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?"
"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 problem...it 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.."
"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.
"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".
"No..in 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 can..be 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."
"So...here 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."
"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 them...how 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. Regardless....is 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?"
"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".
5 years ago