"Hey guys, what's been going on?" I asked my tone sharp and unpleasant, they weren't my friends anymore.
They didn't look like the friends I'd known either. Candace's hair was no longer brown but a jet black and it hung to her waist. Dunkan looked like a real vampire, black hard eyes, and skin a pale iridescent white. It was disappointing, but better at the same time not seeing them as my friends might have helped me do what I needed to do.
"I'm sure you know," said Dunkan as he took a defensive stance.
I readied the sword thinking maybe I might actually be able to do what I had to. Dunkan ran toward me and I did the only thing I could think of, I thrust the sword forward. He stopped the sword sticking out of his back. I pulled the sword back as Dunkan went face first to the ground, blood pooling around him. Candace didn't even look shaken.
"Lucien, you really picked the wrong side in all of this. Reduced to babysitting a filthy little Nephilim. Pity, I actually kind of liked her for a while there," she said it as if I wasn't there. Except I was a little sad knowing that Lucien knew her. I should've figured since all angels kind of know each other, but I guess I'd more hoped that he didn't ever know that dark angels.
"Oh Candace, you'll never see how blind you were and have been since the day you chose your side. Maybe… it's not bad taking care of Nephilim." He looked at me when he said that last bit.
"Maybe watching her die will change your mind about that."
She jumped toward me with a white sword of her own, plain but effective. I fought her, wishing I didn't have to. I closed my eyes as my sword pierced her, like some sick sort of kabob. I pulled the sword back once more. I opened my eyes avoiding looking at the bodies. Except that I had my friend's blood on my hands, literally. I threw the sword behind me as deep tremors racked my body, at that moment I'd felt like I could've vomited my guts out. I ran stumbling and tripping the whole time as I sobbed and my vision blurred. I heard Cat tell Lucien to let me go. I did too, I just kept going and going until I stopped at the bank of a river. I'll admit that I considered jumping in, but some part of me kept that thought only a thought. But I curled into a ball and sobbed until my throat stung and my eyes burned, but somehow the tears kept coming. When someone you cared about dies, it hurts, it's agonizing sometimes. But having to kill and killing someone you cared about is a million times worse and I killed two, so that made it about two million times worse. I put my hands in the warm river water and let it wash away the last unwanted tangible memories of Dunkan and Candace. I wished the river could've washed away all of my memories of them, I wanted to forget them completely. If you know anything you know I couldn't do that.
I stayed curled up watching the sun set and the trees wave in the wind. I screamed as Daniel stepped out of the trees, man he did that a lot.
"Oh… it's you." I blew out a breath that I'd been holding.
'Yeah… just me."
"Leave me alone," I mumbled to him.
"See the thing is I don't know my way back to camp and if I try to go back on my own, in the dark, you'd be putting me in a lot of danger and I don't think either of us wants that."
"Fine," I said, "stay."
"How'd you know where I was?"
"I just thought I'd find you here."
He came and sat next to me, I didn't object. I just hugged my legs closer.
"What happened today?" he asked me curiously.
"If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about it."
"You're right, you're right, it's none of my business."
We sat silent until Daniel starts bursting out laughing. I stared at him like he's crazy. He told me that's just his way of relieving tension in a quiet situation. He starts cracking jokes and I actually found myself laughing, laughing in a pity mournful kind of way, but still laughing which was more than I could've asked for at that moment. That day I thought that Daniel could be a nice person, a good person to be with, I've never been so wrong.
We walked back to camp laughing a little on the way, although I wasn't able to smile. As we broke into the field Lucien was standing there waiting. Once again he looked surprised to see Daniel. Daniel cleared his throat, "I think I'll leave you guys alone." He walked away without a goodbye.
Lucien turned to me, "Are you alright?"
I only answered his question with a question, "Would you be?"
He looked down at his feet. "No. No I wasn't."
"The war in heaven was a war. I had to fight hundreds of my brothers and sisters, and they weren't just that either they were my friends. I had to do what I had to do to protect my cause and myself, just like you had to. I was never the same after, but it hardens your resolve sometimes, maybe not your emotions though. As you can tell," his voice broke a little, "it's still a touchy subject for me."
He looked so sad in that moment, his eyes were pink and glossy with tears, slouched like he was being pushed down by some invisible weight.
I took his hand and squeezed it, but I lost myself then and there. I broke down again crying like an idiot. He hugged me until I stopped, even as I pounded my fists against his chest in a moment of hysteria. He told me to get some rest if I could, but all I did was go to my tent and lay on the cot staring into space until the sun rose.
As light peeked in through the opening, I just lay there, unmoving. I didn't want to talk, or eat. Cat tried to talk to me, I just listened, and I think the only sign that I was even alive anymore was that I was breathing. She gave up and walked out, Lucien was standing just outside.
"She's basically comatose, she's not even blinking. She's just staring at the ceiling and breathing, that's it."
I couldn't see him but his voice sounded a little strained, "I understand, but we have to leave here soon. She'll get better; I can't say she'll get over it."
I stayed that way another day. Two days of no sleep and people trying to talk to me including Daniel and Lucien. That night, though, I finally got up. I walked down to the campfire when only a few people were left. Lucien, Cat, and Daniel were circled around the blazing campfire when I sat down next to them.
"She lives." said Daniel trying for a light mood.
"Yeah." I said my voice was a little hoarse.
"If you need to talk about it," started Cat
I looked at Lucien, he just nodded, at that moment he was the only one who even understood what I was going through. He knew I wasn't fine, but he also knew I was trying to get over it.
The next morning we packed up camp, but Lucien told us we weren't going to Arizona until later, I didn't bother asking why.
The next couple weeks of traveling were just following the motions. Telling the other Nephilim what we're there for and watching them pick their sides. But along the way I became closer and closer with Daniel… and Lucien. Stupid love triangle clichés!
As we worked our way around the states, I finally decided that there was a reason for avoiding Arizona and I was going to ask. I jumped into his mind during dinner at camp one night.
Why aren't we going to Arizona?
Because… the only one there is a loner, an old one, rich. He's also not the friendliest of people. He'll be our weapons dealer. I'm also waiting because he's having a gala in a couple of days. It'll be a good cover if people from our group want to go, just to have some time away from this. Plus if we go then we don't have to worry about finding a way in to talk to him about this, because he might not be willing to help us.
Fine, in how many days?
Five, five days we're leaving for there tomorrow. Although, it's getting a lot harder to get a message through this camp with so many people in it. By the way how is it having Cat as your tent mate?
Well it's good, but you know Cat is Cat.
He chuckled and once again our conversation was over. We smiled a little at each other. Almost as if Cat had heard her name she turned to me and started asking me questions about people and what's happening like she was pretending that no one was there to hear us. I slyly avoided answering her question by pointing out a boy who was checking her out. She's easily distracted. I hugged my jacket closer, the nights had turned colder and colder as the weeks passed and the seasons started shifting.
It was almost the end of October and I worked it out, the party was going to be a formal Halloween party, who does that?
The next morning we left for Arizona. I could tell as we got closer because the air became heavier and warmer after we'd walked a while Lucien opened another portal. As we stepped out I pulled off my jacket because a warm breeze tickled my face. We were just outside of a suburb. I took in the desert surroundings. Cacti were on the outer edges of the neighborhoods, dead brambles were scattered around blowing in the wind, and trees and plants that were somehow able to survive the harsh conditions were scarce.
Almost every house we passed had a pool sitting in the backyard. It dawned on me how out of place our group, which then was close to two hundred, looked.
"Where are we going?" I asked Lucien
"You'll see." he told me. I just kept looking around.
"Wait, don't all of us walking through here look a little weird?"
"Don't worry they can't see us."
Sometimes I found it better not to ask him. As we walked more and more I finally saw where were going. We were nowhere near civilization; a deep orange colored rock wall had the opening for a large cave. It was gorgeous. A lake was off a little distance away, sparkling in the sun.
"What is this?"
"There used to be groups of Nephilim here, before… well before they were tracked down. This is where they used to stay." he looked the whole place over, "It's nice."
"Yeah it is."
He led us all into the cave; it was light in there like it had its own personal sun. The main chamber split off into at least a dozen antechambers. It was roomier than we needed. We all dumped our bags close to the opening as we spaced out. I laughed and listened to it echo a long way through.
Cat and I walked through every nook and cranny joking and laughing. Everything echoed as if to remind us of everything we said once or twice.
As the group gathered back, Lucien told them about the gala/ Halloween party. I actually thought it might be good to get away from this entire thing even if only for a few hours, and I guessed that most of the others felt that way too. I think a weight was lifted for a while. We could finally have some fun, maybe.
We went into town two days before the party. Not all of us of course about half of us wanted to go and we had to take turns so as to not draw attention. Cat and I, and a group of girls, headed into the mall. Cat and I took off on our own as we wondered through department stores and boutiques, nothing striking my interest. Finally as we walked toward the doors to give up, a dress in a small store made me step back and look again. A floor length baby pink dress stood on display. It was silk with tiers of wavy fabric, the inch wide straps had tiny pink bows lined down them. I grabbed Cat's hand and dragged her into the store. I paid for the dress with money Lucien had gotten somewhere. Like I said sometime I didn't want to ask. Cat remembered a little boutique that had the perfect headpiece to go with it. The headpiece was a small hat that pinned to the top back of my head, the fabric on it was pink and arranged like a rose. In the end we decided to go with a fairy for me, we even found some pink wings. Cat had found a gauzy Egyptian style dress as soon as we'd started.
We got our nails done and I had to admit that it felt like getting ready for a prom. We had to go back some time, so we walked back and made it before the sun went down. The cave retained a sunny kind of light even as the moon hung in the sky.
Cat and I slipped into our secret antechamber that we'd found exploring. It could have fit four other people and there still would've been room left, but Cat and I enjoyed it alone. We talked into the late hours about what the party was going to be like. As soon as Cat's head hit her pillow she was out like a light. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, all of the sudden a hand touched mine. I shot up and as I was about to open my mouth, Daniel told me to be quiet and that he wanted to show me something.
He led me out of the cave without anyone's knowledge surprisingly every person we passed was asleep. I giggled like a little girl as we picked our way through the dead plants and things outside. I constantly asked where we were going, but he only said to wait. He stopped in front of the lake I'd seen earlier and it was more beautiful up close. It rippled in the breeze and the full moon reflected on it.
"Why are we here?" I asked again.
"I wanted to ask you something."
"What." I said, giggling again. He made me feel so childish and silly sometimes.
"Do you want to be my date to the gala?" he asked taking my hand.
"Um… yes." I said to him. "But why did you bring me all the way out here to ask?"
"I wanted to show you one of my favorite places where I grew up," he looked at me as if he was expecting me to yell at him.
"You grew up here?"
"I was the only Nephilim to survive the raid."
"That's how you ended up in Iowa?" Everyone he'd grown up with was gone.
"Yeah, pretty much."
We stood and watched the lake ripple and talked and laughed until I finally decided I needed some sleep. He stayed behind though, thinking. As I looked back he looked deeply puzzled.
The next day passed in a blur. Cat couldn't have been more ecstatic about Daniel asking me to the gala. We did some training, but the day before the gala was highly boring.
Finally, the night of the gala came and the cave was full of chattering, giggling girls and extremely nervous, quiet boys.
The dress slipped on easily and it felt so comfortable. Cat let my hair hang free and pinned the headpiece in. It suddenly felt silly as she fastened the wings to my back, going to a fancy party when we were getting ready to fight a battle.
"This is silly," I told her as she smoothed and straightened the wings.
"No it's not, we need this," she replied as she dug her make-up bag out of her backpack, "Key to travel, never forget make-up."
I closed my eyes as she swept glittering pink eye shadow onto my eyelids. She handed me a light pink lipstick that I applied.
I turned around and we looked at each other for a few seconds. The white Egyptian style dress accentuated her Egyptian features. With the golden headpiece that circled her hair and her green eyes and red lips she looked like a full-fledged Egyptian queen.
"You look amazing," we said to each other at the same time. We giggled and locked arms as we walked out into the main part of the cave. Cat smiled as she let go of my arm and Daniel offered me his.
"My lady." He bowed a little.
"Seriously?" I looked at him, but took his offered arm.
I can say he cleaned up well. He was dressed in a full white suit, but the back of the jacket had embroidered wings. Daniel was nicer than ever that night. As we walked to the party he complimented me several times until I told him he needed to stop that. We talked and talked and talked until we were only feet away from the party. We both stopped and stared. Hundreds of people were streaming in through the grand doors, most arriving by limo or other fancy cars.
All of them were dressed impeccably as mythical creature or just colorful people. As we were about to walk in I stopped him. I thought about how Lucien was supposed to be here trying to convince this guy, whoever he was, to help us. I noticed that I hadn't seen him all day.
I let go of Daniel's arm.
"You go on in," I told him," I'll be in, in a few minutes, okay?"
"Alright." He turned around and walked in alone.
As soon as he had turned around I took off the find Lucien.
I quickly walked to the back of the crowd. Then I decided I would just ask him.
Hey where are you?
Don't worry I'll be there in a second. Just stay where you are.
I waited for him a few minutes before I saw his blond head peek out through the crowd. He walked up to me and stopped and looked me up and down, which made me feel suddenly self-conscious.
"You look beautiful. But your wings are much prettier." He said, motioning to the pink fabric wings extending from my back.
"Well I couldn't very well go with my wings. You look handsome." I told him except handsome was an understatement. His hair was freely hanging but in that perfect way. He was wearing a dark blue jacket over a white button down shirt and black slacks. The dark blue jacket brought out the blue in his eyes. He looked perfect.
"Thank you. Why were you looking for me?'
"I hadn't seen you all day. I wanted to ask you about what we're going to do tonight?"
"You mean you, right? I'm going to do this, you are going to relax and enjoy the party."
"At least answer me this, whose party am I enjoying?"
"You're enjoying John Doe's party. Thing is he doesn't really have a name, so we call him John Doe for all intents and purposes."
He turned me around and gave me a little shove, "Now go, and tell your date," he struggled on that last word, "that I'd like to speak with him please." He gave me another shove. The flat sandals on my feet were a little uncomfortable I wasn't used to shoes so flat. They did make me look shorter, only about an inch or too, but still…
This John Doe must have quite a sense of humor. The walls were splattered with fake blood, and the lights were strobe lights in eerie colors. A full orchestra played the creepiest screeching Halloween songs. Teens and adults in formal wear lined up for a haunted house. It was a little twisted.
I tracked down Daniel, standing at the top of the grand staircase.
"Hey sorry about that, I had to find someone. By the way Lucien wants to talk to you sometime tonight."
"What about," he asked raising an eyebrow.
"I'm not quite sure." My answer sounded more like a question.
I grabbed his hand and we went exploring through the numerous rooms of the monster of a house.
Except I stopped laughing and enjoying the party as Lucien walked into an empty room across the foyer with a young man that I didn't know who looked no older than twenty one. As he closed the door behind them it suddenly hit me how serious this all was. We were only months if not weeks away from a battle that could shift the standing of Nephilim in the war that was to follow. Then I thought how I was supposed to lead the battle, but did anything say that I was supposed to go any further? I'm vulnerable to everything we fight with. I can't explain why, but that night it was like everything came crashing down on me. My breathing became shallow and the house seemed unusually small.
I let go of Daniel's arm and ran out onto the balcony to get some air. I felt heavier with the weight of what I had to do like a three ton truck was dropped onto me and I couldn't breathe. It was a suffocating kind of sadness. I felt so weak and useless, I kept thinking, 'I'm just a seventeen year old girl, what do they expect me to do'
I don't know how long I stayed there my breathing never slowing. In a matter of minutes I'd lost complete faith and strength in myself.
I turned and saw Lucien standing in the doorway of the balcony, his jacket was gone and he looked a little flustered but relieved at the same time.
"Yeah?" I asked him, my voice hoarse from coming tears.
"He said he'd help us," Lucien said as he walked out onto the balcony, "What's wrong?"
I turned away and tried to rub the tears out of my eyes. He turned me toward him.
"What's the matter with you?" he said gently
"Nothing. Nothing, it's just, it's too much. I can't do this. I need to get away from this, for a while. There is no way I can lead this battle."
"Why all of the sudden? You can do this," he took my hand in his, "everyone thinks you can do this. I think you can do this."
I looked into his eyes and everything slowed down. Without even thinking, I kissed him. After a second I froze and he did too. Quickly, I turned around again.
"I… I just need a few minutes alone." I said over my shoulder, he didn't reply, but I heard the door close a few seconds later. I'd just messed everything up. I waited a few minutes until I knew he was deep into the crowd of people. I climbed onto the balcony railing. I ripped the little fabric wings off of my back and let them fall onto the balcony floor. Letting my wings unfurl behind me I jumped. After I'd flown a large distance away from the party I stopped and hovered, slowly I jumped into Lucien's mind.
I'm sorry about this, but I just need some time to figure this all out. I saw him freeze through his eyes. I promise I'll find you all, I'll fight and lead the battle. I just can't tell you when. Please don't hate me and let the others know that I will be back and I will lead them. I'll try and send you messages. He was pushing through the crowd trying to get to the door. Don't come after me, if I'm in danger I'll figure it out. Bye, I'll be back and… I'm sorry.
By that point he was feet away from the balcony door. I pulled myself back and turned to leave. As I flew further and further away, I could faintly hear Lucien calling my name. My speed picked up and the bottom of the long dress flared out behind me. I was so confused and upset; I continued not knowing what direction I was going in or where I was going. My wings kept flapping for days and my eyes started closing on their own.
My body started feeling heavy, and finally I stopped three days later and fell asleep in the middle of a tiny clearing. When I woke up I was somewhere different. The trees were darker, thicker and the air had a bit of a colder feel from the place I'd fallen asleep.
A twig cracked a few feet away and I jumped up, ready for anything, an inky black wolf skulked out of the tree line. Its eyes narrowed as it circled around me. Not wanting to give it a sense that I was a danger, I stood very as still, letting it complete three circles around me. Assuming that I meant no harm the wolf stood on its hind legs, and as it began to morph I began recalling how human the features of the wolf had been when I'd looked at it. I realized how knowing the eyes had looked, how much shorter the muzzle was compared to that of an average wolf.
The man who stood in front of me had the same knowing black eyes, his skin was a bronze color and his black hair was cropped a little shorter than necessary. His muscles were toned, but not too obvious, and I pegged his height to be about level with mine.
The dark blue denim shorts he was wearing were covered in dirt and grass stains. Everything about him screamed wild and stoic. His arms were crossed over his chest and not in a very casual way. I took the opportunity to say something before he decided to open his mouth. Better to be the questioner than the questioned.
"Where am I?" I asked strongly hoping to display some confidence.
"I'm not going to answer that. My question is, why were you crashed I the middle of a forest in a dress like that?"
"That's none of your business," I said stubbornly.
"Well that's unfortunate, I was only curious. But I am wondering why I can smell angel on you?"
"I'm a Nephilim. Simple."
The man kept drilling me with questions. I answered them simply and a little bit rudely, but I was in no mood to take my time with courtesy. I hadn't known where I was going, but I'd felt a need to move on the entire time I was gone.
Unfortunately I knew if he was a werewolf he had a pack, and I had to get help from his pack and anyone else magical in origin that I could find.
I asked him for his help. Unlike some of the people I ended up asking for help, he didn't answer right away, he thought and deliberated.
"Depends on what's in it for my pack and me," he said after a long period of thought.
That struck something inside of me, "Why does there have to be something? You have no sense of good will? If there must be something in it for you, then think about it this way, if you help with this then you're one step closer to having no fallen angels bothering your kind either. That shouldn't have to matter, so right now I'm really not caring if you want to help. I'll find some other packs to help." Throughout that little rant I'd been walking forward threateningly, jabbing my finger at him, every word dripping annoyance, malice, and accusation. People like that annoy me to no end; I'll be honest.
The werewolf stood there looking like he was calculating everything I'd just yelled at him.
"I'll take you to my pack, they'll make the decision." He didn't look too happy about what he'd just said, and it had seemed that he had almost needed to be honest with me. Without another word we set off into the woods.