End of Days Page 51

I nod. Maybe the hellions were so gleeful in hurting Beliel because torturing the newly Fallen is the only revenge they can get for the destruction of their world.

If this keeps up, I’m going to end up like Paige and start talking crazy about having respect for all living things, even for things as hideous as hellions.

The old Paige, I mean.

I watch the smoke rising above the ruined hellion city and wonder how she’s doing. Is Mom okay? Is the Resistance still holding it together? Will I ever get back to them?

The Watchers look each other over in the brightening light, assessing themselves for injuries. They look the most carefully at Raffe, but not to see if he’s hurt. They seem to just be assessing him.

Raffe is the only one of them who is whole, uninjured, and fully winged with healthy feathers. He stands tall and muscular, with no scars or scabs on his powerful body.

The only thing marring his appearance is the dried-fruit necklace that the Pit lord gave him. One of the Watchers had picked it up off the ground, telling Raffe that it could be used to show that a Pit lord favored him. I think it looks like a dead mouse dangling off his neck.

‘We thought we’d never see you again, Commander,’ says Thermo. ‘We thought we were forsaken.’

‘We always knew we were meant to be forsaken,’ says Howler, ‘but it’s a different thing when it actually happens.’

‘What’s happening topside?’ asks Thermo.

Raffe tells them about Messenger Gabriel dying, Uriel expediting an election by creating a false apocalypse, the invasion on our world, and what happened with his wings.

While he’s talking to them, I watch Beliel. Like the others, he’s handsome, masculine, and torn up. But unlike the others, he looks toward Raffe with a conflicting mix of hope and anger.

‘You’re here to take us back with you, right?’ asks Beliel. ‘We’re not fully Fallen yet. We still have some of our feathers even.’ Some of the others chuckle like that’s a joke.

Beliel strokes the remaining patches of sunset feathers on his wing. ‘They’ll grow back once they can see real sunlight again. Won’t they?’

‘Let us help,’ says Hawk. ‘Give us a mission.’

‘Let us earn our way back, Commander,’ says Cyclone. ‘We’re wasted down here.’

Raffe takes a good look at them. He looks at their tufts of feathers and splintered wing bones sticking out at odd angles. He looks at their skinned limbs and gnarled wounds. I can see in his eyes that it hurts to see his loyal soldiers like this.

‘What happened to the others?’ asks Raffe. He looks at the dozen or so Watchers around us.

‘They have their own journeys to travel now.’ Thermo’s voice holds a world of sadness.

So if we brought them back, it’d be a dozen Watchers against a hundred of Uriel’s angels.

‘Where are the hellions?’ I ask.

‘They’re the least of our worries,’ says Beliel.

I look around at the barren landscape. No hellions in sight. ‘I need them. I might be able to use them to get out of here.’

They all stare at me.

‘Have you even been here long enough to be this crazy?’ asks Little B.

‘That’s how we got here,’ I say. ‘The hellions can jump in and out through my sword, and I grabbed one to hitch a ride.’ I shrug. ‘I guess you guys never held a sword on a demon long enough to do this before.’

‘It only takes a second to kill one,’ says Raffe. ‘No reason to pause before skewering him.’

There’s a moment of silence as they stare at me, then they look at each other.

I brace for the barrage of questions, but all they ask is, ‘Can we catch a ride too?’

I glance at Raffe. He nods. It wouldn’t surprise me if this has now turned into a rescue mission for Raffe as much as a mission to save the angel host back in our world.

‘You don’t really believe her, do you?’ asks Little B.

‘You got something better to do than listen to her?’ asks Howler.

‘I don’t know if it’ll work,’ I say. ‘But if you could help me find hellions and convince them to jump back into my world, then we can all try to leave here together.’

‘She’s as crazy as the rest of them,’ says Little B. ‘No one has ever escaped the Pit without permission from the higher-ups. Ever.’

‘She’s telling the truth,’ says Raffe. ‘We come from a different time, and we came through . . . one of you.’

They all look at each other.

Raffe nods at me, and I tell them my story. I tell them a version of it that I hope is a diplomatic one – one where I don’t mention which of them was the gateway and what condition he was in when we came through. When I’m done telling them about how we got here, everyone is silent.

‘If one of us is the gateway,’ says Beliel. ‘Then that must mean that the gateway Watcher can’t leave, right?’

I drop my gaze. If we manage to get out of here, he’ll be left behind for however long it takes him to claw and connive his way out of the Pit and onto earth. I have no idea how long that will be. But it’ll obviously be long enough to kill off all decency in him.

41

You’d think since we’re in the natural habitat of hellions, the place would be crawling with them. But most of them must be hiding, because we can’t find any. I’ve seen more hellions in Palo Alto than here.

Prev Next