|Art by JigokuNeko17 Years Ago|
17 Years Ago...
There would be no pardon for this insult.
Zakariah stood amid the shadows surrounding the Heart's waiting hall, his nails digging patterns in the crystaline walls. Anger gnawed at his insides, then fanned out to roll off of his body in waves. As one of the six rulers of the Underworld he should have been immediately included in this, the celebration to welcome a new soul. Yet here he was, alone and unwanted.
That was about to change.
"Are you certain he did not follow?" From where he stood, Zakariah could hear Twylla's voice carry out from the central hub of the Temple of Life. "If Zakariah realizes we did not tell him..."
"Hush, love." Manaki's voice oozed the warmth of his element. Even from outside the door, Zakariah could feel little flickers of warmth moving up and down his skin. He shook his head, pushing the unwanted emotions aside.
"Everything is going to be fine."
Lucian. Zakariah felt a foreign pain spread through his chest. It wasn't just the Dark Prophets who had planned this?
To be slighted by his friends was bad enough. Lucian was far more then that. His own father had worked to keep him away. Zakariah's hands clenched into fists and he slowly pried his fingers apart. If he punched a wall they would know he had come.
He wasn't ready for that. Not yet.
"Twylla is right. We must act now." There was a pause before Lucian continued. "If Zakariah does find out, the consequences could be dire."
"No kidding. The baby would never be born."
"Avish, please!" Twylla's voice trembled. "Just bless the baby and keep such morbid thoughts to yourself."
The Dark Prophets were going to bless a baby?
Zakariah fought to hold back a laugh. What would the gods of war, plague, famine and death give a child? The thought of it made him shudder with revulsion.
Zakariah moved closer to the door, but stopped when Avish began to speak. His voice held a sing-song quality as his blessing came forth. "By the power of Earth buried deep in my soul I bless you to grow healthy and whole. May you be blessed with the beauty of Earth, a precious treasure of untold worth."
Golden light filled the room and Zakariah reached up to shield his eyes. When he looked again the glowing white light of the newborn soul had changed.
Where before there had only been a light, a baby girl now lay in a silver cradle, wrapped in a pink blanket. Avish's blessing had already taken hold. The child's skin glowed with health and her head was covered in a thick mass of fiery red curls.
She would indeed be a beautiful child.
"By fire's grace which lies in me, may you by courage blessed be." Zakariah still stared at the infant as Manaki spoke. A blessing of courage? Not bad. "The road is long which lies ahead, but nowhere shall you fear to tread."
What did that mean? Was she meant for some great destiny? The Dark Prophets were wasting their time. Even he, the God of Judgement itself, knew that mortals had free will. Even if they wanted this girl to do something, she would have to agree.
"May the waters of compassion flow through your veins."
Zakariah waited to hear more of Twylla's blessing but silence greeted him. Lovely. He'd been so transfixed by the baby that he had completely missed three quarters of it.
"Where's Kyden?" When Avish spke the Plague Master's name Zakariah scanned the room for him.
Despite his powers Kyden was a kind soul. Laughter followed him everywhere he went, acting as a healing rain that took away from the duty he held.
Zakariah felt something tap him on the shoulder. Turning around, he found Kyden standing behind him.
Kyden gave him a sad smile. "I figured you'd show up."
Zakariah didn't buy it. If Kyden wanted him here he should have invited him. He was just as guilty as the rest.
"How could I resist? The light of her soul was visible from the Hall of Judgement." Zakariah struggled to keep his voice neutral. He needed to keep Kyden's sympathy. For now. "I'm hurt. You wanted to bless her soul without me."
"Lucian's idea. Not mine." Kyden nudged him. "Let's get this over with."
Over with, indeed. They had no idea what he had planned.
Zakariah followed Kyden inside. "Look who I found. Avish, did you forget to send his invitation?"
Silence filled the room. Twylla hid her face against Manaki's chest. Lucian stepped closer to the baby.
Avish glared at Kyden. "We all agreed Zakariah was not invited."
"So you admit to your guilt." Zakariah walked toward Lucian and the girl who had started this mess. "One less thing for me to sort out."
He held out his arms. If Lucian wished the girl well he would hand her over. Now.
"Don't punish the child. She didn't exclude you." Kyden took hold of Zakariah's wrist. "Please. Show mercy."
"How dare you ask anything of me." Zakariah pushed Kyden's hand away and then turned back to Lucian. "Give the girl to me."
Manaki slapped Kyden on the back as he took his place in the circle. "Nice going, man. This should be fun."
Lucian laid the baby in his arms. The moment he touched her Zakariah could feel the radiance of her soul. Beautiful and pure, she possessed a spirit that had known nothing but warmth and love.
Cradled against him, the baby seemed to be smiling. The rage consuming Zakariah lifted away, allowing a strange peace to envelop him. With one tiny hand she reached up, gripped one of his silver-blond curls, and gave a firm tug. She giggled and the aura around her soul shimmered with delight.
"You're going to be a little trouble maker, aren't you?" Zakariah asked. As if to prove his point, the baby tugged his hair again. "Stop that."
"Come along, little one." Kyden put his hands under the baby but Zakariah didn't let go. "What?"
"I haven't blessed her yet."
"Zakariah, please." A sob escaped Twylla.
Zakariah shot Manaki a dirty look. The God of War wrapped an arm around Twylla and guided her out of the room.
"Well get on with it. Her mother is in labor up there." Lucian said.
"What?" Zakariah winced when the baby started to cry. He rocked her gently and whispered, "That's right. No need for tears. I'm not angry at you."
"Yet." Avish muttered.
"You're not afraid." Zakariah continued to rock the baby. For the first time he could recall, a spark of hope flickered to life inside of him. "I know exactly what I'm giving you."
Silver swirls of energy rose from his palms and seeped into her body. She clapped her hands together and gave another giggle. Such a refreshing change from the screams of horror most gave when Zakariah touched their souls.
"You would bind her to you? Give her one shot at life and then trap her here forever?" Kyden reached for the baby but Lucian pushed his hands away. Good. Father knew not to interfere.
Kyden's disgust only strengthened Zakariah's resolve. His solitude was about to be over.
The others might choose to exclude him. They probably preferred it that way. But with her at his side? Not a chance. The baby had wormed her way into their hearts. He was certain they would not abandon her.
Lucian raised a hand, as if that would stop what was happening. "Humans have free will."
"I know that." Zakariah said.
At the moment, the consequences of his choice could be damned. The soul of this girl was unblemished and unsullied. A precious newborn soul. The perfect solution.
Zakariah paused only a moment before starting his blessing. "I place within you justice's light, to guide you always to what's right. If your spirit remains pure and free, when you return you'll belong to me."
Lucian scowled at him. "I can't believe you did that."
"We shouldn't keep her mother waiting." Zakariah said. All too soon Kyden took her from him.
"You've overlooked one thing." There was a mischievous gleam in Kyden's eyes. "I haven't blessed her yet."
"Nor will you."
"You know it doesn't work that way." Lucian stepped in front of Kyden, granting him and the baby privacy. "But you are right about the girl's mother. Move swiftly, Kyden. That poor woman is in pain."
"Of course." Kyden said. Zakariah grit his teeth when the plague master kissed the baby's forehead. "Laughter, health and loyalty. These three things I pledge to thee. I pledge myself a suitor, too--"
"No!" Zakariah shouted.
Lucian kept him from lunging at Kyden and ripping the baby from his arms. "You will be silent, or you will leave."
Kyden continued as if nothing had happened. "So that a choice remains to you. Forget now all that has been said. May it live in your heart, not in your head. Go! Have a happy human life. Free from foolish Gods and our foolish strife."
"What have you done?" Zakariah powers swelled, the intensity of his anger making them burn against his skin. "How will she keep from screwing up if she forgets all of this?"
"Humans are suppose to make mistakes. That's how they learn." Kyden said, handing the baby to Lucian. "You've just never grasped that."
"Tell them to name her Sara."
"Are you hard of hearing? We don't tell humans to do things. We suggest them." Kyden sounded tired. Good. Maybe that meant he'd leave Zakariah and Sara in peace. "Though if we're going to suggest names to the mother, I think Rena is pretty."
Lucian shook his head.
Victory. Zakariah was certain his suggestion had won.
"Sarena it is." Lucian looked at Zakariah and then at Kyden. "Let her choose her own name. Like she will one day choose between the two of you."
Kyden slapped Zakariah on the back. "Suck it up, man. Looks like Luc has us both beat."
Zakariah gestured toward the Heart's ceiling, thousands of feet above them. "At least there is a chance she will meet me up there. What hope do you have?"
|Art by corny2x|
Hands clenched at his side, Zakariah made his way back to the Hall of Judgement. With each step he held fast to the warmth and radiance he had felt when he touched the girl -- Sara's -- soul.
Think what you like, Kyden. Zakariah waved a hand at the large double doors that barred entry to his home. They swung back, granting him entrance. But know this: she's not a game to me.
Sealer's Promise (c) Kathy Coleman. There may be minor changes in the final draft. Artwork belongs to the artists who drew it, characters belong to Kathy Coleman. Thanks again for drawing art based on my book!