Immortal Reborn - Arianna's Choice, page 20
Time stood still for Alexandria. She noted that everyone around her had a look of shock or outrage painted on their faces. Jackson’s arm was outstretched as if that motion in and of itself could stop Rohan’s sword from a distance. She saw the six she had been sparring with to her left in various poses as they raced to intercept the weapon.
Then Alex felt a familiar tingle and a slow smile spread across her face. Ganymede appeared at her side and smiled broadly down at her. She embraced him, so very happy to feel the peace, love, and contentment she experienced in his arms. His kissed the top of her hair and smoothed it away from her face.
“You are doing so well, my child. I am so, very proud of you.”
Alex smiled back, basking in his praise, noting that he had referred to her as his child.
“You are uncovering gifts faster than the others expected, but I think Archimedes’ analogy of a dam springing leaks was correct. Now that you are tapping into what lies within, your abilities, gifts, or whatever you choose to call them, will continue to present themselves in rapid succession.”
He gestured towards the longsword now suspended in midair. “I see Rohan took the most direct method to bring this ability to the surface,” Ganymede said, somberly shaking his head.
“What was he thinking?” asked Alex. “He could have killed me!” She had no idea what Rohan could have hoped to gain by trying to cleave her in half.
Ganymede chuckled. “Why, Alexandria, he achieved this,” he said, sweeping his hand before him to the frozen landscape. “Rohan knows that you, and you alone of all Nephilim, possess this ability. You can essentially freeze time and space, put them into suspended animation briefly. I cannot say that I agree with Rohan’s methods,” Ganymede said reproachfully, “but he wanted you to remember that no matter what you face, you can stop it and control the outcome.”
“How… Wait. I did this?” Alex spluttered, thinking that Ganymede had caused everything around her to come to a standstill when he appeared.
“Yes, this was all you. You have done this only a handful of times in all the ages you have lived on this earth because you recognized it as the ultimate betrayal of free will. It is no small act to take another’s choices away, to manipulate them whilst they are unawares. And, well, it gave you such a feeling of distaste and disgust that you rarely, if ever, called on the ability.”
“Ganymede, if I could do this, why then did Arianna allow Kronis to kill her? Can any of the Fallen’s children do this as well, or cancel out the ability in any way? Is that how he got to her?”
“Ah,” he exhaled slowly. Ganymede looked far off into the distance as if searching not over the land that lay directly ahead, but through the years witnessing her fall. “I was hoping that your mind would not make that leap just yet but you are my daughter too, so I should have expected it.” He smiled at her, though it did not quite reach his luminous blue eyes.
“When I say no other has the ability, I mean those of the Light or of the darkness. I do not know why Arianna chose not to utilize this ability to save her life. She could have saved herself, but in the last few moments she chose to fight Kronis conventionally, and it was her undoing. This is a question that the other immortal children have struggled with since she perished, and one that we all hope you can help us answer as you embrace her presence within you.”
“You can feel her as you feel me within you. The strength that Nassor told you to call on is within you, Alexandria. That is where the aura comes from. It is the sheer power of your immortal parent within, radiating outwards, which causes the light display. Close your eyes,” he instructed, and she obeyed him.
Ganymede stepped forward and placed his long fingers on her temples and slowly exhaled. Alex felt warmth filling her and then a sharp jolt passed from her head to her toes.
“Alexandria, keep your eyes closed. I want you to begin feeling this energy within. It has been there all along, but it is awakening as if from hibernation. Concentrate on the surge of energy you just felt. Where has it traveled to in your body?”
She turned her mind inward and felt her upper arms, forearms, and thigh muscles acting as repositories for the energy burst. Alex began to push against it and felt it spread out to every fiber of her muscles, tendons, and ligaments. She pushed further until it was saturating individual cells. In response to this effort, Ganymede continued to instruct her.
“Now, feel what this power does to those cells you just refortified. It is like armor plating around your very essence, and it is hard for a cell to degenerate from age or illness if it is protected in such a way.”
Alex slowly opened her eyes and said in wonder, “This is how we achieve immortality. We shield our cells from the decay age brings to bear, and we strengthen ourselves from within with the pure energy our fathers have. Does this mean that I am completely immortal now, Ganymede?” Alex was unsure why, but panic gripped her, and she was not prepared for what that meant for her future.
“No, Alexandria, not now. You are feeling me within you, and this will make you stronger. To truly embrace the immortal life that is yours to claim, you will have to allow part of your subconscious to begin healing yourself continuously. And you will have to speak the words to me, acknowledging that you want to be fully and completely a Nephilim again. Be their leader.”
He gestured around them again at all who were assembled and still frozen, she noted.
“Until you want to be as you were, and as you will be when you choose this for your path and your destiny, it cannot and will not be forced on you. For now, begin to meditate and commune with the power within your body and let it strengthen you for the coming days of trial.” Ganymede leaned over and kissed her forehead and smiled disarmingly down at her.
“So tell me, what shall you do with Rohan’s challenge?” he asked as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
“Wow, a mischievous angel! Never thought I would see that in all my days.” Alex laughed at him, shaking her head. “Okay, so let’s decide. I definitely don’t want this going anywhere near anyone else, so let’s take it down.” She walked forward and plucked the longsword from the air. Then, Alex decided that she would surprise Rohan by moving behind him and gain the advantage. Now, she had the weapon and the element of surprise on her side.
When Alex was all set, she looked up at Ganymede and smiled. He nodded his approval.
“Just think about how everyone was in motion the moment before they paused. Remember them in action and will them to be so again.”
She nodded back and thought about everyone’s bid to run and save her from the blade in her hands.
Alex heard their shouts, and then saw the confusion that registered as they began to realize they were running to a place where she no longer stood. Jackson’s eyes found her, and he altered his course to intercept her. Alex took the flat of the blade and smacked Rohan on his backside, causing him to whirl around and face her.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” she scolded.
Rohan gave her an appreciative smile.
Jackson reached their side and tried to put Alexandria behind him. “What in the hell do you think you’re playing at, man? Do you usually try to kill your friends before lunch?”
He was shouting directly at Rohan, and Alex could feel the tense energy billowing off the immortal. Other Nephilim were coming to separate the two when Ganymede cleared his throat.
Every immortal stopped and fell to one knee or bowed their head to show him their fealty and respect. He acknowledged their silent vow and gestured for everyone to rise. Ganymede walked over and stood beside Alex, wrapping a protective arm around her shoulders. Alex saw Jack’s lips part in wonder, but he quickly recovered.
Ganymede’s voice increased in volume so that all might hear his words. “I am most pleased that my daughter has been welcomed back into this gathering with open arms. She has yet to speak the words, but I still recognize her as blood
Rohan paled slightly and nodded at the powerful angel before him.
In a quieter voice he said, looking down at Alex, “I will come again as you need me. Do not hesitate to call on me, Alexandria. I mean that,” he vowed, squeezing her again. “Goodbye, my child,” Ganymede whispered and he was gone.
Alex looked around and realized they all seemed a bit shocked still. She decided to take control and lighten the mood. She stepped closer to Rohan and peered back into his face.
“So, nice lesson, but don’t do anything like that again, okay? I’d hate to have to do more than just smack you on your backside.” Alex extended the sword back to Rohan and when he reached for it, she clasped his forearm. “Thank you, my friend.”
“You’re welcome,” he said genuinely.
Nassor came forward and offered everyone a break, which Alexandria gladly accepted.
Jack asked her in which direction she wanted to go, and she opted for a light snack and then the stables. Since they had arrived, Alex had been itching to get down to the horses and possibly ride if she could. They walked back to the kitchen and found an assortment of different cheeses, crackers, and various fruits under small glass domes on the butcher block island.
Sabina came in while the two were enjoying a quiet moment between bites. Alex was in deep introspection about Ganymede’s words and Arianna’s choice, and Jack was lost in his own mind as he wondered if he would really be able to fulfill his vow and keep Alex safe. He seemed heavily outmatched in skill and strength there, and that was a feeling that he was unaccustomed to experiencing. But he could not imagine not trying because he felt Alexandria was more worth his effort than any other charge he had ever endeavored to safeguard.
“I thought I’d find you two here,” Sabina commented. “Where are you going after you eat? Have Archimedes and John given you a plan for today?”
“No,” said Alex. “Nassor and Daiki had me working through the paces with swords, as you saw, and Nassor mentioned that I would work on mental blocking later, but I think I’m still on break right now. I was actually hoping to head down to the stables. Would that be alright, you think?”
Sabina’s face brightened considerably, and she clasped her hands together. “Oh, I was so hoping we would get to ride together soon. This was one of our most treasured pastimes together. It gave us such release and freedom and took us away from our worries and troubles. You and I used to strike out and ride for hours, sometimes at a slow, sedate pace and at other times,” she smiled wistfully, “it felt as if our mounts’ hooves never even touched the ground. Total freedom. Did you bring riding clothes with you?”
“I brought everything but a helmet. Do we have to wear those?” Alex had been schooled to always ride with a helmet, but now that she had the possibility of near indestructibility coursing through her veins she wanted to try a ride without one on and really feel the wind in her hair.
“You can wear one if you want. We have them for some of our human guests who visit from time to time, but you don’t have to. If you were to get hurt, you could heal yourself, or one of us could heal any injury you sustained within reason.” Sabina turned her attention to Jackson. “Do you ride, Mr. Campbell?”
“I know enough to be dangerous.” He smiled crookedly. “But I didn’t bring any gear with me to ride.”
“Not a problem. We have extra clothing here as well. I will go fetch you some, and then we’ll all have a pleasant ride together. I’ll place the garments in your room within a few minutes, Jackson.” She turned and left in search of an outfit for Jack, humming an old tune to herself.
Alex tried to remember where she had heard that tune before, but she could not quite place it. She shrugged and popped another grape in her mouth, studying Jack’s face. He really was very good looking. She wondered how many hearts he had broken along the way. No, Alex scolded herself, do not think that way. She tried to focus on something else to change the direction of her thoughts.
“Jack, if you aren’t comfortable riding, I’m sure I’ll be safe with Sabina. I can even ask another immortal to go along if you wish.”
He pointed the small cheese knife he was using in her direction and wagged it back and forth. “Oh, no. Don’t even think about trying to ditch me, Alex. I’m sure I’m not as proficient as you or Sabina, but I can hold my own on a horse. I’ve had a few lessons.”
Alex noted that he blushed at his last comment, and she narrowed her eyes at him. “Why are you blushing, Mr. Campbell? Come on, spill it!”
He rose and cleared their small plates away, placing them in a dishwasher. Jack started for the doorway of the kitchen and called over his shoulder, “Keep up if you want to hear my secrets, Miss Groaban!”
Alex ran after him, thoroughly intrigued to hear the whole tale.
They mounted the stairs together, and Jack told her how he had experienced a crush on a girl in high school who liked to ride horses. So as a way to spend time with her and impress her, he had gone with her on weekends and a few evenings after school here and there to take lessons, too. Jack told Alex that he had not completed the training because, sadly, he discovered that the girl liked the horse she mainly rode more than him. It was a sound blow to his budding manhood.
Alex laughed at his dramatic retelling and shook her head. “I don’t think your masculinity is in danger, Mr. Campbell. You are quite the specimen, and it is her loss, not yours.” Alex wanted to die of mortification right there and then. She could not believe that she had been so forward. When they reached the doors to their bedrooms, she turned to him, hoping to find some way to recover from her loose-lipped blunder.
“Jack, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that just there on the stairs. That was too informal of me. Please accept my apology,” Alex said sincerely and extended her hand in his direction.
He took it but did not shake it. Rather, Jack squeezed it to get Alex to look up at him. “You English, you’re always so formal and worried that you might have overstepped some imaginary line.” He chuckled. “Alex, you don’t have to apologize to me. I like hearing that I’m not too bad a – what did you call me? A specimen. Does the ego good.”
“Besides, I think you’re right. It was her loss, not mine. But get this through your head – you can say anything to me, tell me anything, and we’re going to be fine with each other. Got it?”
“Got it,” Alex said and nodded. Thank goodness Jack was not ready to run for the door yet, she thought.
“Now go change, and I’ll meet you back here in the hall in a few.” He turned Alex in the direction of her bedroom and gave her a gentle shove to get her moving.
Jack need not have because Alex was changed and ready before he was. She returned to the hall, studying the artwork there while she waited, still amazed at the eclectic mix throughout the home.
Home. Alex mulled the word over in her head. It was the first time she had thought of Aeoferth Hall as a home. But it was, was it not? It was enormous in size and scope, and she had not taken a good look in all of the rooms yet, but it felt like a home, especially with so many Nephilim about. Lots of love, family, and friends made any structure into a home. Yes, Alexandria decided, most certainly it did.
Jackson came out of his room and looked around until he spotted her. They both silently appraised the other, and then he held out his hand to her. Alex walked forward and took it, and together they made their way down to the stables.