Chapter Nine of Gifts

Written by jrcsalter

Allison stared into the face of the Woman and the Woman stared back. She forgot about Naomi and flew towards her father’s murderer. One giant leap took her to the other side of the bridge, and she landed face to face with the person to whom she promised death.   The Woman did not flinch; she looked at Allison with the pride a mother would give a long-lost daughter who achieved everything she desired. ‘Allison,’ the Woman said. ‘Every bit the fighter I expected.’   Allison threw her fist out and hit the palm of the Woman’s hand as she knocked it out the way. The Woman drew a sword from beneath her cloak and lay it against Allison’s neck. ‘Danny boy had it coming. He killed the man I love.’   The Woman removed the sword, and Allison stayed still. ‘If you believe that,’ she said, ‘you’ll allow me to finish you.’   The Woman leaned on her sword as if on a walking stick. ‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Daniel deserved what he got. You hold your father up to this noble standard, yet he was nothing but a cold blooded killer.’   ‘Why are you here?’   The Woman lashed out with her sword, Allison jumped back. The Woman thrust again, and Allison felt a sharp pain in her side. She swung her sword more times, forcing Allison back onto the bridge.   ‘You said you can’t kill me!’ Allison shouted at her. ‘Why are you even trying?’   The Woman stopped. ‘I said I couldn’t kill you yet. Once you received Cylnaunteb, things changed dramatically. Taking that sword became your death sentence.’   The Woman swung out again. Dodging the blade, Allison screamed, ‘You talk about justice and nobility, yet you’re fighting me while I’m unarmed. How do you expect me to fight you with no weapon?’   The Woman put her arms out to the side and shrugged. ‘That’s just something you’re going to have to find out for yourself.’ Again she swung out. Allison parried the blade with her mind.   ‘Oh, Alli,’ the Woman said in a mock pitiful voice, ‘I could use those same abilities better than you can, before you could even speak.’ She smiled. ‘Let me show what I can do now.’   Allison felt the surrounding air grab her waist, her arms, her legs, her entire body. She tried to loosen the bonds by interrupting the Woman’s thoughts, but, like Naomi, she found nothing. Suddenly, she felt herself fly across the Quay and smash into the wall of a pizzeria, three stories above the ground.   The Woman levitated over the canal and came up to her face. ‘Is this really the way you want to go? Crushed by nothing more than air? Seems humbling. For years, you’ve been told you’re special, that you’re going to save mankind. Yet you get executed like a common criminal at the gallows. So be it.’ Allison felt the bonds tighten. She tried to ignore the pain as she delved into the Woman’s mind again. Still, she saw nothing. She delved deeper and continued seeing the absence of thought. Just when she was about to give up though, she felt it. It wasn’t nothing. She had covered her mind in a veil. Allison only needed to strip away the barrier. She touched it, and before she saw the inside of the murderer’s mind, the bonds broke. Allison reacted quickly, levitating to break the fall, and landed softly on her feet.   The Woman floated down to meet her. ‘Clever girl,’ she said when she touched down, swinging her blade in a short arc. Allison couldn’t win like this. She needed a weapon, and having none of her own meant one thing. She would need to take her opponent’s. She dodged another attack and grabbed the Woman’s sword arm. Taking hold of the hilt, she bent the hand back and heard a crack as the Woman let go of the sword, screaming. Allison slammed her elbow in her face, knocking the Woman over as she dived for the fallen sword.   She picked it up and brandished it at her opponent. The Woman smiled. ‘That hurt.’ She kicked out at Allison’s arm, knocking the sword away. It flew back to the Woman’s hand, and she began to swing it again.   ‘Allison!’ came a shout from the crowd. She looked and saw Atharron running down the road carrying Cylnaunteb. He threw the sword to Allison and she caught it. In one smooth transition, she went on the offensive; the clang of diamond meeting steel rang across the waterfront.   Allison forced the Woman back to the bridge with a renewed confidence. She knew her sword, knew its weight; it acted as an extension of her arm. Flying through the air, it prevented the Woman from attacking and kept her on the defensive.   Atharron had fought with a direct and tight style. He never moved his arm if he could get enough force behind the attack. The Woman differed, though; she was flamboyant, took many wide swings, twirls, and unnecessary movements. But she was fast. Allison needed to slip her sword between the many brief gaps. She knew it would work, she just needed to be quick enough.   Again and again, she parried, dodged, swung, thrusted. The Woman swung her arm back. Another opening. Allison stabbed. The Woman parried. Among the Woman’s weakness of style lay the strength to adapt a move. As the fight wore on, Allison heard distant sounds of sirens. Within seconds, an ambulance came down the hill towards the bridge, closely followed by the police slowing to a halt and running out the car. They reached the bridge, and suddenly flew back to where they started. Allison ignored them, concentrating on the fight.   Her arm ached with the effort to keep attacking, defending, attacking. The Woman pushed herself around, twirling on one foot. For a split second, she exposed her defenceless back to her. Allison struck out, slicing through the cloak and into raw flesh. Only a flesh wound and easy to heal, but it startled the Woman and she lost her footing, falling on her back. Allison stepped on her sword hand and pointed her own weapon at the Woman’s throat.   She enjoyed a moment of satisfaction before the Woman kicked her legs from beneath her. Allison felt her spine crack as she hit the floor. Lying dazed there, she saw the Woman deal with the police. In all the commotion, Allison didn’t notice armed backup arrive.   The police aimed their weapons and fired. The Woman remained still as every bullet slowed to a halt inches in front of her. The ammunition turned and flew into the authorities. Allison tried to stop it, but her slow reactions were unable to prevent three officers from being killed.   The Woman turned back to Allison stabbing her sword to the ground. Allison blocked it and shoved it out the way. Every time she tried to get up, the Woman pushed her down with her sword.   Allison screamed as instinct and anger kept her fighting. Her arms would not last long. If she didn’t get up now, she would lose simply by tiredness. She acted before the idea fully formed in her head and levitated up, kicking out at the Woman’s knees.   The Woman stumbled and Allison saw her moment. Without thought or hesitation, she stabbed her sword through the heart of the Woman, giving Cylnaunteb its first taste of blood in over one thousand years.   The Woman fell to the ground, and Allison stepped away. That woman murdered her father. She deserved to die, but now it was happening, she felt a finality about it. She couldn’t undo it and now, in front of her, a person was dying who once lived. A death she caused. She fell to her knees and cried. As her tears fell, she heard a voice inside her head. A voice full of triumph and hatred. ‘When he is ready, you will beg the Devil to take you.’ The voice echoed out of existence and she looked up. The body’s eyes and mouth, though they remained outwardly surprised, seemed to be mocking her with the final words of the still warm corpse.

‘I killed someone!’ Allison shouted at Cat an hour later. When Cat gave no response, she stormed to the other side of her living room and sat down at a small table. A streetlamp outside shone through the window, illuminating the darkness caused by Allison’s refusal to turn on the light; head down and hands folded on the table, she was a silhouette against the bright silver light. She breathed in deeply and looked up at the angel. ‘I’ve been shouting at you for a good five minutes now, and you haven’t said a word in your defence.’   As she looked at her, Cat shone with a light to rival the sun, and she stood as a titan; everything before her shrunk to insignificance.   Allison watched, mouth open and afraid. Cat’s voice came from everywhere and nowhere. ‘I am the highest of the Berifrain, whom some call primals, whom some call angels, and whom some even call gods. I am a messenger and warrior of the Qālda, who is the universe and creator of all which rests within. I have gone by a hundred names, Akhnookh, Nimue, Isaiah, Metatron, Shekinah, but called, in the original language as spoken by God Himself, Galvahha. A name whose meaning even I have forgotten. I have seen life form from its humble beginnings in the primaeval swamps of the twelve worlds. I have witnessed it destroy itself over and over. I have helped in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Cauhammo, and even Calnis itself. It is never pleasant, it is never easy, it is never right, even for a god such as myself. But it must be done. Your victim would seek to destroy all life leaving a wasteland for the Beast to reign. Take solace in the fact her soul lives on.’   ‘You don’t understand!’ Allison shouted. ‘I didn’t kill her to save the world. I did it because she killed my dad!’ Tears rained down her face at the memory.   Cat diminished to appear her human size, and the light faded from her skin. ‘Allison,’ she said, ‘I’m afraid you need to learn to live with it. You did what you had to do. Her murder of Daniel only made it easier. This is what I mean about how you choose your fate. If she hadn’t killed Daniel, you wouldn’t have ended her. You chose to submit to your fate, the reasons why are irrelevant. And you will choose the rest of the path that the Fates have laid out for you.’   ‘Doesn’t mean I have to like it,’ Allison huffed. She took a minute to calm down before changing the subject. ‘She spoke of another,’ Allison said. ‘Or at least, I think she said it. She made him seem … unpleasant.’   Cat looked deep in thought for a second. ‘I’ve heard rumours. I wish they weren’t true. But coupled with the knowledge of you being the Rebáel, it would seem the Emissary walks the Earth again. And you will be right to fear him.’   ‘What about Anna?’   Cat hung her head. ‘Tracking Naomi has proven to be extremely difficult in the past. We’ll do what we can, but I have little hope of finding her … or your daughter. I’m really sorry.’   ‘Do you think she’s alive?’   Cat remained silent for a moment, then nodded. ‘Possibly. If they wanted to kill her they would have.’   Allison shook her head in defeat. ‘Why? What could they gain from her?’   ‘I agree with Atharron, she’ll probably be a powerful ally. Over the past century, they’ve been forming armies​—​some attempts more successful than others​—​and this, coupled with Naomi’s hint of a vampire army, would seem to correlate with their previous attempts.’ ‘I have to get her back.’   Cat placed a hand on Allison’s, and looked into her eyes as they welled up with tears. ‘And you will, but for now we can do nothing.’   ‘Also,’ Allison wiped her eyes, ‘what the hell was that Emperor Palpatine stuff I did on the bridge? Bloody lightning from my fingers!’   Cat shrugged. ‘Another manifestation of your powers. Something you might want to work on.’   Allison scoffed. ‘Not bloody likely. It was difficult enough to stop once I’d started. I’d be happy to never do it again.’   ‘I would advise against it,’ Cat said. ‘Keeping that much energy inside you without a safe outlet would be like blowing a balloon up too much. Eventually you’ll burst.’   Allison took a deep breath as she willed her strength to return. ‘That woman, she also said I’m no longer immortal, that Cylnaunteb was my “death sentence”. Do you know anything about this?’   Cat sighed. She took a deep breath and told her. ‘You’ve heard a portion of the Sands prophecy regarding your birth. I have hated to tell you the rest, but I feel you need to know. The entire prophecy talks of the major events up until the point of your death…’ taking another breath, she forced the words out, ‘…by the hands of the Emissary himself.’

Cover image: by JRCSalter


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