July 31, 2010

Artwork by Ana M Berry

Kevin attended to the careful replacement of the remains of Anna's long dead relations while Anna set the scene around the rest of the camp.

She was washing the amulet in a large bowl of water, fascinated by how, with her immortal vision, the water turned a deep blue when the amulet was submerged within it.

"Alt dette postyr over en værdiløs nipsting," said a soft voice from behind her.

Anna turned to see the woman behind the voice. By mortal comparison, they could have been the same age. She was petite with long blond hair and warm brown eyes. She wore a blue gown, silk over chiffon, which struck Anna as slightly odd this far from anything civilized.

"My Danish is terrible," Anna sighed as she stood and stepped toward the woman, who watched her with great fascination. "Det er ikke den amulet jeg kæmpe for," Anna replied.

"Then why are you here?" the woman asked.

Anna unconsciously reached her hand to grasp her locket. Her hands met nothing. She lifted the amulet in her other hand and rubbed her thumb across the blue stone. "I'm looking for someone," she sighed. "I'm looking for him, the man who commissioned this amulet."

The woman scoffed. "And so you came looking for the place his heart dwells for all time," she said.

"Yes."

"And then you dug it up," she snarled.

"No," Anna said firmly. "Kevin and I weren't even here. Though if Houser hadn't I never would have made the connection."

The woman eyed Anna then slowly started circling around her, looking her over, sizing her up perhaps. "You were injured."

"It was a clean wound, it's healing well, and the blood will be useful later when it's time to clean the scene."

The woman nodded. "Why have you come looking for him?"

Anna shook her head "He..." she took a sharp breath in. "He is family," she said.

The woman eyed her for another long moment. "From which line?"

Anna shook her head, contemplating how to answer.

"It's a simple question," the woman said, stern. "Each line knows their origins and were given clues to find this place. So I ask you again... which line?"

"It's not a simple question," Anna said. "I am not a descendant of the line of lineage."

The woman's face turned from accusation to disgust as she glared. "Then our conversation has reached its end. You have Kevin's trust, and you managed to contain the situation here. If you return the amulet now, walk away and forget you ever saw me or this place maybe, just maybe, I'll let you live." She held her hand out for the amulet.

"Return the amulet." Anna repeated softly as she ran her thumb over its engraved edge. "Who are you?" she asked as she sidestepped around the woman in the blue dress with blond hair and soft brown eyes. "Who are you to him?"

The woman withdrew her hand. "I am no one," she said, her expression turning to stone.

"It's a dangerous question," Anna offered a small laugh. "With a very dangerous answer. But it's one I suspect, just on a hunch, or maybe... it's in the color of your eyes and how you purse your lips that we might answer the same way."

"Not possible," the woman shook her head.

"I am his daughter," Anna said. "My name is Anna."

The woman scowled disgusted and angry. "Just because he changed you, does not make him your father."

"I've never been mortal," Anna said. "My mother's very best friend in the whole wide world is a descendant in the line of lineage, Claudia's line. In Nineteen-Nineteen the one sworn to watch over them was compromised and captured by mortals. My mother helped him escape and they became lovers for a brief time. My twin sister and I were the result."

"I don't believe you," the woman said.

"My mother sent him away long before we were born and because of his capture he no longer makes himself known to the line. He doesn't know about us," Anna said. "This was the only way to find him. We saw him once. We were almost four. You have the same eyes."

"I'll kill you for your lies," the woman said.

"Not that you don't have it in you, but I don't think you will." Anna held the amulet out to her, but the woman didn't move. "It's yours isn't it?" Anna pressed. "Take it."

The woman slowly and cautiously reached for the amulet. A second later and before Anna had time to react, the woman grabbed her hand, spun her around and was holding a blade at her throat.

"Oh," Anna said, surprised. "Where were you hiding the knife?"

"It's your knife," The woman said, curt.

"You're really good," Anna said.

"Shut up," the woman said. "I know you are one of the false King's Elite. One of his assassins."

"I'm not," Anna sighed. "I'm too young to exist under his law. The locket I wear offers me the appearance of protection."

"But it was you that killed Randolf and Yorick, at Cambridge," the woman hissed. "You killed them for your king."

"No," Anna said. "I was protecting my familiar. I lured them with Argus's symbol."

"Randolf was my husband," she said.

"I'm... I'm sorry," Anna said, the sting of hot tears against her cheeks.

The woman shifted her weight, took hold of the amulet and shoved Anna toward the ground.

Anna didn't fight, and instead fell to the ground, and sat. "An eye for an eye," Anna cried softly. "I understand."

"What? What are you talking about?" the woman said.

"I killed your love, so you killed mine."

The woman eyed Anna for a long moment.

"I don't know what you're talking about," the woman said. "After Randolf and Yorick were killed the others in Cambridge removed their traces and left within weeks."

Anna shuddered. She would never accept that Gus's death had been an accident, but if the rogues had not killed him, it severely narrowed the possibilities of who it might have been. She breathed back her tears and wiped the wet from her face on the back of her hands.

"If you're chummy enough to have the protection of the Elite, then why not find him through them?"

"He won't see me. And if he would, he wouldn't tell me. Anyone who has ever given me information about him has broken a promise in order to do so. I don't even know his name. I am alone in the world. I suppose that's really why I came here."

"If you truly are alone, then no one will miss you if you disappear will they?"

"There is a difference between alone and unobserved. I am a born immortal. There are only two like me in the world. I am watched. I don't know if I'll be missed but Argus does tend to make his appearance known when I fuck things up."

"Do not say his name," the woman hissed.

"Mistress," Kevin said as he came out of the tent, bowing as he neared her. He was holding Johan's knife covered in Anna's blood and dirt.

"Be careful with that," the woman instructed.

"Yes mistress," Kevin said.

She eyed Anna for a long moment then signaled something to Kevin using her hands. They carried on a short conversation without sound, reading each other's lips. After a minute Kevin nodded then hurried off toward the tents.

A long moment passed as Anna sat on the ground, the woman watching her from a few feet away. "You've had at least three ample opportunities to escape but you've taken none of them," the woman said.

"Where would I go?" Anna shrugged.

"What became of your mother?" the woman asked.

"She didn't take well to the change, kept trying to kill herself. So I took my sisters and I left. Eventually I think she succeeded."

"Sisters?" the woman raised her brow.

"I have a mortal half sister as well. I left her to be raised by my mother's best friend. I haven't seen her in more than thirty years."

"And your twin?"

Anna shook her head and sighed heavily. "I used to work as a hired gun. Meli took up with a man I disapproved of, a man that a lot of other people disapproved of as well, so when a price came up on his head, I took it. I thought I was saving her. In her eyes I betrayed her. She disowned me; shut me out of her life completely. Maybe one day she'll forgive me."

"Her name is Meli?" the woman asked with a curious and doubtful tone.

"Meline."

"My grandmother's name," it was almost a question.

"What?" Anna's mind raced. It didn't make any sense. "My mother wasn't expecting twins. She told us that the doctor who helped deliver us suggested the name. It doesn't exactly feel like a coincidence though does it? Maybe she thought they might find each other one day. After she was gone..." It still didn't make any sense to Anna.

The woman contemplated for a moment then took two steps toward Anna and took a seat on the ground. "My name is Danay," she said. "I am the youngest daughter," she smiled. "Or at least I was. Ten years after his change it was quite obvious that our father hadn't aged and so he left us. But he told us that even though we would not see him he would continue to watch over us.

"I married while he was away, to a man with good social standing, and a violent streak. The beatings started soon after we were married. I prayed every night that my father would return and would save me from him. I used the amulet to call him just as he had shown us, but he never came.

"I was seven months pregnant the very last time my husband beat me. His rage was so intense he thought that time he might have actually killed me so he hauled me out to the woods and left me for dead. Adelaide found me. She gave me this life. She told me how my father had changed her; how she had cheated death, and told me that unlike him, if I followed her, she would never leave me. I have been her companion, and in many ways, a prisoner, ever since."

"A prisoner?" Anna scoffed. "How much of a prisoner could you be if you live free from the rule of...?" Anna wasn't sure what to say if not his name.

"Freedom is an illusion," Danay said. "You are ruled by a god who calls himself a king, I am ruled by lunatics who see themselves as gods. Even my marriage to Randolf was an arranged one. You did me a favor by killing him."

"If the death of my love was not payback for Randolf and Yorick, then the next logical answer, leads inevitably back to well... possibly our father, but even at his hands the order most likely came the one who calls himself our king."

"Our father?" Danay looked confused.

"The M.O. is similar to the deaths of some of the mortals who captured him."

"Adelaide used to tell me that he was killed during the immortal holocaust. I never believed her."

"No," Anna shook her head. "In fact, it's almost guaranteed that he is one of the Elite."

Danay smiled, as if she were proud, then she took hold of the hem of her dress, and crawled on her knees over to Anna and sat down next to her. "You must find him, you must warn him, you must warn Argus."

"What?" Anna asked, shocked. "What are you talking about?"

"War is coming," Danay said. "The return to immortal rule on earth that begins with overthrowing the king, and ends with the enslavement and slow extinction of all of humanity."

"Yes, I recall Randolf mentioning something similar to that." Anna shook her head. "So it would seem our choices are evil dictator or-"

"Insane evil dictators." Danay finished for her.

"Okay," Anna said. "Well, now that I have a last name-"

"His first name is Dain," Danay offered, then handed Anna the amulet. "If you take this-"

"He won't answer its call anymore."

"He never really did," Danay sighed, "But if you find him you can tell him that I live on, that I-"

"Come with me," Anna said taking hold of Danay's hand. "Escape your prison and we can find him together."

"I can't," Danay said, sad but calm. "I stand by her side. She trusts me more than anyone else. I am more valuable to this cause if I remain where I am, appearing ever faithful to her."

Anna nodded. "How much time do we have?"

Kevin returned holding Anna's locket in his hand. Danay took it from him turning it over in her hand then she handed it to Anna. "We always have time," she said.
 

 

Chapter 31 - The Other Side

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart