chapter LXVIIMature

The screams that were coming from him were unholy which made Gabriel hope, weakly, that Graeme didn’t feel the pain.  That it was only Appoloin who was burning beneath the knives, who was sizzling at the touch of holy water.  The flesh of his forehead and chest and where she’d touched her damp fingers to his shoulders was bubbling up, blistering, bubbling again.  He screamed again and the inside of his mouth was black as if it were coated in soot; the teeth were charred and cracking as he bit at the air; whether it was a gesture of pain or fury she didn’t know.  She could feel Graeme slipping; as if his presence in the room was shifting, was fading slightly with every passing minute.   All she could think was Don’t go, over and over, like a mantra.

To her right, Hazel was still whispering her Romanian prayers, mingling them with incantations older than any of the books Gabriel and Graeme had been able to find.  Bless her, Gabriel thought – a brief interruption of her mantra, which resumed itself immediately.  All six knives were in place, and with Appoloin trapped in the tarpit-like gunk of Hazel’s potion, there was only one thing left to do.

She wanted to tell Graeme she loved him, but instead, she laid her hand over the final knife and whispered the one spell she hoped would save him.

Harbinger of righteous slaughter, spare the bearer of dark things.
Honor thy maker and spill only tainted blood.

It lit up the way blessed objects often did, buzzing with an unpolluted light.  Her fingers closed around it as if they were controlled by someone else.  Whether there was sadness in her face or not, she didn’t know, but there was an ocean of it inside of her.  With one clean stroke, she punctured his sternum with the blade and sank it into his heart.

Let him heal, she thought.  Take it from me, if you must, but let him heal.

His eyes went dark.  Blood churned up from his mouth and trickled down his chin.  His chest was still, his muscles limp against the restraining knives.  Frantically, she began removing them; yanking hard on the hilts until the blades were free of the wall, sliding out of his body with wet shinks as they scraped against bone.  She discarded them at her feet, heedless of the blood dripping from them onto the white tile floor. 

Her hands were shaking as she climbed into the tub beside him, pulling his body against her.  There was no resistance in his mucles, he simply bent to the pressure of her touch.  Unaware of how close she was to hyperventilating, she took in breath after breath of air, counting them, barely letting it in or at as she did so, desperate to keep herself from crumbling.  One, two, three, four, five, six.  The fear was palpable.  Had they made a mistake?  She could think of nothing else.  Had they?  Seven, eight, nine, ten.  When would she know?  She didn’t think she could wait.  One, two, three, four, five.  How long would it take him to heal?  It had taken almost a day for him to heal from the last fatal injury he’d gotten.  Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.  Would it take longer for his heart to stitch itself back together? 

Hazel gathered up the knives, generously not offering Gabriel a glance.  She knew there would be only pity in the older woman’s paling eyes.  Sebastian remained unmoved in the doorway, his eyes fixed on her with an emptiness that was better than the disgust she might have otherwise expected.  Her fingers pet Graeme’s soaked hair, stuck to his forehead with sweat, and she looked away from Sebastian.  Warmth spread through her clothes and she ignored it.  Acknowledging the blood would only bring to the forefront all of the terror that was clawing like a hungry wild thing inside of her chest.  She clung to him and wept, unable to stop herself.

Her prayers left her lips as if He would hear them better if she said them outloud.

“Bring him back to me, please, please, please.  Bring him back.  I’ll do anything.  Bring him back to me.”

The End

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