Angel Of Death: The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down, Chapter Nine: Sandblasted Skin

“But why Didn’t you intervene?” I am demanding what I instantly realize has always been a forbidden answer. His reaction surprises me.

He looks down, then back up at me. “Have you not been listening to a damn thing I have been saying?”

I am taken aback. “Wh-what do you mean?”

He glares at me. “I cannot get involved. Ever. It is my people’s solemn vow. No matter my feelings, I cannot save or fight for anyone. Even though I love you as a daughter, I cannot protect you.”

I wrinkle my nose. “But you saved me that day…”

He smiles. “Do not take advice for actually helping you. You could have done the opposite, the normal thing for a child of your age at that time, and not listened. Yet, you did. Something a Grigori would do. Sure, you questioned my reasoning, but that is normal for any member of the brethren. Had you not been the one, you would have ignored what I said altogether. You didn’t, marking you as the one.

I look down, ashamed of my demands. “So it was all about freewill. Not about actually being safe.”

He is still smiling. “It was both. Just as your path depends on both. Of course, that is over simplifying things a bit, but you understand.”

I look up, confused. “Not really.”

He sighs. “You’re hopeless.” He chuckles. “It isn’t about you protecting yourself. That isn’t the safety I am speaking of. Sacrifice calls for one to give up their own safety to ensure that of others. At the same time, the early years were about your safety. We were protecting you so that you would survive long enough to take up your mission, the reason you were born. Now, many are making sure that you remain to finish that mission.

“Some have sacrificed themselves. Others fight the battles that seems impossible to win. It is all to ensure that the end is seen to by you.”

“Let me try to explain.” the voice emerges from the darkness, a sweet syrupy female voice with dark and mysterious overtones. “A woman can often explain what a man finds nearly impossible.”

“Khali!” His exclamation is breathed, as if in reverence. He bows, almost as if he is standing before a goddess.

She steps into the fire light, her weathered, sandblasted skin showing black against the glare. “Child. You are one of us. But you must understand that there are castes within our people.”

I look at her blankly. “Castes?”

She smiles sweetly. “Groups. Each of those groups are bound by laws. You are Archis, like me, yet new blood. This means you are like me, yet part human. Angel is Scriboi, or a scribe. His caste has neutrality laws, prohibiting him from fighting for your life or even intervening in events despite his personal desires. You,on the other hand, are not bound by such rules or laws. Nor am I. I am, however bound by the laws of my own caste, which forbids me to do anything but command warriors in war…at least until there is no war to be waged. This does not mean that I like what I do. It is simply what I was born to do. I am death incarnate, as are my fellow commanders.

“You were born to destroy the Sabbath Stones. When you do, you will also end the need for war, and the life of Kalkolides. That is your mission. Your path. Angel could no more save you than he could complete your mission for you. He records. That is all he is allowed to do.”

I look away. I now know all I need to. She has not stopped smiling.

Angel ends the silence. “I can tell that she is still concerned about McCall and Truva.”

Khali’s smile fades, but there is a tender look upon her face. “No need to worry. McCall and Truva can fight their own battles. They have for millennia before you were born. They will be around millennia after your mission is finished.”

Again, she has put worries to rest with a vague admittance of their existence. So they are not dead as I feared. Good. I hope we can one day fight side by side again.

“I see.” It is all I can say at the moment.

“I know.” She turns away.Then she adds an unexpected invitation. “Call upon my name if you are ever in need. I shall come to your aid.”

I nod, but she does not see. She vanishes into the darkness once again. I will never get used to her doing that. I will never get used to her. Either she comes to me in a dream, or she appears out of the dark.

Angel sees my reticence. ” She is like that, Cris. She is a part of the night. That is why vampires fear her. The two of you really are kindred spirits. The vampires see this and fear it. It would do you good to remember what she said.”

I look away, into the darkness. “I just miss McCall and Truva.”

He smiles sadly. “I know. But they will come full circle when the time is right. They had to leave. You were ready to go on alone. their time with you was up.”

I swallow, a lump of guilt coming into my throat. “I know.”

Tears well up in my eyes. No. No. There is no time for tears. Not right now. Maybe later.

Angel see. “Do not refuse to mourn. Even knowing that they are still alive.”

I look into his eyes. “I will mourn in my own way.”

He shrugs. “Have it your way.”

I watch him open my haversack and drop a few unseen items into it, then draw the strings closed. I ponder what he might’ve put in there, but ask him nothing. “I have to go.”

“Have it your way.” He shrugs again. “Just remember, you will never go alone.”

I smile, despite myself. “I know.”

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