Behind me, the door of the office clicked shut. Captain Jack Cross, who had been staring at a “screen” and poking away at a button-covered board in front of him, looked up at the faint noise. His eyes widened as he saw me standing in the doorway, still holding my glass of water. I sensed his fear, which was quickly replaced by a strong anger. “Mr. Zagadactulus.”
-I understand you wished to ask me some questions, Captain.-
“Where is Robert?” he asked calmly. Really, his control over his emotions was quite good; I doubt many people would have noticed the undercurrent of rage in his voice. I wouldn’t have, if I wasn’t using my little trick.
-I don’t know a ‘Robert’ in this era.-
A look of impatience crossed Cross’ face — or possibly just his mind. It was hard for me to tell the difference. “Robert Brown. The officer who was with me when we ‘collected’ you. As I’m sure you could guess.”
-I do not bother to guess. The man you refer to, along with his companions, were excessively hostile. In order to expedite my own investigation, it was necessary to delay them.-
“You killed them?” Cross’ tone seemed almost conversational, but I couldn’t help but notice that his hand had dropped below the edge of his desk. I expected that he had a weapon, but I wasn’t too worried. In my mind I smiled as I swirled the water in my glass a bit.
-I did not kill them. They are unconscious, but unharmed.-
Cross’ eyes narrowed. “You understand that assaulting an officer of the law is itself a crime?”
Slightly regretting that I could not narrow my own eyes, I stepped forward toward his desk, ignoring the increasing tension that I felt from him. -I obey mortal law, Captain, when it is convenient for me to do so. When it conflicts with my duty, it is my duty that takes precedence. I have no obligation to let hostile persons attack me, even if the damage they can cause me is negligible. This is not sentiment, Captain; this is the direct order of my Lord.-
“You’re ‘Lord’ doesn’t rule this city,” said Cross, maintaining a calm appearance. “As long as you live here, you are subject to the same laws as everyone else.”
-I do not live here, Captain. I do not live at all.-
-Enough, Captain Jack Cross.- I placed my glass down upon his desk, and withdrew my influence from the water. At this point, I was bored with petty tricks. -If you have questions to ask, then ask them now. My work has started, for I have become aware of someone who may be attempting the forbidden paths, and I must go investigate to learn if that person is guilty of crimes against the Prime Death.-
“Again, this ‘Prime Death’ is not recognized as an authority in this city,” responded Cross firmly. “If you commit crimes against the citizens, we will arrest you, no matter what your justification is.”
I did not respond. After a few moments, Jack Cross realized I had nothing further to say, and switched topics. “Mr. Zagadactulus, do you know why you were pulled in for questioning a week ago?”
In my mind, I raised an eyebrow at this question. -According to you, yourself, I was identified as a ‘suspicious character’ by some common citizen, who then contacted your constabulary. I saw no reason to avoid you, as I had no current duty to pursue at that time, and so I acquiesced to your repetitious questions for a few moments.-
“You call a full week ‘a few moments?’” asked Cross skeptically.
-I have existed for centuries. A week is barely noticeable in comparison.-
“Right,” said Cross. “Well, one of the reasons we pulled you in, was because of that gun you were carrying. On the basis that suspicious characters openly carrying weapons can be a danger to society.”
-I see. And?-
“Now, we took that gun away from you, correct?” he asked. I did not respond, so he continued, “We even locked it up in a specially secure vault, since it seemed rather unusual. Now, we didn’t return the gun to you when you left, correct?” Again I remained silent. “And yet, not four hours later, I receive a report that you were implicated in a shootout at Cymphica Atri, a club owned by one of the most prominent undead in the city.”
I thought it was supposed to be a bar, I thought idly to myself. Well, I wasn’t too clear on the difference anyway.
“Furthermore,” continued Cross, “witnesses at the scene described the weapon that you were using, which happened to be exactly the same as the one we locked up earlier. Which, incidentally, had disappeared from the vault not long after you left, despite a rather thorough surveillance. And sure enough, when Robert and I found you yesterday, you were once again carrying that same gun.”
-Which you again attempted to remove from me,- I responded with a deliberate nod. Then, with a motion that was neither hurried nor slow, I drew Arkesis once more from her holster and placed her gently on the desk in front of Cross. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. It must have appeared to him that I had drawn a weapon out of nowhere, just to immediately disarm myself once again. -A fruitless endeavour. Arkesis is special, Captain.-
“What…! How…?” Captain Cross couldn’t seem to form a coherent sentence, but he quickly reached over to grab Arkesis. His eyes grew even wider when he realized he couldn’t lift it from his desk.
Whoops. It’s alright, please let him lift you up.
Cross nearly fell backwards when the unnaturally immobile gun suddenly became light in his hand. Some instinct must have gripped him, because he turned the barrel towards me and wrapped his finger around the trigger.
-It is no good, Captain Jack Cross. Arkesis should have never fallen to me, but now that she has, she will always be at my side. It is simply impossible to remove her. And she cannot be used against me.-
Almost reflexively, Cross’ finger tightened against the trigger; but as expected, Arkesis failed to fire. Cross pulled the trigger two more times, before lowering Arkesis back to his desk. “What…is this thing?” he asked slowly, with an undercurrent of dread. Obviously, he had felt my weapon’s rejection.
-She is the legacy of a goddess. Arkesis, the God-Rending Blade. The Sword of Death Awaiting. Created by a goddess, in order to seek death for herself. Strictly speaking, Arkesis is older than I am.-
Cross blinked. He obviously wasn’t prepared for an encounter with the work of a god. “Aren’t you a thousand years old? How could a gun exist that far in the past?”
-She was called the God-Rending Blade, Captain. Her appearance is not fixed, but changes to fit the user, and the era. About two hundred years ago, she became a gun.- Actually, she had become a rifle at first, but had soon shifted into a smaller, but more dangerous, form. Before that, she had been a halberd, and a spear before that; I had always preferred pole arms. But this was truly an era of firearms, and so a pistol she remained. Perhaps she would become something else in the future; who could say?
Certainly not Captain Cross, who was visibly forcing himself to calm down. He had laid Arkesis back down on the desk, and was glaring at her fiercely, before transferring that glare up to me. -Did you have any further questions, Captain?-
Cross finally mastered himself, forcing his emotions away from his face; I applauded slightly on the inside, in recognition of his strong will. “Yeah, I have another question. Why is the Council protecting you?”
-A strange question. They are not, of course.-
“Oh, really. Then why do I have orders to let you go, and look the other way while you rampage around my city?” Cross perhaps could not help the frustration in his voice, and he looked at me with challenging eyes.
-Ah, that’s a simple matter. It is because you and your organization are useful, Captain.-
“What does that mean?” Cross asked sharply.
-You are aware that I am acquainted with Councillor Rednacht, correct? Although he is a wretched undead lich, he is careful and moderate in his dealings, and so I have never been forced to eliminate him. He has no doubt informed the Council about my duty and methods, and they are wisely deciding to protect you, their ‘policemen’, from being eliminated by me in the most expedient way: by not getting in my way in the first place.-
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Cross said flatly.
-I do not joke, Captain.-
“Do you know how many policemen there are in this huge city?” he demanded. “We could overwhelm you with numbers alone!”
I raised my hand to my face, and removed the lenses from my eyes, revealing their deathly blue glow. Cross turned white, and pushed his chair away from his desk, away from me, and into the wall behind him. His hand clutched at his side for a sidearm that wasn’t in it’s holster.
-No, Captain, you could not.- I reached into the pocket of my jacket, and pulled out another necrotic core. -I have no further time to waste, Captain Jack Cross. I encourage you to listen to your Council. They have your best interests at heart.-
I crush the core in my hand, and quickly shape the resulting energy to my will. With an audible ripping sound, the space next to me warped and tore, creating a magical rift. It would provide safe passage to another place in the city. Well, safe passage as long as one was not currently alive, I suppose.
-Farewell. Once my work is finished, we will speak again,- I told him. I placed my lenses back over my eyes, and stepped through the magical rift.
Magic is unreliable.
Even at its best, when the gods are close, you can never be sure that the power you call will do what you expect it to. Magic has its own rules, not all of which are immediately clear. This is true, even when you are casting your spell with necrotic energy, instead of the mana energy of life.
Case in point. I had intended the rift that I formed to exit out into my old office, back in the dead zone. If Cross and his policemen decided to be hostile with me, I would have an easier time avoiding them by moving through the dead sector of the city. I honestly didn’t want to have to kill them, after all; they had an important job to do, keeping the mortals in line.
But the magic did not place me in my office. Instead, it sent me to the place I most wanted to avoid. Somehow, it felt inevitable.
Honestly, the view was beautiful. I stood atop a six-story building with wide, flat roof, standing near the very edge of the city. Behind me, buildings rose majestically, imposingly, against the sky; but I looked the other way, out over a long, rolling plain, interrupted many miles away by a dark forest. Above the treeline, the sun was starting to rise, just like it had been on that day. Nearly a century now, I suppose.
I was standing where she had stood, facing the rising sun. She had known I was coming, and yet she had waited here. I remembered her hair, shining silver, as she looked out over the world, and I wonder how she had felt at that time. Sadness? Regret? Frustration? I would never know.
It wasn’t her fault, really. Nor was it mine. Not my Lord’s, and not the god’s. We were all … what we were, and therefore I came that day to kill her.
I heard a sound behind me, a sudden drawn breath. I turned slowly to look toward the place I had stood at that time, and I saw silver hair and black eyes —
Short black hair. Hazel eyes. A face I recognized, from the pictures contained in Metria’s report, but also from my own recent memories, of waking up in my old office. Because this girl had disturbed my rest.
I suddenly wished I could greet her with my own voice, instead of the parody I use for speech. But that would be impossible, so I set the desire aside, and spoke.
-Good morning. Miss Irene Bellvaunt. There is work to be done.-
- I lost my notebook with the character notes, which slowed me down. Specifically, I wasn’t sure if Councillor Rednacht was originally supposed to be the lich or the vampire… Well, he’s a lich for now. I’ll let you know if he get’s retconned into vampire-dom. If I can find my damn notes… 😡
- Sudden backstory! Sudden character reintroduction! And next time…sudden POV change! 😀
- I like titles that can have more than one meaning. Keep that in mind. 😉