I hear Fate’s laughter ringing loudly in my ears.
Have you heard anything like it? Sometimes, in my long association with beings such as her, I wonder how they could… pervert the things that define Humanity. Look at laughter. If an alien were to land here and now and asked you what laughter was, the best example would be that of a child. Laughter is supposed to be about pure joy, merriment.
It’s not supposed to be mocking.
“I don’t believe you, Rion,” the bitch says as her cruel laughs devolve into crueler giggles. The sound of the sharp points of her heels – even to her choice of clothes, the bitch is a sadist – resounded on the stone floor as she walked to where I knelt with one knee, my right hand on the ground holding my sword as my left clutched my chest. “I thought we had an… agreement already, a… how’d you describe it? Oh, yes: a leveling-off, as it were,” Fate said, stopping in front of me. I refused to look up, refused to look at that smug, smiling face.
She kneels and forcibly tilts my head up to her. Such dainty fingers, well manicured, soft to the touch. Yet each has clawed its way into more than one chest, or gouged out eyes. It didn’t have to be those fingers, but they were guided by Fate’s nonetheless, almost as good as the Bitch herself did it.
“I thought you already agreed, accepted,” she says to my face whose grimace clearly showed the pain my heart was going through. “What? Did you possibly think you’d escape me?”
I seethed at those words, her confidence, her arrogance. I summoned what little remained of my will and ordered my heart to still enough so I can move, so the haze in my mind would fade and I can summon my abilities, my training, my Gifts.
I roared my anger and defiance at Fate and swept the katana in a wide arc, hoping to cleave the Bitch in two with the sacred blade. It has cut Demon Lords in two before. I am sure that if it can only connect with the Sadistic Bitch, it would do her more than the same damage the weapon has visited on Hell’s lords.
Fate nimbly and easily avoided my blow, jumping far back and high, a backflip of unnatural grace and speed. I was standing now, although my legs shook with the effort as my heart hammered back and forth in my ribcage.
Fate laughed again. “You really want to hit me, do you, Knight?”
“Hit you?” I rasped through pain-clenched teeth. “I want to kill you.”
Fate laughs again, a full, throaty one this time. “Fine then, Knight. I’ve heard the Archangels boast about the so-called prowess of Heaven’s elite, and Hell’s Lords whisper your names in fear as much as in loathing.” She draws two slim, wickedly-serrated blades from behind her. I could see the ichor dripping from both and knew what they can do all too well. “But I’ve never really fought one of you. I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
“Come, Knight. Show me what you’ve got. It’s the only chance you’re going to get.”
I roared and used my will to shove aside the pain of my burning, dying heart, and charged, my katana, the sacred blade Shadowcleaver, held low to my right. I sweep it up at the last moment, hoping to cut the Bitch open from crotch to that insulting face.
Effortlessly, she catches the leading edge of the katana in a scissor hold of her two long knives.
And, Fate giggled, then laughed to my face once again.
I roared once more and turned, using the momentum to add power to an overhead smash but she nimbly avoids it. I stabbed the sword but Fate guides it aside with her right-hand blade while she expertly struck back with the other knife, neatly cutting a long gash across the length of my right arm as I slid by.
I snarled in anger and pain at the wound. The Bitch made it shallow, as if to toy with me, but the poison on that blade felt like molten ice. I used what little of my Gifts I could access through the anger and pain to will it away.
“Hurt already, Rion?” the Bitch says, giggling into her left hand. “I’m disappointed. And here Michael once boasted how you easily defeated that Demon Lord.”
Gritting at the numbing pain on my right arm, I snarled back at her, all the witty comebacks driven away by my sheer hatred for this vile creature. Of all the forces that influence the War between Heaven and Hell, Fate – and her weak, co-dependent, masochistic, twin, Destiny – has claimed more than one Champion or Knight or Guardian. In fact, the way I heard some tell it, Fate has racked up more “kills” than any Demon Lord, even more than Baal or vile Asmodeus.
I charged once more, willing myself to disregard the pain in my arm and the one in my chest.
I don’t know how long we sparred. The anger and hatred in me for this… thing made everything a red haze. Gone are the stratagems and tactics and techniques. Gone is the legendary symmetry of skill with the Blade and command of the Gift that is the hallmark of every Knight. Gone is the ability to call on the Light that cowed even powerful Dukes of Hell.
All I wanted to do was hit Fate and kill it.
Because it was going to kill me in the end.
And end it she did. Fate jumped back again to avoid a blow from me. Then, she yawned. She yawned. And said: “This is getting boring. I have more important things to do than play around with an over-emo Human who doesn’t know when to accept he’s dead.” My pain- and anger-addled mind distinctly noticed Fate adopt an advanced stance, one used to open offensive moves.
Fate attacked, a flurry of stabs and slashes that I barely blocked, parried and dodged. A few seconds into the assault, I could feel her twin blades slashing into me, past my defences. They were shallow at first, but then they became deeper, crippling. She struck with the left-hand blade and I blocked it with my katana, only to have it shoved aside, Fate using my weapon’s own momentum to fling it away from me, leaving me open. Her right hand blade stabs forward, deep into my left shoulder. I screamed as it enters my flesh, a feeling unlike cold fire searing into me. With only my injured right arm bearing the weight of Shadowcleaver, Fate kicks my hand. The sword falls, and before I could register the fact that I was disarmed, she moves forward and impales me at the stomach with both her long knives.
“Here, let me remind you what you accepted already,” she whispers to my ear.
The images flood into my mind, images I had blocked out to the point of defiance, if not denial. Images and impressions one of my Gifts showed me, of my end, of my death.
I swear, if I hear another person wish they could see the future, I just might give them what they want, even for a while, so they’ll realize just exactly what they’re asking for.
Pain like no other. Pain that goes beyond even these ministrations by Fate herself, these two eldritch daggers in my all-too-human flesh pumping their poisons into my blood, into my mind. Pain that sears the soul. Pain that makes you want to smash open your ribcage and take out the heart in it so you can’t feel that pain anymore.
And after an eternity of pain, Fate slides out her blades and I crash, kneeling, to the ground. But there is no blood streaking down my wounds, and her impaling of me was never fatal to begin with. I know that, she knows that. This isn’t the day I die.
And, as she pointed out so many times in this encounter, I already accepted that.
But I just thought I could be defiant about it, fight her.
How do you fight Fate?
Especially when Destiny is such an enigmatic, pain-loving weakling?
Fate laughs again and kneels in front of me. If my arms still had strength in them, I would have reached out to choke her. But they were numb, and I lacked even the will to spit at her. “Awwww, Rion, don’t be so glum. What did you say? Oh, yes: ‘at least I got to know what it felt to have you in my arms, to see your smile, and see it glow on me, because of me.’ I gave you that, at least, you ungrateful cur. Its more than what other men will ever get from her.”
Fate stands and walks around to my back. I feel one arm hold both of mine in place, while her other hand reaches into my pocket. She finds my celfone, flicks it open and holds it up to me.
She holds it up long, and I didn’t have the will to close my eyes or look away.
“Remember, Rion: end of this year,” Fate whispers to my ear as she holds my celfone and its screen to my face. “Vestri universitas mos terminus. Vestri spera terminus.”
“Your Latin sucks,” I said between pain clenched teeth.
“But it’s enough to drive the point, yes? Never did like the Romans. Why’d you think I helped destroy their empire?” Fate says as she drops my celfone and releases me. I didn’t even have the strength to fall to the ground from where I knelt and just let my head hang. I could feel my heart hammering hard onto my ribs.
“Catch you later, Knight. That was an interesting workout,” Fate says as she walks away, the sound of the heels of her boots sharply resounding on the stone floor.
“Hey, you,” Fate shouts to someone. “Get off your buns so we can get a move on! People to see, things to do, lives to destroy, and we’re getting late ‘cause of that emo bastard over there!”
I look up to the being sitting in a disheveled heap a bit of a ways in front of me. In the semi-darkness of the room where I brazenly fought Fate and lost, I see with my eyes that can pierce even deep shadow a bundle of white cloth and the lighter, paler color of the skin of she who wore the robe. I heard her crying throughout the battle, heard her shout as Fate sliced and stabbed me. I heard her saying my name again and again along with a continuous stream of “no” in between as Fate showed me what was in my celfone.
Destiny shakily stands up to follow her twin, the hood of her robe falling in her haste to get up. And as she came near me, Destiny looks at me, her eyes streaming tears and pleading with me to understand. And I could see her face clearly now.
The same face that Fate wore when she fought me and stabbed me and reminded me how I was going to die at the end of the year.
A face I knew quite well.
I look back at Destiny with all the anger and hate I could muster, much more than with her twin for wearing that face as if to further my torture with her tears and that look of concern. She hurries off, and I didn’t know whether it was because of fear for her sister who was now shouting back angrily at her, or the look of pure hatred on my face.
I listen to their footfalls recede and wished I wouldn’t have to hear them again. But then, I hear a clatter on the stone floor. “What, Fate, you’ve decided you’d end it all now?” I said. But then, I felt two arms hold me tight and tears fall on my nape. I looked down and saw two white sleeves enfolding my battered chest, the pain of my overstrained heart receding and the numbness in my arms fleeing.
“I’m sorry,” Destiny whispers in my ear between sobs in a voice I am all-too-familiar with, and it almost breaks my heart to hear it. I feel her hands take my right hand and she presses something into it, a piece of paper. Then, she tilts my face upward and towards her and kisses me, long, on the lips. When it was over, I looked into all-too-familiar eyes and a smile that I have long missed. Right then and there, I thought my heart would break into a million pieces, and not have it wait to do the same at the end of the year.
“I have to go,” she says, and rushes off to rejoin her twin.
I follow Destiny’s receding form with my eyes, all the anger in them now gone replaced only by sadness and longing and a wish. At the lip of the cavern, she looks back, auburn hair in the wind, and gives me that smile again. Then, she was gone.
I looked down at the slip of paper in my hand and open it. In words written with her own blood, Destiny gave me her message:
“Let what is in your heart speak its truth. You – and Fate – might be surprised at the outcome.”
At this, I cried. What Fate couldn’t do, the pain and the crushing weight on my chest and all, Destiny so easily did with a few words, an embrace, and a kiss.
Sometimes, I wonder which of the two is crueler.
You said “The fires won’t consume you,
and in the rivers you won’t drown.”
I wish to pause this moment ’cause as I cry I start to realize:
what’s missing was you.
— Kjwan, “Pause”