His Retribution by A. K. Graves
Danube River. Slovakia. 1745 AD.
Feelings I've grown accustomed to. Feelings that have ruled my existence for the last two hundred or so years. Feelings I didn't think I'd ever have to experience again after The Maker found mercy on my black soul and allowed a ray of light to pierce my darkness.
My boots sink into the riverbed; the silt pulling, gripping, sucking in the leather like quicksand. The gentle waves crash against my body like ice, tiny razors caress my flesh, tear my skin with the sting of a thousand teeth.
Still, I press on.
The screaming, blood-curdling cries, and hopeless pleas fade. The clash of iron against iron, the roars of anger, the howls of wounded, and the crackle of burning wood almost disappear. The only noise, only sound I hear is the erratic beating of my dead heart; the organ working on instinct to pump the now frozen blood through my veins.
And still, I press on.
My lungs expand and contract quicker, my thighs shake with each strained step. My hands pull at the water, trying to find purchase on something, anything that will help me move faster, or act as oars and propel my body toward the light.
The river persists, trying to swallow me whole, and drag me down to a watery grave, one that will merely contain a living body with no soul.
I reach out, my fingers so close to the light—so close I can almost touch it—but as I take another agonizing step forward, red clouds my vision. Bright red spirals in front of me, snakes out toward my hand, a stark contrast to the deep blue almost black water under the muted gray sky.
I stop and watch the red continue to swirl, to reach for me as I reach for the light. The red parts in front of me, the tendrils thickening, splitting like a claw as it wraps around my chest. I can almost feel the warmth, the remnants of heat that once thrummed through the red, the light that showed from the inside out.
The light that was snuffed out right before my eyes.
An explosion behind me brings my surroundings back into focus. The yelling, the fighting, all of it clear once again.
I blink and watch the light flicker, watch her bob in the red tinted water. My feet try to carry me forward, my arms reach and fingers stretch.
Only a few more steps.
"Havok! Let us go!"
I barely register the voice, the booming baritone that scarcely speaks, let alone yells, but I can't seem to bring myself to turn, to acknowledge his words or presence.
"My brother, it is time!"
Just a little further and I'll have it. The light, my light, will once again be within my grasp and this time—
Another explosion causes the river to ripple; the rocking becomes reckless, the crash and burst of light that comes from behind causes a wave that pushes her away, and just as my light slips another foot out of my reach, I see them.
Two eyes. Two pale eyes connect with mine. Eyes I've looked into a thousand times. Eyes that held so much warmth.
So much life and hope. So much love and light.
Eyes clearer than a summer sky, bluer than the rarest sapphire. Eyes that are now glazed over.
Unblinking. Foggy. Dead.
She is dead.
My hope, my life. My light, my love.
Murdered at my enemies’ hand.
Her delicate throat torn out, the alabaster skin now gray—save for the blood and dirt staining it. The red runs like the river, mingling with the water and reaching for me, begging me to follow.
I must follow.
Follow my light into the darkness, joining her in The After to feel her warmth once again.
"Brother." A solid hand lands on my shoulder; firm, hard, grounding. "Brother, we must go. It is time. Let her go."
My gaze lingers on her eyes, traces her aquiline nose, and the fullness of her lips. I burn the memory of her velvet porcelain skin, her silk raven hair; ingrain her beauty into my mind's eye so as to never forget one minor detail of my light.
One final look at her serene and beautiful face.
One final look at her fragile, petite body.
One final look at her throat open and bleeding until her veins run dry.
I watch as my light bobs a little, her skirt clearly caught on something in the river, and as her arm stretches, reaches toward me for the last time, I catch a glimmer of gold in her fist.
"Havok, my brother, they are coming for us. Daylight is near. We must go."
Pulling from my last bit of strength, I lurch forward and grip her hand. I bring it to my lips, press a kiss to her knuckles—a familiar gesture completed for the last time—then pry open her fingers. The pocket watch—my pocket watch—slips free, and the moment it's back in my possession, the branch snaps and my light floats like an angel on the water; floats toward the mouth of the river, away from me.
"You will see her again, brother,” Andrej whispers, his hand gripping my shoulder hard as he drags me back to the river bank. "She is with you always. You will see her again."
Instinct kicks in the second I'm on dry land and I begin to run. My legs work robotically, boots stomping over rocks and dirt, until finally grass and brush as we race toward the cave.
Sunrise is near.
So close I can see the first signs of its rays peering over the tree line; feel the heat break through my bone deep cold.
Momentarily I consider stopping, consider allowing the biggest star in the sky to warm me until I catch fire, burst into flames and join her, my light, in The After, but I keep going. She would not want that, would forbid it. She would hate me for the thought alone.
So I keep running; following Andrej to his family's cave.
I race toward shelter, toward the darkness that will once again consume my every waking minute until I can be in her light once again.
Not until I'm alone does that thought sink in and when it does, I fall apart.
I scream, cry, mourn.
Ache at a life without my light.
Our plans ruined; future destroyed.
The dreams I never should have entertained crumble and wash away in my tears of blood, my chest hollow and empty, dead heart shattered and replaced by blind rage and hate.
Then I make a vow.
Make a promise to her, a promise to myself that I will never again utter her name until it is in the face of her killer as I tear out his throat just as he did to her. I will never again say the sweetest four letters until I am calling to her, when she is in my arms, when I have her back for all of time.
I will avenge my light, avenge my love and then, only then, will I give name to the brightest star in my otherwise black as night sky.