The Cloak of Stolen Shadows hung in the hall closet, sandwiched between a threadbare windbreaker and a pea-coat used on the rare cold days offered up by the seasons. Due to the warm climate there was no umbrella holder, because when even the most tumultuous storm’s droppings were quickly dried away, one found little need for an umbrella. Had there been an umbrella holder, though, that is the place The God’s Blood Sword would have found itself, at least initially. Over the years it likely would have migrated to the same place it ended up anyway, a glass case in the hobby room along with some unimpressive attempts at homemade pottery.

The same room also contained a framed degree on the wall, as well as drawings the children had scrawled. There was a mahogany desk with a computer that was out of date, but of course any computer older than three weeks fits that qualification. When visitors would come into the room they would compliment the desk and the pictures, pointedly refrain from mentioning the computer, and politely inquire about the six foot tall sword with the blade colored a crimson so deep it flirted on black. Sometimes they would ask about the pottery too, though the subject was quickly changed after it became clear the pieces were displayed less out of pride and more as a gentle self-reminder that no one was good at everything. By that point there were usually better things to do or children to usher out of the adults’ room, so conversation rarely continued on these focal pieces.

The Unforgivable Armor and Gauntlet of Howling Demons weren’t in the house at all, having been moved to a climate controlled storage facility across town after the first time their oldest son, Dylan, had nearly pulled the whole set down on top of his head. Marie was glad to have them out of the house. The cloak and sword weren’t so bad, but the armor would have required nearly religious polishing to be kept presentable.

It wasn’t like Devin needed them anyway. He’d long ago traded in his aggressive attack style for a degree and a job in human resources. He was quite apt at the latter, nearly as good as he’d been with the former. He was renowned for his ability to resolve interoffice conflict without having to resort to the filing of discipline reports. Whether it was his cheerful demeanor, aptitude for really listening to how an employee felt, or the way his blood red irises would bore into one’s soul, that made him so effective was anyone's guess. The effectiveness was there, and Devin had the positive yearly reviews and subsequent promotions to prove it.

He was a devoted father as well, cheering at Dylan’s baseball games and making a point to attend every one of Kasey’s dance recitals. It was important to Devin and Marie that the children always have at least one parent at their events, and with the hours Marie kept at the law firm it defaulted to Devin to make that presence felt. It meant having to finagle his work hours more than he liked, but Devin’s bosses never brought it against him. People seemed to have trouble telling Devin ‘No.”

The marriage was maintained as well. Once a month Devin and Marie would hire a sitter for the children and dress themselves in fine clothing. They’d go out to a quiet bistro, then to a bar specialized in wine and soft dancing. Devin would gaze into his wife’s green eyes as he twirled her about and remember the steely gaze she’d given him when they first met so long ago. Though her body had rounded and softened thanks to the twin daggers of childbirth and time, Devin was of the opinion that age had improved her in many ways, and Marie’s spirit still remained as stalwart and fiery as ever. It was that spark of life that had initially drawn him to her, and every time he saw it flash a wave of happiness washed over him that he’d held this woman’s charm for so many years.

Though, of course, one’s past never stayed entirely behind them. From time to time, beings wearing great black armors who tainted the air as they walked would come to call on Devin. Other times it was people with shaved heads in golden clothing on a pilgrimage to see Marie. In both cases the couple would invite them in, serve some tea or coffee, and politely yet firmly inform them that neither participated in their former line of work. If they were particularly insistent Devin would pull out his secret weapon, a homemade tiramisu cake that could settle even the greatest temper. If they were cordial Devin would even wrap up a few pieces for them to take back with them. The ones who brought up the prophecy rarely were given such a parting gift.

In all his years, Devin had only twice removed his sword from the case in the hobby room. Once had been for a particularly stubborn jar of spaghetti sauce, and the other had been when he discovered Dylan’s baseball coach had been secretly beating his players if they lost games. Marie had stopped him from using it on the sauce, though she was conspicuously silent on the second occasion, which only goes to show no matter how kind hearted a woman might be there is a level of savage protectiveness that only a mother can understand.

Beyond those rare occasions, however, it was a cheerful life. Imperfect, but with an honest joy that can only be appreciated when one has lived without it. They grilled out with the neighbors on holidays, vacationed in the mountains near Christmas, and talked one day of retiring on a sunny tropical beach once the children had started their own lives.

Sometimes, at night, Marie would wake up and look out at the stars from their bedroom window. She would lovingly rub her husband’s still muscular back as she did so, fully aware nothing short of war would rouse him from his sleep. On occasion her eyes would leave the stars and settle on the man she married, on the midnight hair that jutted from his scalp and the crescent scar that curved beneath his left shoulder blade. She could still remember the High Priest’s voice echoing through the hall, telling her that she was the one of prophesy, that it was her task to stop The Great Demon’s reincarnation. Marie would chuckle to herself, thinking of how furiously she’d gripped her sword and loudly vowed nothing could defeat her pure spirit. She’d been such a naive little thing in those days. Eventually she would grow sleepy again and kiss Devin on the cheek before laying against her own pillow. The people in the golden clothing still complained that this didn’t count, but Marie knew better. There were many ways to stop a warrior, and happiness was far less messy than decapitation.

Drew Hayes7 Comments