Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1)
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CHAPTER

TWENTY-SIX

 

 

Abaddon

 

A trotting half goat slave clip-clopped down a tunnel out of Aba’s view. He could tell by their distinct gait which of his lesser demons it was. Needing this one in particular, he ran in the direction of the clamor. The Devil produced a leather cord with an amulet hanging from it, and stuck the pendant into his mouth, getting the metal well covered in his venomous slobber. He pulled the necklace from his mouth and put it around his neck. The spit dried almost instantly in the dry air.

The Devil halted when the noise of the demon’s footfalls changed and altered its course. He listened to the sounds to determine the new path. The goat was headed right for him now. A blur of fur and dusty red skin ducked down another tunnel, probably because he sensed his master wasn’t far. Moving mutely, Aba closed in on him.

“Aza’zel. Stop.”

The demon shrugged up his shoulders. His master was behind him. Busted. Aba watched the idiot turn around slowly. He stared at the top of his head. The formally jagged bone had been filed down.

“Y-yes?”

“Where are you running off to, ol’ friend?”

“Some freshies came in, Sire. I was just going—”

Aba knew this was a lie. “They can wait.”

“Ah, yeah I suppose they can. How can I serve you?”

“You have served me well.”

Aza’zel looked at him with a creased brow. Aba chuckled low under his breath. “I would like to give you a gift.”

“Gift, Your Darkness?” Aza’zel’s brow rose. Aba could tell his slave was suspicious.

“Do you refuse my offering?”

“No, Sire.”

Aba paced around his underling for effect. “Good.” He removed the necklace from his neck. The talisman at the end of the leather cord was shiny metal, platinum, polished to a high sheen. He dangled the pendant in front of Aza’zel’s face.

“For me…Master?”

“Yes, go ahead, take it.”

Aza’zel reluctantly took the necklace.

“Now give me one of your daggers,” Aba commanded.

Aza’zel handed a blade over without question from out of his pouch, the puzzlement evident in his expression. Aba put his hand up to pat him on the head. The lesser demon stiffened but stood his ground. When he touched him, the goat-legged demon shrunk down and blinked repeatedly with each tap until the invasion ended.

Aza’zel’s discombobulated legs carried him away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER

TWENTY-SEVEN

 

 

Elliott

 

Elliott was unstoppable. His feet and body found a renewed energy. He ran across the footpaths in the direction the goat demon had told him. The ceiling above him reached a hundred feet high, plenty of room for flight. The loss of his wings poked a hole in his chest and felt like a brand he’d always wear. On either side of him were pits of burning lava. The sooty ground radiated fiery temperatures and the heat scorched the soles of his bare feet. He didn’t care.

The first problem with this escape attempt presented itself. At the far side of the large cavern he came to a set of tunnels and six choices. Aza’zel had told him he would know which path to take. Elliott had not questioned him further. What the hell was so obvious? The angel didn’t want to waste any more time, so he started down the second tunnel from the left. He ran for so long, the line of torches which lit the path ended and he was forced to slow down so he could feel whatever may jump out in front of him. Step after step he moved along a bend. On the other side of the curve he saw more of the same dark passageway. He walked almost as far as before the curve, until he spotted something.

An orange light glowed up ahead. Hours, maybe days wasted. He was right back where he started from; the large cavern. He emerged from the tunnel next to the one he’d entered. Frustrated he jogged away from the passages to get a better look. He analyzed the remaining routes. The first tunnel on the left he decided was too easy. The second and third were out. Skipping over four and five, he focused on number six.

The entrance to the tunnel all the way on the right was partially obstructed by large stones. It looked like relics of a wall built to block the passage and crumbled long ago. This had to be it. And that bastard Aza’zel had better be right about the way out.

Elliott approached the entrance. The height of the wall was deceptive from a distance. As it turned out, he was a great climber, scaling the barrier without difficulty. However, when he lowered himself down the other side…it was a different story.

He thought the tunnel would be like the last one, well-lit for a portion and level. There
wasn’t
a tunnel on the other side, but a cavernous space. A sea of roughly the same size stones lay on the ground. He squinted into the dim cavern, trying to see if there was an end to the rocks. There were small fires lit above his head, although they offered little illumination. For several feet in front of him, he stepped over the rocks, then the layer of stones thickened. He really wished he had on a pair of shoes.

Crunch.

“Ow…!”

Crunch
.

“Ouch! Mother…”

He paused.
What the Hell am I stepping on?
He took another step.

Crunch.

“Goddammit!”

Bending down he palmed one of the rocks and brought it up close to his face for a better look.

“Ehhh!” He let the thing drop and rubbed his hand on his jeans. They weren’t rocks at all. He did a whole body shudder.

Putting on a stone face he soldiered onward. Carefully, with each step he took, he tested for sharp edges before putting his weight down. His skin crawled.

Skulls, rotted brittle-ass skulls.

Like this was a surprise, he
was
in Hell. He marched, counting his steps.

Finally, the human remains thinned. A wisp of air blew his hair around. The breeze was hot across the back of his neck.

What the…?

A shadow appeared on the wall. When he waved a hand to test the theory that it was his own, the shadow didn’t wave back. He twisted to look behind him; no one was there. Now that he was clear of the skulls and bone fragments he started running. The shadow ran too. A whisper next to his ear made him flinch. He swatted the space next his head. More shadows joined the first, more whispers. His heart raced and his breathing became labored. He forced himself to continue, to fight the pain and fatigue setting in, which threatened to send him into a full-on panic.

Red-eyes glowed. Shapes began to solidify. Within seconds he was surrounded. He pivoted, wondering how many demons there were. Ten, fifteen…maybe twenty. Automatically his brain sent a message to his wings. Flight or fight. But the nerve endings didn’t know the parts no longer existed, only knew the appendages should be there. An intense searing ignited. He howled. His knees gave out and he went down to the dusty ground. The demons’ whispers returned as he lay writhing in agony. This time he could make out what they were saying.

“You lost your wings.”

“Deus will be angry.”

“You’re such a disappointment.”

“An angel without wings is a demon.”

“No!” Elliott cried. “I don’t believe you!” He covered his ears hoping to muffle the voices. Then the laughter started.

 

A flash of a memory surfaced of someone Elliott wasn’t able to recall. A young boy sobbed on a school playground, curled up on the ground, shielding his face and neck while other kids kicked woodchips on him. The bullies had constantly teased the kid without mercy. They pointed their stubby little fingers at him and taunted him just because they could. The boy had grown up but suffered mentally into adulthood. He continued to endure the hurt of his
past until he was killed, run over by his own car. He’d begged the guy to get help. There were some things an angel couldn’t do. For decades he tried to save him, make him a better person, not for the rest of the world but for himself.

 

The vision dissipated. Elliott’s failure lived on, festering in his soul.

The shadow demons laughed and danced delighting in the angel’s misery. They hissed, “He’sss hereee in the place for the mosssst vile.”

“You failed him!” they chorused.

“No! No, no, no! Stop it!” Elliott became the young boy from the past. He curled his body into the fetal position covering his ears. “Stop, p-please.”

“You failed!” they bellowed.

“It wasn’t my fault. It’s not my fault.”

“Oh yes, it was.”

“Stop,” the angel whimpered. The shadow demons closed in. Their calloused hands pawed at him. Claws ripped his jeans then his flesh. He had not the strength, nor the weapons with which to fight them.

A screeching like nails on a chalkboard, only shriller, echoed. The tormentors covered their ears with the meaty parts of their palms. Another screech resounded, not stopping. They cried for the noise to end. One collided with another until they all toppled like dominoes.

Elliott lay still. The screeching had been deafening, however the effect on him wasn’t as severe. He knew how to block certain frequencies, an angel’s trick.

“Angel, get up,” a familiar voice said.

Aza’zel?

“You…sonofabitch.” Elliott had meant to yell at him and wanted to kick his ass. Again. But relief washed over him instead.

“We don’t have much time, they’ll recover quickly.”

“What did you do to them?”

“What do you mean?”

Elliott resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Aza’zel presented him a hand…claw. He clutched the offering. The strength of the demon surprised him. He was yanked to his feet in a fluid motion.

“We have to go back.”

The worry in Aza’zel’s eyes was strange. “I found the woman. I think. Black hair, she’s—”

“Oh no, I’m leaving. I’m not going back.” Elliott shook his head. “The exit is this way, right?” He motioned with his head.

“Angel, the woman is—”

“I don’t care, all right? She made her choice.”

Aza’zel shoved Elliott into the wall, putting a blade to his throat. “No one makes that choice. Everything
here
is a lie.” The demon and the angel’s eyes widened. The words Aza’zel used stunned both of them.

Everything here is a lie.

Elliott met the goat’s stare. Sensing the shadow demon’s movement, he broke eye contact. “Let’s go.”

“Where?”

Elliott chuckled. “Where do you think?” He took off running toward the carpet of skulls. By the time he reached the border between flat ground and the bones, Aza’zel had caught up.

Hard hooves made the navigation simple for the cloven hooved dastard. He tromped through. After a minute Elliott lagged behind.

“Hurry up, Angel.”

Elliott fumbled through the bone shards. The goat sighed but kept his head down in concentration.

Crunch

Crunch

Crunch, crunch, crunch…

When Aza’zel settled in front of him, he looked up. “What? I don’t have hooves.”

“Why don’t I carry you?”

“No, that’s all right, I—” Elliott was swooped off his feet by an arm and swung onto the demon’s back. “I’m stronger than you.”
Just not now.

The goat grunted, “Uh huh.”

“Asshole.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER

TWENTY-EIGHT

 

 

Amalya

 

Blood and whitish goop streaked down Amalya’s back. The smart thing would be to find Aba and ask what was happening to her. However, after seeing her reflection in the full-length mirror, what she wanted involved soap and water.

Amalya lurched toward the door then staggered back and to the side, nearly crashing onto the floor. In order to counteract her balance issues, she found keeping her feet further apart worked. Now if she could just figure out how to get her wings to lie flat against her back. How was this done? Okay, the question turned out to be a dumb one. All she had to do was think about it and they would respond.

Practicing opening, closing, and flapping them proved to be
awesome
. Dust eddies swirled from the gusts of wind she created. She could’ve played for hours. However, the caked blood and nastiness itched, ending the fun.

She crept from the room, employing her wings to cover her nakedness. The door to the baths chamber opened easily and she peered inside. The room was dark. Flapping sounds followed by rocks knocking together caused her to hesitate. One by one, candles flared all around the circular room in the sconces on the walls. She stepped past the threshold. Although she knew she was alone, she felt the eyes of the something watching her.

Disapprovingly.

Before taking another step, she scanned the room. When she was satisfied that nothing was going to jump out at her, she walked forward.

The fronts of the sconces were adorned with goat demons carved from varied red marble veined with threads of black. These little statues weren’t an exact representation of the real creatures. All of the demons she had seen were wingless, but these were not.

Flap.

Amalya pivoted in the direction of the sound. Nothing moved.

Three sunken pools formed a line straight back from the doorway. Steam rose from two of the three mineral baths. The first bath had been the one she’d been dumped into after Aba had rescued her from his demons. Next to it was a smaller pool. The murky water gave her the willies and was also ice cold. The third pool had white water. She thought it looked like bathwater after using ivory soap, where the bar broke down from the temperature and discolored the water, only more opaque.

Slowly, she lowered herself into the one with milky water. For some reason the pool looked the most soothing, and it was the furthest away from any of the sconces.

“Ahhh.”

Dirt spread through the water, transforming it from pure white to gray. Her muscles relaxed as she immersed herself. The pool felt so good she dunked her head, disappearing below the surface.

Something brushed against her shin.

Across her thigh.

Over her foot.

This something or
somethings
coiled around her ankle. Whatever it was squeezed and jerked her further down. She felt around in the milk for the creature. Her wings beat under the water. Bubbles rose to the surface as she screamed, the liquid filling her mouth. Another coil circled her left wrist. Frantically she wrestled to break free. Her wings flapped, violently churning the water. She felt herself lift up, higher and higher until the surface was below her and not above her anymore. Gasping and coughing, she hovered in the air, her wings flapping.

An eel type monster came up still attached to her ankle and wrist. It crooked its head and looked at her. Its front-facing eyes were white with black slits. With no weapons, and only her teeth as means of defense, she bit the black, scaly, slithery beast. It squealed and unwrapped from her wrist, hanging in the air by the hold it still had on her ankle. She swung her legs.

“Get off! You disgusting—get off!”

Bicycle-kicking caused her to drift away from the pool. She had no control, but wanted to get closer to the floor. In her mind, she thought about what she needed to do to make this happen. Slowing her wings brought her down just enough, then she had to maintain a certain speed to stay at that level. Too much flapping meant she went up, too little she wound up too low. It took a few tries to get it right because she had to continue kicking her feet to keep the beast away from her face. She raised the creature-heavy leg and whipped it down. The eel screeched, knowing it was in trouble. When the head smacked on the rust-colored stone, it released her ankle. She lowered to the floor, grabbed the tail end, and whacked the head again. Blood flowed out of the mouth in a steady stream.

Amalya stood staring at the dead whatever-it-was, breathing hard. She told her wings to fold at her back, and amazingly enough, they did.

She stiffened at the stone-knocking noises and the collective clapping behind her. She turned. Hovering just in front of the wall torches were six tiny, beady eyed goats. Their bat-like wings beat the air.

Oh damn. Not good.

The water snake must have been their friend.

Well, isn’t this just lovely?
They rushed her. The first goat to reach her buzzed the top of her head.

“Oooh, ick!” She batted the thing out of the air. It crashed to the unforgiving floor and broke into pieces. Two more clung to her wings, their legs swinging as she twirled around. She shook them off and they flung into the wall with a collective screech. One split and the limbs went into four different directions. The other slid down the sloped wall, sagging in a lump of stones.

“Get off, you freak!” she yelled at one trying to hump her leg. She plucked it off and threw it to the floor then kicked the goat-legged demon with the side of her foot. It skidded into the dark pool, sinking to the bottom.

All right, enough of this. She let out a high-pitched shriek then spread her wings and blew the remaining two out of her way with a flap. They tumbled on the currents, somersaulting backward in the air. A tiny ‘Oh shit’ resounded just before they smashed into the far wall, landing in a pile of stones.

After her second bath in the pool she could see the bottom of, she slipped back inside the bedroom. The dress her lover had laid out for her was still in the same spot on the bed. She picked the clothing up by the shoulders. How was she going to wear this? She sighed then snapped her fingers. Her dagger was under the mattress. She made the dress backless and put it on, then slipped into the matching shoes. Red was her favorite color.

Wait, really? Since when?

Aba burst through the door. Amalya jumped and her wings expanded. His eyes went saucer-big and he halted. “Oh sorry, you startled me.” Her wings folded.

“You…uh…have…uh…wings. Uh…with feathers.”

She giggled. “Umm, surprise. I know, right? Wings.”

“Yeah,” he shook his head.

“What’s wrong? Do you not like them?” She got up to check herself out in the mirror. She felt protective of her new appendages. “I thought you’d be happy.”

Crossing the floor, he stood behind her. He groaned scratching his head.

“You don’t like them, do you?” She crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her eyes at his reflection.

“I-I do, it’s just…unexpected.”

A smile developed on her face.

Aba paused for a moment then chuckled. “Um…one more thing, were you in the baths chamber?”

“Yeah…” she answered, biting her bottom lip. “I…sorry. They attacked me first. Those things.”

“Interesting,” he said, stepping back and steepling his hands over his stomach.

“What’s interesting? What were those things and that snake, er, eel thing?”

“Did you try to take a bath in its water?” His brow crinkled.

“I thought the milky water looked soothing. Had I known what lurked below the surface—what
was
that thing?” She swallowed hard, imaging what had actually made the water white.

“A Necro Crawler. Doesn’t matter, it’s dead.”

“I thought things didn’t die here unless cut with a special dagger?”

He huffed. “Most things.”

Her eyes widened.
Oops.
“Sorry I…killed your friend.”

Aba snorted. “Don’t have any. Never mind, I have a surprise for you. Come, female.”

BOOK: Her Black Wings (The Dark Amulet Series Book 1)
7.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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