She touches my hand. I feel a warmth spreading through me. A pulsing warmth. Almost like a heartbeat.
“Do not be afraid. I am only giving you a part of my strength.” She smiles serenely. “You are an Alpha. Like me. Perhaps, if something happens to me, I can become a part of you. So we can both carry on. And you will have a part of my abilities. If not all.”
“Perhaps.” I am unsure what she is inferring. “What do you mean?”
“Should I happen to die, I can pass on to you my abilities.” She is still smiling.
“I do not think you will die.” I am not going to let that happen. I cannot. “I will find a way to get you to the Sisters. They can help you learn how to control your abilities. Until then, we will be a team.” I smile at her.
“OK.” She changes the subject. “Come. Let’s go kill Olaffssonn.”
I nod and we are on our way. “How far is it to his fortress?”
“Not far.” She seems dejected. “We will reach it by daylight.”
We go on in silence. I can’t help but feel that I hurt her feelings. But she is still holding onto my hand. Leading me.
Then I sense it. She is already dying! But how? I stop.
“Annabelle.” I look her in the eye. “Is there something you haven’t told me?”
She bows her head. “Yes. But you have sensed it. My power has come with a very high price. Mama called it a half-life. Sort of like Uranium. For ever use, I die a little. I will never grow old. But I will never grow up either. But you are already grown up. If I give you my powers, You will be able to withstand the negatives of them. And you will also be able to use them more wisely.”
“Then I accept your gift.” The thought makes me sad. “But I wish there was some other way.”
“It is nature’s choice.” She is direct. And right.
We walk on in silence for a while. Night is fast approaching. But she shows no sign of tiring. She seems determined.
“We will have to wait until night to attack.” I am thinking out loud again.
“No!” I feel her emotions slam into me. “We must attack as soon as we get there. I have kept him deeply depressed for as long as I can. I am losing strength. As you have noticed, I am also dying. We must attack quickly. His soldiers are all gone. Conscripted by Kalkolides. His wife and son as well. He is alone. Undefended. This is to be my last battle with him. I will likely die tonight. I have accepted this. But I shall live on as long as you live.” She smiles sadly.
The parapets of the nearly empty fortress rises above us as daylight returns. An eerie quiet has settled upon this place. No movement can be seen anywhere. Not even in the shadows. I look inside the garrison. Empty. As is the armory. No one walks the walls. She was right. It is almost deserted here.
I cautiously enter the great hall with her in tow. Upon his throne, Olaffssonn has a distant look to him. He sees me and rises.
“I have been waiting for you.” He smiles sadly. “And her. If you be the Angel of Death, then bring me sweet death. But first let me battle you to see if you truly are a worthy foe.”
He lifts his sword and advances. Her power seems to kick in and I hear a roar in my ear. Almost as if I am engulfed in flame. He jumps back. Surprised.
“No mind tricks, little one. You, I fear. More than any other. Demon-possessed, you are. But this one. She is mortal. Is she not? Or you wouldn’t be battling for her.
The illusion slips off me. She has used what power she had left. “I am no mortal, Olaffssonn. I am the one who has destroyed your fellow lords.”
We clash. He seems to be regaining himself. Her power over him is slipping. I must make this quick.
I look over at her. She is resting. Regrouping. Building herself up for one last attack.
I return to my own task. I am surprised at how adept he is. Not a bad swordsman. Not bad at all.
He is quick, too. He grabs my hand and throws me across the room. I am able to regain myself and stop short of slamming into the wall.
“I have been fighting since Erik the Red sailed the oceans. Perhaps longer. My father Knew the real Beowulf. And killed him. But come. You have an unfair advantage. What is your name?”
“I am the Angel of Death.” I refuse him my name. “Surely you have heard. Even Vassare fears me.”
He roars with laughter. “That little worm? He is afraid of his own shadow. Thinks himself a ladies’ man, but has nothing to offer them. Except shame. The coward!”
I smile. At least he sees the imp as he is. “What about Friedrich?”
He suddenly stops. “You have seen my son?”
“Friedrich is your son?” I am stunned. “He ran from battle with me as well!”
“Yes, well. That is what Kalkolides teaches his scions.” He shakes his head. “Run like a dog. Use crooked means to win. make a nuisance of yourself. But never fight like a man.”
We return to battle. He is definitely the best opponent I have had. I will not pike his head either. I will burn his head and body together in honor.
Annabelle returns to the fight. Her illusions weaker than before. But still frightening enough to keep my opponent off balance. I look over at her and shake my head ‘no’. she understands and quits.
I draw the battle out to give Olaffssonn one more grand battle to fight. I am showing him respect. Respect he deserves. I owe him this.