Cabal became aware of his surroundings in a snap of clarity; the sudden intense pain of the moments before the blackness slowly fading from his consciousness. Blinking he realized he was standing on the edge of a chasm. That memory of falling – of the land above him following him down – forced a panicked retreat from the edge of that drop.
That also made him realize a quandary. The memory – the pain – were the last things he could recall, and yet…
He peered down his body, noticing that everything was intact. How did he get free of there before being crushed? How did he get back up to ground level for that matter?
These questions faded as a shout echoed through the cavern.
"Here! He's here!"
"Nate?" Tilting his head at the frantic, upset tone of his son's voice, Cabal picked his way lower into the detritus of the storage area below the city. The sound of rocks and earth being moved grew steadily louder.
He felt the energy expenditures as Garrett employed spells to assist the effort back at the bottom of the trench. Rounding one large boulder and feeling the energy of the spell meant to keep the earth out of the group's way, Cabal found Nathan, Sagira, and Garrett frantically digging in the dirt.
"What's going on?"
His query was met by inaction. No one turned their heads and no acknowledgement of his voice showed as they continued to move earth from some object here at the bottom of the pit. He shifted trying to see around the huddled forms. What in the world were they unearthing?
Moving closer, Cabal tried to determine just that. His son paused, seemingly because he'd broken through the layers of dirt towards his goal. Shifting once more, the dhampir was able to bring the object into his view.
"Dear God!" he exclaimed, retreating from the three.
The memory came back again – more detailed and weighty with meaning than before.
Weightlessness possessed him as his footing found no purchase. That sensation was followed by that squirreling feeling as his mass once more attracted to earth, only much lower than it had been before. Watching, unable to alter his, or its, path as the ceiling above followed him down. Impact – the awful sound of his ribs breaking only to be followed by the much more intense pain when the chunk of dirt the size of a small car landed atop him. Blackness was nearly immediate.
His eyes lit on the broken form his two children were weeping over, his hand covering his mouth. Even expecting this outcome did nothing to assuage the horror of its coming true.
Cabal watched numbly as they finished unearthing the empty flesh from the earthen prison.
"We're not leaving him here," Nathan announced. Though his son's voice sounded unsteady, there was resolve in his voice – leadership – he'd taken charge of the situation despite his personal loss. Cabal straightened at the sound of it, pride for his son swelling hotter.
Still he had to retreat from the group, uncomfortable with seeing the state of his corpse.
"Cabal," A sweet, soft voice carried to where he stood.
He wheeled to find another figure standing just up the embankment. Despite that it had been half a millennium since he'd seen her face in real life, Cabal immediately recognized her. Twisting the rest of the way around, he uttered, "Lucinda?" He noted she looked just as solid as he perceived himself; just as lovely as the day they wed.
Straightening, Cabal stated the obvious, "This…this is it, then."
Lucinda confirmed that. "Your trials are finally finished."
Smiling, she extended her slim hand out to him. He climbed the slope, retreating from the palpable grief still filling the bottom of that hole and slipping his hand into the warmth of hers. Immediately the cavern began to fade around them. He glanced back long enough to see Garrett wink out of the area with his body in tow and his kids begin a benumbed climb up from the bottom.
The darkness around them became heavy and solid, giving bare echoes of the massive space surrounding them. He swallowed – recognizing the place despite lack of any features. The last time he thought it had been a dream of his fevered mind – or at least had tried to convince himself of that. Now that he was here again, he realized he had died, for mere brief moments, after his run in with Meirakat – because this is where Lucinda had met him and told him he had to return.
His first wife squeezed his hand and then released it, seeming to sense his trepidation. "It'll be all right. Are you ready?"
Cabal nodded, even when he wasn't entirely certain that he was. The last time he'd been all too ready to join Lucinda in the hereafter – so why was it now that he had doubts about moving on?
Peering up as the darkness began to lighten, Cabal noted the brilliant glow from before sweeping ever closer to their position – or rather they had swiftly gained on it, even when neither of them had so much as put a foot forward. Even though it should have been blinding to him, the light did nothing to hurt his eyes. Still he stalled, allowing Lucinda to pull ahead of him until she came to the end of their double arm extension. She slowed to a stop, turning to face him once again.
Lucinda didn't look angry or even upset with him – rather, she looked expectant. "Cabal?"
"I…didn't really get the opportunity to say my goodbyes. Do you think…I could see them just one more time?"
She tilted her head, smiling in a knowing way. Retreating once more to his side, Lucinda said, "I think that's acceptable."
The portal withdrew, plunging them into that soft blackness once more. For long moments it seemed that nothing was happening – just the black pressing in on their two forms. The darkness eventually gave way to light, but it was of a different quality than that of the gateway in Limbo to whatever lay beyond. This time when their surroundings came into focus, he and Lucinda were standing in the commons of the House. The place was set up like he had never seen it since. All of the typical dining furniture had been moved out of the room altogether. The sheer immensity of the space was illustrated quite eloquently with the masses of people now milling about and speaking in reserved tones or sitting amongst the plethora of folding chairs.
It looked as if every person in the House had forgone their duties to be here. People he knew but barely saw on a given day milled about amongst his closest friends and family. It didn't take him long to note that there were other guests here as well. Dominic, Margareta, several vampires from houses he and Miranda had finally found inroads on – people from all over the globe.
He blinked and peered over at Lucinda. "This…"
His eyes strayed to the end of the commons where everyone was facing, chilled to find a table sitting centerpiece and atop it an urn. Cabal could guess what that shiny silver-hued container held.
"My funeral?" Cabal shook his head, a heady sensation sweeping over him. "I never expected…All I asked was…" He was unable to complete either statement, not even sure as he stood there what he'd been about to say.
Lucinda cut through the heart of the matter. "You cannot blame them for wanting to honor your memory, Love. Despite that you never acknowledged it in life you had a tremendous influence on those around you."
"How much time…I mean we were just…"
She smiled patiently. "Time doesn't work in the same way on this plane. For them, four days have passed."
"And all these people flew out here…just for me?"
She put her arms around him, giving him a tight, loving hug. "There is no 'just' about it. You deserved the honors."
Cabal thought he might have flushed were it possible in this form. His plans for his death had been simple, cremation, a small family ceremony. No fuss – no limelight. Still, to this day, he hated being the center of attention.
The two of them lingered through the ceremony, and the speeches that were made and the comments he could overhear throughout hammered home Lucinda's point. He'd never realized how others felt about him. Flattered was too pale a word to describe how Cabal felt at the outpouring of caring – would that he could thank them all.
They lingered about the facility for a while – until the gathering had broken up and all had retired to their rooms for the day. Lucinda made no suggestions on what they should do next and merely followed him when he headed for the quarters he'd shared with Miranda for so long now.
When he got to their shared residence, Cabal attempted to open the door, only to find that it didn't respond to whatever energy frequency this form was made of. Lucinda smiled in humor, and stepped past him and through the surface of the door. His brow's rose. It was disconcerting to pass directly through the walls as he wanted to, a feeling akin to those moments he lingered too long in Earth's history, but Cabal followed his first wife through the solid surface and into the living room. Miranda wasn't to be found in the rest of their residence, but he could feel that she was here. Cabal moved with purpose towards the bedroom. He found her finally curled up on their bed, dressed in one of his shirts and clutching at his pillow. A lump formed in his throat to see her so distraught. He remembered this scene from his own bout after Lucinda's death. He glanced back at her.
She reached over and stroked his face. "There were so many times I wanted to tell you it was all right. You were too emotional to sense me."
"You've been watching over me all this time…" he shook his head. "Why didn't you move on?"
"Time passes differently," she reminded him. "It really hasn't been that long since I left you – at least not on my end. It was only a little while ago when I had to turn you back to your task. Besides He granted me guardianship of you."
He smiled, feeling choked up. "So you don't think she'll know I'm here?"
"It's hard to say. Each person shows a different level of awareness to spirits. It doesn't mean you can't say your goodbyes."
Cabal bit his lip a moment, nodded, and then approached the bed. He sat next to Miranda, looking down into her tear-streaked face. Her eyes were closed, but it was obvious that she wasn't asleep. He leaned over her, caging her curled body with his arm and reached over to stroke her face.
"I'm so sorry this couldn't have turned out different, Miranda." Cabal paused. "I wanted to be here for you well longer than what we'd already been given. I've cherished ever day – every year – every decade we shared together."
Her eyes snapped open. Those nearly green orbs rotating his direction, and for a moment Cabal thought she might have sensed him – his touch. Her gaze moved past him as she turned her head to look towards the door. Frowning, Miranda settled back onto the pillow and began crying some more.
She yanked the pillow tighter to her chest. "I miss you, Cabe," she cried into the fabric.
"I know," he whispered, resigned to the knowledge she wouldn't hear him. "Take care of yourself. I love you."
"I love you," she seemed to respond.
He brushed her cheek with ghostly lips and then rose. He found himself disappointed and upset – dissatisfied that the second love of his life was unable to sense his presence. As he came up next to Lucinda, she rubbed his back and curled her hand around his arm. "I felt much the same when I visited you. I so wished you could have known I was there for you."
He blinked and peered into his wife's face. Forcing a smile, Cabal nodded at her. "Do you think she'll be okay?"
"She's always been a strong one. You know that. She lived for the most part by herself before you admitted to yourself you were in love. She handled it grandly. Miranda will miss you certainly…but she has the rest of the house to help her through this loss."
"I feel as if I've let her down."
Lucinda shook her head. "You didn't, you haven't."
The two of them made their way out of the suite and back into the hall. Cabal was less sure how to find Sagira. He remembered that he had Blaine give his daughter and Garrett one of the suites, but had never actually inquired which one they'd been provided. He wrote it off as being preoccupied with the prophecy, but still his gut twinged with the idea that he was still very out of touch with his oldest child. It was something he wished he could make up for – now when it was too late to do anything about it.
Eventually, Cabal and Lucinda resorted to popping into and out of the guest suites until they found the one that looked occupied. A smile moved over Cabal's lips at the general mess that could only be his daughter's handiwork – way too much like his own less-than-neat habits. The smile widened as Garrett hove through the door leaning down to pick up garments and boots.
"Just once, 'Gira, I'd like to walk across the floor and not trip on some article of your clothing!"
"Fuck you, Garrett. When you're dead you won't have to worry about it anymore!" She snarled from out of view.
Cabal's brow lifted high. Turning to Lucinda, he muttered, "Sounds like a bad time."
Lucinda shrugged. "We can leave if you like."
He almost nodded, but instead, Cabal said, "Not just yet."
"Goddamn, 'Gira! I'm sorry – is that what you want to hear?"
"It's not like you fucking mean that, you prick! If you really gave a damn, you would have let me in on this little secret of yours long before now!"
"You knew about the nanites! You knew they were messing me up!"
"Yeah," she appeared now, looking just as livid as she sounded. God but she looked a lot like him in that mood, "but you never said they were killing you! Your doctor should not have been the person I found this out from! If you loved me you would have told me as soon as you found out."
"I don't want to be coddled, Gira."
"Ffft! Like I would! But damn it, I would have been there to support you!" She wheeled away for a moment only to spin back towards him. "Then to have you go chasing after death? Did you even think about me when you made that decision?"
"'Gira, honey…" Garrett's voice softened a lot. "You're right. It was stupid of me cutting you out of the loop. I am sorry. This shit's got me seriously scared, all right? You know I don't think straight in that mood."
"You don't think straight in any mood," she stung him. He actually recoiled a bit at that, when he had been reaching towards Sagira. Cabal took just a mote of pleasure in seeing that someone could cow the great Garrett Kelly. It was a testament to how much the warlock really loved his daughter.
"I'm sorry." This time he truly did sound sincere in his apology.
He encircled her waist with both thick arms. She sulked a bit longer and then peered up into his face. "Promise me you'll let me help you. No more of this Lone Ranger attitude, we're a team right?"
"Yeah. Yeah, you're right." He stroked her hair.
"There's got to be a way out of this."
A shudder moved through Garrett's frame. "If only."
Sagira pushed up to kiss him, an affection he returned. It was obvious that the man was preoccupied, because he broke off from that show, kissed her forehead and backed out of their embrace.
"The pain?" Sagira said, her previous bluster gone and concern flooding in to take its place.
Garrett almost didn't respond, but seemed to remember his promise and nodded. "Gonna see about a soak."
Sagira nodded in return. "All right. I'll be in there in a bit."
The Keeper had already moved off, flexing his hand and then rotating his arm as if to loosen them back up again. Sagira watched him go for a moment, a tear sliding out of the corner of her eye. She furtively wiped it from her cheek and then moved to busying herself over nothing.
Cabal moved closer to where she was facing the wall and fighting not to weep.
Sagira shivered as he reached up to cup her arm. That could have been anything, a draft, her own emotional state – he didn't presume to think that she felt his touch. He didn't say anything, not sure that the effort would be acknowledged. Peering back at his first wife, Cabal asked, "Will Garrett succumb to the nanites, Lucinda?"
She'd always managed to know things, fates, as if she had a direct line to the Lord. It was a prospect she'd scared him with on more than one occasion. Perhaps it was a mere matter of faith, of her unfailing belief, but sometimes he wondered.
Lucinda demurred a moment. "He'll escape that fate – but it will be a near thing. Their trials will last a few more months."
"I wish I could give her that spark of hope."
"She'll keep on fighting for him, keep him fighting for himself." Lucinda smiled more broadly. "She is truly her father's daughter."
Cabal smiled back, slightly embarrassed by the comparison. Turning to Sagira he merely said, "I love you, Sagira," and then released her. "Goodbye and take care."
One last visit remained; he could feel the catharsis that was settling in as each goodbye was accomplished. More and more he was finding himself closer to being ready to move beyond this realm.
They moved into Nathan's room finding him still fully dressed – Margareta sleeping just beyond where he sat. Astonishment filled Cabal in that moment. He'd been largely unaware of just how deep Nathan's feelings went for the Princess.
Lady, he reminded himself. She's a Lady in her own house these days.
Nathan's hands were folded in his lap, his head tilted slightly down and an angry expression on his face. With a quick motion the boy's head came up and his eyes widened – locked on where Cabal and Lucinda stood in the living area of Nathan's quarters. Brow's furrowing, he pushed to his feet and made his way to the bedroom door, closing it behind him as soon as he was clear.
"Dad?" He tilted his head, confusion clear to read on his face.
Cabal straightened, feeling his own measure of the emotion at being recognized – to be not just sensed, but seen.
Nathan's gaze flicked to where Lucinda stood, his confusion deepening. He stared right at her for long moments and once more focused on Cabal. "Dad, I…how…"
"Nate." He should have known that of all in his family Nathan would probably be the one to be equipped to see spirits.
"I'm sorry…I thought we'd stop them in time."
Cabal shook his head. "I knew the risks, remember?"
He wasn't sure if Nathan was hearing the words or not, because he kept on. "I wish you'd hung back and let me handle them. You didn't have to chase your death like that."
"I didn't chase death, Nate." He shook his head to emphasize.
Nathan paused and blinked.
"There's a difference between dancing on death's doorstep and doing what needs to be done. I've been – running from death for a long time. Trust me; I wasn't looking forward to dying. It just finally came to be my time."
Nathan tilted his head down, emotions playing across his face in quick succession. Finally he nodded, seeming to accept Cabal's explanation. When his gaze lifted it focused on Lucinda.
"You're Lucinda, right?" Nathan addressed her. A slight twinge of jealousy chased his words.
She smiled brilliantly. "It's good to finally speak with you, Nathan."
A short lived smile came upon and then left his face. "You're exactly as Dad described you."
Lucinda turned to Cabal, gripping his upper arm with silent meaning. Cabal peered down at her hand and then up into her face.
Turning to Nathan, he said, "I can't remain too much longer, Nate. I just wanted a few moments to say goodbye."
Nathan didn't say anything, merely nodding and trying to remain stoic.
"I love you, son. I've been very proud of the man you've become."
"Tell your mom and your sister I love them, too. They…they didn't hear me."
He nodded. "I'll pass it on."
Cabal smiled – one last bittersweet emotion, before turning away and walking beside Lucinda until they were out of the room. The area was already fading to black.
"You're going to miss them aren't you?" Lucinda said as Limbo settled into being around them.
"Of course." He sighed peering over as the portal grew larger and more brilliant. "I…I'm a little scared at what faces me now."
"Heaven and hell are a bit different from what the prophets wrote about, Cabal." She gripped his arm tighter. "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Scientists were always right about that. There are only a finite number of souls to bring life and personality to the creatures of the world. Those that die may choose to return, to live life in another form."
"There aren't enough creatures currently inhabiting the planet for all the souls to be required for that purpose – not right now."
"Heaven must have been awfully crowded right after the apocalypse, then."
She nodded. "So I have been informed. Still there is a long line of souls willing to return. Others, like myself, chose to be guardians for a soul on the mortal plane."
"I don't think I'm exactly the kind of material to be watching over another."
"He didn't think so either." She smiled widely at him. "But I did say you had earned a place here."
Cabal lifted his brow as they paused just in front of the pleasantly warm light of the portal.
"What place is that?"
"He does have need of soldiers, warriors – what the Bible called archangels."
His brows rose yet higher. "Me?"
Lucinda nodded. "He would like to discuss the matter with you."
Cabal swallowed, glancing up into the high white opening before him. "This should be interesting."
He gripped Lucinda's hand tighter as they stepped side by side into the hereafter.
A/N: And so concludes the short story RE the death of the Legend Cabal...I hope you liked it. I hope you will find this eventually and make comment on it all...
And from here I'm not sure what I'll be writing about next...I may need a break from the TOHS Universe for a while however...we'll see.
Until Next time! Thank you for reading!