I have turned back south for now. It has been three days since I destroyed Kalkolides’ fortress. I need to find Grady. I need his ear for confessional. The guilt is eating me alive. I never wanted to kill a child. But I did.
I am afraid that the brothers in the missions would turn me away. I have committed an atrocity. And I cannot block it out. Perhaps God will forgive me.
But Jason knows that he is being hunted. And that I am the hunter. He knows that no one in his life is safe. If you can call it a life. really not much of one. Not when you are undead.
He knows that he can lose as much as anyone else. Family. Future. Followers. Allies. Soldiers.
He knows that I will stalk him to the ends of the earth. From sea to shining sea. I will make his unlife a nightmare. I am the Angel Of Death. Rising from the darkness to take all that matters from him. To haunt his every dream. If he dreams.
I head for the once great city of Little Rock. They won’t know me there. Not now. I haven’t been in that area since I was a child.
I don’t know whether the Alliance still holds the city or whether the vampires do. Or do rational humans now have control? I guess I will know soon enough. I return to human form from werewolf fifteen miles outside Little Rock. Can’t take a chance of alarming anyone.
Of course, I may alarm someone anyway. It’s not every day you see a heavily armed woman walk into the city as if nothing is going on. But maybe not. These days, who knows?
As day breaks, I am on the outskirts. No one has taken notice. No alarm has gone up. So far, so good.
As I go deeper into the city, people seem to not even notice me. Though I get a few glances, I am still just another drifter. Nothing to be alarmed about. Or that is the sense I get.
I stop one of the people. “Who is in charge of the city?”
“That would be Horatio. Just go to city hall. You can’t miss it.” He smiles. “Why?”
“Just wanting to know who I might have to talk to for news. Or Find out if there is any work to be had.” I am just trying to make conversation.
“And what might you be able to offer us?” He suddenly seems a little too interested.
“I can hunt food. I know medical things. I have a little knowledge in science. I can teach children to read and write.” I study his reaction.
He shrugs. “We really don’t need those things here, but it wouldn’t hurt to talk to Horatio all the same. Even if it is just to register as a transient.”
I let him go his way. I am not so sure I like how he said what he did. No need for education? No need for medicine? Or is it that they already have teachers and doctors?
I enter city hall. For a city once under siege, it is still immaculate. Still well preserved. Did they repair the damaged buildings? Or rebuild?
I find the door to Horatio’s office. He is acting as mayor. Or is it king? Or governor.
He looks up. “Can I help you?”
“Yes.” I am remaining alert to my surroundings. “I am reporting to see if you have any news from other cities. Or even missions you need someone to handle.”
“A hunter, I take it.” He smiles.
“Yes.” I am truthful.
“Please relax. You are among friends. I am also a hunter, though I am currently commanding this outpost.” He leans back in his chair and inspects me. “You must be McCall’s protégé Cris. Welcome. I have heard much about you. Seems you have bested the most powerful of all vampires and lived to tell the tale.”
“I do not know what you mean.” I am trying to avoid the issue.
“Come now. Rumors have it that the angel of death visited Autaurmach and slaughtered Kalkolides’ garrison there, along with his queen. And their unborn heir.” He smiles. “You just happen to come into the city from that direction. Oh, yes. All who enter are watched.”
“How long have you watched me?” I am mildly alarmed.
“Only since you entered the outer edges.” He smiles. “Do not worry. The truth will never leave this room. Was it you that destroyed Autaurmach?”
“Yes.” I admit it openly.
“You have done the world a service. But you have caused a problem as well.” He looks away. “Still, wish I could have been a fly on the wall when you did it. Do you need a confessor?”
I give him a worried glance. “Yes, but I search for a friend who is also a priest.”
“Grady.” He already knows.
“Yes.” I am in shock.
“He is not here. Probably won’t be for a number of days. But we do have a confessor that will gladly absolve you of sin.” He rises and comes around the desk. “Come.”
We leave city hall and he takes me to the cathedral. He opens the door for me. I enter. He follows.
“Brother Malachi! Are you here?” He waits for an answer.
A werewolf enters the room, followed by the changeling who had led me to the gated of Kalkolides’ fortress. The werewolf looks at me. “I am. Ah. Cris. Grady has told me much about you. And Sam has told me how kind you were to him. Come. Confess and be absolved.”
I feel at ease. There is nothing evil in his tone or posture. No threatening glares. Just a calm, peaceful tone. And a placidly neutral posture.
I head back to the confessional. Finally. I will be free. Free from this weight. Free from the guilt.
I go in. He goes into the priest’s side and opens the little window. “Tell me your troubles, my child.”
“Forgive me Father, for I have killed an unborn child. I have taken an innocent life. One innocent of any wrong doing.” I pause. The guilt is building. “I killed a defenseless and very pregnant woman.”
“Child, No one is innocent. Not even I. You did what was necessary. And his queen was far from defenseless.” His words comfort me. “There was no sin in your heart then and there is no sin in your heart now. You are merely doing what you were sent forth to do. Your guilt is absolved. Peace be upon you. Go and be free.”
I leave the confessional. I feel as if a weight has been lifted. Perhaps I had rationalized my actions too much. Tomorrow will be a new day.