“I’m not afraid of you,” I called out, almost daring them to advance, so angry I nearly wanted them to attempt it.
“They know that, Magdalene,” Eran muttered, his voice calm but tense.
One took a step forward. “Still haven’t lost that vigor, I see,” he reflected.
I noticed he was addressing me, which caught me off guard. Without diverting my gaze, I quietly asked Eran, “Do I know him?”
“Yes,” Eran replied stiffly and then called out, “What do you want, Marco?”
Marco appeared to feign offense. “So much time has gone by and this is your greeting? I mean…it has been…what? Three hundred years or so since we’ve last seen each other. We have much to catch up on.”
Marco’s choice of words seemed peculiar to me at first. Then I realized that he, and most-likely his winged accomplices, had spent several centuries on earth and had become a blend of what they’d experienced. Their language, their mannerisms, even their accents were no longer distinct. They belonged to no culture and no roots could longer be identified. They were wanderers – or more precisely – nomadic hunters.
“We have nothing to say to each other.” Eran kept his guard up and his stance in place.
Marco clucked his tongue at us. “Not cordial, Eran,” he said. It seemed to be a warning. “And you, dear sweet Magdalene. Miss me?” He grinned then, an evil, mocking expression that made the hairs on the back of my neck stick straight out.
To my surprise, Eran growled. It was slight but loud enough to reach me. I’d never heard Eran react that way before.
Marco was intentionally provoking Eran, and doing it successfully.
“You’re just as beautiful as I remember, Magdalene.” He paused, reflectively. “When we first met your name was Marie. Do you recall that, Magdalene? When we first met? But, of course you wouldn’t…I heard somewhere that you remember very little of your past lives…You have no recollection of any of us…Do you?” He shook his head in what seemed to be mock pity. “Why ever would you choose to return here as a human? By doing so you’ve left yourself vulnerable, weak…”
“Marco,” Eran said impatiently, sending an unspoken warning. “What…do…you…want?” he continued through teeth clenched against his rising anger.
Marco ignored him. “But, dear Magdalene…how I’ve missed the curve of your-”
Eran immediately stepped forward and in reaction three of the men behind Marco advanced, wings widening their span in preparation for an assault.
“All right…All right.” Marco brought up a hand in a gesture to calm the situation. “What do we want? Only to watch. We won’t intervene. Promise.”
I couldn’t tell if Marco was insane or still playing with Eran.
“Watch what?” Eran asked the same question that was perplexing me.
Marco’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “You mean to tell me that no one has told you? All powerful, all knowing Eran is the last to learn?” He scoffed.
“Watch what, Marco?”
“The upcoming battle, of course.” Eran and I glanced at each other, both of us wary. When we didn’t respond, Marco went on. “Not with us. No, no. But I do hear that quite a few of us will be arriving shortly as spectators. You’ll have an audience, it sounds…from all over the world. We wouldn’t miss this for…well, for all eternity.” He paused to snigger at his own joke.
Eran’s patience was thinning and he showed this by sighing loudly. “If the battle isn’t with you, who is it with?”
Marco opened his mouth to answer the question but he was only toying with us, which became clear with his answer. “Hmmm…No…No. I think you should figure that out for yourselves.” Marco spun around to face the others, chuckling at our expense. The remaining men broke into smiles, relaxing their wings somewhat.
“Let’s head out, boys,” said Marco and then sent Eran and me another warning. “We’ll be seeing you two around.”
Almost in unison, each of their wings made a powerful flapping motion, and their bodies were lifted into the inky night sky. They became a single gray line against the black background, a dividing line. One more flap and they faded out of sight.
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