Chapter Twelve: Guidance
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Grey concrete blurred under her feet and buildings flashed by her. There wasn’t a storm on this bright, sunny, L.A day but Annabeth still had a sense of Déjà vu. She snorted to herself, freaking out a few pedestrians she was running by. At least this time she had a destination.
Her keen eyes picked out a cop car on the road ahead of her and she quickly ducked down an alleyway; getting caught by the cops and sent home for truancy was not a good idea. The alleyway was shorter than she’d expected and a tall wall faced her. By the wall, there were three metal garbage cans lined up and they were all covered by their lids. She gaged the distance between the top of the garbage cans and the top of the wall.
The Slayer nodded to herself before springing forwards in a mass of muscle and speed. She took a running jump and kicked off of the top of the left garbage can. Her mystically enhanced muscles propelled her upwards and she cleared the top of the wall easily before landing gracefully on her feet on the other side. Instinctively she tucked herself into a forward roll on landing; her bones weren’t even jarred by the drop as she jumped back into a standing position in one fluid moment.
Annabeth didn’t allow herself to look back at the wall as she started to run again. She had to get to Merrick and talk to him, not make pointless judgments of skill. The young demigod weaved through the pedestrians expertly as she made her way to his apartment but the pure mass of people stopped her from going as fast as she would like.
She soon reached his apartment block and even though the sun was beating down on the concrete city, causing heat distorted air to swirl on every street, she wasn’t sweating or even breathing hard. A young man was leaving Merrick’s apartment block and she brushed past him, darting through the open door. A cry of protest followed her as she tackled the stairs but she ignored it as she pounded upwards and onwards.
Her Watcher’s faded red door loomed and she stopped in front of it before rapping on the door. She could hear Merrick bustling around inside and she felt the vibrations of his heavy tread increase as he moved closer to the door. There was a tiny squeak as he pushed away the old one-cent sized metal cover for the spy hole. Bolts scraped against wood as he hurriedly worked to open his fortified door. It swung open and she looked miserably up at him.
“Miss Summers, what are you doing here? Are you alright?” He stepped aside and ushered her inside his apartment. There were a lot less cardboard boxes but every available surface seemed to be covered in books of all ages and origins. Annabeth thought she could see a scroll or two tucked away in one corner. The door thudded shut and she jumped slightly.
“At school today, a boy accidentally bumped into me. I picked him up and pinned him against a wall several feet off the ground. I didn’t do it on purpose; my body just reacted before my mind could tell it to stop.” Merrick sighed sadly.
“Yes, I thought this might happen in your case.” Annabeth’s jaw muscles tightened and she seethed quietly. Merrick, perhaps noticing this, spoke again. “I am sorry I didn’t tell you Miss Summers but I did not want to worry you early on with something that might not come to pass. Have I explained to you about how the council finds a slayer so quickly?” The young demigod silently accepted his apology and her muscles relaxed.
“No, you haven’t,” she said, her voice echoing through the bare apartment. Her Watcher took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow before indicating that she should take a seat on the book covered couch. Annabeth moved a few books aside, sat down and looked at him, waiting for the explanation. Merrick began to pace.
“Into each generation, a slayer is born, one girl, in all the world, a chosen one, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires and the demons.” His speech sounded like it had been drilled into him a thousand times. “This is what we are told in our induction to the International Council of Watchers. It is a speech that sticks with us all and if we are chosen to guide the next slayer, often it is repeated in our explanation to them. Later though, we learn that it is not strictly true.” He paused and wiped his forehead with the handkerchief again. “It would be more true to say that into each generation, hundreds of girls are born with the potential to become the slayer, who is truly a chosen one out of many.” Annabeth had to restrain herself from asking a barrage of questions. “These potentials have a distinct magical signature, one we can trace and use to find them when they are but infants. In the seventeenth century, we lost a slayer in the Salem witch trials because we didn’t know she was a potential. Before then, we had let the potentials grow up and live normal lives with their families but this slayer died because she was seen as an unnatural, as a witch, by the townsfolk and she died when she should have been fighting to avert an apocalypse; one which had already claimed the life of her predecessor. It was close, that apocalypse, and the IWC vowed that from then on that the potentials would be found, taken from their families and trained in the pursuit of the greater good.”
“You kidnap kids?” Annabeth felt sick, she had chosen to run away from home but those other kids hadn’t even had a choice. Merrick’s mustache bristled and he looked at her with a mix of anger and sadness.
“We train them how to be warriors, how to fight for an ideal greater than their own lives.”
“An ideal they haven’t chosen is no ideal at all!” Annabeth shouted. She would have said more but the ring on her finger had gone from cold to hot in one blinding instant and it felt like a hand had clawed itself around her throat, stopping her from speaking.
“Listen to him, my chosen.
” A rich voice, filled with the mystery of a crescent moon and the fear of dark crossroads, whispered in her ear and the scent of incense wafted into her nose.
“I understand your misgivings. I have them too, especially after the last slayer, a council trained one, was killed so early.” Merrick looked like he needed a drink and his handkerchief came out again. Annabeth’s anger grew smaller as she looked at him. She realized quickly that Merrick was only a small part of a larger whole; the actions of the IWC were not his fault and her anger was irrational. The invisible hand around her throat loosened itself slightly and the young demigod spoke again.
“Why wasn’t I found?” she asked and a look of relief passed through Merrick’s eyes.
“Some of the potentials are never found. There is never one single reason. Sometimes they have faery blood, or they live close to a magically charged area like Ley lines or a Hellmouth. Sometimes they are taken by demons and sold to other realms for a price or they die when they are young. There are millions of reasons but over the centuries the Council has become better at tightening the net. A wild card like you becoming the slayer is rare nowadays.”
“You said earlier that you thought this might happen in my case. Is being a wild card what you meant?” the scent of incense was fading now but Annabeth knew that Hecate was still with her, she could feel her in the small apartment room. Her Watcher nodded gravely.
“An advantage to being a council trained slayer is that when they are called, they have impeccable control of themselves due to years of practice. You are still new to this and your body fights with instinct and passion much more than it fights with control and carefully learned moves. But don’t worry my dear,” Merrick smiled at her broadly, his sunny disposition melting away the earlier gloom, “as your Watcher I am here to help you and together we will overcome this problem. I promise you.”
Annabeth could see that he believed his words and she wanted to believe them too. She needed a guide, someone to help her and teach her. She needed Merrick. The lingering vestiges of distrust deep inside of her were pushed away and Annabeth inhaled deeply. It was time to take a leap of faith.
“Okay, Merrick. Together.” She nodded at him and smiled weakly before getting up from her seat. “I don’t really want to have to go back to school though. Some of the other kids there…well…I’m afraid I’ll end up hurting them if I go back.” Her Watcher beamed at her.
“Oh, the more the merrier I assure you Miss Summers. We can use today to go over the physical side of your training in more depth and teach your body to distinguish between foe and friend.” Annabeth nodded again, her weak smile growing in strength. Hecate’s presence started to fade from the room and she finally began to relax a little. Maybe this whole leap of faith thing wouldn’t be that bad.
AN: Normally I don’t post so often but I was inspired for some reason so….here you go! Reviewers and constructive criticism welcome!