December 31, 2010
Artwork by Lauren T. Hart
he dull scrap of metal across stone, followed by a series of sturdy clanks against metal sounded beyond the one of the fire doors in an offshoot corridor at the far side of the room.
"Wait here," Dain ordered.
He and Argus crossed the room to the wide corridor opposite. Moments later the steal door blocking the corridor opened revealing a large security gate behind it, Lucas, Patrice and Adelaide behind that.
"Well done Danay," Adelaide said, her eyes set firmly on Dain. "You've done your mother proud."
Dain scoffed and looked away.
Adelaide looked pleased as she turned her attention to Danay. "Too bad you didn't have sense enough not to get yourself caught along with the other mice. After the display you made earlier today, I can't help but wonder if you're even worth freeing. Was your father able to sway you with his poor excuses?"
Danay was standing behind Anna. She let out a long slow breath, her eyes on the ground, her head tilted toward Kevin. She stepped forward and yanked Anna's guns free from their holsters. Kevin raised his swords to defend.
Anna reached for her blade. Galen stopped her. His hand on her shoulder he pulled her toward him shaking his head ever so slightly.
"Move," Danay yelled at Argus and Dain. "Over there." She motioned with her guns.
Dain scowled and shook his head. "Not my daughter," he said, before slowly stepping away. Argus followed his lead.
"I know who Argus is." Danay said.
"Traitor!" Anna screamed.
"No," Galen said, pulling her closer to him, his arm round her shoulders. "No emotion."
"It would seem that's becoming your new nickname, Adelaide laughed. "Traitor... traitor," she sounded the word out slowly. "Forræder," she said in their native tongue.
Danay smiled. "They've been trying to imply that the blonde over there is Argus. But he's not. He is however one of Argus's most trusted Elite and bodyguard to his wife."
"That?" Adelaide grimaced as she eyed Anna. "She's not much to look at."
"She's immortal born," Danay said. "Like he is. I've seen him. We were all together before we split up. They call him Hiro, he's Asian."
"He could be anywhere by now," Adelaide scowled.
"Without her? Without his most trusted?" Danay countered.
Adelaide sighed. "You are a fool, Danay. A man who commits genocide against his own kind has no loyalties." She turned as if to leave.
"Wait," Danay called. "There's more. The bullets in these guns have a poison in them that turn immortals into mortals. It's why they fear them."
Adelaide eyed the room, considering. "Bevise det," she said coolly.
Danay considered the room for a minute, then turned and fired through the gate hitting Patrice in the forearm.
"You bitch!" Patrice screamed. "You lying traitor bitch!" She clutched her arm and tried to suck the poison out of the wound as she cowered in the hallway."
"Just making room at the top," Danay said. "Now let us out."
Adelaide eyed Danay for a long moment, keeping Patrice in her sights the entire time. "I'll take you. Not your toy," Adelaide scowled at Kevin.
Danay turned the gun on Kevin and fired. He brought his blades up in defense. He twisted as the bullet struck and fell to the ground, his blades uselessly gripped in his hands he rolled onto his side, moaning. "I did everything for you!" he growled. His blades clattered onto the hard floor and he clutched his chest as blood seeped through his fingers.
Anna and Galen ran to his side. Galen tearing a piece of fabric from his jacket and pressed it to Kevin's chest.
Adelaide smiled and unlocked the door, releasing Danay. "Finish her," she said to Danay.
Danay held the gun against Patrice's head and pulled the trigger. Patrice fell slack on the floor.
"Do you smell that?" Lucas sounded alarmed.
"You free her for a small amount of poison?" Argus said stepping forward. "I can do better than that. I can give you Argus. It's not the man Danay thinks it is. Hiro is just one of his Elite. I can not only tell you who he is, I can tell you exactly where he is."
"Can you?" Adelaide eyed him, unimpressed. "And exactly who might you be? One of his Elite?"
"No," he smiled. "I am he. I am Argus."
"You take me for a fool," Adelaide huffed.
Adelaide looked amused. "It doesn't really matter who you are. I'll know your secrets soon enough. You stand with the Elite and you will die with the Elite as I bleed them all dry and learn their secrets one by one, making all that is theirs, all that is yours, mine." She turned then and they started down the corridor.
"Not you," Argus called after her. "Viktor."
Adelaide turned back.
"Viktor is clairsanguineus," Argus said. "He reads blood. Far beyond what most others are capable of, even more so with you. You tricked Viktor, trapped him, and now you're keeping him a prisoner. He gives you information in exchange for sustenance."
"How do you?" Adelaide glared at him, her eyes darting quickly toward Lucas, then to Danay.
"Surrender now and I will spare your lives." Argus said.
"Kill him," Adelaide ordered.
"You can shoot every bullet you have," Argus said. "I'm immune to its effects."
Adelaide took the gun from Danay and pointed it at Argus.
"Don't do it," Danay said. "True or not it's a waste of bullets. There's less than half a dozen rounds left in each gun."
Adelaide smirked then turned and paced quickly down the hallway with Lucas and Danay at her side.
Chapter 53 - Forever Ever After
"None of you seem terribly upset about what just happened," Anna said, once she was sure Adelaide was out of earshot. "I assume you have a plan?"
"Of course I do," Argus held a hand out to help her.
"Nice sell," Galen said as he helped Kevin to his feet.
"You too," Kevin said.
"What?" Anna ripped Kevin's shirt exposing the left side of his chest.
"Anna it's fine," Kevin reassured. "I'm not as fragile as I used to be." He lifted his sword and showed her the bullet lodged in the base of the shaft, and the blood at its tip. "Saved my life," he kissed the sword then tossed it across the room. "When did you know?" he asked Galen.
"Only about a second after you did," Galen said.
"But... How?" Kevin shook his head then turned to Argus. "Wait. Are you really him?"
"Mmm," Argus answered, his thoughts elsewhere.
"This was easier when Meline was relaying information to me," Anna said. "Do you know what's happened to her?"
He glanced quickly to Dain, and then Anna. "My fault," he sighed. "She's preoccupied with other things at the moment. It's easier to focus on one mistake at a time," he glanced around the room, his thoughts still elsewhere. "Right now... It's this way," he said, taking hold of Anna's hand, and pulling her toward the corridor they'd found Camille's blood in.
"There's no way out over here," Anna said.
"We're not looking for a way out," Argus said. "We're here to save Viktor."
They loosed their vision as they made their way through the dark and windowless hallway. They had to break through two doors and a wall to reach Viktor. They finally found him in complete darkness, huddled naked in the corner, crying. Blood smeared on his hands and face. He was completely emaciated, his hair a sparse tangle, unkempt and crudely cut out of convenience. Dain immediately pulled off his coat and covered him with it.
"Knew... this day... would come," Viktor cried, keeping his face turned away. His voice was week and slurred. "Knew it was this day... when they gave me her." He motioned toward Camille's corpse, lying neatly in the corner, her arms crossed over her chest. "I'm ready," he said. "I'm ready to die."
"They've taken his eyes," Galen said. "And his teeth."
"Is he too far gone?" Dain asked.
"I didn't tell her... what I saw." Viktor said. "I knew... didn't tell her... anything. Knew you'd come... ready to die."
"Talk to him," Argus said.
"Viktor," Dain said. "My name is Dain. Do you know who I am? Do you remember me?"
Viktor nodded trembling.
"I was Dain Fonnesbech when we met. When you turned me. I am Dain DelaCrosse now."
"DelaCrosse," Viktor repeated.
"Yes. I was married to Katarina," Dain said. "You must remember Katarina."
"Katarina," he mumbled then motioned toward Camille. "I... couldn't save her."
"It's alright," Dain said. "You did the best you could."
"His mind is scattered, but his thoughts are strong. If we can heal his body I believe his mind will recover."
"I'm sure I can find a suitable donor," Galen said.
"Bring him," Argus said.
Viktor whimpered as Dain scooped him up in his arms.
"Wait," Argus said.
There was a loud explosion from a nearby room above them.
"That way," Argus pointed in the direction of the sound.
There was a loud crashing thud as they neared the room Argus was leading them to. Argus smiled at Anna's worried, yet trusting expression as he wrenched open the door.
The crashing thud had been the sound of a refrigerator as it fell through the floor above and landed on hard stone below. The explosion had been from the grenades positioned underneath the overturned fridge.
Dain stepped up onto the fridge and passed Viktor through the hole to a waiting Jonas and Hiro then he turned and reached his hand out for Anna. "You're next," he said.
Eden was laying in the fetal position on the couch with her hands clamped over her ears watching the world through reflective eyes. Meline was on the phone at the opposite end of the room, chewing on her bottom lip and pacing.
"There's no blood or anything, so that's a good sign right?" Meline tried to sound hopeful, but knew she was failing to keep the anxiety out of her voice.
"If she were mortal, yes." David said. "But immortals don't work quite the same way. It's the same reason you don't appear to have a menstrual cycle. Just try to keep her calm and I'll be there as soon as I can.
"Thank you David," Meline folded her phone shut. "He's on his way Eden. Don't worry. He's very smart."
Eden closed her eyes and curled tighter into herself.
Anna had never seen Jonas so furious, as he gingerly held the mutilated shell of Viktor Ingrid, who was crying again and muttering. "Let me die. Please. I beg of you."
"I've arranged for transport roughly twenty miles south of here," Argus said to Galen. "Ashe, if you could arrange to have Lewis and the others meet you there."
Ashe nodded and grabbed his radio. "Five, this is two."
"Yeah," Lewis grumbled. "Twenty miles south of your position. I got it. Fuck!" He started into a cursing tirade before his communication ended.
Ashe met Anna's eyes.
"I'll leave him be," Argus pacified her concerns as she turned her gaze toward him.
"Thank you," Anna said.
"Lady Della, Rubi Gayle and Joshua Evans will be meeting you at the transport site with a donor," Argus informed. "Liz, and Jonas you're with Galen and Ashe."
"No," Jonas said carefully handing Viktor over to Galen. "I'm here until this is over."
"Me too," Elizabeth chimed in.
"Where is she?" Jonas growled. "Where is she, right now?"
"I know the futility of revenge," Hiro said. "I'll go."
Argus conceded with a hesitant nod. "We'll be right behind," he said as Galen Ashe and Hiro started out the door. "This way," he directed those that remained.
Jonas, Elizabeth, Dain, Anna and Kevin followed Argus in the opposite direction toward the back of the house.
Silence overtook them one my one as they stumbled into the room just inside the back door where they found Lucas, Adelaide and Danay.
Lucas was transitioning back to mortality as he bled to death, huddled against the far wall.
Adelaide had been run through and pinned to the floor with her own sword. Her head a mess of blood and hair sat several feet away.
Danay stood halfway between Lucas and Adelaide's body. Her fingers loosely clutched around Lucas's sword, her back to the room's shocked newcomers.
"Daughter," Dain said.
"I didn't shoot Lucas." Danay turned and motioned to a gun on the floor, the second gun was still securely in her waistband. "Adelaide did. He's still alive, but I doubt he'll tell us where Viktor is."
"We have Viktor," Argus informed. "Adelaide was keeping him prisoner in another part of the basement."
"Prisoner," Danay repeated the word as though trying to grasp its meaning, while relating to it at the same time.
Kevin crossed to Lucas, and knelt down next to him. He turned and gave his assessment of Lucas's injuries with a shake of his head. Danay looked to Dain who offered her a single nod. She turned back to Kevin and did the same. Kevin reached forward and broke Lucas's neck. Then he crossed to Danay and took hold of her hand.
Jonas stepped forward, his expression pained. "I'm so sorry Danay."
Danay turned and met his look with her own, as the two of them came to a silent agreement. Danay nodded.
"I wonder Jonas, if you might like to spread the word." Argus said.
"Absolutely," Jonas nodded.
"We'll go with you," Kevin answered for himself and Danay.
"I'll go as well," Dain said.
"Me too," Elizabeth added.
As was customary in an immortal war, they collected the heads of Lucas, Adelaide and Patrice and mounted them on high poles, then marched them back into the city.
The streets were littered with corpses. The ground was thick with blood. The fire loomed and tormented, leaping to ensnare and devour entire buildings, trees and grass, mindless vampires and impetuous immortals.
Sides had begun to blur out of a necessity to escape the fires and to defend against the vampires. Those who fought for the rogues were quick to surrender when they saw that their leaders had been defeated, and one by one were returned to mortality. Save for a few, hand picked by Argus and deemed worthy of the gift of immortality.
Viktor's donor had been a newly turned immortal. He was twenty-six, loved graphic novels, video games, and fish and chips. He had been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, six months before he met Jasmine, a nurse and recruiter for the united front of free immortals. Viktor's own eyes had been brown, his new ones were hazel, his new teeth were straighter, the bottom row still held in line with a metal retainer glued to the back of his lower incisors, which Viktor found rather amusing. That he recovered so quickly physically did a disservice to the emotional trauma he had experienced over the past four hundred years. Argus left him in Juno's care where he knew he would find peace of mind in the tranquility of life among the Hesperides.
Facing the physical and emotional trauma of the transition into immortality is agony. Combined with the turmoil of war it can easily become an unrelenting nightmare in your own personal hell, as war requires emotions to be put on hold. Once they were safe from the fray, they each came to terms with their inner demons in their own ways.
Wendy experienced the transition as if she'd just been informed that her soul mate had a terminal disease, and began plotting her own death. Her torment was only alleviated when Argus assured her that Taylor would be given immortality as well.
Vaughn internalized, shutting himself off to everyone and locked himself in his room. One night he told Meline that being a familiar had made him something. Had made him uncommon among men. Immortality on the other hand had taken that from him. He left soon after, leaving Eden a note that simply said, "I'm sorry."
Lewis had several long talks with David, Judy and Ashe as he struggled through his transition. His biggest hurdle being the number of people who believed he should stay immortal. Deciding it was time to tell them the truth, he had Heather, Josh and Kayla flown out to meet him. They met at the Cambridge house. They scoffed, rolled their eyes and in the end began to believe that Lewis had gone completely mad as he told them the whole unbelievable story. The eyes and teeth were harder for them to dismiss. Ultimately, they too believed that he should stay immortal. Kayla and Josh spent the summer with their father and grandparents, learning about the immortal world and what it meant to be a familiar. Heather said she wasn't ready for a life quite so extraordinary then went on to write and publish vampire romance novels.
Eden's childhood had been a loveless hell. Being unloved was nothing compared to losing something she loved. She took some solace in sound of her unborn child's heartbeat. Was crushed by Vaughn's abandonment. She tried to find peace in her renewed friendship with Ashe, and in each ultrasound that suggested her pregnancy was progressing normally. But it wasn't until she saw herself reflected in her newborn daughter's soft blue eyes, and ran her fingers through her downy white hair - her daughter's only aberrancy - that she came to terms with her immortality.
February 19, 2010
...Every story must have a beginning and so I will start mine as it was presented to me, with The Line of Lineage. For my part I hope that my accounts will do justice to the lives, loves and losses for those whom I write.
I cannot say what the future will bring, but I have committed myself to documenting it in order to pass on the important stories of our family, for future generations, but especially for my daughter the next and perhaps most unique in the line of lineage, conceived in mortality and born immortal. I have many hopes, and dreams and a heart overflowing with love for her. I named her Iona. Not only to honor the memory of a remarkable woman but because I believe that there is where her story truly begins.
From the journals of Eden Page Finley:
Anna watched Danay walking with Dain in Hiro's mid-morning garden through the window in her bedroom as she walked Elias to sleep. Danay wore the blue line of lineage amulet around her neck and their conversation looked happy and Danay smiled up at her father as he took hold of her hand. Anna smiled along with her. Then she kissed Elias on the top of his head and laid him gently down into his crib.
"It's rude to stand in doorways," she whispered softly to Argus who was leaning against the door frame, watching her.
"Forgive me," he whispered back. "I was lost in my thoughts."
"Good thoughts I hope."
"I was thinking about us, about the future." He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. "I look forward to spending forever with you."
"Looking forward into forever, Gus. You've changed."
"It's been some time since I've had something good to look forward to," he smiled. "You called me Gus," he mused. "Can I take that as a sign that you've finally forgiven me?"
Anna smiled as she scowled.
Gus kissed her furrowed brow. "I love you, Anna," he whispered.
"And I, you," she replied.
(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart