Temptations

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Rising

Previous Story in the Arc: Waiting by Seraphic Flame (Tuesday, June 14, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Capturing a Memory by Sister Shuma (Monday, June 20, 2005)

(posted Friday, June 17, 2005)

John was out patrolling. Flame had not tried to stop him. This, after all, was part of him, part of what he was, the sense of duty and obligation. Though every use of his powers brought the end a little nearer, he needed to do this. So she gave him of her strength until his increasingly-fragile mortal body could carry no more, and sent him out to do what he needed to do.

She stood at the window of Belladonna’s apartment and looked down on the night-dark streets below. Soon she would go out as well, because she could not sit idle and she would not disincarnate. Not now. She might as well get used to being incarnate all the time.

She had asked Bella to talk to Shyft. Not that she expected Shyft would believe more than half of what Bella told her, but because the rules by which this game was being played demanded that Shyft know—

Know that once the phoenix rose from the ashes, she and Shyft would be on a level playing field. The knowledge of that was hard now; when her voices were stilled, it would be like a dagger in the heart. But there it was; play by the rules, resist temptation, or risk becoming Fallen.

It was not just Pride that created the Fallen; it was Greed, Envy, Violence, Hatred—

It was the dark voice whispering to her: Just let me help you. I can fix it. I can save his memories and replace them, and you will have John Murdock back again.

Oh yes, and at what cost? She knew that voice of old, whispering from his pocket universe of pain, seeking to draw more souls in to join him. The Prince of Lies; he might restore John’s memories, but if he did, he would make sure they were all the most painful, the ones before John knew, knew, that there was always forgiveness, especially when one had atoned as much as he already had.

When you made a bargain with the Prince of Lies you always got what you wished for—in the worst possible way.

More tempting were the compassionate voices of her siblings. More compassionate now than ever before, now that they shared in her pain. You, too, can forget. Let the fires cleanse your heart. You need not remember that you loved. You can begin again afresh, and make your choices without this burden.

But—she would lose so much besides the burden. She would lose the joy.

No. No.

As she would sacrifice her powers a hundred times to save him, she would bear any burden to have that joy still with her.

She could hear his voice so clearly in her mind, the night that he told her he was dying, and that he loved her. He had quoted her a poem he had shared with his lost lover.

“'And Death shall have no dominion. Dead men naked they shall be one, With the man in the wind and the west moon; When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone, They shall have stars at elbow and foot; 'Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.'...”

Though lovers be lost, love shall not—

No. She would not choose to forget.

But she looked ahead, through the futures, and saw—the darkness. She could not see past it. She had never felt fear before, never uncertainty, never doubt, never despair. She had never known loneliness. And she felt all of these now. And this was while her siblings still sang in her mind, and the Infinite clearly spoke in her heart.

Mortals are so much stronger than we, she silently told her siblings. Look how they live with this, day in and day out! How can you wonder that the Infinite cherishes creatures so outwardly frail and inwardly strong?

Yes, they sang in her mind, as their song became another degree more colored with compassion and tinged with sorrow. Yes, we see, we understand.

Her time was short. And among her successes were failures. Those she had failed to reach, to comfort, to find the road back to the Light. They would have to do so with only mortal aid now. Or not at all. And that was a sorrow too….

And that blessing and curse of mortality, imagination---she could imagine so much, and so much of it was more sorrow.

Hear me, I can prevent this---

Forget, and forget your pain—


She put her fists to her temples, and instead of closing the voices out, let them all flood her. There would be one that would be the strongest. She would find that one—

‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.'...”

She let out her breath in a sigh. This was no memory. This was his thought, as he rested for a moment from the work he needed to do as he needed the very air. It was his talisman. She would make it hers.

Peace. Be still, she told the clamorous voices, and turned and went out into the night.