Chapter Two

At First Sight

My wings start moving before I'm even aware of it and I am forty, maybe fifty feet in the air. Master Dionysia has her palms outstretched before her and is channeling energy from her halo to create a shield around the rest of the students as the demons swoop in to attack. The shield, what looks like a translucent gold bubble encircling my class, blocks out sound but I can see the chaos raging from within. The twins, Isis and Dansis, have their opalescent wings wrapped around their bodies so that all I can see is the top of their heads. Sathi, a tall boy with skin the color of starfruit, is trying to break his way out of the shield like I have. In fact, the only two who are not panicking are Kaz and Leyo. Leyo is gripping Master Dionysia's shoulder, trying to get her attention, while Kaz is pointing up past the shield toward me.

It takes no more than a moment for the demons to reach the shield, but soon they realize they can't pass through it. Instead, they unsheathe swords from their hips and try to hack away at Master Dionysia's work. The swords are like nothing I've ever seen before. Curved and silver as a crescent moon. We train to fight with daggers, but not until our second year. I am completely and utterly defenseless.

Kaz and Leyo finally succeed in gaining Master Dionysia's attention and she looks up at me with eyes as ferocious as a wolf's. However, once she spots me, so do the demons and I see that hard glare has turned into desperation. One fledgling, not even a full year through school, facing against two demons who look like they have several years on me. The gravity of the situation hits me square in the chest like a gale force gust.

But all hope is not lost. Not yet. At least, that's what my wings seem to think, because they've started to flutter before I know it. Looking toward the sky above, I find the densest cloud I can see and shoot straight into it, praying to the Creator that it is thick enough to conceal me. In those moments, I struggle to listen for the demons approaching, but my heart is in my ears and beating too loudly for me to hear anything.

Then suddenly a thick cord wraps around my waist, just underneath the base of my wings, and I am pulled backward. At least, I think it is a cord. I try to yank it off of me but it stings and my hand comes back bloody. It is not a cord after all. It is the demon's tail, dotted with tiny barbs like the stem of a rose.

"What is your name, angel?" the demon says, his voice deep and silky. Too calm for someone who is about to commit murder.

Pivoting my head, I try to get a look at my captor, but I can't see but a half inch in front of me for the cloud cover. "Ri-Riya," I stammer. The demon takes both my wings in one hand and pinches them together, straining the muscles at the roots and effectively immobilizing me. For some reason my thoughts turn to the wing stretching exercises we do at the beginning of each class, as if the stress from my current situation has caused my mind to run to a comforting thought.

"Riya," the demon echoes. Slowly, as if testing the name on his tongue. "What a pleasure. They call me James."

His politeness does nothing to quell my anxiety, and despite myself I shudder in fear. Am I going to die like today? Will I ever see my friends and family again? Will I never see my dream of becoming a fly-scout realized?

James's free hand strokes through my feathers. Softly, as if he's never felt such a thing before. There is a sharp sting as he plucks one of my feathers out, and even from behind me I can hear him sniff it.

"You know what I must do, don't you, angel?" he says. His fingers creep up along my side and are at my throat in seconds, closing tight. Breath escapes me, and I claw at my throat to no avail. Everything turns black, then comes back all twisted. Like the skyscape is spinning around me, when I know it is still.

The bottoms of my feet are moist and itchy from the cloud. Why, when I am about to die, do I notice this? When the world is collapsing in on me, and I have become nothing but prey to this demon monster. But that's when I think of it. If only it will work.

Another quick, silent prayer to the Creator, and I kick my feet back behind me. It's a hit. My feet collide with the soft flesh of his abdomen and in a moment of shock he releases his grip on my wings and loosens the hand at my throat. That's all the leeway I need to break free. Once I have control over my wings, I can do most anything. So I lock my legs together, span my wings as far as they reach, and glide out of the cloud.

A thin line of blood mars my tunic crimson. But other than that, I have come out of the demon's attack unscathed. Though the odds are stacked heavily against me, I may win this battle yet. Looking down, I see that the other demon, a woman, is still hacking away at Master Dionysia's golden shield. But I cannot spare time watching her, as James is back on my trail in no time, his pewter wings slicing gusts through the air.

Flying faster than I ever dared fly before, I jet through the sky. Still, James is in hot pursuit and gaining on me faster than I am comfortable with. I hear his tail lash out at me, and lean to the side in a barrel roll, protecting my body with my wings.

James lets a curse tumble out of his mouth and dives after me. My heart beats heavy bass in my chest, and it suddenly hits me. This is all my fault. If I had not been so careless as to fly without permission, the demons would never have found us. My fault, my fault, my fault. The words echo in my head. Now I have to make it out of this mess alive, I determine, so I can properly apologize to Master Dionysia and the rest of the fledglings whose lives I've put in danger.

It is this thought that keeps me from giving up. From giving in to the fear and losing my head. As I hear James gaining speed, I fold my wings and drop like a missile. He follows suit, plummeting after me. Knowing he is heavier than me and can fall faster than I can, I spread my wings and curve upwards. However, I underestimate the power of the demon's tail.

It snaps in a second, wrapping around my neck like thick rope. He jerks his tail back, taking me with him. After how I had kicked him before, he takes the precaution of keeping me at a distance. But still, he leads me like I am an animal on a leash. We go round in circles, moving so fast that I lose my bearings. I catch sight of my class for a moment, but am quickly yanked upward.

We land on the roof of one of the academy buildings and he kicks me forward so I am on my hands and knees. "I could pump you so full of venom that you would die before you even knew it," he says, pressing his heel between my wings so that I cannot move. "Or I could poison you slowly, and let your death be slow and painful. Seems fitting, doesn't it? After how your people treated mine throughout the years?"

I don't process any of the words after 'venom.' My blood is pulsing so quickly through my body; I know that if he stings me, the toxins from his tail will be at my heart in no time. Nothing but a soft whine escapes my throat. A whine that sounds nothing like me.

"Oh, don't cry, young angel," he says, wrapping his fingers around my knotted hair. "It will all be over soon enough. Now turn over, let me see the fear in that pretty face."

Having no choice, as his hand and tail control my body's movements, I am flipped over onto my back. Finally, I get a look at my killer. What surprises me first is his age. He is not so much older than me. What are the conditions like in Hell to make one become so cold-hearted at such a young age?

But I have hardly enough time to contemplate that, as his stinger is positioned at my chest. I bite my lip to silence the scream I know will rise in my throat once he sinks the spike into my flesh. If I must give him my life, I will not benefit him by giving him the further satisfaction of my fear. Defiantly, I look into his eyes, so he knows I am not scared. His eyes are wide, the color of the sky at the peak of day, caged by hair so blonde it may as well be rays of sunlight. Something about those eyes is so familiar to me, but I cannot place it.

The tip of his tail pricks my skin and I feel the poison flowing through me, thick as mud. My senses are numbed: my eyesight gone blurry, the feeling in the tips of my fingers and toes growing cold. Consciousness is escaping me fast.

"Well, well," he says, his tone amused. I struggle to listen to his words, though my ears feel as though stuffed with cotton. "I never thought I would have the pleasure of meeting you. Maybe I will spare your life after all."

Spare my life? Pleasure of meeting me? That's when it hits me. The reason why his eyes haunted me so.

This demon, James. He is my demonic counterpart.

Author's Note: Another kind-of cliffhanger.. sorry I just feel so evil :) Lots of action in this chapter, so I hope you all liked it! You've finally met two more main characters, the demons. There's James of course, but the girl demon he was travelling with is important too, so don't count her out just yet.

Anyway, leave a review and I will love you forever and ever :)

Next chapter: Welcome to Hell