I slid through the dark forest as stealthily as this bipedal body
could manage, spear at the ready. What I wouldn't have given for my native
form's serpentine grace - but I had to deal with what was here and now,
not in fantasy. I stretched out with every sense to probe for my quarry.
The Symphony shivered, and my instincts rose up to defend against the unnatural stretching of Forces about me. My will prevailed, and I maintained my senses through the silent storm.
I reached out with my newly detailed sense of disturbance, applied my Seraphic resonance to the information thus afforded. It pierced the lie, and I saw the Song of Thunder that the Skulker had attempted to hit me with, using its effects even as he masked its trademark disturbance. His own disturbance would be muted without the use of his Resonance for the duration. Clever. Too clever by half to be allowed to serve Hell. I reached again. It had come from...
I took off running. Now that I knew where to look I could see his form, running away at top speed, all pretense of subtlety abandoned as I closed in. I sang a Song of my own, and the very brush and deadwood around him rose and thrust, tripping him up. I had no doubt Novalis would have been -- well, mildly annoyed, at least. But then, she wouldn't have approved of my duty today anyway. Besides, it was only a Song of Motion.
I came upon the prone demon, lying huddled on the ground where he had crashed. He looked up at me, seeing only death. He almost saw truly. But he had one last chance. An application of Divine Destiny told me what I needed to know -- his Fate was overwhelming what remained of his Destiny, as he succumbed to the call of the darkness.
The point of the spear stuck under his sternum. From here on out, it was a play already written. "Leave this body," I said. "It does me little good to kill your Vessel."
"It does me plenty of good to stay in it," he spat. "Kill me. I'll go to Limbo and come back out stronger than ever." It was bravado, though, for I could sense that particular lie. Had I not, I would have done as he asked. His words themselves were truth, of course. He feared my ultimate purpose, and thus he wanted me to make it quick.
I began to twist the spearpoint inward. This sickened me. I had been unable to convince Archangel Jordi that I needed his Song of Banishing badly enough for him to allow his Songmasters to teach me, and Blandine was too busy dealing with her own Watchers to have the Marches turned into a Skulker trap for hunters using Possession. That left me with this.
He held out for a surprisingly long time, but finally the facade fell. Pain overcame fear, and he went celestial to flee.
Instantly I was celestial myself and after him. The relic spear followed me, and now he was seriously in trouble. I was faster than he was, I was armed, and though we had both been conserving Essence through a long hunt I had the benefit of a reliquary. Eventually, the fight ended as it had to. The Skulker dissolved from the celestial realm into the corporeal, his wounded body animating in his place. I recorporealized and gave him the only mercy I could.
As usual after completing a mission, I checked my internal state. This spate of activity was unnerving to me, who had been used for so long to gentle guidance and contemplation of the subtleties of the Symphony. Whatever my will in the matter, though, I was uniquely suited to a job that had to be done these days, and done frequently -- so many of them, all Outcast, what had gone wrong with the new Choir I had so loved for their perceptiveness and their youthful exuberance? My love for them had bound me to them, making me the first Seraph in Destiny's ranks to hear the subtle ripples in the Symphony that only the Grigori could hear, and then the Distinction had equipped me to be a hunter of the Fallen ones, who were as things currently stood without hope of salvation. But every time I ran down another Skulker who had Fallen after his Outcasting, without the will to Redeem or an Archangel who would do it, I expected the Symphony to scream in pain as I wielded the instrument that sealed a Fate, making me more dissonant with every mission.
My inquiry was greeted with silence. No jangling tones of dissonance or Discord assaulted my soul. No disturbance echoed through the forest anymore. No choices for a moment, Destiny or Fate, truth or lie, to choose and judge. Even the animals had fled from the scene of the violence, taking their noises with them.
I sank to my knees beside the body. So quiet...
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