Disclaimer: Do I really have to mention that I don't own Castlevania? If I did, we would have gotten to see Julius curbstomp Dracula, the storyline would have been neatened up a bit, and Dracula and Alucard would have just HUGGED already after the reveal in Lords of Shadow 2.
Summary: Lords of Shadow Continuity: AU to Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2: Trevor wasn't the only one that had the truth of his parentage kept from him by the Brotherhood.
A/N: So this is it, everyone, the final chapter of Blood Is! It's been an incredible 21 month long ride for this fic, but all good things have to come to an end at some point. A special thanks to all of my wonderful reviewers as well as everyone else who read and favorited!
Gabriel stood in the dark tomb, silent save for the sound of dripping water somewhere in a corner, and his own sluggish heartbeat. The scent of old decomposition tickled his nose, but he ignored it as he stared at the coffin in front of him. A tarnished brass nameplate faintly reflected the weak moonlightt that had gotten in from a crack in a wall somewhere, and he reached out and wiped the accumulated muck off of it, revealing the name underneath.
976 – 1051
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Gabriel smiled faintly at the quote: Corinthians 15:26. It was fitting for one that had sacrificed his own life to save another.
After Zobek's destruction Gabriel had found his father and son and gone home. With Cordrin dead (and his body dumped into the woods for the wolves to feed on), the atmosphere in the house had been much more relaxed. Adelar had welcomed Gabriel home, and Mother had been so ecstatic to see him that she had refused to leave his side for hours. Still, even as the days and nights passed, even as he passed the hours enjoying Trevor's company, even as he worked with his father to see what the other had inherited from him, he had kept thinking back to the man that been the closest thing to a father that he had had as a child. He'd then approached his cousin with a request, a request that had been swiftly granted.
With the Brotherhood in disarray without a clear leader, it had been easy to claim Master Liam's body and transport him back to the Cronqvist lands for burial. Gabriel had flown home in dragon form, carrying the coffin in his claws, as it had been the quickest and easiest way to move him. He knew that, like so many others in the Brotherhood, that Master Liam had been rejected by his family as a boy, and though his own abandonment had turned out to be a lie, he knew all too well what that felt like. At least, he could give his foster father a place to rest.
Bowing his head, Gabriel stepped away from Master Liam and made his way across the room to another coffin. Caleb had been laid to rest before Gabriel had made it home, and he had been surprised to find his cousin in the tomb that Cronqvists had been placed in for several generations instead of the local churchyard, but he was glad for it, especially after hearing of the willing sacrifice his cousin had made.
Gabriel lightly ran his fingers over the engraved letters of Caleb's name. "You sacrificed so I wouldn't have to." he whispered. "'Thank you' just doesn't seem like it's enough."
He dropped his hand, and the sound of his palm lightly smacking against his wool overtunic seemed too loud as he stepped away from Caleb and over to the next coffin. John Pershan had passed only a few months after Zobek's defeat, and he had also been honored with place in the family mausoleum. Father had been hit hard by the death of his lifelong friend, and Gabriel had also felt the loss keenly. He had only known the man for a few years, but he had gladly counted him as a friend.
With a quiet sigh and a shake of his head, Gabriel stepped over to the last person he intended to visit. The coffin was a few years younger than the others, and the nameplate was clean, kept that way by a regular visitor, which allowed him to easily read the letters inscribed upon it.
987 – 1054
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
John 14:1. It had been the last words she had spoken to him, as she had lain cradled in her husband's arms one freezing winter's night three years after Gabriel had fulfilled his duty as God's Chosen. Her cold, withered had had gently stroked his cheek, she had smiled at him even though she could no longer see him, and then she had whispered those words just before her heart had fluttered and failed.
Gabriel swallowed thickly; she had refused all offers to be turned. She had been content to go when her time came, held in the arms of her husband of many years, with her son and grandson nearby. Six years, it was all he had had with his mother, and the grief had hit him harder than he had ever expected. It had been the first time the archangel had spoken to him since Zobek's defeat, and his words -
She is with Him now and waiting for when you and your father are ready to join her.
- had stayed with him as the years had passed. What had Gabriel meant by that exactly? There had been no answer when he had asked, and the angel had been silent since. Still, it had helped some to take the sting off the agony he had felt, and it had allowed him to be there for Father and Trevor.
Gabriel smiled faintly as he walked out of the crypt and into the cool night outside. The air carried the scent of corn and wheat in the fields, and a breeze ruffled his hair and clothing as he walked away from the crypt, closing the heavy stone door with a thought as he went. The sun would be up in a few hours, and Trevor would be up and starting his day shortly afterward. He had much to do as Lord Cronqvist, so he liked to get an early start, which then allowed him to spend the evening and early night relaxing and visiting with family.
No one had been surprised when Adelar had announced his intention to step aside as soon as Trevor reached manhood, and he had done just that on Trevor's 16th birthday. Adelar had hated the position of lord and all the work and expectations that came with it, so he had handed things over to Trevor with a smile and gone to spend time with his own family. He and Julia had two other children, and the family of six preferred spending their time in their area of the house, away from everyone else. Adelar's mother and brother had kept their heads down and their mouths shut since Cordrin's death, and they tended to ignore everyone else whenever possible. Adelar's sister Ida was living with her husband and his family and was rarely seen or heard from. Tobias and Kristina's daughter Anna was also married and living with her husband, but she and her husband and children visited a few times a year.
Gabriel vanished into a small cloud of smoke and embers in mid stride and reappeared a scant few seconds later outside a particular door. A quick check of the two – no, three - heartbeats within told him that the occupants inside were still asleep, so he switched to his mist form and slipped inside through the gap under the door. Normally, he would never consider doing such a thing, but he had reasons this one time.
Inside he found Trevor, fast asleep in bed, with his wife curled up against his back. Gabriel smiled at the sight and leaned back against the door frame to watch them for a moment. As much as he wished to, he didn't dare move closer, as doing so was bound to wake Trevor. His son somehow always knew when his father was close by, even while asleep.
He stood and watched until the faint sounds of birdsong touched his ears, and then he smiled at the sound of the third, fainter yet faster heartbeat and vanished from the room, reappearing in his own suite of rooms. He moved to a chest at the foot of his bed and retrieved what he had come to get, and then he vanished again, this time appearing in a small wooded area behind the house. Under one particular tree was a small stone marker that bore only a name.
His beloved pet had lived for 24 years before she had passed in her sleep one day. Her slowing heartbeat had woken him instantly, and he had leapt out of bed just in time to catch her as she fell from her favored perch in the back corner of the bedroom. He had passed the rest of the day cradling her in his hands and weeping before he and Trevor had buried her under the tree that night. The marker had been added a few days later.
Gabriel leaned back against a nearby tree and closed his eyes as the eastern horizon began to slowly brighten with the coming dawn. Father would be there soon, and then they could begin. He could sense the other's presence in the house, visiting a few people himself, and then he vanished from the house and appeared nearby. Gabriel didn't bother to open his eyes; Father knew he was aware of his presence.
Father moved to stand beside him, and they just stood there together for a few minutes, enjoying the peace as the sun slowly approached the horizon.
"Are you ready, Gabriel?" Father finally asked, breaking the quiet.
Gabriel opened his eyes and looked at him. "As much as I can be. What about you?"
"I've been ready for this every since your mother passed. I just didn't want to leave you and Trevor so soon after you had lost her. It's you I'm worried about. You have a son, a daughter-in-law, and two grandsons back there. Are you ready to leave them behind?"
Gabriel shook his head slightly as he leaned back against the tree. "I'm tired, Father, just as you are. I've seen and done too much, and now I just want peace."
Father looked at him, and Gabriel had to turn away from the look in his eyes. "You're only 58 years old, Gabriel. Far too young still to be thinking of this."
"I feel older than that, and you know that our presence here is dangerous. We've managed to keep it secret that two vampires live in that house, Father, but we can't keep it forever. I'd rather not see a mob slaughter my son and grandchildren in their beds once the secret comes out. Besides," He sighed, and his body suddenly felt too heavy to hold up. "you want to see your wife again. Is it that hard to understand that I want to do the same?"
Father heaved a sigh of his own. "No, I can understand that, son. I just don't want to see you..."
"Die?" Gabriel turned to look at him just in time to see him flinch. "No parent wants to see their child die – yet another reason I want to leave all of this behind – but I accepted vampirism because there was something I needed to do, a task I needed to complete. My tasks are done, and I no longer need any of this." Father closed his eyes and nodded as the sky continued to brighten behind him. Gabriel felt his senses warning him of the impending sunrise, and he thought for the barest moment of going out that way, but he immediately discarded it. There was always the chance that they were survive, either by dragging themselves to shade or by someone throwing a cover over them. No, his old weapon would work best. "Are you ready?"
Father nodded without opening his eyes, and a thousand thoughts ran through Gabriel's mind, so many wants, ideas, needs, but he pushed them all away. They were out of time.
He reached out and placed his left hand on his father's shoulder, and he wasn't sure if it was a gesture of comfort for either of them, or for something else entirely. He hefted the Vampire Killer in his hand; they had decided upon this days ago. Gabriel suspected that he might be forgiven for taking his own life, thanks to the archangel's cryptic last saying. It was a massive gamble he was playing with his soul, but he hopefully had some leeway as his status as the Chosen One. His father had no such protection.
He lightly squeezed Father's shoulder – perhaps it was to assure him, perhaps it was simply to stop him from moving away and avoiding the swing – and before he could think on it, he brought the combat cross down in an overhead swing, aiming the broken stake for just the right spot.
It pierced his father's chest with a wet sounding thunk! followed by the sound of a snapping rib. Father gasped and stumbled forward a step, but Gabriel's grip on his shoulder kept him upright. Other than the gasp, Father made no other sound, nor did he open his eyes. Gabriel took a breath, pressed his lips together in a thin line, and pushed, forcing the weapon deeper. There was a soft squelch, and Father's heartbeat ceased to sound in his ears. Father's chest heaved, and his hand came up to grip Gabriel's wrist as he finally opened his eyes and looked at him. The red was fading, the light was dimming, and a soft smile curled his lips as his hair began to blow away from his head as a fine dust. There was no attempt at any final words, no promises to meet on the other side, just that soft smile as his skin dried, cracked, and began to flake away, dissolving from his head and moving down. The shoulder that Gabriel was holding onto drifted away, followed by the chest area. The flesh and bone around the Vampire Killer dissolved, but before the rest could fall to the ground, the fading accelerated, until Gabriel was standing in the clearing alone, with only fine ash and dust drifting on the air in front of him.
Gabriel slowly lowered his arm as what was left of his father drifted away. He closed his eyes for a moment as the first rays of sunlight touched the trees. He had only seconds at best. There was still time. He could retreat a little further into the trees, and they would shelter him from the sun well enough to wait out the day. Once night fell, he could go back inside like he had never planned to kill himself, and...
No, he shook his head, it was time. Yes, he was still fairly young, but his presence was a danger to those he loved the most, and he was just tired. Tired of hiding during the day, tired of hoping that no one would let it slip that the Cronqvists were sheltering a vampire, tired of watching everyone grow old while he stayed the same, tired of feeling thirsty whenever one of his grandsons scraped their knees while playing.
It was time to go.
He felt the warmth of the son's rays reaching out to touch him as he raised the Vampire Killer, holding it firmly in both hands, and pointed the stake at his own heart. Before he could think anymore on it, he pulled his arms in as quickly as he could and rammed his old weapon into his heart. There seemed to be an explosion of pure agony in the left side of his chest that forced the air from his lungs and sent him tumbling down to his knees. The urge to yank the stake out was intense, almost unbearable, but his shook his head as his heart stuttered to a stop. He had come too far to change his mind now. His grip on the cross' shaft weakened, and he senses faded as he fell over onto his side.
Strange, he managed to think just as his heart came to a stop, Father went quicker than this.
Was this death?
Gabriel could sense nothing around him. He could feel no air on his face, so sound in his ears, no ground beneath him, as though he was floating in nothingness. Was he waiting to be judged? Had he already been judged, and this was his punishment for taking his own life? He went to call out, but no sound escaped him. What.. what was this? Had he been wrong? It was like the darkness that had engulfed him back at the castle. Had he not destroyed the demon after all? Did it have a hold of him? Where was he! What was happening!
There was no sound, no answer to his silent plea. No, no, no, no, no! He hadn't wanted this! He just wanted to keep Trevor and his family safe! He just wanted to be with Marie again! Was that too much to ask after all he had done for Him?
I'm sorry! I didn't mean -! This isn't what I wanted!
Gabriel stopped, and even though he had no physical form that he could feel, he still made to hold his breath. Who was that? It sounded like the archangel, but there was something... off about the voice. It sounded like him, yet it wasn't.
"Gabriel." Sensation came then, in the form of arms coming around him, cradling him like a child, and holding him close. "Calm down, Gabriel. I am here."
Who... who are you?
There was a warm, quiet chuckle, followed by the feeling that he was being smiled at. "You know who I am, Gabriel, even though I've not been able to speak to you before now. No mortal body, not even a vampire's, can stand the sound of My voice or the sight of My face, so I had to wait until you came here to speak to you."
Gabriel's thoughts came to a sudden stop. …God?
There was that smile again. "Yes."
Gabriel tried to say something, anything, but no words came to him at first. Why? he finally managed, unable to think of anything else. So many questions to be asked, but all he could get out was that one word.
He understood, thankfully. "Because you are special. Every now and again, a soul is born that can connect to me in ways no other mortal can. You were one such soul, born from two other souls tightly bound to one another, a spark ignited by what they felt for each other. Even then, even as you were carried securely within your mother's womb, I knew what you would be capable of and what I would need you to do."
But why? Why would you do that? To a child?
"Because you agreed to, child."
"Still so very young, still sheltered within your mother, I reached out and asked you if you were willing to do what I could not, and you agreed. It was then that I allowed William Volpe to see you in the mirror, so he would seek you out and ensure that you were prepared for what you were to face." The arms holding him tightened. "As Gabriel told you, he was supposed to explain to your parents what awaited you and offer to train you. Stealing you from your home and family was never what I had intended to happen."
Gabriel went to sigh, only to remember he wasn't capable of that anymore. Why are you here then? I've done everything that was asked of me. Is this because I took my own life?
"You're not dead, Gabriel."
What? How? Father didn't survive, so why would I?
"True, you were dying from the stake in your heart, and you soul has fled your body to await Judgment, but I needed to speak with you first, which is why you are here. You are outside of time now, but your soul is still tethered. On Earth your body lies where you left it, with your weapon rammed through the heart, but time is frozen and will not move on until I release it."
What is it you wish of me now? I'm so tired. I don't want to fight any longer.
"I know, child, I know you are weary, and I don't have anything further to ask of you. Instead, I come to offer you a choice."
"Yes, an apology if you will, for not preventing your abduction. For not saving your wife's life. For costing you so many years with your family."
Gabriel hesitated. What is it? he finally asked.
"You have earned your place in Paradise, Gabriel. You have done everything I asked of you, and you managed to hold onto your humanity as you did so, which in of itself is a remarkable achievement and testament to the strength of your soul. You can come with Me now and join your wife and your parents in Heaven if that is what you wish. Nothing will trouble you again; you will have the rest and peace that was denied you for so long That is one of your options."
And the other?
"I will send you soul back to Earth, back to the body you left behind. Instead of dying, you will rise, your vampirism cured by the Vampire Killer. You can then live out the rest of your natural human life aside your son and grandchildren before joining Me, your wife, and your parents in Paradise. Again, there will be nothing that troubles you; I will make certain of that."
How long do I have to decide?
"Time is frozen, Gabriel. Take all that you need."
I... I'm not sure which to choose. I miss Marie and Mother so much, but Trevor...
"If I may, Gabriel?"
Gabriel went to nod, only to remember he didn't have a head to nod with anymore.
Thankfully, He understood.. "Go back, Gabriel. Go back to your son. Live out the human life that you were forced to give up. Live, grow old, and when you are ready, We will all be waiting for you."
You think that is what I should do?
"The choice is entirely yours, but yes, I do."
You'll be waiting for me?
"With open arms, child."
Then... I want to go back.
There was another smile, the feeling of a kiss against his cheek, and -
- Gabriel sat up with a gasp.
He looked around, chest heaving, and he raised an arm to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight that he hadn't seen in so long.
He dropped his arm to stare at the bright circle of yellow light shining at him through the trees. He felt its warmth against his face, and he reached up to touch his cheek, only to notice that his claws were gone. He looked away from the sun to stare at his hands, and those long black talons that he'd had for so many years were gone, replaced by normal fingernails. The skin of his palms was a soft pink, not the gray it had been, and when he curled his hands into fists, he could feel warmth radiating from them, as well as the soft pulsing of a strong, steady heartbeat instead of the slow sluggish throbbing that he'd had before. He pressed his hands to his cheeks, and his skin felt so warm that he couldn't help the laughter that escaped him. He ran his hands up through his hair, and he saw that it was brown once more.
He laughed again, louder, as he got to his feet, reveling in the simple feel of his own weight. Standing up was actual work for his muscles, and he felt his weight holding him to the ground like he hadn't felt in years. No more sprinting faster than the eye could follow. No more leaping from second story windows. He threw out his hand, but the Shadow Whip did not appear, nor did the Storm Sword. He did not need those anymore anyway! More laughter bubbled up from within as he spun around in place, giddy as a child.
No more hiding during the day!
No more hoping that outsiders wouldn't learn of him!
No more staying the same while everyone else grew old!
He was free!
With that, he stopped spinning, laughed again at the sensation of being dizzy, scooped the Vampire Killer up from where it had fallen on the grass, and started for the house. Other than the gaping hole in the front of his clothing, there was nothing to mark where he had stabbed himself. Unused to actually having to work, his legs ached at the brisk stride he was having, but he simply savored it as he crossed the lawns. He didn't know how he was going to explain it. He didn't have a clue on how he was going to tell everyone what had happened to Father. He would worry about it later though; he had people to see.
A door slammed open somewhere, and the sound seemed muffled to his weaker hearing, and that only made him smile as a red haired blur streaked towards him at a full run.
Gabriel dropped the Vampire Killer as he hunched down a little and held his arms out just in time to catch his older grandson, six year old Simon Belmont. He lifted the child up and used his momentum and weight to spin them around, a game that the child adored. He then wound his arms around him and held him tight as Simon's arms came around his neck. He could not smell the boy's blood, nor could he hear his heartbeat. There was only the warmth of Simon's body against his own, the sound of that little voice giggling in his ear.
Simon looked at him and patted a cheek with his little hand, the same way that his father used to. "Why are you cryin', Grampa? Are you sad?"
"No, Simon, I'm not sad." Gabriel said with a watery smile as he touched noses with him. "I couldn't be happier right now."
"Is it because you look different now?"
"That's part of it, but let's not worry about that. Why don't we go see what your Mama and Papa are doing, hmm?"
Simon nodded eagerly. "Okay!" He then snuggled into Gabriel's arms and laid his head down, and Gabriel laid his own head against the child's for a brief moment before he continued on to the house. His arms ached under the weight that they were not used to carrying, but it only made his smile a bit wider.
As they neared the house, Gabriel saw a familiar figure waiting on them, and he shifted Simon's weight to one arm so he could wave. The figure waved back, and though he could clearly see who it was, all the little details that he would have once spotted were absent, as were the layout of the pulsing arteries under the skin. That was something that he would never miss seeing.
Simon raised his head, saw who was waiting, and squirmed to be put down just as a second figure joined the first. Simon ran the rest of the way to his parents, and Gabriel laughed as he tugged eagerly on his father's tunics and pointed back to his grandfather.
"Look, Papa! Grampa's different! See! Why is he different? Do you know why he's different! Did he play a trick on us, Papa?"
Trevor leaned down to shush his chattering son just as Gabriel reached them, and he stopped a few feet away. Trevor straightened up and looked him up and down for a moment, before he took a few quick steps forward, and Gabriel found himself wrapped in his son's arms. Gabriel returned the gesture as he felt his eyes burn and sting.
"Welcome back." Trevor whispered in his ear. "Welcome home."
Gabriel laughed through his tears and tightened his arms around his son, but the moment was ended by a small tug against his tunic. He relaxed his grip and Trevor and looked down to see his other grandson, three year old Christopher Cronqvist using one small hand to tug on the heavy wool while his other arm struggled to hold up the Vampire Killer.
"You dropped this, Gampa."
Trevor smiled and stepped back as Gabriel leaned over and took the combat cross from Christopher. "So I did, Christopher. Thank you." He patted the green eyed child on his dark haired head, and the toddler beamed. He then skipped over to his mother and demanded to be picked up.
"I hungy, Mama." he said once Sypha had him settled on her hip, and the family shared a quiet laugh when Gabriel's stomach decided to echo the sentiment.
Gabriel smiled sheepishly. "Well, I haven't eaten in a quarter century so..." He shrugged.
"Well, why don't we have breakfast in the nursery then." Sypha suggested. "We can worry about everything else later."
"Yes," Trevor said, "I imagine that people are going to be quite surprised to see you now, Papa." He paused and then smiled. "I can't wait to see Adelar's face."
Sypha lightly smacked his arm. "Oh, leave your cousin alone. He's a good man at heart."
Trevor took Simon's hand and began to walk back inside the house. "Yes, and completely under his wife's thumb."
Sypha followed with Christopher. "Would you like to join him in that situation, my dear husband?"
"With Julia? I think not. With you? Hmmm, maybe we should discuss this when little ears aren't listening."
"Uh-oh, Christopher, Papa's in trouble!"
"That's not what I meant, and you know it!"
"Papa's in trouble!" Christopher sing-songed as he, his brother, and his parents were swallowed by the dimmer light of the house that Gabriel no longer had the eyesight to see in to. He stood there in the sunlight just outside the door, listening as his family's voices continued on to the nursery. He then turned his head up to look at the clear sky above him.
"Thank you." he whispered, and then he turned back to the house and went inside to rejoin his family.Everything: 8 --
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