He swore loudly at the empty forest as he tripped over yet another moss-covered tree root, hidden under crisp, amber piles of fallen leaves. Stumbling against a tree, his face contorted into a pained wince, as the rough bark dragged across the already bleeding scrape marks on both palms. Great, now there was dirt in the wounds.
He paused and glanced over his shoulder, wondering if They had heard him cursing. Probably not. They had probably got bored of chasing after him long ago, and wandered off to torment some other misfit, but he was still paranoid.
Leaning back against the tree trunk with a resigned sigh, he snatched a few moments to get his breath back and survey his surroundings. He had run pretty deep into the wood. It was fairly dark, all emerald green light filtering through the leaves of tightly-packed trees, crowded together in a tangle of branches and foliage. Crushingly silent, but silence could sometimes be good..
No, They probably wouldn't bother chasing him all the way in here now. Not when he'd present such an easy target on the way to school tomorrow, and being unhealthily thin for his age (which was probably 16, or maybe older), he hardly had the brawn to fight back.
He absent-mindedly raised his fingers, complete with expertly painted onyx nails, to his lips, wiping away a trickle of blood that was threatening to snake its way down his chin and marr the perfect, ghostly white skin. Blood, exactly the same colour as his hair, a dark, sultry red, like rich wine, layered and feathered to frame his feminine face, and almost brush his shoulders, but not quite. Penetrating brown eyes instinctively fixed into their trademark cold glare as he looked around, surrounded by a black oil slick of eyeliner and heavy silk lashes. These features, and the three silver hoops glinting in each earlobe, were the only things right now that branded him out as not quite what would be considered normal.
Black tie and trousers. White shirt. Maroon blazer. He hated his school uniform, but doesn't everyone? Of course, the current state of his hinted at the situation he had just escaped from, with smears of dirt and scrapes that he'd get yelled at about when he eventually decided to go home. If anyone actually noticed, that is, which on second thoughts he decided was doubtful. But he didn't have to go home until he felt like it, and right now he wanted to walk around for a while and clear his head up a little.
He was about to walk off, when something flitted past his face, carried on a light breeze that had somehow found its way into the forest. He snatched the item out of the air and looked at it curiously.
A white feather. It was large, very large, he guessed it must have come from a swan's wing, and it was the purest, most dazzling white, so bright that it hardly looked real. It was undoubtedly the most beautiful feather he had ever seen. The boy laughed, wondering exactly what other feathers he was comparing it to, and stopped suddenly, marvelling at the strange, happy feeling just holding this simple feather gave him. He was sure, the cuts on the hand that was holding it looked a little better.
Another breeze ruffled his hair slightly, carrying another feather with it. Looking around for the direction the feathers had been blown from, he decided to follow them back to the source.
He laughed as he climbed over fallen branches and tree trunks, his trainers making delicious crunching noises against the dry, brittle leaves that carpeted the forest floor.
Black school folder tucked under one arm, with random occult symbols scribbled on in neon markers...he went to a Catholic school, and he liked to aggravate people, obviously more than was healthy for him...the two mysterious feathers clutched tight in the other hand, feeling like a little kid again, on some treasure hunt or imaginary quest.
Feathers were lying on the ground now, first on their own, then scattered in twos and threes and fours. And finally, the triumphant adventurer emerged into a large clearing, deep in the forest's shadowy heart. He halted sharply, staring in shock at the horrible scene.
The beautiful feathers were scattered like snowflakes across the bare earth, which had been churned up as if in some monumental struggle. The surrounding trees had also been mauled, with deep gashes hacked into their trunks, and several of them leaning perilously at odd angles, as if something horribly powerful had slammed into them.
But nothing so powerful could get this deep into the woods without someone clearing a path for it...
His stomach lurched sickeningly as he recognised the decayed odour of blood in the air. The dark smears were everywhere, covering the ground, splashed on to the trees, and saturating several clumps of the feathers.
/It's like angels and demons have been using this place as a battleground.../
He immediately rebuked himself for such a strange thought, blaming too many hours of fanatical Catholic schooling, but somehow it stuck with him. Regardless, this place held some sort of frightening power, and he had a deep sense that he should not be here. He was about to turn and run for his life, when he noticed another trail leading away from the clearing.
It was hardly a trail, but it was marked by a steady line of more of the shed white feathers, now all of them stained with droplets of red, and more blood on the leaves and ground. Mentally kicking himself for being such a stupid idiot, he gave in to curiosity and decided to follow the trail, and find the source of the feathers and blood.
He walked for a long time, until the already present aches and pains in his body had multiplied to an almost unbearable amount, and he was utterly exhausted. The emerald light from the treetops had slowly melted into an alchemical mixture of sapphire and obsidian, heralding the departure from day and the emergence of the twilight hours. Thankfully it was a hazy summer night, so at least he wasn't cold.
He was inches away from giving up and going home, when he noticed a large white shape through the tangle of tree branches ahead of him.
Instinctively tensing up, he crept closer, keeping as quiet as possible and barely daring to breathe, in case the small disturbance of air currents alerted whatever the creature was and it escaped before he could get a glimpse of it. He had come too far now to make a mistake at the last minute, and his normally apathetic countenance has been replaced by furious curiosity.
/Just a bit nearer...I can almost see it...I...oh wow.../
Pressing himself against a tree directly opposite the mystery creature, he peeked out at it, and immediately had to clamp a hand to his mouth to stifle a gasp of surprise.
A slender, very pretty boy who looked about 15, although it was hard to tell, was huddled on the ground, knees drawn up to his chin, sobbing silently. His hair was like ebony silk, reaching down past his waist, but messed up with leaves and pieces of bark in it, and his white robes were torn and dirty. There were thick gold bands around his neck, wrists and ankles, and a small, gold crucifix-shaped earring in his right ear. There was also a gold circlet on his head, which reminded his watcher of a halo. Although this was hardly surprising, considering the enormous pair of shining, white wings that were arched protectively over his head, like a makeshift shield.
/He's an angel.../
But even from his less-than-ideal viewpoint behind the tree, the boy could tell that something was very wrong with this angel. Both wings looked badly battered and were stained dark crimson, and the feathers stuck out at odd angles, as if something had been trying to wrench them out. The left wing was hanging completely limp and bent at an odd angle, and almost all the feathers around the base and joints were clogged up with dried blood.
/...and his wings are broken.../
Shifting his foot, he unknowingly stepped back on to a dry twig. The clear cracking noise alerted the broken angel at once, and he looked up in alarm. His watcher's heart melted away as he caught a glimpse of the other's face. The young angel was stunningly beautiful, but his large, liquid-brown eyes were reddened, and overflowing with tears of utter terror, and his features were half-obscured under a mask of dirt and bloody scratches.
"Hey...hey, it's okay...it's only me here...OK?" he stepped slowly out from behind the tree, talking in as soothing a voice as he could. The angel's eyes widened even more at the sight of his watcher, and he shrank back further, pathetically scared.
/Yeah, I don't blame him...I do sort of try and shock people with how I look...duh.../
"I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. You're a real angel?"
The angel nodded quickly, biting his lip and visibly shaking. The human boy took a step closer, and the other immediately thrust his right wing out, knocking his would-be helper backwards.
"Whoa!...I said I wouldn't hurt you!" he fell back on to the ground, suppressing a cry of pain as the aches in already bruised parts of his body suddenly flared up again "I can't just leave you here, can I? You're really in trouble!"
The angel gave a small whimper, more tears spilling from his lovely eyes.
"I'm sorry..." the boy sighed, not bothering to get back up again. He drew his knees up to his chin and shifted a little so that he and the angel were sitting opposite each other, at the same eye level "I'm Loreley, but just call me Lori. So, what's your name? Angels have names, right?"
The angel opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again with a small, voiceless sigh and began chewing on his lower lip again in distress.
Lori frowned. "Um, you can speak, yeah?" The angel shook his head. "Ah...okay...nevermind, doesn't matter then...er, look, you need to trust me, because I'm pretty much the only person who's gonna come along and help you, way out here. And seriously, you look even worse than me...you need to get some help..."
The angel nodded and tried to get to his feet, without too much success. Quickly standing up, Lori helped the other up, almost falling back down as the angel leant all his weight against the human. He placed one of the angel's arms around his shoulders to help support him.
However the angel had got there, he already looked half dead from his wounds, and was hanging on to consciousness by a very thin thread.
"OK, I guess we'd better get you back to my house..." Lori grinned. He glanced back at the angel's wings, the left one still completely limp and trailing across the ground.
"Er, the wings..."
The angel nodded weakly, and in a white-hot flash of light the wings melted away into his back, leaving him looking like any ordinary human. Except for the white robes and extra-long hair, but that couldn't be remedied.
Lori tried to suppress a giggle as he thought of the strange looks they'd get walking down the street, before slipping an arm around his new friend's waist to steady him, and setting off home.
This is a story idea I've had for a while, but I don't know if I should continue or not...so, yes or no?