Thief: Chapter 17

Friday, 17 June 2016
    







Chapter Seventeen





    Winter’s calm had settled over the cabin like a blanket. The previous night’s storm had passed, and a thick layer of snow weighed down the sloped roof. The pathway Horace had led Abby down was covered over without even an indent to show where it had been. After a sleepless night in the little cabin, Abby stood on the snow-covered porch watching the sun rise above the pine forest that surrounded her.
    She still wasn’t sure where she was, exactly. It was colder than it had any right to be--D.C. never dipped too far below freezing, and this much snow was nearly unfathomable. “Looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Abby murmured, reaching a gloved finger out to catch a lazily drifting snowflake.
    “Far from it, actually.” A voice came from her right.
    Abby started, wide green eyes meeting Horace’s dark gaze. She felt the power within her surge instinctively, reacting to her quickened pulse. Abby wrestled it back down, suppressing a shudder at the feeling of it pulsing through her veins.
    “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. He held an armful of neatly split logs to his chest, an axe gripped loosely in his free hand.
    “Please,” Judah heaved past his brother, both arms cradling a haphazard stack of logs. “that ponytail scares all the girls. Cuz, y’know---yikes.” He stomped up the stairs, dropping the logs on the porch with a dull clatter. He rubbed his hands together and stomped the snow from his boots. “Ugh, it’s so cold!”
    “Complaining won’t make you warmer.” His brother chided mildly as he came up the stairs, setting his own logs down more carefully and propping the axe up against the wall.
    “Well it won’t make me colder, so--“
    “Um,” Abby interrupted.
    Two sets of dark eyes, so similar to Raph’s, locked with hers.
    “Uh, so, what are we…why did you bring me…here?” she asked, indicating the frozen landscape. “And where is here, exactly?”
    Horace and Judah exchanged a glance, then looked back to her. “Somewhere safe.” Horace said. “No one will find you here--and I mean that in the least threatening way possible. You can use your powers here, learn to control them, and no one, demon or angel, will be able to sense it.”
    Abby looked at him quizzically “And why is that?” she asked carefully.
    “Because,” a soft, familiar voice called from behind her, “it is my home.”
    Abby whirled around, and saw Rivkah walking towards them, on top of the snow drift where the path had been. The old woman was draped in a fur-lined dark blue cloak, long silver hair streaming regally behind her. Her booted feet, Abby noticed, left only the faintest impression in the snow. Abby suspected that if she tried walking there she’d end up wading calf-deep through the stuff. She let Rivkah come to her.
    Rivkah ascended the steps lightly, walking across the snow-covered porch towards Abby and pulling her into her arms. “I’m so glad you’re alright, dear.” she said, hugging Abby tight.
Abby stiffened at her touch, and the kindness in her tone. She thought of Gabe, lying in his hospital bed, thought of Raph carving into his flesh. Thought of how, if it wasn’t for her, none of this would have happened. She fought back the lump in her throat, the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, and the power that roiled and raged to be unleashed.
    “Are you sure?” she asked, voice cracking.
    Rivkah gave her an extra squeeze, and let go. She looked at Abby with her ageless gaze. “I’m sure.” She said, smiling gently. “Now,” Rivkah said, turning to look at Horace. “What can you teach her?”
    “Ma’am.” Horace said, giving a stiff, formal little bow with military precision. “We’re working on containment, first of all. Abby’s powers are practically feral, totally uncontrolled. If they remain that way, they could very well rip her apart, both mentally and physically. For now, I believe we need to focus on her using and shutting down her powers.”
    Rivkah gave him a long, appraising look. “I agree.” She finally said, nodding curtly. She turned back to Abby. “Abby, my dear, I know you’ve been through a lot--more than any one person should have to go through, in my opinion--but it’s only going to get harder from here on out. I want to make that clear to you. This will not be easy. Are you absolutely sure you want to continue? Say the word, and I’ll return you to Aiden and all the safety the Wards can provide. Just know that even their collective power would not be enough to stop what struggles inside you, should you lose all control.”
    The power sparked and cracked along Abby’s skin like lightning at Rivkah’s words, and Abby felt the warmth of it run through her. She inhaled deeply, tasting the cold air as it burned in her lungs.           "I’ll stay.” She said, voice soft, but resolute. She had to--there was no other way.
Rivkah’s gaze, older than time itself and just as unfathomable, held hers for another long, silent moment. “Good.” Rivkah said.
    She stepped forward, opening the cabin door and taking a step inside. “Come inside; we have much to discuss. And you, boy,” she said, waving offhandedly at Judah, who’d been absent-mindedly picking up handfuls of snow and melting them with wisps of blue flame that sprung from his palms. “Stack those logs up properly, it won’t do if they get wet.”
    Judah frowned, steam sizzling out of his clenched fists. “Why do I have to listen to you? You’re not--“
    “Jude.” Horace hissed, widening his eyes in exasperation.
    “What?! She’s--“
    “You,” Rivkah interrupted, drawing herself up to her full height and looking at the demon disdainfully, “are still alive because you serve a purpose. Don’t give me a reason to disappoint an old friend.” The thinly veiled threat hung in the frozen air as Rivkah glided serenely inside, beckoning Abby to follow. “Come now, my dear. We have a lot of work to do.”

***

    Abby waded through the snow behind Rivkah’s dainty steps, Horace slogging along behind her. Judah had stayed in the cabin, complaining of the cold and boredom. Abby secretly thought that he was probably just afraid of Rivkah--she couldn’t really blame him for that. Horace had quickly left him behind, seemingly happy to be free of his little brother’s pessimism.
    They reached a clearing in the trees, a wide circle of pines ringing one tall, bare-branched tree, its bark and branches a stark, bone white aside from a gouge of pure black that split it neatly down the middle.
    “This tree doesn’t look very healthy,” Abby said as she circled it, running her fingers lightly along its trunk.
    “It’s dead.” Rivkah replied.
    “Ah,” Abby said, feeling a twinge of regret at Rivkah’s words.
    “I want you to bring it back to life.”
    Abby looked at Rivkah, startled. “You want me to what?”
    “Revive the tree. Your power is unique; this should be a simple task for you.”
Abby looked at Horace, who nodded encouragingly. “Try it. It’s not like you can hurt it. It’s already dead.”
    Abby looked at the tree skeptically, unsure of what to do. “How--“
    “Here.” Horace said, walking up behind her. He took her hand in his, placing her palm flat against the trunk of the tree, her fingers ghosting over the lightning burn. “Think of your power as an extension of your intentions. You want the tree to live? Will it to regrow. Use your power to find what is broken, and then fix it.”
    Abby nodded uncertainly, and Horace took a step back.
    Feeling the rough bark beneath her palm, Abby closed her eyes, and concentrated. She thought of her power, that sickening, exhilarating gold rush, and it jumped to the forefront of her mind. Her vision flooded gold, and she inhaled sharply. There was so much of it, and it was so strong--it took all she had to keep from being swept away.
    Find what is broken, she thought, urging the torrent of power forward, channeling it down her outstretched arm to flow from her fingertips into the dead tree. The gouge was cavernous inside the trunk, a hollow that ripped through the heart of the tree. Ash and rot held the tree up, and it had long-since dried out to a withered husk of what it had once been.
    Abby opened her eyes, looking at the tree. The white bark sparked with flashes of gold as her power poured into it, and something in her mind clicked into place. And fix it.
    She reached into the hollowed core of the tree, and grasped at the nothing with all of her might. Brow furrowed and skin twined with gold, Abby began to turn the nothing to something.
    She could hardly hear Rivkah as the ancient woman said something in a warning tone, something Abby didn’t quite catch. She didn’t hear Horace’s words, either, hardly felt his hand on her shoulder as she poured golden light into the hollow tree.
    The bark began to glow more brightly, golden light racing up the cracks in its surface. All Abby could hear was the rushing sound in her ears, all she could see was golden light. All she could feel was the softness of the snow rushing up to catch her as her vision faded, abruptly, to black.

***

    Abby woke in the garden, a warm breeze tugging gently at the ball gown she wore. She sat up slowly, feeling the sun beating down on her face as she looked around. The maze of roses stretched out around her for miles, the heady scent carrying so many memories with it.
    She looked down at her dress--it was the same one she’d worn to the dance, she realized with a stab of anguish. It was whole again, new and untorn; she raised a shaking hand to her neck. The necklace, Gabe’s gift, was around her neck.
    She let out a shaky breath, one she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “I must’ve passed out,” she murmured. “Go figure.” She stood up, noticing that her feet were bare, as they always were in this dream. The garden was quiet and calm, the warmth of the sun soothing--there was nothing in this dream to be frightened of.
    She began walking, one hand touching her necklace, the other trailing along the wall of multi-coloured roses. They were velvety-soft under her fingertips, smooth petals leading to more of the same. And then she pricked her finger on a thorn. “Ow!” she cried, snatching her hand away instinctively and raising it to her mouth. “Why does that always happen?” she grumbled.
    The wind rose suddenly, flattening her voluminous skirt against her legs. “Aaaaabby,” she thought she heard.
    She looked around, wide-eyed, but she could see nothing but roses.
    “Aaabby,” she heard again, the voice a tortured groan obscured by another gust of wind.
    “Gabe?!” Abby cried, tears welling up in her eyes. The voice was battered and pained, but she would recognize it anywhere. “Gabe! Where are you?! Gabe!!”
    Another gust of wind shook the garden, bringing with it Gabe’s voice, clearer this time. “Abby? Abby…”
    With a strangled sob, Abby took off running in the direction the wind had come from. Rose petals were falling all around her, carried on the breeze like a river. There was a flash of silver hair as Abby turned a corner, ignoring the flowers falling whole from the vine now.
    She could see him in the distance, chained to a wall of obsidian, dried blood on his chest, matted in his hair. His stormy eyes locked with hers, and Abby saw them light up in recognition, then blanch in fear as she began to run to him. He opened his mouth to say something as she raced towards him, the grass of the garden turning to jagged stone.
    Gabe’s image flickered, doubled, disappeared, and the ground fell away from Abby’s feet. The dream faded, and darkness surrounded her as she fell though nothingness, towards a faint speck of light that rushed towards her. She closed her eyes against the intensity of it, blinking slowly.
    Her vision came into focus, and she realized that the light was firelight, dancing along the wall of the cabin. She could smell fresh bread, and something savoury. She turned her head carefully to look out the window--it was dark outside.
    She tried to sit up, and groaned. Okay, this was definitely reality; headaches like that just didn’t belong in dreams.
    She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, Rivkah stood over her.
    “Welcome back.” She said.
     Abby only groaned in response. This was going to be harder than she’d thought.


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