Make a Decision

This vignette was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.

**

Johannes reached the cemetery just as the sun was breaking over the horizon.  He hurried over to the gate and froze.  Frieda was tied to a tree at the center of the field of stones.  The woman who had brought her there – a woman whose name he still didn’t know – was standing nearby fiddling with a knife.  He knew only one thing about the woman: once she had been like him.  She used to be her family’s true cross.  Now… he didn’t know what she was.  She was corrupted, that much was certain.  However, she hadn’t been corrupted by a Singer or even any other sort of demon.  She’d become corrupted by the power she held as a true cross.

Steeling himself, Johannes pushed the gates opened and strode inside.  “I’ll distract her,” he said, his voice soft.  His gaze flicked to Michael.  He’d first met the spirit of temperance when he was only six years old.  Now, he didn’t know what his life would be like without that calming, constant presence.  “You free Frieda.”

Michael nodded and then glided across the field invisible to anyone besides Johannes.

“I’m here,” he said, his voice echoing against the stones.  The woman turned to face him and smiled.  Frowning, Johannes shook his head.  “What do you want?”

“I wanted to give you a chance to join me, Johannes,” she said, moving across the field towards him.  As soon as the woman’s back was to Frieda, Michael set to work freeing her.  “You’re nearly as strong in your gifts as I am.  Together, we could be great.”

Johannes smiled and shook his head.  “Seems to me,” he said, “if I’m nearly as strong as you, that makes me the only one that could possibly stand against you.”

The woman scowled.  “You can’t hope to best me, little one,” she said, shaking her head.  She laughed for a moment, the sound covering the soft noises that Michael made as he drew Frieda out of the cemetery.

Johannes met his sister’s gaze briefly and then nodded once.  Frieda returned the nod and then hurried out of the cemetery.  She would trust him to handle this woman on his own.  At the same time, he didn’t doubt that she would be going to get their elder siblings, just in case he needed help.

Looking back to the woman, Johannes arched his brows.  “I’ve already bested you once,” he said, shrugging.  When the woman frowned, he nodded.  “You’re missing something, lady.”

Hissing, the woman turned away from him.  When she saw that Frieda was gone, she whirled back to him.  With a flick of her wrist, she sent out a wave of power that knocked Johannes off his feet.  He landed a few feet away and she choked back a laugh.  “It’s your choice.”  She shrugged.  “You can continue with your worthless life, or you can become someone who matters.”

Johannes frowned at her as he pushed himself up to his knees.  For a moment, he knelt in the soft turf, panting and catching breath.  There was a time when her words would have made him question everything he’d been brought up to believe.  However, a lot had happened in the last few years.

He played with the ring on his finger.  It had been in his family for generations.  It was one of only a dozen such rings that were still with their original families.  It was one of only three that were known to be fully activated.  He’d been the one to activate it.  That said something about his skills.  He smiled when he saw Michael glide back into the cemetery and hover a few feet beyond her.  The loyalty of his guardian spirit said even more than his ability to master the sealing ring did.

“You think really highly of yourself,” he said, looking at the ground for only a moment.  Then, he looked up and met her gaze steadily.  “I’m glad for you, but… you’re wrong.”  He shook his head and then moved to his feet.  “My life isn’t worthless.  I already am someone who matters.  Even at my age, I’ve made a difference in this world.  My actions have changed lives for the better and I have people who love and care about me.”

Johannes brushed off his trousers.  Then, he started to turn away.  “Kill me, if you want,” he said, smirking.  He already knew that she couldn’t do that.  She wouldn’t even try, in fact.  He shrugged.  “You need to check your priorities, though, before you start telling people that they need to make a decision about their lives.  There are far more important things than fame and power.  There are greater things by which to judge the value of a life.”

Then, he turned away from her and headed for the gate that led out of the cemetery.  He could sense Michael hovering protectively behind him.  When he reached the gate, she began screaming at him to come back.  She threatened his life and the lives of those he loved, but Johannes didn’t waver or turn back.  If she had any power to harm him, she would have done so by now.

Instead, he said, “Come on, Michael.  Let’s go home.”  The gates opened before he reached them and he strode out of the cemetery.  Behind him, she was now screaming wordlessly.  Her plans had failed.  Johannes almost felt sorry for her… almost.

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