“Was this what death felt like? Were these her angels?” Aurora thought as they pressed in against her, their wingtips brushing against her skin.
Aurora screamed and sat up with a start. Back in the stable. The familiar smell of horses. That same smokey stench from the thing that man called a gun. He was still there, standing in front of her with that silly grin on his face.
“What happened there, little lady?” he said with a chuckle. “Thought we lost you for a minute.”
Grandfather was standing there with a worried look on his face. He seemed fine, though. Aurora smiled weakly at him before pushing herself to her feet. She felt something crackle under her and saw the brown bag between bits of hay. Whatever was inside it had shattered when she fell on top of it.
“Now, where were we?” the man with the gun asked. “Oh, yeah. The artifact. Hand it over and everyone can leave. Of course, we’ll tie you up and take the horses so you can’t follow us. But like I said before, I really don’t want to hurt anybody. This thing is really ugly and can do major damage.”
Grandfather looked over at the horse lying on the ground, bleeding out. He looked at the man with the gun. Then glanced over at Aurora. He nodded encouragingly, as if telling her to hand it over. The other men looked at her as well and smiled expectantly.
“What is this thing?” she asked.
“What does it matter to you, girl,” the man drawled and spat on the floor again. “Just hand it over.”
Aurora shrugged flippantly.
“It might be an ancient evil that you want to unleash on the earth,” she replied. “In which case, it’s better I sacrifice myself so that others may live in peace.”
The man who had remained silent this entire time took a step forward and growled at her menacingly.
“You better hand that over if you know what’s good for you, you little brat!”
The man with the gun reached over and stopped him.
“Relax. Calm down, y’all. Everybody’s so tense. Let’s just take it easy,” he said with a laugh. “Just tell her, Matt. You don’t have to get all bent out of shape about it.”
The man called Matt pulled the wide black hat off his head and cocked it to the side.
“Fine,” he said. “The truth is yet that we don’t for sure ourselves. We’ve just been tasked to fetch it for someone.”
“Why?” Aurora asked, just stalling for time. Trying to think of a way to get out of this mess without having to give them what they wanted.
“I said, I don’t know,” the man growled as he squeezed his hat between his hands angrily.
“No, silly! She just wants to know what we want it for,” the man with the gun said. “We’re just doing it for the money, kid. We go out looking for stuff because we like an adventure. And because we get receive a good recompense.”
He motioned with his hand for the girl to hand it over. “Be a good girl, like your grandfather says. Like I said, we don’t want to hurt anybody.”
“Then don’t,” she said. “We can pay you money and you can go back home. Tell whoever sent you that it was gone.”
“Well, we can’t do that because then our reputation would be on the line. If we come back empty-handed, then we lose the respect of those who send us. See, we like to keep things practical. We’re practical men. We prefer not to lose our cool and negotiate rationally. Well, I don’t, anyway. Matt here can get a little more carried away at times. That’s why I get to hold the gun. Don’t want him shooting you before we get what we came for. Right?”
Just as he said that, a boy on a horse came charging furiously through the wide door. He barreled down on Matt and the man with the gun. Both leaped out of the way, barely escaping getting trampled.
The horse backed away from them toward Aurora, and she had to back up as well. The boy pulled a long knife from its sheath and screamed loudly as he leaped from the horse at the man with the gun. “You killed my horse, you mangy mongrels.”
The man rolled to the side. His gun roared loudly. The boy fell to his knees at the man’s side. His knife flew back from his hand and clattered to the ground at Aurora’s feet. She gasped at the small hole that appeared in the boy’s body as he fell forward on top of the man.
Matt scrambled forward on his hands and knees to pull the boy off his partner’s body.
“Nix? You okay?” he shouted. “Nixon, answer me, buddy.”
Continue Reading Chapter 9 – Beautiful Feathers >>>