Stepping onto the stone bridge was the easy part. One foot in front of the other, steady pace, goal clearly focused. It was twilight, her favourite time of day, even when things were good. The sun had slipped under the horizon, and darkness was free to sweep in. These minutes between night and day were precious, and magical.
Uneven stones beneath her feet threatened to twist an ankle if not navigated with care. She put her hands on the side walls that rose to her waist. Cold reached up from the roughened rock, sharp edges scraping her palms. Over the river laid before her, the silvery glow of the rising moon painted rippling stripes across the inky water. In her head, the soft rush of the current whispered to her, lured her.
A flicker of shadow above made her shiver and her gaze shot upward, attempting to pierce the encroaching night. Nothing stirred in the near black sky. Dismissing the momentary distraction, she climbed onto the ledge-like top of the wall. The stone grazed the skin of her thighs, sending frissons of fiery pain through her veins. Eyes closed, she tilted her head back and drew the cooling night air into her lungs, breaths slow and steady.
The scent of moss, water lilies, verdant greenery, all of it wafted up to her. She smiled, then maneuvered into a standing position atop the bridge railing. She breathed deeply, enjoying the first serenity she'd felt in recent memory. Her decision was made.
The air buffeted her, the tiny whispers of breeze caressing her skin, raising goosebumps along her exposed flesh. She extended her arms, and stepped out into the air as the final wash of plum faded into utter blackness around her. The night embraced her, enveloping her in its dark arms. She caught the scent of the rushing water as it waited to welcome her.
Just as she would have plunged into the depths of the river, the night grew blacker and became a living entity surrounding her. Arms slid around her, their strength incredible. She was lifted away from the restless water before it touched her, and she struck out at the steel bands holding her. Massive wings beat in a smooth downward arc, and she was soaring over the river's current toward the shore.
Her breath whooshed out of her lungs in a gasp of surprise and pain when she was unceremoniously dumped on the soft bank. She rolled and got to her feet, swaying before she regained her footing.
The stars had begun glittering in the velvety night sky, and the moon was riding higher, cresting the tops of the trees. She hugged herself, turned, and the words froze on her lips. Her knees trembled, and the jolt of terror that shot through her made her stomach heave, threatening to empty itself in the grass.
Towering over her was a hulking mass of muscle and sinew, broad shoulders all but blocking the glimmer of moonlight sneaking over his menacing presence. Huge wings folded, settling at his back. His expression was scowling fury, and she stumbled backward a few steps, poised to run.
The stars above them began to drift downward and coalesce around the male, wrapping around him, lighting every aspect of his fierce bearing. The short horns sprouting from his head glowed, as did the fangs protruding from his mough, and his clawed hands and cloven feet. The energy pulsing within him and all around him shot across his entire body in powerful bursts of glaring white brilliance, then it began to fall away from him, taking the monstrous trappings with it as it slid from his body and dissolved.
He was six and a half feet tall, and with the gargoyle’s wings no longer blotting out the rays of the moon, she saw the man. His features were rough, but striking, like they had been chiseled from stone. Corded muscles bulged, making him no less impressive now than he had been moments earlier.
He stared at her, his gaze gliding over her in an appraising pass. When he looked at her again, she was assaulted by the fierce fury emanating from him.
“Do not be so eager to destroy the fate of those meant to love you.”
His voice rumbled over her, gravel and silk, both rough and soothing. She shivered. The death inside her screamed, but recoiled when her spirit surged and reached for the hope he grudgingly offered.
“The only destruction I sought was my own,” she said. It took all her courage to stand and face him, even though every instinct wanted her to run.
“You are not alone in this world,” he reprimanded. “All life is tied together.” He stepped toward her and his fingers curled around her wrist, the grip enough to crush bones. “You have a fate that is bound to others you do not yet know. Is it your wish to destroy them?”
She turned her hand upward, and opened it so her palm was revealed. The symbol of infinity, a brand she had worn from birth, flickered with light and life. She gaped at it, and cried out as pain and searing fire rode the trail of her veins, coursing through every inch of her. He released her and she fell to her knees, weeping.
“You are not alone in this world.”
When she dared to look, he was walking away, broad back kissed by moonlight. Resting on his shoulder, coiled like a serpent, the symbol of infinity sparkled as fire flowed endlessly through it…
© Denysé Bridger - March 2014