It was not the pain searing into his side that got to him, that much he had been taught to manage. It was the blood that he felt sticky and running down to drench the leg of his pants. The scent of it was thick like a beacon in the night to any of the supernatural. It made him a target, one that was growing weaker every passing second.
Thankfully it wouldn’t kill him, but that didn’t mean the danger was gone.
He had miscalculated or perhaps just underestimated. This was not a war that he could win alone. The fire for it burned bright inside of him as some horrible thing he couldn’t ignore but, he remained as just one man against a tide. In his rage, he was alone without even so much as a haven to weather the storm. Still, he could not extinguish the flame within. It was born of the pain that comes with loss and bitter regrets. It was shameful and righteous. Enough even to murder both faith and any sense of peace he had once clung so tight to.
The night around him was closing in. Its thickness deepened but still it offered no protection. It was suddenly menacing when every shadow could pose a new danger. There were hunters there in the night, ones that had the ability to follow him so long as he was bleeding. Even if he found shelter it wouldn’t last for long and anyone who helped him would be considered as guilty as he was. He’d be damnation at their doorway, and they condemned for an act of kindness. Kenelm had gathered enough sins that death was a due he’d deserve but he refused to darken what was left of his soul by dragging another down with him.
The city of Chicago moved around him unaware of the death that awaited in the night. It was as it had always been. A city of stone and metal that breathed with life even in the latest of hours. The birthplace of criminals and corrupt men but also of those seeking to live somewhere in the inbetween of it all. There was goodness here but it was long since asleep in its beds. In the dark the things like him and those who hunted ruled. Under the cover of shadows both crept forward to seek their piece of the city.
What he needed was just a few hours for his body to heal, time enough to dig out the piece of silver that was lodged in his side. His curse would keep the hands of death off him, but it wasn’t without loopholes that right now were very inconvenient.
He leaned back into the brick of the building wall and prayed that for now the alley would offer him a short refuge. He needed to catch his breath that was being stolen by the searing pain of his wound. Each breath was a misted puff against the cold winter, and he closed leaf colored eyes as his head dropped forward. Without thinking about it he was whispering the Lord’s prayer like it was a familiar security blanket he could wrap around himself.
In the back of his mind, he knew that it was only words. Ones that he had lost faith in long ago and that it couldn’t save him now. It wasn’t always that way, there was a time when he felt as though every act of his was guided by the hand of God. He had found purpose and faith. It was easier that way, all the questions and anger that filled his mind recently hadn’t held power over him. He had known clarity, or at least had the ability to forbid himself from thinking about the things that would only haunt him. Now the patch of white at his throat was only a symbol of what he could never return to.
He longed to be able to see the stars, to know the freedom which comes from being far from civilization. He could feel in the back of his mind the stirring of that darker presence which had been both his savior and curse. It too longed for things far away and lost. It ached with a sorrow no words had ever been able to capture. Yet, in its shadowed presence there wasn’t the normal suffering, it woke to what shifted in the dimness around them now.
“Must I always save you?”
The voice was as familiar as the many dreams that Kenelm had never been able to forget. Ones that came to him in the night when he thought that maybe he too could find peace. A voice that echoed always in his heart and nothing had been able to chase away. Though for the longest time it wasn’t that of a ghost, it was the voice of the one being he loved more than God.
“Go away, Falrick. At most you are a figment of a fevered imagination.” Ken responded.
“Am I really, Priest? Do you no longer believe in ghosts then?” That hard to place accent with a heavy British influence held the same bitter sarcasm that Falrick had been best known for. “Perhaps that God of yours finally is offering you some mercy. I admit it would be a strange gift and I am not all too pleased with being torn from my own afterlife, but yet here I am.“ Falrick asked.
Kenelm opened his eyes in time to watch Falrick step closer and he braved lifting his attention to the cold blue of the Viking’s eyes. Breathing was a struggle now and Ken’s lungs ached from its labor. Yet, he was captivated by the vision in front of him. He found himself caught somewhere between heartache and a love that he had spent the better part of a thousand years trying to deny.
It was impossible but it was real.
Falrick was more than a faded memory. Many of the details to the Viking had been lost over the centuries like a photograph left too long out in the sun. The man before him now was far too real. From the snide smirk that had been a trademark of the warrior to the way he moved with the ease of a predator. He wore a modern style of clothing and the cut of his blond hair was shorter but in his eyes was the type of harshness that comes with far too much time to gather endless sins.
“I find you just as lost as when I first met you. How innocent we both were back then and how very foolish. “
“Were we, Falrick? I cannot remember.”
“Oh you can though. It is only that you don’t want to. You’ve lost your way, Kenelm. So maybe that is why he sent me. I couldn’t save you then but maybe, this time I’m the only thing that can. Surrender, Kenelm. This is not a fight you can win. “
There were stars in Ken’s vision now and they danced around the man before him in a sparkling array. The darkness was there as well and creeping in at the edges of his vision as though intent on consuming the pinpoints of light. Even the creature inside of him had grown silent to watch it all in wonderment.
“I don’t want to win, my love. All I want is to fade away until I come back to you. “ Kenelm’s voice was weaker now. Barely a broken whisper in the night.
Soon the hunters would follow the trail of blood leading to him. They would finish what they had started. Ken knew that it was long past the point of hope being able to reach out for him but it didn’t mean all was tragic. He knew that on the other side there would be waiting for him what he always knew he couldn’t live without.
The darkness swept forward in Kenelm’s mind. The world lost grounding under his feet and the danger no longer mattered. There was only the endless black of his mind and all that he had tried to forget.