The survivors of the attack on Dakonia—about seventy people—traveled north, to Midlan. They didn’t wait for morning, but the sun began to rise halfway
through their short journey. Rising from the east, it cast black shadows on a dark, enclosed path. The sun was a good sight, but it didn’t remain. In a
matter of minutes, it was hidden behind dense, gray rainclouds. And it was dark again.
Akiria’s wings glowed as they had before, and now she led the exhausted survivors along the very path she had fought the dark angels on. Boriol, Elaine, and
Illyana stuck together. Illyana’s golden, seven-tailed dog walked beside her without a sound.
It was no secret that Akiria’s exhaustion was getting the best of her. Since returning from her battle at about midnight, she had healed the injured,
comforted the grieving, and buried the dead. She walked as steadily as she could manage, but even the smallest children in the group could see that each step
was painful to her.
Elaine walked ahead of Akiria and knelt down in front of her. “Up,” she said over her shoulder. Akiria simply collapsed onto Elaine’s back.
“Thanks,” she mumbled. A moment later, she was out cold. Her wings still glowed, but dragged on the ground. Illyana and a boy her own age rushed forward and
held them up.
“They’re soft,” the boy said.
The lights from Midlan illuminated the end of the path. Soon, Akiria’s wings dimmed and then stopped glowing as they entered the light. Midlan was roughly
twice the size of Dakonia, and about ten times more organized. As soon as the group passed through the open iron gates, the noise of the big city hit them.
Even this early in the morning, seemingly everyone was up and on the cobblestone streets.
“Let’s find a few inns first,” Boriol said, addressing the group. “Akiria needs rest, and I’m sure she’s not the only one.”
From there, the group of survivors divided into families and friends. Boriol stuck with Elaine, Akiria, and Illyana. They found an inn at the intersection of
the main street and one that looked like a linear marketplace. Inside the inn, the only things being sold were sleep and alcohol. The reception desk was
adjacent with a bar of sorts. Two people sitting at the bar, a man and a woman, stared at either Elaine or Akiria as they approached the desk.
“Room for four,” Elaine said. She shifted Akiria up higher on her back. The angel wasn’t heavy, but carrying her for miles had to be strenuous.
The receptionist, a middle-aged man with a goatee and short, black hair, turned and looked over the party. Before he could say anything, the man from the bar
“You’s a dark?”
He was pointing unsteadily at Akiria, who was still asleep. Elaine turned so that she was between him and the girl.
“She’s an angel,” Elaine said. “Look. Her wings are white.”
“I saw one. Just yes’serday. A dark ‘un. Was her, it was.”
“We were in Dakonia yesterday,” said Elaine.
“No ya wan’t. She—tha’ dark ang’l—she ’ad black wings.”
The man was annoying, and he was drunk. Boriol pushed past him and asked the receptionist for room keys. The receptionist gave him the keys and walked around
“Sir, you are drunk,” he said to the drunkard. “Go back to your room and sleep it off.”
The drunken man stared at Akiria for a few more seconds before stumbling back to the bar and taking another drink. The receptionist sighed.
“There was a dark here yesterday,” he said. “A woman, she was; ten years senior to that girl.” He paused and looked at Akiria’s face, rested on Elaine’s
shoulder. “Their faces are the same.”
Did Akiria have a relative? A sister? Boriol hadn’t heard of one, if she did. He made a mental note to ask her when she woke up.
The four of them ascended the wooden stairs and entered their room.
When Akiria woke up, it was morning. Beside her, Illyana had her arms and legs wrapped around her wing. She could wait. Illyana couldn’t sleep too much
longer unless she had stayed awake the entire day and night.
Boriol and Elaine were gone, probably to talk with the other refugees. Akiria vaguely remembered being in Midlan, probably five years ago. It wasn’t a
complicated town, so she could find her friends if she tried. Part of her wanted to stay and rest, even though she wasn’t tired in the slightest anymore.
Someone knocked on the door. Akiria looked down at Illyana and slowly pulled her wing away. She trotted over to the door and opened it, expecting Boriol and
Elaine. Instead, there was a man she’d never seen before. She vaguely remembered his voice when he spoke, though.
“Akiria Syara, correct?”
“Yesterday, I was drunk. I accused you of being a dark angel, and for that I apologize.”
Akiria didn’t remember any of this, but she nodded. She knew why he’d made the mistake. “You saw Simona, didn’t you?”
“Aye. Simona is your sister, is she not?”
Akiria sighed. She hadn’t told anyone about Simona, but of course Simona would tell everyone about her. Looking back, it was naive to assume she’d forget her
little sister in favor of her new “friends.”
“She’s gone dark, but has yet to take a life.”
Akiria nodded. “Then I’ll bring her back. Where’d you see her?”
“She was flying north.”
“Then, excuse me.”
Akiria trotted past the man and found the washroom at the bottom of the stairs. After a few minutes, she emerged from the washroom and returned to her own
room, where Illyana was still sleeping. Now, though, she had found a pillow to replace Akiria’s wing.
Smiling to herself, Akiria climbed onto the sill and dove out, spreading her wings and stopping her descent five feet from the ground. She turned around and
soared over the roof of the inn, landing for a moment to survey the area. Of course Simona wouldn’t be here. Boriol would. He was presently exiting a tavern
with Elaine and a woman Akiria had never seen before. She was pointing to the north and making flapping gestures with her arms. Wings? Then came a sword
stabbing gesture, and Boriol held up his hand, nodding. The woman returned to the tavern and Akiria flew down to her friends.
“Dark angel up north?” Akiria asked.
“Apparently,” said Elaine, “this one’s your sister.”
“I know. I’m about to go look for her.”
“You never told us you had a sister,” Boriol said. “Your reasons?”
“I didn’t want to be associated with her, but now she’s dark and someone’ll kill her ‘in the name of justice’ if I don’t help her. Sorry, Boriol. I’d go with
you and everyone usually, but this is my own problem and I need to go fast. I’ll be back by tomorrow.”
With that, Akiria took flight. Once she was comfortably far away, she let her tears fly.
“She was trying not to cry,” Elaine observed. “Should we go after her?”
“Only if she’s not back by tomorrow. She’s going to deal with the biggest worry this town has, so all we have to do is figure out where we want to settle.
Or, we could rebuild Dakonia, become mercenaries, or even join the Seekers.”
Elaine shook her head. “As much as I want Akiria to be safe, I don’t want to get involved in political wars.”
Boriol shrugged. He knew Elaine wasn’t big on politics, but part of him wanted to make her believe his side. As forceful and unkind as that sounded in his
thoughts, the Seekers were the ones fighting for the angels’ safety—among other things.
“Let’s get back to the inn,” Elaine said. “We should check on Illyana and see what she wants to do.”
The inn wasn’t far. Boriol was sure Illyana could hear their steps on the stairs, but just in case, he turned away and let Elaine open the door.
“Illy, you decent?”
The room was empty. Boriol and Elaine walked in and searched the room.
“What are you looking for?” Illyana asked. She stood in the doorway, hair still damp from the washroom.
“This,” Elaine said, pulling a red ribbon from her pocket. “I thought it would look cute on you.”
Elaine turned Illyana around and set to work on her hair. Boriol filled her in on Akiria’s situation.
“So, we’ll wait a day for her. If she’s not back by then, we’ll go north.”
“She has no idea where Simona is, though,” Illyana said. “All we know is that she’s up north.”
“Not true,” said Elaine. “Akiria knows her sister. She knows some things we don’t. However, I do want to look for her if she’s not back in time. Illy, you’re
the only person I know who can heal through pain. Akiria can’t do that. So, if she’s hurt, she can’t do anything about it.”
“I’m willing to bet she’ll get in some kind of fight on the way,” Boriol said. “We should go after her. Or, rather, Illy should go with one of us to heal
“I’ll stay,” said Elaine. “If Akiria comes back before you do or before you find her, I’ll send her over. Ah, Illy, your hair’s done.”
Illyana looked in the mirror above her bed. Elaine had left her bangs alone, but tied the back of her hair in a loose ponytail. “Thanks,” she said.
“We should go soon,” Boriol said. “We don’t want Kiri to get too far ahead of us. Illyana, can you ride a horse?”
“Never tried it,” she admitted. “I can learn.”
“Good. Let’s go.”