Echoes And AngelsA Witchblade fanfiction by Talismaniactress
(many thanks to my kind and talented beta-reader Kassiel, and to Trider for title inspiration)
**DISCLAIMER** As you all know, I do not own Witchblade or any of the characters or props involved therewith. Lyanka is the only character I own, the rest belong to either Warner Bros. or Elri.Chapter One: Dagger Dawn
Gabriel Bowman heard the chime of his door opening and sighed. There seemed to be a remarkable number of people of late who managed to walk through a locked and double-bolted front door, and it was beginning to get old.
"We're closed!" he called out, glancing about for somewhere to put the carton in his arms. "Can't even let me have my morning coffee first," he growled to himself. The fact that he'd already had four cups of coffee since he'd rolled out of bed was entirely beside the point – he never really woke up before the sixth. He found a place to stow the box of glass baubles, and called again, louder this time, "We're closed!"
"Not for the next twenty minutes, you aren't," a woman's voice answered.
Annoyed, Gabriel came striding out of the back room – and stopped in mid-step. There was a girl standing at the counter. It wasn't her looks that had arrested him; she was not what anyone would have called beautiful, and though she had a pretty face she was scowling, which rather ruined the effect. Nor was it the strange clothes she was wearing – a peasant blouse which had slipped off one shoulder, a pair of black gloves with all but the index finger and thumb missing, a rose-colored velvet skirt which swung about her ankles, and what looked like steel-toed combat boots. No, what distracted Gabriel was the long and highly polished dagger strapped tightly to her hip.
She glanced up, and began to speak rapidly the moment she saw him. "I need a figurine," she said imperiously. "It was included in a shipment of Egyptian artifacts which arrived here around three o' clock yesterday afternoon. The one I'm referring to is a burial figure, of the goddess Mekhare holding a cat, and it's about seven inches tall, with a circular base that wasn't part of the original figurine, it was added…"
She trailed off when she noticed he didn't seem to be registering a word she said. "You do know what I'm talking about, don't you?" she asked sharply.
Her acid tone finally jolted Gabriel out of his reverie; his foot hit the floor with a thud that startled him. "I, ah, yeah… I think so…" he stammered. "It's that one with…um… Look, can I ask you about that knife?"
The question caught her off-guard. "My dagger?" she said blankly. Gabriel noticed her hand instinctively went to its hilt; obviously, it wasn't just for show. "What about it?"
"May I see it?" He held out a hand. "Please?" he added when she made no move.
To his surprise she didn't just hand him the blade; she unstrapped the belt from her waist and held out the whole thing. "Be careful with it," she said sternly.
He was. Even in sliding the blade from the sheath he could see it was razor sharp, and in perfect condition. He spent a long moment examining the thing, admiring the pattern of runes inlaid in silver on both the handle and sheath, testing the edge on a block of wood he used as a paperweight – the knife went through it as if it were no more than soft cheese.
"Imlach Amarth uin Calad," Gabriel read aloud. "'I am the Doom of Light.' This is what I think it is, isn't it?"
"Depends what you think it is," she replied casually.
Gabriel sheathed the dagger and handed it back to her, watching as she strapped it back on. "That's the blade that killed Arianrhod of Cornwall, isn't it? Morgaine LeFay's handmaiden?"
At that, the girl's jaw dropped, and she turned to face him. "How did you know that?" she demanded, but her tone had changed. It was no longer superior, but respectful.
Gabriel shrugged, grinning, and repeated his mantra: "It's my job to know about objects of power." When she didn't say anything, he went on, "That thing's worth a fair amount of money. Where'd you get it?"
"Oh," she said vaguely, "I've had it for years… didn't know it was anything special."
Gabriel suspected she was lying, but he let it go. "Interested in selling it?"
For a brief moment the girl looked absolutely horrified – and then in a flash she recovered herself, and was once again imperious and superior.
"I didn't come here to sell," she said curtly. "I came here looking for something. You did say you had the figure I'm looking for, did you not?"
"Uh, yeah…" Gabriel disappeared behind the counter for a moment, and then reemerged carrying a small crate. As he pried it open, he asked, "How did you know I got this in yesterday?"
She sighed. "I've been trying to get my hands on this figurine for two or three years now. Every time, I always seemed to track it down just a few days too late, catching up with it just after it had been sold."
"Why is it so important to you?" Gabriel asked curiously.
"It belongs to me," she said. "It was stolen."
Gabriel actually dropped the crowbar in surprise. "Hey now," he cried angrily, "just what are you saying? I don't deal in stolen goods! The guy I bought these from had a perfectly legal bill of sale!"
She half-smiled. "I'm sure he did," she said gently. "I'm not accusing you of anything, Mr. Bowman. You had no part in this. You bought it legally, and so did the man who sold it to you. But the man he bought it from…" Her scowl returned. "He was a thief."
Damn, Gabriel thought. Means I'll have to give it to give it back to her, no charge. And I paid too much for it in the first place. He picked up the crowbar, still frowning, and returned to prying open the crate.
He finally got the thing open, and rummaged about inside until he found the statuette she wanted. The brilliant smile that lit her face when he held it up made a startling change, and for a split second Gabriel caught himself thinking that she was actually attractive.
"Oh, thank you!" she breathed, and took it gently. Any doubts Gabriel might have harbored about whether or not it was really hers dissipated.
"No charge," he told her. "Since it was stolen. I mean, it's yours anyway right?"
She laughed then, a beautiful infectious laugh that made Gabriel smile, though he had no idea what was funny. "I'm not here to buy it, silly," she chuckled.
Gabriel gaped at her. "Then what on Earth did you want it for?" he demanded. His head couldn't quite decide between outright shock, disgust that he'd just wasted an hour not making a sale, and dread that she might turn out to be some sort of psycho who would find it amusing to dismember him with that knife of hers just so that she could keep her figurine. A moment later shock won out.
"This is what I wanted it for," the girl said, and pulled off the figurine's arm.
Halfway through an exclamation of horror, Gabriel shut his mouth. Along the side of the figure's body, which a moment ago had been hidden by the statue's arm, there was a hairline crack. The girl dug her long fingernail into the opening and the goddess' chest swung outward on invisible hinges, revealing a tiny hollow compartment. And inside… inside was a diamond ring.
She held it up, a smile lighting her face. "My wedding ring!" she announced delightedly.
THAT was too much, even for Gabriel.
"You're married?!" he gasped. She couldn't possibly be any older than he was, and she certainly looked a good deal younger.
For a moment she seemed confused. "Oh, no," she said vaguely. "It… it was my great-grandmother's. Family heirloom and all that. I've kept it hidden in the statue for years; I thought if someone did break into the house, that figurine would be the last thing they'd take. Just my luck the guy happened to be an art thief." She laughed again. "The statue means nothing to me," she went on. "Keep it. Sell it. I daresay that compartment will give you a whole new spin on the thing." She winked.
"Ah, yeah, it uh, it definitely will," Gabriel said, grinning lopsidedly. He watched carefully as she closed the figure's chest and slid the arm back onto the tiny pins that held it in place. He examined it closely when she handed it back to him, and discovered that it was difficult to see the crack in the shoulder even when you knew it was there; no wonder no one had known what it could do. He wondered how she had discovered it.
"How did you –" he began, and stopped.
The shop was empty. The girl was nowhere in sight.