Monday, 29 December 2008

The Kiss

"Mistress.....", in my mind I can see my home, viewed as if from the direction of the port. Nareth's voice in my head.

"You are near" I project back.

"Very. We have to talk, and we have to talk soon."

"OK Nareth, I will make a polite excuse", there is a pause, Nareth is searching for something.

"Jedburgh. My mind is racing, and there are too many images. I am become confused.". I smiled to myself, she was prying into my mind and could not divine my emotions.

"If I must leave her now, after a pleasant evening. I cannot simply walk away."

"Do what you must do, Mistress. I serve you."

I bid good night to Jedburgh,and without a thought for the night time and the cold air, left by the front door and headed to where I had seen the view of my house.

"Mistress..."

"Nareth..."

"You were occupied.", I flinched at the prying, and changed the subject as I sought my response.

"Would you prefer somewhere less public?"

"It would be best, yes."

"I was occupied, yes. my mind may no longer be my own, but my life is. We should go to the lab. We are less likely to be interrupted"

"Very well.", Nareth lead the way, we walked in silence, both mentally and verbally. There was a new tension in her mind, things had changed, she had changed.

As we entered the lab and climbed to the loft, Nareth relaxed noticeably. I rubbed my arms to warm up, the meagre heat from the stove downstairs did little to heat the loft.

"Curse this cold weather, I really should have brought a proper coat out with me.", Nareth rubbed her fingers over the lid of the coffin.

"We have much to talk of Nareth."

"Yes", she replied and raising a hand, the loft door closed at her gesture. "Are you pleased? Have I served you well?"

"You have gone beyond our intention. He is gone."

"Have I then?"

"you have Nareth"

"And how is that?"

"The choice you gave me. It was couched in the terms of two events that I felt at least were to coincide. The destruction of Moriarty, or his removal as a threat, and the distraction of your lady to prevent the destruction of this world. Though she did not come, is she still a threat?"


"That was not an element of our bargain. My Lady lies beyond my servitude to you. Moriarty is not presently a threat and, in the bargain, the Cuckoos are gone. How have I gone farther than was your intention?". Nareth stared down at the coffin.

"You misread my thoughts, I am very pleased with the results of your service Nareth."

"You vex me, Mistress. My mind..is...thrown down...Speak...as plainly as you may."

"Nareth, the return of the twins, was always your choice, it served my purpose also."

"They did not wish to be here."

"Moriarty, has been vanquished"

"Moriarty...Jason...Jason...is broken now."

"He was always broken Nareth, dysfunctional. Eliot made him so."

"I do not mean that he his insane. I mean, Mistress, that now he is broken. The pieces will not soon reassemble. He is shattered."

"But he lives? May I sit?", I indicated to the sofa, and Nareth distractedly caressed the coffin lid, and without looking up signalled me to sit.

"I did not kill him.", she turned towards me. "He may still live, in some form.", Nareth smiled softly at me.

"So you have achieved what I wanted and the return of the twins an added bonus"

"So, you are pleased?"

"Of course I am."

"As is my Lady."

"However, we have a problem do we not?"

"That is dependent upon your definition of "we". I have a problem. My appearance now, will not pass for human, and people saw things. I almost destroyed them all, to hide the truth. But...you would have been displeased.". I thought of my friends and neighbours, how could she even contemplate such loss?

"I would. You fear them. They will fear you.", Nareth took out a bit of ribbon and tied her hair back.

"I do not fear them...I need have no fear of them. They can only destroy me."

"and that holds no meaning for you?"

"No. Even that would serve my Lady.", She paused, looking at the coffin once again,"Mistress...there are things I must say...You are aware that my honesty in our bargain was...compromised? That I withheld facts?". I looked down at the floor, fearful of what other condition I had missed, what further consequence of my Faustian pact was about to be revealed. "You know this, yes?"

"yes, Nareth"

“Yes. My Lady cannot lose. My Lady will always win. All ends suit her needs.The dice are still rolling. I can try to speak more plainly.

“Those dice Nareth, they are weighted against me?”

“They are weighted against no one and nothing. You cannot weight chance. You cannot weight chaos.”

“If all ends suit her needs then why withhold facts, you play with me, with my life, my friends, my .. loves.”

“I serve my Lady, even as I serve you. I act as she bids me act.”

Nareth.”

Beq.”, Nareth laughed very softly.

“In our bargain, at then end when she arrived she would decide my fate.”

“She decides the fate of all.”

“Neither you nor I can dissolve this bond.”

“No. It will last for all time. But..I have served well. Yes?”

“You have, except for the deception”

“Deception...”, Nareth looked hurt

“Too strong a term. I'm sorry”

“No. I did act to deceive. It is what I am.”

“What you allowed between Orchid and I, hurts still, though I am sure it pleases your lady.”

“What I allowed? You are puppet?”. Nareth turned, smiling.

“No, and yet I am human.”

“You wished me to intercede? Stop your passions?”

“You play with me, those passions lay buried.”

“No. They...are still in you. They are strong. But...I will not touch the Orchid. Nor must you. Unless it is your wish?”

“They are, but they are not returned, those passions must remain untouched.”

“Does that not anger you? To be so denied? To be seen as...”, Nareth smiles.

“No, I have denied them for many years, not for Orchid alone.”

“Not for Orchid alone, no.”

..alone, no.”

Nareth glanced down at the floorboards.

“I vowed never to let another into my heart Nareth, Talem was the only one. But the heart does not accede to such requests, and so I bury those desires deep, I am well practised, I was..”, I trailed off

"Talem...", Nareth whispered.

“My first, my truest love.”

“Yes. I see that now...”

..see that now.”

“Mistress, will you suffer me to come nearer?”

“You may come Nareth”, Nareth nodded moving closer, bringing her face near to mine.

“Please, look into my eyes...and look deeply. I must know something.

must know something”

I looked up, lifting her goggles clear from her face I met her gaze, being drawn deep into the rich black eyes.

“Is there anything left of her? Anything at all, left of Nareth inside me?”

I try to find her.”

“You are there, but I cannot tell how much. it is different now.”

“You...I...you mean...I am here?”

I am here?”

“Yes, but also no, I am confounding this with vagaries.”, at this Nareth looked extremely confused and suddenly vulnerable.

“Then do not be vague.”

“You were there before, a presence in her mind, separate, perhaps trapped; a distinct will.”

“There is a secret I must tell you...though I do not know why I...A secret...”

“If you will, though I do not ask of it”. Nareth nodded slowly.

“She had strong feelings...”, Nareth's face slackened, “strong feelings..for you.”. I sighed deeply, shaking my head slowly in wonder. Nareth stared down at the floor. “You did not know this?”

“No, never. She was always ... remote”

“Yes...she was...she..was...a person unto herself. But...I am filled with echoes of her. They clang and they clamour within me. I would crush them...”, Nareth sniffed at the air.

“Crush them... bury them.”, Nareth nodded slowly, watching me.

“The rift that Moriarty opened, I closed. It robbed me of the last traces of my mortality.”

“We are the same, we hide”, I mused, half to myself, whether this was the thought that Nareth hoped to insert in my mind or not is unclear, but she ignored my words.

“But...I have done it. But...the rift is still there. All one needs is the knowledge, to open it. My Lady will come soon.”, she looked up at me, her large eyes meeting mine solemnly, “She will not come as a storm, but as a mild breeze, and she will stand where I stand, and all I ever have been will be no longer. These things are true, and I withhold no part of it.”. There was something almost like sorrow on Nareth's face, or the memory of sorrow. I stared back at the face before me, a great sadness in my mind. “Professor Nishi would have sealed the rift.”

“and she still can, that part of her the still survives.”, my voice almost pleading, betraying my desire to see the real professor once again. Nareth turned back towards the casket.

“It is a small, small boat, lost at sea, Mistress, at best...”

...at best.”

“I fear it is dissolved within that sea, for I no longer sense it as a whole, Nareth”, listening, she nodded very slowly.

“Nothing I do will contravene the will of my Lady. It is not possible.”.

“Her will.”

“Is all..and yet...what is this I feel...?”

“and all ends are to her pleasing”, I added, mimicking her words. A tension grew within Nareth, anxiety, impatience.

“She is all ends. The dice are still rolling but Nareth, I see it in you, you do not want her to come. You love this world, this place too much.”

Nareth...You tell me she is dissolved.”

“like salt in the sea.”

“She did so love the sea...I do not love. I remember love.”

“Is there a way back?”

“A way..back? To...Nareth?”

“Perhaps, yes. Can we reclaim her?”. My enthusiasm had drawn her attention back. Nareth stared intently at me for a moment.

“May I touch your hair, Mistress? I only mean...to touch...”, I gazed into Nareth's eyes, trying to sense her intentions, her desires, my mind echoed a curiosity. “..to feel...”.

“You may”, Nareth nodded recognition of the permit.

“You are..kind...”, Nareth lay a hand on top of my head, working her fingers into my hair. I closed my eyes, and swallowing at the build up of saliva, allowed myself to relax under her touch. The touch was delicate and Nareth's fingers continued until they reached my scalp, where the cold of her hand caused an icy a shiver to pass down my spine.

“Beautiful. She dreamt.”

“She? Nareth?”

“Yes. Nareth.”.

Nareth's hand withdrew for a moment, then returned, her fingertips brushing the nape of my neck, the frost flowing across my skin, the touch was alien and yet not uncomfortable, the shiver part cold, part emotion; a mixture of fear and desire stirring in me.

“Mistress, I could give you everything. All time.”

Take what I can give you.”

Nareth, I fear that cold, the ice of your touch.”.

Her hand slipped around the back of my neck. “It is only death, and you will die, regardless.. All things die. All things.”, her face was close, she was whispering, I gasped, taking a deep breath in as the touch moved across my skin.”

I am no evil thing. I would have you know that. I am only indifferent.”. The sadness, loneliness in her voice echoed my inner feelings.

“No, not evil”, I looked at the casket beyond her. Nareth's nails dug into my neck, breaking the skin. I shuddered, jumping back slightly.

Nareth!”

“Mistress...”

“You hurt me”

“It is only a very small pain. It passes so quickly.”

Let me make you strong.”

“I am strong Nareth

“No...you are brittle as autumn leaves.”

“This life, this life is strength”, a note of panic rose in my throat and Nareth's grip tightened very slightly. The shiver of cold became a wave, the fear and desire surging in equal parts, “to hold on to it takes will.”

“Miss Janus...”, Nareth's voice had changed very, very slightly. A familiar tone. I tried to pull away.”Do not struggle. She will kill you if you struggle.”

“who? who are you?”

“I am a ghost. Nothing more. I am salt.”

Is that her, Mistress? Is that Nareth? is that me?

Is that her, Mistress? Is that Nareth? is that me?

Nareth, you knew me, you loved me.”

“I love you still.”

“..but she would take what is in me, what makes me me”

“She...it...is all that remains.”, A great darkness welled up inside my mind, threatening and dominating all thought. The fear won through, though the rush of energy from my own heart served both ends.

“Why would I want that?”, Nareth's grip had now become painful, I struggled but could not break free of her forceful hands. “This bleak desolation. You are hurting me Nareth, crushing.”, my eyes are wide and fearful. I writhe and pull trying to break free.

“Only a very brief pain.”. Then Nareth's voice changed again. The Professor is gone.

“Mistress...”, Nareth looked down at her hands and released my her grip on my throat.

Nareth,” I stood up backing away from her. “ Nareth, you hurt me. please stop.”

“Yes.”, Nareth licked at the blood on her fingers.“You command me.”. I gingerly dabbed my hand at the wound on my neck, wet and sore to the touch, the same wet slickness as that on Nareth's fingers. There is a twinge, in my stomach, a connection, an arousal, I rub my bloodied fingers together, feeling the thickness, the silky depth of my own blood.

“I command you, and yet you can choose to hurt me?”, I am breathless, my heart still calming from the rush of the moment. There is no anger, not yet.

“You did not command me not to..do..so.”

“Nareth, I do not seek eternity.”, I see her offer, I imagine my life in her stead, it is a fearful, desolate, sad image.

“Whether or not you seek it, it has found you, Mistress. Eternity is nothing easily dismissed.”

“Nareth? What have you done?”

“I do...not...know...Mistress.”, her sad eyes now look back, lacking remorse. I backed away, seeking the door away to my right, with her in between, I would have to out run her. “It was not my *intent* to harm you. Command me to keep my distance.”. I stared at Nareth, but could I truly escape her? The thin light, catches upon her pale skin, her long slender neck and delicate throat. The fear, the threat, the power summoned up the desires. Nareth licked at her dry lips. To escape, to bury again that which would fill the void?

“Command me..if that is what you wish. But think...Power...Freedom...Love.

“Love”

“Her echoes are within me.”

“no”, I shook my head, but even as I did so I felt my resolve crumbling. In the back of my mind a fight was raging, fear and desire, a roiling torrent of emotions. A voice screams out for control, my voice.

“And I may satiate all your...hungers. I may appear to you as her.

“her memories, you do not know love”. I grit my teeth, the voice, my voice returns.

“If you so wish. I cannot know love. But...I know devotion. I will be devoted to you forever. When the stars are embers...”, my head is filled with imagery, lovers touching, holding hands, caressing, walking, together. close, comfortable.

“It is not the illusion of love, the memory of love, it is the feeling, Nareth”

“...the feeling...”. Nareth stepped forwards. “I think you lie to yourself, Mistress. You would know this passion. You would be...free. You have not commanded me...”, and she is right, of course, she sees the doubt in me, I am torn. My head cries out against me, my heart races. “Only a very brief pain....”

“I ..”, I stumble back, “No Nareth”.

“Then we do not have to sleep alone.”, My heart convulsed at this, an end to my emptiness, a chance to fill the void. If I could not have what I desired, should I settle for that which desired me? Was it enough to be wanted?

“No”, my protestations continue.

“No... It is an ambiguous statement.”

“I do not want this, this existence you promise”, I backed up, finding myself now cornered the door a short dash way, but the path blocked but Nareth. She stopped before me and nodded slowly, a look of hurt on he face.

“Then I cannot give it to you. I was raped. I will not rape you.”, Nareth growled....a low sound reverberating. “I...no...not I...”, Nareth's face was in turmoil, I feel the pressures in my mind, Nareth was fighting, fighting herself as I did the same. I looked forlornly to the door and dropped to the floor, the energy , the fight leaving me. “It was not me...Mistress...The dice are rolling.”

I lay for a moment breathless against the wall.

“There is something in your eyes. I cannot touch you against your will. So..speak true.”, the question pierced me, my mind replayed the events, her hands in my hair, the curve of her neck, the light on her skin, the touch...

“the touch....that sensation...”

“When I have fed, I am warmer.”

“I see it in your dreams when you sleep, Nareth”

“You see it...You will always see it. Every kill I make.”, I closed my eyes, and relived the thrill, the kill, the rush of sensation as the warmth flows in to the body, the desires and hungers burning at the moment of the kill. Beneath that the joy and wonder of torture and pain. Her life as an animal, instinctive and inhuman, yet passionate and through her eyes through her senses made something of delight, every act rendered sensual.

“The kills I have made, and those whom I have tortured.”, Nareth laughs softly. Saucy Jack...oh, he would have loved you.”. Nareth looked down at me, no cruelty in her eyes, beckoning to me, offering comfort. “You need not be alone anymore. Ever”. She reached up with a slender arm, and pulled down her long flowing hair.

“May I sit with you?”, I looked away, huddled in my confusion, waves of emotions fought for my mind, the voice of strength now a shallow cry in the howling gale of sensual experiences. “No, I may not.”, she interpretted, “very well”

“not with, Nareth, no, near”, my voice a whisper, I wanted to hold her, to be held, to feel those desires first hand, but she had assaulted me, my mind raged, she had attacked me, what else had she done to me? Nareth took two steps back, watching me as I raised my hand to my neck once again.

“You have not been infected, Mistress.”, the battle raged on, Orchid and Rip, assuring me of our friendship, assuring me that they were by my side through this.Their words comforting, buoying my resolve.

“I am not alone Nareth, not truly”

“No. I am here. Always. I will never leave you.”. Nareth looked up at the ceiling, then back to the crumpled form on the floor, back to me.

“The sun is setting.”

“I have my friends too, I lost sight of that, I felt the emptiness”

“Your..friends. Yes..you do. Mr. Wirefly. Others...”. I felt stronger, the emotional currents had subsided a little and I struggled back to my feet, leaning against the wall. She watched me carefully, I looked to the ceiling as she had, and then to the door, the pale rectangular outline fading fast with the setting sun. “It would be easier...in the night.”, Nareth looked down at the blood on her fingers. “Such pleasure, you cannot imagine.”. My mind was filled with a red warmth, satisfying, sustaining warmth. “Such...desire and the...ends of those desires.”

“It would be the end for they would destroy me”

It is not so simple, Mistress.”. The wound on Nareth's neck reopened, slick, dark blood oozed forth. “All things and all moments... When Nareth kissed Mina Harker...she saw you and now, echoe s of her have crossed ages...If I but gave you a taste...it would not change you. But you *would* see.”.

“not change me?”, lies and deception.

“No. That would require far more.”

“Is this another deceit Nareth?

“Command me to truth.”

“Be truthful Nareth”

“I am not seeking to deceive you. I am seeking to seduce you.

“and to draw me down?”

“There is no up, Mistress, and there is no down. I am not trying to debase you. Quite the contrary.”

“To change me though, you seek to have me by your side, I fear the casket, I , do not seek this desolation.”

“I feel that, yes. And yes, if I had my way...that would be my wish. I do not have my way. “. I looked up into Nareth's eyes. She stared back at me, back at her Mistress, licking her lips slowly. “Only the smallest taste...”, she raised a hand to the wound in her throat and I saw the red slickness there, the holes two puncture wounds, catching what light remained. “This is the kiss of Vlad Tepes...this was my birth.”. She slipped a finger inside the wound, sending a cascade of sexual sensation through to my own mind. It was followed by dread images, fear and shock, as Vlad Tepes took Nareth.

“He forced himself upon you.”, part statement, part question. Nareth withdrew her finger, it was red and wet.

“We were trying to kill him, Beq. We hunted him. But..yes.”. Nareth held out her bloody hand and I shook my head, denying it. Defying the impulses, my lips and teeth restraining the tongue that would probe and test. “Only a small taste...and you will feel such wonder, and such awe”. I turned my head to one side, my eyes watching the finger, my face straining to keep the distance, fearful of losing the internal battle as much as any other.

“Please, Mistress. This tiny gift.”, My breath now erratic, shallow and ragged, I cried out for my friends.

“Orchid!, Jed!”

“They are not here. I am here.”, once more the images returned, the promises of support, Orchid, Rip, friendship.....trust....the void that needs to be filled, and loneliness, longing. “And you are free”. I stared wide-eyed and frantic around the room. I was trapped.

“free...”, a pleading, near silent whisper escapes my lips.

“Free.”, Nareth took a step nearer, raising the finger, “Please...”, she dabbed her lips with it, rouging them with her own blood. “A kiss.”. I stared up at Nareth, I licked my lips with my tell-tale tongue. “What so few mortal women have ever known.”. My heart pounded in my chest, my mind screamed, I parted my lips, my breathing quick, but as I did I turned my head away fighting the urge. “Why do you fight so? Your desire is so great.”

“freedom”, I whimpered.

“I shall not rob you of freedom.”. I felt the closeness of Nareth's face, a cold proximity. She delved into my mind. “I would be warm for you, if I could.

“It is the feeding I fear. I would not destroy my friends”.

“It is not necessary. We could leave this place. There are so many worlds...”, my mind was filled then with the glorious sight of the night sky, of suns, of galaxies and great constellations. I reached up and touched Nareth's hair and she cocked her head to one side, still staring into my eyes. “A kiss.”

“a kiss.”, she stepped forward, putting her arms around me. The fight now lost, I gave myself up to desire, turning my face upward, I close my eyes and Nareth kisses me...

I feel her cold lips upon my own, the tingling...I lick my lips, slowly, sucking at them, chewing them, turning away before turning back and kissing Nareth. MY lips planted firmly on hers.

Tell me...Tell me true.”, Nareth's voice a whisper.

“deceit, beautiful deceit”, I say.

“Yes. And also truth.”

...there is now no need of words.”

“...no words...”, I ran my fingers through Nareth's hair, pulling her face away, then returning to kiss her lips once more. With this Nareth gashed her own lips with her fangs, and blood flowed into my mouth. She held me tightly, I could not have moved if I had wished to, but I did not need to, did not want to. Without thinking about it I tasted the blood in my mouth, running it over my taste buds before swallowing it. I tensed, my body arched and writhed as a surge of pure ecstasy flowed through every muscle and sinew, every nerve and fibre, a wave like every orgasm I had ever had occurring simultaneously and pulling Nareth closer, squeezing her to me, I found she did not resist.

Nareth let her tongue slip past her teeth, entering my mouth, exploring. It was rough, like a cat's. I relaxed and accepted the tongue, probing around and beneath with my own. Nareth's hands rose, gripping each side of my head. She squeezed, but not in passion, there was force there, I snapped out of my reverie, opened my eyes and stared into Nareth's face, her open eyes staring back. I realised then that I could not move, and for a moment I simply hung there my lips parted, pressed against Nareth's mouth, my tongue flicking, licking at my teeth and gums. Nareth's body shudders, and a great gout of blood rises from her belly, up through her throat, flooding my mouth....her grip tightens. I gag, trying to deny the blood, it is icy cold...and it keeps coming, filling my mouth, my throat, I choke, I cannot breath, I have no choice. I swallow, drinking deep as the blood flows, and I remain locked in a vampires kiss.

As the flow of blood subsided Nareth began to relax her hold on me. I stared back, motionless, in shock and horror. Nareth pulled her mouth away from mine, a string of blood stretching between us for a moment.

“Mistress?”, she watched as I licked the blood trail hanging from my lips. “You are..beautiful and Nareth was filled with love for you. But...I am not Nareth.”

“not...Nareth”, the words strike but do not register.

“And you...you made a very bad bargain.”

“deceit”, the only response I have, the trauma and shock, the after thoughts careen through my mind. Nareth held me with one hand, while she wiped her mouth. “Do you feel all that I promised, because...that was no lie.”. Nareth leant forward, gently wiping my lips clean. “Mistress...”. I stared blankly back at Nareth. “It will take...days...There will be great pain, as this body dies.”.

“dies...”, I echo.

“I will take all the pain that I may. I will make it easy. It was not made easy for me. I was locked in a tower....alone.”

“alone”, I mouth the word. Anguish filled me, the terror of the experience overwhelmed me and dizziness came, I went limp. Nareth released me and stepped away.

“All ends serve my Lady.”

I slipped to the floor, no grief, no sobbing just cold, stark emptiness.

“And she will be among us soon. You will see her beauty.”

“There is no love, no love left”, Nareth watched me...

“No...no love. I would be sorry for that, if I had regret in me.”. I dropped my head into my hands but the tears would not come. “What happens next...it is not easy for me and there will be much danger.”

“no love, no freedom, just deceit and danger”, my words dripped bitterness and sorrow.

“Beautiful deceit and desire. And hunger. We have a name in the old texts, Beq. We are named the Daughters of Lilith.”

“Lilith”

“Others have named us Plague. I have touched every rat in this city. You told me to.”, she looked down at me on the floor, “I should take you home...”. I nodded weakly. “You should have your own bed.”. Nareth held otu a hand to me stood up. “Follow me mistress”, Accepting the proferred hand I stood up and walked shakily to the loft ladder. Then out of the Laboratory and into the dark streets.

The night sky was beginning to lighten, it would soon be day and Nareth looked nervously up at the rising sun. As I walked my body started to fight back, trying its best to expel the invasive blood. I stopped, doubled over by the cramps that shook my body, retching but producing nothing but small gobs of saliva and bile. I straightened up.

“It will do no good. Your body will reject the blood, but it will not be able to expel it. Quickly now, we should get out of the day light”.

I paused at the door and Nareth walked straight in, no invitation required. She looked back at me and grinned.

“No need now. Come along”, She guided me to my bedroom. “Now...Mistress. I will go to Mr. Wirefly. He will try desperately to save you, as will many others. They will try to destroy me. The dice are still rolling. All outcomes suit my Lady's needs. You should lie down, Mistress. You do not look well.”. Nareth stood watching me for a moment. “Tell me, please...did you truly not see this coming, once you realized your initial error? It was a sloppy bargain.”

“you trapped me”

“Yes. But...I do so truly desire you. It is as near we can come to love”. Nareth glanced about the room.

“Sleep now, and dream of me. I have work to do.”

“desire. It is what we have now”

“Yes.”. She leant forward and kissed my forehead. I wearily reached out a hand to touch Nareth. “Sleep. Rest. You will need it.” Nareth turned to leave the room and pauses to draw a sign in the air above the threshold....

Last Dance

I suffered with the cold shock of Nareth's tussle with the portal for some hours after my return, sleeping fitfully. I shivered, a cold, chill fever if such thing could possibly exist, possessed my body while in my mind events circled around me like dreams, nightmares. Fragmentary comments from disparate times and places, coalescing as a whole, a singular stream :-

I am cold, the darkness surrounds me, I stutter, my voice frozen, "Nareth, the cold it is inside me", then Nareth's voice is in my head loud and close, "It is the Void" then someone is there, a large dominating shadow standing over me. "Beq, you have a void in your heart that needs filling but Orchid is not the one. I am sorry..sorry...sorry", Rips words echo through the caverns of my dreams. Then the darkness shifts and moves and as it moves it forms as a mist into a shape, I see the shape and it becomes human, Talem, she laughs, tossing her dark curls around her shoulders, a gun shot rings out, and blood, blood spreads through the darkness, I scream. "Tali!", she fades, flickers and is gone. The void fills the space where she had been.
For a while I lay watching the void, then it shifts again, reforming, a shifting sequence of friends, of feelings suppressed and evaded, buried and untouched, unknown and unrequited Eloise, Anabella, Lizzy, Orchid, Jedburgh, the Professor, Misi, the cycle plays over faster and faster each image vivid and real but fleeting, a memory held momentarily, then fading to darkness only to return in a new from, to be replaced, the cycle gains speed, flickering, dissolving, reforming blurring the memories into one. The darkness moves around the shapes, encroaches, consumes. The flood of memories halts, a single moment suspended before me, Orchid, but not Orchid, standing in my home, smiling. Her lips move she speaks and her voice echoes with the voices of Nareth and Rip, and of me.
"It is the Void"
".....inside me"
"void in your heart"
".....in your heart"
".....needs filling....not the one"
Orchid licks her lips, her necks bleeds from an open wound, "...feel your appetite, Mistress....offer you the means...satiate...", now Orchid fades, dissolves and reforms, the void takes a new form; and that form, the pale beauty of Sang Li/Nareth is all that remains.
"I belong to you...to you...to you.

I awake, the images hang there, oppressive, as a storm cloud in my vision. I shiver. There is such cold still. I return back to sleep, and the visions come again....

I eventually rose mid-morning and dressing warmly went to the bakery for elevenses. I saw few people on the streets, the world had been saved and few had noticed it seemed. This fact alone made me smile some. The tea and pastries were, as ever, delightful and I left Myrtil an extra large tip. Whatever the portent of my dreams, however I must resolve the turmoil inside me, today I would enjoy myself, whether Nareth wished to be part of it or not. Miss Red Llewelyn was having her first party and I was not going to miss it. She had retained the services of Rip and Orchid for entertainment with their fire show and after there was to be dancing, drinking and merriment.

I spent the afternoon selecting an outfit and appropriate jewelery and arrived at the party in time for the entertainment. The early evening event passed in spectacular style, the recent snows had allowed the construction, of ice forts and children and adults alike fought with snow balls until the light failed. Those of us remaining moved to the dance floor or the bar. I sat at the side trying not to be seen to be watching as Rip and Orchid span through dance after dance. They were beautiful together. It was then that Jedburgh appeared, she had clearly been demonstrating her prowess with snowballs, her hair was damp with melted ice, the hem of her dress soaked and muddied. I asked her to join me for a dance, she agreed, and we never left the floor until the others had deserted us. It was getting late now, and we walked home, laughing and happy. It had been the evening I had wanted, that I had needed and "she" had been asleep throughout; but that changed soon after.

Friday, 26 December 2008

The Rise and fall of Jason Moriarty and my part therein, and the saving of my life.

Three days passed with no contact from Rip or Orchid. I had resolved not to contact them, it was unfair to push myself back in to their lives, they had assured me of their friendship and I had been unable to assure them that I was strong enough to fight the burden that I carried in my head. I busied myself at home, ignoring the world outside. It was not until the fourth day, that the potential cost of my decision was brought home to me.

The house had been empty, Polly Anna had not been around for a few weeks. I could not worry excessively, she had left in a good mood and it was not unusual for her to take her leave like this. Equally I had not seen Miss Dagger, my house guest, for a number of days, her efforts to establish a new detective business is hard work and often takes her away for long periods; and so it was with some surprise that I emerged from my daily routine of bathing to here muffled groans and curses from upstairs.

I pulled on some clean bloomers and ran half naked onto the landing, calling out Jed's name. Another curse issued from the room and I ran up the stairs, as Jed lurched out, her face a picture of discomfort, broadly covered in a patchwork of red blotches, but more notably her hands swathed in bandages. Thinking suddenly to my less than respectable state of attire I crossed my arms but seeing the state of the poor woman proceeded to help her. As is her way Jedburgh dismissed the obvious problems that she was suffering with and simply replied that she was just fetching some tea. More worryingly , she accounted for her injuries with a single word, "Moriarty". I told her to make herself comfortable while I got tea for her and quickly ran down to the Bel ├ętage to prepare.

I had no sooner prepared the tea than there was a knock at the door and a shouting from the street. It was young Myrtil and another urchin, a young boy named Will who I had not met before. I grabbed a cardigan from a closet covering my embarrassment at least to the edge of decency and ran down to open the door. The children poured in.

"Miss Janus!, Miss Janus!, Please please!!! Miss Janus! Mr Rip would like to see you. Moriarty attacked Miss Orchid and him!". The children did not want to stay, I beckoned them in they needed to see Jedburgh too, but they were certain that delaying a call to Rip and Orchid would perhaps increase their danger. I was torn, Jedburgh clearly needed some care and attention and yet this mystery was deepening and, my friends, so recently the victims of a bomb had once again been attacked. I managed to persuade the two children to come and meet Miss Dagger quickly.

It transpired that Jedburgh had been walking by the theatre when an unseen assailant had attacked her from behind, holding her with an electrical force that sounded very like the power that Moriarty had attacked me with a month or two back. Jed had sought her gun but failed to get a close range shot before throwing herself into the deeper snow drifts, a quick witted act that probably saved her life, and certainly her appearance from the burning that engulfed her. It can only be presumed, but with a relative degree of security, that the assailant was Jason Moriarty, now possessed of the ability to become invisible to the human eye as noted in the reports from the Van Creed because not long after as Doctors Kaligawa and Watson had begun their treatment of her wounds, Moriarty returned to assault Mr Holmes. It seems then that he had fled out to the palisade to attack Rip and Orchid. Almost before this account had been concluded we were joined by Loki Eliot who had heard the earlier commotion and come seeking his friends.

At this point the story and events breakdown the children babbled about cloud angels, and apocalypse, and that Moriarty had threatened that we would all die tomorrow. IT was clear, I had to go immediately to see Rip and Orchid, I must abandon poor Jed to her wounds but if this was the event, the coming of Azathoth, the arrival that my unseemly bargain with Nareth had been established to fight, then all would be moot if things were not ready.

It was broad daylight, Nareth slept, my mind about as calm as it got, and since the confrontation, since her anger, I had started to develop some limited means of withholding the images, at least when she was sleeping and the stream was placid and calm.

I told Jed that I really felt I ought to go but that I'd return as soon as I could. True to form Miss Dagger put her injuries aside and assured me that she would join me. I raced upstairs to get dressed and then we hurried to Rip and Orchid's house.

Inside the house was charred and the furniture thrown to the walls. Rip and Orchid sat forlornly on a sofa in the midst of the devastation, surrounded by a group of concerned friends.

They both seemed pleased to see me and explained, doubtless for the fourth or fifth time what had happened, they had had a very lucky escape. Moriarty had arrived and attacked the pair, Rip, his skills and training as a fire bender allowing him to absorb much of the energy of the attack had thankfully shielded Orchid, leaving them both shocked, charred but alive. Rip was clearly exhausted, Orchid had suffered some damage to her arm, a sprain or twist of some form caused as she was thrown across the room during the initial attack, and minor burns.

The assembled group consisted of the three of us, Miss Dagger, Miss Trafalgar, Mr Holmes, and the two doctors as well as an assortment of urchins. We discussed much about the proclamation of the end of New Babbage and resolved to enact what plans we had made. We would lay a Faraday cage in his path, trap him and deal with the then weakened, near powerless form. A simple plan that would require careful coordination. We agreed that he would have to use the major source of electrical power in Babbage for his attack and thus a meeting was arranged at the Tesla plant in the Canals for the following day where we would lay in wait. We left shortly after and I escorted Jed back to the house, certain now that the poor lass was suffering more than she would allow her "hardened detective" image show. I wished that I had had her inner strengths in recent weeks.

But what now of my choice, was this perhaps my own last day? If this was the threatened event then it stood to reason that my joining with Nareth was about to pay us back. At the end of this, all was unknown, "her lady", Azathoth, the void, Labyrinth, so many names it is hard to know which to use; she would "decide my fate". Even in my naivety I had recognised that that rarely suggested a good outcome. Yet it was my choice, and if by this union Babbage and all that I love was spared then the choice would be repaid many times over, and if no one ever came to know of my part in the events, I would hope that at least Orchid and Rip could remember me for my friendship and not for my weakness.

As soon as we arrived back home I sent Jed up to the 1st floor lounge, the fire there would be warm and the room cozy. I went to the bathroom and collected cotton gauze and a bowl of warm water, and a collodian salve for the burns. I removed my boots and knelt behind Jed, who had sat on the rug and was staring motionless into the flames. Placing the gauze, water and cream on the floor beside me I proceeded to examine her.

"Right, let's take a look at these burns"
"like I told Watson, so much for the tough girl image". I smiled, she had shown the exact opposite but clearly felt her facade had slipped.

"You seem pretty tough to me.", I looked at the marks across Jed's shoulders, I took a small piece of gauze, soaked it and starts to dab lightly.


"...and he ruined my new dress, the wretch."

"I'm just glad he didn't ruin anything more important.", Jedburgh turned her head slightly and smiled weakly up at me.

"I knew he was powerful, but I didn't know he could become invisible."

"These burns are quite extensive, there is some slight blistering on the back of your shoulder here.", I prodded a red patch gently, testing the sensitivity and Jedburgh grimaced

"How was Orchid?", the question took me by surprise.

"pardon? Oh, Orchid, I think she was actually in better shape than you, her arm looked to be hurt and I think she'll have bruising where she was thrown but it looks as though Rip took most of the energy.". Without making eye contact I worked gently round Jed's neck and shoulders. I picked up the pot of salve and daubed a piece of gauze with the cream. "This is a mixture of collodian and castor-oil, it might sting a little but it'll help take the heat out.", I looped an arm underneath and across her stomach, her hair smelt sweet, and she relaxed a little. Supporting her with this arm, my right arm was free to gently spread the lotion. I gently pulled the fabric of Jed's top away from the skin, at the back of her shoulder blades, the burns went further down, not limited to exposed skin. I dabbed further down her back beneath the line of her clothing but was unable to make much progress. With an uncomfortable reflection of my seduction, for I can think of no other word, of Orchid, I found myself once again in close proximity to one I cared for. I steeled myself, thankful that Nareth was still sleeping, and leant forward.

"Jed, I think you may have to take this top off", I shivered as I said the words. Images even now came unbidden to my mind. But Jed made no response. I smiled to see that Jed has fallen asleep in my lap. A relief came over me, she was comfortable enough to sleep, the treatment could wait. I whispered, "maybe not then, wouldn't want to wake you" and taking a fresh cloth and started to wash along Jed's arms, frowning at the assorted red patches. "poor poor Jed, you sleep honey.", I leant her back, her head lolling softly against me, her face looking up to the ceiling, stray hairs in her eyes. "yes sleep is good". I brushing the hair away from her forehead, then leaning forward rested my head on hers, closing my own eyes for a while.

I sat like that for perhaps half an hour, listening to Jed's murmured dreams, content in my own way. The sun was sinking lower in the sky and in fear that Nareth might wake, that somehow she might be able to wreck another friendship. I moved around, and lifting Jed as best I could carried her up to her room. Leaving her on her bed and heading out for an early evening walk. I decided I would pay another visit to Rip and Orchid, I took an assortment of additional bandages with me to support my excuse.

I walked up to their door and knocked cautiously, hoping not to disturb them should they be sleeping. The door swung open and I looked once again upon the devastation of the attack. There was no one around, but Rip appeared from the bedroom shortly after.

"oh Rip!", I span around startled and embarrassed, "sorry, the door, err it swung open"

"We were just resting, probably blew the hinge this morning"

"I'm really sorry I'll go, leave you two alone"

"No you are here now"

"I brought over some bandages for you", I indicated the small bundle I carried with me. Rip smiled uncertainly.

"have a seat and I will get her", he paused. "Thank you for your thought". He went to summon Orchid and returned, we sat in silence for a time. "Have a lot to clean", he mused as Orchid appeared.

"Hi Beq", I smiled slightly at Orchid

"How are you both feeling?"
"At least a bit more rested now...", Orchid replied, "I won't lie and say I'm not terribly frightened."

"I don't blame you, you have gone through so much recently, both of you and your lovely new home too, this is horrible. I think that arm should be supported better than that Orchid." I nodded to her arm that she nursed gingerly.", I began to root through my assorted bandages.

"Do you have something I might use?"

"I do.", I looked up at her smiling, pulling a large triangular cotton bandage from the bundle. I paused looked at Rip, then back to Orchid. "err would you rather Rip did this?". Orchid McMillan glanced from me to Rip. "I-it doesn't matter to me... Rip?".

"If she doesn't feel comfortable doing it then I will", I stepped forward and knelt nervously by Orchid, folding the bandage to the right shape as Rip watched me intently. I took Orchid's hand passing it across her chest, swathing it in the cotton bandage, finally reaching up to pass the bandage behind Orchid's head and back. Orchid and I both deliberately looked away as our faces came closer, we both giggled slightly at the silliness of it all. I looked nervously back at Rip and smiled as I knotted the bandage and then stood back up. Orchid smile, letting the sling take the weight of her arm.

"Thank you Beq."

"That should allow it to rest"

I felt Nareth stirring in her casket, she would wake soon. I had much to discuss and I didn't need her to be angry again.

"Beq?", Orchid, prompted, I had paused too long.

"Sorry", I blinked away the images, "I was ... was thinking". I returned to my seat. Rip looked at Orchid then back to me and raised an eyebrow briefly. "Rip are you OK, is there anything I can do for you?"

"I think the best thing for me right now is to rest, today drained me."

"My head and ribs will be fine.", I smiled sincerely at him.

"That is good to hear, truly I am so pleased that you are both OK. You could so easily have been killed today, I could not bear the thought of losing either of you despite what I have done.", Orchid smiled awkwardly

"Beq, do you think Nareth has a shot? Against him, I mean?", Orchid looked at me searching for an answer. I sat back.

"I don't know. Its my shot remember, she is mine as much as she invades my mind and bends my emotions she is mine to control but I have not been prepared".

"Yes, sorry....Do you have something planned?"

"The Faraday cage right?", interjected Rip. I nodded. "How do you plan to get him in there?"

"That will be up to Nareth I think, he trusts her", it was Orchid's turn to raise an eyebrow now. "He thinks that he summoned her, which is true but he does not realise that he lost her."

"Well, I suppose that's to our advantage."

"Perhaps, but I don't know that I am ready. Nareth, has told me that I have much to learn before I am ready. She plays with my mind, makes me see things, feel things,", my mind wanders to recent memories and I dismiss them, "she tempts me to join her. I resist, and she laughs telling me that I am learning, but weak.".

"I'm so sorry Beq.", Orchid frowned.

"No, it was my "choice", my decision. But if I fail because I am not ready I do not know what happens next."

"Then you will not fail, so we don't have to find out.", Rip was there once again, the optimism unbounded, his positive thought. All meant so well

"We won't allow it.", added Orchid smiling at me.

I looked down at my feet and shyly returned the smile.

"I guess I need to get ready then. If we are to fight him tomorrow we need to rest. You two more so than any."

"If you need my help tomorrow, you know it is yours", Rip stood, "take care then Beq, we will see you tomorrow. Do have a good sleep."

"Sleep well, Beq." added Orchid as I stood to leave.

"Do you think this is it? Really it? The arrival of Nareth's lady? I think Moriarty has made an error, I fear that this is not the last threat it is not the threat that I am being prepared to face. If I am not right and this is indeed it, then win or lose, tomorrow is likely the last time I will see you both. Please, if it comes to that, look after one another, I know you will. Your love is strong, never lose it. You do not want to be alone in life.", I looked away and headed for the door. "Goodnight". Orchid whispered goodnight and Rip moved forward to show me out.

I turned at the door, and looked back at Orchid and Rip.

"I love you both, I wish it could have been different", I looked nervously at Rip, who loomed close and now stood between me and the door. For a moment who simply stood there looking at me before stepping forward and putting his arms around me, hugging me tight.

"It will be OK, don't worry". I hugged him back, it felt so good to feel the touch of friendship returning. " Be safe". Orchid had stood up and come up beside me, and reaching her right arm out to me, smiled meekly. I took her hand and squeezed it gently in mine.

"Thank you both"

"I-I would hug you, but..", she looked down at her arm.

"I know, I understand."

"Don't forget Beq, we are here for you."

As I left, I felt Nareth awake. Perhaps she saw where I was, if so she said nothing. As I walked back to my house, I related a summary of the days events, and of the plans for the next day. She made little comment and left me feeling somewhat more confused as to what was happening. I suspected that she too felt that this was too soon, but she said nothing. It was not long after that I collapsed into bed and slept soundly.

I awoke the next day, fully refreshed and met the group at the Tesla coils as planned. The children had bought flutes and whistles which created a high pitched noise that apparently will drive away a werewolf. Others had lit fires at the entrance and it was between these fires that we erected the cage. There was no sign of Nareth, she was sleeping and so I decided that we might have to manage without her. Rip was to lead Moriarty through the cage, slamming the rear door behind him, even as I slammed the front door, trapping Moriarty. A neat if simplistic plan.

We waited...

A large group had formed, what would Jason do? After all if he was about to destroy us he could hardly show fear at the crowd and then all at once a shout went up, footprints in the snow had been seen, he was coming. It was young Jimmy Branagh, the urchin boy who first saw him.

"Jason where are you?!", Rip cried into the wind, drawing his sword

"Rip run through the access tunnel", I urged Rip through the cage, deliberately suggesting access to misdirect his thoughts on the cage., there was a flurry of action as Rip ran through in to the cage, but could not open the rear door, as he fumbled with the catch, the footprints followed him in. There followed an angry few moments as Rip managed to duck outside and push the cage door shut, as I ran to the front and shut the front door too. "We have him", I cried.

A chorus went through the crowds as the cage was lit with sparks and fury, as the form of Jason Moriarty blinked in and out of view.

"let me out", he screamed, he was clearly livid at being trapped so easily, and yet moments later, he stepped through the cage as if it were not there.

"Wait..."
"Wait...", it was the professor, Nareth, I had been so wrapped I had not not even seen her awaken, or perhaps she had not let me.

Another chorus went around the crowd, this time at the professors arrival, at the mention of her name.

"Where is he?"

We indicated that he was most probably inside, from within the plant Rip called back out.

"He is in here somewhere Nareth", only to be drowned out by a shout from within. The voice of Moriarty

"I AM A MONSTER!"

Nareth, walked through the fire and into the Tesla plant.

Jason...can you hear me?", no response, inside, through the flames I could see her moving around, "Jason!"

Once again it was young Jimmy who saw the first sight of him.

"Oy can see 'im! 'ee's a werewolf now! Behoind the big coil."

"Jason...Listen.", the professors voice was loud and firm rising above the noises and commotion all around. Now...are you stronger?"

"I am what i was", the reply a growl.

"That is a start, yes?"

"but i lack what is needed to fullfill my Gods wishes"

"Now...how does this end? Do you live another day? We must decide."

"No, i am mearly the instrument, I shall show you."

"We are *all* merely instruments.", Nareth's voice trailed off as Moriarty transformed into another beast.
"My dear Nareth, dear sweet Nareth, I so want to show you everything".
"Jason...speak! Show me now, for I lose patience."

"Mistress...."
"yes Nareth"
"I am...I am burning. I have taken much...of him..into me."
"I will come for you"
"No! Tell eveyone...to stand away from the doors.

I could feel the turmoil about her, the heat of the flames and energies that passed through her. I shouted out her instriuctions in the confusion people didn't move.

"Stand away fromthe doors!", I pleaded and ordered. Nareth had taken to her demon form, her wings unfurled and Myrtil and others had noticed.


"Everyone now. Rip that includes you please. Breezy please stand back"

there was a surge in energy, I could feelthe tension in Nareth's mind as she shielded herself and perhaps me from the effects, yet still it was a deafening roar, a searing light in my mind's eye.

"Nareth!"

I think...he is gone.


The surge had passed, but the burning, a ferocious bruning had replaced it, I could feel it tearing at the shield that Nareth had built, but still growing ever stronger.

"have you absorbed him, or has he left us?"

"I cannot...yet say. But...it is not safe..near me..unstable.

"I feel the tearing around you"

"Yessssss..."

"Come to me"

"I cannot hold it."

"Who can help? I offer you my strength"

There was a pause

"It is..no small offer...you make..."

"We are joined, your loss would likely kill me I am helping myself"

At this I felt an immense and cruishing cold pass through my body, a darkness so complete, and black as to be beyond anything I had ever seen.

I started shivering violently. My mind was lost in the darkness. In the distance I heard voices calling out, then the world slipped away.

"helping us?"

"Smothering. Mistress..it is done. It is begun."

"so.... cold"

"Colder...to come."

"Nareth ..."

I fell to the ground shaking and unconsciouos, my body felt to be trapped in ice, my mind full of blackness, un relenting, unchanging cold, cold darkness.


I need...to release you...and I cannot."

"The cold, it is inside me"

"It is the Void."

"I .. am ...so tired, the cold burns"

"The port...the cloud angel..."

In my mind for moment I could see images, an airship, the cloud angel, the twins and Moriarty and with them all, Nareth.

"What is the will of my Mistress?"

"release it"

"I would...."

"can it leave this world?"

"I do not comprehend the question."

"I am too tired...."

I lost even Nareth for a time, the blackness abosrbed me, the world around me span and I was falling.

"warmth, they are warming me"

"Hold tight to them and to this world."


"Beq ... speak to me", I heard the voice, far away, and my hand, someoen was rubbing my hand, and I was rising again, the darkness subsiding. I opened my eyes and looked up to see Breezy Carver looking down on me, a look of terror and concern upon her face.

"sssoooooc c cc c cold", breezy, lent down hugging me to her.

"what did she do to you?"

"w w we we f ff f ought it"

"you did!!!!", a sound of confusion in her voice. Not unsurprisingly. "but but are you ok ??". Behind Miss Carver stood Miss Chernov, looking on with worry in her heart.

"i it w w w will pass", Breezy continued to rub my back.

"Miss Janus, are you alright?", Miss Chernov lent in.
"Miss Chernov she .. trembling so and .. soo cold. What did the Prof do to her ??
"I have no idea"
I tried to move but suddenly there was more energy, Nareth was fighting, she was sending them home, the twins.
I will not account for that which in all truth I have little recolletion of. The tale of the professor's bravery, the vanquishing of Moriarty and the return of the twins will live on for many generations. A new chapter in the heroics of Nareth Nishi. A glorious deceit of course, it was not her will, her direction. It was the choice, our bargain. She was fulfilling her role and soon, she would arrive, "her lady" and my fate would be decided.

I collapsed into unconsciousness once more.

"We need to get her to warmth right away, she is exausted"
"I have something here... it's an bottle of rum which belonged to explorer Magellan Linden... that should keep her warm"
"lets put it under her nose perhaps we can revive her yes ??"

I heard the voices around me and the scent of liquor, it raised my mind once again and blinking, I returned to them. Natacha Chernov was kneeling down holding a bottle under my nose.". Breezy reached down and took my cold hand in hers once again.

"Come on Beq", Breeezy pleaded with me as my eyes opened, Miss Chernov smiled.

"Breezy?"

"there there ..", she smiled warmly and looking up to Natasha beamed "You are wonderful Ms Chernov"

"Miss Chernov?"

"Well, thet's not me, thanks Magellan Linden... if anyone ever will find him"

"There you have been through quite an amazing .. thing here"

Miss Chernov handed me a shot of rum in the brass cap of a hip flask. I sat myself up, drank it and felt the warmth trickling through my icy veins

"I must say I don't understand most of it..."

The two discusse the events, they had hung back as the crowd had moved toward the port, held back to look after me.

"Thank you for your help, without you I would not have found my way back"

"Do you know what happened to Professor, Miss Janus? Or what she... become?", Ms Chernov aske the question directly, echoing earlier murmurs that I had heard from the crowd at Nareth's arrival.

"I must not say, I am sorry, she did not harm me, not without my permission."

"I shared my strenght with her, she was too weak alone"

"Oh... well, I hope you know what you are doing... after all, she saved the whole town last year, so maybe I shall believe her and did she defeated Moriarty this time for good?

"she .. is not all evil"

"I know... but she is not all just good either, is she?"

I looked down at the ground, at this moment I did not rightly know, she burned brightly agaiin in my mind, the shild she had used to protect us, keeping the intensity at bay.

"no though perhaps there is no such concept, no black, no white just grey.". Natacha Chernov looked towards the tesla coils.

"yes... maybe even Moriarty himself wasn't just plain black... who knows"

In my mind the events continued

you are with him ... I can feel him..he is scared

He is harmless now. The twins...I am sending them away..

home. send them home

Yes.

My eyes grew wide

"she has defeated him, he is harmless now"
"I hope he is...", Natacha Chernov looked over her shoulder up to the sky, than turned to me; "will you be alright? I think I'll try to take a look for this
Angel above Port..."

"I will be fine, thankyou I owe you a greater debt than you know"

"Oh, not thank me, thank Magellan Linden and his rum", she smiled and I smiled back. "Take care Miss Janus, hope to see you soon"

Nareth, will you be OK? They have left me now.

My mind was fille with light and happiness.

Beautiful. So..beautiful.

Is She with you Nareth, your lady?

She is...near.

The gateway is opened...

Was it her, is she the void? did she pass through me?

We will talk of it all.

I am going home Nareth, I am spent


With the surge of colours in my mind raging, I staggered through the streets, I must get home, restwas what I craved most. Rest and proper warmth.

I stumbled in through my doorway, climbed the steps and collapsed onto the couch.

I will fall.

fall? No not if I can help it.

It is...done..Mistress. Now, my Lady. Close the gate.

Do you feel my confusion Nareth, I cannot see clearly what is happening, it is jumbled

My head was suddenly filled with pain, Nareth's pain, a pian that burned through every nerve and synapse

I screamed out.

Nareth, what is happening? Nareth?

Closing...the..gate.

strength Nareth, be strong

So much fire.

My head was filled with flame, orange and red flames tearing at Nareth.

Quench it Nareth

it will not win out

The sea...The sea.

I saw water, in her mind, or perhaps in her vision. I have never asked. But it quenched the flames, dousied the tearing, clawing heat.

Home..Must..rest..now...I have..been..so burned...

Then sleep Nareth, sleep long, rest well. You have done well, your mistress is pleased

Then...yes...I may sleep.


Briefly I saw the inside of the casket and we both fell into sleep.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

from conflagration to confrontation

The next morning, I awoke early with a dry throat and after an early breakfast and copious quantities of tea,I bathed dressed and headed out, resolved that I would start the day by clearing the air as best I could. I went to visit Rip and Orchid in their new home, she would not yet have received the letter, this was the ideal opportunity. As I approached the building I saw the most curious sight, Dr Watson, scurrying around the side of the house, beneath the tree the stands in their garden.

As I approached the good doctor pulled himself up and rapped his knuckles against the window pane.

"Dr Watson?", I coughed announcing my presence and he turned to face me.

"Oh, Miss Janus", he looked rather flushed.

"I was looking for Miss Orchid and Mr Rip are they in?", I heard a shout from the house, it was Orchid.

"Beq! We're trapped!", her voice was soon joined by appeals for me to stay back from rip and Miss Trafalgar.

"the steps, bombs!", shouted Rip.

It transpired that while Miss Trafalgar had been inside some devious criminal had conspired to kill them all by placing high explosive devices on the door step, luckily the quick reactions of Rip had saved the all. The culprit had done his homework, through oversight or simple poor design, the house was a trap, with a single entrance at ground level. I ran back to my house, which was nearer than the firestation and retrieved my ladder, bringing it back and leaning it against the roof of the lower floor, allowing the 3 to descend in safety.

I don't intend to dwell too much upon these events the scurrilous broad sheets carried many a story of the event and how young Loki had saved the day, though more by luck than judgement, destroying the devices with a series of carefully thrown snowballs. Suffice to say, both Rip and Orchid were shaken and shocked, their beautiful home severely burned and tainted by smoke.


The tension had become too much for Orchid, she had left shortly after they had been released, to calm her nerves and Rip now faced with the charred remnants of his entrance lobby was unlikely to feel like talking. I approached him warily, offered my commiserations and promised them complete freedom to my home, that under the circumstances I would move out to the Vernian until their house could be made habitable. Rip surveyed the damage declaring that everything was fine. They'd sleep there that evening. He thanked me cordially and I left my plans in tatters, I'd now have to mentally prepare myself for this again. Moreover there was the mystery of why anyone would seek to kill or injure either of the three. I could only assume that this Relic character, a self styled terrorist was the culprit. Events were to prove me wrong, very wrong.

It was about 5 hours later when I returned, Rip had done a good job, the smoke damage remained, the door charred but neatly rehung. I paused outside the door, took a final deep breath and knocked.

"Who's there shouted Rip", his voice gruff, a note of wariness to it. He came out and opened the door, I smiled meekly."Beq"

"Rip, Orchid, can we talk?", I asked my head bowed slightly eyes looking through him and into the house, he nodded, slowly opening the door.

Orchid was sat on a sofa at the back of the dining room, and nervously glanced back and forth between the two of us.

"yes we need to talk Beq",Orchid watched me as I sat down, one eye on the bottle of Absinthe left on the table. Rip looked across to me, hand on the couch, and is if reading Orchid's view, made it quite clear that I was not to touch the bottle. I smiled nervously. The air hung thick with the silence and tension.

"Soooo....", said Orchid, staring into her lap.

"What did you want Beq?", asked Rip.

"Rip, it is you that I have come to speak to, to perhaps answer your questions, to let you express yourself". Rip turned to orchid

"Would you please let us speak alone, if you are here, you will cloud both our thoughts

"No", I shook my head.

"NO?"

"I would rather she stayed, at least if that is her will", my hackles were up already and we'd not started, why must men feel that they should molly coddle women?

"It's okay Beq... I think, I think he would only censor his true words if I were here. If that is what you are really after..", Orchid rose slowly and headed for the bedroom.


"thank you Orchid", Rip looked over at me, "How long of you known us, the both of us?"


"long enough to hold you in my heart as dear friends"


There was a knock at the door. Rip frowned and got up to answer but Orchid rushed in.


"I-I'll get it.. you two continue, she pulled the door open. "ahhh, Mr. Renfold."

"ah just who I wanted to see miss orchid"

"Might we speak outside?"

"of course", Orchid stepped outside pulling the door to behind her.


Rip sat back down, "yes, long enough to hold us dear. Long enough to develop a large amount of trust?", I nodded, "that is what I thought. Trust, it is fickle is it not?n Takes a deal of time to gain and an instant to lose.".I looked to where Orchid had been sitting and Rip's eyes followed my own before return and settling on me again.


"Do you really think I chose this path?"


"We never choose our path, only how we travel it."


"Is your view of me now so tainted that you think I went out of my way to hurt you?"


"Beq, I don't think you went out of your way to do that but by what ever means it happened you did


"I am guilty not of loving Orchid for I could never consider that a crime, I am guilty of a lapse in strength, a lapse that left me exposed my inner most fears and secrets open, had it been within my choice, those emotions would have been forever buried."


"Do not grovel before this bastard."

Nareth's thoughts filled my mind.

"You are so strong, Mistress. You are so true."

"Beq, how can I blame you for loving her, I myself do with all my heart, I hoped you would understand that, and I never knew you felt that way...but the lapse in your strength, that was a breaking of my trust, you do know that. You have NO clue, the respect I had for you, the trust I bestowed, the admiration.", his words cut deep.


"Do you discard all your friends when their strength fails them, is that why you hide behind that sword? I saw how you looked up to me, I never sought such elevation, and I was not worthy of it."


"Yes, you are, Mistress. You are worthy of far, far more. You have betrayed no one, no one who matters.

"It pains me that you think I have discarded you, if I had would I be here speaking with you right now? I am beside my sword because it is my past, horrible things. We never seek to be admired but our actions make it so, just who you are does."

"The way that you look at me Rip, is it not a look of hatred? I did not seek this tension in my mind, how can you lecture me on my failings without knowing what I endure? I am sorry for the pain I brought upon you, I would have wished it otherwise but Rip, you are not the only one hurting.".

"He does not know hurt, Mistress. He means to possess your love, as a man might possess a horse or a dog. Lock her away, make a secret of her....

I looked up as the door edged open and Orchid crept slowly back in and up to the bedroom, a vial in hand.

"It is a look of anger and sadness to see what the charm has made you become, YOU think I truly blame you? I know you are not fully in control, the Beq in there has to fight."

"I was weak Rip, so very weak"

"I know you are hurting too Beq, all three of us are. This has been a hard time for all of us."

"hard.. yes and so lonely"

"...Steal the light from her eyes. It is a trick, Mistress. There is no sympathy in him. None. He only means to gain the upper hand.

"If you say lonely then the charm has blinded you. Do you not see that even through this there are those that care of you still?"

"There are shades of loneliness, as there are kinds of love.", Rip Wirefly nodded slowly.

"That I can understand Beq"

"Imagine her, rotting in a cage...while he holds the key".

An image started to form in my mind, Orchid pale, near death, locked in a filthy cage staring forlornly through the bars. Not this time, I had to dismiss this trickery I had to try to be clear.

"Nareth, please!"

"Please. We could set her free. She would thank you, in the end. Mistress....

I shook my head, rubbing my eyes, trying to focus.

"We all seek solace when times are bad, it is in our nature. In my weakness, I allowed my base instincts to rise, I cannot deny them, but I would not have let them go if I had had the power to resist."

"Beq, you have a void in your heart that need filling but Orchid is not the one to fill it, I am sorry", another palpable hit, it was the truth, the void in my life left by Tali has lain empty for years, all those who might have come to fill it have been pushed aside, the emotions buried, buried until now. Yet with that realisation came an echo of his words, it was not his decision, it was Orchid's.

"That is her choice not yours, you cannot hold dominion over another's heart, no sword had that strength. She has made it clear that the passion that burns inside me is not reciprocated. I can respect her will, I cannot change my own so easily."

"I never said I hold the strings of her heart, I no more control her heart than I do my own, Love happens and I understand that."

"He is locking her up like a canary. She will sing for none save him and in the end, she will not even sing for him. She will forget the song. But...you are free...Be wary...

"yet you banished her to tell me that she does not love me? she needs no guardian, she knows her heart and mind"

"So now you will bend my words?", Did I? was I? I took a deep breath

"Do I? Did you see the look of fear in Orchid's face last night? I do not mean to tie you up with words Rip."

"I did see her fear, that is a face that pained me to see but what did she fear Beq?

"It was a fear of violence Rip, the anger that boiled beneath your surface, the anger that wields those weapons.", I paused, I had lost my temper, I was attacking him, and to what end? Rip was a victim here not me. Was I sure it was a fear of anger, of violence, perhaps it was something else, a fear of loss, a fear of me, a fear that I might seek to tear them apart, as Nareth would have me do. I stopped. I was wrong, I should not be here at all. I stared upwards to the bedroom, wondering what Orchid was doing, sure that she'd be listening at the floorboards.

"There are many fears Rip"

"Beq the fear she had was past the violence, it was the fear that two she cared for would part"

"Is that your sentence then? You presume to judge me and I have admitted my guilt, my lapse of strength, yet you offer me no penance?"

"How do I Beq, everytime I say that it was not your full control, that it was not you doing it you retort with another excuse. So then let me ask you, how are we to get through this beq?"

"I would never have brought this upon either of you, I love you both too much for this, whtI have done I am truly sorry for. But it is done there is no through, we draw a line underneath it and move along, I have lost your trust but the only way forward is for that trust to return. Orchid and I cannot live with you forever looking at our every interaction with suspicion, and neither can you. It would kill your heart, destroy you."

" But...he will always, always be suspicious..forever. You know that."

"I need your trust Rip"

"Beq, my trust, you know in time that it will return, but it will not be an instantaneous thing and you know that but for now I must trust I think."

"I know that I am no longer worthy of it in your eyes."

"It pains me trust you so readily but I must. Trust is a two way street Rip

"Pain... He does not *know* pain."

"Do you not trust me Beq?"

"Not as I did, last night you would have cut me in two if you had thought to get away with it, your strength stayed your hand, but the anger, the fury fought it. I have to trust you with my life and more than that. You know the choices I have made.", as I said this the noises in my head were growing, drowning out all other sounds.

"If you don't trust me Beq then... I have never done anything against you, Last night I stayed my hand, anger and, and yet you do not trust me fully? Though you did that I would still give my life to save yours and you doubt your trust in me? It pains me you would think I would do that to a friend, WHY would I wish to bring harm to someone I HOLD dear."

"I can trust you Rip when you trust your own heart, when you trust Orchid. She is the innocent victim in this, to look at her with suspicion hurts you both. It is me that you must blame not her, and I know that you will say this is already so, but do not answer me, think, take this deep inside and understand. She fought for you that night, she fought against her love of a friend in need, to see her way back to you."

Orchid stepped slowly out of the bedroom..

"When have I EVER said I did not trust her?"

"no, you never have", Rip looked to the door, "then why do you assume? I trust her more then I do myself.", Orchid sighed heavily, staring down at the floor. a tear fell from Rip's eye, trickling down his face.

"Then commit that to your heart Rip."

"He speaks from his position of authority and force..."

"Who said I haven't already? You still assume I do not trust her". Orchid McMillan nodded, glancing to Rip, speaking softly.

"It... it seemed that night Rip, at Loki's, that you were far more angered that I was there with her, than just seeing her could anger you.". Rip closed his eyes and bowed his head.

"You assume too that I was angered at that.". Orchid opened her mouth to respond, then shut it promptly, her lower lip trembling lightly. Tears ran in streams down Rip's face and he held it low.

"Rip, I... if I'm truly mistaken, please, make me understand."

Nareth's anger had become menacing

" He loathes you. You are loathsome in his eyes."

The voice in my head rose to a painful crescendo

"No!", I cried out at the throbbing pain.

"There was a bit of anger at seeing her with you again, admittedly, but that is not from a lack of trust with you, but of her, I was angered at the sight of her."

I leant forward holding my hands to my head squeezing, as if to steady my mind. the noise had risen beyond pain, and vanished, the silence the emptiness, the void left behind more painful than the sound itself. Rip stared at me, tears welling, not knowing the reason for my madness. the pain subsided and I sat, rocking slightly. breathing heavily. Across the room I could see the look of concern on Orchid's face. Then as my breathing returned to normal, she focused her gaze upon me once again.

"Beq, I... you both sat here, speaking of trust..I think the trust you both missed the most, was my trust in you."

I looked up, meeting her gaze, sadness in her eyes. "We obviously had great trust in each other Beq, to... to even have me there with you while combining the charm... I've trusted you more than any other friend I have, and yet you put me in a position to choose! To choose between hurting at least one of the two I am closest to.". I bit hard at my lip, holding her gaze. Orchid lowered her head, staring at the floor again, speaking softly, "I need to learn to trust you again, all over again."

"I would undo that if I could Orchid, you must understand as much already. I can but try to rebuild this. If that is what you wish". Orchid nodded slowly, keeping her head lowered.

"I-I can't bear to lose either one of you.", her whole body shook.

"That is not the choice, I don't think Rip or I would wish you hurt more.", Orchid glanced up slightly, looking from Beq to Rip

"I would wish to not hurt her at all", he muttered and Orchid smiled, I swallowed as the words bit home.

Orchid McMillan exhaled slowly, turning her gaze upwards again.

"Do either of you have any more thoughts? I'm not sure much more talk today will help, unless we all get a chance to clear our minds and think a little."

"I have said my piece", Rip sat back, his tears drying. But what promise could I make, Could I promise to be stronger than a charm whose power now dominates my head, whose intensity had just crushed all sound and thought from my mind? I could not, it would be a lie.

"I need you both to understand, I cannot earn you trust, not now,, not as you would like. I was weaker then for so many reasons, but still this charm binds me, and when I am struck low again I will fail. I have no super human power of will. If I could I would stand before you and shield you from anything, but my armour is not perfect, I am not that hero Rip saw, I am just a woman. Just a woman.

Rip puts his head down shaking it

"None of us are perfect Beq, I would never expect an instant turn-around. All I ask is that we all try., Orchid was firm, her composure regained.

I could hold back my tears no longer and now the sobs came suddenly.

"Did I not try? I failed but not for lack of trying". I had fought the demons in my mind hadn't I? I was no longer sure myself. "I think we have said enough, we need time to clear the air."

I stood to leave, wiping the tears from her eyes. My own tears had brought Orchid back to the verge of crying once more as she avoided looking at either of us. "Rip, comfort the poor girl will you please.", I forced a smile and left.

As I left the house, Rip's words echoed in my mind even as another pressure rose behind my eyes.

"You have a void in your heart that needs filling", a void....

As I stood in the snow outside the house, I was suddenly aware of Nareth. She was clearly angry still. The pressure began building inside my head again. Like a wave coming. Bearing down...Rage, Nareth's rage. Then within the roaring torrent came words

IF YOU HAVE NO WISH OF MY COUNSEL, THEN ORDER ME SILENT, MISTRESS, BUT, I BEG YOU, DO NOT ENDURE THIS INDIGNITY.

"Your counsel, you know my heart you see the turmoil, I love them both dearly, what I did was wrong."

In my mind I saw Nareth leave her casket.

"No...Mistress. It was not wrong. It was only contrary to the mores of this place. And time."

"But we are defined by our actions and their perception, to hurt a friend is wrong whatever the time or place."

"What I am...what I just witnessed...There is unspeakable anger in me. And yet, I cannot act upon it, as I am bound.

And then she was with me, by my side. I could feel her glare from behind her goggles, the anger that seethed within her. We walked back to my home and I invited her in once again.

"Mistress. You should know...you are free to dismiss me when you wish. It is part of the arrangement. I am bound to say that.", She glowered at the floor as she removed her goggles. "Night.", she whispered, an observation at the final setting of the sun. "I am...hungry.", Nareth's body shuddered, and I felt deep pity for her, for the way she existed, a small pained sound left her lips and then stared in disbelief as a pair of black wings un furled from her back. "I did not mean you to see this...I am weak...I have not fed...my control slips. Weak...and angry.

"That anger is not necessary"

"It is not something I can...help. I beg you, dismiss me...", Nareth's body shuddered again."I would not have you see...". Nareth stood.


"Please go Nareth do what you must".

"What I must.", she echoed.

"I am destined to be alone it seems."

"I cannot leave if it is not your will."

"It is my will, go Nareth, be gone."

"Yes, Mistress. Summon me, when you have need.", and with that she was gone, and I was once more on my own. and rip's words echoed back again.

"A void in your heart that needs filling".....