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His lungs were burning and his wings were actually aching, a sensation that he still wasn’t fully used to as it felt akin to how his legs burned when he’d been running too long. It was strange, but before now he’d never given much thought to how a wing really worked. Now that he knew it was something he was still torn about.

He’d flown for what seemed like an hour now, and still the demons were in pursuit. Even the swiftest of them had fallen behind, but he could still hear their howls in the distance, calling for his blood as he continued onward. The only problem was that distance and time were both concepts that didn’t fully exist here. For all he knew he’d spent at least a few years if not decades in this place as time, as humans knew it, had pushed on back on the material realm. If that was the case then the world he went back to might not-


He knew the voice, knew the feeling that suddenly came over him, and looking up he saw one of the most heavenly sights that he had ever laid eyes upon. The woman that had recruited him was there, her face limned in the beatific light that seemed to shine around her no matter the shadows. Wings of stark white stained with gray and traces of darkness spread out all around her as she held both arms open, her intent clear.

The howls grew closer he ascended, growling away the pain as his already over-taxed muscles screamed at him, begging him for a rest. He couldn’t rest though, and as he continued to ascend he looked at his grandmother. She was as serene as could be, smiling as she looked up. In that moment he could have forgiven her almost anything, no matter that they’d never had a strong bond. But the moment for such things was gone as, pumping his wings once more, he reached the woman, pushing his grandmother up and away as she folded her arms around the spirit.

“Give me your hand!” she called as she saw him starting to dip back downward, “Hurry!”

He shook his head, “The job’s done,” he said plainly, “It’s time to play.”

He saw her eyes widen slightly as he drew forth his hooked ulaks once again, leaning backward as he fell into a headlong dive, tucking his wings in to give them a short rest as he plummeted like a stone.

“Guardians,” she muttered, before fading into the distance.

He didn’t hear this, but instead focused on the rushing of the wind through his hair and his wings as he continued to drop. Opening his eyes as he finally felt his body come parallel with the earth he shifted again, cupping his wings as he’d been shown a short time back to slow his descent just a bit. He might have been more durable as a Guardian, but even a Guardian could be wounded by such a fall. If that happened he wouldn’t last for more than a few seconds against the bunch he saw below, their blades held ready, waiting, and no doubt hungry to drink and bite deeply into his flesh.

The Guardian smiled, allowing the battle rage to fall over him as the ground rushed up to meet him, the power in his body returning in a rush as he hit the grassy sward with the force of a falling meteor, rippling the earth in all directions as the demons found themselves forced to back away quickly or be knocked down by the rippling waves of grass and dirt that suddenly assailed them.

Despite this sudden and unorthodox attack, most of the group were on their feet, or hooves, within a matter of seconds.

The Guardian just smiled, a feral gesture as he raised his ulaks wide.

“Who’s first?”

The End

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