Review Response: Nagi - Thank you for your reviews. To your first question, that fight happened between scenes (and is in detail in another book) I've been waffling with the idea of whether to include it or leave it out for a while now. In - it is redundant for the series (yes there are three books in this series before this story - though the only one that replicates these events is Endgame) Out - it may be confusing for new readers who are accessing this story arc for the first time such as yourself.
To your Second Review - While I do hold Cabal near and dear to my heart, he's not going to take Garrett's story over. They are in conflict yes, but as the main character of this story, Garrett remains the protagonist - he's just not the nicest of people and he was a hard character for me to write because I don't connect with his kind of attitude easily. Still I explored it because I wanted to see what I could do outside of my comfort zone. Your strong reaction to his character tells me I must have done a pretty good job. Thanks!
FYI the series chronology goes like this: Before the Fall, Redemption, Endgame (These are all Cabal-centric), Of Dhampirs and Warlocks (Garrett), and future stories will feature yet other dhampirs as the protagonists.
Again thank you for your reviews (I hope that you get the opportunity to see these as I have no other way to reach you at this time :) )
Sagira swept into the main room of the Dome, looking for a way to get away from the suddenly raucous noise that came from the nearly forty extra people that now lived in the facility compared to just a month ago. Beginning to feel pressed upon, she'd come up here, hoping that there would be peace and a little bit of quiet on the main floor.
She was right.
Only to find, she wasn't alone after all. Her steps stuttered to a halt, regarding the fire-rimed silhouette sitting on the newly purchased couch. The person was propped up on the right arm of the sofa, and hadn't noticed her entrance, or at least, hadn't made any sign of it.
More slowly, she stepped around the left side of the furniture, finding that the lone figure was her father. Not only had he propped an elbow on the arm of the couch, but he was curled in what looked to be an uncomfortable position, with his knees up and his feet crossed and resting on the coffee table.
He was staring at the fire, worrying what looked like rope or chord between long fingers. Occasionally she would catch a glint of light reflected off of some shiny bauble attached to the chord, but couldn't get a good enough look at it to decide what it was.
She paused again at the end of the couch, unsure she wanted to disturb whatever musing her father was doing. Sagira didn't want to leave either, and that left her hovering.
Starting when he blinked and then focused on her, Sagira unconsciously let a small squeal escape her. She kept forgetting that he could sense energy as easily as see visual light.
"Hey," he said simply, his hands and that unusual necklace falling into his lap. He continued to stare at her, not speaking further.
Her hand fell to the suede leather of the furniture's surface, and she felt asinine as she asked, "Enjoying the new couch?"
His brows furrowed, and the smile on his lips said that he knew she was making small talk. "It's certainly not the old one."
Straightening and allowing his feet to fall to the stone floor, he peered over at her again.
"What're you doing up here?" He motioned back towards the cacophony still going on downstairs. "Figured that would be your kind of scene."
Sagira moved closer, sitting to one side and across from him on the coffee table itself. "I'm realizing how much I liked the silence here. Partying's for town, home's for relaxing. Guess I'm not used to the noise."
Awkward quiet filled the space between them, and Sagira looked once more over her father's drastic change in appearance. Mother mentioned aloud how she thought Cabal had become unbalanced – that the incident down in the machinery room had scared him to his very soul. The drastically short cut would certainly point to some kind of mental fracture, and for a man she thought conservative and quiet most of her life, it was an odd decision.
"What's that?" she made herself say, noting he was unconsciously worrying the rope of the trinket again.
His fingers stopped, and he turned his eyes to the jewelry. Lowering his hands, Cabal spread his fingers until what turned out to be a black braid lay loose in his palms. "A reminder," he breathed after a long, uncomfortable silence.
Sagira lifted it from his lax palms, turning a little so she could get a good look at it. The rope, as it turned out, had the fine texture of hair – midnight black. She thought it might have been Cabal's own, only the strands were broken in many places, the ends frayed. In other places, dirt and oil had accumulated on the surface, dulling the color, and speaking of age.
Like conchos or shells, three small glass bubbles no larger in diameter than her thumb were knotted in place, equidistant from the next. As the bubbles shifted on her palm she noted that there was some kind of fine powder in each one.
"What kind of reminder, Dad?"
He stared at her for long moments, a myriad of half-formed emotions drifting over his face. Sitting forward, her father reclaimed the trinket from her and clenched his jaw, notable only by the jump of a muscle in his cheek. He took a deep breath and ran his hand along the braid and gingerly over each bead of glass.
His touch went back to the far right droplet. "This is a reminder of what I don't want to become." His fingers lingered over-long on the middle pocket of glass. "This… is a reminder of the person I strive every day to be." When he touched the third bead, his face pinched. "The third is a reminder never to blindly hate again."
"I'm not sure I follow." Sagira swallowed, because she could see he didn't really want to go into details with her. A part of her didn't want to push him on the matter, and yet her curiosity was overwhelming. "Why are they significant?"
"Each of these holds the ashes of someone who was important to me," Cabal breathed, and Sariga noted the glassiness of his eyes. His finger ran over the blue globule again. "This one is my father's – the vampire Renate. Almost two decades ago he suicided, not ten miles from this house… just after I found out your mother was pregnant."
He shifted closer to her, a hard edge coming to his soft features. "I blindly hated him for a majority of my life, for what he did to my mother – what she convinced me he did. Was easy – simple – he wasn't there, never was able to tell me his version of the events – not until it was too late to forgive him."
"I'm getting there." There was a storyteller's patience in his words.
She was frustrated when he seemed to go off on a tangent, moving on to the next bead, the middle one.
"This one," He flicked the grassy green one in the middle, and smiled in a bittersweet way, "contains the remains of my Lucinda."
The affection in his voice was unmistakable, and Sagira felt a pang of jealousy. "Who's Lucinda."
He smiled at her. "I should have told you all this sooner." Shaking his head as if regretful, he continued, "You mother wasn't my first mate. When I was about a hundred and fifty, I married a human – Lucinda McKinney. She taught me so much – about faith and love, about standing up for what was right. She was the purest soul I've ever known. I loved her with all my heart until the day that she died. Fifty-three years I spent at her side, even when it threatened to expose my secret to those I lived amongst."
Unable to help it, Sagira's jaw fell open in shock. "When was this?"
Sagira sat up so quickly her spine popped. "How can that… how old are you?"
He managed to laugh. "I was born in 2393, Sagira. I've lived nearly six and a quarter centuries."
She was unable to fathom that. Sagira had known for a while that her father was older than he'd ever let on, but never had she imagined he was that old.
Her father went on while she was still trying to digest his words. "This one – is contains the remains of my mother."
The globule of glass was a light brown tint.
"The braid is her hair." There was a hitch to his voice and he fell silent, as if unable to continue.
"Dad." Sagira uttered. He met her eyes, and she saw rage and sorrow behind the placid surface. "Why did you hate her so much?"
"I didn't hate her," he choked out. "I loved my mother. I never wanted to…"
His gaze fell, and pain she'd never seen in his face before pinched his expression.
"Dad, what happened?"
He shook his head, unable to verbalize. It scared her; she'd never seen her father emotionally distraught before.
"Dad, I have to know." She slipped off the coffee table, kneeling on the floor in front of him. "I hear it in your thoughts on occasion… how you're afraid I'm going to be like her."
His gaze darted to her face, consternation and anger warred in his emotions, futility came out of nowhere and won against all.
"I need to know why that scares you – what about her frightens you that you see her in me." She reached for his temple. "Let me see what she did that was so horrible to you."
He stopped her and tears were leaking out onto his cheeks. "I don't… I don't want you to see."
She met his eyes, pleading him without words. "I need to understand it."
Once more his face pinched, but as his eyes slid shut, he nodded. He resisted her touch at first, long ingrained defenses rising up to prevent intrusion. Feeling him pull back those walls, she tried to resist rushing him. He assisted her effort by pulling the memories of his mother closer to the surface, keeping her out of his deeper and probably uglier memories.
Sagira had never seen her grandmother before this moment. Carmen had been a beautiful woman, and the initial memories he had of her were those of a typical loving matriarch. She gleaned those memories, realizing that he was showing her what Carmen was to him early in his life.
It made what he showed her next all the more horrific.
She broke contact swiftly as she envisioned the shovel coming down and blood spewing over the sand.
Meeting his tear-streaked face, she found that she was crying as well. She shook her head. "You can't blame yourself!" She was startled to hear that come off her lips. "She gave you no choice."
A bark left him, fractured and raw. "Knowing the logic hasn't killed the guilt, Sagira, not since I did it. I still tell myself I was too hasty, that there had to have been some hope of bringing her back from wherever it was she had gone."
Cabal shook his head. "Carmen seduced Nathan Johnson – my father, like she had so many others. Unlike the rest, she thought he was her soul-mate, and without telling him – preparing him – she turned him, made him her Renate. He killed one of his family members while suffering the Burning Blood. Nathan never forgave her for that – and he didn't feel the same about her as she did for him.
"Carmen made it a point to convince me that Renate had been the one to do the manipulating, that he had made her think he loved her only to get a shot at immortality. Who was I to say otherwise? I was young and had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with her. And it wasn't like I was going to confront Renate on the matter. Not until much, much later."
"When did you decide Renate was telling the truth?"
"I tried and failed to kill him." Cabal was pinching that blue globe between thumb and forefinger with enough force that she thought it might shatter. "Instead of killing me – as any other vampire would have – he merely bound me. The conversation that followed was painfully enlightening. He had a unarguable point, if he'd known what the turning had entailed – and if he wanted immortality that badly, he would have – he would never have gone back home. Carmen had kept him ignorant of what vampiresella would do to him, just as she had convinced herself that Nathan Johnson loved her. That delusion slowly drove her insane.
"She abandoned me when I was twelve to get him back. I spent five years surviving on my own while she pursued Renate. She convinced me when she did return that I'd been discovered, when it was she who had been excommunicated from her brood for killing Renate's mate. She was not sane, Sagira, and as I got older that insanity only got worse." He glanced away, a muscle in his cheek jumping. "I deluded myself to her condition so long; it took her trying to kill me to realize how bad it really was."
"And you think…" She took time enough to wipe the tears from her cheeks. They were quickly replaced as his fear for her – of her – finally made sense. "…you think that I'm on that path?"
"You're so much like her." He stroked her cheek and then allowed his hand to fall from any contact with her. "She toyed with her meals, made games of their deaths."
"You do… you have," he insisted and an edge of anger made it past the sorrow and guilt. "She was obsessive, self-centered, sadistic – delusional. I see the beginnings of that in you. And you're right, that scares me."
She shook her head trying to deny what he was telling her.
His expression turned dour. "It takes someone who's walked insanity's path to recognize it in another. I've walked that path – I've been crazy and back more times than I care to admit. You're predisposed to it, Sagira, it runs in our line, and I don't want that for you."
Both of them fell silent, the slight hiss of the methane feeding the fire the only thing to counterpoint the heavy air.
"Daddy?" The word was small, like she felt right now.
His eyes darted to her face again, his expression frozen in the same one she saw the day she watched him die, bittersweet remembrance, as if he was wishing she was still little and that none of the past months' events had occurred.
"I'm sorry." She shook her head, dropping her gaze, "Everything's been my fault. None of it would have happened if not for me."
Sagira was shocked to find herself locked in a fierce hug, and already her arms wrapped around his shoulders. "I don't want to lose you, Sagira, that's all. You were a miracle I never thought would happen for me."
Tears welled into her eyes again; pain striking through her, because she knew that he wasn't going to get his wish.
"Daddy," she whispered in his ear, "I can't stay."
His reaction was to hug her tighter. He sounded agonized as he asked, "How did I know you were going to say that?"
"I can't follow your rules. I can't… control my need to hunt. It's not the meal… it's the chase… you don't know what abstaining from the hunt is doing to me."
He pushed her away, holding both her shoulders in a grip so tight it hurt. "I do understand – completely. I told you; I know that thrill. Until Carmen's death that's all humans were to me, food, fodder. I learned to override the instinct, Sagira. You can too. I… I don't want you to leave us."
They were both crying now. "I can't be what I was before… I've tried. I've broken something loose, and I can't fit it neatly back into place. I can't expect you to make exceptions for me and risk what you and Mom are trying to do. I can't help myself, I will stalk others."
"God, no…." he trailed off, his grip falling from her shoulders. "Where did we go wrong?"
She was sure that it wasn't meant for her hearing, but for the Lord's.
"Dad." She said no more until he would meet her gaze. "You were the best parents a kid could hope for. I'm the one who's fucked up a good thing, I see that now. But even human children leave home eventually." She tried to brighten the darkness she saw behind his eyes. "Who knows, maybe I'll get this figured out, and I'll be happy to come back and sip Salvation with the rest of you. For now I can only promise, I won't kill anyone."
She was awaiting a response from him, but his focus seemed to be on something behind them both.
"What's going on?" Garrett stood just inside the entrance, staring at them both and looking as if he was trying to figure it out.
Before Sagira could gather her wits about her, her dad rose and wheeled around the end of the couch, growling, "Sagira's leaving."
She didn't miss him averting his face from the other dhampir and wiping the tears from his cheeks with an unsteady hand. Cabal brushed by Garrett and headed down into the bowels of the facility.
A part of her wanted to chase after her father, to try again to ease the pain she'd seen in his eyes – how he knew he'd loosed her on the world. The perfect vampire – there was no worry of her spreading vampirisella, because like Cabal she didn't carry. She was able to pass off as human, to eat and drink as they did. Sagira was a being with no qualms, no consequences, and no compunction about the use of her power over others. That used to be a matter of pride – just two months ago it was – now she felt a lesser being because of it.
"What does he mean you're leaving?" Garrett demanded, drawing her attention back to him.
"I can't stay, Garrett. Dad's rules are too binding." She cloaked her uncertainty in unformed anger, using the brashness she'd been so good at with her father once again – a favorite tool come close to hand. Her gut twisted as she said it. "He's not going to stop me from hunting." The façade broke a moment later, ringing false and tasting sour. "He'd have to kill me if he caught me again. I'd rather not force him to such a choice."
"You two fight?" Garrett asked, seeing the tears on her face, and the puffy reddening she could feel in her eyes.
"No." she backed out of his caress.
"If you're leaving, I'm coming with you," Garrett immediately added.
"What about your job, Garrett? Why would you want to come with me and leave all that damned glory-seeking behind?"
"I told you before – because I love you."
"And what makes you think I'll still have you? You lied to me and nearly got my Dad killed."
"And then saved his life, and helped you and Miranda get this house back in order. Cabal seems to have forgiven me, why can't you?"
"I'm the one you betrayed trust on, that's why!"
"I know." He truly seemed chagrined by that. "But if you walk out that door, all I'm going to do is follow you. You can't hide from me, not your signature, not with your compulsion; I would only go with you anyway. I'd much rather it be under amicable conditions."
She glared at him for a long time. "You would, wouldn't you?"
"One way or another." He shrugged trying to disarm her with a charming grin.
"Fine." The one word came out as a sigh. "But that doesn't mean I've forgiven you."
A/N: I decided to go ahead and post this up as currently written, but I must say I'm dealing with a bit of conflict. As you may or may not know I've got a part of this story up as a webcomic at /comic and when I got to this chapter there I turned much of the story telling around. Problem is I'm not sure which version is stronger, nor which way I want to write it. Both have their merits! So if you've read both versions I could use a little bit of thoughts on which one you liked better!
One chapter remains... I've decided to leave this up until I can figure out some things so I'm not sure when the publishing is going to happen now. X(