Blood Crossed

The Dark One smiles with razor teeth and struggles to his feet. His injuries are fatal. His friends are either dead or too far away to make a difference. This will be his last stand.

And that's perfectly alright, because standing not five feet away, shining in immaculate armor, is the only person The Dark One ever thinks about. The Lord stands prideful, grim, and victorious, his enemy finally ruined and beaten.

The Dark One finally reaches his feet, standing nearly seven feet tall, clad in black, and raises his sword, now ready to die. He will die, now, but He will die a legend. Oh, they will pay in blood for every step they take.

A terrible joy fills his heart, the joy only a dying man feels when he knows he's ready. He looks into the eyes of his enemy, the eyes of the Lord who's made his life a hell. The eyes of a monster whose eyes are also his own. Midnight, shining black eyes, with silver cores that glow in the sunset where The Dark One stands surrounded.

He tears at his own armor with one hand, unwilling to die wrapped in metal. He finally rips the shirt from his body, and frees his mighty black wings with a rush of ferocious bliss. Finally, finally, it comes to and end. He's finally ready, and soon He'll be free.

With a cry that is both hate and love, he unleashes himself for the last time. The Lord's soldiers fall like grass before his rage, tasting perhaps a tiny bit of his fury as he rips them apart with blade, fist, and teeth. He strikes like a lighting bolt, killing with every breath, screaming for no reason but to scream.

At last it is only The Lord, and The Dark One. He stands again, wings spread in pride, and throws his blade to the ground. The Lord only smiles the arrogant smile of one who has already won, and draws his own gleaming blade.

The Dark One blinks the haze from his eyes, stumbles with the loss of blood, but straightens and prepares to finish what the Lord started.

"I'm ready, Grandfather…"

"Elenor, wake up!"

"Ah, wha-" I'm being shaken awake by tiny hands, and without thinking I struggle, still terrified by my dream. Who were those people? Who was that dark, frightening person, with those unnatural black wings?

I mean, it's not that wings are so odd. They just oughtn't to be black. It isn't right. Ventraedi's gift to us was our "Wings of White, feathers of Purity, Flight to achieve the heights of Piety" according to the Book. Nothing in the Book says anything about black wings, so I guess it was nothing more than some kind of impure dream.

Nothing like that could ever happen. Right?

Sometimes Ventraedi blesses us with prophetic vision, but I am only a woman, more of a girl than a woman even. The great prophets are always men. It makes sense, I'm told.

The real monster turns out to be my sister, Gael. She's poking me in the ribs now, giggling like a little child. Which she is. I roll over and pretend to be dead, maybe she'll go away. I'm tired from last night, my friends had me out all night to celebrate my Mission-

OH SHIT. That's why she's trying to wake me! I'm supposed to leave today!

I leap out of bed and Gael squeals, covering her eyes. I realize, looking down, that I'm undressed, although considering how pale and barely-developed I am it hardly makes a difference. I wish I could have maybe grown up a bit more before going, maybe there'll be a nice Seraphic boy there!

But no, they send me at fifteen, the age of reason as written in the Book. I'm to set up a Mission in some backwoods Human village called Halfmoon Grove, and try to teach people the truth of the Book.

Don't get me wrong. It is important to me… but I guess it's not as important as maybe it ought to be. I can't help but see this as more of a vacation from my father, Dackorac, Mr. "I'm so big and pure and holy, look at me, destroy the infidels, blar blar blar."

I argued with him once. It was my shining moment of pride, though it earned me a beating and a month-long grounding. Literally. He pinioned my wings and refused to Heal them until he was satisfied I'd learned my lesson.

Considering all this, I'm glad to be going, even if it is to a tiny spot on the map that nobody cares about. I yank a robe over my head, push my wings through the slots in back, and tie my hair with a quick flurry of ribbons and flowers. "Do I look presentable?" I ask Gael, and she nods with a giggle.

"You're pretty. And you're late."

"I know. Hugs!" She flaps into my arms, and I squeeze her until she squeaks. "I'll miss you, Gael."

"I'll miss you too, Elle."

She bounds down the stairs ahead of me, into the yard in front of our Loft. Seraphics, as you may not know, live in family units, each household being grown into a large Family Tree. The various branches and trunks form the different Lofts, with my parents sharing one, my brother in another, and me and Gael in the third. A sort of clearing is made by the interwoven branches and expansive, connecting leaves of the area between the Lofts. Above us is the Canopy of our tree, so that we can be out in our clearing even during bad weather, but the leaves up there are transparent so we get sunlight.

Waiting in the clearing are the rest of my family, Father, Mother, Drachme, and Gael. Father forbids friends at important functions, hence the reason for them keeping me up all night.

There is also an Airship, hovering just outside the clearing's main opening. Father keeps glancing at it with absolute disgust, which makes me think it must be Infidels piloting it. I'm surprised he's trusted them with his precious little preacher.

Now I take a deep breath and embrace my family, not knowing when I'll see them again. Mother presses a package into my arms, Father simply looks at me with what might be pride, and my siblings stand away and watch with dark, wet eyes.

Then I step into the Airship and face my future.

Arateak

The Seraph girl slowly tiptoes onto our boat and looks around like demons are about to eat her, and me and my brother just have to laugh. Un freaking believable. These religion types are a riot.

She looks up at us, at me, and tries to be indignant. "What are you laughing at, please?"

"Ah, nothing, miss. We've just been awake for some long time now." My brother, Valateak, points down the hallway of out tiny airboat. "Arrateak will show you to your room, miss, if you'd like."

Dammit. Always making me the manservant. "Yes, thank you," the girl says, as delicately as she can manage, and waits for me to take the lead. I walk down the aisle, passing the few rooms we have, and open the last door on the right. "Here you are, miss. Enjoy the flight. If there's anything I can get you, just press that button there," I point, "or just come up front and ask one of us.

You're the only passenger on this trip, so don't feel the need to be overly formal. My name is Arrateak, or just Arra, and I'm pretty much the bitch around here."

"I'm Elenor Seraph."

"Aren't you all Seraph? I mean, that's what you are, right?"

"My father is the High Prophetic for the Holy Seraphic Pilgrimage, so our family wears the title for the entire race. We're very highly regarded in our species."

"That so." I turn to leave, but:

"Yes," she carries on, apparently immune to patronizing brush-offs, "That's why my father's sent me to this small and under-educated village. I've lived my life almost a celebrity, and it's been ordained that I should see what a humble life is like."

She sure can prattle.

I finally head back up front and crash into the copilot's chair. Vala feels the need to harass me. "So.. pretty cute, huh?"

"No. She's a freaking preist. Probably celibate or something."

"I think she's just some kind of teacher. Like, a missionary."

I reconsider. "All right, she's sort of pretty. Not much going on up front, hear me? But she's nice-looking."

"Just you watch what you say. Her God will smite thee or something, you never know." We both laugh our heads off, and turn the boat towards Halfmoon Grove, pimple on the ass of nowhere.

Elenor

I sit down in a chair that wasn't made for a person with wings, and try to relax. I can't help being nervous, I'm on a ship alone with two Pteros! My father's warned me about them. They're reptiles, closer to the animal state than the sentient, barely even self-aware. They don't even believe in Ventraedi, or any God at all!

Of course Ventraedi is the only God that actually exists, but at least if they were heathens they'd have the general idea. They have no religion at all!

My father was right. I guess my job is more important than I thought!

The Pteros' ship is comfortable enough, though my wings are snagging on everything in the room. I almost knock a picture off the wall. These little places are too tight for a flyer, but of course they didn't think of us when they were designing flying boats. Why would we need them?

In fact, I wanted to fly here myself, but of course Father wouldn't have it. His little preacher was meant for civilization, not camping out for a week. This way we'll make it in two days, though I have to sleep in a claustrophobic little trap with a pair of Pteros one room over. It's not pleasant.

I've never slept anywhere but in a tree.

There is music playing in the little cabin that I've never heard before, lots of drums and crazy sounds that remind me of a blacksmith's shop. The room has various shifting pictures on the walls of mountain caves and great jungles, pictures of the Pteros' memories of their homeworld. It's sad to see. Like the Seraphic Pilgrimage, they all came to Fallen at one time, when their planet was ravaged by a plague. Every life-form there died, trees, animals, and people. Luckily, Fallen was ready for the hopeless people of that world, and pulled them through space to a safe new home.

Still, I understand their yearning for their home world. I never saw Ventraedi, our planet and our God, but I miss it all the same. Father says it's because those of us not born there are farther away from salvation, and feel the pain of our uncertain futures. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about that.

I noticed the Pteros boy looking at me in a strange way, almost attracted to me. I do know what that looks like, you know. I've been called pretty by a share of our own boys, and I've kissed one before.

It's just hard to read expressions on a face with slanted, peculiar eyes, white with dark centers. It's unnatural. Seraphic eyes are rounded and black, with silver, gold, or platinum irises. Mine are silver, which is nice, because they match my white hair.

That's the first thing I noticed about people outside of the Forest. They're so… dark! Like they're covered in dirt, or something. Our skin is purest pale white, with only the slightest blush, but these Pteros are brown like, like, I don't even know. A smooth tree trunk. They look like they have dust on them. It's unsettling, like if they touched my clothes they'd be ruined.

Arateak

"She isn't my type." I firmly declare, and throw down my cards. "Seriously."

"Seriously, Ara? You haven't stopped talking about her." Vala still hold his cards, looking back at mine on top of a pile of stones we use for "money". He shakes his head. :You lucky bastard. Why do you always win?"

"You just said it. I'm lucky."

"Hmph." He turns to the panel and taps a display, then sighs. "I'm going to bed. Stay here for an hour, and if the girl doesn't bother you, then hit the hay yourself. Don't forget to power down over water, so we can cool the drive Sparc."

"I never forget," I protest, but he's already halfway to his cabin. Damn.

I clean up the cards and shake the stones into their bag, then toss both into the storage compartment next to the window. I could swear I see a flash of white, like wings, but I blink and see nothing.

Seraphs got me spooked, I decide. They're a freaky bunch. They're tall, very tall, in fact the girl, Elenor, she's almost even with me. Those eyes are scary as hell, the way they absorb everything, like pools of nothingness. If it weren't for the huge white wings, though, I'd be pretty much cool with the Seraphs. Those wings are their pride and joy, twice as wide when spread as the Seraph is tall.

And they can fly with them, though I think it's magic rather than biology. Those big Seraph soldiers weigh four hundred pounds in armor, yet they can turn on a dime in midair. Like I said, spooky stuff.

I tell the ship to hover in place over a nearby lake, power down the Sparcs that aren't needed to sustain the float, and go to bed. Cabin heat scans tell me I'm the only person awake.

I wonder if Seraph girls dream? And what about?

"Mother, look! Look!"

The small boy leaps across the field, taking a hundred feet in two steps. He's so full of energy, so alive, so real…

He stops in front of her, smiles, and pulls her legs into a tiny hug. "I can do it easy, now, Mother! It's just like flying!"

He looks up, and she's haunted by the eyes of the Dark One, staring up at her. "Someday I'll fly like you…"

Elenor

I wake up with a gasp, tears in my eyes, and try to calm myself down. My wings are screaming to open, every instinct telling me run, fly, escape!

What… what was that dream? Why do I keep seeing that dark, frightening person with Seraphic eyes? It's a monstrosity! Black, thick hair that hangs across his face in spiky clumps… no Seraph has that. Nor would any of us be wrapped in such thick, furry clothes, we love the cold air against our bodies.

So where have these images come from?

And why do I struggle to fear the little creature, as though there's no reason to be afraid of it?

The door slides open and the younger Pteros, Arateak, stands panting in the hallway, shirtless and sleepy. "I heard a scream, are you alright?"

I make sure I am covered before responding. No Pteros boy will see my body, uninteresting though it may be. My father told me about their women, how they give themselves to the men at a young age, unworried about things such as unwanted children, being reptilian and therefore having a very odd reproductive system.

Immoral. Sinful. Decadent. I won't be a part of it.

"I am fine, do not worry. I had a bad dream."

"You don't have to do that," he says softly, and steps into the small room. I can already feel his heat, uncomfortable and unwelcome. It ruffles my feathers. "I know you're just a girl, so you don't have to act like some kind of princess priest or whatever you are."

"Do not insult my station, Pteros. I-"

"-my name is Arateak, I've already introduced myself. You can call me Ara, or Teak, or any combination of the two. Unlike you, your majesty, I don't represent my race and therefore I will not be represented by it."

I'm taken aback. The boy Arateak speaks with such fierce pride, as though I have wronged him somehow. And I detect a trace of anger, anger at me for addressing him as I have been taught.

"Goodnight, Arateak. I am… sorry, for my presumption."

He opens his mouth to say something, revealing reptile teeth that point slightly, but decides against it and turns on his bare heel. My door slides shut again, and I hear him stomp away.

I don't sleep again tonight.

To be continued…

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please leave some feedback for me, I just want to know what you think of my format. It's kind of an experiment. Thanks!