AN: I'd recommend that you read my fic "The War of the Assassins" before you read this just so that you'll understand what is going on better, but it isn't absolutely necessary. Oh, and *italics* indicates a flashback or something that was said in the past. Warning: DO NOT steal any of my ideas or characters.
Strife sprinted onwards in the pouring rain, tenderly cradling his six-year-old daughter who was whimpering with fear. Odessa ran beside him, eyes wide with fear and worry, her aura as dark and foreboding as the night surrounding them. She carried their quietly sleeping infant son in her arms, blissfully unmindful of the thunder, lightning, cold rain and mortal danger that he was in.
They were gaining on them...
"We can't keep this up much longer, Strife!" shouted Odessa over a loud crack of lightning, half-slipping in the slick, muddied grass. She doggedly regained her footing and ran on, brown, dirty mud splattered in her long midnight blue hair.
Strife scowled darkly at her comment as more yellow-white lightning illuminated the sky. He knew that they couldn't run forever but he had to protect his children, he had to get them as far away from the Assassins chasing them as possible. He had been caught off guard. He didn't know that they'd be after him again after such a long period of time - had no idea that he and Odessa were still targets after lying low and living in peace without any signs of Assassins or danger for seven whole years.
"Daddy, what's going to happen to us?" cried his daughter, her pale violet eyes stretched wide and filled with tears. Her whole body trembling with fear.
Strife's heart melted as he nuzzled his baby girl closer to him. "Shh - Sabriel, it's okay, Daddy will protect you, he won't let anybody hurt you..." he cooed to her as reassuringly as possible while putting on a burst of speed. They were almost at the Meadow - if he could only get there he could use his magic and defend his family or at least Slice his children out of there.
As if the Assassins had read his desperate thoughts, several fireballs suddenly slammed into the ground directly in front of him, creating an impenetrable wall of magic fire, unquenched by the heavy rain. Strife and Odessa abruptly stopped and whirled around, skidding clumsily in the slick mud. Two dark shadows walked purposely towards them, silhouetted by lightning and illuminated by the dark, eerie red glow of their Blades.
"Strife - the children," Odessa said urgently and with a hint of fear, unsheathing her deep violet-red garnet sword with one hand and cradling her baby son in the other. Thunder rolled ominously in the sky as rain fell in sheets around her body.
Strife felt a sickening wrench deep inside his gut. He and Odessa had discussed a long time ago what they would do if they were being pursued by Assassins and their children were with them. But still - he had never thought that it'd come to such drastic measures. He felt Odessa hastily cast a magic shield as he put his daughter gently on the ground with a heavy heart and gravely untangled himself from her grasp. I can't believe that this has to happen to her - my only daughter...
"Daddy...?" Sabriel sniffled, looking up at him in bewilderment, her long black hair tousled and hanging messily over her eyes.
"Daddy has to leave you now," Strife replied with as much control as he could muster, tears mixing with the rain trailing down his face. He was dangerously close to breaking down. Why now? Why does this have to happen now? We weren't hurting anyone...we were just living our lives...Sabriel doesn't deserve this - she's just a little girl.
"No! I wanna stay with you and Mommy!" Sabriel wailed, clinging tightly onto his leg. Strife stared helplessly down at his daughter, unable and unwilling to force her to let go of him.
Odessa suddenly materialized next to him. Her violet eyes were filled with pain and anguish as she gently handed him their son and untangled Sabriel from his leg. As she began to speak to her daughter in a quiet, firm voice half-breaking with tears, Strife cradled his son gingerly. He had been wrapped in layers of soft, warm blankets that had been charmed to remain dry, and only his head and fuzzy dark blue hair was showing.
"See ya later, little Zephyr," Strife whispered to the sleeping boy, kissing him tenderly on the forehead. He then undid the necklace he wore that had a broken, dull shard of Ragnarok attached to it and tied it gently around his son's neck. It glowed a silvery-red even in the oppressive darkness. He had worn the necklace faithfully ever since Rag had died, eight years ago, and yet he still felt that it was the right thing to do to give it to his only son. He could almost hear Rag whispering soothing words into Zephyr's mind just as she had done for him so many times before - so long ago...
"Strife..." Odessa called suddenly, shaking him out of his reverie. She was motioning for him to come to her, a note of urgency resounding in her sweet, musical voice.
The Assassins were now at the shield, and swiftly tearing it down. Fire still blazed fiercely in front of the small family, preventing any form of escape.
Strife walked swiftly over to where Sabriel was sobbing in her mothers' arms. He knelt down in the mud and looked his daughter in the eye. "Here," he said solemnly, handing her Zephyr. Sabriel held her little brother awkwardly and a look of immense confusion swirled in her teary violet eyes.
"Are you leaving now, Daddy?" she eventually managed to ask mournfully, her aura swirling black with fear and apprehension.
Strife's heart almost failed as he heard the poignant, plaintive question, but he somehow managed to choke out, "You're a big girl now, so you take care of your baby brother for me okay?" as he hugged her tightly, not wanting to let go.
Before Sabriel could reply or protest, Odessa had already constructed a slumber spell and cast it on her. The little girl slumped limply out of his arms and fell fast asleep, her arms wrapped around her baby brother.
"Goodbye my children," Strife whispered, choking on his tears as he laid her and her brother gently on the muddy, wet ground. Having to leave them felt like ripping his soul into tiny little pieces. Please God, watch over them, he begged as he cast a warmth spell on them so that they would not catch cold. Odessa tenderly hugged the sleeping siblings one last time and then turned to join him, not looking back. Strife knew that if she did so, her fragile resolve would crumble. She loved her children more than anything else in the world.
The Assassins were coming.
Strife grimly drew his crystal blue sword and stood waiting and alert as the storm raged around him, blowing wet black locks of his hair into his emerald green eyes. "I hope we're doing the right thing," he said quietly, looking gravely at his beloved Odessa. They had planned for this, but he still doubted whether or not it was really going to work.
She squeezed his hand reassuringly and replied seriously, "Strife, I don't care if we die doing this - just as long as Sabriel and Zephyr are okay, nothing else matters - this is the only thing we can do for them now." Her beautiful violet eyes began to well with hurt tears just by mentioning her children's names.
"I won't let anything happen to them," Strife said with fierce determination, his eyes narrowing as the shadowy black forms stepped ever closer. "Get ready," he added, adjusting his grip on his sword.
"I love you, Strife," she suddenly said with a haunting finality in her voice.
"This isn't goodbye yet, Odessa," he replied wryly, looking at her radiant, beautiful form through the rain and darkness. "It ain't over till it's over, remember?" he added with strained cheerfulness, trying to comfort her but mainly trying to reassure himself. The truth was, he was afraid. Afraid for his children, afraid for Odessa, afraid for himself, and most of all afraid of the bleak uncertainty of what they were about to do. Was it truly the right thing? What was going to happen to them? What was going to happen to his children?
The look in Odessa's eyes remained cold, hard, serious, and alert. The spell glowed fiercely from within her sword. It was not the time to be joking around.
Strife sighed a little and eventually murmured to her softly, "I love you too," and gently kissed her cold, wet hand. At least if they died, they would die together.
Odessa smiled up at him faintly and then let go of his hand to more firmly grip her sword.
The Assassins were there.
The two lovers, training partners, former Assassins, and devoted parents exchanged one last meaningful glance filled with love, compassion, sadness, anxiety, and determination and then charged the Assassins together, thunder crashing in the sky and their swords glowing with ethereal light.
A warm, bright shaft of sunlight beating against her eyelids gradually awakened the quietly slumbering Sabriel. She sat up clumsily and sleepily rubbed her eyes. She blinked a little in bemusement as she looked around her at the foreign trees, plants and grass. Something warm and small suddenly stirred in her lap. Sabriel looked down and was astonished to see her baby brother Zeph staring up at her with those shocking green-gold eyes. He smiled and cooed at her in happy recognition. Sabriel just stared. Something was wrong. Zeph was supposed to be in his crib. At home.
*"Daddy has to leave you now...so you take care of your baby brother for me okay?"*
Her father's words echoed in her memory as she abruptly got up, carrying Zephyr awkwardly with her. Sabriel blindly staggered towards where she had last seen her parents, knowing only that she had to find them again. "Daddy...Mommy..." she called desperately, tripping over roots and slipping on still-slick patches of mud, Zeph bouncing about in her arms. "Daddy...Mommy...!" she called more urgently, now running. Where are they?
She eventually reached a black patch of dead, dry ground, scorched with fire. Two people dressed in dark black clothes were lying in the middle of the patch, still and apparently sleeping, but they were not her Daddy or Mommy. Sabriel ignored the two shadow people and went directly to where her parents' swords were lying next to each other on the ground, one icy blue and one dark purplish red. Sabriel knew those two faintly glowing swords. The blue one was Daddy's and he called it AzureWrath and the purple-red one was Mommy's and she called it Almandine. She had seen Daddy and Mommy sharpen and take care of their swords dozens of times before in her short life. They had firmly warned her to never play with them. But those two swords were all that were left of her parents...because they were gone. Disappeared.
"DADDY! MOMMY!" Sabriel shouted forlornly into the air, hoping that they could somehow hear her. Zeph was startled by the sound and started to cry, his loud wails echoing in the air. Sabriel collapsed despairingly by the two swords and rocked him back and forth, her broken-hearted sobs mixing with Zeph's sharp cries.
"Where are you?"
Ten years later...
"Zeph, wake up!" hissed sixteen-year-old Sabriel into her little brother's ear.
The ten-year-old boy stirred slightly and then woke up, grumbling in annoyance and automatically smoothing back his thick, messy, midnight blue hair. "What is it, Sis?" muttered Zephyr. His words were heavily slurred with sleepiness and his eyes only half opened. It was 3:00 A.M.
"The Shadow People have been tracking us for the past week and yesterday I saw them here, standing outside of the house - we're leaving, now!" she whispered forcefully while throwing some of his clothes into a small duffel bag.
"Are they going to get us?" asked Zeph worriedly, now wide awake and his green-gold eyes stretched wide with fear, reflexively fingering the shard of Ragnarok on his necklace to comfort himself.
"Not if we leave right now! Get dressed!" Sabriel commanded urgently, trying to keep the acrid fear building inside of her stomach out of her voice. The Shadow People had never before found out where they had lived for Sabriel and Zeph were extremely careful to make sure that they were not being followed when they went home. If the Shadow People became too persistent, Sabriel and her brother would leave and track down another foster home and they always avoided any danger. But this time - this time was different. This time she didn't know if they'd escape unscathed. The Shadow People had discovered their home...they could be out there, even now, just waiting for her and Zeph to step out of the house so that hey could kill them, just like they had killed her parents...
Don't think that. You don't know if Mother and Father are dead or not.Sabriel shook her head to clear her thoughts of all doubts and anxiety and swiftly checked her book bag once again to make sure that AzureWrath and Almandine were packed securely in there. She never went anywhere without them. The swords made her feel safe, for some odd reason, as if by having them guaranteed her the protection of her parents. Besides, her parents had taught her sword fighting ever since she was three years old, and she knew how to use one. At least this way they were not totally defenseless.
By this time Zephyr had pulled on a pair of faded jeans and an old black T-shirt and was ready to go. He looked calm enough but Sabriel could sense that he was really scared out of his wits.
Sabriel felt a brief twinge of regret. Her poor baby brother deserved some stability in his life, some security, instead of being forced to run away every few months. She hated how he had learned to look over his shoulder every time he was walking alone. She hated how she was his only friend and he had missed all those years of his childhood where he was supposed to be running and playing and getting dirty. Zeph had lost all of his innocence the day her parents disappeared...there was no time to comfort him though. "C'mon!" she hissed, practically pulling him out of his room with one hand and grabbing his duffel bag with the other.
They crept silently down the stairs, having learned to be as stealthy as black wraiths creeping across a meadow at night. Sabriel saw Zeph head for the front door from the corner of her eye and so she abruptly caught his sleeve and pulled him towards the garage. She had other plans in mind, though she had not told him about them yet. He knew better to say anything though, so he just followed her, his eyes wild with surprise and fear.
Once they entered the garage and closed the door to the house behind them, Zephyr opened his mouth to speak. "Sis...what are we doing?" he inquired curiously, scratching his head. They had never gone through the garage to escape before before.
"Walking isn't going to cut it this time, Zeph. We're going to take the motorcycle," she replied grimly, digging the key from out of her pocket.
Zeph just stared at her in shock for a few moments. "But that's Adrian's bike!" he finally protested. "We can't just take it from him!" He put his hands on his hips and glared belligerently at her, looking and sounding for all the world like a teacher scolding her for stealing another student's toy.
If it had been any other situation, she would have probably laughed. But instead, Sabriel frowned faintly and her light violet eyes turned hard and dark. She felt guilty about it too - Adrian was a really nice guy and he had actually taught her how to ride his motorcycle - but they had no choice. They had to get out of there as quickly as possible. And she didn't know how to drive a car yet and stealing a motorcycle was less alarming than stealing a car. At least she hoped. Besides, Adrian would think that she and Zeph just went out on a joyride and he and his family probably wouldn't inform the authorities for at least two or three days. By that time she would've ditched the bike.
"We're not," she finally replied. "We're just borrowing it," she finished lamely, tying her long, raven black hair into a messy ponytail and pushing the motorcycle out of the side door of the garage. She didn't want to risk waking anyone up by opening the automatic garage door and causing unnecessary noise. As she stepped into the cool, dark night she looked sharply around her, focusing all of her senses, trying to feel if anyone was out there. Sabriel had noticed a long time ago that if she was focused and concentrated enough, she could actually feel a person up to twenty feet away from her, even if they were standing silently and not making a sound. She didn't know why, but she had a feeling it had to do with her heritage. Whatever her pseudo sixth sense was, it was a useful trick and had saved her and her brother from the Shadow People countless times.
There was no one out. She stepped back inside the garage to her waiting brother.
Zeph obviously did not believe her comment about borrowing the bike, but the fear of being left alone won against honor as he realized that his big sister was serious and he grudgingly reached for the spare helmet resting on the shelf.
"I hope you don't need to go to the bathroom. We have a long journey ahead of us," Sabriel warned him a few minutes later as Zeph wrapped his small, skinny arms around her waist. The duffel bag was squashed in between them and now her brother was wearing the large book bag. It practically engulfed his small, slender form.
"Already went," he chimed in reply, a little bit of excitement creeping into his voice. Zephyr did love riding on the motorcycle.
Sabriel grinned at his boyish eagerness as she felt the motorcycle kick to life. They roared down the driveway and out into the silent, dark street, never to return to that neighborhood again.
Five years later...
Fifteen-year-old Zephyr jumped out of his bed as soon as he woke up, eagerly thundering across the hall of the small apartment and into the kitchen, where his sister was already up and waiting for him. She was sitting quietly at the dingy linoleum counter drinking a glass of orange juice, the pale morning sun dancing prettily on her silky, long black hair.
"Where is it? Where is it?" he demanded, failing to keep the excitement out of his voice. It was his fifteenth birthday today and Sabriel had promised him an awesome birthday present. He could barely hold still, he was so excited. He knew that when Sis said "awesome" she really meant absolutely astounding and breathtaking. And he had a feeling that it was something important, something special, just by the amused twinkle in his big sister's soft, pale violet eyes.
"Just hold your horses, Zeph," Sabriel replied wryly, swinging fluidly off her chair and picking up something from behind the counter.
Zeph forced himself to hold still, though no matter how hard he tried, he still shook and jittered with excitement. He just couldn't help but feel like a little boy, though Sis had told him repeatedly that once he reached 15 he should start acting like an adult. Perhaps he would finally find out why she thought that today.
When Sabriel turned to face him again, she held in her arms a plain black leather scabbard, cradling it as if she held a precious gem. Zeph looked at her and then at the scabbard, confused and disappointed. Is this my big birthday gift? Some dirty old scabbard?
He was about to force a weak smile and thank his sister when Sabriel suddenly unsheathed the breathtaking sword within the plain scabbard. There was a hissing noise and then a resounding metallic hum as the sword was unsheathed. Zeph winced a little as the sun reflected the blinding blue-white light of the sword into his eyes. The sword almost glowed from within, emitting a white polished shine, and had a beautiful opaque blade that was made of pure glittering crystal but looked as if it were hewed from a glacier. Its hilt was twisted silver and had a fierce, feral ice dragon engraved on it, its tail curled around the hilt and its mouth open menacingly, as if the blade of the sword was its icy breath. The sword was three feet of deadly, brittle, sharp, hard crystal, seeming almost magical in its cold beauty and bathed in eerie blue light.
Zephyr found himself at a loss of words, except for the one name that echoed in his memory. He heard the deep, rough voice of his father speak the sword's name in his mind even as he did - "AzureWrath," he whispered, awed. He had never before seen the sword unsheathed in his life for his sister guarded it fiercely, but even so, he felt that he could recognize it in his sleep. It was his father's sword... "AzureWrath," he said again, unable to believe his eyes. It was all so surreal - almost like a dream.
"Yes," Sabriel finally replied solemnly, handing it gently to her brother. Zeph was so entranced by the sword that he didn't notice the tears that welled up in his sisters' clear violet eyes as she looked at him and was reminded painfully of their father, silver-red shard around his neck, blue sword in his hands, and green eyes bright and animated.
"You're giving it to me...?" he asked in wonder, holding the sword gingerly and staring into the reflection of his dark green eyes flecked with spots of gold in the blade's flawless, shining surface. He suddenly noticed that the grooves in its hilt felt molded to his hand, and that the sword felt almost light - airy instead of heavy in his strong grip. Zeph gave it a few test swings and felt laughter bubble out of him as the sword hummed and sliced cleanly through the air. AzureWrath felt right in his hands, somehow, almost as if they belonged together. It was truly an awesome birthday present.
"Yes," Sabriel said again, this time whispering. Zephyr frowned as he heard her reply and glanced at her sharply. This time he saw the tears and the far-off, dazed, sad look in her eyes, and almost dropped AzureWrath in shock. Sis was crying - Sis never cried. She was strong, always so strong and fierce and brave. Before he really knew what he was doing, Zeph had placed AzureWrath on the counter, forgotten, and was tenderly hugging his big sister.
"Don't cry, Sis - I'm sorry," he said plaintively into her hair, feeling horrible that he had caused her such grief. He didn't feel like an adult yet, he still felt like a kid, and he was shocked to see the one person that he had always looked up to so sad and hurt.
"It's not your fault, Zeph," Sabriel replied eventually, wiping away her tears. She looked up at him still hovering behind her chair and smiled weakly. "Now go sit down alright? It's just that you looked so much like Father...I'll be okay."
Zeph looked at her worriedly but obeyed, settling down in the old, wooden chair and once again picking up AzureWrath. For some reason he felt better with it in his hands.
Sabriel looked at him levelly, her eyes dry and now solemn and serious. She began to speak with the tone of one reciting a long story - "Our father was 15 the first time he Fused his magical Aura Blade with someone and met Ragnarok, his Blade Soul. The only remnant of her is on that necklace that you're wearing around your neck."
Zeph looked down in surprise at his necklace that he had worn ever since he could remember and automatically fingered the smooth, dull shard of reddish metal resting comfortably against his chest. "Ragnarok...you told me about her once," he mused thoughtfully. "She was the soul of Father's first, magical sword, wasn't she? And she sacrificed herself to save him and to rescue Mother, even though Rag and Father loved each other very much...?" Zeph had never fully understood how a sword could possibly have a living, talking, real-life soul, or how his father could love Rag just as much as he loved his mother, but he trusted and believed in his sister.
Sabriel nodded once and continued. "Shortly after, our parents realized that they were defenseless against the Assassins after their lives, so they managed to Slice - or teleport - back to their home planet of Lothos using that small shard of Ragnarok, who apparently still had a tiny amount of magic left in her. There they used up almost all of their money to buy two swords made of precious gems that could channel small amounts of magic. They were almost discovered and killed even though they were heavily disguised, but they managed to make it back to Earth alive...I remember them telling me this whenever I asked about their swords." She stopped and took a slow sip of her orange juice before she began again. "That's why I've always treasured and protected those swords, because our parents valued them so and went through so much for them. And they're the only thing left - anyway, I saw Father give you that necklace the night that he and Mother - disappeared - and so I thought it only fitting to give you AzureWrath once you turned fifteen. Just like how Father met Rag and really learned the true power of his Blade when he was fifteen..." The far-off, contemplative look in her eyes returned as she whispered, almost to herself, "That way I could keep the legacy of his sword and his name alive..."
Zephyr just stared at his sister for a few moments, twirling AzureWrath idly about in his hands, letting her quiet words and the story behind them slowly sink in. Some of his many questions were answered, and a few pieces of the vast puzzle of his heritage were fitted together. He did not press Sabriel for more information though; instinctively knowing that to do so would hurt her. Sis would tell him more when she thought the time was right.
Eventually her gaze became focused again and she looked at Zeph with that familiar mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "I suppose I should teach you how to use that thing," she remarked dryly, watching him drum his fingers on the crystal blade of AzureWrath. It made a chiming, tinkling, almost musical sound.
Zeph grinned and replied playfully, "Good. I was about to think that you only gave it to me to so that I could hang it up on my wall."
Zephyr felt as if a shaft of bright sunlight had pierced through a dark storm cloud. Sis was laughing again. Everything was going to be all right.
Three years later, in Mestra City, Lothos...
"Darius and Kaeldra Strezskion - I've heard a lot about you two. The brother and sister Elite Assassin team who have never failed to assassinate a target, correct?" asked Baron, intensely scrutinizing the two young Assassins standing at attention before him.
"It is true, my lord," replied the brother, Darius, his dark blue eyes not quite masking his suspicion and distrust. His sister's clear light blue eyes did not flicker and seemed to contain nothing but respect.
Baron furrowed his black brows in faint disapproval at Darius. Rebellious, this one. "Well I hope your flawless record will stay that way, since I picked this assignment especially for the Strezskion Siblings," he said with the smallest intonation of a threat in his voice. He paused for a moment, to let his words and the meaning behind them sink in. He wanted to make sure that they knew what would happen to them if they failed.
After a few thick, uncomfortable moments of silence, Baron finally continued, speaking his next sentence with an almost peculiar zeal and relish, as if he had waited for an immeasurable amount of time to say them.
"You are to destroy Sabriel and Zephyr Mercury."
AN: Sorry if this part seemed a little dull, but I promise it'll get better. ^_^ Oh, and don't expect me to write this too quickly because I'm mainly doing this for my own enjoyment. I really don't expect anyone to actually read this. Haha. Anyway, if you did, please please please REVIEW or email me at Cutlass317@aol.com