Broken Wings

The sentinels attack from all sides. Raven lashes out at them with a spiral of dark magic, striking them down while Spades and Leyla finish them off.

An archer on a balcony above snipes at Leyla, but Spades sends a ball of flame swirling up toward him. It detonates to send the man falling from his vantage point.

Spades hears a sword drawn from behind him. One of the soldiers lets out a war cry. Spades turns to blast a hole through his stomach.

The man falls and laughs weakly, "I do not fear death! Paradise awaits me!"

Spades takes the man's sword. A slash to his neck finishes him off. Spades looks away when the blood begins gushing. Another warrior starts firing arrows at them.

One of them sticks Leyla in the shoulder. She lets out a deafening screech and moves to dodge additional shots.

Spades feels a deep hatred well up inside of him when Leyla is hit. He turns in the direction of the assailant and runs toward him.

The archer is redrawing his bow when Spades grapples him by the neck. Using the sword, he stabs the man under the arm and into his chest where the armor did not cover him.

The man only looks at Spades, although clearly in agony, and yet he is smiling. "You have given me eternity…" the man wheezes before his eyes roll back.

Spades throws him down, only to feel a sharp pain shoot through his spine like electricity. Spades collapses to the floor and spots a sorcerer off to the edge of the melee, holding a wooden staff.

Raven stands over Spades and grabs the sorcerer's cane with her telekinesis. She snaps it in two and then launches the unarmed spell caster through the room.

Leyla turns to normal and kneels down to help Spades up, though her shoulder is bleeding.

Spades gets to his feet and tells Leyla, "This will sting… Hold still…" He uses the blade of the sword to cut the shaft of the arrow.

Leyla's ears fold back, but she braces herself.

Spades gives her the shaft of the arrow to bite down on while he rips the rest of it out. He quickly shoves his index finger into the wound and uses immense heat to sear the flesh until it stops bleeding.

Leyla screams immediately and begins thrashing around, but Spades holds her steady.

Spades removes his finger. "That will stop you from bleeding out," he tells her.

Leyla spits out the arrow shaft and turns into a raptor again. She returns to the fight.

A few sentinels make it close to Raven, forcing her into hand-to-hand combat. Spades dives in between her and her opponent to even the odds. He uses a burst of fire to drive them back. Raven follows up with a wave of energy to thrust them against the walls.

Brother Blood appears in the battle. He fires a bolt of crimson at Spades and strikes him in the arm.

Spades stumbles back and falls to the floor. From his wrist to his elbow, red markings begin appearing and burning him.

Brother Blood walks calmly towards him. "At last we meet, young man… Your mother thought she could hide you from us. A shame she could be here to protect you now." He lifts his hand again as static darts between his fingertips.

Raven screams as four red eyes appear on her face, similar to those on Trigon's head. However, she turns on Brother Blood and towers into the air. Her cloak stretches over ten feet tall as she hunches over toward him, imposing her might. She snarls at Brother Blood, "You stay away from him!"

Brother Blood frowns, "You always were so defiant of your father's will, Rachel. Stand aside if you value your life."

"I won't let you take him," Raven growls. Debris begins orbiting around her tall form.

Brother Blood takes a step back, gathering power in the palm of his left hand. "This is your final warning, young lady. Stand aside and perhaps you will be spared."

Spades stands upright. His arm is searing and smoldering, yet he is numb to the pain. His sleeve is gone, charred and reduced to ash on the chamber floor.

Brother Blood laughs slightly, "You're still foolish enough to keep fighting? How amusing. Still, you will learn. You will submit. It is only a matter of time until your demise."

Raven surges toward him, "Only your demise will come tonight!"

Suddenly, images begin flashing through Spades's head. He sees himself surrounded by graves. A black bird is sitting upon one of the headstones. The vision disappears as quickly as it came. Spades feels his heart sink. "RAVEN!!" he cries out.

Brother Blood throws his arm forward and fires a red orb into Raven's chest. It goes through her torso and out her back, tearing a hole through her cloak. She begins screeching and screaming. Black tentacles spread from the bottom of her cloak and start slashing across the walls and floor.

Spades jumps to one side to dodge one of the dark arms. He tries to run toward Raven, but a barrier appears in front of him. He bounces off it.

Spades hears a voice in his head. "Run." He doesn't have time to think. Leyla grabs his arm and pulls him away. Spades tries to resist at first, but soon tears his eyes away from the spectacle and runs with her.

He hears Raven's infuriated screams as he disappears into the shadows with Leyla. A moment later, a high pitched screech like a bird of prey rattles through the catacombs. It is immediately followed by the cries of men… then silence.

Spades stops running and turns to face down the dark hall again. He couldn't hear anything aside from his own breathing.

Leyla skids to a halt to look back with him. "What is it?" she asks.

Spades just continues staring. His hands are trembling. His mind is telling him to run away, and he tells himself that Raven will catch up, but in his heart he knows better than to believe in such a thing. "She's gone…"

Leyla's ears fold back, "Jer, she'll be alright. We have to keep moving..!"

Spades turns at Leyla, almost angry, but his eyes are watering. "She's gone!! I'll say it again, she's gone!!" The markings on his arm crawl up toward his shoulder. He can't even feel them anymore.

A pair of sentinels can be seen walking toward them from down the hall. They draw their weapons and start running.

Spades faces them. He puts his hands together for his spell.

Leyla jerks on his cape, "Jeremy!! We can't stay!!"

Spades mutters, "I'm killing all of them… Get out while you can…"

"I'm not leaving you behind!"

"Leave me!!" Spades yells at her, but then turns away. "I'll slaughter these demons! Necrenom hexberek MORT—!!"

Leyla turns into a gorilla and strikes him in the back of the head, interrupting the curse. Everything spins and disappears in an instant.

By the time Spades wakes up, he's outside again. He can feel cold air moving over his body. He slowly sits up to feel scales beneath him.

Leyla is soaring through the skies in the form of a dragon, carrying Spades on her back. Her mighty wings carry her across the ocean. Behind them, Spades can see Triard flying with Zero, who is also using a dragon body. Serena is riding on his back. They must have found her.

Spades feels his heart sink into his stomach just looking at Serena. Had she seriously betray them? Was she possessed? Or did she have nothing to do with it at all? Spades considers interrogation, but he doubts his patience with her. Did it even matter at this point? Spades thought.

There is light to the east. Morning is coming. A new day is rising, and Spades tries to tell himself an age-old philosophy, "Even after the darkest nights, morning always comes…" How could he believe that at this point? How long until Leyla is taken from him as well? What about the rest of his team? The rising sun only represents another day's worth of sheer blind luck having been exhausted. Eventually that luck will run out.

Spades wants to begin sobbing, but he holds back for now. He promises himself he'll at least wait until they are back at the tower before he does.

Suddenly, Leyla changes course. The others keep flying. This catches Spades by surprise. "Where are we going?"

Leyla doesn't reply. She glides gently toward the harbor, heading for the Bunker Hill monument. Upon landing, she lowers her body to allow Spades to step off.

Spades sets foot on the cold, crusty snow still remaining from the flurries a few days ago. Everything is so quiet here, aside from the distant ambience of the morning commute.

Leyla turns back to normal, but doesn't speak a word. She waits for Spades to begin.

Spades puts his hand to his forehead and sighs. He rubs across it uneasily, brushing the hair out of his eyes. He begins trembling. Thoughts coarse through his mind; Raven was the sister Spades never had. Even before he lost his family, there wasn't a sibling he could turn to until he befriended Raven. She adopted him in a way and tried to teach him so many things… Now she was gone. Mere hours ago, not even a full day had yet passed, and she just disappeared from his life in an instant. The realization hits him that the bond they shared is gone forever. It is this revelation that finally pushes Spades over the edge. He breaks down…

Leyla takes Spades into her arms. She pulls him back to sit on the base of a statue that stands in front of the Bunker Hill monument. It is the icon of a soldier, a memorial to those who fought to give birth to this country.

A wind begins to pick up all around them, howling and blowing through the buildings and across the roads. The speed steadily increases until powdered snow covers the park path beneath a layer of white.

Spades buries his face against Leyla's shoulder and muffles his cries. The last time Spades remembers feeling like this was when his former home burned to the ground.

Leyla already knows what he's thinking. She nuzzles him gently in an effort to comfort him. "At least this time you have a shoulder to cry on… I know it isn't much, but isn't it better than being alone?" She too had tears in the corner of her eyes. Seeing Spades like this broke her heart. "People come and go… they live and die. It's something that can't be avoided…" She kisses his forehead.

Spades balls his hand into a fist, trying to cover his sadness with anger. "I could seek out the traitors and destroy them. Avenge her."

Leyla holds him tight, "No, Jer… That won't solve anything… We need to finish what was started." She holds up his hand to show him the scars were there again.

Spades gazes upon the markings before slowly pulling his hand away so he doesn't have to look at it anymore. "Brother Blood killed her… I'm no where near strong enough to contend with Raven, and Brother Blood killed her in mere minutes… There's no way I can defeat him… You know how I hate admitting defeat, Leyla."

Leyla assures him, "We haven't lost yet. We won't lose. We're the good guys, remember?" she smiles ever so faintly.

Spades tries to believe her, but he just shakes his head. "It doesn't work that way in the real world… or Raven would still be here… Brother Blood would be in prison… This would be over by now."

Leyla frowns, "Jeremy, you know better than that. It was her time I guess… but look, she got us out alive. Thanks to her we can keep fighting."

Spades continues shaking his head, "Good things don't just magically happen to good people, Leyla. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way."

Leyla sighs, "What happened to you, Jeremy?" she pauses, "Good things can happen, but I know good things don't happen to people who sit around hoping for it. I don't care how good they are."

Spades looks away, "The man who fills his wallet through labor is a man of honor and hardship. The man who steals the other man's wallet is a man of dishonor and luxury. Which is to be preferred; honor or possession?"

Leyla looks him in the eye, "Don't start talking like that."

"Why not?" Spades stands up, "To fight or not to fight? That is my question. Is it easier to turn the other cheek; to walk away? Or to do unto others as they do unto you! Through conflict—bring lasting peace! Do you allow the dishonorable rob you of what is not theirs to take? Such as money? Possessions? Life?!" he yells. "I want the people who caused this to suffer for what they have done! No amount of past loyalty will protect a traitor from the punishment I intend for them!"

Leyla grabs his arms and pulls him back into a tight hug, "Jeremy… Just calm down and think… If you're blind with anger, you'll just get hurt."

Spades is still shaking, but he tries to take her advice. His arms slowly relax and hang at his sides. Eventually they wrap around Leyla to embrace her in return. He takes a deep breath, and an unsteady sigh escapes him.