-The Blessed Dawn-
As the dim light of the stars make its way through the thick clouds in the sky, Avacyn stood at the edge of the Markov Manor's roof. Her thoughts for the night had been filled with failure, grief, and lost so far, and only a few minutes to midnight remained. "Humans have a strange sense for their art." She thought, admiring the enormous stained glass window over the clock tower at the other side of the building. The image on the window depicted her, the mighty angel Avacyn, battling alone against a mixed horde of demons, werewolves and vampires on her right, while shielding a group of people on her left side. Ever since she first awoke into this world that had always been her mission. Now, however, she wasn't so sure she could keep that role anymore.
"Ah, here you are." A voice got her attention. One she recognized quite well.
"Hello, Sorin." She called.
"Whatever do you think you're doing up here?" the vampire asked, sweeping the place with his cold stare. Seemingly satisfied, he turned to the angel once more with a heavy sigh. "You do realize that if anyone looks up here, we'll be dealing with more problems than we already have, don't you."
It was Avacyn's turn to sigh. Of course she knew this. A year ago, the personal feud of Sorin led his enemy into this plane, and using a magic the angel had not seen before, she bend the mana of Innistrad to fulfill her plans of vengeance. Since angels were made of pure white mana, all angels were affected, turning their swords and spears to every living being on the plane, both sinners and innocents suffering at their hands. Given the special circumstances behind Avacyn's particular creation, she was the most affected by the madness, actively leading the other angels into a campaign for blood and violence.
"Of course I realize." She replied, a hint of anger felt in her voice. "I… I can still see the faces of those who fell beneath my spear."
The vampire closed the distance between both of them. He hesitated for a split second before reaching her shoulder with his hand. "Nahiri is at fault here, Avacyn. Not you."
"How would you know?!" Avacyn replied, in one of her rare displays of emotion. Although, on second thought, these displays were more frequent since she awakened a few months after what the common folk had appropriately named as 'The Madness of Angels'. "How would you know I didn't always had this bloodlust and rage towards mankind all along? Maybe Nahiri simply stirred what was already there to begin with!"
"No." Sorin said, interrupting the angel's rant with a rather forceful embrace. But being months in a state of coma while depending on the few scattered people that still placed their faith on the angels diminished her powers greatly. She accepted the embrace silently, feeling a stray tear coursing alongside her cheek. "I've made many mistakes over the millennia. Several of which still haunts me to this day." He said, looking over the angel's face and wiping the tear with his thumb. "But you are my only creation on this plane I can call 'perfect' without a shadow of doubt."
"You are my creator." Avacyn repeated the words she had said the first time she had been conscious after the madness had been over. With a reassuring nod, Sorin released the recovering angel, leading her inside the ancient seat of Sorin's family. However, Avacyn stopped and stared as Sorin passed her a dark cloak and placed his trusted sword on his belt. "Where are we going? I thought I wasn't allowed outside the manor until I at least recovered my flight skills.
"Yes. That was the plan." The vampire confirmed. "Your wings do still need more time to recover their strength. But maybe a walk on the streets of Thraben is just what you need right now."
"But… you don't care about humans. And despise werewolves. And, well, your feelings for other vampires are—."
"Yes, yes." Sorin interrupted, turning to the angel who was putting the cloak on. "All true. But you seem to be in dire need of a reminder of what your purpose is. You seem to have lost your north, so to speak."
The art of walking between planes –planeswalk –was not simple at all. Approximately one in a billion individuals had the ability to travel between planes of existence, and Sorin was one of such beings, a vampire well over ten thousand years old. While traveling from plane to plane had proven fatal for beings without this 'spark', Sorin discovered a spell that allowed him to bring someone and planeswalk within the same world. This was how he and Avacyn, still recovering her flight ability, reached the city of Thraben, easily one of the largest centers of civilization in the plane of Innistrad.
The unofficial capital on the province of Gavony stood atop a hill over a cliff facing at the sea. Several smaller towns and villages populated the region surrounding the city, and the scenery that could be seen from the two bridges that connected the main roads inland with the city itself truly was a sight to behold.
But that was not why Sorin had chosen this place to bring a lost angel to recover her own light.
In the dim light of a back street, a ripple of darkness and light fractured the reality in the place, and the two of them stepped out of the portal, which closed immediately behind them. Despite her diminished state, the angel's presence could still be felt. Thankfully, shortly before departing Sorin explained the magical nature of the cloak she was currently wearing, and how the piece of cloth prevented her angelical nature to be revealed. The glamour he casted on both of them was just another failsafe from the cunning vampire.
"Why are we here?" Avacyn asked, still unsure of the purpose of their visit to Thraben of all places.
"I take it you recognize this place." Sorin replied. The angel nodded, prompting him to continue. "Thraben was one of the most affected cities during Nahiri's campaign against me. She claimed I brought ruin to her own plane of Zendikar, so she had to 'pay me in kind' by bringing ruin to my home in turn." The vampire explained, gesturing the streets of the Merchant District as the pair exited the alley. The marks of the battle that took place a year ago were still fresh, with some of the buildings in several states of damage that went from a couple of walls missing to the destruction of the upper floors. Complete obliteration was also an option in some cases. Avacyn found herself lowering her head in shame.
"And you decided to bring me here to remember what I did?" the angel asked. "I already know that."
"Do you, now?" Sorin replied, reaching a hand to lift the angel's chin so that their eyes met. "Your physical recovery is well on its way. True, you still need to rely on the faith of the humans to be on full potential. But the most urgent matter as of right now it's your state of mind." Before the angel could reply, the ringing of distant bells coming from deep inside the city was the signal the vampire was expecting. "Let's go. There is something you need to see for yourself."
"Happy Blessings!" an elder exclaimed as he embraced a pair of children, meeting with them outside of a luxurious manor on the upper levels of the city.
"Merry Blessed Dawn, grandpa!" the little girl replied. "Did you brought me a lot of presents?"
"Thalia!" the elder boy reprimanded her. "Mother says it's not right to ask for presents."
The elder's smile never left his face. "Ah, don't worry about it, Thomas. I brought you a present too." As the three of them laughed it up and went inside the parish, the angel and the vampire watched the rest of the guest attend the celebration. Sorin still hadn't explained what it was they were doing there yet, but Avacyn knew the vampire well enough to know he had something planned.
"That man is Priest Jones. I understand he was recently promoted to Elder of the community." He explained as Jones gathered the crowd around him to give his inaugural speech.
"Thanks to Avacyn I was granted another year to see my grandkids. Look at you! You both need to stop growing up right this instant!" he said in a mock–angry voice, eliciting a few laughs among the crowd. He addressed once again to the congregation before him. "My point here is, sure, the angels went against us. Sure, they passed quite a number of us to the blade during the Madness. But it's funny how we tend to see only the bad stuff when calamity strikes, uh? Tell me, who among you remembers when angel Sigarda, blessed commander of the Flight of Herons, stood against her sisters in defense of mankind?
"I'm just reminding you," Jones proceeded. "that not all angels went mad. The best thing you can do in this festive times, is to love your neighbor as Sigarda and her host still love mankind. We have emerged from a dark moment in our history. Let our hard-won wisdom guide us to prosperity." Silence flooded the hall, some individuals nodding their agreement to Elder Jones' words, some others raising prayers to the angels that still listened.
"Well, that's enough with the sour mood folks, don't you think? With the blessing of the angels, the Church of Avacyn declares the festivities of the Blessed Dawn officially inaugurated!" Elder Jones said, open arms and a smile on his face.
After the announcement, things went by rather quickly. The glamour Sorin used on both himself and on Avacyn wouldn't hold on for much, so they did their best to remain unnoticed. For the most part they were successful, both content with simply watch the people gathered as they exchanged pleasantries and gifts on equal parts. But one of Elder Jones's grandchildren, little Thalia, spotted them both. With the smile only a children is capable of, Thalia skipped her way towards them. "Hi miss." She greeted. "Why are you so far away from the others?"
The innocence in the question was met with a disinterested grunt from Sorin's part, but Avacyn found herself smiling as she reached down to meet the girl in the eye. Tilting her head, Avacyn wondered if maybe she could get a new perspective from someone as pure as a child. "Hello." She begun. "Are you enjoying the Blessed Dawn so far?"
"I am! I hope this year I can catch a glimpse of St. Klaus!" the girl replied, barely hiding her enthusiasm.
"Who is this St. Klaus you speak of?" Avacyn asked, genuinely curious. Thalia made a face at the disguised angel. She turned to ask, only realizing that Sorin had been long gone.
"You don't know? He's… well," the girl stared in confusion. Never had she been tasked to describe who St. Klaus was. It was pretty much common knowledge. "My mother says he was a good man, like, so good that Avacyn herself took him up to the skies when he passed away. He's the one who brings all the presents at Blessed Dawn's eve!"
Avacyn frowned ever so slightly. She remembered taking a number of humans to the gates of the afterlife. These were known as Saints. However, the angel never knew there was a saint dedicated to bring gifts to children during the Blessed Dawn.
Murmurs outside, low at first but growing louder by the moment, prompting several individuals to investigate the ruckus taking place before Avacyn could inquire more.
"What's that about?" she asked.
"I'm not sure." The angel replied. "Do you wish to check it out?"
Thalia nodded eagerly, bolting outside with Avacyn in tow. Before the angel could catch up with the little girl, she called out.
"See?! I told you he was real!" Thalia yelled with a finger pointing at the city below.
And that's when Avacyn saw him.
The figure stood atop a sled pulled by four pure-white griffins, dropping several packages as he maneuvered his vehicle top-speed and low over the streets filled with astonished bystanders. As the children pointed to the sky in wonder and even the adults stood in awe seeing the magical presence they longed for in their youth, Avacyn couldn't help but smile. This one felt more natural somehow, as if seeing the joy in the people before her opened a door inside her which lock had tight closed a long time ago. Even if she didn't really recognized the figure who kept his booming 'Ho-Ho-Ho' with every gift he presented to some kid in particular, Avacyn knew this was the reason Sorin made her. To protect the laughs and smiles and joy of mankind under the skies of the grim world of Innistrad.
She almost felt compelled to break the already weakening glamour on her and take flight next to the mysterious figure in the nocturnal sky…
But she didn't.
Not only her wings were still recovering, but maybe the sight of her would smite the spell of happiness brought over them. The wound left from the Madness was still too fresh in their minds. "But… maybe one day." She thought hopefully. Maybe one day humans will look up to the skies with hope instead of fear, as they once did.
She almost regretted having to cast a spell on Thalia to forget the interaction the girl had with the angel. But it was a minor sacrifice in order to preserve the little girl's innocence.
As the figure of St. Klaus vanished to the west and Thalia met with her family, Avacyn found herself walking towards the edge of the parish. Lost in contemplation, she barely missed the sound of footsteps behind her.
"Ready to get back?" Sorin asked. The angel let out a sigh before answering.
"They were so happy when that St. Klaus appeared. Almost like the way they used to see me before…" she trailed off.
"Does that bother you?" the vampire inquired. "That they've found another to put their faith in?"
"… Actually, no." Avacyn replied, confident on her answer. "I'm just glad they could find a vessel for their faith."
Sorin frowned, taking a good look at the angel. "You look… different." He chuckled. "Like someone who just had some kind of epiphany."
Avacyn finally turned to the vampire, a look of fiery determination replacing the dull luster in her eyes. "Maybe I did. I know it will take time before the humans put their trust in angels again. But my purpose has remained the same."
"In that case, let me ask you a question." Sorin said, staring directly at the angel's eyes. "Who are you?" A small half smile on his features full of pride as his creation realized her purpose once again. "Maybe this Blessed Dawn wasn't a complete waste of time after all." He hoped, as he recalled hiring that priest to put on a costume and give away the presents the vampire had brought for the occasion. Chances were that Avacyn knew of his little charade. In the end, it didn't really mattered.
With an equal smile on her face, the angel replied. "I am Avacyn. And I am to protect."
First of all, this one-shot is my submission for The Artist Zone X-mas challenge.
Second, I admit I'm still a bit sore because of the end of the Shadows Over Innistrad storyline. Avacyn deserved better, and I'm willing to bet she'll make a comeback somehow when we revisit Innistrad for the third time. One can only hope. Anyways, I hope you like it, and remember any constructive criticism is welcome. TJ out.