– The Path of Daleth. The Black Brothers.1 –
“If I could be the light that lights your way, I wouldn’t wish for anything more of this finite passage over this lost world. And not even all the shadows I carry, nor all the thorns that torture me,
would be strong enough to pull me away from my destiny.”
I woke up the following day to the immediate realization that I would have to be really careful with the way I moved. I felt around my body, trying to ascertain the most critical areas, and came to the depressing conclusion that the effects of what had happened the day before would accompany me for the next few days.
I got dressed, wincing and groaning here and there, and the necessary time needed to effectively comb my hair was an absolute torture to my aching arms. I went downstairs, grabbing hold of the handrail with both hands, and stopped in the corridor when I heard voices coming from the kitchen.
“That’s why I told you we should leave! And she was crying, Izrail,” I heard Alexander’s voice and was immediately on the move. I hated the idea of him using me as a pretext to pressure Gabriel to leave!
I raised my head as I entered the kitchen, and managed a smile for good measure, absolutely determined to have things my own way.
“I’m fine, Alexander. Thank you for worrying,” I told him in what I hoped would sound like a threatening tone, and Lea jumped from his chair running towards me.
“Morning, Mari!” he greeted me as cheerfully as always and I noticed Gabriel’s tired expression, leaning against the far side of the wall in the back, his arms folded over his chest.
“Why are you up so early?” Alexander asked me, sounding honestly worried, but our points of disagreement made my voice sound harsher than normal.
“It’s morning, isn’t it?” I asked and smiled at Lea, who, under the disguise of his childish smile, was watching me intently. “Morning, Lea.”
“How are you feeling?” he asked and I tousled his hair.
“I’m fine,” I repeated and took a deep breath before the doubtful expressions I received. Only Jonathan had remained indifferent, his opened eyes unable to see the world around him. “Please don’t tell me you’d rather I told you that I was about to die!” I joked and went to the fridge, masking a wince of pain brought on by the effort of opening it by sticking my head in it. “What do you want for breakfast?”
“Mari! We’re not joking! It’s not any Human who’s able to survive a Shedim attack. Any other would have certainly died!” Alexander insisted, which made me give up all hope of changing the subject. I allowed the door to close and turned to face him.
“I understand,” I stated in a more serious tone. “And then what? What do you want me to tell you?” He seemed annoyed with my answer and sat down, resting an elbow on the table and looking away.
“Since when has she had this bad temper?” he grumbled and Lea smiled, looking amused.
“It’s hardly a matter of bad temper, Alexander,” I insisted. “I do understand what you're saying. I was in great danger. It’s a miracle that I’m alive. But then what?”
“So this wasn’t a lesson for you at all?” he asked, frowning, and, although I understood that part of his insistence in the subject was due to the fact that he really worried about me, I still couldn’t agree.
“If by that you mean what I think you mean, then the answer is no.” He sighed and I turned to Gabriel. “Did you find anything?”
“No, I’m sorry.” he replied and I went back to the fridge to grab a yogurt. Although I didn’t want them to notice it, the idea of that unworldly goddess walking around, looking for me, made me uneasy.
“I see. Well, since there’s no time left to make anything fancy, just pick whatever you like from the fridge,” I told them and put my empty yogurt cup in the garbage. “Alexander, will you take me to school?” I naturally asked and they were all dead silent for a moment, before they all started talking at the same time.
“You can’t be serious!”
“It’s too dangerous, Mari!”
I rinsed the spoon I’d used and put it back in its place.
“Yes, school! Today is Wednesday and I cannot keep missing school like this!” I argued and Gabriel frowned obviously displeased.
“One day more, one day less, it won’t really make any difference,” he stated in that tone of his that didn’t admit disobedience. But that had been a decision I’d made, and I wasn’t about to give up on it that easily.
“Today, tomorrow ... how many days until you find her?” I asked. “How long will it take? You’ve been looking for her for two weeks now, and nothing! Apparently she just comes and goes as she pleases. You can’t possibly want to keep me under house arrest until that happens.” His expression became even scarier.
“If she hunted you once, she will hunt you again as soon as she learns you’ve survived. And next time we may not be this lucky!” Alexander stated with a measure of despair in his voice, and I smiled at him trying to reassure him.
“There won’t be a next time, right? Because now you already know that she’s looking for me, and you’ll be there to protect me,” I stated with all my conviction, but Lea seemed the only one happy with my declaration of unwavering trust. “Besides, you won’t have to look for her anymore. She’ll come to us.”
“You want to play bait?” Gabriel asked in his cold whisper and I faced his violet gaze knowing that, ultimately, the decision had to come from him.
“I want to end this once and for all, and this is the fastest and most effective way to do it. Besides, I trust you guys,” I added and he looked away.
“I don’t like it.”
“But you know I’m right,” I concluded and he was silent for a moment.
“Izrail! You can’t seriously be pondering an insanity like this!” Alexander voiced and I faced him wishing I could just tell him to shut up.
“I understand you’re worried and I’m thankful for that,” I told him and went on before he could argue. “But you’ll have to tie me up somewhere if you want to keep me at home. Above all, before you agree or not with my options, this is my life!” I declared and he averted his gaze, giving up on what he was about to say, annoyed at what he’d just heard. “And, since it belongs to me, I’m choosing to place it in your hands.” I added and his foul mood seemed to lighten up a bit.
“If she does appear, we act immediately. I want everything over as soon as possible.” Gabriel commanded, emitting the authorization I’d been waiting for.
“How do you want to do it?” Alexander asked in a defeated tone, trying to pretend he didn’t care either way, and I focused on his answer.
“Yes. I think that will be the best way, since I can’t be there or she’ll never show up.”
“But, as soon as she realizes that Mari is alive, she’ll be suspicious,” Lea argued in that grown-up tone.
“I doubt she’ll be able to think that far,” Alexander said. “Even if she’s aware of the Contract between Mari and Izrail, the possibility of any other kind of connection will never even cross her mind. She probably thinks that she’s doing you a favor.” He turned to Gabriel, and I couldn’t avoid noticing how his white hands clenched into tight fists in his constant struggle for self-control.
“Still, I don’t understand,” Lea confessed, musing out loud. “If she wants to win the war so she doesn’t have to belong to anyone, why did she attack Mari instead of you, Master?”
“Telane is not that simple or linear,” Gabriel answered in his icy whisper. “I’m sure she has some kind of plan.”
“I agree. I’m sure she’s smart enough to know she’ll never have any real chances to actually win the war.”
I sighed and carefully stretched my aching body.
“If that’s all, let’s go. I don’t want to be late,” I said with a relaxed tone.
“Fine, let’s go then,” Alexander grumbled, standing up, still obviously against it, and, to my surprise, Jonathan reacted to his movement, quickly grabbing hold of his sleeve. It was the first time I saw him move since I got in the kitchen. Alexander gave him a gentle smile, hardly disguising the pain in his eyes, and placed a reassuring hand on the boy’s head.
“Don’t worry. I’ll call for you if needed,” he murmured softly and Jonathan released him without a word.