From the first moment I laid eyes on him, I knew I was going to murder him. And I wished it to be a particularly bloody death.
While the statement could be called prophetic, I was certain of this only because I knew myself. He regarded me with skepticism as I entered his shop, making him more astute than most, and the wiser tended to meet a swifter demise than even my normal playthings. Still, I ignored the short, Asian man as he tracked my progress, knitting my hands behind my back and allowing my eyes to scan from one shelf to the next. Each piece – from the short swords to the eclectic collection of daggers – was a masterful work of art, but none held my attention more than the katanas. I drifted toward them as if being summoned.
"Can I help you, sir?" he flatly asked.
I stole a grin at the increased tempo of his pulse. "No, I am merely browsing," I replied. My focus was already locked on the Japanese steel as I became lost in admiration. I could not remember what compelled me into the store; I already possessed an arsenal back at the coven, all utilized with skill and precision. I plunged each sword and dagger into human and vampire alike, licking the blades clean as I conducted the dark orchestra which was my life in Philadelphia. They were more than instruments of death to me. They were trusted confidantes who made up the short list of friends I had as an assassin. Perhaps why I felt inclined to add another to my collection.
My blue eyes scanned each katana from behind the protection of sunglasses. "Very fine blades you have here," I said, breaking the silence. "The hands which crafted them are quite talented."
The man emerged from behind the counter, compelled by my compliment. As he walked toward me, I mused on the mortal ego, wondering if such fragile creatures knew how often it was their Achilles heel. 'Should have stayed with your initial assessment,' I admonished within my thoughts. He folded his arms in front of his chest, failing to notice my smirk as his eyes surveyed his wares. "The knives and other weapons are shipped in from Japan, but these –" He nodded at the display. "– I made myself."
"You are truly gifted." I followed his gaze to the wall. Once more, the siren song of steel held me hostage and I plucked a sword from the first shelf. My eyes ran along its exterior once before I spared the craftsman a quick glance. "I trust you do not mind."
"Not at all," he said, but my attention had already returned to the weapon I cradled in my hands. My gaze strayed to a set of kanji which had been painted in gold under the picture of a dragon.
"What does it say?" I asked.
"It is a blessing to the warrior who uses it."
"Fascinating." Taking hold of the sword's hilt, I tugged the sheath off with all the reverence of an acolyte handling a sacred text. It slid free with perfect resistance and its steel shimmered in the light once exposed to view. My voice lowered in awe. "Masterful, indeed." I placed the lacquered wood onto an adjacent counter and flicked a finger across its edge to test its sharpness. Raising the sword, I shut one eye and peered down the length of its blade. "Who taught you your craft?"
"I learned from a master. He made me his apprentice because he believed it was my calling." In my periphery, I saw him nod. "For many years, I studied, until I was told where The Fates wanted me to go."
"And The Fates wished you to grace Philadelphia with your talent?" I looked at him and perked an eyebrow.
He smiled. "They have mysterious ways."
"Apparently." Sheathing the sword, I placed it back on the shelf and continued to the next one. While I did not reach for it, I paused to admire it and gave the other pieces a proper amount of deference before progressing up the shelves. I did not pull any of them down, though. Not until I saw the one destined to be mine.
My hands reached for it slowly, as if afraid to do my new friend harm. "This one is... astonishing," I said, breaking a brief quiet which had settled between us. Wonder painted itself across my countenance. I studied the piece, eyes fixed first on the red and black weaving which adorned the hilt. The sheath itself was fully black, save but for a red braid tied close to a polished brass tsuba. The hand guard was etched with the two halves of a yin-yang. I slid the sheath off with more than a trifle amount of haste, eager to examine the blade. "And just as I thought I owned the finest pieces of steel ever crafted, I come upon this sword."
The man hesitated. I held the weapon out in front of me to peer down its sharpened edge, ignoring him. It was as though it had been made for me – the hilt rested perfectly in the palm of my hand, with just the right balance, and the blade length could not have been more tailored to my height. When I swung it to the side, I felt it cut through the air as though it could rend the very atoms of the wind.
"I wish to procure this one," I said, my eyes shifting back to the shop owner.
He swallowed hard. The amount of pause between my question and his response was enough to ignite the beginning embers of my impatience. "I can't sell it," he said, his voice demur.
"I beg your pardon?"
His gaze shot first to the sword, then back to me. Clearing his throat, the shop owner spoke again, this time with more confidence; even if he knew his words would displease me. "This… is part of my personal collection. It was made to be given to the right person, and I don't think you are that person."
Our eyes met in a seconds-long stalemate before a laugh bubbled up from my throat at the incredulousness of his comment. It warred with the fire I felt churning in my chest. "You do not think I am that person? Well, is that not precious? Please, explain how I am not worthy of this weapon, sir."
He sighed. "There are elements in this sword I haven't used in any other. The Fates themselves... commissioned it. They gave me the instructions for it in a dream. I saw its owner as somebody with a different heart, a warrior with a different spirit. You are not that warrior."
'Oh, this simply is too delicious.' My lips spread in a menacing smile, the gaze behind my dark sunglasses turning sinister as I allowed my fangs to slip from their slumber. Stalking forward, I moved like a cat inching toward its prey. "Not that warrior? And what sort of warrior did you have in mind? A champion or a savior, perhaps? Maybe one destined to save the world of evils such as me."
The man stumbled backward, fear written on his face as I swung his precious sword around with a capricious air. "I am a killer, but you already knew this, I am assuming, for you claimed to know the heart of he who stands before you. I drain the lives of you wretched beings and bathe in rivers of blood Elizabeth Bathory could not have imagined in her most twisted fantasies. I am the devil himself. Then again, you knew this, too."
"Yes." The word floated past his lips weakly, which only served to excite me more. "Fates, it is you. I have seen you in my dreams, you are the demon who –"
With a quick thrust of the sword, I impaled him through the stomach, the momentum of the weapon continuing until it severed his spinal column. I smirked. "The one who shall end your life?" I asked. Twisting the blade, I laughed in a much more sadistic manner, watching his eyes widen, knowing his knees would fail him soon. Crimson trickled from the wound I inflicted, which whetted my desire to see more. "Consider your dreams prophetic and me your angel of death."
Extracting the blade, I flicked it to the side and watched him crumple to the ground.
The sight of his blood splattered across the wall provoked a gasp from another being's lips, drawing my eyes to its source. My tongue slid across my fangs as I lowered my sword, drinking in the sight of a frightened Asian woman I assumed was kith and kin to the swordsmith. Tears brimmed in her eyes. Her small hands rose to cover her gaping mouth. "Madame, allow me to make your acquaintance," I said, bowing with a flourish and keeping my eyes fixed on her. "My name is Flynn, and you have the honor of being my second victim for the evening."
Whether or not she understood what I said, she heard the tone of my voice clear enough to interpret my intent. Her black hair swept around her shoulder as she turned, dashing for a room in the back of the shop while leaving the door ajar. I leaped over the counter separating us, moving far faster. Before she was able to reach the exit, I had an arm wrapped around her torso and her back pressed against my body. She let out a surprised yelp.
I drew in a deep breath. Her exotic scent overwhelmed me, teasing me with the temptation to make her more than a meal. My fangs ached for purchase on her skin, though, and could not be ignored. Lips grazing her ear, I hummed and whispered, "Relax, my dear, and embrace death." I plunged my fangs into her neck and drank deeply, savoring her with each mouthful I imbibed.
Her blood was warm and her taste just as tantalizing as her scent. Within moments, her heart ceased beating and she fell to my feet, just another notch on an already long belt. I shut my eyes while wiping her remnant from my mouth and savored the afterglow. "Of all the mortals I have consumed, you were one of the more delightful ones." Opening my eyes, I peered down at her. "Join your husband in the afterlife."
As I turned around, I clutched my new companion in one hand, feeling a connection form between man and weapon. The swordsmith's words resonated in my thoughts, provoking a scoff at his insistence I was not meant to own it. I had it now, did I not? And I intended to put it to good use.
Some days later, I became ensnared in my own date with destiny. Even as I confronted my vampire nature and my mortal side rose once more to claim its fate, the sword remained by my side. The bloody coincidences of The Fates; I had only begun walking the path, but even then I knew I would never understand them.
Especially when they nearly took my watcher from me.