?” Drew asked. “Though twins among us are rare, I know the bond they share. I know how deep it goes.”
Sighing Sapphira’s eyes turned back towards the planet below. “My brother would understand.”
“Gideon would not.” The flinching of her eyes told Drew he had hit a nerve. She did not want to hurt Gideon and he would use that emotion to coherence her back to the monastery. Afterwards he would figure out a way to bring her to his master without the others knowing he was involved. The last thousand years were the first peace he had known in centuries. If they knew him for the traitor he was, they would make him wish for death long before they were done with him. It was something his master had done to him many times over, and would do so again once Drew brought Sapphira to him. If there was a possibility that he could prolong the enviable by keeping her whereabouts secret a while longer, he would. Carefully he floated a little closer. “He has sacrificed so much to keep you safe. How can you leave him when he needs you right now?”
“How much help will I be when I am drawing every supernatural creature to me?” she snapped, her anger tempered by her desperation. “Do you think this is an easy decision for me? I have been separated from my brother for a thousand years, and even though I did not realize it while I was human, every day of that separation was excruciating. In here,” she put her hand over her heart. “And as for Gideon,” she hesitated looking away trying to reign in her emotions. “You know as well as I they will never allow us to be together.”
“The monastery is Warded. They won’t find you there,” Drew reminded.
“Just as you’re master has not found me?” she asked raising an eyebrow. A light shade of red bloomed crossed Drew’s face, but he hid his embarrassment with anger.
“My master does not know where you are…yet,” he reminded ominously.
“And why is that?” Sapphira asked.
It was a valid question. Impending torture for disobeying aside, why hadn’t he told his master? Taking a moment to think about it he said, “Because I owe Gideon a great deal more than what lost me my freedom. He believed in me when no one else would.” And in saying those words he realized it was that loyalty that was the reason he did not want to turn Sapphira over to his master. Because Gideon was his friend, they all were, and their trust in him was something he could not lose.
“Even so, your master will yank your chain soon enough and you will have to answer him.”
“Maybe, but I will stall for as long as I can.”
“It will not be long enough,” a deep angry voice snarled behind them.
Sapphira did not wait to find out who it was. Immediately she dove towards the planet, knowing her only chance of escape was to lose her pursuers in jungles and mountains below.
“After her!” the voice snapped. As the four warriors that were with him descended after Sapphira, the owner of the voice turned its cold eyes onto Drew, and even though the eyes were cold the voice was not. No, its voice was heated with a fine rage that told Drew he would pay dearly for his defiance. “What part of I own your ass do you not understand?” he asked, his face close enough to Drew’s he could smell the sulfur on his breath. “Your only objective was to bring the princess to me. You had her alone and yet I had to come for her myself. Explain to me why.”
“This was the first time I was able to get her alone, my lord,” Drew answered, his voice and expression as neutral as he could make it. Even though it was the truth and his master knew how carefully the others guarded Sapphira, Drew knew it would not be enough. As a slave he was not afforded any mistakes. He either did as he was told or he paid, and that payment was usually incorporated with an immense amount of pain.
“You better pray they catch her, slave, or what you have endured before will seem like paradise,” his master sneered.
Drew highly doubted that, but he was not a masochist so he kept his mouth shut. Apparently that was not good enough. A clawed hand wrapped itself around his neck, squeezing his airway shut. Even though he knew it was useless, instinct took over and Drew tried to pry it off. Soon his wings were hanging limp as his air deprived brain began to shut down. Immortal or not, if you wanted to stay conscious air was a good thing,
“You are extremely lucky I still need you alive. Now go down there and find that brat and bring her to me, or by all that is unholy you will spend the rest of your miserable existence in the deepest foulest hole I can find.”
Suddenly Drew was falling, but it was no use. His last thought before everything went dark was the pain of every bone in his body broken was far preferable to what his master had in mind for him. If he was lucky, his master would even allow him time to heal….
Yeah. Probably not.
Copyright 2018 Heidi Barnes