Gabriel chased the fleeing beast as his own inner animal surged out of control. He lost all track of thought to it, impulse and reflex had come to dominate him now. As he pursued his prey it suddenly spun on him and slid itself backwards at him. The deceptive tactic proved to catch him off guard as the cunning creature made use of its own good arm to rake a vengeful deep gash across Gabriel’s good leg.
Immediately he turned to repay the fresh source of pain and found his foe already on the move again. Only this time every step in following led him to more piercing agony as the wound reluctantly refused to heal. Frustration and frenzy tossed Gabriel about inside himself until he was virtually lost to the forces. A violent rage thundered through him with each stab of pain that echoed every step. Kill it; his mind demanded. And that was exactly what he intended to do.
But as he tried to get closer a strange flash of light barely missed his foe. The jerking fuzzy form had narrowly avoided the strike that trailed from something down the street. Something had tried to take his kill from him Gabriel realized. And that made him even angrier. They would pay for this, this was his prey. He alone had the right to kill it.
With his claws raised high he charged forward ready to deliver his compensation for the challenge to his dominance. He would rip this lesser creature to pieces and then he would end his other opponent. This power felt so good and he would prove to everyone that they could never stand against it.
As he drifted amidst the sea of anger a long buried memory surfaced to confront him. He was a boy again and setting in his grandfather’s workshop. Everything was as clear as the day when he went in there to ask him the only question that had ever tormented him endlessly as a child. “Where is my father,” he had tearfully asked his grandfather pleadingly. And that is when his grandfather had gave him the only answer he had ever been offered. It was the most important thing he had ever been told and he had taken it to heart to shape the foundation of the man he became.
‘Son,” Thael had said as he laid his hammer softly down on the bench. “The only answer I can give you is that it wasn’t his fault, it was mine. The only real rule about becoming a man is one I never seemed to be able to teach your father. Marcus wasn’t a bad person; he just never could grasp that one simple lesson. Every man is responsible for what he does. It’s just that simple. That’s all, your father little Marcus, he just never understood that. I tried to get that through to him for a long time but as he got older it became harder and harder. I had hoped that when you were born perhaps he would start to figure out that he was responsible for taking care of you and your mother. But sadly I was mistaken that he could ever change.
The fact that he is gone isn’t your fault boy, and please don’t blame your father either. He just never managed to grow into the man I tried to help him be. If anything it is my failure, not his.” That talk had always brought bake so much pain for Gabriel. Because in part he never could think back on it without seeing his grandfather hacking and coughing in weariness lying in his bed. Thael Vincent had outlived his daughter-in-law and his grandson was the only one there for him. With a weakening grip he held out his old trusty hammer to Gabriel and said his final words. “This old friend has never failed me just like I never failed any task I put it to use on. It still has some work left in it, so take it son; put it to good use and make me proud.”
As he closed his eyes to welcome the rest he had so richly earned Gabriel whispered his own goodbye to his grandfather. “It was never your fault; some boards aren’t cut out for the job. You can try to make them work all you like but sometimes they just fail you. Rest well, your job is done.” The first time he lifted that old hammer it had felt so heavy in his hand and in his heart. He had sworn then and there to never fail his grandfather, to become more of a man than his father had ever been.
And yet here he was his hammer raised back and vicious claws ready to take the life from someone valiantly trying to defend another. He would not allow this thing inside him to warp who he was. Gabriel refused to break his word to his grandfather upon his deathbed. He had sworn to be a better man than his father and that was exactly what he was going to be.
Gabriel locked on to his unshakable foundation and planted his will firmly upon it. His name resonated within him and as he spoke the words to himself he rejected his own first name like a bad taste. “I am Gabriel Vincent,” he declared. “I am the Grandson of Thael Vincent and worthy heir to his great name! I am no monster, I am a man. And now, I have a job to finish.”
His vision cleared and his senses returned with a snap as he reined the beast back under control. Gabriel looked down into the eyes of Oliver and spoke the words once more with conviction. “My name is Gabriel Vincent, and if you’ll excuse me I have a job to finish.” His hammer once more held at his side the mismatched metal man turned to look for his previous opponent.
Waiting for him was the wary warrior wolf itself circling in the distance already testing its healing arm. Everything was different now; both of them could sense the subtle change in their situation. Growling through bared teeth the snarling stalker was clear in his intentions to claim his waiting prey. But waiting in defiance this time Gabriel stood prepared to face him.
“Go ahead you flea-bitten fur ball, try it; I dare you. Because I am not going to quit, you’ll have to get by me.” Gabriel declared while his hammer bounced playfully in his hand. A smile formed on his face as he marked a pair of soft clicks behind him. “And allow me to introduce you to the rest of the Night-Watch Squad,” he added grimly. Right on his cue two blasts of energy screamed past him to reach their mark. The beast bellowed out a whimpered howl of pain as the potent strikes seared at its flesh to ravage him. But before a second volley could threaten to add to its growing torment the creature rushed frantically in a retreat to seek safety.
With the monster gone the shuddering sobs began to slow behind Oliver to be replaced by wordless gratitude as a gentle touch reached up for comfort. Wisely Gabriel returned to his less unsettling shape to minimize any further trauma being inflicted on the shaken survivor. But instead of the fear he expected he saw in the waiting face a measure of hope. He couldn’t help but think as he looked into those eyes that his grandfather would indeed have been proud.