His surroundings were shrouded in the final darkness before sunrise. Trees towered overhead, lining the cracked asphalt. Fallen branches littered his path.
He glanced down to the creature at his side as he lifted his sketchpad to his lips. “Take me to him.”
Leah surged ahead, bounding over the decaying tree limbs with ease. Monty kept close behind, hopping over the larger barriers as he followed the fox. Her dark coat made her easy to miss in the shadows.
When they reached the second fork along the road into the island, she led him on the path that veered right. The road curved through the woods and past the abandoned campsites for another quarter of a mile. Monty nearly blew past Leah as she made a sharp left turn into the tree line, but he caught himself and regained the ground he had lost.
Without Leah and Daya, it would’ve taken hours to find him out here, he realized. If Aunt Desi hadn’t sided with me, then the court would’ve sent a squad in here instead of going along with his request–and I doubt this guy would wait for them to sweep the island and happen upon him.
They had run over one hundred and forty meters when Leah came to a halt, her stance defensive as she glared at the other spirit. The angel joined her, sketchpad in his left hand as he gripped a pen in his right. He studied the one who had summoned him, his emerald eyes narrowed.
The young man who stood before him could not have been more than a year or two his senior. The sides of his head were shaved short, the remainder of his thick, sable twists fashioned into a hairstyle that seemed a cross between a mohawk and an afro. His skin and clothes were immaculate, as if he had never lived a day outside of a colony.
The ethereal orb floating within the confines of his chest puzzled Monty further. He confirmed that the stranger was nineteen years old, that he was a warrior, and the leathery wings that hung from his core marked him a demon. What the royal advisor could not see, however, was the brand of the tribe or coven from which the demon hailed.
Was I wrong? he wondered. Could he be someone else? There’s no way that’s Lizzie’s brother… Right?
“About time you showed up,” the demon grunted. He took a couple steps in their direction, prompting Leah’s teeth to curl back as she let out a growl.
“Stay back, Clint!” the angel warned. “I just want to talk.”
“I hope so,” Clint stated, heeding the advisor’s words. “Be a shame to kill you before Lizzie gets to know you.”
“If things go wrong here, I won’t be the one dying,” Monty vowed.
Clint let out a boisterous laugh. This guy’s not scared at all. “Big talk from a guy who uses doodles to fight for him. Let me guess: you got an eagle circling over us, ready to fly back to your prince should anything happen to you.”
Monty let out a long breath, pocketing his sketchpad as he broke out into a smile. “How’d you spot Daya?”
He shrugged, his lips tilting upwards. “Don’t insult me, Monty. Only an idiot would meet an enemy alone.”
He then gestured off to his right, bringing the angel’s attention to a solitary wooden picnic table just a few meters north of them. “You’re watching me, I’m watching you. Let’s just agree not to attack one another and sit down for a talk, alright?”
When he noticed Monty’s hesitation, he added, “You can have your dog sit with me, if it makes you more comfortable.”
“She’s a fox,” he clarified, bringing his sketchpad back out to whisper, “Stay on him. One wrong move, take him out.”
Leah moved between the two teenagers, eyeing the demon as her handler flipped the pages and gave more orders in a tone too low for Clint to hear. When he finally shut the book and slid it back into the kangaroo pouch, his eyes met with the mysterious demon’s as he began in the direction of the table. Clint did the same, paying no mind to the grinning fox whose attention was trained on him.
After they had taken their seats at opposite sides of the table, Clint asked, “How much do you know about us?”
Monty took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “You and Lizzie are two out of the seven children of Jebediah Peters and Katherine Shaw. You’re the descendants of some of the worst humans this side of K.C., and your brand is a blend of the brands used to identify both clans. You got Lizzie out of Jesup and snuck her into our colony, though I don’t know how you did it–”
Clint chuckled. “That’s a story for another time.”
“You plan on meeting like this regularly?” Monty challenged. “What are you even doing here, man? Lizzie said you went to get your siblings.”
While his expression had not faltered, the demon’s eyes appeared to darken. “I can’t.”
“What the hell does that mean?” the angel pressed. The other spirit’s calm mask had cracked; he buried his face in his hands and erupted in a series of snickers. “Clint. What’s so funny?”
The demon sobered at his inquiry. “She really didn’t tell you shit, did she?”
“Tell me what?”
“How I got her outta there.” Clint sighed. “Only way I could sneak her out was to make ‘em all panic… So I blew up a building.”