Wings of Shadow

By: Sherri A. Wingler

~Book 2 of The Immortal Sorrows series~

Chapter 1…Asher

Grief has always been a mystery to me. It serves no useful purpose. Death is as natural as birth, a simple transition from one state of being to the next. It should not cause pain. Yet it does. Great, inescapable pain. I had always thought myself immune to such things.

Then came the awful moment when I watched the light leave Isabel’s beautiful, green eyes. I understood grief very well, then. There is no reason to it, and no reasoning with it. That is its horror, and its truth. It is a cancer which consumes from within. There is no relief from such a thing. It is intolerable, yet somehow, mortals learn to endure it. Until I experienced it, I believed them weak, but I was the weak one. I could not abide such agony.

Humans go about their lives, always refusing to see me, until the end, and even then they always imagine someone else. An old lover, a relative, a beloved pet. They never see me, not as I truly am. I do not take it personally; no one wants to face Death.

Isabel saw me. From the very beginning, she saw me, knew me for the monster I am, and still she loved me. That beautiful, young woman with fire in her blood. I wanted her from the moment I laid eyes on her. She was perfect, made just for me by a cruel and merciless twist of Fate. Isabel was my mate and my match, but loving me destroyed her.

For one brief moment, I held everything dear to me in my arms, and then she was simply gone. I did not even have the honor of joining her in death. Immortality robbed me of the option. I failed to protect her, and so she was lost to me.

I cradled her head against my shoulder and rocked her body gently back and forth as I knelt upon the cold, unforgiving ground. There was something building up inside of me. Some enormous thing, and I knew if I let it out, I would never be able to control it. It was red rage and blackened pain. It twisted and clawed inside of me, hollowing me out to make more room for itself. It swallowed my happiness, along with my hope.

It started to rain. Of course, it would. There were only a few sprinkles at first, then the skies opened up. Great, fat drops of water poured from the heavens like tears. I wanted to think that Nature mourned with me, but I knew better. There had been too many elemental forces at work this night. Nature can only be manipulated in so many ways, before she lashes out. Isabel had taken energy from everything around her, and then released it in a terrifying and deadly show of power.

It was a killing field. The bodies of our enemies lay dead all around us, scattered throughout the clearing. Fate’s pet Reapers had all fallen in their last-minute bid to escape, not that it had done any of them any good. I never imagined the death of true immortals, but they did not have a chance. It had all happened so quickly. They were traitors to their brethren. Now their immortality was at a brutal, and definite end. Isabel had her revenge, but the price… the price was too great to bear.

Drops of cold rain splashed against my beloved’s face and trailed down her throat. I tried to wipe them away, but they kept coming. They would not stop. Already, her lips turned a pale shade of blue, and the roses no longer bloomed in her cheeks. Her heartbeat had grown so familiar to me in the short time we had together. Now it was silent, and its loss was deafening. The thing inside of me grew larger, too much to contain, finally. I found myself sobbing as I held her.

I held her cooling body close to mine. For the first time in my eternally long life, I gave myself over to grief. I let it wash over me, swallow me whole, and felt myself crushed beneath it. I have heard it said that there are five stages to grief. I seemed to have only two. Denial was the first of my visitors, or rather disbelief. How could this have happened? How? I could not protect her. No matter what I had done, or did not do, it was not enough to protect her. What good was all my power, if I could not protect her? I was supposed to be enough, but I was not.

Anger was not far behind. Anger I understood. We were old friends, anger and I. Rage took root in my heart and bloomed like a poisonous flower. It was cruelly twisted and thorny, watered with my own heart’s blood. I stared at the bodies of my enemies, and wished them living, so I might have the pleasure of killing them myself. Thunder rumbled overhead. The storm moved in time with my mood. The air was ripe with electricity and possibility.

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