Daybreak Ch. 15bypurefire©
The ceremony was to take place on the hill crest on the manor grounds. Five black flags, each encrusted with gold etching were placed in a semi-circle around a similarly decorated alter. The alter was made to look like the bottom half of a coffin; a flattened body pillow covered in gold satin was placed on the alter top. Red rose petals were sprinkled on it and around the alter. Torches flanked two sides of the alter and paired with the lack of moonlight, the scene felt like a dramatic painting the viewer could not escape.
Charisma tightened her grip on Jameson's hand as they approached the alter. Nadia's body wasn't present, but that did nothing to remedy the heaviness in the pit of her stomach. "What should I do?"
"We have to wait for the body to be brought out."
Jameson looked at the ground solemnly as he said, "And then we watch as Alexis sets it on fire." There wasn't much else to the ceremony; prayers weren't needed because they knew exactly where the soul would go. Everyone had said their goodbyes and there were no other special preparations to make. All that was left to do was wait.
Charisma felt his tension and decided to remain silent until it was necessary for her to speak. She wasn't sure that there was anything she could say at this point; they were about to burn someone who'd given up her life for them. They were about to burn someone they loved. Charisma let out a tired breath and found herself straightening in tense anticipation when she noticed Liam carrying Nadia's body toward the alter. Behind him, the brothers followed. They walked slowly, almost as if trying to delay the inevitable. Their focus was the alter before them. Liam gently placed the body and the men helped to adjust the robes and her limbs. Nadia's body was still pliable, an observation that made Charisma frown; rigor mortis should have set in by now. But what did it matter? It wasn't as if Nadia would be using the body any time soon.
Alexis directed everyone to stand around the alter in a semi-circle opposite the flags. "If anyone has anything else to say to her, say it now before I... Before..." He forced himself to calm down before he became too emotional. "Say it now or keep it to yourself."
"Why is Alexis doing it?" What Charisma meant to ask was why the quiet dictator of the family took the responsibility of burning Nadia's body. In her eyes, Andraemalek, the person who loved her most, should have been the one to do it.
"Because he's the oldest and therefore the head of the family," Jameson whispered, "Since D., isn't here to do it, it falls on Lex's shoulders." As if his brother didn't have enough responsibility. Jameson would have volunteered, but he knew for a fact that Alexis would have denied the request. Like everyone else in the family, the eldest brother felt it was his responsibility to ensure Nadia's safety. Because he too had failed, he would punish himself by setting her body free.
Alexis waited a few minutes before taking one of the torches in his hand. He inwardly said a few words of farewell before he touched the torch flame to the edge of the mock bedding. The fire did not take long to spread, and within moments, dark, billowing smoke floated through the air.
There was silence as everyone watched the body burn. Charisma's vision grew cloudy; she was crying again. Somehow, watching the fire made Nadia's death more permanent; there was no way around a burning body. It was then that she realized that there was a part of her that hoped that by being part of the paranormal, she would have been able to find a way to bring Nadia back. It was possible before; it should have been possible again. But there was no longer any hope for that. She had to let go and mourn.
Jameson felt tears well in his eyes when the fire that engulfed Nadia's body slowly dimmed to allow the bright blue light that slowly raised freedom to move. It was her soul; they'd successfully released the last part of her, the part that made her who she was. The soul shone brightly; physical proof that the warmth and love she gave everyone was pure and unconditional. How could it not be? She'd given up her life to protect the people she loved. Her soul hovered over her chest for the briefest of moments before it continued its ascent to the either the afterlife or reincarnation; her destination was up to the High Council. Jameson hoped that she'd be sent to the afterlife; Nadia had been through enough. She deserved peace.
Euan, who had chosen to remain in his canine form, was the first to walk away. Consuming grief gripped his chest painfully, slowing his usually brisk gait. He needed time alone to get himself together; it would do no one any good to see him a mess of emotions. Distantly, he heard Slade follow behind, but he paid no mind; solitary was his main concern.
Roman, who'd lagged behind to give support if it was needed, shook his head in confusion as he asked, "How could they allow her to die?"
Liam knew who his brother spoke of. "Like I said before; they're selfish bastards who always thought it was perfectly fine to punish us for his mistakes." He looked to the still burning embers on the table in disgust. "Never mind the fact hat good people get hurt in the process."
Roman would have replied to the statement, but Liam abruptly walked off. With a discouraged sigh, he looked at his twin. "We should go make sure D. is ok."
"He wants to be alone," Draco replied.
"What he wants and what he needs are two different things," Alexis countered, "Have Caleb track his thoughts for a location."
The twins nodded once before they walked away from the group. Draco took the time out to place a hand on Jameson's shoulder as he passed him.
Alexis watched the show of affection silently. The look on Jameson's face reminded him of a look Euan once had when he had to kill a rabid wolf; guilt-ridden. "She wouldn't want you to blame yourself for this."
"Doesn't change how I feel," Jameson said with a shake of his head. He was growing tired of hearing those words. As long as he lived, he would feel guilty for Nadia's decision. "She begged me to take her from him."
Alexis said nothing for a moment as realization kicked in. It wasn't Nadia's death Jameson blamed himself for; it was more the fact that Nadia's death meant Andraemalek's pain and desertion. "She begged you to let yourself have her," he said with a pointed look at Charisma. Her wide eyed look of surprise told him that she blamed herself as well. Alexis was sure that her guilt had to do with the fact that she'd survived. "So let yourself have her."
Charisma watched Alexis walk away, shocked that he seemed so unemotional about the situation. He was very abrupt and straightforward, a trait that confused her. It was obviously that he felt Nadia's loss, but his quick dismissal of it made her uneasy. "We're going to have to start over," she announced.
"You've seen first hand the risks that come with my life, and still, you want to stay?" The reality of his life never hit him harder than now, and it shocked him that someone as innocent as she was wanted to take her chances with him. Part of him would have preferred it if she'd reverted to her previous actions of remaining distant and unattached.
"Yes. I love you more than I will ever love anyone. It would kill me to leave you."
"You almost were killed."
"And going through that only showed me how stupid I was to fight my feelings for you." Charisma leaned up to place a soft kiss against his lips. She sighed in relief when he responded; she'd feared that he'd changed his mind about her. "I'm not running anymore."
Jameson pulled her into his arms, kissing her forehead as he held on tightly. Her words meant more to him that he could say; Charisma was the love of his life and thought it would have kept her alive to leave, he would have died inside if she did. Her choice to stay, to love him, to share his life, lightened the burden in his heart.
He did not have to be alone anymore.
* * * * *
He watched from the top of the hill as her soul was set free. She was gone, and there was nothing for him to live for anymore. She didn't fight to stay, didn't do what she had to do to stay with him. She'd always wanted to leave, never wanted anything to do with his life, or with him. The second she saw an opening to go, she took it, not caring that her precious life would be taken. She didn't care that her beautiful heart would no longer beat.
He'd never hear her laugh again, never see her breathtaking smile. He'd never see the heated gleam in her eyes as she insulted him. With her life, her scent was gone. All that was left was a void; a consuming void that left him numb.
Nadia was dead.
Andraemalek never bothered to go back into their room. He never would. The only proof that she existed rested within the confines of those walls, walls he would never breach again. He was done trying to be human. He was a demon, and demons never let themselves become weak enough to fall in love. She didn't fight to stay.
He wouldn't mourn her.
Suicide was not an option; the High Council had taken that decision from him and the Brethren. If they were to die, it would be in battle or through natural causes. A broken heart wasn't enough to send him to the pits of hell. There wasn't much out there that was. He was left alone to find his own way.
The underworld was his home and it was there he would stay. He was a hired assassin, a ruthless killer paid to make the lives of his clients easier. Emotion was not part of the package. There was only death. Never-ending death.
He wouldn't allow himself to miss her.
The sudden but faint breeze that brushed over him made him clench his jaw in determination; he would not cry for someone who left him. He did not care that the air held a familiar scent; berries with a hint of mint. The smell of her emotion.
The smell of her love.
Andraemalek waited until there were no visible traces of bright blue light. She was gone, never to return to him. He didn't care that the wind smelled of her or that the taste of her kiss lingered on his lips. She was gone and she wasn't coming back this time. He turned to leave and gritted his teeth when the breeze brushed over again. "Goodbye, Nadia." As he shimmered himself away from the manor and away from her, only one thought dominated his mind.
He would not grieve.
* * * * *
He had no idea where he was. It was dark, and it felt as if he was locked in a coffin. There wasn't much room to move around. He was locked in a void space. Nothing he tried was powerful enough to set him free. They knew what they were doing when they banished him.
The voice in the distance startled him. "Sherlaine?"
"The one and only."
"How is it possible?" He'd tried countless times to get a number of his powers to work. Why was it so easy for Sherlaine to communicate with him?
"I don't particularly care."
The humor in Sherlaine's voice pricked at his temper. "Find a way to get me out of here."
"Not possible," Sherlaine replied, "They knew what they were doing when they sent you to... Where the hell are you, anyway?"
"I don't know."
"And how was I supposed to get you out when no one has any idea where you are?"
Zaide counted to ten. Slowly. "There has to be some kind of a loophole. Find it."
"What do I get for my troubles?"
Zaide did not like the humor in his voice. "You get to live when I seek out my revenge. Why did you wait this long to contact me?"
"Never bothered to try before now."
"How did you try?"
"I have information," Sherlaine said instead of answering his question, "Information about a certain soul you've been waiting to return."
If felt as if a building had collapsed on him. Zaide puffed out a surprised breath. He'd been waiting for this moment, anticipating this return, for centuries. How many nights had he paced the length of his rooms trying to sense it? Too many. Much too many.
Realization made him laugh. The soul had been cloaked. For centuries it had been reincarnated, reborn and reused. And he'd never known because the High Council protected it. They'd waited until he'd been banished to let him know that it was free.
Zaide continued to laugh as he replied, "Find the owner of that soul."
"You want a kill?"
"No!" Zaide took a calming breath to keep from revealing too much. "Simply keep track of it."
"And once that's done?"
"Find a way to set me free."
* * * * *
It took six months for everyone to begin socializing with each other. The twins had spent the bulk of the time doing their best to console their brother and themselves, ignoring the fact that Andraemalek nearly killed them dozens of times in his range. They kept Alexis updated on what they were doing, which allowed the family a small sense of peace. Slade decided to visit Caleb to give him all of the details concerning Nadia and from there, decided to travel to ease his grief. Liam kept to himself, and refused any kind of communication. He went into rages frequently, but no one said anything to his behavior, as they knew that he had no other way to cope with the changes in the family. Jameson and Charisma slowly helped each other to heal and used their time together to reinforce their relationship. Theirs had been the easiest transition into acceptance, and it was through the love they shared that they were able to help their family.
They hadn't heard anything about Zaide or his camp. After he'd been defeated, it seemed the rest of the Mordecai no longer found any reason to remain in town. That didn't mean that the brothers gave up their mission to rid the world of their evil; Alexis contacted the Nariko and gained their word in tracking and killing the demons. If Zaide's banishment didn't hold, they'd make sure that he didn't have an army to return to.
"Marie keeps asking when she is going to be able to meet you." Charisma stood in front of the stove at the manor, diligently working on dinner. It had taken a week for Alexis to have a better cloak put on the manor, one that would not falter when a person had a momentary surge of power. Occasionally there were small surges from Charisma that worried the quiet leader, but for the most part, the manor was safe.
"When she comes back from visiting her sister again."
"Two weeks it is then."
Jameson smiled as he picked a cucumber slice from the bowl of salad Charisma had prepared. She cooked daily, despite the fact that he and his brothers did not need to eat as frequently as humans did to remain strong. He figured that it was her cooking that allowed her to think and concentrate when she had a lot on her mind, the very reason why he never bothered her about it.
He looked up at Charisma, who'd decided to focus her concentration on the countertop. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just that... The ceremony."
He let out a wary breath at the mention of the ceremony. "What about it?"
"Why did we have to wait until it was dark outside?"
Jameson paused for a moment. Though he'd learned to accept everything that had happened, he still hadn't found the courage to talk about it. "Good souls are bright. It's easier to do it at night because then you can call it a distant helicopter light or a star."
The sight of Euan's canine form took them both by surprise. Like most of the others, the shifter had taken to wandering in order to deal with his grief. This was the first time they'd seen him in three months. Euan dropped a large document envelope he held between his teeth into Jameson's lap before moving to nudge Charisma's thigh with his head.
"Welcome back," Charisma said. She frowned when Euan only shook his head before walking out of the room. It seemed as if he'd only returned to deliver the package. "What did you get?"
"Let's see." Jameson looked at the large envelope, hoping for an indication of who'd sent it to him, but the packaging was blank. Because Euan delivered it, he wasn't concerned about a trap. "It feels like paperwork," he said as he opened the large envelope. Sure enough, there was a stack of papers, with one sheet folded in half. Jameson picked up the sheet first and read the contents twice before looking at the other papers.
Charisma did not like his sudden silence. "What is it?" He looked engrossed in the paperwork and curiosity got the best of her patience. She lifted the folded sheet of paper to look at what had the man she loved shocked into silence. "'Nadia wanted to fill it with kids. Since you're the only who's the closest to having them, the house is yours. Don't let her down. D.'" Charisma peered over Jameson's shoulder and felt her jaw go slack when she looked at the paperwork that named them as the owners of a manor in Martinique. "He gave us..."
Jameson only nodded silently as he stared at the documents. He was honored that he was given such a gift, but he did not think that he deserved it. Though he'd accepted Nadia's death, he still felt responsible for his brother's mourning. He didn't deserve the house.
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
Jameson found himself involuntarily smiling at Liam's abrasive question. He handed the papers to Alexis as he replied, "D., gave Charisma and I his house."
"He shits you not," Alexis said as he handed Liam the documents. "Are you going to move into it?"
"Did he tell you where he is?" Liam asked. Though the twins were with their brother, they'd neglected to divulge information on their location. He didn't want another century to pass by without knowing if the half-demon was in need of help
"No, Euan delivered the note personally."
"Like that's supposed to help us," the redhead muttered, "If he needs us, how the hell are we supposed to know where to go?"
"He'd come to us for help if he needed it," Alexis replied. That was Andraemalek's method of operation; he only went to brothers for help when he couldn't handle a situation on his own. "He just needs time to get himself back together."
"Bullshit. He needs to stop running from his problems when shit gets tough."
"This coming from the man with serious unresolved issues?" Jameson asked. If there was anyone in the family who ran from his problems, it was Liam.
"We're not talking about my problems."
"If we did, I'd have to tell you that reliving your past will give you freedom to enjoy your future."
There was a tense moment of silence as everyone stared at Alexis curiously. That was strange; Alexis rarely spoke and when he did, it was usually to get answers or bark out commands. Speaking in riddles was not his thing. Liam, too shocked to even bother to become offended asked, "Since when do you start talking like Nadia?" He frowned when his brother only shook his head before he walked out of the room.
"Is it just me or were his eyes glowing a little bit?"
Both Jameson and Liam turned to look at Charisma who stood with her head cocked to the side. She looked just as confused as they did, but there was also a look of pain in her eyes that she could not hide.
"I am not in the mood to deal with this shit," Liam said a second before walking toward the back door that led to the garage.
"It wasn't just me, was it?"
Jameson let out a breath before he walked to her and pulled her into his arms. "No, it wasn't just you." He'd seen the change in Alexis' eyes as well, but did not want to know what it meant. He wasn't even sure if he would ever known; his older brother made a habit out of withholding information from others. Until it was absolutely necessary for the rest of the family to know, Alexis wasn't sharing. Placing a kiss on the side of her neck, Jameson asked, "What do you want to do about the house?"