Destiny - Part 1
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“I don’t believe in destiny,” Captain Gerrard said.
The ship was already in the hellish plane of Rath, everything in black and red, the colors of death. Some of the Weatherlight’s crew, the bolder ones, were organizing to disembark, and Crovax could no longer stand the idea that he was probably alone in the terror of his destiny unfolding like a bloody horror.
“But it’s inevitable,” Crovax said. Rath’s hot winds roared, almost drowning him out, though the two men stood only feet apart.
Gerrard said, “Believe whatever you want. I make my own choices.”
“What if someone chooses for you?”
Gerrard touched his sword hilt and grinned at the nobleman. “Then I unmake their choice.”
* * *
Falling from the sky toward them, she was angelic, but in appearance alone. Her wings curved and collapsed, white as snow with the red-and-black skies of Rath behind her, and if not for the sword she aimed at their small group, she might have been a heavenly messenger. Deliverance with feminine grace. A dream.
“Selenia,” Crovax whispered the angel’s name. He was second in line as the rescue party from the Weatherlight moved single-file across a stone bridge in search of Volrath’s Dream Halls. They were somewhere deep in the evincar’s mountain. If Gerrard had brought them any closer to finding and saving Captain Sisay, it was impossible to tell. Arched over nothing but blackness, the bridge left them all vulnerable to attack, so Mirri had insisted on going immediately behind Starke, who led them, and directly behind her came Crovax, cloaked in his own misery. Gerrard himself was at the rear, his commands whisper-hissed to Tahngarth the minotaur, then to Karn the golem, and ultimately falling silent and useless with the preoccupied Crovax. The angel’s unexpected arrival stirred him from that walking coma for the first time in long hours.
Starke whirled as if to retreat from Selenia’s descent, only to find himself staring directly into Mirri’s snarl. Her snout pulled tight, revealing feline fangs and battle fury; her eyes were narrowed to nearly invisible slits. By contrast, Starke’s ghostly features had gone another shade of pale.
“We have to run,” he said.
“Then run,” the cat warrior said. “But not this way, you coward.”
Crovax’s voice reached them on the blasts of the hot undercurrents that swept their hair and challenged their balance. “She’s not here for any of you. She’s finally come for me.”
Mirri said, “To kill you, you mean.”
And then the dark angel was among them, her powerful wings both armor and swords, and her blade an extension of her arm. Crovax wasn’t wrong—though Starke’s limited spine was easily within strike range, she battered past him and Mirri, her attack aimed exclusively at Crovax. Starke howled in fear, ducking Selenia’s afterthought blow with her wings, his knees crumbling. Mirri raked upward with her own sword, narrowly missing Selenia’s laced boots.
“The kitten has claws,” she heard Selenia sing; Crovax’s sharp intake of breath punctuated the lyricism of Selenia’s voice. Mirri was unmoved by either of them—she flipped directions on the narrow bridge, one foot extending out over bottomless space for a moment, and struck at the angel again. In her peripheral vision, she could see Gerrard and the minotaur Tahngarth jockeying to join the unexpected fray.
Selenia was not so focused on Crovax as to be caught unaware. Her backswing caught Mirri across the middle, and the cat warrior went down. A trench of blood opened up amidst her belly fur. Selenia’s swing twirled her like a ballerina in the air, her feet wrapped around one another and pointed down, her body a graceful sword as she turned on Mirri.
“Don’t,” Crovax groaned. He raised his weapon inelegantly. “Don’t do this. Don’t make me have come all this way to find you for this. For this.”
In another time, in another place, Selenia might have had much to say now about how her creation and his bloodline were destined for one another; how she didn’t choose this fate for either of them. She might have even hinted at the curse she carried for him like a rare but murderous disease to share between lovers. Here and now, however, she easily batted aside his sword with her own and drove silently for the killing stroke. Crovax closed his ears to Gerrard’s warning cry from behind and his eyes to the fate he welcomed if he couldn’t choose to have Selenia at his side.
“For this,” he whispered.
His angel’s song filled his ears—his funeral dirge. But it turned to a howl of fury and agony as Mirri rose up behind the angel, her sword flipped in her hands to drive it like a stake directly between Selenia’s wingblades. She caterwauled as she struck, a screeching sound that cut straight to Crovax’s gut. When he opened his eyes, Selenia was already disappearing before him. Feathers from her wings exploded like snowflakes around them, and the colors that surrounded her seemed to fade to black and white before washing away to nothingness. Her eyes were filled with pain and regret, and she reached for Crovax with an open palm as if welcoming him to a wedding altar. In a moment of blind desperation, he even reached for her. His hands came away filled with lifeless feathers.
Then she was gone, disappearing, uncreated again, leaving him facing Mirri amidst a cloud of feathers that began to melt just like those snowflakes they reminded him of. The cat warrior gasped, lowering her blade from the death blow she’d dealt to the angel. Blood ran down her belly.
“She was going to kill you, you idiot,” she said, stumbling dizzily near the edge of the bridge. She caught herself, straightened herself, her eyes seeming to reflect the black-and-white fade that had foretold the angel’s demise.
Crovax whispered, “I think I was going to let her.”
“Well,” the cat warrior said, “I thought differently.”
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