The Devil's Gift

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XVII

As the silhouette became more visible, the large form of a muscular creature, with long, intimidating horns came into view. I fell to instantly to one knee as the Devil approached, Oceana mimicking me, horror etched onto her face now shining slightly with tears. I looked towards the advancing figure, yet, as it came into clear view it was no longer the large muscular figure I had met those seven centuries ago. Instead, a breathtakingly beautiful woman stood before me, wearing nothing but a deep-crimson dress. Her hair fell down her back in a wavy red sheet that shimmered of its own accord. Her pale skin seemed to sparkle as did her bright blue eyes. Her bare feet barely disturbed the ground as she walked slowly toward the beast, stretching out her arm to stroke its head. It let out a ripple of affection when her skin touched its fur.

‘There there, everything is ok my child.’ She whispered in her other-worldly voice that trilled as she spoke. Oceana looked uncomfortable. I then recalled she had never met the Devil in person. I never knew that she could take a human form, but far from making me feel better, not looking upon a gigantic beast, I found this only unsettled me further, though I remained almost forced to the ground, overwhelmed by the intimidating aura of such beauty and perfection. I tore my eyes away from the impossible grace and beauty.

‘Come, rise.’ She spoke her voice magnified. I looked up, she was suddenly knelt down facing me, though she didn’t appear to have moved, it seemed one moment she was standing near the creature, and the next, she was facing me, though no time had passed between the two. I stood obediently and was once more captivated by her beauty as she surveyed my chest intently. She positioned her hands so they were but a small distance from touching the large gash in my chest. The heat of her palms penetrated the ice-cold of my skin like nothing else would, it felt soothing. I looked down, her hands seemed to glow a bright golden-yellow and the heat intensified. Oceana watched, a look of awe and fear carved into her face. A moment later, the Devil withdrew her hands and they became pale and shimmery as they were before. I looked down to my chest once more. The large cut had healed seamlessly, leaving nothing but the sticky scarlet residue behind.

‘My lady, thank you.’ I spoke gratefully bowing my head respectfully. She nodded in response.

‘I am Lucia, though you may have heard of me by the name most know me as. I am the Devil.’ She informed Oceana reading her quizzical look.

Oceana took a sharp intake of breath as she took in this overwhelming information, why had the Devil chosen to appear now? Never before had she done this since turning me and Maria. No one I knew, including myself had any idea what her name was, though now I came to think of it, it was silly to assume she was only known by one name. Once again I was as surprised as Oceana that the Devil could appear in human form. Though of course, to assume that equivalent of a God could not appear as they pleased was almost laughable.

She beckoned Oceana to stand. As she paced in front of us, the one question that I was burning to ask escaped my mouth before I could hold it back.

‘My lady, if I may be so bold, what is this…? Creature?’ I gestured to the hulking beast beside her.

‘Ah,’ she addressed me with a wise smile playing about her perfectly formed lips, ‘This is Venator, he is a werewolf, created in my image of the perfect hunter.’

I had never encountered a werewolf before yet I already had a good degree of information regarding this werewolf’s abilities. I was once again struggling to suppress the next question that was fighting to escape. What was this werewolf’s purpose, for I assumed werewolves had not been in existence for very long before now. If I was right, which I would wager my entire fortune I owned that I was, there must be a reason for its creation now as opposed to its creation alongside the vampires. As if she had read my mind, which I was starting to get a suspicious feeling that she could, she responded to the question that brooded in my mind,

‘He has been created for you, dear child.’ This really puzzled me,

I never asked for this… Thing. I thought about why I would require such a thing and the answer came to me almost at once. Of course! How could I have been so blind? I did not require this werewolf myself, but what I did need, was protection for a very close woman who was in danger.

‘Sophia!’ I exclaimed after Lucia had offered me the time to ponder the reason myself.

As Lucia smiled, the fog beside me began to swirl, leaving it disrupted and spinning. Amidst the unsettled haze, a woman of extravagant beauty burst through, though she was quite dull and plain compared to Lucia, who stood there almost expecting the arrival of this woman. Sophia strode past the werewolf without taking her eyes off Lucia, unperturbed by the yellow eyes of Venator that fixed her as she knelt in front of Lucia who greeted her like an old friend.

‘Sophia, it has been too long, I hope you are well.’

‘My lady, I have been lost without you. It’s wonderful to see you again.’ She responded. I looked from Lucia to Sophia and back again, completely bewildered and at an utter loss for words. I opened my mouth to speak yet no words escaped. How could this be? Sophia was but an advisor, an advisor to the Pope no less! Utterly perplexed, I merely listened as they exchanged greetings, as if they were friends. No surely they couldn’t be, Sophia was just human, and how could she possibly know the Devil. My mind swam with confusion.

‘It’s a pleasure to see you again, you always were my favourite.’ Lucia chuckled. Sophia smiled warmly, her eyes swimming with tears of joy that sparkled in the light that seemed to be emanating from Lucia.

‘I do hope we can talk some when soon, but I regret to say that now is not the time, I must go,’ Lucia turned to Venator, ‘Protect them, ensure no harm comes to either of them.’ The fog began to ease back, consuming Lucia. When it cleared, she was nowhere to be seen and I, Oceana, Sophia and Venator stood in the clearing quite alone, my eyes fixated on the patchy moonlight that had created small puddles of silvery light on the cold ground beneath us once more.

‘I think we need to talk.’ Sophia announced, breaking the silence. Oceana fixed her with a you-don’t-say look. ‘I know I haven’t been entirely honest,’ she continued, letting Oceana’s look bounce off her, ‘But I assure you Roconn, I had to be sure.’

‘Be sure of what, Sophia?’ I asked her.

‘That you weren’t an enemy like the lies I have been told suggested.’ I admit, this had thrown me, I was so overwhelmed I remained silent, so she continued, ‘The truth is, I am angel, well I used to be, before my wings were clipped. I was sent here, many years ago, to advise the Pope.’ She gave me a sceptical look as though she was really hoping I would understand. It was all so much to take in! Sophia an angel? How could I not have known something was different? Is she truly on my side? Does she know what I am and come here to kill me? All of these questions bombarded my brain like a thousand spears, each question causing me that little bit more pain. My mind became a nest of puzzling questions that were all trying to break free at once. As the confusion overwhelmed me, the most obvious question slipped out,

‘How do I know I can trust you?’ This, I felt, was a very sensible and needed question right now.

‘How indeed?’ She responded with closed eyes, ‘That judgement you must make yourself. But given everything you know, I am still loyal to Lucia. I was sent here because of my loyalty to her and not God, he exiled her Roconn.’ Even for a vampire’s mind, this was still an awful lot to comprehend right now. A werewolf created for them, Sophia an angel, Lucia exiled by God?

‘Why was Lucia with God?’ I asked, now completely bewildered.

‘Of course,’ She sighed, ‘you wouldn’t know.’ She said.

‘Know what?’ I asked. Oceana looked completely detached from the thread of conversation and had not spoken or moved since Lucia arrived. I made a mental note to recount all this information to her when the time was right, or at least when she was able to resurface from the shock. Sophia extended her hand and placed her palm on my arm.

‘Allow me to show you.’ Suddenly, my eyesight faded and flickered, the forest became unclear and distorted, until it clouded over once again, this time, by a strange fog that did not seem to be there at all, a fog, in my mind.

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