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Rebellion

Blood and Feathers - 2

by

Lou Morgan 

To Jon.

For believing.

Presume not that I am the thing I was.

– Shakespeare,Henry IV.2

CHAPTER ONE

Fire in the Hole

THE BRICK SAILED through the air, spinning end over end. It was almost graceful... until it smashed through the storefront. On the street outside, a shout went up as three men shoved their way to the front of the crowd, kicked out the remains of the window and stepped through the frame, raising their fists in triumph. There was another cheer, and one of them clambered onto the counter to wrench a television screen off the wall.

The pavements were littered with glass: broken windows, broken bottles, broken everything. People had gathered on the road in the fading light; they stood in knots around the shattered shops, some clutching boxes tightly to themselves, some staring blankly around them as though unsure how they had come to be there. A burning bin smouldered, filling the air with acrid smoke as it melted into the pavement. Distant sirens sounded, but never seemed to get any closer. The mob rampaged up and down the road, tearing boards from windows and cheering its own triumphs as it went.

So intent were the crowd on tearing the street apart, they didn’t notice the sudden chill in the May air. Few – if any – saw their breath curling up into the evening like clouds. Without knowing why, they paused, and parted... and a man stepped through the space.

He was dressed entirely in black: his boots, his jeans, his unseasonable coat were black. Even his hair was black... but around his wrist, clearly visible at the edge of his sleeve, was a bright white band, burned into his skin. The same mark was carried by the couple walking behind him: a young woman and a man with a burn-scarred face, laughing and nudging each other as they went.

The crowd broke apart, moving to let them pass, then reformed in their wake. They were like ghosts passing through, watching everyone and everything around them but watched by no-one. The man in the black coat smiled as he walked, and anyone on the street who had been watching would have seen that his smile was a little too wide; that he had too many teeth, and a look in his eyes that would cool blood.

But no-one was watching, and the Fallen moved through the riot leaving carnage in their wake.

They turned down a side-street, making their way to an open manhole. With only the briefest of glances behind them, one by one they clambered down the narrow ladder: the man in black first, then the man with the scarred face, and finally the woman. The sewer below was barely even damp: between the cold winter and the long dry spring, there was hardly enough water to wet the soles of their shoes. Stooping slightly in the confines of the tunnel, they walked in near-darkness, far beneath the chaos above.

The man in black came to a halt. There was someone else in the tunnel ahead: another man, leaning back against the curved wall with his arms folded across his chest. The white brand on his wrist shone in the gloom. “You took your time,” he said.

“It’s not like he’s going anywhere, is it?” The man in black indicated a circular grate set into the wall, perhaps six feet in diameter, chained to which was an angel.

His wrists and ankles were outstretched, shackled to the bars. His wings were forced between the bars of the grate, the grey feathers torn and stained with blood. He was stripped to the waist, and jagged cuts criss- crossed his torso, carved into his flesh. His head lolled forward; the water pooling at his feet ran scarlet.

The man in black stepped past the guard and leaned closer to the captive angel, staring at the shackled wrist closest to him. In the darkness, the sigil emblazoned upon it shone like fire, a pattern of sharp angles and lines – its edges blurred by dirt and blood, but clear enough. Shaking his head, he reached forward and grabbed a handful of the prisoner’s hair, cruelly twisting it; forcing his chin up. The angel’s eyes were swollen almost shut, his face puffy and soft from the beating he’d taken – but he was still able to part his split lips enough to smile... and to spit full in his captor’s face.

Disgusted – and not a little surprised – the man in black wrenched his hand away, letting his prisoner’s head drop. Wiping his face on one sleeve, he pulled something out of his coat and fumbled with it in the dark. The angel raised his head, the muscles of his neck standing out like cords with the effort, and blinked. “He’ll find you, Rimmon. You can run all you like, but he’ll find you.”

The man in black laughed. “We’re counting on it.” He gestured to the guard, who picked up a metal can, unscrewed the top and poured the contents over the captured angel’s head. The smell of petrol filled the sewer. Still the angel watched as Rimmon held up his lighter, popping the lid open.

“Now. You’re one of Michael’s boys, so I’m willing to bet this wouldn’t normally bother you. But you’re Earthbound, and – let’s face it – you’re not at your best, are you? So...” He tailed off, taking a step back. “Tell them we’re coming. If, of course, they find you in time...”

The lighter hit the floor and bounced.

The flint sparked... and suddenly fire was racing up the angel’s legs, across his torso and through the feathers of his broken wings, lashing itself to him more tightly than his chains.

Rimmon turned and walked away, the others falling into step behind him. As the Earthbound began to scream, a smile crept across the Fallen’s face...

CHAPTER TWO

New Girl

THE HALFWAY TO Heaven did not look like the most welcoming of places. To put it another way: from the outside, the Halfway to Heaven looked like a dive. Which it was. A dingy bar halfway down a street; a bar with gloomy windows and a rubbish-strewn alley alongside it, a swing board that hung, creaking, over the pavement, and a doorman with a black coat and an ID badge.

A doorman with a black coat and an ID badge, and wings.

The Halfway to Heaven was a dive, but it was the angels’ dive. It was the haunt of the angels serving out their exile – the ones who had been barred from heaven (albeit temporarily) for any number of crimes and for any given length of time. The Halfway was where they drowned their sorrows and traded their war stories. It was their sanctuary: it was where they felt safe – and more importantly, it was where news and gossip were spread. An Earthbound angel is still an angel... and angels talk.

And there had been much to talk about. At first, it had been rumours. Rumours of a half-born, the daughter of a lost angel and a former priest; a half-born who burned. Rumours that she was being protected by none other than Mallory – the closest thing to a leader that the Earthbounds had, and one who was never less than an irritation to their Descended-angel superiors. Rumours that the half-born was being prepared for hell.

For once, the rumours had been true.

All of them.

The half-born, Mallory, the battle at the gates of hell itself – where most of the Halfway’s regulars had

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