FOREVER KNIGHTS: #14 Broken Birds

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One Day

Surprise wiped the smile from her face. “I-I-”

“I’m only kidding.” He said softly.

She blew a relieved breath. “That was unkind.”

“In truth it was…so long ago…I look forward to seeing him again someday.”

“When will that be?”

“I don’t know. There is much I must do first.”

She gave a grudging nod. “So, if-”

His chin lifted. “I was Captain Black then. In 1312 we fled Paladine Country in fear of humiliation or torture. Once night when we traveled we came on a withered old man who claimed to be searching for us.

At first, we did not trust him. We nearly killed him before letting him speak. Only when our swords split and slammed to the ground did we listen...Attentively.

He said he wanted to save us from what would happen. He told us he’d seen our deaths. He warned that the following night Philip of Paladine Country would meet us at the pass. He’d massacre us. We were all that remained of a sacred order we’d been in more battles than we could count but we were afraid.”

Blowing out a breath he gathered strength to continue the tale.

“The old man left us with the option to turn around and go back. But the only thing waiting for us that way was more of the same. We decided to go through that bloody canyon with no idea who that old man really was.

“The old man in gray.”

“Radix Malorum.” Deragan corrected. “The demon.”

“Demon?” She repeated as her mind began to connect the dots.

“Remember we’d given up everything. We had nothing but the treasures we guarded. We’d seen comrades suffer torture and countless die in battle. Setting up camp that night our minds were heavy as we prepared ourselves to go through the canyon in the morning.”

“As foretold we were met by the king’s men. Outnumbered. The sky clouded and thunder purred. Something white came tumbling through the clouds. No one could believe a woman falling from the sky. Slivers of light radiated in every direction.”

“She wrapped her wingers around herself. Sunlight sparkled over her so radiantly it was blinding. She crashed to the ground and gasped for air. Feathers landed at our feet. Rain poured in a tirade as if the others mourned her. Unsure what we could do I picked her up, brushed hair from her face and looked at her. When she opened strange purple eyes flecked with silver and looked at me something in me changed. I can’t explain it.” He floundered.

“She fought her way from the skies to land at our feet. I carefully picked her up but she rolled from my arms. Using her wings like crutches to guide her to the ground. They arced out to balance on the ground and lower her carefully to her feet. She began to shine and light came off her in waves. We threw our arms over our faces. “

“The king’s soldiers fell to their knees in her glory. When she shrieked the world seemed to cease revolving than suddenly speed up. Trees leaned to honor her and plants grew and bloomed. The enemy force fell before her without a word. Behind her my knights were lifted from the ground their faces twisting as light coiled around them. She was taking something from them.”

“Their humanity.” Nora breathed.

“Their mortality.” Deragan corrected. “Her work done the beautiful creature fell to her knees and spasming as she struggled to breathe. I lifted her again and held her close. I remember her hair on my arm her eyes closed in pain. Her wings against me were the strangest thing I ever felt. She was so precious and she’d given everything to save us.” His jaw clenched as he remembered the small hand brushing his cheek. Startled his eyes had widened on the beautiful, fragile thing in his arms.

“When she spoke her voice had been so beautiful I’d fought the emotions it elicited.”

“What’d she say?” Nora asked quickly.

“It was you.” At her confused look he elaborated. “That’s what she said to me. ‘It was you, Captain.’ She told me she’d watched all we’d forsaken and see our loyalty. That she’d seen inside me what I had done for them and she’d fallen in love. Despite all the warning her kind received she said she loved me.” His voice broke and his throat worked as he swallowed. “She said she would not be able to bare a world I was not in.”

Nora’s brow had furrowed as she felt a surge of emotion that made her want to cry. “What did you say?”

“I couldn’t. I did not know-I said nothing.” He deflated. His back stiffened. “She told me ‘keep them safe.’ I could have denied her nothing.”

He explained he’d felt something across his forearm and realized he stood in a growing pile of perfect white feathers. Soon the frame of her wings was just empty bone slowly dissipating from the tips to her shoulders.

“The last thing she said to me was that she would love me and me alone. And that we would be together over and over again until time ended.” Deragan could no longer fight the flood of sorrow that reached his face. After that she’d gone limp and her last ragged breath had been torn from her. He’d felt the bright flame of life leave and known he was helpless.

Finally he’d found something worth saving and it had eluded his grasp.

“We were stronger. Our bodies weapons and our minds energy. We had no idea what we’d become. The next night was the blackest I’ve seen. Clouds darkened the moon as if to shield it from what we were.”

She frowned in confusion.

“This is what the Fallen gave us.” He whispered as he snaked a hand out and caught her forearm in a vise grip.

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