18. Story Time
I’d like, if I may, to clear up a few bits of confusion that have been bothering me along the way. There’s a lot I’ve bore witness to in my time, some of which I feel the need to share. So if you could be patient, I’d like to tell you about the incident with Harley.
Lucid had been training me for some time to take over the streets, knowing as a Ransom, it was my right. As he grew up and settled into having a family, he wanted me to take over, so his daughter could have a shot at being free. As we all know, things never really work out as you intend them to. So I pledged myself to him and his family, hoping that things would work out for the best in the long run.
Angyl knew I existed, just could not explain how. My connection to the Ransom family is inexplicable, but yet, here I am. It was I who confronted her after burning down the Dragon, after killing numerous people. It was I who she mistook for the true legend – Toryn. But all the same, time marched on, and we kept a most precious eye on one another.
Lucid was the closest thing to a father I ever knew. He taught me everything I would ever need to know and then some, careful to keep me far away from his family. He didn’t want his daughter exposed to a cavalcade of killers and otherwise unsavory characters. He was attempting to break the cycle with the kind of desperation only a father could understand. I was there to assist him as best as I could.
As the owner, and operator of the Drowning Raven, her place was always important in the chain of command. That bar was the safe haven, the pathway for the lost and road to the underground. Everyone knew her as the original Ringleader, so her place in history was secure. She could not just simply disappear. As such, she embraced her fate long ago, and that of her child. Her daughter would grow up to take over the bar in her parents’ stead and carry on the tradition of peace. Or so she hoped.
Until Angyl Hunter saw fit to intervene.
Angyl’s background is just as complicated as my own, but she knew my family for generations. She was the one who burned the original Black Dragon down, yet, through conditioning, convinced my dear Lucid that he had committed the crime. I don’t know if he was just that far lost from the world, or if chemical influence was to blame, but he was very susceptible to the art of suggestion at the time. With enough convincing he would believe anything. And blame himself for it.
Harley’s version of the stories held the truth, and thus, had to be destroyed. But as long as Harley lived, it could be retold and rewritten. Angyl knew from early on she had to get rid of Harley, but at the same time, she needed to destroy the entire family too. She needed to prove a point. She needed the survivors to see the cost of peace and freedom. Angyl’s retirement from the world rode on Harley. If the truth got out, all the people she was instrumental in murdering – the hunt for her would never end. So she began to plot out how to end the hunt before it ever began.
Angyl befriended my teacher when I was young. I remember her coming around, her pats on the head. She seemed to treat me as an afterthought, but I knew she was far cleverer than that. She would deal with me when the time was right, when it suited her. And she did. When Lucid’s usefulness had been worn through. Then her attention would turn to me.
As much of a demon as Angyl was a sense of morality survived inside that warped head of hers. She would never harm someone who had helped her, or been kind to her. Such people were so few. If you had betrayed her in any way though, you were quick to the slaughter. Lucid pulled the trigger on Harley, that much is true. I saw it happen. Why? He thought that Harley had killed their daughter, to save her from Angyl and Lucid. This was a lie. Angyl had hidden the girl away, faked her death, to twist Lucid into doing what was necessary. He fired the killing shot.
But Harley didn’t die.
Angyl had met Harley years ago as a child. She respected her too much to let her die, especially in such a backhanded way. So why did she make Lucid do it? Because she needed evidence. She needed to have facts, proof positive, that Lucid had gone mad. She needed something to show the community when they voted on his madness. And the apparent murder of his wife would be the killing blow to his reputation. He would fall, and the bar’s future would be in her hands, as she would be the savior. But could she let Harley suffer? While she destroyed her family before her very eyes, death seemed like a more appropriate fate, something more fitting of her character.
But it didn’t happen. I watched her carry Harley off. I watched her wretch the bullet from her chest. And I watched Harley rediscover oxygen. She survived. And would continue to. As Lucid dealt with the aftermath of his sins he was cast out of the community – as was I. When the issue of Harley’s death came up, and my involvement…I found myself unable to rat Angyl out; Why? Well, in my mind, Angyl, for the first time in her life, in her own backwards way, was showing the first inch of compassion I’d ever known her to possess. And I had to respect that. For the first time she had saved a life instead of taking one. And most importantly, she hadn’t shot me when she had the chance.
Lucid had the smoking gun in hand. Destroyed, he had simply turned and walked away, leaving the scene behind like some bad dream. I remember picking up the gun he’d dropped at the scene, leveling it at Angyl. She turned on me faster than I could imagine, knocking me off balance, leveling a gun of her own.
“You have a choice,” she said to me, her words piercing. She cocked the weapon, mere inches from my face. “You can die here, like this, defending a mindless master.” She lowered the weapon slowly, her eyes still fixed on mine. “Or you can help me carry her out of here.”
I handed her my weapon, which she tucked in her waistband slowly. Looking around, we endeavored to keep Harley amongst the land of the living. As Angyl had just spared my life, I had to return the favor when questioned for the truth of Harley’s death. In our own ways, we owed each other everything. My brother was a young street demon early on, so we were never close. My entire fate rested on Miss Angyl Hunter. And I knew never to take it for granted.
As time passed, Harley disappeared. She ran the bar behind the scenes, with her survival known to only a select few. Her daughter, Relic, would grow, thinking she had fired the killing shot that ended Lucid’s life. Angyl had fired it. And I had carried him away. I operated as Angyl’s right hand, until she realized how much easier it could be to cut me out of the bargain.
Relic was mentally destroyed from a young age from the loss of her parents, constantly fighting to discover the difference between reality and fiction. Angyl started filling her head with lies, making her believe that she had committed the crimes that Angyl owned. It was all part of an elaborate plan that would leave Angyl with nothing to answer for in the end. Letting her escape scot-free. But as time went on, and I got older, she realized she would be unable to control me. So she had a meeting with my brother. A very short, but painful meeting with him.
He would spread the rumors, tell the stories, and rat me out. He would betray his blood in order to keep his own warm. And she knew he would. Ransom men were also egocentric maniacs, desperate to save their own skins. He would do what he was born to do from birth. And I would die. Or such was the plan.
But I didn’t die. I survived the constant beatings, the murder attempts; I kept coming. My savior had turned on me and I wanted blood. I wanted my chance to exist. I wanted a piece of the freedom she possessed. My reputation destroyed. My family lost. Everyone I’d ever trusted gone. I would continue waging war, spilling blood, until I faced the mistress of evil herself. I would face her, and I would end her. The cycle continues, the damned must die, and the wicked will inherit the earth.