A group of three men sat around a campfire with an antelope roasting over it. The two suns shone overhead, causing the three men to sweat. One of the men tore off a chunk of slightly raw flesh and grinned.
“Hey! Quit eating the bait,” one of the men said and snarled.
“Ah, stop whining,” the man with the meat said. “‘Tis just a small morsel.”
“If we can’t make quota, you’ll be the one finding shelter tonight,” the last man said and narrowed his eyes.
“It’s fine,” the man with the meat said as he licked his lips. He pointed behind the two men. “Look, there’s already some coming this way.”
The two men turned around and saw a sand cloud in the horizon. A tiny figure, that seemed to have two heads, could be seen approaching them. “That’s a person, you nitwit.”
“So what? We can still rob ‘im.” The man threw the remaining meat to the side and drew his dagger.
“Eh,” the other men grumbled as they unsheathed their daggers as well. All three of them may prone against the ground and waited.
“Something’s not right,” one of them said and frowned. “The sand cloud’s too big for just one person.”
Their eyes widened as a pride of lions appeared on the horizon, chasing the figure. All three of them swore at the same time.
“Is he nuts?!” The three men scrambled to their feet and started running away.
Palan narrowed his eyes at the three men running away ahead of him. He took a glance behind himself and saw that even more lions had joined the chase from the last time he checked. The three men ran towards the side, but Palan beelined towards them, slowly closing the distance.
“How’s he running so fast!? He’s carrying someone!”
“Don’t bring us down with you!” One of the men swore and threw his dagger at Palan who had almost caught up. Palan turned his body sideways and avoided it, but it hit one of the lions, causing it to roar and sprint even faster.
After the man threw the dagger, he tripped and fell to the ground. He shouted and lunged at his companion’s ankle, “Wait! Don’t leave me behind.”
“You!” the man who got grabbed said as he started to fall. He twisted his body in mid-air and stabbed the man’s forearm with his dagger. His body fell, but he kicked the other man’s hand off his ankle and scrambled to his feet. It was at this moment that Palan passed the two of them. He didn’t even take a look behind as the men screamed and lions roared. The third man paled and veered off to the side, but Palan pursued him and stabbed him in the spine with his dagger, causing the man to fall over. He jerked the dagger out of the man’s back and kicked his limp body towards the frontmost lion before continuing to run. A few lions pursued Palan, but gave up after a couple of seconds and returned to the three men.
One week later.
Palan stood outside of a bone gate with sweat pouring from his body, soaking him and Andrea. The moon was out and illuminated the stone walls, causing the stones to glow. A pile of skeletons lay scattered in the sand ahead of him.
“State your business!” a voice called out from above. A man with a beak and wings stood on top of the gate with a bow in his hands.
“I need to see the shaman,” Palan said and narrowed his eyes at the bird-man. “My sister is sick with the plague. I can pay.”
“The shaman doesn’t just see anyone,” the bird-man said and launched an arrow towards Palan’s feet. “Leave.”
Palan frowned and took a leather pouch out of his sack. He lobbed it towards the bird-man who dodged it before picking it up. His eyes shone and he let out a chirp before flying down towards the gate.
“If anyone asks, it was the fatty who let you in, alright?” the bird-man said as he opened the gate. Palan nodded as he walked inside. “The shaman’s in that building.” He pointed at a building with a wooden cross on top of it. His eyes widened when he saw Andrea’s back as Palan walked past him. He shuddered and eyed the pouch in his hands, hesitating. He sighed and placed it in the bag by his waist, before flying back up to his post.
Palan made his way through the city, heading straight for the church-like building. A few men stepped forward to stop him, but stopped and gave him a wide berth when they saw the spikes protruding out of Andrea’s arms, legs, and back.
The church doors creaked as he pushed it open. A bloody stench invaded his nostrils, causing his body to twitch. A man sat at an altar with two women standing at his sides with platters of food in their hands. The man had light-red skin, white hair, and blue eyes. He raised an eyebrow as Palan walked down the aisle, heading towards him.
“Are you the shaman?” Palan asked as he stopped twenty steps away from the trio.
“Is that what people are calling me these days?” the man asked and smiled, showing a set of pearl-white teeth. “I see your friend there is quite sick.”
“Can you cure her?”
“I can,” the man said and took a sip from a golden cup, “but why should I?”
Palan frowned. “I can pay you.”
“I am not like you demons,” the man said and placed the cup down. “Money does not speak to me.”
Palan remained silent as he stared at the man, his eyebrows creasing slightly.
The man smirked and a puff of air escaped his nostrils. “What is your sin?”
“Pride?” the man asked and laughed. “Your kind rarely asks for help.” The man leaned forward and propped his elbow on his knee while resting his chin in his palm. He pointed his toes towards Palan. “Lick my feet clean and I will consider saving your friend’s life.”
Palan’s eyes narrowed. He ground his teeth together and spat out a tooth. He bared his teeth at the man and ran his tongue over the serrated edges. The man shuddered and retracted his toes.
“I was just joking,” the man said and waved his hand. “No need to look like that. Typical demons. I do not want your money, but maybe you have some other use for me. What is your name?”
The man tilted his head and furrowed his brow. He mumbled, “Palan… Palan. Are you the hunter? I think I have heard about you; you made quite a big name for yourself after killing Atria.”
Palan stopped glaring at the man as his lips quirked upwards. “That’s me.”
The man laughed. “Good! Very good,” he said and smiled. “I have been hoping you would show up in front of me one day. I can cure your friend, but there is someone I want you to kill in return.”
“Hear me out first,” the man said and smiled as he leaned back. “Have you ever heard about the angel’s world?”
Palan nodded. “I’ve heard rumors.”
“It exists. I am an angel,” the man said and crossed his legs. “I was exiled to this crappy world by a few fellow angels of mine. I want you to kill the one responsible for my miserable state.”
Palan frowned. “Is he here?”
“Not in this world, no,” the man said. “I will transport you to the angel’s world. Do you still accept?”
“I’m here to save my sister.”
“I will take care of her until you come back.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“And I do not trust you either.”
Palan remained silent.
The man smiled. “That is why,” he said and waved his hand. A piece of paper materialized in the air above his palm. Palan’s body tensed. “We can sign a contract.”
Palan narrowed his eyes as his chest started to pound. “Contract?”
“Yes,” the man said and nodded. “A contract between angels and demons. We both agree to do something and if any of us does not abide by the contract, the contract is broken and the one who breaks it dies. I will swear to cure your sister now and take care of her until you return here with my target’s head.”
“I still don’t trust you.”
“I assure you, the contract is very real. How do you think I can rule a city of this size? You can feel it in your blood, can you not? The contract calls to you.” The man flicked the blank contract towards Palan. “I will let you write the conditions down.”
Palan stared at the piece of paper. “What is write?”
The man sighed. “Illiterate demons,” he said and shook his head. “Say the words, ‘I wish to form a blood contract with Fallen Angel Abaddon. I will bring him the head of Sariel the Watcher. In return, Abaddon will completely cure my sister and ensure her wellbeing until I return.’ After you say those words, add a drop of your blood to the bottom of the paper.”
“I wish to form a blood contract with Fallen Angel Abaddon. I will bring him the head of Sariel the Watcher. In return, Abaddon will completely cure my sister and ensure her wellbeing, along with keeping her well-fed, until I return,” Palan said and pierced his thumb with one of his teeth. He pressed his thumb against the paper and a golden light flashed. The paper flew towards Abaddon who pierced his thumb with his nail and added his blood next to Palan’s.
“The contract is complete,” Abaddon said and nodded as the paper faded away. “Just so you know, if one of us dies, the contract disappears. I will kill your sister if you die.” He stood up and walked down the aisle towards Palan. “Untie her.”
Palan undid the leather straps and laid Andrea’s body on the ground. A groan escaped from her lips. Abaddon waved his hand and a line of stones circled around his body. They glowed with a golden light before being absorbed by his palm. He placed his palm against Andrea’s head and the bone spikes on her body retracted. The holes left behind also closed up without leaking a drop of blood. Andrea’s eyelids fluttered.
“Palan,” she whispered. She tried to raise her head, but couldn’t. Her voice cracked. “I’m alive?”
Palan nodded and squatted down next to her while stroking her forehead. “It’s alright. I told you I wouldn’t let you die.”
“Time to keep your end of the bargain,” Abaddon said and waved his hand again. A stream of glowing stones flew out of his back and landed on the ground, forming a pentagram underneath Palan’s body. A golden pillar of light appeared around him, creeping up his legs towards his head.
“Palan!” Andrea said and sat up as she reached her arm towards him. The light repelled her hand.
“I’ll be back,” Palan said and smiled at Andrea. “Wait for me.”
The pillar of light enveloped Palan’s head, obscuring him from view. A few seconds passed and the light disappeared, leaving nothing behind.