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(Chapter 6: The Angel of Death)
Down here in the basement, it is dank and dark. Cobwebs festoon
the ceiling in silken drapery, the floor is hard concrete.
A pallet of old rags lies in one corner, musty and unwashed.
Angel supresses the bile that rises up in his throat at the
stench, at the fear and guilt which he feels. The flashlight
which he grips in one sweaty palm does not seem to be proof
against the shadows. Light from it plays over the walls, revealing
dire carvings. "Blood sacrifice shall appease the
slaughtered." "Darkness breeds strength."
"Monsters rise from souls." And, finally,
strangely, "Light shall dispel all fear."
Angel runs his fingers along the jagged letters, tears running
down his cheeks. Tears of pity both for himself and the child
who carved it. Sadness gives way to rage - bitter like gall
in his tight throat - and he thinks of the man who caused
it. The traitor to them all.
"Why couldn't you have died in Antarctica, Remy? Why
did you have to come back and make me remember?"
"Because then we couldn't slay him," her voice
is like the scraping of nails on a chalkboard.
"Marrow? Is that you?"
"Yes, bright Angel. It is me," she steps into the
small circle of light, shielding her yellow eyes.
"Heaven have mercy on my soul," he whispers to
himself and then more loudly, "I am here to help you,
"Good," she nods curtly, professionally, "Two
hands are always better than one."
"What must I do?"
Marrow smiles madly, the detachment gone from her face. "You
Cinema images play themselves over and over again in the
space of her head. Black and white, color, it makes no difference.
Shadows, rainbows, dance on the wall of her heart. Of her
memory. Some of these images are not even her own - seem to
have been cut in by some unskilled editor, tragicomic by nature.
She sees them in her head - the moon and stars over the Mississippi,
the excitement of a new G . I . Joe Figurine on her birthday
(No, not her birthday, Cody's), the heart-wrenching
agony of a brother killed by a few hour's husband, the softness
of a mother's touch on blonde hair ("Sweet dreams,
Carol"), the mad excitement of snatching a garter
and fulfilling a superstition. All these she knows and wants
to forget. Rogue looks around her room as she lies in her
narrow bed - the mess of earlier has been cleaned up and the
floor-boards gleam dully in the moonlight. Her life may yet
regain some semblance of order. A knock sounds softly in the
silence, hanging in the air, and she climbs out of bed, straightening
her white nightshirt as she does so.
Silence is her answer and she cautiously opens the door.
A note is pinned to the wood. Rogue snatches it, tearing the
elegant white writing paper in her haste.
Meet me in the basement - Remy.
She crumples it up and tosses it in the trash can.
Why can't he speak ta me like a normal guy? Ask me ta
come with him? she complains, walking back to her room
and getting a flannel robe, Why so late? Why th' basement?
Rogue pads silently down the stairs in her slippers, clutching
the robe around her for warmth. The door to the basement is
ajar and she slips in. "This had better be good, cajun,"
she drawls impatiently, "It's cold an' Ah'm tired."
"Oh, it is, sweet Rogue," the voice from behind
her is familiar, a slow southern accent, "It's very good."
"Who are you?" Rogue snaps, "Step out inta
th' light so Ah can see you."
The young man enters the light, blinking his blue eyes and
running a nervous hand through his golden hair.
Dread causes Rogue's chest to constrict.
"But . . . but . . . you can't be. Cody's dead."
"Candra didn't kill me," he explains, "Ah
was just unconscious - woke up after you abandoned me. Left
me ta die."
"You said goodbye ta me. Said that Ah should be happy.
Said that your time had come."
"Put two and two together, darlin'. Mattie is your boyfriend's
aunt an' Ah was th' only thing standin' between you and him.
She's got psychic powers . . . ."
"Remy wouldn't do somethin' like that," she stutters,
"You didn't have a pulse."
"Mattie supressed it with some herbs. Woman is a healer,
"Gawd - Ah'm sorry, Cody. Ah . . . Ah'm so sorry."
He smiles, stepping forward and taking her into his arms.
Tears, warm and sticky, flow freely down her cheeks and onto
"All's forgiven, Sabby," he holds her at arm's
length, looking at her, "You still wear my locket, don't
She pulls it out of her nightdress, "Yeah - forget-me-not."
"Ah've got something else for you ta wear," he
grins, "Somethin' that'll suit you a lot better'n old
"Close your eyes, Sabrina."
Warmth fills her at the sound of her old name spoken by the
familiar lips. His gloved hands gently brush her neck to be
replaced by the icy bite of metal. As Rogue realizes that
something is wrong, it is already too late. The collar is
clicked into place. Her green eyes snap open and she wildly
claws at her neck; at the thick, iron collar that surrounds
it from jugular
"What are you playin' at, whoever you are?"
The image inducer fades and Angel smiles coldly at her.
"Warren . . . what in th' name o' all's holy are you
"Revenge," Marrow steps out from behind him.
"Ah should've guessed," Rogue spits, "If you've
hurt Gambit, Ah'll . . ."
"Your pwecious paramour is upstairs dreaming. It's just
you, me and the Angel of Death," Marrow strokes Rogue's
cheek with a bone dagger, "And may I ask what you'll
do without your powers?"
The Mississippian kicks out, knocking the dagger out of Marrow's
hands. Marrow swears and pulls out another one with a grimace
"This foh a start."
Warren draws his fist back and punches her in the jaw. Rogue's
head snaps back and blood trickles out of her mouth.
"Your choice to allow Gambit to return meant that I
have to be reminded of everything that happened to me every
time I see him. I've wanted to do that to you for a long time."
"Warren . . . you don't have ta do this," Rogue
pleads, "This isn't you."
"Shut up," he kicks her and she falls to the floor,
clutching her ribs. Stars dance before Rogue's eyes and her
vision blurs and doubles. She staggers to an upright position
and attempts to orient herself.
"You don't leave me any choice, sugah," she wheezes
and delivers a leg-sweep to him that knocks him off his feet.
"So you can fight even without your powers," Marrow
laughs, "Good. The hunt is no fun when the prey is weak."
Marrow attacks swiftly from the side, slashing at the woman's
arm with her bone knives. Rogue supresses a scream of pain
and spins, lashing out wildly. A chance blow connects with
Marrow's chin and the younger woman winces and retreats slightly.
Rogue breathes a silent sigh of relief which is swallowed
as she sees Angel return to the offensive. He has one of Marrow's
bone knives in his hand and he smiles unpleasantly as he spins
it. Rogue is weak from loss of blood and can barely fend off
his blows. When she sees Marrow join him, like a velocioraptor
joining its mate, she knows that the battle is over for her.
That she has lost. The final blow, therefore, comes as no
surprise to her. Marrow connects neatly with her cranium and
Rogue collapses to the floor as the pain washes over her.
Gambit sits bolt upright in bed, scared by the scream that
he has just felt tear through his mind. The resignation that
followed the scream, then the deathly silence. He knows, instinctively,
that something has happened to Rogue. That the something is
entirely his fault. He climbs out of the bed, feeling sick
to the stomach with fear. He runs along the hallway, little
caring about the noise that he is making. He stops before
the door to her room, knowing he must open the door and dreading
it. It opens with a creak and he steps slowly into the cool
room, praying to a god in whom he has given up hope that she
is there. Her bed lies empty, save for a twisted mass of sheets
and a pillow. A small brown teddy-bear with a spray-painted
white stripe lies in the middle of the mess. Gambit picks
it up, feeling his heart plummet within him as he does so,
because a bone dagger is stabbed through its chest. Marrow.
Continued in Chapter
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