Fathers and Daughters
The sun setting across the valley was a magnificent sight, bathing the land in gold and setting the sky on fire. Already people down there were setting up fires and playing music, another grand feast to celebrate the end of Innistrad's long night! "Avacyn has returned!" they cried, many already deep in their cups. "Humanity has prevailed!" they cheered, all of them happy to be alive. In the weeks since the archangel's return the human race had made a remarkable comeback against what, until then, had been almost certain doom. They were still intoxicated with it, and now that things had settled a bit they could indulge in their revelry properly. They had been doing so for days now.
Perched above them all at the top of the valley, arms behind his back, Sorin Markov wondered what they would all think if they knew he had created the angel they so praised. The thought amused him for a few seconds, but gradually it faded and he put it out of his mind. He found the fading light of the day much more interesting than the musings of the men and women below him.
Sorin had always liked sunsets. A strange thing for a vampire, true, but it was a fact. It was the mix of colors that intrigued him so. They wove together in such a harmonious blend that it stimulated even his jaded sensibilities. Even after so much time he adored the setting of the sun, and the minor discomfort of its fading light was a small cost to enjoy the splendor before him.
A presence behind him drew his attention briefly, but he made no move in response to it. The presence, in turn, remained silent, seemingly enjoying the sunset along with the ancient vampire. Finally, when the sun dipped below the horizon, the planeswalker turned and addressed his guest.
She was how he remembered, unchanged since the day he made her. Tall and statuesque, she was strikingly beautiful. Her black dress suited her well, as did the spear in her hand. She looked at him as imperiously as he looked at her, confident in her power. That was fine, for it suited her. Power was her birthright.
The wind blew her long white hair behind her in waves, and he could not help but think of how similar they looked. Had it been some subconscious narcissism, or perhaps merely a side effect of the spell he'd set in motion? One or the other, or perhaps both? In truth, the reason didn't really matter. It was the result that counted, and Sorin did not find it unpleasing.
"Hello," she responded, her voice firm even if quiet. "Father."
Sorin motioned to the side, where chairs and a small table with food and wine had been set. Avacyn quirked a brow at her sire, looking at him confused before moving toward the ensemble. She set her spear aside before taking the seat opposite the cliff's edge, taking special care for her wings. Sorin was but one step behind her, sitting down with a small flourish of his coat.
"I must say," he began as he cut into what looked to be poached pheasant. "I'm glad you found time to meet with me. I know you must be terribly busy, what with Innistrad's shameful state after so many months without you."
"I will manage," she said curtly, which drew Sorin's eyes back to her. She hadn't moved since sitting down, merely crossing her arms and glaring at him. The vampire took a bite of the meat, looking into her pale eyes. You could only see the silver irises if you looked closely, making it appear from afar that her eyes were completely white. One would think eyes like those would be hard to read, but you could catch a remarkable amount of emotion within them. He sighed and set his food down, leaning his chin on steepled hands.
"I am not."
"Come now, don't lie to me."
Avacyn responded with silence, and Sorin had to restrain another sigh. Something was indeed upsetting his angel.
"Avacyn," he said, to which she simply closed her eyes. The motion confused him, but he pressed on. "Avacyn, talk to me. You know you can tell me whatever it is that's troubling you."
"No," she spat out, anger bleeding into her voice. Her eyes snapped open, full of fire. "I don't know. I hardly ever see you."
Ah, Sorin thought. Now we get to the meat of the issue.
"I hardly ever see you," she said again, venom growing with every word. "And now you wish to speak with me after I was trapped for almost a year? Why? Did you come to make sure your masterpiece of order wasn't damaged?"
"No. That isn't why I asked you to meet with me."
"Then why?" Avacyn responded, her voice the loudest it had been all night. It wasn't quite a shout, but it was close. "You're gone for centuries, doing the light knows what across the whole of existence, and I only see you again after I break free from hell!" She slammed her hands on the table, only just restraining herself from breaking the wood. "Where were you?"
Sorin took a deep breath, closing his eyes and composing himself. Her tone annoyed him, and from anyone else he would not have accepted it. But for her, he would. She had the right, and it was only natural she would feel this way.
After all, what child wouldn't want their parent to come for her when she was hurt?
"I'm sorry," he said, his tone completely lacking the usual arrogance and charm he exuded as easily as breathing. Avacyn's mouth snapped shut, her rant cut short in the face of the honest sadness in her father's amber eyes. Sorin Markov was apologizing? "I should have been here earlier, tried harder to find you. I wasn't able to save you, and I'm sorry for that. I wanted to see you again. I wanted to make sure you were all right."
For several minutes there was silence, father and daughter alone in the night. He looked at her, and she looked to the side, avoiding his gaze. The vampire noticed the conflicting emotions warring on his angel's face, sadness and confusion and anger. And laced through everything was the most damning emotion of them all, the one that made one even as arrogant and carefree as Sorin cringe. Hurt.
"You are different now," Avacyn said after a time, turning to face him again. The anger had bled out of her, making her look very tired. "Less than you were when I saw you last. Something has happened to you."
"Many things have happened to me," Sorin responded. "As many things have happened to you. That is the nature of ones who live as long as we do. But my own experiences can wait. Tell me, are you all right? Did those demons hurt you?"
Avacyn laughed. It was a short thing, but real. A rich, airy sound like bells chiming on the wind.
"No. Those creatures like to boast, but when it comes down to it none of them can withstand my power even when they number in the thousands. Griselbrand was one of their greatest, and he only managed to trap me through luck rather than skill. I spent my months locked in there fighting all of them again, dispelling their essences countless times within the darkness of the Helvault."
She paused, seeking words. The vampiric planeswalker made no motion, letting her take her time. This was obviously part of what troubled her, and it would not do to push her into something she was not comfortable with.
"I thought I would never escape," she whispered, just a touch of fear edging into her voice. "My fate to fight my charges till the end of time, never to see light again. Never to see you again."
"I'm sorry," Sorin said again, just as soft. He understood her anger now, understood why she was so hurt. He was her father, and despite everything else in their relationship that meant he had certain responsibilities. Responsibilities he had failed to live up to.
"I know," she responded, getting out of her chair.
He rose as well, motioning for her to come closer. She did, and as she came within reach he drew his arms around her. Avacyn stiffened a little, unsure of this latest development. But, after a few moments, she slowly returned the hug.
They stayed that way for a short time, and for a moment Sorin could almost set everything else aside and just take this simple pleasure of a father embracing his daughter. Her grip on him relaxed as the minutes ticked by, but they both knew that it couldn't last.
Slowly, reluctantly, Sorin withdrew. With one hand he brushed aside a lock of his angel's hair, gently kissing her on her forehead.
"I'll try to visit more often," he said softly, looking down at his daughter's face.
"I'd like that," Avacyn whispered, holding on to him for a few more seconds before letting go. Retrieving her spear, she walked to the edge of the cliff and, unfurling her wings, jumped. She dropped only a fraction before taking fully to the air, making her way to the revelry in the town below.
Sorin watched stoically as one of the few things he truly cared for departed. He knew that she would be all right. He would make sure of it. There would never be a repetition of this tragedy, staved off only at the eleventh hour. He wouldn't let her suffer like that again.
So he stood there and watched the flight of his daughter, his angel of hope, and smiled.