It seemed like a good choice, but he would have to strike fast. He’d be caught by daybreak.

A loud bell tolling signified nightfall, and Adrienne stepped into the forest, unaware that she was being watched from a distance. As soon as she had left the range of vision, her pursuer entered in after her, keeping just out of sight.

Some time passed, and the moon shone bleakly down from a starless sky. They were nearing a clearing; it was time to make his move. He quickened his pace, and felt her presence before seeing her. Just a few more steps…


A twig snapped under his feet, causing his quarry to snap to attention. He took notice of her unease, and indulged himself in a subtle grin, never altering his pace. He could sense how she held her breath, straining her ears to pick up any clue to who was approaching, but getting nothing more than the cadence of the crunching snow under his boots. Before he came within visual contact of her, however, he heard her take a few hurried steps, then silence.

'Hiding, mm?'

Steadily approaching, Israfel began to hum a low tune to match his steps... something sad, slow, and melodic. Adrienne probably would have thought him mad or drunk, had she not been aware of his suppressed power already. She decided to stay where she was and hope he was just passing by; not yet daring to take a glance to see who it could be. When he was the closest he could get without leaving the path, he stopped abruptly, and the humming ceased as well. The sudden hush compared to the crunching and its melody was almost maddeningly silent. He waited a short while longer, playing with her mind, seeing if she’d come out on her own.

Adrienne was having a difficult time deciding what to do, and her mind was filled with many questions… surely he must know she was there, why else would he stop? Why was he searching for her? Who could have sen-

"Come out, come out, little child of the Night…"

The silence shattered and her thoughts were interrupted by a voice with about as much warmth and spirit as the frozen oak she was hiding behind. He knew she was there, and there was no choice other than to face him now; so giving one quick assessment of her gear and tightening her grip on her talwar, she turned to face him. As she rounded the tree, she opened her mouth to speak.

The words never found their way out, however, because she was too surprised by what she saw.

Standing before her in a patch of pale moonlight was a tall, average-built man, wearing a dark colored cloak (under naught but pale moonbeams, the color was uncertain) over leather warrior’s armor. Two blades, both sappara, hung at his waist. A particular medal with an unknown seal on it would have caught her eyes, but something else had seized them first: his shoulder length black hair matched perfectly with his mantle… and the 12 foot wingspan behind him. Spread widely across his back were two large raven colored wings, feathered by the moonlight. Though once beautiful, they now looked as if they’d been slowly deteriorating, as the feathers were more sparse and disheveled. Keeping her distance, as she still was unsure of his intentions, she decided to attempt speech again. With regained confidence in her voice, Adrienne spoke:

"…An Angel?"

Israfel chuckled to himself, and responded with the same cold voice: "Well, you can’t really call me that anymore, I suppose."

"Then you’ve fallen."

Another grin crossed his face. "Not just yet."

Though he knew she could have figured it out by now, he decided to explain anyway. "There are angels, and there are fallen angels. Good angels who do 'bad' things are banished from the glory of Heaven and sent to the pits of Hell, for an eternity of tortured servitude." Nothing new to her there. "Well, you could say that… I've done something 'bad,' and I knew I would be banished for it. It was either face Hell, or flee. And that’s just what I did."

"…A renegade." Adrienne understood most of it now, but was still unsure of his motive. "You know they’ll find you," she said, an edge of contempt in her voice. "You can’t escape the hosts of Heaven."

"Can’t I?" The grin became a smile. "This is where you come in. If they find me, an angel, they’ll send me to Hell. Certainly. But if I’m not completely angelic, they can’t take me until death." Her eyes widened; it all made sense. "With the blood of a normal human, I could become semi-mortal. I would escape temporarily, but death would come eventually, and my divine punishment would be carried out. But the life essence of, say, a guardian, mingled with the angelic blood in me…I’d have no mortality to fear." The smile twisted to a sneer; his hands found their way to the sapparae. "And alone in a dark, vacant forest… you seemed like a fairly good choice."