Author: Rinjii PM
All she has left of him are memories, a feather, an ancient letter, and the blood on her hands. Written for a mini contest at MediaMiner(dot)org.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Words: 5,149 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 05-02-06 - id: 2165707
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Written expressly for MediaMiner's Sacrificial Spring Quarterly Mini-contest, which requires that the entry be 1000-5000 words in length, and must contain a note, a lamp, a timepiece, and a sacrifice.
Although I would not categorize this as a "songfic," it is somewhat inspired by the song "Touched" by Vast. Title used without permission, for no profit.
Many thanks to Varethane for editing this story. She is awesome!
It was just past dusk when Alyssa returned to her apartment, frightened, alone, black dress torn and covered in tears and blood, to confirm what she already subconsciously knew was true. A simple antique lamp lent the dark-walled room its only light, casting glowing tendrils across the cherry wood table's top and revealing an open drawer, where the light caught the aged edges of parchment from an ancient letter and now glittered like precious metal in the dim. The golden reflection danced in her moistened eyes, even as she refused to acknowledge the fact that the name penned so delicately in faded berry-base ink was indeed her own, the print familiar and yet alarmingly strange.
The letter had been sealed with a burgundy wax, bearing the familiar symbol that Adel had tattooed on the inside of his left wrist: a black, thin-bladed dagger with a swirl of smoke and two wings outstretched to the sides as if trying to carry the weapon away. He had never told her what it meant, despite her many inquiries; all she knew was that it had something to do with his line of work, and he often told her that she wouldn't believe him even if he told her.
When he finally had told her, she hadn't believed; but now that she had truly seen him, and with a second piece of solid evidence on the table in front of her, she had no other choice but to accept the truth. He had already known this would happen, a very long time ago, perhaps even before time could be measured in human terms.
"Do you believe in angels, Alyssa?"
His blood was still on her shaking hands; it was one of the few pieces she had left of him, besides the letter, a handful of deep crimson rose petals, the pristine white feather she had tucked away in her purse, and the memories they had shared during their short time together – including the most recent, gruesome one. A shudder coursed its way up her spine as she saw his face contort in agony as he stood above her, shielding her from something she could hardly see. Her fault, she knew, but wasn't sure quite how. Part of it had to do with the fact that she could see some things that others couldn't. Adel could too, though, and in more detail than she was able to discern. Then again, she knew now that he wasn't quite human. She could honestly say that she really never had met anyone quite like him, even after he had told her his 'secret.'
She should have known that someone so beautiful and perfect really could not exist on her end of the world. Unfair, perhaps, but just, when she really thought about it.
"We are encouraged not to tell others about this, but I cannot in good conscience hide it from you any longer," his tense voice echoed in her mind, and in her mind she could still feel his warm, large hands grasping her shoulders protectively.
"Adel… why?" she whispered in anguish into the dark.
Hand still quivering with cold and fear, she tried in vain to reach for the letter with steady hands. A quick snap, and the seal released its grip and allowed her to unfold the aged edges of the letter, revealing glowing letters that painted a vivid image of her own mind before her, taking her breath away. Within that breath, she too was unwillingly swept away in the fresh, painful memory, back to the last fleeting recollection of the man whose eyes held a world that could not be real, and yet was.
Tonight, she was taking Adel to see a musical.
When she heard that he had never been to the theater, she had been shocked. He was so refined and sophisticated that she assumed he had partaken in the culture so often associated with the image. Much to her pleasure, he had agreed to go with her, but he said – with deep sincerity – that he had something important to tell her afterwards. Her heart pounded as her imagination took a flight in the winds of hope.
The doorbell heralded his arrival, and after a quick glance at the antique clock – he was perfectly punctual, as usual – she gave herself one final inspection in the mirror before she nearly ran to the door. Adel's broad shoulders – now covered in the smooth folds of a black pinstripe suit jacket – overtook the entrance, his musky cologne faintly crossing into her apartment, and he handed her two delicate red roses as she opened the door. She smiled up at his God-sculpted face only to greet a solemn expression, slight worry etched into his finely chiseled brow.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
A smile – forced – and then in his soft, masculine baritone, "Not yet. But let's enjoy tonight for what it is – time spent together." The longing in his voice made her heart ache, and she couldn't shake the sudden chill of forewarning. He shook his head then, the longer strands of blonde hair that framed his face settled back into their proper position. With a considerably brighter air, he offered her his arm. "Shall we?"
Though she still felt a bit ill at ease, she paid no mind to the worry clutching at the back of her mind, determined to enjoy the evening. Adel's mood had seemingly uplifted as well, so she thought nothing more of his first comment. Dinner was breathtakingly romantic, and the musical magical. She couldn't help but notice with great pleasure that he had watched the show with the rapt attention of a child caught up in a delightful tale; she had caught a glimpse of a side of him that he most likely would never dare show anyone else, she knew.
Despite the lofty feelings that the evening had brought, when he placed a gentle but firm hand on her elbow and led her to the park nearest the theater, her heart pounded heavily with anticipation. He guided her to the bridge that overlooked the park's large pond, and for a moment, the only sound was that of the gurgling water fountain as they both leaned on the bridge railing and enjoyed the view of a starry sky.
Adel broke the silence with a nervous clearing of his throat, and then he asked, "Do you believe in angels, Alyssa?"
"Hm—what?" She hadn't expected a question quite like that, but when she saw the intensity in Adel's hazel eyes, she knew he was serious. Unable to keep an even stare with him, she looked down at the roses she clutched in her hands as she said quietly, "I—I guess I do…" Daring to peer back up at his earnest expression, she sighed. "Yes… I believe in angels."
He sighed this time, almost relaxing as he let his hands drop from her arms. "You don't understand how much of a relief that is to me," he replied with a small smile. She raised an eyebrow; Adel had never acted so strangely before. He suddenly seemed to be in a rush, as his next words came out so quickly that he sounded breathless. "I had to hear it from your own lips before I would let my conscience rest."
"What are you talking about?" she asked with an uncertain tone.
"I had to know that I'm not with you just for my own selfish wishes, and that I am still under… code. I'm sorry… it's just…" He surprised her further with an unexpected embrace, pulling her in tightly. "We are encouraged not to tell others about this, but I cannot in good conscience hide it from you any longer."
"I don't have much time to explain, but please hear me out. Perhaps you thought what you told me about seeing things – that that was strange, but what I'm going to tell you is probably even stranger," he explained seriously, pulling away from her and tugging at the left sleeve cuff of his suit, revealing the familiar design inked into the inside of his strong wrist. "You once asked me about this tattoo, do you remember? And I told you that the full story would have to wait." She nodded slowly, nervously, and he continued. "This isn't a simple tattoo, Alyssa. This is a sign that I belong to a certain group, called the Guardian League, known more commonly around the world as 'guardian angels.'"
"You're… wh-what?" She took a step back, her eyes widening in surprise.
"I'm sorry. I wish this didn't have to happen tonight." This time, he offered a sad smile, but it didn't explain anything.
"I… I don't understand, Adel – why are you telling me this?"
As if in reply to her question, a harsh wind blew across the pond's surface, bringing a blanket of unnatural dark in its wake as it hurtled toward the bridge. Adel took a protective step in front of her, standing with straight shoulders as he faced the sinister shadow.
"Because of that," he replied, his voice taking on a cold edge. She was surprised in how his entire aura could change so quickly. "You are what we call a 'Talent,' one who is able to see beyond the natural realm of humanity, and that beast – a Fallen – wants to destroy you for it."
Alyssa's mind whirled as a multitude of thoughts tried to cram into the space of her head, and it only left her feeling confused and vaguely frightened. She knew somehow that this Fallen was the shadow that approached, but she could only make out the faint silhouette of a human-like figure in the dark. She also had determined that the Fallen did not have pleasant intentions, either. Instinctively, she shrank further behind Adel's protection, and was surprised when a different wind stirred about him as well, whipping through his blonde hair and making it seem longer than it already was - or perhaps it had grown?
"The Talent is mine," hissed an ominous voice from the shadow. "Hand it over, and I will be sure to treat you both gently, Angel."
"This is my Protected, and you will not harm her," Adel stated firmly. Alyssa took the moment to peer up at his face and was surprised to find that his hair had grown at the sides, and that his forehead now bore a strange jeweled pattern that perfectly matched the color of his eyes. "You will, however, leave us in peace, or I will be forced to take executive action on you."
The Fallen chuckled, the rasping noise grating on Alyssa's senses. "You are arrogant, Angel. I like that. It makes it even more fun for me to watch you as your face twists in agony while I relieve you of your Talent… and your miserable life."
"Step back, Alyssa," Adel warned gently, ignoring the Fallen's taunt. "I don't want to hit you."
Obeying numbly, her eyes widened as brilliant white seemed to explode from Adel's back to form two large, pristine wings, ripping the shirt and suit jacket away from his body. She watched as though mesmerized as he stretched the wings out to the side, and stood tall and imposing, a bright beacon between her and the shadow of the Fallen.
"So you show your true form without fear in front of the lady," the Fallen sneered. "How many codes have you broken in order to spend a little more time with her, I wonder?"
Adel frowned, but otherwise seemed unbothered by the comment as he half-turned to and bent down to eye-level with Alyssa. Her heart nearly melted when he smiled… and then the sickening gut feeling hit her; she knew something horrible was about to happen.
"Stay as far away as you can, and don't listen to any voices in your mind that you don't know," he whispered. "And no matter what happens, please don't interfere."
"But—" she began, but he cut her off, warm, slender fingers softly covering her lips.
It was always that way; all he had to do was utter that one word, and she couldn't help but obey, despite her fluttering heart's warnings of the danger he would face. Her solemn, hesitant nod did nothing to hinder the hot tears that stung her eyes as she took several steps back, watching as he turned to face the enemy at hand. With both bright, white wings spread out to the sides, Adel seemed to focus a bright light into the outstretched palms of his hands with words uttered in a language she had never heard, though it was the most beautiful, silken tongue to ever grace her ears.
A harsh, painful screech attempted to drown out the smooth tones of Adel's deep voice, and Alyssa was only given a mere moment to react as the Fallen charged Adel. After that, she had a very difficult time discerning the fight, though she heard a lot of shouting through many brilliant flashes illuminating the sky like fireworks. Her feet moved her away from the scene, numbly, on their own, as promised, though her eyes were ensnared by the intense struggle that she was sure others were unable to observe. Occasionally, she could catch a glimpse of white wings and blonde wisps of hair, and her heart would soar with hope with each sighting.
With a loud splash, suddenly Adel was left alone in the sky, hovering over the disturbed water and seemingly out of breath, but determinedly holding the upper hand. He had a red stripe across his side, which made Alyssa wince and want to go to him, but she recalled the earnest look in his eye when he'd pleaded with her. She could only watch, in horror, when a dark shadow shot out of the water's shattered surface, and she cried out.
Adel had nimbly moved to the side and allowed the shadow to pass by him, but at Alyssa's alarmed shout, he couldn't help but be distracted just long enough for a second shadow to strike his chest. With a muffled grunt as the shadow passed through him, he stumbled back in the air and lost his footing as red eyes accompanied a raspy chuckle coming from just under the water's surface.
Alyssa's eyes caught the red ones, and she froze, though she instinctively knew what would come next. The Fallen's cruel, crooked, sharp-toothed grin burned its image into her mind as it flew towards her, details in its once-blurred figure finally becoming frighteningly clear as it approached, long-handled red sickle pulled back for a powerful swing. She cried out and flinched, throwing up her hands reflexively in front of her face for protection.
Before the strike landed, she felt strong arms embrace her, sweeping her off her feet as gravity seemed to drop away, wind whipping at her hair and face. She dared to open her eyes, slowly at first, to find Adel's worried expression staring down at her. As she opened her mouth to apologize and assure him that she was unhurt, she saw the sweat beading on his brow and light, pained furrows creasing around the glittering jewels in his forehead.
"… Are you alright?" he asked when she said nothing.
"I-I'm fine," she replied, noting with some relief that his voice had been even. "But I should be asking y—look out!"
Adel chanced a split-second glance behind him as he gracefully spun to the side, his firm, protective grip on Alyssa never wavering as the Fallen streaking past him in a screeching black blur. Clinging fearfully to his bared chest, Alyssa firmly clamped her teeth over her lips in an effort to keep from crying out as her guardian angel cut through the clouds, trying desperately to outmaneuver the dark beast that seemed determined to destroy them. Though she was unable to see clearly from her position, she sensed numerous close calls, each one marked with a sharp hiss from Adel and the sickening sound of tearing flesh. Her stomach twisted painfully with the realization that her weight in his arms kept him from retaliation, and as soon as she realized the horrifying fact, she squirmed in an effort to free herself from his grasp to free his movements.
She gasped when he held tighter, and glared down at her in harsh warning. He knew, and yet he was willing to suffer through it to ensure her safety, which he would be unable to do should she fall from his hands. Another swift, ominous shadow took a glancing swipe at the pair, this time Alyssa catching a taste of the harsh, cold, oppressive feel of the darkness' power, and it left her breathlessly frightened. From the bare corners of her vision, she saw, then felt Adel wince and stumble, though he recovered quickly and turned to face the beast with a snarl.
The Fallen cackled, the timbre screeching and dreadful.
"Even Angels can be stubborn," it said gleefully. Adel's jaw tightened in agitation. "You know as well as I that you are in no position to defeat me with that Talent you hold, and yet you refuse to let her go. I will make a deal with you, Obstinate One."
"I don't make deals with demons," Adel snapped in a voice that Alyssa was only just becoming acquainted with. His chest vibrated against her cheek as he spoke.
"Oh, then I guess you don't mind that I will continue to hunt the girl until I get what I want," it sneered. "I already told you that you cannot beat me in that condition."
Adel tensed and curled his arms more protectively around Alyssa, his scowl deepening, breathing heavily. She knew that the Fallen was speaking the truth; though she couldn't see the actual wounds, she could feel him shaking under her weight. He was weakening quickly, and it worried her. Panic bubbled up in her chest, and she only clutched at him tighter and prayed that he would persevere.
"I would let her leave unscathed, you know."
This time, the angel's eyes widened, and he hesitated. Her heart leapt to her throat when she realized what the beast's statement implied – a trade, most likely involving Adel's life, and he knew it. And Adel looked as though he was seriously considering the offer. No, she wanted to say, but the Fallen spoke again too quickly.
"You know of what I speak, Guardian."
"Y—" Adel began, but Alyssa wriggled into a position to glare down the Fallen as she interrupted with a startled cry.
"No! You can't have him!" she shouted angrily. "I won't allow it!"
"You are quite bold, Talent, though your bravery will do you no good here," the Fallen said. "He is weakening."
"If I let you have it, and do not conform, do I have your word that you will allow her to leave unscathed?" Adel asked, his voice suddenly sounding very tired.
The Fallen flashed his cruel, pointed teeth in a gruesome smile. "You have my word, with your Master as my witness."
Adel fixed his gaze upon Alyssa's wide, frightened eyes. She felt the hot tears upon her cheeks, and with a sob she shook her head fervently. "No, Adel! You can't trust him, and I can't lose you!"
Much to her surprise, he smiled sadly, bending down to place his forehead against her own. She could feel the cooling sweat upon his forehead, and felt the trembling in his limbs as he struggled to keep moving. His voice nearly a whisper, he closed his eyes and said quietly, "Please, Alyssa. I'm begging you to trust me on this."
"Don't leave me!" she sobbed into his chest.
"Trust me," he said, and this time she looked back into his hazel eyes, which were open again and staring intently into her soul, imploring her to listen. She saw a fire there that took her breath away and planted a small seed of hope inside her heart. With a small, reluctant nod, he seemed to relax as he turned his fierce gaze back to the demon. "Allow me to let her leave, and then I will hear the terms of your offer, Demon."
The Fallen nodded, sinister grin still intact, as he stepped back and seemed to glow as it reverted to a human-like form. Alyssa was surprised to see a young woman standing in the shadow's wake, blonde hair tied back into a low ponytail, a confident smirk playing with the corners of her cherry red lips. "Take your time; it will be your last," she said smugly.
Adel nodded slowly as he descended back to the bridge, landing with unsteady feet on the solid stone, wings fluttering to keep his balance steady. Alyssa quickly got to her feet, standing on her own power before the angel with a concerned expression just before he stumbled forward into her arms.
"Adel?" she cried in surprise, and then gasped when she saw the blood, crimson starkly contrasting with his pale complexion and the bright white of his wings.
"I—I'm sorry, Alyssa," he said softly, muscles straining as he determinedly pulled himself to his feet. "Are you alright?"
"I'm not the one who's hurt!" she exclaimed, hands moving to touch the deep, furrowing wounds across his back and sides. He covered her delicate hands with his strong ones, and though she could feel them quivering, there still was strength left in them. "You did this for me, isn't that enough? I don't want you to die!"
"I'm not afraid of death, Alyssa," he said earnestly. "I know what comes after."
"I won't let you!"
His hands left hers to pull her into a firm embrace, her cheek pressed against his chest, his hand tangled into her now-mussed hairstyle as he breathed into the tresses at her crown. Closing her eyes, she could hear his calm, steady heartbeat in her ear, and she drank in his familiar aroma of fresh air and musk, tinged now with sweat and blood. With a sigh that tickled her scalp, he stayed silent for a moment, and she knew he was trying to draw it out as long as possible, just as she was.
"Let me do this for you," he said, voice rumbling deep within his torso. "Not just because I have to, but because I want to."
She moaned, the sound muffled by his strong body. "Why are you doing this to me? Why won't you save yourself?"
"There are many others like me, Alyssa, but I can tell you quite honestly – with all that I've seen on this earth – that you are incredibly unique. Don't force me to waste this precious gift my Master created to grace and brighten this planet. I know you won't forget me, but I want you to keep moving forward and become the woman you were destined to be."
Her shoulders shook now, and she knew her tears were trailing down his torso, but didn't care. "I can't do this," she wailed.
Now his hands found their way to her shoulders, and she gasped as he gently pushed her to an arm's length distance. His shining eyes and sad smile told her everything that she needed to understand without ever having him say it, and though she grasped the meaning entirely, she couldn't stop the tears that were coursing down her cheeks.
"Run," he said seriously. "Don't look back."
She couldn't move as he stepped back, turning his face back to the sky to find his enemy still waiting with the same infuriating smirk. With a wince and a quiet, pained hiss, he crouched and then leapt high into the air, wings unfurling gracefully behind him as he flew to meet the Fallen, whose dark nature swirled as it regained its true form.
"Adel," she could only whisper with quivering lips, unable to comply with either of his commands.
Voice, muffled by distance, drifted back to her as she watched the angel and demon stand head to head. Suddenly, the Fallen reached out and plunged its hand into Adel's chest, his yelp echoing back down to her ears.
"Adel!" she shrieked, hands flying to her mouth in horror.
Adel grasped the demon's arm, and she could hear the beautiful, melodic sound of his strange tongue echoed through the sky and across the pond, overpowering the angry screech that burst from the Fallen's lips in the radiant explosion of bright light. Her human eyes were unable to handle the strong glow, so she shut her eyes, but when the heat of the light faded, she opened them again to find the angel collapsed against down the path a short ways, his wings retracted back into a silvery, intricately-patterned tattoo spreading across his shoulder blades. Her feet moved on accord of her heart as she ran to him, crying out his name and falling to her knees at his side.
His breath came in shallow, labored gasps as she placed his head in her lap and wept, and his body was coated in blood, much of it coming from a gory wound in the center of his chest. He slowly opened his eyes, a hand weakly reaching to brush her cheek as the familiar sad smile returned to bloodied lips.
"Alyssa," he sighed weakly. "There… there is a letter, in the locked drawer of your grandmother's old desk. I want you… to read it."
"You w-will understand," he said firmly.
He closed his eyes then, and for a heart-stopping moment she thought he had already died. But when he brushed his fingertips against the back of her hand, she took in a shuddering breath, afraid to be relieved to see that he still lived.
"I-It's alright to let go," he whispered, voice thick.
"No," she cried. "I don't want to!"
"I… I will be taken care of," he chided.
"There will always be someone to look after you…"
"I want you, Adel! You're the one I—I…" But she couldn't finish her sentence.
He sighed, coughing lightly. "I'm sorry… but this was how it was meant to be," he said softly, sorrowfully. With trembling hands, she felt him press something soft into her palm. "T-Take this with you, and remember that you're never alone."
She wailed when he closed his eyes, breathing slowed to a halt, and his body began to glow with a strange light as he seemed to fade right before her eyes. Grasping at air, she realized that she could no longer reach him, and watched with tears streaming, a soft image of his smile flittering before her while he disappeared.
Looking down into the palm of her hand, she saw a single, pristine white feather tickling the delicate skin. Clutching it tightly, she stood with numb legs and found her purse tossed near the pond's edge, and only noticed in passing that the park seemed untouched by the struggle. Thoughts, memories of Adel accompanied her as her legs automatically led her back to the empty, quiet apartment.
He had signed his name in her mother tongue, but below the flowing signature, there were words in a script that she did not understand or recognize. With a light frown, she withdrew the feather from the dark clutches of her purse, and when it glowed in her hands, she gasped as knowledge beyond her grasp flooded into her mind, the sensation both terrifying and exquisite. Peace settled over her being as she glanced back down at the paper, the words in the note at the bottom now clearly ringing in the beautiful baritone of his voice speaking the pure language aloud:
Do not forget, Alyssa: although you are unique, you are never alone. With love greater than you can imagine, Adel.
A vision of her future flitted into her mind's eye, and with a sigh, she was able to put everything to rest. Folding the rose petals and the feather into the crinkled parchment of Adel's final words, she placed the bundle into a beech-wood box with a majestic angel carved into its lid, and put it on her dresser as a reminder.
"Thank you, Adel," she whispered softly, and she never forgot.
A few quick notes…
This is somewhat of a side-story for an original project that I'm writing (and the wonderfully talented Varethane is doing the art for it), called "Guardian." Although none of these characters actually appear in the storyline, the premise and universal rules from "Guardian" were liberally used in this piece.
Please forgive my poor attempt at romance and style experimentation. I really did try!
Comments are always appreciated.