“Fucking riddles,” Gabriel sighed before turning on his heel. “Childish idiots with no respect for anyone,” he muttered to the guests as he walked. “This way.”
They followed him down a corridor with the occasional door coming off it. At the end of the hallway, they came out into a dining room; the long table big enough to sit ten, maybe more. There was a much smaller chandelier above the table, which had a clean white tablecloth spread over it. At the other end of the room was a wide set of elegant patio doors, the handle golden and the glass thin.
“I never expected Sam to live somewhere like this if I’m honest,” Beth murmured, admired one of the paintings hanging on the wall.
Gabriel chuckled slightly, heading for the doors. “I imagine not. He changed a lot after the fall.”
Gabriel stayed quiet for a moment as he unlocked the elegant doors with an old iron key. “Change of interests.” He pushed the door open, the wood sticking slightly, making the glass shake. “Must get these sorted.”
He walked out into the night, calling Sam’s name. Beth followed him, leaving Zeke and Caelan looking at the paintings.
“What do you mean, ‘change of interests’?”
Gabriel shrugged. “Exactly that. He didn’t want to be who he was anymore.”
Beth didn’t reply, thinking this over. She and the angel stood where they were, not far from the doors they’d just exited from. A shadow flew across the ground, getting smaller and smaller until a slight tremor rocked the earth as what looked like a dragon landed about fifteen metres in front of them.
Its purple scales shone dully, glinting gleefully in the moonlight, an iridescence dancing off them. The large wings were like stretched leather, revealing the bones beneath the flesh. There were no spikes along its back or tail – which curled around its side, tapering into a tip between its forelegs. A hooded shadow sat between its shoulders, patting the dragon’s long neck.
“Sam!” Gabriel called before almost immediately gasping in surprise, stumbling backwards slightly.
A feathered arrow was sticking out of his shoulder, just next to his collarbone.
“My gods, Gabriel!” the shadow exclaimed, sliding off the huge beast’s back, landing on his feet on the grass at the same time as slipping its head and one arm through the string of the bow, letting it rest against its back.
It threw the hood back, revealing itself to indeed be Sam, though his face looked somewhat pinched and his eyes bagged and purple with lack of rest. He strode over with his usual strong manner, putting a hand on Gabriel's unharmed shoulder and pulling the arrow out without another word.
“You know not to sneak up on me, idiot,” Sam muttered.
“I wasn’t aware that I had,” Gabriel replied, rubbing his shoulder.
“That’s one of the last clean ones I have, fool. Hey, Beth,” he said, glancing to her briefly.
The cloak he wore was a heavy, black material that was clasped together at his throat but covered most, if not all, of his torso as he held it together subtly.
“Hi,” she replied automatically. “How are you?”
“Fine, thank you. Alive,” he answered before adding, “for now.”
“Where have you been?” Gabriel asked, breathing deeply.
“I went to the lake,” Sam said succinctly, walking past them and into the house. He quickly greeted Zeke and Caelan.