5 Choices

  • Danubian Principality of Moldavia,
    September, 1859

Three men, a woman, and a white horse were the only survivors of that ship. It only made sense to turn it into a funeral pyre for the rest. They watched it burn down, deliberately waiting until the blackened shell disappeared completely under the water before setting off. Then they followed the coast to the next port where the Russians boarded an eastbound train. And Dr. Bernice Vedeen made final arrangements for her return to her homeland.

Santiago De Soray stared for a long time at the petite woman that saved his life with words she could not have uttered. They were parting ways and that thought set violent emotions tearing within him. Her red hair and the fire in her green eyes, the scent of her perfume at dinner and the subtleness of her accent, even the smallest details about her, casually recorded by his analytic mind, suddenly joined a concerted uprising that assailed his senses in a ruthless flood against his psyche. Part of him would have said anything, done anything, to keep her by his side. Part of him could not dare.

She broke the long pause in the dinner conversation. She knew, as only a woman can know, that she had complete power over him. And although it was an intensely flattering, even seductive feeling she knew that it could never be. Her eyes lingered over his face as she called him ‘Señor’ again. But she did not finish that sentence. Instead she took off her right glove and placed her hand on his, flesh to flesh. His hand felt as if on fire.

“You spoke in Spanish to me.” He said, with a strange hope in his voice.

“Or you heard me in Spanish.” She looked deep in his eyes before asking her question. “Why did you go back to Rabelaire?”

“I could not let… It was like Prometheus again, endless.”

“But Zeus did not stop it.”

“Mercy has never been the strong suit of the gods.”

“Yet, there is mercy in you.” He almost withdrew his hand at that statement. But she held him in place by the strength of her touch. The words she wanted to say refused to collect themselves into cogent sentences. Somehow she knew things about him, things that no one could know. But it wasn’t those revelations that made her hesitate so. She had experienced such revelations before; just as speaking in a language foreign to her had happened before. No it wasn’t the fact of the revelation, but rather its content that gave her pause; if it was true.

But she knew it was true. It just seemed impossible. And being true, it meant one thing: He was one of them.

“Samson,” she finally spoke again. “When did Samson cross the line?”

“I am afraid, my Lady, that the Scriptures are not my strength. I have found little use for them.”

“But you understand what I mean. A man carrying on him a divine gift, for a divine mission, squandered it most of his life and yet it never failed him, until when?”

“Until he gave it up for the love of a woman.”

“You know that is not true.” She would not let him dissemble.

He tried to withdraw his hand. He couldn’t, so he offered a retort. “In the end he redeemed himself, he took more with him to death than he had slain in his whole life.”

“A poor redemption indeed.” A mist came over her eyes and then the flitter of an angry thought. How he wished he could read her mind like she read his. “Samson didn’t need to die.” She shook her head in emphasis. His eyes searched hers openly. “Don’t you see?” She spoke in a strained whisper. “He got what he asked, only what he asked,” the anger came back to her brow, “because he couldn’t see beyond his own failures.” Her voice, though staying at the same level, gained in intensity. “Samson measured his God by his own humanity.” The Spaniard did not understand. “Don’t you think that the same God that restored his strength could have restored his sight? Set him free to fight a thousand more battles? Tell me, who decided he had to die then? Who chose his fate? Who was judge and executioner?”

Santiago De Soray withdrew his hand from hers, yet the fire in his skin lingered. “I suppose he would rather die than face what he had become.”

“Than face what he was… a man, only a man, in need.” Her pause was overwhelming. “What will you choose?”

He did not answer. She withdrew her hands to her lap and pondered the verse from Genesis Rabelaire had quoted. ‘The Giants were on the earth in those days – and also afterward – when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.’

Their eyes met briefly again before he stood up and bowed deeply at her as he said, “I owe you my life. If ever I can repay, please do not hesitate to ask.” He stepped out into the night.

Her eyes studied his face as long as the lamp light permitted; and she measured the depth of his chest. She had mended it the night before. A wound that would have incapacitated any other man, was half-healed; and its bearer was walking around, had actually wrestled with monsters, and set a castle on fire. Doubt of her own motives made her quench the next thought, push it away, almost.

But why shouldn’t the children of the Giants have a choice, a chance at life, human life, human… love? She almost argued. But the next verse replied mercilessly. ‘And Jehovah saw how great the wickedness of man had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.’ She sighed deeply. They, the Giants had been one of the reasons for the Flood. She turned her eyes away and said a prayer for two souls.

The night air cleared his mind if not his senses. He needed a clear mind. There was something more unsettling than he would admit in the doctor’s metaphysical insinuations. He breathed deeply again and rubbed his hands together, almost putting out the fire. This sojourn into the land of the Moscovites had not been useless after all. But the questions had been answered by compounded questions. What had he stumbled upon? Again, seemingly unrelated events were connected at a level that required infinite sophistication, and a network of influence spanning across continents and perhaps centuries.

A British aristocrat obsessed with something that called itself a god in South America, acquired powers not known in mankind for millennia. And that man was told to go to Moldavia because he, Santiago, would be there. If Santiago did not believe in preternatural omniscient powers then the only conclusion, the only possible connection, was somewhere back in London.

He had planned this trip in London, back when the Frenchman in the tavern had tried to kill him. Clearly, he must have stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest somewhere, somehow in England. He had to go back. But this time it would be different. He would be the hunter.

The night breeze caressed his face and he turned toward the dining room. Attendants were clearing their table. She was no longer there. One thing would always be the same, he was alone.

His eyes narrowed impatiently. He shook his face at himself. To one who had lived as long as he had, the apparently inexplicable was nothing new. But he had never met a demon, or an angel, that in the end did not turn out to walk on mortal legs. True, this Rabelaire had crossed a line that even he could not explain, at least not yet. So, perhaps, for the moment, it seemed prudent to accept Hamlet’s admonition and consider there might be other things in heaven and earth.

His ship was leaving at daybreak. He checked in on the Arabian mare. She was a beautiful horse, white as snow. None he had owned compared. In the flickering of the lamplight, an opened flap of the saddlebag hanging on the stable’s gate caught his eye. Someone had been there. But all the gilded adornments on the leatherwork were intact. He reached into the open saddlebag and found a book. By the time he held it out to the light, its scent, her scent, had told him already what it was: her copy of the Scriptures. Perhaps he was not alone.

[Template of the Rephaim appears in the Crossover Alliance’s Second Anthology. If you like this story, you may want to read the Anthology for stories by other authors too.]

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