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, because...you 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
No. 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..."
"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 McMillan...you 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
"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."
4 years ago