“Get back here, you insolent brat!” He roared only few feet behind me.
I followed the small street plan Mya made me memorize. I cursed her perfect ass for making me count the houses on the street sides. Then again, the closer I got to the city centre the more I understood, why – there were so many people walking in the same direction.
Four houses on the right, I counted, feeling the wind behind me pull me back, but I resisted the pain in the muscles to stop. I should have involved a bicycle in my plans!
I glanced over my shoulder and saw him way higher above me than I had expected.
“Stop the human!” he screeched, the high pitch of his voice making everybody around him stop and look around, so for that second, I stopped too.
“Stop now, dear muscles, and you never move again!” Warning was fair and now, said out loud, my body took it seriously and my feet took on life of their own, carrying me through the last streets.
I kept looking over my shoulder to see if any of the walkers reacted to his order, but it seemed to be my lucky day. It was Miloard’s court day. Looking by the crowds, this was case of a century. What I heard from Thorwald, I completely agreed.
Oh, hell! I glanced up on the right. I messed up with the counting! I couldn’t tell which house I’d already counted in the number and which I hadn’t.
“All roads lead to Rome?” I whispered, coming to abrupt halt on the crossroad. I had never liked big cities and this one was as confusing as all the rest of them!
“Excuse me?” I caught the arm of the closest man I could reach. Which happened to have large bird eyes seated between a nose-mouth pack that opened up like a flower with its two snake tongues flapping out and touching the peak of this strange pack…
“Where is the town’s square? I’m a bit lost.”
“Cease the human!” His voice seemed to get louder and I turned to see the large griffin dart straight at us with his sword reached out.
“Six houses starting with red on the left, turn right and fr…” I pushed the man on the small patch of grass running between the two walking lines, out of griffin’s sword before bending out of the way.
I could hear the metal’s sound when it cut through the air on the empty place before coming straight down and barely missing my ankle. He pulled it towards him and the only way to save my ankle from being cut in half was to roll towards the kingly creature.
Griffin let go of his sword with his right hand and reached for my leg, but I managed to get it out just in time to kick him hard and scramble back on my feet.
He had hard time getting back in air, I noticed that from his previous ascend. As gorgeous as he was, wings with that size demanded far more than a breeze. However, his feet were in good condition and after a second that took him to pack his wings up, he took after me, the sword packed on his back holster.
He was faster on his feet.
That small development in his speed was pulling a scream out of me, both from despair that filled my mind and the spiking feeling in my lungs that threatened to rob the last of my stamina.
I gasped for air. Predators hunting humans? Crap! This is really not my world! Suddenly I liked being on top of the food chain and the food being delivered straight at my local supermarket without having to hunt for it like this myself! Or to be hunted like this at all!
He kept yelling profanities after me and despite being dead scared, I couldn’t help but feel amazed by his lung capacity.
Suddenly I saw a large shadow pass over me. I looked up and saw gargoyles disappear behind the fourth house? No-no, I had to keep myself on the track – I was to go around the fifth and that’s what I was to do. They looked light brown, not the dark grays I’d seen before.
But the next two shadows weren’t passing me over, but kept covering the sun from me. I frowned, feeling the sudden chillness which reminded me I knew, whom those shadows belonged to. But it wasn’t a happy reunion.
I crooked my neck and looked up, looking straight in the eyes of Thorwald with Bascun following his tail with far less enthusiasm. He probably scolded him for not getting him up before he witnessed the scene in the kitchen.
I could read from his eyes he wasn’t happy in any case and right now he was more than unhappy to see me running only few feet from Griffin.
He came lower, reaching his clawed hand after me, but I pulled away. “No! Go home! You’re ruing the plan!”
“What plan can possibly have you running from a griffin? Are you bloody mad?”
“No, no! Don’t you dare ruing this for us! Get out of my way! I’ll meet you in the center!” I wondered if that was too daring to tell to a gargoyle, but despite the angry twitch in his jaw, he controlled his temper rather well.
“You didn’t tell Bascun about your plan!”
I flashed Bascun a warning frown, but he daringly looked away.
“He had one job in this plan and he was doing it rather well until you decided to wake up!”
The flash of complete rage lit up his face with fury before he painfully grabbed hold on my shoulder and hoisted me up before taking higher above the heads of the walkers.
He turned me and pulled me against his chest, locking my upper body against him with his hands, which were crushing the last breath out of my chest. I yelped and quickly packed my own hands around him, trying my best not to get in the way of the wings.
He let out a loud groan and after fixing my legs straight, feeling them locked in place with his knees, I allowed myself to crook my neck and look over to his face.
“You are not healed enough to fly!” I said, upset and worried. He could get us both killed if he wasn’t careful.
“You’re still panting from the run!” he snapped and looked down, trying to catch my eyes. “He is far faster runner than you are!”
“I-I think I got that on my own, thank you.”
“Thorwald!” Bascun called out. He looked behind us and let out a low growl.
I couldn’t see past his shoulder, but I didn’t have to. I knew it was Griffin following us. All that was in my view was his collar bones and neckline. I pressed a long kiss right in the middle of his collar bones and felt him relax. His heart became so loud I could hear it clearly, when I pressed my ear against his chest and for the first time I was happy that he had woken up.
I needed him. After the last few hours spent sitting next to his sleeping statue, I was sorely reminded how much I would miss him if he wouldn’t be here at all. So instead of feeling horrified by the upcoming few minutes, I simply enjoyed being so close to him.
“So,” his voice had lost his angry edge and it made me smile, “what is that plan of yours?”
That wiped the start of a good mood from my features, but I was reluctant to leave his heart alone.
“We need to get Griffin to town square.”
“And after that?”
“We’ll see if the plan works…” I felt dizzy. He must have felt the wetness on his back, because suddenly his hold shifted and he lifted his hand out of his view to check on his side. His bandages had soaked with the blood coming from the hand wound.
“Hey! Don’t you drop me! I don’t bounce back!” I started, warningly, when I felt his chest heave in rising panic, when he tried to pull me closer to his head and free my hold by grabbing hold of my arm. His hold was painful. “Now, now, no need to kill Bascun for that!”
His eyes looked straight in mine, calculating. Whatever he did next, I couldn’t have him kill his own brother over something as stupid as this. Especially after I had specifically told him not to intervene.
“I bet that’s why he got you up!” I tried to fix the situation.
“I know he did. I would have killed him otherwise!”
“He is your brother! Don’t you ever dare tell me such a horrible thing again!” I shouted, hitting him hard with the same stinging hand and he hissed, clamping it hard between his fingers. He stretched the hand out so he could have a better look at it and huffed.
“You opened up the wound!” he spite, but instead of continuing, pressed it between us.
“I’m taking you to hospital!”
“I’ll have it cleaned and wrapped the moment the plan goes through. I promise.” I whispered, kissing him gently on his collar bone, praying this didn’t make him stop in mid air and drop us both to the ground.
“You should have it fixed now! These wounds here are dangerous!” He whispered, and I knew he was serious about it, but unless I wanted the entire plan ruined, this had to wait for at least half an hour. After that I wouldn’t even mind being awake while he personally stitched it. Which might be the case, and I knew I’d blurted it out when wide grin replaced the horror on his face and it travelled on mine and regretted the words the moment they hit the air.
“I will never kiss you on the lips if you do that to me!” I warned, but he didn’t seem a bit disturbed by it. “Is he still following us?”
“He is.” He was back being serious. “I don’t know, how, but you’ve managed to grandly piss him off!”
“I exchanged the smoke demon to your brother’s services.” I chuckled, pleased with my little prank, but his heart must of skipped a beat, because he nearly dropped me, grabbing stronger hold on me seconds later.
I adjusted my hands around his chest, to make sure his hold would keep. I was growing tired from this position and it did not help with the ache in my already painful limbs.
“Then I smashed the gate while he watched.” I murmured, eyes lifted to his face to see his expression. It was worth the wait with the shock clearly visible on his features. “I hope there are others you can use if you want, but that one is gone forever.”
“There aren’t any other here.” He said, his voice raspy like sandpaper. “You’re stuck with us for good.”
I closed my eyes, pressing against his chest and taking in all the warmth he could offer me. That sort of finalized the fancy hope I’d had earlier. But given this new insight, the plan had better work now!
“Put me down before the town square.” I asked him, feeling his claws dig deeper in my jacket.
“What if it doesn’t work?” he asked and hadn’t I held him with my both arms, I would have gladly hit him for putting that doubt in my head.
“Then we’re all screwed, big time!” This wasn’t helping. “This’ our fight, we have worked hard on this!”
“You’ve had two nights to organize most of it! I do not find it solid enough to brag with it!”
“Guys!” Bascun shouted what I thought not for the first time.
“We can argue about it later, when you’re sewing up my hand!”
“Keep asking for it, I might feel tempted!”
“You did mention hospital?”
“How charming. Put me down by the square.”
His nails pulled chillingly over my backside, and for a second I thought he might ignore my request altogether, but then we took blunt fall and less than half a minute later I was standing on my own feet, feeling his hands disappear and only hearing the smooth wind disappear as my eyes came in direct line with Griffin.
He didn’t follow them, but he was thinking about it. I raised my bloody arm and showed it to him. Remember my crime? I should have begun running a minute ago, it hit me in my brain, when his figure was suddenly very close and huge and he bore his sword.
“They answer to me, little human!” He yelled the moment his feet touched the ground and I started backing up, tugging my way through the people. “Why do you think they abandoned you here?”
Well, if he was so deluded, I wasn’t the one to correct him. Instead I kept going, his eyes fixed on me and people, recognizing there was something going on inside them started to give way, creating larger circle around us, waiting.
“Miloard betrayed you, Griffin,” I told it loud, “that’s his deal with the Lords Council!” The nearest to us pulled back and the loud discussion around us died to hear us better.
Griffin gave a quick look around before his eyes darted back on the target and he began closing in faster.
“I don’t know Miloard!” he tried, but his voice faltered and I doubted there was anyone around us, who took that for truth. “He has done his job! He is no further use for me!”
A small letter size piece of paper fell flat on the ground between us. He stared at it as if it had significant meaning to him, before the frown on his face melted and his eyes ran between me and the paper. He ran to pick it up, but the moment he had it in his hand another one landed straight next to it. Then another and another. Soon the entire sky was filled with yellow flakes snowing down on the hands reaching out to capture them.
A man with tormented eyes caught one and read it, tensely following the lines with his eyes.
“Gargoyles? But since the war…!” he began, but was cut off by a younger woman dressed in purple.
“He can do this from the jail?” She asked, holding back the tears, when it hit her that this nightmare would not end with the bastard ending in jail.
“Griffin ordered it!” I shout it so they could all hear it.
“You ordered the death of my child, too?” a scratched voice broke the horrid silence. The man’s hands started to shake and his eyes rose up to stare straight into griffin’s suddenly very scared eyes.
“He was deemed right!” The child’s scream cut through the murmuring people and all our eyes turned to look at the child standing on the edge of the tall stained glass windows depicting scenes of justice and kings.
The fliers kept coming, soon the fall became so thick, and they covered up Griffin from my view. I felt being pushed forward. The grunts behind me became louder and the nudging got intense, pressing me further, closer to Griffin and his large sword. This was not what I had in plan! I started struggling against it, but it didn’t seem to stop the mass behind me.
Someone pulled a knife. I saw the light flickering off the blade as it gleamed less than a meter from me and then another one pulled my attention.
I tried to let them pass, afraid now that in their eagerness of revenge they will end my life with theirs.
Suddenly the end of the blade slashed through the flow of yellow and I yelped, scream stuck in my throat.
I felt someone grabbing me from my shoulders and next I knew I was being lifted high above the mass closing in. I looked up, trying to make sense, who got me and was sincerely surprised, when I saw Celik.
His wings flapped, yanking us higher in the almost windless place and I turned my eyes back on the scene wrapping open in front of me.
The rain of fliers came to an end the view cleared. I was pulled higher, past the hot air balloon carrying bronze basket with Mya and Helena. Our eyes met for a moment and we both knew this was the worst thing any of us would ever have to do in our lives. Mostly, because after this we would never do it again.
I hit my ankle against the edge of the building. It hurt a bit, but the pain eased the moment I felt Thorwald grab hold of me and pulled me to sit between him and Bascun. Celik landed few meters away. We didn’t speak, watching the gruesome site unfolding before us.
Griffin tried to rise from the crowd, but they caught his wings and pulled him back to the land. The sword was removed and transported away from him, from hand to hand until it clanged on the gobble stones outside the mass. He screamed, when the first of his primary feathers were plucked and I never forget the pain echoing in that sound. His clothes were ripped piece by piece until he was completely naked and then they began their revenge in earnest. Each child and woman standing on the square took one of the feathers from him and walked away before tossing the feather on the sides of the streets they were passing through. When the feathers ended, and so had his screams, they began with flesh. It was the men and older women, who began cutting slices of flesh from his hands and feet and the screams began again with earnest.
I felt hot tears fall on my face and soon they misted everything from my view. I felt sick for being part of this and I let out a loud sob before breaking out in tears.
Another screams for help joined Griffin’s. I gripped to my jeans, unwilling to dry up the tears distorting my view. I didn’t want to see. The heaviness in me turned my stomach. It took too long for the screams to quiet down in my opinion. I wouldn’t know, how long, because we never spoke of it after that.
But it was too long and most of the time I kept my eyes shot, now unable to stop the tears or my own sobs. God, I was part of this!
The only other sounds slashing through besides the screams were quiet ruffling of the skirts and shoes on the gobble stones. It was steady moving mass that turned into orderly organized turning wheel with people falling in, taking out their pocket knife, slicing a piece from the living creatures in the middle of the deadly flowers, then turn and walk away, never to return, tossing both the knife and the bleeding piece of flesh on the ground in front of the very court that justified a vigilante, who so mercilessly had organized their family members deaths.
Soon the screams died. The only thing still audible was the hoard of people still closing in to get the last of the pieces. One by one, take by take.
“That’s justice for you…” Bascun murmurs with a sigh before pushing off from the ledge and taking the flight. I followed the monster disappear in the foggy layer and cleared my eyes from the tears.
I glanced on the ground and the two skeletons decorating it in the middle of large pools of red and green and countless footsteps leading away from the crime scene.
“They never planned to jail him.” I said, eyeing what was left of Miloard on the stairs of justice.
“No.” Thorwald sounded hoarse and tense.
I wondered if he was thinking about the fact that I was involved with something like that. Or if he would find it horrible enough to rethink about the kiss.
It was over. I found it to be a beautiful thought before thinking how oddly everybody were suddenly bowing to me and frowned. I realized they were not bowing to me, when I saw the sky and realized I was laying on the top of glass window and Thorwald was reaching out for me.