A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 02byTaLtos6©
*** To remind the readers who may not have seen the prologue, the world has gone through some extraordinary changes in the last 400 years to this point. There are people around, but none of them drive fancy cars, and the richest might own an oxcart or two. There are other creatures too and that brings about interactions between them all. Some of them don't even know what they are underneath, but for those who do, finding somebody for yourself is often a huge issue. These two are on a mountain with no one around for miles and it's days to walk to the nearest town. They've got a dead and broken family, a history that can't be changed, and a seven year-old reason to make it work. It's like that because I needed them to have this history, that's all. O_o
Book of the Mountain Clan, Part 1
The former province of British Columbia
He walked across the room and knelt by the bed. Rachel put her uninjured arm around his neck and wept as he held her head against his and gently stroked her white-blonde hair for a few moments, just breathing her in and hoping that his heart wouldn't explode. She was burning up with fever. He tried to speak to her when he thought that he might have it together.
"What happened to your arm?"
"I was skinning a doe that I'd hung, and a bear showed up," she sobbed, "I guess I didn't get away fast enough for him. I lightning-ed him, but they've got tiny minds. I did my best but it got infected. I never was much good at casting on myself. Why did you come?"
"Doesn't matter," he said, "You need to rest, and your boy and I have a lot of work to do in a hurry if you're gonna get better. What's his name?"
She lifted her head and looked into his green eyes, trying to wipe her tears with her blankets. "He answers to 'Jesse'."
Azrael looked at her for a moment, "I understand. What's his name?"
He saw her look down for a second. As her eyes came up to meet his, she said, "Sariel, his name is Sariel."
He didn't know why it took him by surprise, but then he guessed that it really shouldn't have. "Alright," he looked at the boy who quite obviously didn't know where to look for the moment since his mother had given up the name that she said was never to be told to strangers, "Sariel, I'd like for you to get some clean towels if you know where there are some, and some soap. Your mom needs a cool bath to get her temperature down. I'm gonna need for you to be a big boy for the next little while, ok?"
The boy nodded, and Rachel protested that the old water pump which drew water up the hillside from the stream hadn't worked for years, but Azrael just brushed her objections aside with a smile and walked out of the room.
Sariel walked to his mother's side, "I saw him down the hill and he was coming up. He was washing in the stream, and I know I'm not s'posed to talk to strangers. I thought he could help. I'm sorry if I did something wrong."
Rachel smiled, "You didn't do anything wrong, Baby. You brought the only man who can maybe help me. I can't be mad at you for that. Can you help me get these bandages off?"
Sariel nodded and began to do his best. "You know him, don't you?"
Rachel nodded, "I haven't seen him since before you were born, and there was a long time when I thought that I never wanted to see him again because we used to have these huge fights before I left.
Well, "she smiled weakly after a moment, "I used to have huge fights AT him, trying to get him to see things my way back then. It doesn't matter anymore. I guess. The fact is that he's here and we need him. He's a whole lot late, but he's here. I actually might get better now -- I hope."
"Who is he?" the boy asked as her unwrapped the last of the bandages, "What's his name?"
Rachel sighed in weariness as she laid her head back onto the pillows that her son had pulled up for her. "It's a long story and I can't tell you everything yet," she said, "not until we see if I'm going to make it. You were right to get him. I wasn't getting any better, Sariel. I was just trying to put a good face on it. But I hope I'll be ok soon. I feel a lot better just seeing him again.
You've been doing a wonderful job nursing me, but you're still only a little boy. There's some things that I know that he can do to help with my arm. For now, the most important thing for you to know -- since you asked, is that his name is Azrael Wannamaker."
The boy's eyes opened wide and he stared at his mother while his jaw began to drop.
"I know," she smiled, "I told you that name so that you'd know. I never thought that you'd ever meet him back then.
He's your father."
It turned into a long day of many surprises for Sariel. He watched as this stranger who he was related to worked over a well-rusted lump at the back of the building. He didn't even know what it was, but after about a half an hour, the man stood up and with some strange words, the thing began to hum loudly for a few seconds. The man added more water into a pipe from a plastic canister and then the machine hummed again and water began to run from a pipe before Azrael closed a valve. The boy walked behind him inside the house, and in another few minutes, rusty water flowed out of a fixture into the old bathtub. When it ran clear, Azrael plugged the drain and they stood watching it fill.
"What's it for?" Sariel asked.
"It's so that you don't have to wash in the stream," Azrael laughed, walking to Rachel's bedroom.
"I don't know if getting you into that tub will be a problem for him," he said to Rachel with a little concern.
"He's seen his old mother naked before," she smirked, "I'd have thought that you'd know me better than that, Azrael. I'm raising my kid here for a lot of reasons. For one thing, we're part demon, aren't we? They'd hunt us and kill us if they knew. So I had to find a safe place to have my child and raise him without feeling as though I'm always holding my breath in fear and worry that we'd be found out.
From what I see when I go there, I swear that all those people do is watch each other for something to tattle to the reverend about. They must burn one of their neighbors about every other week as a heretic.
That's no way for a kid to grow up. We had enough trouble ourselves, didn't we? It's just as lonely as it ever was here, but there are benefits. One of them is that he can grow up and not be like the idiots in the town. I won't have him turning into one of them and losing consciousness if a woman so much as lifts the hem of her dress to get a pebble out of her shoe."
He helped her out of the bed carefully and carried her to the bath.
"I thought you said that that the water was going to be cool," she grimaced, "this feels like you just hauled it out of the stream."
"It is cool," he smiled, "it's actually lukewarm. Ask Sariel if you don't believe me."
"I know," she said, "I'm just complaining. It's the fever that makes me wonder why I don't hear the chunks of ice rattling around against the sides. Now you men just leave me be a little while. I'll call you when I'm ready to get out." Azrael nodded and went to change the bedding.
Azrael lit the stove and boiled a huge pot of water. That was for the laundry. Another pot was to boil the dressings once they'd been washed. Sariel asked to help and they hung the clothes and the bandages out to dry together. While Sariel found some vegetables out in the garden in the meadow, Azrael found his old bow.
"Mom never lets me watch while she does this," the boy commented as his father dressed out the mountain hares that he'd shot. It amazed him how quickly he went. It was as astounding as how fast he'd gotten them too. He never missed. He only raised the bow and they had a rabbit.
"It's not pretty," Azrael said, "but I'm sure that she'd teach you this one day anyway. It's something that you need to learn sooner or later. I need to get some meat into her, and rabbit is pretty mild. You can't even live on it all by itself, since there's not enough in the meat to keep you fed, no matter how many you eat. You can starve to death eating rabbit until you can't move. A deer would be better, but I'm in a hurry and she doesn't need something heavy like that. These'll make a nice stew though, with those carrots and the other greens you brought from the garden. And this way, there'll be a few less hares to eat what you grow before you have a chance to eat it."
"How do you shoot them so quick?" the boy asked.
"You don't get many chances for a second arrow," Azrael chuckled, "once they know someone's hunting them, they disappear. You need to be quick if you want one."
While the stew cooked, Sariel watched from the doorway as Azrael knelt on the floor by the bed. He saw little to indicate that anything was going on, but he heard his father mutter quietly, pausing here and there for a few seconds. It was during those moments that the boy felt himself feeling better strangely.
But perhaps the biggest surprise to Sariel the whole day was the way that his mother's face looked as she lay there with her eyes closed. She looked completely rested and asleep. It was like looking at her before she'd been hurt. When Azrael stood up, she reached for him with the arm which had been so hurt and swollen an angry color of red before. It looked almost completely better. He bent down and kissed Rachel's forehead standing up with a smile.
Before she could speak, he shushed her, "You just rest, Rachel. I'll send my executive assistant to come for you when it's time to eat."
"Come on, Sariel," he said laying his hand on the boy's shoulder, "Your mom needs to sleep, and I know you need to ask me a thousand things. We've got a little time now."
"How'd you do that, fix my mom's arm?" he asked, "That was like magic."
"Uh-huh," Azrael smiled, "but I don't have much for splitting firewood, so I'll have to do that the hard way, come on."
It was long past dark as they sat in the main room together before the crackling stove. Though it was the time of year when the days are the longest in terms of daylight hours, how many hours one would receive depended on where one was. They were in the Rocky Mountains and the day grew darker there earlier, since the sunset was behind the next mountain and not the horizon. As well, the old cabin was in that dark grove. It was only nine o'clock, but Sariel was out, lying on the couch with his head on his mother's thigh sound asleep.
It had been a very long day for the seven year-old with a lot of things to be done, helping Azrael to get his mother healing well. To Rachel, it was like a miracle, since it was the first day in almost a month since she'd really been out of bed for more than a trip to the outhouse and even those had been looking like they were coming to an end, as weak as she'd gotten. The fever had broken, thanks to her brother's abilities and the fact had to be faced, he'd saved her life again. She didn't want to think of trying to count all of the other times.
"We need to talk," she said quietly. "I want to hear about what's happened to you, and I know that you have questions. What I can say, Azrael, is that I know everything now at last. I've known for some time. I'll go first, if you like."
Azrael looked away from the stove where he's been lost watching the patterns of the flames for a little while. "Sure," he said, "I'd be happy to hear it if you've figured it all out. What happened to Dad?"
"Let me go back before that," Rachel said, "You and I grew up thinking that Dad was our father. But he wasn't, Azrael. He was a father to us, and he always did his best for us, but there was no biological connection. He was just a man with a lot of heart and he taught us the ways of his people, just as Mom did. The truth is that Mom was with another man once, only he wasn't really a man.
He was a demon. As far as I can tell, he was one of the ones that rip everyone and everything around them apart, so I guess we were pretty lucky. He tried to actually live here as a human.
But it didn't work out, and not long before we were born, he felt whatever it is that they have inside him rising, I guess -- from what Mom told Dad and then he told me much later. At least, he did love Mom and he left before he got too bad. I don't know where he is now, or if he's still alive.
That's the official version," she said, "but I'll also tell you about something that I heard from Dad a lot later that has always made me wonder ever since.
Mom knew Dad anyway, and she moved in with him here and they placed the wards and the charms here so that our real father couldn't ever find us if he had a mind to. You and I were born and they raised us where we might have a chance to grow up and not be found out.
Then Mom got that sickness that Dad said killed off so many humans. He told me that most people living today are immune to it, but that something like a pregnancy can change things. You and I were almost seventeen when she finally caught it good after a trip to town. That's the part that you already knew about. You just didn't know why it was that our skin is a little lighter than theirs was, the differences in our eye colors, all of those things. We got that from our real father, along with the things that we always have to hide from people. We learned some things from Dad and Mom, Azrael, but most of what we can do came from that person -- whoever he was, and not from Mom as we were told.."
She looked at Sariel and smiled at him asleep there. "Well that all worked, I guess. But there is that part of us, isn't there? I won't go over it again, but I knew who I wanted when I got older. I just had to convince you. We had our big fight, and I left to see the world and if you didn't want me, then I'd find someone who would. That's what I told myself, anyway."
"That's not right, Rachel," he said sadly, "I wanted you. I just couldn't get past what we were doing -- even as we were doing it. It won't do either of us any good now, I suppose, but I left after you did, and it wasn't long before I realized that you were probably right. It was just too late then. You were gone, so I went looking for ways to gain in my ability. It was always a little fantasy to me that I'd find some way one day to be able to tell where you were. I wanted to see you at least and tell you."
He looked down and shrugged, "Not that it would have made the slightest difference by then. When I found something like that, I looked everywhere for you, but I never got the faintest feeling of where you might be."
"You never looked in the right place," Rachel said, "I was right here, so the only way to know was to do as you've done and come here."
Azrael looked up, "Here?"
His sister nodded, listening to her son's breathing to be certain that he was asleep, "I was going to just give in to the drive, you know? I just wanted to find me a man. At first, I wanted to find someone special, but that's a long search, isn't it? Then I just settled for finding a long line of guys to fuck me. I'd close my eyes and pretend that they were the one that I wanted."
She looked away at the flames in the stove for several minutes.
"The worst part was that none of them were even any good for me to use to imagine with after a little while. I'd never find that special one -- not ever, and I knew it." She looked over and smiled a little sadly, "Because I'd already had that special one and I'd left him behind for all of the right reasons -- unless you asked my heart.
I didn't last very long, out in the big old world all alone. Less than a month and a half later, I was losing everything I ate as fast as I could get it down. I was pregnant before I ever left.
So I came back here," she said with a sigh. "Dad took care of me, and I had our son."
She looked at Azrael -- straight into his eyes as she continued. "And he is our son, Azrael, yours and mine. One look says it all. I've been watching you when I could. I know that you've seen your own features in him. If you have even the slightest doubt, you just need to see him when he's a young boy demon. You'll be looking at yourself -- a mirror image of when you were his age."
Azrael nodded, "I've already seen, Rachel, he showed me. I didn't say anything, because I didn't know if you'd said anything to him, but you're right. We were at the stream washing off from lugging firewood and he asked me if it would be ok if he just swam in the pool for a while. I said it was fine with me, since he's been working really hard to help me all day. I sat on the bank for a few minutes while he sat in the pool and we talked, since he wanted to hear about the places that I've been. In both of his forms, there isn't any doubt in my mind."
Rachel nodded, smiling, Well, we were raised and loved by two humans, but that's only part of what we are, isn't it? How many times did we do it, brother? How many times did we do it looking human like this, and how many more times did we go off into the woods to just be the other way that we are? It was incredible both ways, but you know how we always ended up, don't you? We'd always wind up fucking like crazy and howling to each other. The only way that it really felt right was when I had you inside me with our wings around us looking into the black eyes that we loved to see."
She laughed, "We must have looked like something out of those old horror stories that Mom liked to read -- all teeth and tails and claws. But you were the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life and I know that you felt the same way about me.
That was why I wanted us to be ourselves. I just didn't see that you were right too. So we were both right and so wrong at the same time. Looking back, I think that if we could have gotten past ourselves, we might have had a chance, and just lived here the way that I wanted to. But I don't want to even get near that old fight anymore.
Dad was happy for a while. I lied to him and told him that Sariel's father was a man that I picked up in an inn one night just after I left. It seemed like a good enough lie and he accepted it. But then my baby started to switch forms, just like we did when we were infants, I guess. I think that was the end of him, now that I look back on it all. He went into town and came back with the things that we needed, but he also came back with a lot of that cheap booze that they make there. The next time that he went, he came back with almost no food and material to make his own still. I couldn't say anything, but winter was coming and we needed food. So he stayed drunk and I went off to hunt by myself.
Six months after that I saw him as he was trying to play with Sariel, but Sariel kept switching back and forth and laughing his little butt off. Dad had a look on his face like he wanted to take a shovel to him and I blew up. He didn't mean to say it, but he'd been drinking hard as usual and it sounded to me like Dad killed our real father. I tried to get him to repeat it and explain, but her never would, and it changed things between us.
Dad went out and lived in his still after that. I found him at the bottom of the hill by the old road in the ditch. He'd been dead about a day by then, but I could still smell the booze. I buried him by the road not far from where he landed.
Anyway, I've just been living here ever since, raising Sariel."
She smiled down at her son's face. They didn't speak for a few minutes, and the boy's breathing shifted as he woke up and looked around.
"I guess somebody's had a long hard day making his mother better," Rachel said softly, "Come on, I'll get you to bed, Sweetie." Sariel nodded, not really with it, and he walked off after saying goodnight to Azrael, who looked into the flames for a few more minutes until she came back, handing him a mug of tea.