Mara quickly dispatched the last demon and lowered herself to the ground.  Her wings folded up and she leaned down, embracing Ethan close. 

            “Hello my love.”  She whispered, gently kissing his cheek and whispering into his ear.  Ethan felt warm shivers ripple through his form.

            “Hello my heart.”  He said back.  “I’m glad you showed up when you did.”

            “I’m sorry it took so long.  I was trying to clear your path of these slobbering morons, but there got to be more and more the higher up you got.  You were very brave, my darling, but I saw that you needed me.”

            “I’ll always need you.”  He said simply, gazing into her eyes. 

            She kissed him suddenly, and urgently, her lips pressing hard against his, leaving him breathless.  His fingers entwined themselves in her hair and they held each other close for an eternity, lost in each other’s arms.  Ethan smiled sheepishly when they finally got around to breaking the kiss.

            “Shall we continue on, then?”  He tried to sound nonchalant.

            “Yes, I suppose we shall.”  Mara agreed, grinning at him.

            Ethan led the way towards the fork in the road, taking blushing grins over his shoulder at his elegant angel as she followed close behind, her eyes following his every movement with an affectionate gaze.  He reached back and took her hand in his, feeling the smoothness of her palm.  He turned right at the fork.

            “Why this way?” She asked.

            “It’s pretty obvious that it’s the way to go.”  He answered.  “I mean come on, the left path?  It has to be the “sinister” one; it’s broad and easy.  This one is going to be a struggle and it’s narrow.  In the Bible, to follow Christ is to take the narrow way, the way that seems hardest but leads in the best direction.”

            “Smart boy.”  She grinned, kissing him again, making his ears and cheeks turn red.  “Though you will have to go the other way sooner or later.”

            “I will?”  He asked.

            “You’ll see.  My father will tell you.”

            Ethan noticed that as they walked the weather got better, even if the way was rockier.  The sky was clear and bright, the wind crisp but not biting.  He knew it meant that the other path was the source of the cold, faith-killing wind.  Though they had to pick their way over rocky protrusions, carefully scaling outcroppings and leaping over crevasses, he knew this path was safer for now. 

            “Why don’t you just fly?”  Ethan asked Mara.

            “You have to walk, so I do it too.”  She said, as they pulled themselves up onto a ledge.  “It’s my misguided sense of fair play.”  Mara smiled.  He kissed her hand and then they continued on.

            Though at first the way was extremely difficult, after a while Ethan noticed that the mountain path began to slope downwards.  They reached a plateau and Ethan looked out, beyond the mountain range.  They had crossed through to the northern side, and the trail led down off the mountain onto a flat snowy plain.  It sparkled in the sunlight brightly, and the sky was a gorgeous cobalt blue, cloudless and optimistic.

            “It’s out there.”  Mara said with an encouraging squeeze of his hand. 

            “What is?” He whispered, not daring to speak aloud the answer he already knew.

            “Your destiny.”

They gradually made their way down the side of the mountain, nesting together in crevices and nooks in the rock, Mara keeping her pilgrim warm with her wings and long, tender embraces.  She brought him food, and he got water by holding snow in his water bag against his chest.  Ethan could not tell if the journey took days or week or years, for every moment with Mara was a joyous eternity, each day a new life.  The pain and sorrow of all the years before seemed not even a memory, but a dream.

            One day they reached the flat plain just as the sun was setting, the sky deepening to the colour of Mara’s eyes.  Ethan looked to her and smiled, taking her hands in his.  She tilted her neck, leaning down to him.  She saw his eyes sparkling with love, the gratitude for her company through the mountains, for all she had ever done for him.  His lips touched hers delicately, like a butterfly alighting on flower petals, soft as silk.  She sighed with joy, never happier than she was with him, and the kiss grew speed.  His hand went to her cheek as hers tangled in his hair.  Just as the world around them was falling away, their loving moment was interrupted by applause.

            “Oh, bravo.  The two lovers united at last.”  A voice said mockingly, its source clapping sarcastically, patronizingly.  “What a charmingly romantic scene.  Right out of a fairy tale.  Or a cheesy movie.”

            “You.”  Mara growled, her voice dripping venom as she drew her sword, shining bright in the growing darkness.  She and Ethan looked to the plain and saw the dark figure of Azazel, the demon lord who had tormented them throughout Ethan’s life.  He saluted her, but it was not a sign of respect.  Rather it communicated his deep revulsion for her and their love.

            “Yes, me.”  He grinned, drawing forth his own blade, a black and ugly thing.  Ethan could sense this demon’s utter malevolence, far fouler than that of the creatures he had encountered thus far.  He remembered Azazel from the day he met Michael and myself, and knew that his presence did not bode well for them.

            “You shall not have him, Azazel.”  Mara declared, gripping her sword with both hands and putting herself between Azazel and Ethan in a defensive stance.

            “Even if you could stop me,” Azazel almost laughed, “You’d never be able to stop all of them.”  He gestured, and Ethan looked back the way they had come.  Over the westward mountains he saw black shadows pouring out over the sky like ink spilled over paper.  Demons filled the air like locusts, blocking out the stars that had begun to appear overhead.  It was an army, a massive horde, and Mara stood no chance alone against their numbers.  Ethan and Mara stood side-by-side, ready to defend each other to the death, but both knew that the small island of light shining from Mara’s blade, and their love, was about to be engulfed in darkness.

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