Onus Angelorum

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Secret Angel Man

The energy in the living room was still buzzing when I returned. Henry’s parents left angry. I cleared the dessert dishes and tidied up the kitchen. Henry sat with his head resting in his hands.

“Do you need time alone? Can I get you something?” He put his hand out to me. I hurried over to take it.

“I need to go back tonight. I can hear my brothers calling me to fight. I’m so sorry, Al. We talked about me staying longer. I want one more day with you.”

“It’s okay. Let me get packed. We can grab a coffee and gas and make the drive back tonight.” He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me.

“After hearing what you told my parents, I know you’re not happy I’m leaving.”

“My happiness wasn’t factored into our odd romance. I can visit you, and I will help you next time you come out, but I will always want you to stay.”

I let Chris know we were leaving early and how I wanted the next-door tenant removed. I found the pants Malou made for Henry and an all-cotton tee shirt and put them on the bed.

I coaxed him into the shower and stood with him while the water washed over his skin. His mind was someplace else, leaving his body on autopilot for minutes at a time.

“I can’t focus here anymore. Are you sure you can’t fight? They will need us both when we arrive.”

“I’ll call Malou and see if she will meet us with a few of her witches. We don’t need anyone else.”

The long drive to the entrance was as awful as I imagined it would be. The gas and coffee were both running out. I stopped in Springfield for more of each. We kept the music playing, and when Henry was lucid, we talked. By the time we pulled into the forest preserve parking lot, I could barely keep my eyes open.

Some teenagers sat in their cars smoking weed. I saw Bob walkout from the first grouping of trees. I parked close and helped Henry get out. Bob waved his hand across the thick darkness of the forest and dragged some of the pitch blackness around us. The other patrons partying in the lot appeared to fall asleep in their cars.

Bob put a shoulder under Henry’s arm, and we walked him to the entrance. Henry was murmuring in a language neither of us understood. Malou crouched by the opening with a fist-sized, pink crystal talisman wrapped in copper wire. She dropped it around my neck as Bob handed me all of Henry’s weight.

“Okay, Sexy, we’re here. Help me walk us inside.” Henry stirred and kissed me on the head as he leaned on my shoulders. I wrapped myself around him and coaxed him across the border.

Inside the barrier was teaming with angels. Some were injured. Some stared at me like I was a black spider crawling on a white wall. Henry’s skin turned hot and felt wet. His chest filled out, and wings grew on his back with the sound of a crystal goblet being stroked by a metal knife.

He pulled me to his chest, blocking my view. I felt the wind under my legs. Looking up at his face, all I could do was smile. There was so much to see all around me, but he was mesmerizing. The employee’s only section of the White was filled with magnificent, deadly things.

“Thank you for getting me back.” Henry smoothed his hand over my face. “Are you ready? I’ll take you high and drop you over the Yolk. Remember, you aren’t tired, and I’m right next to you.” I reached up and kissed him burning my mouth. My hands seared with heat as I ran them down his chest.

“I’m ready now.” The trip to the high point of the Yolk felt like riding a speeding arrow. Henry dropped me and tore out toward his brothers with the sound of grinding metal. The last thing I saw in color was two flaming swords digging into an almost clear demon body.

The feeling of my mass changing was more pronounced. Black wings and silver metal talons replaced my arms and feet with a lingering itching pain. The vision of Dagen’s crest swirled in my mind. His black soot dragon sprang to life. I felt thick and heavy, powerful and free. Several passes across the group of demons left the edges of their army charred.

A dark shadow grew at the edge of the Grove, and I could smell gardenia flowers. A sense of Gar came over my mind. I bulleted toward the Yolk border and gouged my talon into the dirt, releasing the ancestor wolves.

Several passes into the sky distracted two large demon blobs as the Powers sliced them into chunks. Lessor demons gathered on the Yolk floor were met by an army of ancient wolves hungry for their blood.

It was fast and dirty, but the creatures who thought only three angels were guarding the gate met a swift end. I dropped to the Yolk floor as Gar transformed back into human form. He grabbed a cloth tied around his neck and moved it to his waist.

“That’s why you all wear your tartans.” I left my black dragon scales on my torso for safety, only exposing my face and hands.

“We can’t all do such tricks, Lass.” Gar looked around at the carnage on the ground and called his wolves to follow him back to the Grove.

Henry landed next to me and coiled his white wings around my black, scaled body. “That’s a nice look, very gothic.” I laughed, groping his full biceps.

The magnetic pull between us was strong. If it were dark, we could have seen static in the air. His brothers landed next to me, their hair and wings covered in black ichor.

“Thank you for bringing our brother back to us. Your sacrifice is seen and appreciated.” They smiled and walked into the White, disappearing as they crossed the threshold.

Malou was waiting in the White. I stopped short of going inside.

“Henry, I don’t want to visit you too soon and be a pest.”

“I might visit you in your dreams soon. Selaphiel said he could teach me.”

“Perfect! I can’t wait to fall asleep.” Henry wrapped his wings around me and hugged me tightly.

I could hear him in my mind.” Thank you for leading me back to where I belong. I will miss you. Live your life well and be happy.” I blinked and found myself laying on a flat boulder in the White with Malou patting my hand.

Walking out into the dark, quiet forest, I took a deep breath of the fresh bark and moss scent. Bob started the car and released the people sleeping in the parking lot.

“Where to ladies?” Bob sat behind the wheel, adjusting the seat and mirrors.

Malou looked at Bob. “How about we go back home. It’s only an hour away.” Bob agreed with a nod. “Lay down in the back seat and rest, Love. The drive won’t take long.” I pulled my coat under my head and laid down. The two ported in, but with the car to transport, we couldn’t port back.

I was too numb to cry. Henry was where he needed to be, and if I was going to have any chance with Dagen, it was where he needed to stay.

I found my phone and sent Dagen a message. “Is this the day you sleep?”

“Nope,” he replied.

“Took a midnight trip into the White. Fewer things to go bump in the night. Henry’s home, I’m on my way to Rafferty’s. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

“You went in without me?”

“Yes. Have you seen backstage?”

“No?”

“I’ll tell you all about it. Have a good night. Hope I see you soon.”

“Bet on it!”

Wet pavers lit by carriage lights lined the wet, green lawn. Out in the darkness sat the hedge maze and the Grove entrance. I unloaded the car and prepared to leave again.

I understood why an assortment of canvas bags sat ready in the mudroom. It was the closest access point to the portal. I filled a bag with the clothes I borrowed and a bag of coffee and sugar.

“Take some baking soda with you and the canned ham in the fridge.” Malou opened the cupboard next to her and took out some cinnamon sticks and tea bags.

“Thanks, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“Oh, I’m fine. I wasn’t needed for much tonight. Your angel kept you safe.”

“Yeah, I don’t think Henry qualifies as human anymore.” Malou nodded her head and put a spoonful of peanut butter in her mouth.

“Are you off to look at apartments tomorrow?”

“I should be, but I need to talk to my father, and I miss Leo.”

“Take your time in the Grove. You need to relax. What should I tell anyone if they ask about you?” Malou tossed a bag of dry split pea soup mix in my pack.

“Dagen? I’m not hiding. You’re welcome to tell anyone where I went.” Malou nodded.

“Do you remember how to get to your father’s house?”

“Yes, I paid close attention when Bruce led me back a few days ago.” Malou picked up a strange looking block of wood with numbers and sun shapes carved into it.

“Okay, this do-hickey shows it’s three in the afternoon there now. You should catch some daylight if you hurry inside.”

I grabbed my bag and rushed out the back door.

“Quick, change your shoes.” Malou handed me a light pair of lace-up canvas shoes with jute rope soles.”

“Thank you, I’ll be back in a few hours.”

One step through, and I was in the mid-day sun. The path was dry and lined by large hunks of slate rock. Old wood benches sat waiting. I situated the bulky bag in my arms and set out for the red gate.

After a few minutes, it felt like something following me from inside the dense tree cover. It only took twenty minutes to walk the barren path with Bruce, but I began getting anxious. I tried my extra sharp hearing but didn’t detect anything. I chalked the odd feeling to lack of sleep and interdimensional hopping.

Susanna was pruning roses in the courtyard when I arrived. I showed her my bag of goodies, and she led me to the kitchen.

“Can I get you some tea?”

“Yes, please, it’s been a strange day.” she cocked her head sideways. I told her about Henry and the impromptu demon barbeque. She raised her eyebrow.

“Your father and Leo left to meet with the Elder Wolves. I think I understand why. You went in rogue.”

“Rogue? I brought two witches.”

“No backup, no armor, no soldier.” Susanna shook her head.

“Maybe I should leave. I wanted to return the clothes I borrowed, and I really miss Leo.”

“My God, he is one beautiful man. It’s a shame he’s a half-blood.” I felt my smile drop. “I only mean his blood magic isn’t enough for a lineage wolf.”

“He’s my best friend. I don’t care what’s in his blood. Unless it’s syphilis. That’s tough to overlook.” Susanna laughed. We changed the subject. I wasn’t going to alienate her for one insensitive comment.

My father and Leo walked the path in a deep debate. I stood at the gate, cradling my tea. Rafferty’s eyes held mine in anger. Leo looked at the ground and scratched his eyebrow.

I exhaled and prepared for a lecture.

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