Nat returned to the Flock’s roost before dawn, having lounged at the side of a creek for what remained of the previous day. Slipping through the fields, he crept to the building Hana was residing in. She had been awake for a little while. He hoped alongside Sven that she was feeling better.
Pattering down the linoleum tiled hall, a light flickered at the door before Hana’s room. Nat slowed, working his hearing until he could use Sven’s shift to listen. A muffled whisper and a squeak tunnelled through his brain. He inched closer.
“Marriage is such a beautiful thing, Lisa,” Michael’s voice twisted through the door jam. Nat’s heart sank into his stomach. “Thirty days since our vows, and you are ready to become the bride of the Lord’s trumpet. You will herald in a new generation with your sisters, Lisa.”
The muffle echoed again.
The martyr will burn at the stake. Nat hissed to Sven.
“Get your fucking hands off her.” Nat kicked the door open.
Hana woke to a bird, a robin, warbling away its merry heart to the warm sunshine on the sill near her head. The sun streaming through the window hit her in the face. She rubbed her eyes to bring the room into focus. A loud crack echoed into the room from outside. She sat up quickly, grasping for her trench coat.
Another nerve-shattering crack burst into the room. She pulled herself onto the window sill and shimmied through the empty casing. Hana caught her breath at the view. Michael and Nat were standing inside of the circle of people near a large tree. Gasping for breath, the two-edged at each other, feinting for a hold. Nat had massive dark purplish-black bruises growing on his back and sides. Michael spat from a split lip. They glared at each other before Nat ducked low and tried to ram the man. Michael caught him by the shoulder, bringing it under the white-haired man, effectively spinning him around. He fell to the ground panting.
“Filthy scum, you bring evil to the Flock. You have squandered the sacred night of the Lord’s trumpet and his wife,” the man growled.
Nat gained his feet, wiping the dirt from his hands. He had played the fool until now, but he was starting to learn how the man worked. He feigned his ramming technique once more, but this time he ducked and slid, grappled the man by the legs, and brought him down. Michael tried to get up, but Nat landed squarely on his chest, pressing into his windpipes. “She’s a child, you sick fuck, and every person here who does not protect her is as responsible as you for what you were trying to do. Every one of you should see yourselves off this planet.” Nat barred his growing fangs, his voice too deep for his body.
They wrestled, clashing. Michael pushed him off, sending him skidding across the dirt to the feet of an onlooker. The onlooker, a vicious brute by Nat’s standards, gave him a good kick to the ribs, knocking out his breath. He coughed, gasping for air as the red-winged man advanced on him.
“A demon dictating judgement? I am the right hand of our Lord and tasked to pass judgement upon you, spawn of the devil, for defiling our promised land!” he shouted, lunging at him.
Nat, holding a hand to sore ribs, skittered from the man’s grasp. He gained his feet and dashed, trying to put his back to something less likely to beat him. He put the forest to his back, a massive tree seeming to be a safe launching point. Cursing the fact that he had always been better at running than fighting, he squatted into a wrestling stance, well aware that this was an entirely different concept for featherweight division.
Nat reached for Sven’s offered shift, taking on the slashing nails and long snout. The wolf-man spat into the dust, eyeing the bobbing bird-man. Michael swooped at him, and Nat dodged, scraping his claws across the man’s chest, leaving deep bleeding gouges. The man brought his wings down on Nat, a pair of steel capped ends at the edge of the bone tips slicking into his shoulders, pinning the waif to the tree. Nat cried out at the intense fire and numbness that dug into his ribs and arms.
“Michael! Nat? What the bloody hell is the meaning of this!” Hana yelled, flying into the ring of onlookers. The man turned to look over his shoulder at her, his eyes wide. “Let him down! Let him down this minute Michael!” she screamed at him. The bird-woman fluffed out her massive black wings, making herself significantly larger.
Nat, in the midst of the sharp burn, noted with some interest that her wingspan was larger than Michael’s, for her standing a good foot shorter than him. He had not realised until the moment he got himself pinned to the tree that the bird people could possibly use their wings as weapons. The ringing in his ears told him that he wouldn’t be thinking for long on that topic or any other.
Hana advanced on Michael.
“Easy now, Haniel, easy. I’m letting him down,” placated Michael as he dropped Nat. With some effort and a bit rougher treatment, Michael was able to dislodge his wings from Nat’s shoulders. Blood poured down from the two holes in his shoulder.
Nat glared at the man, but his head was spinning with blood loss. The wolf brushed under his skin warily. All he could do was slump to the ground, trying to gain some use of his arms. With luck, Michael’s deadly attack had turned injurious and not mortal. His subclavical was mangled, but he could still work his fingertips.
“What the hell is going on?” she barked.
Nat held a hand to one of the holes in his shoulder, bringing it away bright red and sticky. Ringing bounced around in his skull as black circles flashed in his eyes. The sensation in his fingers seeped out with the beat of his heart.
“Michael, what is going on here! Why are you trying to murder one of my friends?” Hana demanded once again.
All Nat wanted to do was sulk away and lick his wounds. He tried to press himself further against the tree. Glancing between Michael and Hana, he was losing his hearing.
Puzzle pieces clicked together. “You two are brother and sister?” he wheezed. It was in the facial structure, the narrow chin and eyelid fold.
“Yeah, it’s been going on for a while,” Michael replied offhandedly as he turned away from his sister.
“Oh, no, you don’t. Get back here. Where is Raphael?” her voice pierced Nat’s ears.
Michael turned back to her, flames burning in his eyes. She rustled her wings, warning him. Red flushed his face as he tried to calm his nerves. “Raphael’s dead, Haniel.” He brabbed the back of her elbow. “It’s just you and me now to lead the Flock in our promised land. I thought you knew that!”
“The fuck you mean ‘thought’? You all are a cult! I left the Flock ‘ and went all the way out to Portland ‘cause of mom and dad’s weird fixation with calling down angels. They wanted us to bring down the next coming. They infected three hundred people with an avian virus purely for this course of action. How can you not see you’re a cult leader? Did Raphael die with mom and dad?” Hana tugged her arm to get free. Michael pulled her toward the building.
“Vile half-bred scum of the devil like that boy that defiled her.”
Nat and Hana shared a confused glance. He had pushed himself up against the tree so hard as to leave bark impressions on his back. Blood seeped from the holes in his shoulders. A black veil descended behind his eyes. He slipped down the tree and blacked out.
“What is wrong with you?” Hana yelled at her brother, pulling to get her arm free.
Michael tightened his grip on her. “Don’t you even dare touch him. He’ll kill you like the demon who killed Raphael.” He pulled her back to the large building. That’s when she saw the rest of the group stuck within a pin that was fenced in with fresh twelve-foot-tall sharpened logs.
Sun Hee cried on Deck’s shoulder, and Benj had an ugly black eye. Yeller, in possession of a bloody cut across his cheek and an angry bruise on his chin, growled at the gathering on the outside of the fence. Zola glared at Michael with death shining in her eyes.
Two men, armed with a pair of pre-fall automatics, approached the fence, Nat suspended between them. One of them shook a fence pole, and the group of friends moved back as Nat was shoved in. Yeller caught him, wrapping around him protectively. “Easy, mo grá, easy. Deck, help me get the blood to stop.”
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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