The Giver Gods
Book One: The Gift of Destruction
Chapter 1: Aarei
Fable stared up at the ceiling fan with a bored expression. His chair was standing on its back two legs while he balanced his own on the table in front of him. He put his cigarette in his mouth while closing his eyes.
His face was pale and his eyes were red. His crimson hair stuck out of the back of his head in layered spikes and fell as normal strands in his face. He had too many piercings in his eyebrows and black polish coating his nails. His dark pants were tucked into his combat boots that came up just below his knees. At his hips were two sheaths holding swords that he just recently got done using.
Fable was the badass I had yet to be. Though we looked and acted nothing alike, people who knew us would often refer to him as my doppelgänger or twin because we never separated too far apart from each other. We also shared an abnormal bond that often made me wonder if maybe we were the same person in a certain sense. The average person had a hard time seeing him, but he was still there causing havoc nonetheless.
"You need to stop your smoking habit," I told him from the uncomfortable couch I was curled up in. Restless bags were under my eyes from having no sleep in Gods know how many days. My insomnia picked and chose weeks at random to kick in.
I disliked his drug use because I could feel the effects in my own body as well. Though we often took two forms, whatever he did to his physical self happened to mine. Vise versa. So if his aim was lung cancer, then I would have to face the cancer along with him. Regardless of the calming nicotine, it still wasn't appealing to me. It still baffles me as to why he does it.
He just chuckled, not taking me seriously. Silence came between us until he eventually struck up a conversation to end the void. "You alright? You've been pretty quiet," he asked as I reloaded my gun. "Is it this job in particular that you didn't like, or is it work in general?"
"I'm fine. Work is fine," I answered almost apathetically, putting little thought into it.
"You know I'm okay with it if you just want to leave the killing part to me, Aarei." He pulled out his cellphone when it vibrated in his back pocket. He flipped it open to answer.
"Is it done?" the caller questioned.
"Yep. Wanna picture? I got your buddies under my feet right now."
"No, I trust you. The money has been transferred into your account."
"Pleasure doing business with ya, sir." He closed his phone and returned it to his pocket, giving me a wide smile. "These thugs are becoming comfortable with us. We're like family to them now." He took his feet off the table and let his chair fall on all fours.
I slid off the couch and my shoes sank into carpet of absorbed blood with each step I took towards the exit. He opened the door for me to let me leave first. I sighed and put my hands into the pockets of my jacket, walking with my head down. He shut the door with his foot before striding to my side with an aura of confidence and pride.
We left a trail of the men's spilled fluids in our footprints. When we left the building, we were back into the slums of the uncaring ghettos. The streets were a tad grim in this part of town. The same understatement could be said about any region in the country of Prodigia, but I'm worried that that's just my perception sometimes. It often seemed like something sinister lurked around every corner these days, waiting for the right moment to strike. The air smelled like death, and I'm not referring to the people Fable and I just slaughtered. I wouldn't call it an epidemic of constant murder, but it's certainly a plague that's spreading faster than anyone has a chance to cure it.
The blood on my hands wasn't considered an unforgivable stain in the world I lived in. This conveniently went in my favor because I was covered in it. Not necessary physically, but historically.
"You'll be turning 20 tomorrow. What do you want to do to celebrate?" Fable asked.
"What do you want to do?" I was monotone and he was full of life. I don't know where he found the energy to express his sentences often times.
"It'll be the day when you go from a boy to a man. It's a milestone. We should do something special."
"You said that last year and the year before."
"Don't you get excited for anything? I'm trying to lighten the mood." He flicked his shortened cigarette to the side.
"We can do whatever makes you happy."
We walked up a few steps to the open public park. The benches were worn and the center fountain stopped working years ago. It was vacant aside from a pigeon or two.
Fable flipped a quarter while balancing across the fountain ledge. He caught it and tossed it into the scummy water. "Make a wish on this instead of a birthday candle then."
I walked around him. "Grossest wishing well I've ever seen."
He stepped down with a cocky grin, mocking my pessimism. "What now?" He was back at my side. "Back home to your mother? Eralla will be happy to see you if she's sober."
"She's never sober."
"She's more sane and pleasant with the alcohol than without. An intervention wouldn't help anyone."
Fable managed to kick a waddling pigeon and it flew away with fewer feathers than before. He picked up a small pebble and chucked it at another bird, hitting it in the head.
I prevented him from targeting another one. "Stop being so violent."
He dropped it. "It's my violence that earns your paycheck."
"Could you live without killing, Fable?"
"If I wanted to leave this place, would you come with me?"
He laughed. "Of course. Lead the way and I'll pave the roads for you."
"What would you do?"
"Join the mafia or something."
"Indeed I am. If this isn't the life you want, I'll choose a different one too. But if you put me somewhere else, there aren't going to be many people who see me, you know? I also don't see how moving out would solve any of our problems in the near future. What would you do though? Get a normal job?"
"I think my apathy would be a turn off," I considered realistically. Normal jobs wouldn't pay the kind of bills and debts I have either.
"To be honest, I think this is your element. This is something we can both do together."
"How does none of this bother you?" I asked the question in almost a whisper. It wasn't a harsh murmur, but just confused astonishment. In all our years, none of this has ever bothered him. I'm always in fear that his lack of scruple will drag me down to the same level one day.
He observed me. "Whatever you do, I'll back you up 100 percent."
He was my guide, my source of information, and my conviction, but the end decision was always mine. There were only a few things he did where he acted before asking me first. Those few things irked me and he was well aware of it, but it couldn't be helped often times. It was for my own safety.
We approached the front door of our home. Bars were placed over the windows and the drapes were closed. The door was triple locked for the safety of my mother. I didn't care about the items inside, but I can't have people robbing the place and finding my drunken mom on the couch. The house was paid off, but worth nothing if we wanted to sell it. It was in shit condition when we got it, but even more so now with mother's habits of spontaneously wrecking the place for no reason. She also wasn't the cleanest of people. I once asked her if she knew what a trashcan was, and her response was "Is that French for something?"
Our neighbors were seedy and I'm sure one has even sold drugs to my mother on multiple occasions, but besides that, they've never bothered us. By that, I mean they never call the cops when they see Fable or myself walk up with weapons and literal blood on us.
I unlocked everything and went inside. There she was, just where I left her earlier, half naked and drunk on the couch with an empty bottle in her hand. Her long inky hair spilled over the arm of the chair with strands covering her pastel face. She was petite in size and I was a tad taller than her. She was 37 years old, but she looked to be reaching her 50's.
"Who's your friend?" she asked me in slurs. It was actually rare that she could see Fable at all in her state. When she was high or drunk, he was good as invisible to her.
There were a few rules to Fable (rules that I'm still trying to figure out) regarding who could see him or not. One thing was for sure that if someone was a threat to him or me, they could see him clear as day. If they could see him, he was tangible to them too. Intoxication of higher amounts would either aid people to see him, or hinder them. Besides that, it honestly just seemed to be at random as to who could view him as a normal person or just an unviewable apparition to phase through like an undetectable ghost.
"I knew you had friends," she said as if she had been trying to prove it for quite some time. "Your father would be proud. Where is he?" My mother was famous in the household for hallucinating, so it's very possible that she was seeing someone completely different than Fable.
"How are you today?" I asked quietly while re-locking the door behind me.
"I saw a bird today, Aarei." She raised her arm as if to let a bird perch on her finger. "It sang a song to me. It sounded lovely. Look, here it is again. Tweet. Tweet, tweet." Her voice was soft and lost. "It calls out for someone. I think it's lost. I should find him a home." She spoke to the nonexistent bird. She began to cough and dropped her bottle. There was no point in bringing that to her attention. There was also no point in conversation. She stopped talking with me after the bird topic.
I headed into the next room that had a bathroom and shower. She never noticed how much blood I'd drag in when I'd come home. She never asked where I had been or what I had been doing. She never asked how I had been making all the money that she somehow managed to make disappear in a day's span.
While I got undressed to get into the shower, Fable grabbed materials to clean his swords. I turned the water on and stepped into the tub. I looked down at the drain and watched as the diluted blood fell away. I was a mess. Not physically. I was in great shape physically, but mentally, I couldn't be well. There wasn't a way that I could be free from sickness. I was often reminded that I was in need of a therapist… or a priest, depending on who was ranting to me.
I stared at the scars cutting across my wrists and arms that were there to remind me of my past. They weren't self-inflicted despite what a lot of people think. They were received prior to Fable's intrusion into my life. They were large and noticeable to anyone who's seen my arms uncovered. Even when the weather is hot, I always wear a coat to hide them. I hate seeing them.
"Don't have a panic attack in there," he said after a minute of not hearing me. He stole my old clothes and replaced them with new ones.
I don't know what I would do without him. He was my motivator and savior. In the last four years, he's gotten us a job I dislike, but it has me living and paying off the debt my family inherited.
My cell rang and Fable took it out of my jacket pocket. He answered it, "Hello, Nadlyan."
"Fable, I'm in trouble," a woman whispered on the other end. "You're the only people I know I can depend on. You've gotta help me."
"What's in it for us?"
"Come on, you owe me."
"Hah, no. You owe me," he quickly corrected her and I reached my arm out of the shower to take the phone from him.
"Nadlyan, what kind of trouble are you in and how can we help?"
"Such a push over," Fable muttered as she explained her situation.
"I'm in the old clock tower warehouse. The Streamers have the place surrounded. I can't get out."
The Streamers were a nasty gang that got their ranks by hanging up body parts for public display. I'm talking real limbs and organs on clotheslines.
Nadlyan was an old partner of mine that I went on a few missions with. She specialized in thieving. Fable saved her life a few times because of her careless mistakes of which involved stealing from the wrong people. She should have known better than to get on their bad side.
"We're not touching that one. Tell her she's on her own," Fable told me strictly.
"We can't just leave her there. You know what they'll do if they find her."
"Please don't leave me," she pleaded.
"It's a big can of worms that bite back when you open it, Aarei."
I stepped out of the shower while quickly wrapping a towel around my waist. "We'll be there in 20 minutes, Nadlyan."
"Thank you. Hurry." From one job to the next. Can't say I liked working overtime, but I try to outweigh my sins with good deeds whenever I'm given the chance. If that involves me risking my life for someone I barely know, then so be it.
Fable gave me a slightly vexed expression before leaving me so that I could get dressed. Once I was done, I met him in my room where he was checking how much ammo I had in my gun. I didn't use normal bullets. I used thick fast acting poisonous needles. I could fit a lot more into my gun and carry ammunition easier that way. It was one of the advancements in weaponry over the last few centuries.
Fable's weapon of choice was a sword called a katana. He used two of them actually. They were the blades of a samurai warrior, but when he pulled them out, they were the blades of an elegant monster.
He tossed me the gun once he was satisfied. I caught it and put it in a holster concealed under my jacket. I liked to hide my weapons, but Fable wore his at his side at all times.
I said a quick goodbye to my mother on our way out, making sure to leave the door fully locked behind me. I was the first to take off running with Fable following. We didn't own any vehicles. It wasn't just due to the fact that they were expensive and at high risk of being broken into, but they weren't completely necessary. We were pretty close to a lot of key spots. If what we wanted wasn't in town, then it was likely in the city where having a car just wasn't practical when you can use the train or subway stations.
The warehouse was only a mile or so away, conveniently enough. They couldn't have picked a closer place. A good way to explain the region Fable and I resided in is ghost town. It had its people, and not all of them were bad or crooked, but they didn't come out much. Atrophy was, for the most part, abandoned by the working community. It wasn't always naked of decent civilization. It was once lively and friendly from what I hear. People say that one day something happened within the government of which led to a very sudden stop in their support in certain areas. Atrophy was on of those certain areas, needless to say. The right changes weren't made to lighten the dejection or increasing crime, so as a result, it's been the mafia and high-numbered gangs that have taken the lead. They took charge of businesses and streets, stalking alleys and finding new ways to control the people. The common people either played by their rules and paid their fees, or they'd find themselves facing a lethal debt collector.
Fable and I were some of those collectors. People with the right names and enough money hired us to do their dirty work. That involved plenty of things, but mainly consisted of putting a bullet in someone's head in order to prove another's dominance and authority. I don't agree with the lifestyle, but this was what I was given. Our work was well known by a good amount of powerful people mainly because of all the connections Fable established. He knew which jobs to take, which to leave alone, and what kind of people to involve ourselves with.
I normally listened to Fable. He was not a fortuneteller, but he had one hell of an intuition. He could read anyone and every situation like an open book. He could sense danger or hostility miles away. I didn't like that I was falling away from his better judgment, but Nadlyan was considered to be a friend of mine. I don't have many, if any. She wasn't close and we don't talk much, but I can't be picky.
The scenery getting to the warehouse could be fairly described as dismal. This was partly due to taking a ton of back alleyways of a memorized landscape. Bags of opened and rummaged trash made moats around the perimeters of most buildings. Rusted and burst pipes weren't uncommon, and broken gutters often in the way. The attendance of litter, grease, and grime goes without saying. The pavement was uneven and hadn't been under construction in ages. The wide-open cracks would likely never see the day of being filled or fixed. Not in my lifetime anyway.
I knew Nadlyan's exact location. It was once a massive clock tower that was torn down and made into a warehouse of which made clockworks from the parts of the pylon. That was what the history books said at least. Apparently it was once a famous monument, built the day World War III ended to remind us all how far we came to survive the disasters of nature and man. How far we came indeed.
Fable and I scoped the area half a block away for any traps or threats before I stopped at the front entrance. I kept my back to the wall and my hand ready to get my gun. I checked my parameters for any pedestrians or members of the gang. We were in the clear so far. Strange that no one was out at the front. Did she not say that they had the place surrounded?
Fable was less careful as he began scaling the wall the instant he was arm's length from it. Parkour came easier to him than me. "I know where we can get in without being seen by anyone." With less agility, I attempted the climb. He got to another ledge the next story up and offered his hand to me. I took it and he lifted me to his level.
We quietly made our way across the narrow ledge until we came across a small window barely big enough to fit a person through.
Fable used the heel of his foot to push the glass in and slide inside. Strangely unlocked. I was right behind him and stepped onto the unstable metal platform that hung above the main floor of the warehouse.
Members of the gang were below us guarding any doors or places someone could use to get in or out. They obviously were not considering the roof. There was no ladder to get up to where we were, so thankfully no one was up with us waiting for our grand arrival. They were big and brutish. Fable was strong, but these guys had much more mass on them than he did.
There were seven in sight, but there were likely more. No sign of Nadlyan.
Fable was scanning the area carefully. He would tell me what to do next once he was satisfied.
I watched for his signal. He was keeping one hand over the handle of his sword, expecting a fight. Something didn't seem right about this picture.
"I smell blood," he said too quiet for me to hear, but I could read his lips. He looked at me. We could read each other's auras. We didn't have to discuss the plan, we just knew. His aura told me we were going to kill. Not just kill, we were going to slaughter. I didn't know how he came to that conclusion, but I was going to follow his instincts this time.
Auras were something that only very few people could see. Usually only those involved with the supernatural could sense or see them. They were like faint mists of color floating around a person's head like a halo or nimbus. Different colors indicated their present emotions. It was mostly up to interpretation as to what color meant what.
I grabbed my gun and jumped over the railing. He did the same while taking out both swords. I landed like a feline as he plunged blades into one of the members while using the corpse as a landing pad.
Dust flew up from the dramatic motions as the Streamers took little time to react and come at us from all sides. It felt like something I'd seen done a hundred times in movies and cartoons, the clouds of smoke billowing out from the protagonist as the enemies circle.
Fable slashed his katanas around as if doing a dance, his attackers' chests and heads being targets of where to spin his blade next. One step forward, slash! Quick duck with a sidestep back, slash! He adjusted his footing perfectly for the next kill like a majestic demon. He was an artist painting the skies with a fantastic red that couldn't be found anywhere but the insides of a slain human. In my eyes, Fable was the only person on the planet who could make a kill look so beautiful. A lot of his moves were unnecessary, actions done just for the hell of it to make combat more fun for himself.
A switchblade was pulled on me and I did a fast duck to dodge the swing. In that time, I moved in closer to the guy attacking me first, keeping low. When he stepped back, I was easily able to kick the knife out of his hand. While the weapon fell, I switched legs and got him in the side of the face with my foot. I used the same foot to move back away and dodge another anticipated close quarters attack.
I aimed my gun and pulled twice, getting him in the neck and head. I spun around with just enough time to see a flying kick and rolled out of the way. My gun was silent, but I could feel it whenever I took my finger back on the trigger. The slight jolt of the poisonous needle taking its leave from the barrel and piercing deep into anything in its narrow path. I pulled again and got another guy in the shoulder. My kills and my wounds didn't spray the pulsing fluids of the victim's body in all directions like Fable's. I didn't want it to. I didn't want to see a glimpse of attraction in my actions to end a person's life. I wanted it to make me sick, like it always did.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Fable already had five men down and more were rushing in from the far end of the room.
"Aarei!" I heard my named called. I sensed a new presence. One of significance. My concentration was suddenly broken from the irritating sound of my name. My head jerked forward with my own blood falling to the cement. My vision blurred and dizziness overwhelmed my other senses, but I was still conscious. Then came the pain in the back of my head.
I was hit again in the back by the same blunt object that felt like a wooden bat. The damage put me on my knees and before I knew it, I was on the floor. I heard Fable swearing up a storm, likely from the pain that transferred over to him as well.
"Get your shit together, man!" he yelled at me.
I felt a cold chain wrapped around my neck and pulled tight, my gun falling away from me. I grabbed the wrists of the person trying to drag me and brought one leg up to kick him. Chokeholds like these annoy me, especially when the guy doing the choking is almost twice my size. When you can't breathe, there is very little time to do anything to get out of the predicament. You can only make about two or three bold moves until you're about out of air completely and you've got nothing left to do but pass out.
It felt like I got him in the head pretty hard, the grip loosening enough from me to make my escape. Being loose meant his elbows were likely now unlocked. Unlocking the arms was the aim. I pushed up on his elbows so that he would extend his arms for me to slip out of his chains. But I didn't get far before I was kicked in the side and knocked back to the floor.
"They're after the gold too! Just kill them already!" someone barked orders at the men.
I was hit in the side again and someone got a fist full of my hair as I was yanked up. I took a blow to the stomach shortly after. I coughed and went for a switchblade of my own in my pocket. I put a deep cut in the one grabbing my hair and I heard a sharp cry behind me.
I ran forward towards the next guy I saw. I leaped with a crescent kick, taking him down. It was the same guy who got me with a bat of which I picked up after putting my knife away. I heard a chainsaw starting up. Where the hell were they getting these tools? The chainsaw grew louder as the wielder came at me. I ducked for the horizontal swing and then rolled when he tried a vertical split.
I swung and cracked a few of his ribs with the bat. I took control of his arm and turned his weapon against him, sawing into his neck and shoulder. Seconds prior to me overpowering him and cutting into his jugular, he was extremely surprised by my strength and ability to overcome his. I looked like a little weak kid to a lot of these people.
A bullet whizzed past my head, barely missing me.
I saw Fable going for the one with the gun with his sword ready for a clean cut. His kill took the guy down in two pieces. That was it. We were the only two left alive in the room. The ones I managed to wound were stabbed by Fable during my distractions.
I tried to rub the blood out of my eyes. "Are you okay, Fable?"
"You guys did fantastic, as usual." Nadlyan came out of her hiding spot in the far corner with a smug grin. "Thanks for coming in such short notice. You made it faster than I thought. You really saved my ass."
Fable did a quick swipe in the air with his swords to get the excess blood off and casually sheathed them. "I should start a tally of how many times we've come to your rescue. Each tally worth 10 grand."
"Oh please, if you had your way, you would have never come."
"It's not that I don't like you, but you're always dragging Aarei down. I wouldn't mind it so much if we got a proper thanks every now and then."
"A thanks that goes beyond words, stupid whore," Fable whispered the last two words, but still received a glare from her.
"Fine, what do you want?"
I rubbed my head. I think the blow from the bat was starting to catch up to me. For a moment I thought I'd recover and the feeling would pass, but I was wrong. I hit the floor on my side.