Chapter 5

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Thick black blood flowed down Solus’s face, blurring his eyesight. His heavy breathing belied the energy still struggling within him to be let out. His opponent stood just out of reach of his claws, the steely glint of twilight in his frustrated eyes, saliva dripping from the shark-like teeth filling his horse-headed maw. If Solus had bothered to notice, his opponent’s left arm hung limp and provided an easy opening.

But Solus wasn’t focused on his opponent. He was focused on his anger. Belgard and Rhyder were included in a group to go to the Human Realm and find a child. He didn’t understand why they needed to find this child, but then it wasn’t a demon’s place to question their masters. What he did understand was he couldn’t Shift into the Human Realm like his comrades could.

His opponent roared forward and swung the sword he held in a wide arc. His moment of distraction slowed his response. Solus stepped to the side and blocked with his own sword, but the blade still managed to nick him in the shoulder and his sword was jarred from his loose grip. Despite his new disadvantage, Solus still could not focus on his attacker, who now had renewed courage.

He could not shake the thought that other demons had the opportunity to return to the Human Realm. He knew that time flowed differently in the Lower Realm, and many hundreds of years had passed on Earth. Both Rhyder and Belgard came from eras far into the future of his time, and they Shifted between realms easily. For whatever reason, he was never taught this.

“All ya have to do is think about a place on Earth and poof! Your there!” Rhyder had tried to teach him once.

But no amount of concentration would whisk him back to his homeland.

“Perhaps it is because the area has changed,” offered Belgard. “Think of another place.”

But there was nowhere else he had ever been but Atlas.

Sensing Solus’s inattention, his opponent moved to strike. With a frustrated jerk of his hand, he sent out five bolts toward the demon, burning the sword from his grasp. With another angry flick of his energy, he sent horse-face flying backward. With a feeble wave of his hand, the demon signaled surrender and remained prone on his back.  

“You do not seem very focused today, my Avenger,” Andras stepped forward into the arena. Solus’s opponent sat up into a kneeling position and bowed to the Fallen general before scrabbling out of the practice field.

Solus stood and bowed toward his master. “Forgive me, Master, I –” he balled his fists.

“You are upset that I sent demons to the Human Realm and did not include you,” Andras completed.

Solus kept his head down in shame. “Master, why am I not yet able to Shift to the Human Realm? Every other demon is taught this, why not me?”

In answer, Andras brought forth his staggeringly strong energy between his hands and without hesitation flung it at Solus. Unprepared, all Solus could do was bring his arms up across his body to block what he could. He flew backward several feet and landed in a skid, flesh torn away from his shoulder and arm.

Solus had never known his master to participate in practice with any other demon but him. At first he was unsure if he was supposed to fight back. But Andras insisted he train as if his master were any other demon, and Andras was quite brutal.

Getting up slowly, Solus changed into his demon form. His master had no equal among the demons, and Solus needed every ounce of power he had. Flexing his sinewy muscles, he brought his own hands together to form a ball of energy. He barely had time to pull it apart into a shield before Andras sent another attack. Then, as fast as he could he gathered the energy left from the shield and sent it forth in a torrent of energy spikes.

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