"Is he still...?"
Luciel nodded to the distinguished-looking sorcerer sitting by the fireplace, not trusting himself to speak for a moment.
The old man made a tsk
sound. "Terrible shame. Like he's put his mind away
somewhere." He glanced up at the angel standing in the doorway.
"And you say this has happened before?"
Again, Luciel nodded. "When Levalier died. He was in this state of... shock, I suppose... for weeks."
"Weeks, you say? But he was just a child then. Do you think it will be as severe this time?"
"It's hard to say. Levalier's
death was gruesome, and... the demons did not leave Devin unmarked. But
this... in his mind, this is his fault, his crime." The angel shook
his head. "Perhaps he is spending all of his strength trying to come
to terms with that... Or perhaps he is reliving the same moments over and over
again. I do not know."
"Well." The sorcerer seemed taken aback by Luciel's lack of answers. "Whatever the case, he is, of course, welcome to stay as long as necessary."
"Thank you, Matthew, it's very kind of you."
"I could do no less for Levalier's heir, after all. Pity I never got a chance to meet the boy before, though..." He rubbed his chin, mussing his short white beard slightly. A longtime colleague of Levalier's, Matthew Corbel had welcomed Luciel and his wounded partner with kindness and generosity. Devin was very lucky that his adoptive father had had such friends.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll speak with you once he recovers," the angel said with a small smile. "If you'll excuse me..."
"Of course, of course." The old man waved a hand.
Luciel nodded and backed out of the door, heading back down the hallway to Devin's room, where he had spend most of the last 48 hours. He was just now returning from a short visit to the site of the fateful confrontation, to retrieve Devin's cherished necklace, as well as the slaying stake. There had been nothing remaining of Allistair there, only rumpled clothing that could not have been burned by the mystical fire. That was probably just as well; if Devin were conscious and aware, he would probably have demanded to return to that place, which would only serve to distress him further. No, it was probably best if the mage never returned to the site.
He drew close to the chair where the mage sat. The sight of his usually spirited protégé staring off into space in a state of catatonia was distressing in the extreme. He hardly moved, except sluggishly with careful guidance, did not eat, and did not speak. As Luciel had told Corbel, the angel truly had no idea what was going on in Devin's mind at the moment. Their usual mental link was obscured and diminished.
With pain in his ethereal heart, Luciel knelt in front of the stricken mage. "Devin, I've brought these things back for you." Reverently, he laid the necklace across Devin's lap, and felt its enchantment begin to hum as it re-activated, placed in its owner's presence again. The angel sighed quietly in relief; if that spell had not triggered, he would have been extremely worried about the extent of Devin's emotional and mental injuries. That his aura was still strong enough to light a match, so to speak, was one small, positive sign that he would recover.
"Here, I'll put it on for you, all right?" Luciel stood and took up the cross on its thin leather cord, tying it loosely around the mage's bandaged neck. In deference to Devin's standing wishes, the angel had only partially healed the wounds; the scars would likely remain for years.
"I also found this." Hesitantly, he placed the stake in Devin's hand and stepped back, hoping for some reaction. Perhaps it was cruel, but... the mage had to be broken out of his stupor somehow.
For the span of a heartbeat, there was no response; then, suddenly, the stake burst into flame. Before the alarmed angel could put it out, the weapon had been reduced to ashes, sifting through Devin's fingers. However, the young man seemed to have not moved a muscle.
"Devin?" There had been no pull on Luciel's power, so either the stake had burned with its own enchantment, or Devin had torched the thing with his own power. The angel suspected the latter... but Devin certainly wasn't talking.
The fiery pain may have lasted a moment or a week; he had no way to tell. He was only vaguely aware of Devin and Luciel's departure, and anyway, his wish had been granted; no use in taking the risk of raising Devin's hopes by speaking again. No, he suffered in penitential silence.
Would he burn forever? Jason hadn't, after all. Maybe Allistair's altered biology made it impossible for him to be killed cleanly by Devin's vampire-slaying spell. Or perhaps he truly was being punished for the way he had forced the mage into this fight. Who could say?
But somehow, the fire stopped and the flames died away. He was awash with
pain, and imagined that he was little more than charred meat at this
point. Had the spell expired? Would he just rot away now, his mind
He seemed to be blind; perhaps his eyes were too damaged to work now. Whatever the reason, he heard, rather than saw, the person looming over him, but he couldn't speak, couldn't move a muscle.
"Hmph. My son does not treat his toys well, it seems," said a musical tenor. The English was rather oddly accented, and Allistair shivered mentally — that was the unmistakable lilt of Faerie. But had the man just said his son? Before he could think that through, a wrist was pressed gently to his lips, and in a moment, the first drops of blood trickled into his parched mouth.
Even in this pathetic state, he could still taste the blood, and this blood was beyond words. It burned, but it healed; it was not sweet, but it was the best thing he had ever tasted. If Devin's blood had been fine wine, then this was like absinthe. And accordingly, Allistair felt himself slipping away in it, his grasp on consciousness loosening.
"Yes, sleep," the voice said, tinged with the sort of amusement elders have for the very young. "It will hurt less if you sleep."
What will hurt less? Allistair wondered, but he truly couldn't summon the strength to care. Sleep sounded like very good advice.
Ellis arrived the day after the strange
episode with the stake; Luciel had asked him to come to help take Devin back to
New York. Now the red-haired man sat in front of Devin, talking to him
quietly about nothing in particular.
Luciel was glad the man had come. Ellis Hargrave, or Virsë Firemane as he was called among other mages for his flowing red hair, was probably the closest thing to a good friend Devin had. He was a year Devin's senior, but far better trained, in a formal sense; he had just been released from his apprenticeship two years ago. Of course, it wasn't Devin's fault that his own apprenticeship had been cut short, and Luciel had taught him as well as he could for a while, but when left to his own devices, the mage had concentrated on his demon-hunt, only learning things that could conceivably help him in that quest.
Still, Devin had an exceedingly sharp mind and a desire to know, and had had a very well-regarded master. He suffered no lack of esteem from his peers. Ellis, Luciel knew, had a world of respect for Devin, even a bit of a platonic crush on him, and was probably one of the few people the angel felt comfortable imposing on for Devin's sake. The redhead would take good care of Devin not just from a sense of obligation, but because he honestly liked him.
Now Ellis looked to Luciel for some explanation of Devin's current state. All the angel had told him was that Devin was unwell and would need assistance in his return to America. "This isn't backlash, is it...?"
Of course, every practitioner of magic ran the risk of having a spell snap back at them like a broken rubber band. This could cause serious physical injury, of course, but also mental damage or a reduction in magical ability. But mages who worked with spirits, like Devin did with Luciel, were highly unlikely to suffer backlash; the spirits buffered them from it.
"No... It's a long story, Ellis, but..." Luciel spoke quietly, solemnly. "He was forced to kill someone he loved very much."
"Ah." The mage's eyes widened, and he looked at Devin in real sympathy. "He took Levalier's death very badly, as well, didn't he..."
"Yes," Luciel agreed with a nod. "And I hope, like then, he will recover in due time."
"So we must hope," Ellis murmured, looking into Devin's blank eyes.
Allistair awoke slowly, his mind still hazy. Had he died? Had he taken that strange blood and survived? Was he still a burned wreck?
After a few moments, he became increasingly aware of his condition. He seemed to be almost completely healed; his skin was whole and pale, and his mouth and lips seemed right, but he hurt everywhere, a dull ache under the surface. Unsurprising, really; it probably had to do with having to re-grow all of his skin. Cautiously, he raised a hand to his face and felt around experimentally. Everything was apparently all right, though his hair was ragged and his eyebrows seemed to be growing back from nothing.
Now assured of his soundness of body, he glanced around at his unfamiliar surroundings. He was currently lying on a soft pallet on the floor, wrapped in a fur blanket that appeared to be the whole pelt of a large bear. The room was sparsely furnished, with something that appeared to be a chest and a pouf for sitting on. A few odd masks and tapestries, or something like, adorned the walls, which Allistair finally realized were stone. The smell of cold earth told him that he was in a cave, or at the very least, an underground structure meant to look like one.
There was only one doorway out of this room, but the passage beyond twisted so that he couldn't see what lay further down. As he pondered the difficulty of getting up to do some exploration, a figure appeared in the door as if conjured.
"Ah, you've finally awakened," the man said with a catlike grin. The first impression Allistair received from him was red; the man's hair was a vibrant wine-red color, falling in loose waves down his back. He had a slender, but fit, build, which was immediately noticeable because all he wore was a kilt-like garment and a silver torque at his throat. As Allistair looked up into the stranger's face, he heart nearly stopped. He knew those features well, especially those stormy-sky blue eyes with their flecks of hazel. It was as if he were looking at Devin's twin.
Or, he finally remembered, his father. The last memories before he had lost consciousness came into clarity. Was this Devin's father? Was he a pure-blooded Faerie, with such potent blood? Were they in Faerie now? Was he being healed just to be killed again? Groaning, the vampire held his head in his hands.
"That's not a good sign," the stranger laughed. "What hurts?"
"My brain," Allistair mumbled. "Where... are we?"
"Hm. As you may have surmised, we're in the realm of Faerie," the man said almost off-handedly. "You're in my home under my protection, so don't worry about being attacked." He seemed to have a permanent note of amusement in his voice. Maybe he found humans funny.
"But... why?" Allistair had to ask. "Are you really Devin's...?" He looked up at the Faerie uncertainly.
"That's two separate questions," the man said, without rancor. "I shall answer the second one first. Yes, I am Devin's father, Eilan i'Rukath. I have many names, some of which have been known quite well to mortals... But you," and now his tone shifted to the disdain of the noble for the commoner, "may call me 'Lord Eilan'."
Something dangerous in his voice simply suppressed argument. Allistair merely nodded silently.
"As for your first question, well. I think the two of you danced a very tragic little dance, and I'd rather not see it end that way. Also, you may be useful to me."
That caught Allistair off guard. "Useful, sir?" It seemed quite natural to address Eilan respectfully; he had an aura of command about him. Interestingly, he realized that Devin had a similar trait, but the mage had never really wanted command of anything. Eilan, however, apparently expected to be obeyed.
"Mm." The Faerie was looking at him speculatively. "But it's going to take a bit of training, I think." He tilted his head. "Are you hungry?"
Allistair realized with surprise that he was hungry, truly mortally hungry. He thought about blood, and cringed — but it raised none of the evil thirst. "I am, actually," he said in wonder, "I really am."
Eilan smirked. "Devin's blood just isn't pure enough, but I believe you've had your cure."
The other man lay in stunned silence for a long moment. The irony! He had made Devin kill him for lack of a cure, and now the mage's father had both saved his life and given him freedom from his own body.
"When — when can I get back? I need to see Devin," the now former vampire stammered, trying to sit up.
"Oh, don't be hasty," Eilan said coolly, crossing
his arms. "I think you owe me a certain debt for your life,
hmm?" His eyes burned into Allistair's, not menacingly, exactly, but
again, Allistair lost all will to argue.
"Of... of course." He looked down, biting his lip. Eilan had a point, but... "Is there a way I can at least talk to him, sir?"
"No, I think not. I can't have your presence revealed; it would endanger my plans." At Allistair's crestfallen look, the Faerie smiled thinly. "You will need to learn patience, among other things, it seems. Don't be in such a hurry."
The mockery in his eyes made Allistair shudder slightly. He wanted to protest, but he didn't dare.
"After all," Eilan continued, ignoring the other man's reaction, "you've got all the time in the world now. You're a true immortal."
Ta-da, the true end. :D Of course, it seemed to have just as many beginnings as endings...