Timeline: April 22nd, 2008
A change of speed, a change of style.
A change of scene, with no regrets,
A chance to watch, admire the distance,
Still occupied, though you forget.
The colors and shades of sundrenched plains echoed vividly in her memory. The last few days had been glorious, despite pain and frustration. The spiritual reasons for their journey here concluded, Ann-Marie stood on the hill, many yards from the hotel, watching the night sky and knowing it was all she would ever have. She had asked for Ramiel to meet her here, and she waited patiently for the inevitable.
Ramiel had watched her from the porch of the hotel.Though he could not fathom the impact, he knew what was going through her mind. He knew how it must torture her to walk in the sun and leave it behind again. Would it make any difference if she knew how the night sky favors her, he wondered as he walked up beside her.
“We sometimes mourn our choices don’t we.” He spoke gently in tones that Anne Marie had never heard from him.
Softly she spoke, “We do. It’s a challenge the goddess puts to us. We mourn, but in the end, it seems choices are all we are.”
“Let us hope not.” He said. “You wanted to see me?”
She looked at the ring on her finger and looked up at him, “You wished to have this back. I am fulfilling my word.” She seemed calm and resolute and behind her words was perhaps the hint of emotion, yet in her eyes an ocean of regret and unfathomable pain. Something her eyes could not hide.
“You do understand why I must take it back?”
“It was made clear to me when you gave it. You don’t trust me,” she replied.
“Hmm.” He considered his words caredully. “The test for that is to see if you return the ring. The reason it must be returned is that it will cause more problems down the road. What would happen if others of your kind found out about it? Would they destroy you to get it? Would they come after Michael and I thinking we could make such things? Wars could be fought over something like this I think.”
“It may or may not. It has quite the down side most of my kin wouldn’t wish to expose themselves to. I for one have an appreciation for the beauty and freedom it affords me, not the power. But it doesn’t matter the reasons really. I gave my word that I would return it. So I will. My desires do not come into this. As far as the danger to you, me, or Michael; I know of its existence, if I harbored any ill will toward you, that would be enough to start a war for it, should there be anyone foolish enough to do so. Whether I have the ring or not, the odds of anyone knowing are exactly the same.”
She added, “I do want it though, despite all risks.”
“This is where we see if I can truly trust you. If you return the ring and tell no one of it.” His head tilted back he could see the vast sky above him, knowing that it was merely a spec if existence that once was.
“But I can not give you this gift Anne. Yet it is so curious that for all the pain in your eyes, all that sorrow you have felt you wish to keep it. Was it not your choice to leave the sun?”
“No,” she replied.
“I see. Yet in all this time you have not adjusted?” His words were question and nothing else.
She held in a bit of primal rage at such an statement, taking the question for what it was, curiosity. “You never truly adjust. But worse still is to have the glory of the forbidden sun gifted to you and then taken away. I know that was not your intent, but a void that once was forgotten has been realized once more. It is cruel.”
“That changes nothing.” He said in his best neutral voice. “The choice was yours. You have been given a gift most of your kind never get to experience for over a week now. Can that not be enough?”
“I suppose it will have to be.” She took off the ring. “My word is my bond and I will not break it. I swore to the goddess I would give it to you, so please take it.” She holds it out for him.
Taking the ring from her he spoke. “In this moment you no doubt hate me.”
“Hate isn’t exactly the right word.” She replied coolly. Not cold, as if she was reserving her emotions.
“Then what words would be right?” He asked.
“Do you really want to know how I feel, or is this simple curiosity?” she quietly replied keeping herself in calm check.
He turned his attention to her. “If I did not want to know I would not have asked.”
“I don’t hate you,” she said, “such feelings would serve no purpose. I do feel used, that what you gave me was merely an experiment on your part to test me, test the ring, serve your purposes and that’s all. Now that your purposes are done you take it and for you everything is fine. It is not.”
“I think there is a misunderstanding here.” He slipped the ring back into the leather pouch and tucked it into his pocket. “I gained nothing from this but trouble. What would have benefitted myself and Michael was to leave it where it was unknown to anyone. The reason I chose to argue with my best friend and offer you the opportunity was to help out Chaska. We needed your help on this one, as I am sure will happen in the future.”
He watched her for a moment. “I don’t know why you chose to help out Chaska, but you had made that choice before I offered the ring. In the last fight you opened yourself for attack to help me, in return I nearly died to take part of a killing strike to you. Well at least it looked that way from my POV. In my book that made us even, however you did not have a vantage point to see what I did, so this gesture,” He patted the ring in his pocket, “makes us even from your POV. That is why I did it, to help out Chaska and to square things between us. It was in no way a little undertaking on my part to expose the nature of this ring.”
“Sorry to tell you but if it were done as an experiment I would have never warned you it might not work, that would have tainted the results. But you are right everything is fine for me, except the small fact that I have placed my trust in you not to tell about this ring and send others looking for it or me. Just so you know, I can destroy this thing from anywhere and at anytime.” He paused for a moment. “Maybe I should do that anyway, if it is going to be so much trouble. I can simply destroy it now.”
“Don’t. Please. For me, such a thing would be wonderful to have and use. A joy, giving me a semblance of normality. To simply be willing to destroy such a thing for no reason other than inconvenience shows me the type of person you really seem to be. I hope I’m wrong. Obviously Lyla sees more in you, and I’ve come to trust her. You know I have, without asking much of anything, been willing to put myself at risk for you and yours when I could have easily said no. Such as this thing for Chaska. I give and you fear that generosity, feel that I have some hidden agenda. I don’t have any agenda that would concern you. And yes, I would like the ring, but there are limits to what I will do to get it.”
Ramiel closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, letting it out slowly. “You are a vampire Anne, you are shrouded in the dark of night. Not the warmth of the sun.” He inhaled again to keep his temper in check and remain a neutral tone as he spoke. “Yes I would destroy this ring over what it would cause. A war is no small inconvienence. As for what kind of person I truly am, well, think what you like. I don’t care.”
“You have managed somehow to take a simple act of kindness and twist it into what you perceive as a joke intended to torture you. A pity that you have spent so much time mourning a gift and twisting it into some personal plot of mine. I have no fear of you or your kind. I am nearly a Master of Forces. The only thing that concerns me with you is where your loyalty will be if it came down to us or other vampires.”
“There is no need for posturing”, she whispered. Speaking up a bit, “I appreciate the gift. I do. Yet, it’s impact is so very strong. You really can’t understand what it has done for me. Probably, I should never have taken it, knowing it only would be taken back again. But I don’t regret the experience. My feelings are so very complicated on this.”
“As far as my loyalty, loyalty to what? To you?” she said.
He laughed. “To those who call you friend. Those who depend on you. If next time it ends up being a vampire and not some kids, who would you side with? If it came down to destryoing a vampire to save a human, what choice would you make?
“The last time we ended up in such a delicate position you were not willing to wait or work with us to take the necesssary steps. You were very adamant to your point and position in this that vampires had been wronged and nothing else mattered. The events that happened could have been different if things had worked out differently between us. If you could have seen to give us time to do what we needed, if things had not be so rushed…” He cut himself off.
“I am not placing blame, merely giving an example.”
She answered respectfully, knowing the pain of the situation, “I’m so sorry for that. I was asked to save them, by someone dear to me, like a… mother. It needed to be done, or worse would follow. Waiting…would have brought dark and terrible things to Eldon well. Things that all should fear, despite one’s own power. But that was avoided. Thanks to all of you.”
She paused continuing, “I am Kindred. My beliefs and my goddess come first. Like the Pack are loyal to themselves first. I respect that and completely understand it. Ironclaw understands my beliefs and my duties. I am loyal to my friends as well, as I have repeatedly demonstrated. I can’t answer for what-ifs, but I don’t believe in destroying any life unless it is necessary. Sometimes it is.”
“But it is the ‘what ifs’ that we have to be ready for. Say this someone who’s like a mother to you asked you to kill me, or John, or Jesse who is not what your kind would like her to be? What then, where does the loyalty go?” He pushed his hands into his pockets.
“It is rhetorical really, since there is no way of knowing until that tragic moment of choice. When things begin to happen that can not be taken back. Is there anything else here?”
“Yes,” she answered, “Is there any way I can convince you to lend me the ring indefinitely? Perhaps in that way you can learn to trust me, and I can learn to trust you. It is my wish that we be friends instead of being so confrontational each time we talk.”
“You are willing to risk war for this?” Though the answer was in her eyes. “If that is the case I am not the only one that you will need to convince. You will need to speak to Michael as well.”
“Risk war? No, the risk is the same whether I wear it or not. I know of its existence. I am used to being discrete, as I have been with all of you. If another kindred learned of it, which I find highly unlikely given my unique circumstances, then I would simply destroy it. How many kindred would ever witness me should I use it? None. And in truth, using the ring limits a Kindred mightily. Weakens them. But for me, the beauty it opens up taps at something in me I haven’t felt before. One doesn’t appreciate the simple gracefulness of wind on a green hill on a sunny day until you are denied it for half a century. That is why I desire it. But I cannot convince Michael unless you believe it is for the best. If you don’t then there is no point of asking him. Perhaps you should talk to Johnny or Lyla. They know my character. Perhaps talk to Ironclaw, you trust his judgment. Lyla untied me immediately that day in Concord because she knew my character. Trust works both ways. I have demonstrated my trust and faith in all of you. I have told you where my heart lies. Perhaps you could find it in your heart to give some trust to me. Have I not earned it?”
“I let you use the ring. That should answer that question. I will speak with the others on it, until tomorrow night then.” With that Ramiel left the hill and returned to his room.
“Thank you,” she said.