Defeating the Purpose
What good is faking ones own death only to leap into the middle of battle the instant something dire happens? The rogue had asked herself that very question a sparse moment before lending her aid to the very man she had 'died' to hide from. All the trouble she had gone through to cast the illusion of her demise was for naught, but she wouldn't forgive herself if she stood by to watch him die at the hands of such demons.
The rogue had been spending her after-fake-death life in a small, quite fishing village, the kind where nothing extraordinary happens. It was the type of village filled with people who did the same thing day in and day out. Mornings were filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and evenings were filled with pipe smoke and fish. It suited the rouge wonderfully. Of course, she felt the old urge to run into the rain, spread her red feathered wings and fly as far as she could, but after experiencing all the excitement a rogue's life could offer, an unchanging routine was oddly refreshing.
She woke up, stretched her muscles, walked down the inn stairs to grab a glass of fresh milk and went to help the innkeeper with daily chores. At first, the rogue had paid for each night, but as she spent more time and did more chores, the widow who owned the inn began charging her less and less until she stayed in her room for free. Though mention of rogue's past was taboo, the widow enjoyed telling stories about her children and past husband. Between the shared chores and one-sided conversations, the two women had become friends.
"Will ye run down to the millers and buy a large bag o' flour?" the widow asked the rogue as she pulled a loaf of bread out of the oven. "We've managed to use all ye' got us last time."
"Of course," the rogue responded as she untied the lacy apron that clung to her waist. She dusted the last bit of flour from her black skirt as she hung the apron on the peg beside the door. "I'll be back afore long."
"Watch yer feet and mind the street," the widow called after the rogue as she always did when the young woman left the inn. The rhyme was endearing in a strange way. Very few people had ever bothered to wish the rogue any sort of luck. If she wasn't careful, she'd start to like the old widow.
The quiet streets immediately sent the rogue into a state of unease. Usually the boys were dashing through the dust, shouting as boys often did. Usually, men were at work or talking loudly as the greeted one another with hearty bellows and slaps on the back. Usually, women stood in the shade of their homes to churn butter or sew as the chatted and kept watchful eyes upon their children. Usually the village was noisy but it was still as a snake bathing in the sun.
Her fingers itched for a blade as she walked toward the miller's. Doors were closed but little faces of children and worried faces of women peered from the windows. The men, it seemed, had vanished, but she knew better. Something was afoot.
As she neared the edge of the town, the rogue noticed the men standing in the distance. Armed with their crude daggers, fleet knives and few swords, they had gathered at the edge of a cliff that over looked the sea. Though the rogue could see no actual danger, the scent of fish, fear and blood floated across the distance.
Then, like a great beast, a shadow fell across the field between the men and the rogue. A shout shattered the silence and the rogue found herself running to join the men. Her heart thudded loudly and her fingers reached for a dagger that no longer rode her waist. The fighting had found her hiding place.
Two figures danced in the sky, their large wings giving them the look of gargoyles. One flew with wings made of blades that shone brighter and sliced deeper than any of the best-polished swords. His demon blades moved with frightening speed, reminding the rouge why she always stuck from the shadows. She could never hold her own against such an opponent unless she caught him unaware.
The other fighter few with wings made of soft gray feathers that glided through the air more gracefully that the most agile bird. Though he seemed to be slower than the demon fighter, the rogue's well-trained eye saw that he was the better, more patient warrior. Even if she hadn't been able to see the skill, experience would have been enough for her to know. He was the bane of her existence, or perhaps he was one of the reasons for it. Either way, her stomach tingled with an emotion she had no name for. Worry, she decided, was the main culprit.
"The angel is going to lose!" one of the men shouted, commentating on the fight taking place above their heads.
"What do we do if the demon wins?" another cried. He was met with murmurs and fierce reprimands.
"An angel could never lose to a demon," the local priest announced from his position in front of the crowd. "God shall guard His avenger!" How little he knew. Even as he spoke the demon suddenly folded his wings to dip under his opponent before rising up behind the angel, sword poised to strike.
A name broke through the rogue's pink lips as she suddenly pushed to the front of the group. An arm reached out to stop her and she realized the priest had grabbed her. "Leave this to the Lord," he said, making her eyes go wide with shock. Taking another quick glance in the sky, she saw the demon plunge his black blade into one of the angel's wing before removing it and laughing as the angel began falling toward the ground.
"No," the rogue whispered as she watched the angel fall toward the sea and rocks below. Any action would force her back into the battles she had worked so hard to escape, but remaining still would likely sentence the angel to death. True, he was one of the oldest and most skilled warriors in existence, and true, he would probably survive the fall. She didn't want to take the chance.
"Bloody Hell," the rogue growled as she pushed the priest away and stole the dagger from the man standing beside her. "I'm going to kill him after this."
Ignoring the gasps from the men, she dove off the cliff. The wind tore at her clothes and made her eyes tear, but any discomfort from the fall was nothing compared to the searing pain of having two large wings rip through the flesh of her back. Only years of discipline kept the rogue from crying out as cuts tore open across her entire back, some reaching around to touch her stomach like long fingers. Their red color hid masked the blood, but the feathers were damp with the stuff.
With a swift thrust of her wings, the rogue caught up to the falling angel. He was too heavy and falling too fast for her to simply snatch him out of the air, but she could slow his assent and stir him toward the water. Though his eyes widened with surprise when he saw who was grabbing his arms, he didn't say a word. He was wise enough to remain silent while she concentrated on saving him.
The demon screeched as they fell into the sea. Salt stung their new wounds as they swam back to the surface. The rogue left the angel, using her wings to fly out of the water to attack the demon. She could never last in a long fight against the demon but the angel's magic would heal his wing within minutes. She just hoped she could fend off the demon's sword long enough for the healing to complete.
The force of the demon's blow forced the rogue down a few feet. His eyes shone with anger and she assumed he was upset that someone had rescued his prey. She supposed she didn't blame him, but she wasn't exactly happy that he had forced her to come out of hiding. Using her small, stolen blade, the rogue flew easily around the demon, gifting him with light cuts and pricks.
"Death becomes ye," the demon growled tauntingly as he spun around and followed her movements.
"Aye," the rogue agreed as she fell back, forcing him to follow her away from the recuperating angel and gaggle of men. "Why don't we see if it becomes ye as well?"
"Ye'd need a bigger knife," the demon laughed as he knocked her dagger out of her hand and pushed her into one of the many openings in the cliff face. The cave was only a few feet deep and just tall enough for the demon to stand, but it was the perfect size to trap her. "Tis a shame no one will believe I killed ye," the demon told her as he rested his blade against her throat. "I'll have to live with the glory of killing the great balance."
"Or not," the rogue said as the angel's shadow engulfed the cave. Before the demon could think about blinking, the small knife slid across his throat and he was pulled backwards and dropped. His body plummeted to the sharp rocks and any chance of life fled as his bones shattered.
The angel handed the dagger back to the rogue. They stood in silence for a few moments before she gathered enough courage to glance up at the angel.
"'ello?" she whimpered nervously.
"'ello," he answered harshly.
"I'm not dead," she told him timidly, trying to hide her sudden nervousness with jokes. She had a feeling her ploy wasn't working. Her hands were shaking and she couldn't seem to meet his eyes.
"I can see that," the angel stated. His hands were clenched into fists, a fact that only increased the rogue's apprehension.
"Um, I'm going to be going now," she murmured as she edged past him. He leaned aside to give her the room she needed to stand at the edge of the cave. "I've got to get back to being dead."
A gasped escaped her lips as he pulled her against him and buried his face in the mess of her hair. "No dying," he ordered.
"Alright," she agreed and relaxed against him.
Leaping off a cliff to save one of the people you faked your own death to escape defeats the purpose, but the rouge was alright with that, even if he later claimed to have not needed saving.