Lask lounged in the back seat of Elanor’s Amanti, his deep purple cape spilling over the edge of the seat and pooling in the floorboard. They were on their way to Richmond to see Celtic Woman later that evening. Elanor had the radio on, and was singing along to Bright as it played. Jackie was bobbing her head along out of time, and it brought a fond smile to Lask’s face. He watched a black SUV whiz past them on the right as they traveled down I-95.
Something flickered in the far corner of his vision, and as his gaze snapped toward it, he thought he caught sight of a shining figure on the side of the road. Alarms blared in the back of his mind, and he snapped up straight in the backseat, keen eyes peering through the windshield as they hurtled down the highway. They were fast approaching an overpass, and Lask saw a black shape perched on the edge. As they sped closer, things happened in the blink of an eye.
The black silhouette on the bridge turned, lashing out at a passing truck, at the same time a fireball burst out of Lask’s hands at it. Elanor registered the bolt of fire as it flew past her head, but there wasn’t time for her to even yelp in surprise. The bolt struck a fraction too late. Whatever Dark thing had been on the bridge had done its work, and Lask couldn’t tell if his fire had killed it or not.
The driver of a red pickup swerved suddenly on the bridge above– catching a glimpse of a figure on the road, not wanting to hit it. A freshly cut piece of firewood wood was jostled out of the truck, and tumbled over the edge toward the highway below. Lask saw it falling, as if in slow motion, as they approached the overpass. It happened so fast Elanor and Jackie didn’t even see it.
“ELANOR–!” There wasn’t time for him to even shout an instruction.
There was the flicker on the passenger side, and a brilliant gold shape shot over the hood of the car in a blur. Lask recognized what it was, even from a single glimpse. It shone like a living star. The angel moved in a fluid arc, leaping backwards across the hood, and as it passed, its foot kicked upward, knocking the log just a few inches to the left.
The piece of wood struck the frame of the window beside Elanor’s head, then glanced off the side of the back door, ripping loose the silver window trim. As the wood fell and shattered against the asphalt, the angel hit the shoulder to the side, somersaulted twice, then was gone in a flash of light. The breath rushed out of Lask. He hadn’t realized he had been holding it. Elanor and Jackie were frantic.
“What the hell was that?!” El yelped.
Jackie turned in the seat to look behind them. “I don’t know.”
They could hear something flapping, scratching. Elanor glanced over her shoulder and saw something hanging from the side of her car.
“You need to pull over,” Lask told her. His mind raced. If the angel’s foot hadn’t connected with the log, it might have come straight through the windshield, and he, his Writer, and the Reader would be no more. The Dark would have effectively shattered their alkesh in a single blow.
Elanor put on the turn signal, and crossed over the other two lanes of traffic, onto the shoulder, where she slowed to a stop, punching the button for the hazard lights.
“Stay here,” Jackie said, opening the door, “Keep your seatbelt on.”
She was out of the car before Elanor could protest. Lask followed her out.
Jackie picked her way around the back of the car, the clicking of her heels inaudible over the constant rumble of traffic. As she moved around to the driver side, Lask clenched his hands, and set his whole figure alight. The fires danced up along his limbs, flared along the edges of his cape and coat. He stood before Jackie against the rushing traffic, acting as a living flare. The drivers of the oncoming cars could not see him, but they sensed the blaze and moved as far to the side as they could.
Jackie inspected the damage, seeing the scuffs on the window, and the torn trim. She tugged on it, but it would not pull free the rest of the way. They had nothing to cut off the swinging piece of metal. Glancing at the oncoming traffic, she did the only thing she could think of. As she opened the back door of the Amanti, Lask saw the semi appear.
“Move,” he growled, though he knew she could not hear him. “Faster, Sparrow.”
Elanor could see him growing more and more agitated, and looked up the road to see what had him so on edge. She saw the tractor trailer racing up the highway, and she paled. Jackie fumbled with the trim, wrangling the free end down into the open door.
“Move!” Lask snapped, trying in futility to urge her faster.
In the car, Elanor whispered, “Great Light, see us and guard us.”
The enormous green truck barreled up the lane toward them. Jackie saw it coming and slammed the car door closed, securing the loose trim in the door. There wasn’t enough time to move. Jackie turned toward the car, tucking her arms in, and cowered against the side. Lask flung himself over her, fires bursting out from him, enveloping her between him and the car.
The semi blew past them, less than a foot from Lask’s back. The hurricane of its passing blew Lask’s cape, coat, hair, and fire in a wild tangle out to the left. Jackie’s eyes were clenched shut, and Elanor could see her through the window. Elanor felt helpless, watching the fear on Jackie’s face, the fierce, blazing snarl on Lask’s, and the sudden wind that buffeted them both, then the truck was gone. Elanor exhaled.
“Get in the car,” Lask whispered in Jackie’s ear.
Whether she perceived him or not, she uncurled herself from the side of the car, and rushed back around to the passenger side. She half-fell into the seat, and slammed the door.
“Are you ok?” asked El.
“Never better,” Jackie panted.
Elanor glanced in the mirrors and began to accelerate, regaining speed to slip into a break in the traffic and continue on.
“That was close,” she murmured.
“Let’s hope that’s all the excitement for the evening.”
Lask said nothing in the backseat. He looked back out the window, but there were no other figures– Light or Dark. He closed his eyes for a moment, sending a silent word of thanks.