“So this is Ondtov.” Fortrina muttered under her breath as the two angels marched through the front gates of the city. “I was picturing something a bit more impressive.”
Simon glanced at her, not quite sure what she had been expecting. “As far as pre-industrial cities go, this one really isn’t bad.”
“So you say.” Fortrina sighed. “Come on, I just want to sit down.”
Simon nodded and fell in step behind her as they flowed into the city. After traveling the entire night and most of the next day, they were just getting to shelter as night began to fall once more. Simon’s body ached rather badly, and he was admittedly looking forward to getting some rest. That said… Well, he thought it was an impressive city.
Structurally, Ondtov looked more or less like a proper fortress. A towering castle rose over a hundred feet into the sky at the center of the city, with massive walls radiating out from the center to form wedges of city structure. Districts, as they were called. Within the districts, everything was made from the same stone material, all shops were the same size, all homes were identical, all doors were precisely the same height. Nevertheless, banners and other decorations hung from the stone to denote the contents of the shops and home, giving the individual locations a personality even within the larger fortress. Most of the artwork on display either featured bones or was made from bones, giving perhaps a slightly darker flair than other cities. All together, it gave him a sense of ease and security, which he rather enjoyed at that moment.
The two angels, having shapeshifted into human forms that distinctly lacked wings, quickly found their way to a tavern nearby through the throngs of people that were starting to emerge for the night. There was no name, but a pelvis and a femur were nailed to the wood over the door, giving it at least an identifying mark. As they pushed inside, they found a somewhat busy location, with a roaring fireplace, a lively minstrel playing a tune on an instrument made from bones, and an open dance floor where a handful of people tromped back and forth.
Fortrina turned and nodded and a table in a corner of the room, then strode up to the bar. Simon nodded back and quickly moved to claim the table. At the bar, she quickly tossed several coins onto the wood and began ordering their meal. Simon sighed and closed his eyes, trying to stay awake as he waited for his food.
All around, the bar continued to laugh and cheer. People celebrating. People having fun. People who knew how exactly to manage having a life. What was that like? What did it feel like to be able to go to a tavern with someone you loved and just spend time with them?
His pondering was brought to a close as Fortrina rushed back to the table, carrying a small tray filled to the brim with food. She passed a mug of ale to Simon before setting another mug on the table in front of herself. With that, she placed the tray in between them, giving both angels access to baked apples, fried onions, and spiced venison. Simon grabbed one of the venison hunks and tore into it in a split second, only pausing to breathe after he had swallowed a painfully large bite.
Following the deep breath and subsequent momentary rebellion of his stomach, he began to eat at a somewhat more marked pace. In entirely too short of an order, the food vanished. Simon finally leaned back a few minutes later, slurping up the last of the onion while Fortrina finished up the last apple. He pulled his right arm into his lap, letting the slowly-healing limb rest while he began to sip his ale with his left.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a meal quite so good.” Simon finally sighed. “If I have, I’ve forgotten it.”
Fortrina sighed as well, then shrugged. “I’ve had better.”
Simon snorted. “Really? You, trapped in your little crater, have had better meals than that?”
“We had a plant, a water nut of some sort, that would bloom once a year.” Fortrina flashed a small smile. “On those nights, we would all go out and stand around the pond, watching as the flowers slowly emerged from hiding. About a month after the bloom, the nuts would be ready for harvest.” Fortrina leaned back in her chair and mimed kissing the air. “You would not believe how good those tasted. I don’t think I’ll ever have anything like them again.”
Simon flashed a small smile. “Sounds amazing.”
“Beyond words.” Fortrina sighed and took a deep draught of her ale. “Alright, Simon, let’s play a game. I know quite a bit about you from hearing stories, but I don’t know you.”
“Oh, stop.” Simon scowled at her. “I hate these games. Do you have any idea how many times Amil would make us do bonding exercises to make us function better as a team?”
“No, I don’t.” Fortrina raised an eyebrow. “I’d love to hear about it, though.”
Simon snorted, realizing belatedly that he had walked right into that trap. “Every time we flew past a civilization poised on the brink of proper spaceflight. There’s something about that particular stage of development that makes all the big corporations and motivational speakers spend their time blathering about unity and working together. We would go down in disguise, and Amil would get all sentimental. Made me sick.”
Fortrina chuckled as Simon mimed vomiting across the table. She sighed and nodded at him. “Alright, your turn. What do you want to know? The rules are that we have to answer honestly, no matter how embarrassing.”
Simon frowned. What was there to ask about a civilization that had lived out their entire existence in a single crater? What could happen that was so embarrassing there anyway?
“Alright, fine.” Simon raised an eyebrow. “Patricia told me that you banned kissing because you were all girls. Tell me the story of how that came about.” He raised an eyebrow. “I bet you kissed someone.”
Fortrina scowled. “She did not tell you that!”
“First time I met her, actually.” Simon smirked. “Go. You set the rules.”
Fortrina sighed and ran her hand through her air. After a few seconds, she sighed. “It was Isnita.”
Simon let out a howl that attracted the attention of several nearby patrons. As they turned their attention back to their meals or significant others, Simon leaned forward.
“You kissed Isnita? I need details.”
“It was nothing exciting.” Fortrina scowled. “She and Malah would always kiss each other on the cheeks when they went to sleep. A sister goodnight kiss or something. Anyway, one night I decided to try it out. I wanted that kind of a sister’s relationship, so I went in for a quick peck when Isnita walked over to me. Suffice it to say that I didn’t ever become one of their sisters.” She sighed. “I don’t think Isnita even remembers it. I have no other memories surrounding it, which makes me think that it’s an old one that’s just stuck around.”
“You’re right. That was boring.” Simon sighed. “Alright, your turn.”
Fortrina bit her lip and leaned over the table. “Hmm. What’s space like? What do the stars look like up close?”
Simon sighed deeply and closed his eyes. A million images exploded through his mind, a cosmos seen in a million different lights.
“It’s impossible to describe.” He kept his eyes closed. “Stars are these giant balls of gas that just burn. If you view them from a distance, they’re small and bright. If you view them up close, it’s the purest fire you’ve ever seen.”
He sighed. “Picture a starfield, like you’d see at night. Now make it a thousand times more intense. Every star, even the really small ones, don’t twinkle. They just look like little pinpricks of light. You can see red dots and blue dots, white dots and purple dots. There are these things called nebulas that are just giant pockets of gas and dust. They can be thousands of times larger than stars, just hanging in space. Then you’ve got comets, which are balls of ice that just sort of explode when they get close to stars or other heat sources.”
His eyes flicked open once more. “You can see asteroids streaking through space at thousands of miles per hour, moons that are twisted into the most incredible shapes. Gas giants that look like enormous glass marbles. Galaxies: Picture a cracked-open egg composed of a million stars. And that’s not even mentioning black holes, quasars, or rifts.”
Fortrina took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I wish I could see it.”
“I wish everyone could see it.” Simon sighed. “No. I wish that everyone could see their own planet from orbit. To get a sense for the size and scale of what they truly live on. It’s incredible and mind blowing and I desperately wish I could go back.”
Fortrina grimaced. “If it’s any consolation, I’d love to see it.”
“Let’s make a pact, then.” Simon held out his hand. “If either of us gains access to a functioning starship, we go take the other one for a ride.”
“Deal.” Fortrina shook his hand, then sighed. “Your turn.”
“Alright.” Simon frowned as he tried to think of a question. “How many times did you sneak away to those forbidden ruins that you tried to stop us from entering?”
“Five.” At Simon’s annoyed look, she shrugged. “I never found the recordings, if that’s what you’re wondering. I always chickened out and came back.”
“Fair enough.” Simon snickered. “Your turn.”
Fortrina paused. Simon could see a question building up inside her mind, likely the question that had prompted the entire exchange of questions in the first place. Simon sighed and crossed his arms as Fortrina’s voice dropped to a mere whisper.
Simon groaned and ran his hands through his fingers. After a few seconds, he shrugged. All things considered, it was a less horrible question than he had been anticipating.
“I don’t know.” Simon shrugged. “That’s the honest truth. Someone I was in love with before our world exploded. Since I watched the recording of myself, I’ve gotten glimmers of memory, but I don’t know if they’re true memories or just something my brain is desperately trying to cobble together. I’ve always been better than most of us at remembering things from a long time ago, but… That was a really long time back.”
Fortrina nodded slowly. “What do you remember?”
Simon felt a brief smile flicker across his face. “Her preferred form was female, and she wasn’t anyone to back down from a fight. She typically wore her feathers in black. Her hair was wild, she rarely bothered to keep it up. She loved ice cream.” He sighed. “That’s really it. I guess I have one more memory, but…” He thunked his knuckled against the table. “I don’t know what it is. The recordings say that she survived the blast, but then vanished. I have a memory that I think might be that disappearance.”
“Tell me.” Fortrina’s voice was quiet.
Simon felt his body beginning to shudder. “She was standing at the entry of an alley. She looked up and saw me, then glanced behind her. And then… She was gone.” He held up his hands. “That’s it. I don’t know if it’s real or not, but I know it hurts to think about.”
Fortrina puffed out her cheeks. “That’s rough.”
“Yeah.” Simon sighed and shrugged. “I just wish I knew, you know? Like… If I was still immortal, I’d just move on. I have no functional way of ever learning anything about her. I would just forget about her and continue with my life. Now, though… I want to know. I want to figure out what happened to her. What happened to all our people.”
Fortrina frowned. “I thought it was the Wondrisil?”
“It was, it was.” Simon waved his hand dismissively. “I just wish I knew why it was done in the first place. What purpose did the Wondrisil have? Why destroy our universe? Why destroy all the other universes, for that matter? It doesn’t make sense.”
Fortrina shrugged. “Maybe we’re not meant to know such things.”
“Maybe so. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to figure it out.” Simon shrugged. “There’s just so much I want to know. Who we were. What our society was like. I want to remember the gods that we worshipped, I want to know if they were real or not.”
“Maybe we can find that sorceress friend of yours and try to find a way back.” Fortrina shrugged. “Might be worth a trip.”
“Maybe.” Simon sighed, then shook his head. “Can we talk about something else?”
“Works for me.” Fortrina leaned back in her chair. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I don’t know.” Simon sighed. “Do we have money for a room tonight?”
Fortrina shook her head. “I used it all up on the food. We didn’t have much to begin with, just the stuff we stole from those highwaymen. I just figured that we’d sleep outside the city gates or something.”
“Oh, let’s not do that.” Simon shook his head. After a few moments of thought, he shrugged. “I’ve got a better idea. Come on.”
He climbed to his feet, nodded courteously to the bartender, and slipped out onto the street. Fortrina followed him, a curious look on her face. Simon quickly walked around to the side of the tavern, where he slid into a narrow alley. As Fortrina joined him, he shifted form to take on the appearance of a high elven woman, making her appear just above the legal age of adulthood. A flowing, flower-patterned dress dropped down from his shoulders, cloaking his new form in elegance.
“Come on.” He gestured at Fortrina. “Make yourself look pretty.”
Fortrina scowled up at him… Her… and crossed her arms. “Are you saying that I’m not pretty?”
“I’m saying that you have about as much of a chance at landing a free room tonight as a rootwalker.” Simon shrugged. “Plus everyone just saw you. Now hurry up. Humans think elves are super attractive. We walk in, find someone that you think is attractive, and get him to take us back to his home. Once we’re there, we knock him out, and we’ve got a free room for the night.”
Fortrina continued to stare at him in annoyance. “Someone that I think is attractive? Not you?”
“I’ve been a dude for too long. Guys still don’t seem that good even when I’m a female.” Simon shrugged. “Now are you going to join in or not?”
“Not.” Fortrina smirked. “Here’s a better idea. You do that, and I watch from a safe distance. Assuming that you wind up succeeding and don’t get arrested as an unlicensed lady of the night, I’ll shift into a bird or something and fly through a window of wherever you wind up landing for the night.”
“Fine.” Simon sighed, then stepped past Fortrina and back onto the street. “Time to watch an expert at work.”
“Pfft.” Fortrina snorted. “You know nothing about women, despite your ability to take on the form of one. I bet everyone in there winds up rejecting you.”
“Ah, ha.” Simon held up a dainty finger. “I may not know women, but I know men. Observe.”
He spun with a twirl and sauntered into the bar. As he stepped down the stairs, every eye in the room collectively turned to look at him. The women subsequently turned away and began muttering under their breath to their female friends, while the men mostly did their best not to look too obvious about the fact that they were staring.
Simon quickly walked up to the bar, where a large group of men parted to let him lean against the wooden surface. He flashed a smile, then sighed and reached his hand into his pocket.
“Oh, no. I don’t have any money. If anyone would buy me an ale, I’d be willing to go home with them.”
No fewer than five ales were quickly placed in front of him. As he began to sip the alcohol, the five men who had purchased him the drinks began to argue about who had laid coins on the counter first. He risked a glance back at Fortrina, who leaned against the wall with an annoyed look on her face.
“Here, I’ll do one better than an ale.” A particularly creepy older man shoved his way forward and thrust a mug of a golden liquid into Simon’s hands. In an ordinary situation, Simon would have gotten in a barfight with him simply out of principle. “Try a sip of this.”
Simon flashed one more grin at Fortrina before lifting the mug to his lips. Quite unfortunately, the faint odor of drugs only registered in his mind after the liquid had already touched his tongue. He spat it out, quite violently, but the damage was already done. Magic exploded through his veins as the drug, whatever it was, took effect.
Shouts filled the air, but soon grew dim as the room faded. Great. Drugged on his first night out. As his face slammed into the ground and his right arm once more splintered into pain, he realized the worst part of it all.
He was going to have to grovel in front of Fortrina.
When Simon’s eyes finally flickered back open, he found himself in a vastly different situation than he remembered. For starters, he was back in his ordinary, angelic form. Secondly, he was pinned to a wall by a magical force field that formed to his body, preventing himself from moving. On top of that, he was fairly certain that some sort of paralysis spell had been cast on his body as well, leaving only his head free. He couldn’t move and couldn’t shift. Oh, and he was in a dungeon.
That was what it had to be. The walls were stone, and seemed damp, as though they were underground. Chains and cuffs hung from most of the other walls, while a wooden door without a window stood at the far end. Simon did his best to breathe slowly, taking stock of the situation.
It wasn’t good, that was for sure. He had been drugged and passed out, which likely caused him to revert. He felt a grin breaking across his face as he imagined the chaos that must have sprang up when wings erupted from his back. Oh, and when the object of everyone’s attention turned out to be male.
“Well, well, well.” A brute of a man came crashing through the door. “The creature’s awake.”
Simon did his best to sound lively. “You know, most dungeons that I find myself in have considerably more welcoming hosts.”
“Enough.” The man swore. “I was going to take you home last night.”
“First off, you were like third or fourth on my list.” Simon tried to recall the man from the previous night, but found that he couldn’t. Whoever he had been, it hadn’t been anyone particularly appealing. “Secondly, I would have knocked you out as soon as we got there.”
“So you could rob me of my possessions?”
“Only if you had something cool.” Simon shrugged. “I just needed a bed to crash on.”
The man’s jaw worked up and down several times before his face solidified in anger. “Your people took everything from me.”
Simon sighed as the man’s voice began to tremble with anger and loss. “Your family was taken by the angels of light?”
“If that’s what you call them, sure.” The man nodded. “My wife and son. Just gone. Whisked away to who-knows-where.”
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that.” Simon took a deep breath. “If it’s any consolation, those particular angels were my enemies, too. I fought against them for a long time.”
“You’re still one of them.” The man hissed. “You’re just as guilty as the rest.”
“Please trust me when I say that that’s not how any civilized system of justice works.” Simon tried to wiggle against the force field, but to no avail.
“This isn’t justice.” The man’s voice was cold. “This is revenge.”
He pulled a sword off his belt, an enraged sneer on his face. Without a further word, he lunged forward, slashing through the air at Simon’s neck. Simon winced in anticipation, only for another sword to flesh through his vision.
With a flurry, Fortrina materialized in front of him, the lower portions of either arm transformed into swords. She caught the man’s weapons on her newfound blades, eliciting quite a shocked look from him.
“You’ve got two options right now.” Fortrina grimaced as the man disengaged and stepped backwards. She transformed her arms back into her ordinary arms, and let her wings unfurl behind her. “Option one: Surrender and forget all about this incident. Option 2: I kill you.”
The man gave no answer, but simply lunged forward, the tip of his sword pointed directly at Fortrina’s chest. She shrugged and transformed into diamond, a glittering statue impermeable to attack. The sword cracked against the stone with a loud ping, and she lunged forward. Still made from stone, she smashed a fist into his head, dropping him like a rock. As he fell, she reverted back to flesh, then turned and glared at Simon.
“I told you it wouldn’t work.”
“It would have worked.” Simon scowled. “He just had to go drug me.”
“If you act that forward in a bar with men, someone will try to drug you. Or just drag you away.” Fortrina sighed and crossed her arms, not bothering to release Simon.
“Well that’s not fair.” Simon frowned. “What’s the fun of being able to turn into a girl if you don’t get all the perks of being female?”
“I hate to say it, but Simon? Most girls really don’t enjoy the attention that men like you give them.”
“Yeah, but a few do.” Simon refused to relent in his scowling.
“No, a few are desperate enough to try and manipulate men into getting them to do their bidding. It usually doesn’t work out so well. As you yourself should have just seen.” Fortrina shrugged. “Now are you going to behave? We need to get out of here. You caused a massive stir when you transformed last night. The Lord Commander is handling the situation for the moment, but there are multiple angry mobs combing the city looking for you.”
“Oh good. Angry mobs are the best.” When Fortrina failed to release him, he sighed. “Alright, fine. Yes, I agree to behave.”
“Good.” Fortrina sighed. “If I have to rescue you again, I’m not going to be happy about it.”
She bent down and grabbed a small stone off the man’s belt, which she subsequently smashed against the ground. Enchantments burst with a brilliant flicker, and Simon fell back to the ground. As he landed, his limbs once more failed him, and he collapsed in a heap of limbs and wings.
Fortrina groaned as he struggled to stand up. “What is it now?”
“I think he roughed me up a bit before imprisoning me.” Simon sighed as he forced his aching limbs upright. His right arm hurt worse than ever, even brushing it against something set off explosions of pain through his body. His wings hurt as well, it felt as though someone had tried to manually rip them from his body.
“Well, we don’t have time for that.” Fortrina scowled. “We need to be moving.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Simon took a deep breath and nodded. “After you.”
Fortrina watched him for a moment longer before turning and running through the open door. Simon did his best to follow, though it wasn’t easy as his limbs screamed in pain. He found himself half-stumbling, half-walking in a frantic attempt to keep up with Fortrina.
Out the door, they walked into what looked like a cellar, with a single flight of wooden stairs at the far end leading up to a hatch in the ceiling. Fortrina swept up the stairs and pushed the hatch open, motioning for him to follow. Trying to climb the stairs after her took every ounce of energy that he had, as his legs blistered with internal pains. More than a few tears began to slip down his cheeks as his body desperately fought against the nightmarish agony.
“Suck it up, you’re fine.” Fortrina snapped.
“Easy for you to say. You’ve never had to deal with pain for longer than five seconds at a time. For that matter, neither have I.” Simon groaned as he forced his body up the stairs. “Any help?”
“I helped you escape. I think that’s enough.” Fortrina shot back down.
Simon groaned and continued to stumble ever higher. As he reached the top, he found himself standing behind the bar of the tavern from the night before. A tavern with a dungeon? That raised a number of unpleasant questions that he didn’t particularly want to think about.
The two angels quickly made their way through the tavern, with Simon stumbling after Fortrina as fast as he could move. As they reached the doorway, Fortrina absorbed her wings, then took on the form of an elderly woman. She turned and nodded at Simon, who was slowly climbing the stairs to the door.
“You next.” Her voice emerged as an ancient whisper. “And, as I keep saying, hurry!”
Simon nodded and closed his eyes. As he began to shift, his bones screamed in protest. They didn’t want to change shape, especially his wings. Trying to pull the bones and feathers back inside himself made the last bit of strength leave him, and he fell to all fours.
“Simon? Not the time to be dramatic.”
“I’m trying.” Simon hissed through clenched teeth. “Give me a second.”
Fortrina resorted to tapping her foot rapidly as Simon drew in his breath, closed his eyes, and forcibly shifted his wings back into his body. Rivers of pure fire radiated out from his shoulder blades, which he did his best to ignore. As he climbed back to his feet, looking more or less human, he performed a simple shift to his face and limbs. A few freckles, his eyes pulled a bit wider apart, his nose squished, and his limbs grew by about an inch. It wasn’t much, and wouldn’t fool anyone for long, but hopefully it would be enough.
“Alright, youngster!” Fortrina threw a shawled arm around his shoulders and tugged him out onto the street. “And that’s what you get for trying to break into someone’s shop!”
The whimpers of pain emerging from Simon’s lips were far from fake. As Fortrina pulled him down the street, darkness began to dance at the edge of his vision. No. No! He forced his eyes open, desperately trying to stay awake even as his body rebelled against him.
“You’re shifting back.” Fortrina hissed in his ears as they stumbled farther down the paved roads of the city. “Get ahold of yourself.”
“I’m trying.” Simon hissed back. “What’s the plan here, anyway?”
As the two angels rounded a particularly sharp corner in the road, they caught a glimpse of a large blockade of people standing across the path about two hundred feet in front of them. All seemed to be armed. Oh, and they were moving towards the two angels. Each and every person on the street was pulled aside, searched, and tossed back to the sides. No one was left un-inspected, which seemed to be quite a frustration for the dozens of travelers trying to get past the mob.
“That’s not good.” Simon winced.
“I thought you liked angry mobs.” Fortrina hissed back.
“Only when I’m the one who starts them.” At Fortrina’s annoyed look, he shrugged, though he immediately regretted the decision. “Trust me, they have their uses.”
“Forgive me if trust in you is something I have in fairly short supply right now.” Fortrina snapped. “Come on. Follow me.”
She turned around and began to pull him in the opposite direction, returning the same way that they had just come. Instead of returning to the tavern, though, she pulled him into a narrow alley between two of the shops. Simon had little he could do to protest as she drug him down the narrow gap and out onto another street about a hundred feet later.
As they swept back out onto the road, Simon found that she had managed to completely bypass the mob. Small miracles, he supposed. With that, they began making their way towards the city walls, where a stable stood on either side of the road to assist with all transportation needs. Quite thankfully, at that particular moment, a wagon sat next to the stables with a bored-looking driver lying on the seat, half-asleep.
“Are you taking commissions?” Fortrina swept up to the wagon, moving far faster than an elderly woman should likely have been able to move.
“Huh?” The man sat up sharply. He was young, probably not more than fifteen or sixteen. “Yeah, where do you want to go?”
“North.” Fortrina shrugged. “Donson. We’ve got the gold.” She tossed a small bag to him, which the boy caught and opened.
“Yeah you do.” The boy smirked and pocketed the bag, making Simon suspect that the contents were actually worth a great deal more than the boy actually needed to make the journey profitable. “Hop on.”
Fortrina quickly scrambled into the back, this time certainly displaying more dexterity than a woman of the age she was imitating. Simon suspected that he appeared far more elderly than she did, as he fought against the pain of his injuries as he scrambled up inside. The moment that his feet were off the ground, Fortrina snapped her fingers.
“You in some sort of trouble?” The boy chuckled and snapped the reins. The horses lumbered forward, angling for the gate. “Not that it’s my business, but-”
“Hey! Wait!” A man tore down the road behind them, arm outstretched. He wore a brilliantly-pressed suit of armor, seemingly crafted from silver and etched with dwarven emblems. He jumped up into the back of the cart as it rumbled through the city gates, and tossed a few coins to the driver. “Okay, stop waiting! Go!”
“Everyone’s all in a hurry these days.” The driver muttered, but made no further comment as he simply clicked the reins and shot off down the road. They blew through the gates at a trot, leaving Simon reclining in the bed of the wagon to watch the city slowly receding.
All he wanted to do was relax. Allow himself to revert to his ordinary form and get some rest. The man who had just joined them, though, didn’t look like the type of man who would simply respect such a request. His face, though boyish in some ways, was hardened by dozens of scars and cuts. Sandy hair hung down to his shoulders, giving him an almost elvish look. A single sword hung at his side, a fine blade set in a hilt covered in gemstones.
“Sorry for the rush.” He turned to the two angels a few moments later. At a glance, Simon estimated him to be around fifty or sixty years old. “Hunter business, I’m sure you understand.”
“As in Dragon Hunter?” Simon winced. “First off, no, I don’t understand.” A sharp pain blossomed in his chest, and he gasped softly. “Secondly…”
“Hold up a second.” The man held up his left gauntlet, which was covered in a number of greenish gemstones. He tapped one of them, causing a small bottle of blue liquid to appear in his armored palm. “Drink this. Then you can talk.”
Simon nodded and took the potion. It was certainly some sort of healing potion, he was sure of it. If it wasn’t… Well, the Hunter was going to kill him when he passed out anyway, so it was probably better to take a chance. Right?
Magic erupted through his body in a split second, healing energies that made his skin glow for several rather delightful and illuminating moments. After that second, though, the magic faded. Simon took a deep breath, trying to gauge his pain. Flickers of pain still cropped up within his body, but it was far from the horrid trauma that he had been experiencing only a few moments earlier.
“Thank you.” Simon gasped. “Much appreciated.”
“Of course, of course.” The Hunter nodded. “Mav, by the way. Freelance Hunter, monster slayer extraordinaire, and basically any other title if it sounds impressive to you.”
“Uh, huh.” Simon sighed, still feeling a bit of the residual disruptions in his nerves. However, even with the remaining pain, a single question filled his mind. “I don’t suppose you’d mind letting us know whether you were running to something or away from it? I’ve been told to ask that question anytime you see a Hunter running.”
“Ahh, yes. The age-old adage. I’ve heard it myself, many a time.” Mav shrugged. “To be true, it’s a fair question. In answer, I’m currently running away from an angry mob. They seem to think that the Hunters are harboring angels or some such nonsense.”
Simon grimaced and glanced back at the city. It wasn’t far away, only a quarter-mile or so, but it was more than close enough for him to see the rows of people that were slowly beginning to ride from the open gates.
“Oh, would you look at that? It’s my mob!” Mav sighed and climbed to his feet. He drew his sword and began to run his armored fingers across the enchanted gemstones. A helmet snapped into existence around his head, and he glanced back at the two angels.
“You two might want to hide, if you can. Somehow, I think that this is about to get ugly.”
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