Date: Mon, 09 Dec 1996 13:45:41 -0500
From: "Eva, John and Anne Robinson" <aejrobin@netcom.ca>
Subject: FK Fiction


The Gift

by Eva Robinson

All copyright rules in effect, etc,etc,etc. The subject of a Keeper is
mine, please don't poach! Any similarity to persons living, dead
and undead is purely coincidental.
_________

Nick entered the office and tossed his coat over the chair just
as the phone rang.

"Metro Homicide, Knight." he said briskly into the receiver.

"Detective Knight? Detective Nick Knight?" ask a very old
voice. A woman's very old voice.

"Yes."

"I wish to report a theft."

Nick paused. "I'm sorry, you have the wrong department. This is
homicide. If you'll hold I'll transfer you to the switchboard and they
will help you."

"No, please, you don't understand. The theft is that of your
mortality." Nick stared dumbfounded at the receiver. "Please come to
see me. Come soon. Come now. We must talk."

Nick scribbled down the address, grabbed his coat and bolted
out of the office before anyone could question him. He was halfway across
theparking garage when he turned, left the building and crossed Grenville
to the Coroner's Office. He stuck his head through the door and,
noticing that Natalie had no customers, called out, "Are you busy?
Something very strange had just happened."

Her name was Engracia Sabo. For all intent and purposes, she was
in her late 70's. She was active, agile and aware, belittling her age with
her vibrancy. When the knock came at her door, Engracia moved smoothly
across the room to answer it.

"So good of you to come, Det. Please come in and sit. I am glad
you brought your doctor friend." She smiled at Natalie, "Very few people
can hear the cries of the dead."

Nick and Nat entered the cottage- like house. It had been a
post- war construction: very solid and well built, for a temporary dwelling.

"Would you like a drink? Tea or coffee?" Engracia asked. They both
declined.

"You said my mortality was in danger of being stolen. By whom?
What did you mean by that? "Nick asked. Engracia smiled.

"Do you know me Det? Look beyond my face, my hair, my body. Look
through me. What do you see?" she said reaching across to take his hand.

Nick almost recoiled at her touch. Her skin was not dry, nor
cold, nor wet. Her hand was soft. So soft that Nick could feel the scars on
her wrist where the ropes that had bound her to the stake had been placed.
He looked down and saw nothing more than wrinkled skin and blue veins.
Not on these hands! On another, a long time ago. A confused look crossed
his face. Natalie watched with concern.

"Nick? Are you all right?" Nick looked at Engracia.

"I know you, but not YOU. An older personage, more than one. How
is that possible? You are human, I can hear your heart and smell your
blood. How is that possible? What are you?" Engracia pulled back her
hand smiling.

"You remember. Good. It will make thing easier. I am what is
called a Keeper. Does that phrase mean anything to you? No? Well, I guess
we can blame Lacroix for that. Your father was, and still is, a terrible
teacher."

Natalie leaned forward. "What is a Keeper?"

Engracia smiled at her. "It is good that Nick has you. You will
be his anchor, his grounding. What is a Keeper? Why it is one who keeps.
What do they Keep? Anyone who is blessed with the gifts - werefolk, seerers,
scryers, vampires. We Keep them all. How? By sacrificing our lives when
theirs are in danger. By doing this, they will live and continue." She
paused and settled back into her chair." Let me tell you my story. I was
born near Cologne in the year 1341. No, this is not my original body. As
we die, so we are reborn into another life of a new Keeper. When I came
of age I was taught the skilling of Keeping - how to identify myself to
those who need to be Kept and need sanctuary. The rope marks you felt
on my wrist are from my third returning in 1497. I was burned at the
stake in the place of a vampire named Lacroix. He escaped with his
'family' from Spain to Egypt. Do you remember the time Nick? Yes, I can
see you do. My next return was in 1667 as a nurse maid for a wealthy
family in Brussels. I was drowned by a man named Scarsallie. He was
pursuing vampires and thought me to be one. Yes Nicholas, he was
pursuing you. After that, I returned 6 more times. Each time I died in
your place. Lacroix never told you about us because we do not only Keep,
we also teach. Lacroix has raised his family on lies and half-truths.
And now, as I prepare to die for a final time - for when a Keeper dies a
natural death, they truly die - I wish to set the record straight."

Nick and Nat sat stunned by the woman's words.

"I know you and I know what you say is true." Nick said,
"Lacroix told us that Keepers were just another form of Enforcer, to be
avoided at all cost."

"Lacroix, as usual, lied, "Engracia said. "He has a propensity
for lying when he is afraid. He lied to you about many things, but most
seriously he lied to you about the true nature of a vampire. Now, I have
watched you closely for the last few years and I have seen you struggle
with wars that should never have been fought. I have seen you sacrifice
your happiness because you don't believe you are deserving of happiness.
I have seen you turn away from your heart's faith. I have see you turn
away from God." Nick stood suddenly and started to pace around the room.

"I am a vampire! I have killed innocent people in my quest for
life. My faith and my God have neither the room nor the forgiveness for me.
I knew that when I finally die I will answer for every life I took. I know..."

"So much bunk offered to you by your beloved father." Engracia
said with a chuckle. "Now, sit and hear my words. A vampire is no different
than a human. There are good and bad. Our pillars of faith are also
filled with fault. Lacroix was afraid when he crossed over. So much of
his life disappeared beneath Vesuvius. So much of what he understood
and believed was destroyed. His memory became poisoned and distorted. He
came to believe damned status so much that he made it come true. He then
passed his warped sense of mortality on to his children. No, Nicholas,
you are not abandoned or damned, and I will prove my words to you." She
reached into her pocket and pulled out two chains. Both were beaded with
pearls, one ended in a rose, the other in a cross. Nick took one look
and turned away.

"I am damned, Engracia. I can't look upon or hold a sacred object.
If I am not damned, why do they burn me?" He asked , almost with a sneer.

"Because you have been taught to expect it." she replied and
continued before he could speak, "When you were in Egypt did you not handle
the temple sistrums, Udjet Eyes and other objects once help sacred?"

"Yes, but they were from a long dead religion!" Nick protested.

"Once sacred, always sacred." Natalie muttered.

"That's right. time does not diminish the sacredness of an
object. A 5,000 year old statue of Amon is just as sacred as a 2,000 year
old cross."

"Why me? Why not try to reach Lacroix and help him? "Nick
asked, almost peevishly.

"Why? Because he asked me to help YOU. Lacroix believes himself
to be beyond redemption, but he loves you so much he has swallowed his pride
and his fear, and has come to me to ask my help. Will you accept it for
his sake, if not for your own?"

For a few minutes silence reined.

"Nick?" Natalie said looking at him.

"I don't know. How, after all these years can I stop believing
Lacroix and blindly believe you?" Natalie reached over and held his hands. They
were shaking.

Engracia placed the two strings of beads on the table. Nick forced
himself not to look away despite the terror eating at him and the sudden
heat filling his skin. He felt the skin on his hands itch and crawl as
he watched her place each set in an identical velvet drawstring bag.
When she was done she handed the two bags to Natalie.

"When you are ready give one to Nick. Then open them at the same time
and pour the contents into your hands without looking. Then open your
hands together." She took Nick's hand in hers. "Listen to your heart
Nicholas. Try to understand that what we do in this life does not decide
the future. What decides it is what we WANT to do and what we TRY to do.
Do you think everyone in heaven is an angel and everyone in hell is
cursed? No, my dear boy, life and eternity have more shades of grey than
you would think possible. Take these, learn and grow. And remember, there
will always be a Keeper watching over you.." Engracia leaned back and
closed her eyes. Tears slid silently down her cheeks. Nick reached
across to touch her face and wipe the tears away.

"Go." She said.

Just past sunset Natalie walked into the Loft. Nick was waiting.

"This is ridiculous." he said, "There is no way that ..." Natalie
stopped him.

"What have you got to lose? A few moments of discomfort?"

"All right, let's get it over with." he said.

Natalie pulled the two velvet bags from her purse and placed
them on the table.

"Which one?" she asked.

"Left." Nick said. Natalie picked up the right one, handing
Nick the left.

"Together."

"Together, but don't forget to close your eyes."

As one, they opened the bags an spilled the contents onto their hands.
Nick closed his fist and felt nothing. He opened his eyes and smiled at Nat.

"So, Nat. You got the cross, eh?" he said before he glanced into
her hand and saw the rose. Looking down, he saw the sacred cross laying over
his palm, gleaming silver in the sunset.

--The End--