Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Is there really no one left to hold onto?

I left the laboratory angry and confused, she was right, as I had lain there dying, beyond a brief visit by Orchid, my friends had abandoned me. They had known what was happening to me, that my best chance was for Nareth to be slain before I ... before I succumbed. Perhaps Rip saw it as easier if I was gone or left as something bestial and repulsive. Yes that would keep his pretty wife safe from temptation, I would be that vile creature that had taken poor sweet Beq away, my trespasses forgiven as the early acts of the beast that had ultimately led to my extinction. I slammed the iron door shut behind me the frame shaking with the force and sending a small cascade of loose mortar on its way to the ground. I stormed out of the front yard into the street and automatically turned down toward the Palisade. Nareth was right, I would have this out, Nareth had lied to me before, but this time? Well it all made sense now didn't it? But something inside was already turning the anger into emotional confusion and as I stormed across the cobbles of the rail yard the rage settled to a brooding anger, I was caught in between two factions, where was "I" in this? what had happened to Beq Janus? At what point did I give up all responsibility for my own welfare? I punched a brick pier as I left the yard, and sucking at the bloody knuckles turned down towards muses cottage.

As I passed through the gate my heart fluttered, I realised that I was nervous, actually scared. I feared the truth, if that was what it was. I sat on the step watching the broken skin of my knuckles reform, summoning the courage to face them again. With a deep breath, I stood and knocked at the door.

Orchid's voice called from inside. "Who is it?"

"Orchid! Its me.", I replied, "Beq".

The door swung opem and she stood before me, radiant, smiling, "Beq... how, well, are you doing alright?", she looked at me nervously, not sure quite how to speak to me.

I smiled back,"Its good to see you" I replied, not answering the question

"Come in, come in.. it's chilly out there.", she stepped back, motioning a welcome with her hands, a pressure that I had not noticed but that I guessed later to be holding me from entering, fell away at her words. Another part of vampire lore demonstrably proven.

"thank you", I stepped across the theshold and into the cottage. "are you well?", I looked around the room, listening. "No Rip?"

"No, no, he is not here. I'm alright, but, I'll admit I've spent much of the night worrying about you."

"really? worrying? That is touching.", I winced slightly at the spiteful cynicism in my own voice. Orchid raised an eyebrow, a touch of confusion on her face. "I have missed you these passed few days."

"I-all I wanted to do was help you, but, what was I to do?"

"help me? yes.", I nodded, a grim sincerity on my face. "Did you have any plans?"

Orchid shook her head slightly, "Plans? You mean... now?"

I walked over and sat down, the house was beautiful, new furniture set off the room, giving it a homely feel. "A new sofa? very nice", they had been busy clearly, the house was looking lovely.

"Thank you, Rip chose that.", Orchid looked at me smiling weakly. I returned to the questions, looking darkly at Orchid,

"Now?, then? anything? I was helpless Orchid. At her mercy. If you could have saved me you would have wouldn't you? Rip would have done something, come up with some scheme to rescue me."

"Of course I would have, Beq! We tried and tried to think of something, but had no idea what would work to help you...".

I sighed, stroking the sofa, frowning. I looked up to see Orchid's sombre look as she watched me, reading my thoughts.

Orchid swallowed, and whispering said, "You... you don' think we tried, do you?", her eyes filled with sorrow and regret.

"I don't know Orchid, I just don't know any more. I was sure, certain that you were out there looking for a way".

"I still am Beq..."

"...that you had looked but perhaps not found anything", I paused, "still are ..." I repeated, smiling briefly at her, drawing out the smallest of smiles in return.

"She told me Orchid"

"Told you what, Beq?"

"Told me that she offered to save me if you would spend a night with her, just as you had said. I would never have wanted you to accept such a deal but she also told you, told Rip, how to destroy her. Decapitation. Stake through the heart"

Orchid shook her head sighing. "First off, her offer to me... she laughed as soon as I gave her my answer. She had never meant it, she wanted to destroy the hope I had.", I watched the emotions on her face, the guilt she felt was evident, but her hgaze never wavered, she was not lying. "And, Beq, how am I to know that destroying her will save you? Does the binding not mean if one of you dies, the other will as well? I know of the amulet... but this will not keep you from turning, will it? If she is gone, I mean? It doesn't seem to be a viable solution, Beq... there are so many questions unanswered. I couldn't bear try something that further hurts you.", they had thought it through, though clearly they knew little of the cycle. At my death I had become the undead, I had Turned, the was no more. Yes I was not dead. My mind raced, was that the issue? I was neither vampire nor human now.

"turning....", I whispered, nodding. "Did she tell you? Did she imply that her death might save me?"

Orchis was emphatic at this, shaking her head resolutely, "She only told us how to destroy her, and that killing her would kill you as well."

My rage boiled up again. I was being cast from pillar to post. "argghhh!", I shouted, slamming my fist into the arm of the chesterfield making Orchid shudder and jump. "She lies", I spat through gritted teeth.

"To which of us, Beq?"

"I do not know, she told me that she had told you how to kill me, how to save me but", I shook my head, unable to think clearly. "When I asked her if you had been told that her death would free me, she said that it was clearly logical."

Orchid's eyes went wide at this she balled her own fists in angerillan goes wide-eyed, balling her hands in fists.

"So, the binding... her death would not mean yours as well? Are you certain she was not lying on that account?"

I stopped, in my mind I felt Nareth stirring. "She awakes"


In my mind I could see Nareth moving quickly, before long she was rising into the air.

"I do not know her lies from each other now." I threw my head back, looking to the sky, "Nareth! You anger me.". Orchid looked up quickly, watching intently, "...flying...", I muttered, answering the implicit question. Orchid whispered, as though she wished not for Nareth to hear her, "flying? "

"No matter"., I dismissed it, shaking my head. "She is playing with me trying to sever my connection with you, break my will"

"Don't let her win, Beq... she's done nothing but trick you, play with your mind."

"Beq, I promise you... we have more ideas now than we did before. We are never giving up on you."

"But she is my mind now, I am hers. I need to believe in you Orchid, but if my faith in you fails....please, please don't prove her right.", Orchid nodded at my warning, fear clearly on her face.

Mistress...was this wise? - Nareth's voice insinuated into my mind again.

"Wise! WISE!", I screamed into the air. Orchid stared at me unsure as to what to do. I dropped my head into my hands, massaging my forehead and temples in frustration, breathing heavily with frustration.

"Beq, are you alright?", asked Orchid, leaning towards me, I shot a dark look back, biting back a pointed answer, forcing a thin smile in its place.

You told me as much Nareth. 'ask them', you said

I saw Nareth land upon the snow covered cobbles...

Very well. So I did.
You twist my mind Nareths
I stand by what I have said, Mistress. Has she denied it?
more than that. You told her that your death would bring mine

And you know that she is not lying, trust her. Circularity.

I had my doubts now, this much was clear. I small laugh echoed in my mind as Nareth sensed this.

of course I trust

You trust...because you trust.

because I know her.

Do you? Does she know you, even?

She is my best friend Nareth. Was..

So much assumption.

so much deceit


not hers, don't twist

I am not twisting.
They were told, Mistress. I can recall the memories verbatim, if you wish it.

and out of context no doubt

I offered them the opportunity. Admittedly, at great personal risk.

How generous.
How selfless

There was a soft knocking at the door.

Orchid looked up quickly, and jumping out of her seat headed to the door probably expecting Rip

"Let me.. get that.". She opened the door to find Nareth standing there. Nareth smiled. "Hello Nareth..."

"Miss McMillan."

"You're looking well."

"Sorry that I have not visited sooner."

"It's quite alright."


"Beq and I were just chatting, I suppose you'd care to join us?", Orchid stepped back inviting Nareth into the house,

"Thank you...", a wry grin spread across Nareth's face. She looked about the room, "Such a beautiful home. Good evening, Beq.". Orchid returned back to her seat and turned to watch Nareth. "Shall I sit, perhaps?"

I remained as I was, glaring at Nareth

"If you wish.", responded Orchid, with little attempt to hide her dislike of Nareth.

"You are too gracious a host, Miss McMillan.", Nareth turned and smiled at each of us in turn, "Am I interrupting?"

"Of course", I sneered.

"I should hope I am not.", Nareth sat upon the sofa one arm resting on the cushioned arm.

"Nareth, as you well know, I was just discussing the matter of friendship with Orchid"

"Indeed. A very dear friendship."

Orchid'd eyes narrowed. "A true friendship.".

"True....There is so much talk of truth, of late.", Nareth's lips curled slighlty as she spoke.

"Yes, it seems so, Nareth.", nodded Orchid.

"....How as I lay dying, temptation and chance was laid before them...", I continued

"Precisely, Mistress. Tempatation..and chance. A shame they were not more..bold. But...this is not for me to judge."

"...but I am unclear on the facts, the minor nuances of logic and emotion that are so apt to be twisted and misrepresented.", I fixed my gaze upon Nareth as I spoke, looking only briefly to Orchid. Nareth and Orchid stared at one another across the room. Nareth intense but calm, Orchid enraged, grinding her teeth.

"Mistress, may I speak freely?"

"I have come to realise that nothing is truly free with you Nareth. Please, do continue."

"Have you denied, Miss McMillan, the offer that I made to you? One night with me for Miss Janus' freedom?", Orchid winced slightly at the reminder. "It was a simple offer. I was clear, there would be agony and pleasure.."

"I told Beq of it already. I hid nothing from her."

"I hid nothing also."

"Though, had you forgotten to mention to her your laughter at me after my response? That it was not possible to begin with?"

I shot an angry stare at Nareth.

"But...Miss did not know that when you said no. In fact, you still do not know it. So little is truly known."

Orchid nodded, "And I did not trust you from the start."

"Be that as it may...You declined an opportunity. No action was made to attempt to save your friend."

"Aye, I did, I will not deny it. I wrestle with the guilt of not accepting."

"None...Not even at the very end."

I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, fidgetting uncertainly. If roles had been reversed, would I have acted differently? I knew in my heart that I would. Was it not such a sacrifice that had brought us to that state? Yet it was easier for I, I who has no one, than for her, her life with Rip laid out before her; to weigh the worth of my own life against the happiness of her own was a terrible dilemma, but at the very least I would have fought the conditions, called her bluff, made her demonstrate that I could be released, tested the verascity of the offer. Though I would not on good conscience ask that she had accepted the offer, and she had made her choice of her own free will, I would not have it otherwise, though it trully tore my heart apart then to have my true worth evaluated so coldly before my eyes.

"Do you think I would not have tried, had I thought I had a chance of saving her?"

"Why *does* Mr. Wirefly carry that sword?", Nareth continued the attack, feeling my distress.

I looked searchingly at Orchid, looking in her eyes for a sign that would show me that Nareth was wrong.

"I think you are a coward, Orchid. Beq saved you.". Orchid averted her gaze, staring up at the ceiling, biting her tongue. "You did not even try to exchange the favour. The mere attempt...Failure is irrelvant.

I dropped my head back into my hands, staring down at my feet.

"It is an ugly, unsightly truth. But...I am accustomed to ugliness."

Orchid McMillan turned back, staring straight at Nareth. "If anything, my guilt over not saving her so far has only hardened my resolve to make something work. If you think I've given up, think again."

"Oh...?", Nareth smiled, watching me as I shook my head, my despair giving way to anger as I was passed back and forth as some minor prize, some precious bauble to be fought over. I had brought myself to this, was it any surprise now to find myself alone. My thoughts turned to others, where now was Jed? Steadfast, straight talking Jed? Had she even noticed I had gone? She was busy...out of town a lot. I sighed.

"But why now, when all is lost? She is no longer even human."

"Have you ever known us to give up hope? To think all is truly lost? There is always a chance."

"I do not know you, Miss McMillan. This I will admit. I report what I have seen thus far."

"Each time we speak you attempt to break my resolve.", Orchid looked furtively at me, as I met her gaze.

"Do I? I was not aware. That is, I was not aware you possesed resolve."

I stood up angrily, this had to end, my mind roiled and twisted, my stomach yearned, "no! no! enough! I should never have come here. This toying, this game.", Nareth did not look at me but remained seated staring at Orchid, who closed her eyes, and slowly inhaled, seeking some calm.

"As you wish, Mistress. Though, I had hoped to relate to Miss McMillan our recent exploits...and your pleasure.". Orchid glanced back and forth between myself and Nareth.

"Nareth, this game is fun for you, just such fun", I waved a hand dismissing Nareth's attempt to undermine us further.

"No...Mistress. No *fun*. Joy."

Orchid looked back at me, whispering, "Don't give up Beq, please..."

"Mistress, even now, I see your hunger for her."

"Orchid, I am changed"

"You are starving.", interjected Nareth.

I sighed, shifting position slightly, leaning forward, "she is right". Orchid stared down at the floor. I hoped that perhaps she was beginning to understand the predicament.

"You could make it fast...Painless."

"No!", I leant towards Nareth, my fists clenched


"No! Nareth"

"She did not save you? She did not even try."

I stood up, pacing up and down, unconsciously licking my lips as images of lust, supported by a base, animal, instinctive desire to consume, to satiate my appetite, formed unbidden in my mind.

"The thrill of feeding, and to feed on such...."

to feed on such...tendernesss

"Beq... don't let her do this to you!", Orchid's voice called me back, driving down the stirring in my stomach.

"Or, she could join us.", added Nareth, leering, watching my every move, knowing my mind. I stopped pacing and stared at Orchid. "Lina would find her a delight.".

"Lina! never", I turned angrily, snarling at my tormentor. "Nareth, leave this place".

"Oh, but you so enjoy Lina.", Nareth paused for a minute, then recognising the command in my voice, acquiesced to my order. "Yes...Mistress. As you wish."

I remained standing, staring now at Orchid, fighting still the burning desires within me. Smelling her fear, riding on the rich sweet scent that betrayed her femininity and a faint note of exhillaration, a hint of excitement at the encounter, these subtle hints invisible to the "evolved" human that betrayed her own true feelings. Of course, Nareth, could sense these, and my own, even without her link into my mind she would know what I felt before I knew it.

"I'm sure you can find the door.", Orchid spat.

"Good evening, Miss McMillan. Do give my regards to your fiance"

Orchid watched the door and waited for it to shut, then looked up at me. I dropped into the seat, but immediately knew I could not stay. Through Nareth's eyes I saw the front of the house, she was waiting, watching to see if I lost the battle, if I would bend to her will and take Orchid as my own.

"Orchid, I must leave, she is right.", Orchid sat nervously, unable to look straight at me. "I am changed, there is a hunger that tears at me"

"Do you believe me Beq? Do you still trust me?"

I nodded though in truth, I could not say, I simply did not want to accept the apparent facts as the truth. Orchid smiled slightly.

"Please. I am losing this fight", I pleaded with her, the rich scent of her body filling me with the shared hungers for food and pleasure.

"Soon, I promise. We are trying.", she called as I jumped up and ran to the door, fleeing from the house and into the garden.

Consider, Mistress... She invited me in. She just destroyed a sanctuary. Soon, there will be no place left for them to hide.

I saw the blur of brickwork and roofline soon replaced by hte mottled gray blue hues of the sky as Nareth took to the air again.

No place to hide at all.

You cannot touch her, you will not! - The thoughts shouted, but clouded with my own desire, as I spoke more to myself than to Nareth. I would not harm Orchid, not knowingly, not willingly. I ran from the house as fast as I could. The hunger overwhelming, I had to feed and I had to get away from Orchid ....

No, I will not - her reply echoed back to me, a knowing, mockery in her tone. But what about you, Mistress? She invited *you* in. You are not bound. Poor Orchid...

but before you get that wish Nareth, you have to defeat me completely

Do not delude yourself, Mistress. It is unseeemly.

I got to the railway yard and dropping to my knees crawled around until I caught a rat. I dashed its brains against the cobblestones until it bled.

"A rat, Mistress?", Nareth dropped to the ground by my side and stood looking down at me, disgust and amusement mixed in her frown. "Filthy beasts"...

"but warm", I replied, raising the mangled rodent toward my mouth

Nareth held out her wrist, a sweeter smile, tinged with pity fixed upon her lips. "Not as warm...", she said, grinning briefly, I looked up meeting her gaze, then glancing down threw the rat into the snow immediatley hating my own weakness, my dependency. Nareth tore open her wrist with her sharp finger nails. "No one us watching.", she said as I took the wrist in her mouth, and collapsed to my knees again on the snowy ground. Slurping hungrily, sucking hard. Nareth looked down her nose at me.

"pitiable, poor Mistress.", she waited a moment before continuing, "I have another question, Mistress.". I looked up, still sucking at the wound, ", Nareth closed her eyes feeling the blood leave her body. "Why has *no one* called my bluff? If bluff it be."

"They do not trust you, they are not all as naive as me". Nareth looked away toward the laboratory, following her gaze I could see figure, a woman entering the laboratory..

"Oh, I think it may be more complicated. After all, this is an age of reason. Vampires? Indeed. Now, stand up and wipe your mouth. You look terrible.". Nareth pulled her wrist away. "We need to go inside...", I wiped my mouth on my fingers and then sucked them clean."You are not...well."

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Suspicion and doubt

The preceding night had been odd in a number of ways. To hav e died and been reborn, one would think a monumental point, uplifting, inspiring even and yet as an event which stood as a conclusion to the protracted period of fear, disillusion and pain, was somewhat of an anti-climax, the agonising return of circulation leading quickly into a hasy departure, sneaking away in fear.

I felt in myself no different, perhaps in many ways I felt better than I ever had, my whole person near glowing with the warmth of my renewed heart and of course it is in this that the problem lies. I felt sure that Nareth was both intrigued and threatened by me. She clearly did not understand what I had become and the multiple aspects of her being, those things she denies the existence of, were fighting. It worried me, it worries me still to this day, the mere fact that I retain some degree of free will, some fight, is evidence enough to her and this means I am not to be trusted. Yet in those first days I was stronger, the beast had been cowed and I had control for most of my waking hours.

That next day, I woke early my new body not needing an extensive sleep, I fretted and frowned thinking long on the events of the preceding night, the frenzied, lust filled feeding, this is as we are, this is our way, the way of this this thing that I am become and yet Nareth had not seemed herself, and neither had she, sadly, seemed to be the professor. At times she had a younger, innocence about her, something that the professor could never have been said to have had and then there was the other voice, a man's voice. What was it he had said? "You are something that must go before the coming of our lady", he/she/it feared me and I must fear him.

I had to get out of the building and resolved to take a walk in the late afternoon. It was wintery outside, but distracted and warmed by my own body's heat I stepped out without a coat.

I walked out by the stockyards and past the steamworks, whose powerful pumps drive the city's steam main. Onward down toward the canals. I stood upon the bridge their watching the waters flow by before the chill set in and I sought warmth. A walked back toward the lab and spied the soft light of the bakery in the late afternoon gloom. A cup of tea, what a delightful luxury, I did not even know if I could tolerate it now but I was committed then to finding out.

The little brass bell rang as I entered, the warmth of the ovens swelling out into the street as soon as the door opened, carrying with it the smells of cinnamon and cake, of fresh bread and pies. These scents though every bit as sweet and welcoming as ever, failed to fire any hunger as they would ever have done in the past. Instead, more subtle notes, meat hanging or laying on a slab, putrefying in the bins, a mild hunger entered me.

No one was drawn out by the bell, and I collected a cup of tea from the counter, leaving a handful of brass and copper in its place before taking up my favourite seat in the corner by the window.

Myrtil Igaly, the young proprietor of the cafe walked in and paused, looking over to me and smiling

"Hello Miss Janus!", I looked up at her, the gloom had advanced and I lifted my goggles off blinking away the rush of brightness. When my vision stabilised I saw Myrtil looking at me seemingly a bit confused

"Hello Myrtil, how nice to see you."

The door opened once more and young Jimmy Branagh came running in.

"Hoy Myrtil, Hoy Miss Beq"

Almost without noticing I sniffed the air catching the scent of the two youngsters, dominated by the warmth of young Jimmy following his run. I frowned slightly at the ripple of hunger that was set off at this, a churn like that one might feel when presented with the scent of a glorious meal after a day of work.

"Hello Jimmy", I returned, looking to his smiling face.

"You... Aren't you cold Miss Janus?" asked Myrtil

" Whoa, Oy think it's cold!", blurted Jimmy, keen to be part of the conversation, as is so often the case with the young ones here.

"Its a bit nippy out there, but to be quite honest Myrtil, I've felt a little stuffy lately and the fresh air is quite invigorating."

"Oh.", replied Myrtil, seemingly surprised at my reply. "I did feel it best to pop in here for a brief respite though, you always keep this place so warm.", She relaxed a little at this, smiling briefly.

"It is because of the oven!", she grinned.

"It always smells good in here too!", added Jimmy

"But still... I would dress warmer if I were you..", suggested Myrtil. There was movement outside in the street, a small crowd of people and I look round sharply fearing the worst to find it was simply the occupants of Mr Holmes house all leaving on a journey.

"You are wise beyond your years Myrtil, I will be sure to bring a scarf at the very least next time I am taken by a desire to roam.", Myrtil smiled proudly at this, but a cloud seemed to cross her face. Some suggestion of unease.

"'tis the kind of wisdom you gain in the streets Miss. In truth, I was worried about you Miss Janus"

"Yeh, Dr. Dayafter said she was a smartie.", Jimmy laughed. Myrtil turned pulling Jimmy's cap down over his eyes, "Shush you!!"

"Worried about me, Myrtil?"

"Something happened at the Tesla Machine." she nodded, keeping her eyes fixed on me.

"ahh, yes, that.",

"After Moriarty left and the Van Creed guy told us it was up there above the Port, we left too but I remember seeing you falling, and being taken care of by Miss Breezy and Miss Chernov. You didn't look right"

"I.. helped the professor nothing more. Though it did knock the wind out of my sails."

"You helped the Professor? You looked really weak... Like that time when Moriarty attacked us on the Port too", a real note of concern in her voice, which was rather touching really. "But actually you look really better today."

"Yes, she needed me, and they did help me too, I think in fact they may have saved me. I could hear their voices calling me, but it was so cold I just wanted to sleep."

"I'm relieved you are fine now.."

"This was not Moriarty's doing not this time, it was a ...", I paused, I couldn't explain to her the connection, the deal that we had struck, I chose my words with care. "It was an experiment of the professors to help with the fires that burned around her."

Jimmy perked up, at this "Wot sort of experiment?"

"Oh! To help Mr Rip?", added Myrtil, her mind leaping ahead making connections as she is wont to do. She really is a very sharp witted girl and therein lies the danger.

"I don't truly know, she has such a great mind.", I replied, not wishing to dispel any inappropriate connections, and Myrtil nodded seemingly happy with that turn of events.

"She tricked Moriarty once more."

"The heat and fire that engulfed her and Moriarty, she was burning. Together we joined our minds."

Myrtil stood her mouth agape "wow.. I didn't know you could do that.."

"like I say Myrtil, science, truly wondrous", she nodded vigorously. "But as you have observed I am much better now"

"Yes...", Myrtil frowned.

"No longer cold, in fact quite, quite the opposite." I rubbed my arms, it was true my refreshed body was radiant. Myrtil Igaly glanced at Jimmy, then back to where I sat, still observing watching me.

"That's dangerous though to be part of an experiment. Moriarty was part of one"

"Yeh, soyence can be very dyngerous too."

"And say... he didn't end well.."

"I completely agree, but I have always trusted the professor. She has been very good to New Babbage, to us all", I said, seeking to reassure them of my intentions but Myrtil was not ready to accept this, she raised her eyebrows."

"Oy don't think Babbage would be standin' without 'er, meself.", Jimmy agreed.

"I trust her too... I thought you didn't, or wasn't sure though. That day you showed us the Van Creed documents, you thought she may be betraying us.", Myrtil recalled the allegation of an interception by the Van Creed, it referred to a partner of Moriarty, a lover they suggested.

I looked around the room, lifting my tea to my lips and sipping thoughtfully.

Myrtil smiled softly, "I'm glad you changed your mind", I returned the smile, relieved that I seemed to be negotiating my way through her suspicions.

"Yes, I am always open to change my opinions. I confronted her, asked her straight, it had been a deception. I doubt her no more, but then after the other night, who could?"

Myrtil's face visibly relaxed "Oh, that is the best way. And yes, she saved us again!"

The two youngsters chuckled. "She fooled Moriarty twice.", laughed Jimmy.

"His Old gods don't make him a smartie", giggled Myrtil. I made no answer, returning to my tea. "Plus she's got a far more powerful g..". Myrtil stopped in mid-sentence, I looked at her lowering my tea, staring at Myrtil.

"In the end he was just a poor child who had been led astray", I added , seeking to divert the conversation but Jimmy was already looking quizzically at Myrtil.

"More powerful WHAT, Myrtil?", he challenged.

"science", I interjected, "the most powerful god of them all", I smiled at the two.

The conversation turned to old friends, Leon Susenko, Gloriana Maertens, Lucius Sin and Misi. In particular Mis, as Myrtil seemed to have a soft spot for her. I told her that Miss Paine had decided not to return to Babbage just now and was living overseas. This sheered Myrtil briefly but something still disturbed her. she looked up at me, forcing a smile.

"Would you like a slice of pie?"

"No, no I am fine thank you. I'll eat later.", I declined, licking my lips and looking over the two children, the thought of food, stirring a disturbing hunger in my stomach. I looked quickly away. Myrtil was observing me cautiously

"Do you mind if I leave you alone here? I have something to do outside", she smiled. I glanced out of the window, the sun was sinking fast now.

"Not at all. I should get back soon myself"

Myrtil Igaly smiled and nodded "It was nice to see you are fine".

Myrtil caught Jimmy by the arm, "Come on, I wanna show you something.", she pulled him out in to the street.

I watched out the window as Myrtil and Jimmy chattered excitedly, glancing back at me, suspiciously.

I finished my tea, and placing the cup upon the table, stood to leave.

As I walked to the door I saw Myrtil glance back and drag Jimmy further back. This unnerved me, she was suspicious and I had brought danger upon us. I ran back to the laboratory where I found Nareth just waking.

"Nareth, I think I may have made an error of judgement.", I puffed.

"An error of judgment?",She laughed, "Do you?". I frowned at her dismissal.

"I was in the cafe"

"What, precisely, are we discussing, Mistress?"

"Myrtil's cafe"

"I see.", Nareth, still had the veil of sleep hanging over her and struggling to wake fully she watched me closely.

"I went for a walk, and stopped for a drink"


"She was there, Myrtil, and that lad, Jimmy. Well we got to talking about things and she was worried about me, she had seen me fall during Moriarty's attack. I think I indulged her questions too much she is a bright young lady."

"Indeed. She was here, two days back, asking after you.",

"I think they suspect something, that I am ... different.", I continued, Nareth didn't respond, but continues to watch in silence. "but she said something too, something about your gods."

Nareth reached into a pocket and took out her spectacles, setting them on the bridge of her nose.

"Does she know about you?"

"My gods....Before I faced Moriarty, I came across him in the attic of the theatre. In order to accomplish the ends you desired, I needed him to believe that I was an ally. I said many things. Some of it was true...I did not know that Myrtil and a number of other children had crept into the shadows and were listening.", Nareth stopped and stared down at her fingertips as I sighed. "I have assured Myrtil it was a ruse, and she seemed to believe me. However..."

"Then I hope I have not undone that work."

"If this becomes...a is easily enough solved, Mistress.", Nareth glared at me through her spectacles.


"Who would miss them?"

"They are not wanted. They are homeless things."

"b.but, but you, you cannot truly.."


"even Myrtil?"

"They would be sweet..tender...", Nareth smiled softly, masking her true intent, though I have no doubt that she would do it.

"They did smell good", I replied, grinning slightly.

"Did they?"

"It is hard to explain, it sets off a churning feeling"

"You are conflicted. You have become one thing, and yet the ghost of you lingers. The ghost of that former you.

"In time, this will change.", I remained quiet, her words corresponded to the words of the voice from the previous night, that I must change, be changed. "You will move by instinct, not these illusions of morality. Memories fade..."

"Is that so professor?"

"That is quite so, Mistress. And I am done playing *that* game with you."

I must admit that it gives me solace to bait her, there is undoubtedly something that she is hiding, it may be true that there is no way back for the professor I knew but the reaction my jibes yield are evidence of a deeper conflict within her. I am stark evidence that this "process" is far from perfect, it stands to reason that with each consciousness consumed some remnants are left behind.

"She is dead.", Nareth glanced at the floor.

"aren't we all?", I asked, then reconsidering, "well with an exception".

" fact. To my disappointment.", she looked coldly at me.

"So...what, exactly, did you say, Mistress? You appear as ever you have. You breathe. You are warm. You haven't even grown your milk teeth yet."

I knit my brows at this. "Yes, I had noticed that".

"I am growing impatient Mistress", Nareth stood up, pacing slightly "This would be easier if you simply told me what did, in fact, occur."

"I explained that we had used science to defeat him. That our minds had joined, that I'd helped you. They seemed to accept it. But there were other questions, I don't truly recall them and before I left they went outside, Myrtil dragged Jimmy with her, like you do when you are making an excuse to talk about someone."

"I never mentioned magic, they think it was an experiment".

"They are children, Mistress. I shall have Lina watch them, however. She is eager."

"Thank you Nareth, I am sorry."

"Somehow, I do doubt that, Mistress."

"I should not have gone there."

In the silence that followed we both sat staring at one another. Nareth sat herself down on the floor beside the divan.After a minute or so, I cleared my throat.

"The priest last night."


"He was conflicted too."

"Was he? I did not have time to form any clear impression."

"You asked about his celibacy. He very quickly left without making an answer as I recall."

"Well, yes...I suppose I was goading him."

"That was the nature of the game was it not?"

"We will discuss this further...but I think I should...walk.". I nodded, I had infuriated her, I could see her seething, she was actually worried about what I had said to the children. "You must learn secrecy. Secrecy is the one thing that we must endure. It is our law.". She stood, glaring at me for a moment then turned to leave.

"I understand, but it is not in my nature to lie."

"That will change. As has your Nature, Mistress."I was a Prince of Lies...It is not a shame."

"Have a pleasant walk Nareth", I called as she climbed down without another word.

I lay upon the couch, turning over things in my mind. I probably fell asleep, for the next thin I recall, I heard and felt Nareth ascending once more into the loft.

"Well...", she uttered, passing into the loft, she seemed calmer now.

"Nareth?", I sat up, "enjoyable walk?"

She moved the room and sat on the divan next to me.

"As it happens...I came across Myrtil and Jimmy outside the theatre."

"oh?", I asked nervously.

"They are never hard to find. I have told them they are not to enter the laboratory. I have made it clear that, if they do, I will involve the authorities.

I nodded, "Was that wise?"

"There are places for orphans, where they more beneficial..."

"but..telling a child that they cannot go somewhere, well....."

"It was..rational, Beq. I merely suggested to them a real world threat, should they trespass. Would you have preferred I killed them?"

"A rhetorical question I presume?"

"No. It was my first instinct. Let's have no more talk of those infernal children."

"Yes Nareth, I think it would be better for us both."

"After I awoke, before I rose...something occurred to me, and I wished to bring it to your attention.", Nareth glanced at me.

"Mr. Wirefly and Miss McMillan..."


"Is it not true that they both knew that I had blessed you with the gift, and that you were dying, well before you actually did?"

I swallowed unsure of where this was going. "Yes"

"They knew, did they not, the jeopardy that you were in. Indeed, I met with them myself."

"They did Nareth"

"I had told them to leave me."

" is my question...", She turned slightly, to stare directly.

"They knew what was happening, and, more than this, I told him how I could be destroyed."

"you did?"

"And yet..", she paused, staring at me, I moved my gaze down to the floor. "Instead of even attempting a rescue...they fretted over your supposed violation of their trust. "Now. These are friends? It vexes me...truly.". I glanced back at Nareth her eyes looking deep into me and unable to meet her gaze settled to look around the room. "I told I might be destroyed, and that I *could* be destroyed. They did not even try. I was...surprised.", She laughed derisively, "He carries that bloody great sword about...", she snorted. "Perhaps it has some *other* function."

"What could they do? I would not wish for them to try to destroy you, they would have only perished in the act."

"No, Beq. I told them that it was not certain that they would perish, as it was, truly, not certain.". My emotions, as ever, betrayed me, I was torn between her lying nature and the presentation of the facts as they appeared. "None of this is certain. this not how moral beings behave, risking one's life to save the life...the soul...of a friend?".

"No,", I snapped, this is not true. they will save me. They will find a way, even now they will be seeking such."

"They have already walked away from at least one opportunity, Mistress.". I felt the anger rising in me, no doubt Nareth could feel it too and was keen to exploit it. "More than one, in truth.", Nareth's gaze never wavered, those dark eyes boring into me.

"Stop it! I can see what you are trying to do."

"And what would that be? What...exactly..*would* that be?"

"You wish to destroy the ghost, the grip that I have", her face remained impassive at my accusation.

"I would have you see the truth, Mistress. It seems to be the thing you value. You gave your life to save them, yes?"

"the truth."




"yes alright yes"

"I offered them each the opportunity to exchange the favour. Clearly, plainly and they turned away. They let me have you. I find this...remarkable.

"No! I can't believe, they , they wouldn't."

"Mistress...I gave Orchid the option of spending one night and one day with me, in exchange for your freedom. She said no. I told her man he might vanguish me by decapitaion or a stake...He wielded nothing. Ergo..", Nareth rose as tears welled up in my eyes and I dropped my face to my hands.

"The truth, Mistress. I will lie, if it pleases you better.", Nareth looked down at me, no trace of a smile upon her lips.

"I would not have you lie, I would not have half truths either.", I retorted, blinking away my tears.

"I have not offered half truths. I see no point, at this time.", Nareth opened her casket.

"You told them how to destroy you. But did you tell them that would save me? Would it save me?"

"I will rest for a time...It might have, yes. I am not indestructable. Not this vessel. We will talk after I have rested."

"You did not answer the questions! arrghh", I snarled with frustration and anger.

"Which question, Mistress?", I threw the nearest thing to hand at the casket, Nareth watched as the book struck the stone coffin and fell to the floor.

"Did you tell them that killing you would save me?"

"Yes.", I balled my fists and looked away at this. If true then she was right. After a short pause she continued, "Well, I'm quite certain that it was a logical conclusion, at the very least. It was plain that you *could* be freed.", with this she slipped into the casket and lay staring at the ceiling. "Ask them, if you wish.".

"Logical? To kill the only one who knows the answers? I think you misjudge them".

"Perhaps I do. Animal logic often escapes me.", Nareth closed her eyes.

"Sleep Nareth, I need time".

"Yes, Mistress."