Timeline: November 29th, 2008
Ramiel knocked on the door to Ariah’s, his expression a somber one.
A bird suddenly exploded into flight and cooing as it went. It had startled Ramiel enough to capture his attention. He watched the startled dove fly away.
The door was open. “Ramiel?”
Ariyah’s voice snared his attention. She was standing in bare feet, wearing cutoff jeans and a shapeless sweatshirt. “Good timing,” she said with a smile. “I was just heading out back to do a little gardening and lay down some hay to protect my annuals from winter frost. I might not have heard your knock in a few minutes. Come on in.”
Ramiel remembered that Ariyah liked to do her gardening shoeless. She ended up with dirty feet and often tracked dirt and mud into the house later, but she always said it was worth it because she always felt so much closer to her living plants and her hallow when tending them.
A small smile crept onto his face, as he entered her house he removed his shoes and socks. He also took off his jacket to reveal that he to was wearing an old sweatshirt. Upon looking Ariah noted that he looked terrible, and as he pulled his hair back into a pony tail she saw fresh scars across the palms of his hands. “Four hands are better than two in the garden,”
She nodded, accepting his offer of help. But she raised an eyebrow at the condition of his hands. “Looks like you’ve had some work done to your hands — painful work. Come on. I’ll find some gloves for you.”
On the way out the back, she removed a few gardening hand tool as well as a couple pairs of soft but tough gloves. She used one pair but offered the other to Ramiel.
“Yeah, you know me. I’m just thankful for John,” he said sliding the gloves on.
Ariyah looked at his hands a moment and he noticed a tingle of magic sweep through his body. She smiled and said, “You should be. He does good work.”
They went outside and Ramiel got to appreciate just how good a job John did do for his hands. Despite the new scars, he had no trouble helping Ariyah heft bales of hey, break them, and spread over the garden. When they were done, they brushed each other off and headed back inside.
“Chilly out there,” she remarked. “I’m going to put a kettle on. Would you like some tea?”
“That sounds good, yes please.” Ramiel took care in cleaning his feet off as well as Ariyah before entering the house.
He watched Ariyah set the kettle on the stove and he retrieved two tea cups from the cabinet. “Do you have any cream?”
“Of course I do,” she said with a smile. She removed a small container and set it on the table before him. They waited while the water heated.
What would it have been like to see her holding our baby, our daughter. The image flashed through his mind again, blood soaked and stabbing him repeatedly and the joy in her eyes. He winced in pain at the image. “Serena.” He whispered as he played with the cream, filling a spoon and letting it sift slowly back into the container.
He looked up to hear Ariyah laugh. She was holding the steaming kettle in which she had only just not put a pair of tea bags. “Hey daydreamer. You going to wait for the tea, or do you want the cream straight up?”
A soft and distant half hearted laugh echoed hers. “I’ll wait for the tea.” He said laying the spoon on the table. “Were you able to find out anything about what we discussed on the phone the yesterday?”
“Well, it’s going to sound a bit silly. But I teamed up with Alice and, well… the only thing we could come up with was the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There are several notations in both theological and occult lore about them and they seem to line up color-wise, and according to the level of power you suspect them to have. On the other hand, they could just as easily be things born of Mankind’s nightmares. Or maybe that’s the same thing.”
Again he winced in pain. “Do you believe in the Apocalypse?”
“I believe in an apocalypse is possible in a remote sort of way. I believe there was essentially an apocalypse back when Atlantis fell. Why?”
He silently looked at his mug. “Say Ariyah do you by chance know a master of the Forces Arcana?” Ramiel was never very good at lying, though he had enough practice at it to be a master. Usually though he didn’t care enough for it to matter if the other person knew he was lying or not. It was different with Ariyah. How do you tell someone you think you sired the bringer of the Apocalypse?
“Hm? Sure I do. But first you have to answer my question.” Like a blood hound, she was difficult to shake off once she scented something.
Ramiel sighed. “If I told you I had a vision would you believe me?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a smile. “If you had a vision, what would it be like?”
“Not what I was hoping for, not in this case.” He stirred the creamer around in his tea as she poured the hot water into his mug. “It was more of a nightmare. “
Ramiel looked in her eyes, his voice came out soft and neutral . “I have done bad things in my life. Many times I have simply walked away and not cared. There are a lot of things that I don’ believe in or have never bothered with.
“The one thing that I did not want to fail at was saving her, and now I can’ find her, and I know the longer she is with them, the more likely my vision will become reality.”
“Who are you talking about?” asked Ariyah.
Ramiel stopped stirring his tea. “Can we change the subject to magic?” he asked in a quiet voice.
“I guess. It’s your subject,” she pointed out.
“I just don’t want an argument right now, and if we stay on this subject that is were it may lead.” He sipped his tea.
She shrugged. He’d begun the subject after all. What did she care if he decided he didn’t want to talk about it in the middle?
“So, would you be able to help me arrange some training with a forces master?” he asked.
“I could tell you who you need to see. There’s a man named Shining Temple of the Ancients. Pretty high up in our order, the Mysterium. Anyway, he lives over in Portland. He might be able to provide some training for you. He’s likely to ask something in return, though.”
“Nothing is without a price in this world. Thank you for telling me, I can make a trip out there to see if he would be willing to train me.” Ramiel quietly drank his tea.
She went to the kitchen counter and found pad of paper and pen in a drawer. She wrote down a number for him. “This number is just for a voice mail box. He checks it from other phones, I would guess. Usually he gets a message in a few minutes and calls whatever number you leave there. Just tell him Ariyah recommended you talk to him and he’ll talk. If you bring him a gift of some kind like I mentioned, then I’d say your chances of getting some training with him are practically guaranteed.”
“Did I space out on the gift? What kind of gift?” he asked.
“Oh, sorry,” she said with a smile and shake of her head. “I meant to say that Shining Temple has a real passion for artifacts, lost knowledge, things like that. He’s a real paragon of the Mysterium in the sense that he is a true seeker of knowledge through and through. Present him with something he hasn’t seen before and you are really going to be ‘in’ with him.”
“Well I may need to get Lyla’s help on that. She is really good at acquiring rare things.” He leaned back in his chair. “Not to pick a fight, but did you ever ask your gran about what I told you before I left six months ago?”
“Yes.” Her tone hadn’t changed, but she certainly didn’t seem interested in telling him about her conversation. “I’d rather talk to you about something else.”
Ariyah didn’t give him a chance to object. “My grandmother and I are a little concerned about Lyla. I just seems like she’s making more money than you’d expect from running a small bar in a small town well off the beaten path. Not that it’s our business. It’s just that grandmother is really… protective of the town. She doesn’t want the character of the place to change. And she certainly doesn’t want to see trouble finding its way here. We’ve had enough of that in the past couple years. Personally, I’m with my sister on this; Tara and I feel it’s none of our business. But you know my gran. She finds it difficult not to play grandmother to everyone in town.”
He frowned at her comments. “You are right it is none of your business, and Gran can not help herself. Whatever she is doing she is a big girl, and does not want trouble here as much as you or I do. I am sure that she is taking all the necessary precautions.”
“Whatever it is,” Ariyah said, “let’s hope it stays not our business, then. But if not, please remember Tara is an expensive but excellent lawyer. There are few legal problems that sometimes happens as the result of a rapid accumulation of wealth that she can’t solve. If it happens to come up, you can tell her that.”
“I will,” he said.
“Ariyah, I know you said you don’t want to talk about it, but I need to tell you something. You can believe me or not, care about or don’t. I just need to say it.” He paused to see if she was going to interject, seeing that she didn’t, he continued.
“We found an item, a theoretically biblical item. One that caused us to be pursued by the men in the expensive and colorful suites.
“It was a wheel off some chariot, and whatever the story is it is supposed to have the power of prophecy. The suits showed up at my house right after you called to warn me. I managed to activate the thing thanks to Lyla and John, it sent me around the world, and then, I used it to it’s full potential.
“I wanted to find Serena, I want to save her bring her home. What it showed me,” he lowered his head unable to look at her. “I can not let her pay for my life, for my choices. I can’t let what I saw come to pass. I am the monster, I’ll be the demon if it will spare my daughter.”
Ariyah set her tea cup down and moved to the same side of the table Ramiel was one. She put an arm around his slumped shoulders and said gently, “You could never really be a monster. Monsters don’t care for their children, or what becomes of them. You do. You’d do anything and risk your own soul for her and that makes you more human than… well more human than lots of people I know. Never a monster.
“Ramiel, whatever you saw you have to first consider the source. If the four horsemen of the apocalypse are guardians of this thing, then that thing is going to be the focus for the most extreme kinds of nightmare vision of the end of things. Anything touched by something born of nightmares, such as those horsemen surely must be, assuming it really can grant a vision of the future, can only be the most grim of all possible futures.
“And this is where we have real hope. What you saw must not have yet come to pass, and if that is true, then the future can still be shaped.” She smiled and touched his chin to get him to look at her, to see the faith in her eyes. “I could never believe any child born of us could, when all is said and done, be a creature truly lost to darkness. There is always hope.”
He put his head on her shoulder and pulled her close to him, embracing her against him for the comfort. She said our child, she believes.
“I know you may never forgive me Ariyah, I’m so sorry. We thought it best, to see you as you were,what they did to you. It’s my fault, it is all because of me and I don’t know why. They have Serena and she is being raised to kill me. I saw the end of the world, true. But more than that I saw her drenched in my blood, and laughing. I will not let her become like me, I can’t let her become the demon because I tried not to.” He held onto Ariyah. “I want to bring her back to you.”
“I believe you will,” she said. She looked into his face, his eyes. “But I need you to promise me something. Never sell your soul to do it. Little girls will grow up wanting to just like their daddies. One day she will know her father. Be sure that is a person you’d want her to know, because if she sees her daddy become a monster, I fear she will follow.”
She smiled at him and gave him a little shake. “So. No more talk of turning into a monster or demon, okay? For our daughter’s sake.”
He didn’t know what to tell her. I think that my father may really be a demon, or my mother was. There is this demonic side to me and I can see it in our daughters eyes, my eyes, Lyla’s. I’ve already become the monster and damn near the demon. I kill and don have regret, I only want her to have a normal life with you away from my nightmares.
I have to save her Ariyah i have to bring her back to you, if I don’t I have to kill her. I have to kill our baby, our daughter, Serena.
Tears glistened from his eyes.
She rubbed his shoulders and then turned away, her own thoughts turning inward.
Ramiel stood and kissed the top of Ariyah’s head. “I should go, thank you for the name and number, and for what it is worth, I’m sorry.”