Can It Change?
She stood looking at the display critically. Her eyes drifted over the colors and designs of the clothing the mannequins wore. The backdrop and accessories were arranged artfully. It was always wonderful to see someone blossom from nothing into a successfully creative person, and this, their work, was the end result.
A child took her hand. He was no more than five years old, but dressed smartly. His hair was clean and neatly trimmed. To her other side a tall man stepped up beside her. "Let us get some coffee," He suggested grimly.
"As you wish." She said with a knowing smile. It was a soft kind smile. Imara was a small woman compared to this imposing man; however she was actually average in height and weight. She was not someone who stuck out. Her golden brown hair was done up in a bun and she wore a simple grey business suit. Her heels clicked on the cement as they walked.
He, in contrast, wore a heavy leather trench coat and seemed prepared for anything. He was someone who stood out. His eyes were narrow giving him a severe look. They stepped into a little sidewalk cafe. She took a seat gracefully as a waiter came up to them. They made their orders and then looked at each other.
Imara smiled down at the child. "Torment anyone lately?" she asked.
The child smiled. It was a cold unnerving look. "Always." It sounded almost unnatural to hear a child sound so cold.
"How come the preparations?" The man asked as he sat back in this chair. His name was not pronounceable by mortal lips, but here she just called him Joe.
"It is almost ready," she said. "I am just waiting on a few items, and then you can move."
"I don't like you staying in one location this long," he grumbled, "it is risky."
She smiled at the waiter as he brought her some tea, and placed coffee before Joe. Once he left she spoke, "If you wish for me to finish I must wait." she said.
"I don't have to like It." he said. His eyes drifted around the streets as she sipped at her brew.
She savored the aroma. It was one reason she didn't mind staying in this location. The tea was wonderful. She looked up at her companion and noted his directed gaze. A glance over her shoulder confirmed what he saw. A figure in the shadows of a nearby alley. A son of twilight. She turned back to him. "It's okay."
His narrow eyes turned to her. "They don't need to know about you."
"I was there when it happened, my fate the same as theirs. I do not think they are a threat." She assured him. "There are many other things to worry about my safety from."
The child looked up at them. "Once the wheel is fixed we can move, Let us avoid them all till then."
"You do not want to avoid them," she assured the boy. "You want me to avoid them." She gave them a knowing smile. "I will do everything in my power to do so. Another few days and I can move on, and then you need not worry."
"I always worry when it comes to you." Joe growled. "Come, let us take you home."
"As you wish." She said and rose.
He left a hefty tip and took her arm as they walked out of the cafe. She intertwined it with his, leaning close like they were intimate. Sometimes she wondered if she should let the things in her life affect her, or if that was just a sign she lived among mortals too long. She had watched others of her fate move and change and become so much more mortal. Or were they already that way? This would take some contemplation.
Joe delivered her to the door of her small brownstone home. It wasn't big and fancy, but neither was she. They did not come inside. They had other tasks to attend to tonight. The enchantments upon her home were powerful, and subtle to keep her hidden. If they entered before nightfall they risked breaking the protections set up by being what they were.
This was her safe haven. The warm house was furnished in rich red and soft creams. The walls were white and covered in artwork from all sorts of genres. The works of budding artists that made names for themselves. She took delight in each one. As the sun set she changed into a comfortable set of flannel pajamas and waited. It would not be long. Sure enough, right after the sun was gone from the sky her doorbell rang. With a knowing smile she opened the door and looked at the shadowy figure. He was lanky, and only a bit taller than she. His dark hair was cut short. A long scar cut across his face.
"You should not be here," she told him like a mother scolding a child. "They will hunt you if they find out."
"A risk I am willing to take." he said. His voice was gravelly.
She followed his eyes to the inner doorframe. Several symbols were carved into it, casting a protective barrier. No one unwanted could enter. "May I enter?" he asked.
"As you wish." she said, stepping aside so he could come in. "I was going to make some tea, would you like some?"
"I would, thank you." he said with some resemblance of courtesy. She knew his eyes were looking around critically. It was a humble home. A mortal home.
In the kitchen she put the kettle on and pulled out mugs as he took a seat at the counter. The barstool kept him at the right height. "Who are you?" he asked as he watched her.
"My name is Imara," she replied as she turned to face him. It would be a minute before the water was ready. "And you, son of twilight?"
He grimaced at the title. She knew what he saw in her. She was like him, and yet not. She was not spurned by those that were once their brothers like he was. She was something different.
"They call me Azar." he said.
"I have heard of you." she said with a smile. "You were very clever in Paris from what I understand."
He let out a single chuckle as he recalled the incident. She remembered Joe cursing for a month over that. It amused her to hear him so ruffled over something. After a moment she thought maybe he would be a better person to talk to than Joe. "Do you think we've become more mortal for being with them so long?"
He blinked at her question. "How do you mean?"
She thought about it, how to put this in words. It might be different for him, for he was once a guardian of mortals, and thus closer to them than she. "We've been here for a long long time. We've lived among mortals for that time. Do you think it's changed us from what we were?"
His brows drew together. It was hard to tell with his darkened skin, but she could see the lines it drew. Her question seemed to have taken him by surprise. "I would like to think it did. When I see ... what we once were... and what we do now. I like to think we're doing the job in a different way. In a way they could not because they are not among the charges."
She sighed. That was a good answer, for a son of twilight. But perhaps that did mean she was becoming more mortal. After all if you pretended you were something long enough, it had to rub off on you. "So you think we can change?"
"I think we can adapt, adjust. I don't think we've forgotten why we were created." He said with a shrug. "What about you?"
The kettle started its high pitched whistle saving her from answering that. She took care in pouring two steaming mugs of hot water. The bags were already in the mugs. With care she turned, bringing the two mugs to the counter, and giving him one. "I don't know." She admitted after a moment of reflection. "It's just something I've been wondering more and more lately."
"It's not a bad thing to wonder given what we are and what we do." he agreed. "But you're not like me are you?"
She gave a knowing smile and chuckle. It was true. They were both cast down, but she was not a daughter of twilight. Not that she was about to reveal to him what she was about. A knock at the door saved her from getting into that awkward conversation. A feeling of dread washed over her that stopped her in her tracks.
"Are you expecting someone?" Azar asked rising from his seat.
She shook her head, almost afraid to go to the door.
"Are you equipped to handle it?" He persisted.
She looked at him and shook her head. "I am normally not home alone. I have ... special protection."
"Who isn't here right now?" He confirmed.
She nodded. The doorbell rang again and she felt a compulsion to go to it. After a couple of blinks she resisted. "I am afraid." she admitted.
"I will protect you," He assured her.
With a swallow she gave him a brave smile. He was not nearly as powerful as her normal guardian, but Joe had a meeting to attend. At least that was what he called it. He had taken Triton with him. The two were a team. "There is something else," she said. Her mouth was dry.
They stepped back into the living room as she spoke. His eyes caught a small picture by the door. It wasn't anything obvious outside the other art in the room, but his eyes were drawn to it. It was a small painting of a wheel with a hundred eyes along it. Inside the wheel was a man with four wings, lion face and holding a flaming sword. "Oh my..." he said as it dawned upon him. The breathe was drawn out of him as the knowledge crashed down upon him. He did not know or remember much about these things, but this he was sure. He looked at her, "you cannot disobey a direct request?"
She looked to the floor and shook her head. It was the cause of her fear, he knew now. It left her completely vulnerable. "I swear, but what I am and what I used to be I will protect you," he vowed, "and try my hardest never to use you in that manner."
"You understand why my existence has been a closely guarded secret?" She asked in a stronger voice than he thought possible.
"I do." he agreed. "I do very much."
She gave him a brave smile. "I do not want violence, but if I am in danger, please protect me."
"I will, with my life." he assured her.
The doorbell rang again. With a deep breathe she moved to it. He moved behind it smoothly, pulling out his sword as he did so. It was no longer a magical blade, but it was still a sound one.
She opened the door and smiled at the statuesque woman on the other side. "Hello?"
"May I come in?" The woman asked directly. She was a woman of stunning beauty, but her voice was too cold and commanding to be beautiful in any way.
"As you wish," Imara said with a friendly smile and stepped aside. In her mind it was rather pointless to have protections if she could not stop from allowing people to enter.
This part of the house was darkened, only the kitchen light was on. Imara reached over to turn the lights on but was stopped by a magical force. She had done the very thing Joe had feared, let the enemy in. "I know what you are," the woman said casually as Imara was slowly pulled upwards and suspended by a tight grip on her neck. "I know what you can do for me." The woman took a seat on the couch and looked Imara up and down. Finally she released the immortal.
Imara gasped and rubbed her neck. Her head felt light as she grasped the armchair's back to keep herself on her feet. This was not a new encounter for her. Although she wasn't sure who this woman was or how she had been found. Did it matter? Joe did not leave her alone for long. In fact this was longer than usual. "What did you do to him?" She asked, aware her voice was raspy.
"He's detained." The woman assured her. "He won't be coming to your aide any time tonight."
Imara slide down into the armchair. She couldn't fight, but she could bide her time. There was no way Joe and Triton would be kept all night. "What is it you wish?"
"So accommodating," the woman chuckled. "Is it true you hate violence?"
"Hate? No." Imara said softly. "I prefer peace though."
"I'm sure you do." the woman mused looking at her with calculating eyes. "I'm sure you do."
"I don't." A dark voice growled as Azar appeared out of the shadows behind the couch. His moves were quick and fluid. The woman, completely surprised, tried to jump away from the assassin. His sword severed her head from her body in a quick move faster than she could form any defense. Imara could only watch as the woman's head flew onto the ground, bouncing a couple of times.
As the woman's dying scream ended there were the sounds of banging on the door. Someone was throwing themselves against it trying to get in. Her servant most likely. She had left her own guardian outside. He would not get past the protections the house held.
Imara looked up at Azar, as he looked down at the body. His eyes were not hateful, as she would expect, sadder. He did not worship death, or look as if he envied it. "Thank you." Was all she could say?
The sounds outside stopped abruptly. They both looked at the door. "Joe is back," she said with relief. "You should go. Use the back door."
He nodded with understanding. Before he left he bowed deeply. "I don't know if we will meet again. I hope we do. It is an honor to be in your presence."
"Honor," she grunted. "I am no better than you."
He nodded silently as he stood. "I think we are mortal enough to change," he said. "I think you can if you chose to. That is the gift of men, the ability to choose and change."
She stared at him with wide eyes. Was that possible? He bowed again and ran out of the room. She watched him go feeling turmoil within her. The front door burst open and Triton called her name. "I am here." she said.
The two angels-in-mortal-forms rushed into the room. They looked down upon the bloody scene, and at her clean form. Her heart was still racing. "What happened?" Joe demanded. His voice was thunderous. It made the walls rattle.
Triton had the sound of mind to close the front door before anything could be overheard, or felt. She did not rise, knowing her hands were shaking badly. There were bruises on her neck.
"Our friend from this afternoon came for a visit," she said. She held up her hand to stop him before he went on a violent rage. "He saved me from this woman who came. She did not say who she was, but she did know who and what I am."
"We are moving." He turned to the child, "Pack up, we leave tonight."
That was the way it always happened. She looked at the room. He would make sure it was in perfect order before they left. Was it possible to change? To defend herself? To break this tiring cycle? If Azar was right, it was. That gave her hope. A strange feeling she had not carried in a long time. Hope. A feeling she would treasure.