“Why are there two of them?” He turned them this way and that, studying first the black one, then the white.
“The second guy said you would have to make a choice. I guess you have to pick which one to eat.”
“And get powers from, yes. But I don’t like the choices.”
“What do you mean?”
He held them up. The white one looked gray here. “Black and white. Evil and good. One or the other.”
I frowned, but again he probably couldn’t see it. “The obvious choice would be the good one.”
“You would think so.” His voice was bitter, like he would spit on the white feather.
I scoffed. “Then take the black one. It suits you.”
He didn’t answer. I couldn’t tell if my words had been correct or if they had hurt him. Then he gripped both feathers in both hands and snapped them in half. He tossed them to the floor and was about to speak when we both started coughing. There was a smell in the air of death and rot, like a decaying animal. As I retched, Sam turned on his torch and pointed it at where the feathers had landed.
Some dark noxious fluid was bubbling out of the cracked spines, as if it was reacting with the air.
“What is it?” My voice was muffled behind my hand.
“Eitr,” Sam said. “Poison. In both of them.”
Sam grabbed a handful of snow that had fallen through the holes in the roof and tossed it onto the frothing feathers. Their smell was covered up, but the rest still lingered in the air. I was suddenly thankful for how drafty the church was and hoped the wind would pick the stench away quickly.
A noise downstairs froze us in place. A tumble of displaced rubble or a footstep. Sam picked his bow back up and watched over the railing.
More sounds, audible even over the whistling of the wind. Definitely footsteps. They scattered bits of wood and plaster and crunched in the snowpiles, steady and deliberate.
As they neared the area free from the balcony they slowed. The damned feathers. He had to smell them.
The footsteps stopped. The seconds stretched in the silence behind the wind, and Sam peered over the edge of the balcony with his bow and arrow ready.
A dark shadow shot up out of the blackness below, snatching the arrow that Sam let go just a moment too late. Sam fell back as the figure snapped the arrow in one hand.
“Sam,” it said, the growl of its voice derisive and indicative of barely suppressed rage. “Did you come here to poison me?”
Seth was clad entirely in black, even down to his gloves. His hair was long, a wisp of charcoal that reflected nothing. The entirety of him seemed to pull in all light and swallow it, like a black hole perched on the balcony ledge. He threw the snapped pieces of the arrow behind him to fall below and leapt again.