End of Days Page 48

He looks up at me from the ground with disorientation in his eyes. The spotted hellion flies out of his grasp. It flitters in a panic into the hovel, and the Watchers swat and kick at it until it frantically flies back out of the hatch.

Raffe blinks at me a couple of times as he slowly gets up.

‘Are you okay?’ I’ve never seen him so disoriented. He looks like I must have when I first arrived here.

And then it hits me that maybe he did just arrive. At first, I think what a great coincidence that he landed near me, but of course, I’m not the connection – it’s Beliel. We went through him, so we arrive near him on the other side.

‘Did you just get here?’ I ask.

But he’s not looking at me. He and the Watchers are staring at each other as each Watcher comes out of the hovel. They position themselves in a circle around him, as though in a dream.

‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘I guess you guys know each other.’ I awkwardly step back.

‘It can’t be,’ says Flyer.

‘Commander?’ asks Hawk with doubt in his voice. ‘Is that you?’

‘What do you mean Commander?’ asks Beliel as he turns his empty eye sockets to Raffe.

‘It’s Archangel Raphael,’ says Thermo.

‘What the hell did you do to get yourself down here?’ asks Cyclone.

‘Your wings . . .’ says Howler. ‘How are they pristine?’

It’s ironic now that Raffe finally has his angel wings back that he’s in the land of demons.

‘Are you on a mission with Uriel?’ asks Thermo, sounding skeptical. ‘I thought he was the only archangel who could come down here. You haven’t turned into a diplomat, have you?’

‘Maybe it’s a trick,’ says Hawk. ‘Maybe it’s not really him.’

‘What was the biggest kill you ever made?’ asks Cyclone.

‘A foot taller and wider than the biggest kill you ever made, Cyclone.’ Raffe brushes dust off himself.

‘It really is you,’ says Cyclone.

‘What happened?’ asks Flyer. ‘How are you here?’

‘Long story,’ says Raffe. ‘We have much to catch up on.’

‘Betrayer!’ Beliel looks furious. He slams his body against Raffe. They hit the ground and grapple as Beliel tries to pummel Raffe.

The others grab him and pull him off.

‘You swore!’ yells Beliel as he struggles against his buddies. ‘I left her in your care! Do you know what they did to her? Do you?’

The Watchers subdue Beliel, putting a hand over his mouth and whispering in his ear to calm down.

‘We should talk,’ says Raffe, getting up. ‘Is this a good place?’

‘There are no good places in the Pit,’ says Hawk.

‘We should go someplace where we have easy escape routes,’ says Thermo. ‘Anything that might be looking for a meal just heard its dinner bell.’

In the distance, something screams. It’s hard to tell how close it is.

Beliel stops struggling, but he’s breathing hard and fast. He may be blind, but there’s nothing wrong with his ears.

‘Let’s get out of here,’ says Cyclone. He takes the lead. The rest of us follow.

Even though Beliel is obviously furious with Raffe, he still walks with his back to him like they weren’t archenemies. He also follows the group as if it never occurred to him to not cooperate. His bulging muscles start to unclench, and the tension in his shoulders softens as he walks.

The hate-filled edge I’m used to seeing in Beliel is not there, even in this horrid place. Whatever happened to him to make him that way hasn’t happened yet.

We follow the Watchers away from the hovel just as the screaming of those Consumed whip heads fills the air again.

Raffe pulls me into his arms and takes flight.

38

‘Stay low,’ says one of the Watchers, ‘where they can’t see you.’

Raffe swoops down and flies at almost ground level along with the Watchers. We swing side to side, barely avoiding broken wheels, piles of rubble, and burned-out husks of something unrecognizable.

Behind us, the Pit lord with the flaming wings comes roaring after us. He whips his screaming heads at his set of newly Fallen who strain to fly as fast as they can. The spotted hellion that came with Raffe flies beside the Pit lord like a giant winged rat, pointing at us.

We glide along the broken street until we turn a corner and come face-to-face with a set of screaming heads.

Raffe shifts me so that he’s holding me from behind. Without speaking, I know what he wants me to do. He can’t carry me and fight at the same time. I pull out my sword.

Raffe swoops left, and I cut a swath through the Consumed. Their teeth and hair fall to the ground as the blade slices through them.

Behind us, the Watchers fan out in a wedge formation with us in the lead. I’m the only one with a weapon, so it becomes my job to cut through whatever gets in our way. The Watchers punch and kick their way behind us.

I’ve never fought on a real team before other than with Raffe, but we all fall into a rhythm that doesn’t require words for us to coordinate.

Someone yells behind us.

We all turn to look. The Pit lord has caught Flyer, who was at the end of our formation. Flyer is bent over on his back over the edge of the chariot with the Pit lord pressing on either side of him so that his back is about to snap in half.

Everyone exchanges a quick look, then the entire formation veers, returning to rescue Flyer.

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