This was what the end felt like, Rafe thought as he waited for Nathaniel to unleash his wrath. It seemed fitting somehow the one that gave him eternal life should also be the cause of his demise. There was some irony that he was paying for his Creator's sins. Gabriel had destroyed his soul, leaving him in this world of darkness with no escape.
He stared at the new Elder Nathaniel, trying to read his thoughts. What crime was Gabriel guilty of against their new leader? Only a few images filled his mind, those pictures painted a grim scenario that gave him some understanding of the rage that inevitably ended with him standing here, waiting for execution.
“Stay out of my head!” Nathaniel paced the long cave-like hall trying to gain control over his volatile emotions. The path seemed so clear moments ago. Destroy Eduardo, take from Gabe what he coveted the most, and take over the position as leader of their race.
The blood of the previous Elder still stained his hands. Adrenaline moved through his veins at the power he now encompassed. Why wasn't this enough to fill the void of nothingness? For thousands of years he had planned this revenge. Everything he set out to accomplish was now complete. Instead of the jubilation he expected to feel, there was an emptiness that dwelled so deep in his soul it threatened to consume him.
Kneeling on the cold, damp floor, Rafe allowed the mental connection with Nathaniel to sever. His thoughts moved to his beautiful Cara. Closing his eyes, he pulled into his memories the last time he held her in his arms. The scent of her surrounded him with a subtle fragrance of crushed rose petals. This would be the last memory he wanted to carry with him into the abyss.
In this endless night of darkness, she was the light that warmed his soul. For the first time in his immortal existence he understood what it felt like to crave something more than even the demand for blood. The only regret he had in leaving this damnation was fear for her safety now that he could no longer protect her.
“This human means much to you?” Nathaniel glanced over at his captive, seeing for the first time a brother and not an object for his revenge.
Pulling himself out of his walk through the past, he nodded keeping his eyes lowered in respect. “She is all I covet in this creation, Elder.” He felt no reason to be dishonest or rude to this man. Knowing his Creator as he did, he could only assume that whatever wrongs Gabriel had committed on him, deserved retaliation.
“You accept your fate with more grace than I did,” Nathaniel remembered well how the anger had fueled his need for revenge at all his brothers' had done to him.
“I've walked this earth for more years than I ever intended.” He lifted his eyes and met the Elders gaze. “My only regret will be to leave the one who claimed my heart without a protector.” Gabriel had given his word to watch over her, but there were many promises he had made and not kept.
“I find myself strangely attuned to you brother.” Running a hand through his thick hair, thoughts of his own beloved filled his mind. She still suffered at the hands of the Dragon because of her love for him. This man was not much different, he thought. They both coveted the one thing they could not possess.
Nathaniel felt a strange semblance of peace overcome him as he allowed the memories of his brother relationship roll through his mind. For reasons he could not explain, it made him feel closer to his own lost love. He smiled for the first time in centuries as each scenario played out before him.
For countless hours they discussed how their lives had been emotionally altered because of the choices thrust on them. A kinship was born between them out of misery. They were no longer two strangers, but true brothers. They were given the capacity to understand that even walking through the darkest nights, love could warm the coldest heart.
“How will you gain her release?” Rafe could see the pain of loss in his brother's eyes for his beloved. With all the power the Elder now possessed, surely he would be gifted with the one desire he wanted most, he thought.
Shaking his head, Nathaniel fought back the anguish that moved once again through his being. “My crimes against the Dragon will not be forgiven.” Standing up, he fought against the misery and made a decision. “You, however, I can give the one gift that will never be afforded me,” holding out his hand he waited for Rafe to take it.
Rafe was confused as he placed his hand in Nathaniel’s. “I'm afraid I don't understand?” He tried to mentally connect but for reasons he couldn't comprehend, his thoughts were being blocked.
Closing his eyes, Nathaniel connected with the Dragon. Power surged through his body with an intensity that lifted them both off the ground. Hovering in the air he took over Rafe's mind and pulled Gabriel's demon from his body. The demon roared in protest but was quickly quieted by the Dragon. The demon had no will over his Creator and quickly dissipated where it would await the next victim.
For a brief moment, Rafe was human again as no demon resided in his body. The moment was short lived as his body began undergoing a new transformation. Agony filled every organ and he screamed at the pain that flooded through his veins like fire. He remembered the sensation well from his first turning and could only look to Nathaniel for release from the torment.
“I give you new life my brother, and a chance.” There was no need to fill Rafe's body with his blood in this dimension and he gave him a gift stronger, his own demon. Still hovering in the air their bodies were wrapped together in a lover's embrace as Nathaniel's essence connected with Rafe's. Stronger than any bond that could be forged in the human world, they were now part of the same soul.
As the possession took hold, the power that filled him was like nothing he had ever been consumed with before. He felt invincible and stronger than the first time he had been born of night. Their feet lowered until the ground met them and Rafe could only stare at his brother in astonishment. “Elder, what have you done.” His voice was filled with awe.
“I have broken your bond with Gabriel, now we are both free from our past.” For the first time in thousands of years Nathaniel felt at peace. “Go, find your beloved, brother” a smile found his features. “Claim what is yours!” Without giving him warning, Nathaniel took over his body and thoughts and sent him out of the lower dimension and back to Singe Tsigan.
Rafe stared over the land of his second home as his feet found the earth. He tried to understand the enormity of what had just happened. He would not be meeting his end, he had been handed a pardon. His soul now belonged with Nathaniel, but it was a different possession than he had felt with Gabriel.
“Cara,” her name escaped his lips on a reverent sigh. He didn't understand why, but she felt so close. Her fragrant scent washed over the land, but that was impossible. Moving with a speed that defied even his superhuman strength he followed the subtle hint of her essence.
His mind screamed against the truth that could no longer be denied. She was here on Singe Tsigan. “No!” he cried out into the night, wishing beyond all hope that what he feared was simply an illusion. He stood before the castle that had once been his retreat from the earthly plane, fearing what he would find inside. How long had he been gone? It had only felt like hours but the timing couldn't be right.
He made his way through the doors, then up the stairs to where her scent was the strongest. The sight that greeted him would haunt his soul for eternity. Her beautiful face was filled with surprise then self-condemnation. He suffered through the images of her memories, seeing every moment of new vampire life. The demon in him roared with outrage at his brother taking what belonged to him. The mental imagery refused to cease, showing every moment of passion she had shared in Gabriel's arms. His control began to shatter and he couldn't hear the words her lovely mouth was whispering.
She took a step toward him and he held up his hands to ward her off. He felt the rage building in intensity as the demon demanded he destroy the woman before him. “I cannot!” the roar escaped his mouth as he feared the demon would overtake his will and force him to rip her body apart limb by limb. He watched her run away and felt relieved that she was taking the temptation away. To hurt her, he would only be severing his own soul. Falling to his knees, the pain that flowed through his entire being had him screaming in torment.
Gabriel walked into the room and his eyes widened in astonishment. “Brother!”
“Stay away from me Gabe!” The scream escaped his lips and his fangs bared, the demon fully controlling his thoughts. He had to leave. Fighting with every ounce of his humanity he pulled himself from the floor and flew off toward the portal.
The pain of regeneration as he found his way into the human world again couldn't quench the need for blood. Moving through the streets of New Orleans he devoured dozens of victims and the demon in him rejoiced.