“I wasn’t sure you would ever leave that place. I thought I’d come back one day and you’d still be there, starved and rotting by now. I never imagined you would leave him, no matter the years or consequences,” Gabe explained with genuine concern.

                She avoided his gaze while the memory ripped open inside her chest. Sable would not press her hand to the old wound, though. The only showing evidence of remaining broken pieces from her heart sparkled at the bottom of her vibrant eyes.

                “I didn’t want to leave… had things gone any different, I would likely be long dead by now,” she admitted quietly.

                “What managed to change your mind?”

                “A desperate prayer.”

                She half expected Gabe to burst out laughing, or to ridicule her if nothing else. He remained silent, though. When she glanced up at him, he was watching her with quiet, analytical eyes churning their gears. She was curious to see what would come from his gifted, powerful mind. It was well known that he scorned Light and Darkness, as well as the gods; even while one had been his very own creator. Did he know there was one higher yet?

                It would make her job too easy if he did.

                Gabe’s brows furrowed and he leaned back in his chair, pulling in a long breath. He almost appeared disturbed by her admission, though it hid behind his abundance of curiosity.

                “What was the prayer,” he finally inquired.

                Her eyes raised to the ceiling above as she recited: “If you truly are all powerful, you can change even the darkest of souls and save a madman from damnation. I will forfeit my life to pay for his salvation, take it if only you will free him of the evil which keeps him damned.”

                She would never forget the words, nor the ugly way she’d wailed them to the heavens. At that time, she’d honestly believed that her life would end the moment she finished her prayer, and she had been more than ready to sacrifice it.

                Thankfully, her price was far from what death could have paid.

                Gabe was smirking at her, all seriousness stolen as he regarded her with an expression fully entertained by her words. She knew in that moment he did not believe her.

                “Well of course, when you offer your soul, something is going to answer. That is guaranteed,” he leaned forward, clasping his hands and dropping his voice to a tumbling whisper that mocked her. “How can you be certain your ‘master’ is not simply another madman more powerful than the one you think you will save? How do you even know that Kazious still lives?”

                “A mixture between faith and intuition,” Sable replied smoothly, unshaken.

                Gabe’s lips pulled into a wide, toothy grin that held no mirth. His chuckle earned a frown from her as it glided over her skin.

                “Come now, sable,” he began, voice twisting with a maniacal edge to its ridicule. “Do you know how I admired you when you were so very young; far too intelligent for your age. You were fascinating. I loved you back then.

                “Now you want to sit here and talk to me about ‘faith’? Even while the only life you have ever cared for hangs in the balance, my little stone witch; my clo-caillea.”

                Sable narrowed her eyes at the old nickname. He’d given it to her the first time they’d met, and even back then, she’d hated it. He was continuing before she could respond though, coming closer to tower over her. One eye blazed with fire, the other a frozen glacier while his tone came to a booming roar.

                “Faith is for the easily manipulated; the people that must enslave themselves because they have no strength to stand on their own two legs. You can do better than faith, you fool!”

                She did not turn away when his face came inches from her own, nor flinch when he grabbed her arms tight enough for bruises to blossom. Her strange, amber eyes regarded him with pity; raging him further. He shook her violently, yet her only response was a deepened, calm frown.

                Finally, he seemed to become aware of himself. His grip loosened, though it did not fall away. He breathed heavily and searched her face for the answer to a question he was not ready to ask.

                Sable spoke into the silence, tracing its shape with gentle ferocity, “tell me, Gabe, what is it that stopped you from choking me the way you wish to? Is it out of respect for the stone witch you once knew, or are you afraid of not knowing the extent of the power my faith allows me to access? Who here is truly weak then, or is fear not one of your methods of manipulating others?”

                He dropped his hands as if her skin had burned him, stepping back until his legs hit the chair. Sable’s unwavering gaze held his, though she did not mirror his rage nor scorn him. She regarded him with understanding, and a shred of sadness.

                He hated her in that moment.

                “Damn you,” he muttered as he sat heavily.

                “Come now, are you giving up that easily,” she mused, earning a half-hearted glare even while all the tension eased with her humor. “Let that incredible mind of yours prove which of us is true. Otherwise, you’ll always have doubts, and you can’t trust someone you doubt to come with you into battle.”

                He was beginning to calm down, throwing a piece of his usual amusement up into his differed eyes. A smirk barely graced the edge of his lips.

                “You are a very strange, little woman. Do you realize that?”

                Sable let out a hearty laugh that revealed her rare, glowing smile.

                “You’ve seen nothing yet,” she whispered.


Author’s message: Is anyone else just getting more and more questions as this story unfolds, or is that just me?

Hopefully, they will all be answered eventually, but this story is writing itself in pieces, so when you know is the same time that I will know!