This is it, the penultimate chapter of the novella, and one of the hardest ones to write. Diu truly became his own character at the end and I never expected these actions to come from it. It remains one of my favorite chapters, and when I wrote the final words of it, I knew that this was where it was ending, even though I had other chapters planned. I hope you enjoy it.
CHAPTER NINE: THE DENOUEMENT
Who was he?
Did it even matter?
He remembered fire, ashes, pain, then nothing.
No pain. No suffering.
No joy, no hate.
Slowly, pieces returned. It could have been seconds or centuries.
Time had no meaning.
He simply was.
Nothingness suddenly turned to everything. Or was it that everything was actually nothing?
Memories of a night seeped through his mind, into his awareness until he remembered who he was enough to understand what had happened.
He was dead.
Strangely, no peace came with that thought. No panic came with it either.
He remembered floating away in the wind as his body was consumed by fire into ash as a stake plunged through his body. There was a brief moment of regret when he recalled the face of…of someone after the attack had been done. But he couldn’t recognize the face at all.
Ahead of him—around him, in him, was he in it—was light. There were voices, but they were still too faint to make out. He tried to turn and as he did, more memories came rushing back to him. His name, what he was doing when he died, the parking lot and the alley. Still, the face that held the haunted look that was his last memory of life held no true meaning to him as he sifted through new knowledge.
It was said that all answers came in death. If that was the case, then why was he still confused and unsure of what had happened. No, there had to be something that he was missing.
James thought back again as he continued to float—was he flying or floating—along out of time and space. It felt more like flying than anything, and the memory of having wings came back to him as well. With a stretch, the wings returned to their place on his back, though they weren’t the same color that he thought they were before. More grey than black, and they had a shimmer to them that made them nearly impossible to see when the light hit just right. He looked like he was part angel, but that was impossible. Angels were—
A blast of fire seemed to ricochet through him and he curled up in sudden pain. His memory was bombarded with images, sounds, smells and brief flashes of barely recollected moments as he forced himself to make sense of them all.
He painted a picture with them, taking a voice from here and a scene from there as he continued to fly in the nothingness. It was like building a puzzle with no picture, slow going, but possible to do. And he had all the time in the world to work on it. Slowly, the image he was building took shape, the memory of a life lived and a second chance nearly wasted. There were a few pieces missing when he had thought he had finished, but there weren’t any remaining in his hand or head. James stared at it, intent on having it make sense before he continued on his way.
The pain shot through his body again and he remembered.
Drinking the blood of an angel that was freely given what seemed a lifetime ago—and maybe it was.
Angel blood. Blood that was still within him and kept him from fully dying when he thought that he was gone in a flurry of glowing ashes. Blood that kept his memory safe, his soul intact. James turned around, looking behind him for the first time. The parking lot was there before him as he floated above it. Diu, a devilish, yet gentlemanly smile on his face, stood in front of Anahita, before Brigett, knife in hand. She was on the ground, on her knees, forced to kneel before him by others of his once family as they held her there, immobile.
Angel blood spilt on the ground as Diu’s knife bit into her neck and all James could do was watch.
But blood called to blood, and James found himself drawn closer until he was touching Brigett’s back with a hand, comforting her. She stared up at him, eyes losing the light that had once shone bright in them, and smiled. “Do not weep, James,” she told him quietly. How she was able to speak with her throat slit was a wonder to him, but it was a wonder he did not question.
“How can I not,” he questioned. He took her hand in his and squeezed.
“Belief,” she answered. “Belief that this is not the end. That we are not finished. Do you believe me? Do you believe we can still win this?”
Kissing her hand, he rose from his place beside her, taking her forgotten sword with him. “Yes.”
The single word pierced the night air. Anahita died as Diu turned around. Shock, disbelief, emotions with no names rushed across his face and across those who still remained with him. “You are dead!” he yelled at James, his calm exterior coming undone at the sight of something which had no explanation. “I killed you myself!”
“Creation rises once more,” he found himself saying, unsure of where the words came from. “Blood keeps me here longer than I should be. Blood, freely given out of love from an angel who meant to save me.” James grinned a boyish grin. “Didn’t she tell you, Diu? This was never about you.” He cast Anahita’s sword to the side, away from him. It clattered to the ground and stopped skidding at the feet of a very small red-headed vampire. “Emaline, will you come with me?”
A small hand placed in his outstretched one in some of the last moments before a sunrise the Court didn’t realize was so near.
“Yes,” she told him. Her small voice carried weight that was impossible to measure in the false dawn. One word, but it spoke of promises and love and death and life.
James walked to Anahita’s fallen body and took it in his arms. Cradled to his chest with one, he raised the other in a mockery of a benediction towards what remained of Diu and his Court. “Rest now. Rest, eternally.”
He took Emaline’s hand in his once more and unfolded wings. The sunlight crested over the nearby hills and struck them, snow white against the black pavement. A burst of them, and the three of them took flight. Above was the new day’s sun, blue sky and, James hoped, a place where they might rest.
Below him, James caught sight of Diu darting around in an attempt to find a shadow that he might hide in. In the empty parking lot, the Court that had once been as family bursted into flames at the sun touched them. And the man who had once been as his father found no safe place to name as refuge. He saw Diu close his eyes and hold his arms out to his sides as he greeted the new day.
The elder vampire felt the sun’s rays hit him for the first time in three centuries. With his last actions, he uttered old words he had grown up with, forced himself to forget because they made him weak, but still remembered. “Kyrie eleison,” James heard him murmur, and watched as Diu crossed himself even as he turned to ash.