Welcome back to Part 2 of Love Enough. If you missed Protestations: Love Enough (Part 1) make sure you check it out first!
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Dagon’s gaze followed the line of her pointing arm. Through the shadows, he picked out the blurred outlines of a shape almost fading into the darkness. He leapt across the circle, vaulting over the broad flat altar stone at the centre of the ring. His hand dropped to the sheath on his hip; empty.
Cursing, he lunged at the intruder, but it ducked away behind the pillar of a ruined arch. Wings trailed behind the fleeing shadow. Dagon caught only a handful of feathers. Sinking his fingers in deep, he yanked backwards.
The Ishafal squealed as it fell backwards into a puddle, splashing cold muddy water over Dagon. He straddled the Ishafal, seizing an exquisitely handsome head and slamming it down into the muck, again and again. Mud splattered his face, chill and sticky.
‘Dagon.’ Annael’s touch brought him back to himself with a suddenness verging on painful. She still clutched his muddy dagger in one hand.
Dagon wiped mud from his cheek with one bare, hairy arm. The winged man stared upwards with dazed eyes. Like Annael, he possessed a face perfect beyond the possible, and his skin glowed pearlescent. Raindrops beaded on his flesh, like dewdrops decorating the rose.
‘What do you want?’ Dagon dropped the man’s head with a splash into the mud.
‘We want you to die.’ Blood trickled from a crack in the Ishafal’s lip. ‘All of you.’
His words rang with hypnotic power, compelling, luring, and seducing. Almost, Dagon wanted to grab his knife, and bury the blade to the hilt in his own chest, just to please the Ishafal. Almost, but not quite.
A sneer twisted Dagon’s lips, and he slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Did you think Annael would leave me unprotected against the magic of your voice, featherbrain?’ He slapped the Ishafal hard, one blow, two, across his too perfect face. ‘Don’t waste your energy trying.’
‘You were warned, Annael.’ The Ishafal glared at her, ignoring Dagon. He dropped all pretense of glamour. ‘You knew if you did not abandon the demon, then your life hung in the balance. All your lives! You signed your own death warrant when you conceived the brat. It’s only a shame we couldn’t end this before it was whelped!’
‘You would have killed a pregnant woman?’ Horror stole into Dagon's voice.
‘The ardesco cannot be resisted,’ Annael said. ‘You know that, Rahtiel. We are all slaves to its whims.’
‘And you know it’s tolerated for a night here and there. Permanent attachments are not. Children, never! You should have taken precautions, Annael!’
‘You would kill a pregnant woman?’ Dagon’s voice grew louder, more insistent. ‘Answer me, you slimy birdbrain!’
Seizing the Ishafal by the front of his shirt, he lifted him and prepared to slam him to the muddy ground. Rahtiel stared at him with clear blue eyes. No trace of guilt marked his face or his voice.
‘Such action is preferable to permitting the birth of a demon-Ishafal mongrel.’
A scream of rage ripped free of Dagon’s throat, a savage, wild noise tearing through the whisper of the falling rain. He slammed the Ishafal’s head to the ground again. Jamming one hand against the man’s face, he forced it sideways, into the muddied water of the puddle. Horror bloomed in the Ishafal’s eyes, the first fear Dagon had ever seen from one of his kind. The winged man thrashed, legs kicking as high as they could. Dagon planted his weight, held Rahtiel down, and forced his nose under. Eyes widened. Beautiful features twisted. Bubbles exploded in the puddle as the Ishafal panicked. Dagon pushed his head further into the mud, muscles bulging in his bare arms. The Ishafal relied too much on the seduction of their voices, and the mud drowned Rahtiel’s.
The Ishafal’s frenzied struggle weakened, and his flailing limbs slowed, until finally he stilled. Dagon held his hand to the back of the man’s neck for a moment longer.
‘He is dead, Dagon. Will you kill them all?’
His breath came in short gasps as he released the dead Ishafal, and he rocked back on his heels in the mud and the water. Mud covered him from ankle to thigh, and all across his cloak and breeches and sleeveless vest. More splattered his heaving chest. ‘If I must. How many?’
‘Fifty, at least. I feel them coming. They’ll be here soon. A few minutes, perhaps. He was only a scout. You cannot win, Dagon.'
He stared at her, broken by the truth in her words. To fight fifty was impossible. Fifty, together, would overwhelm Annael’s protections. Willingly, he’d turn his blade against himself at their instruction.
‘There must be another way.’ The words dropped from his lips with the implacable weight of a boulder, though he knew there wasn’t.
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Check back on April 29 for the conclusion to Love Enough.
**AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**
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