October 1, 2010

Artwork by K. Sage Steadman

The elevator was more than spacious, but the prevailing mood made it feel small and confining. I was happy to be away from the freak show of blood, sex and fangs of Club Azure but still terrified.

I couldn't believe I'd once envied people who went there. Part of me wanted to reassure Anna that none of what I saw while trying to avoid seeing anything would be a temptation for me, but nothing about our new situation felt casual enough to talk. That I was calm and quiet instead of crying and trying to run away felt like a bit of a miracle and I assumed must have been an effect of the venom.

The elevator doors slid open and we stepped out into a perfectly foyer with tall walls and marble floors. Mirrors lined the walls floor to ceiling on either side of us sending our reflections bouncing back and forth between them for eternity. Long hallways broke off to the left and right at the direct center of the mirror lined walls. The wall across held sliding elevator doors identical to the ones we had just come through.

The room was an exact mirror of itself in both directions and it was disorienting. Stand in it's center and spin around a few times and you'd have no idea which direction was which.

As the elevator door slid shut behind us, I couldn't help but feel like a mouse in a maze: small and helpless.

Seconds later a petite woman with long auburn hair glided into the room from the hallway to the left of us. She was barefoot and wore a casual summer dress. "Hello," she smiled innocently, and waved. "Dain, Anna, it's nice to see you both again."

Dain and Anna both looked annoyed by her and both offered a slight nod and shifted their weight from their left foot to their right. Everyone noticed their identical reaction, but as Dain turned to look at Anna, she turned away and averted her eyes to the floor.

I almost started crying again. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't tell him who she was. Standing there watching them, it was so obvious and I wanted to scream it out. 'Hello! She's your daughter! Look at her! It's so obvious!' But Anna had two guns and a rather sharp looking sword strapped to her. I really didn't want to upset her.

"Hello Eden. Hello Ashe," the sunny woman beamed. "It's very nice meeting both of you."

Ashe and I both smiled and nodded. How did she know who we were? And why was she so pleasant?  Did she not understand the seriousness of the situation? Had she never seen what was happening at the nightclub down stairs?

"My name is Camille," she offered.

I nodded again, just to acknowledge her. I half expected her to start sprouting off pointless information about the foyer, as though she were some kind of cheery tour guide. Who knew hell would have a tour guide? But she didn't. Instead, her smile faltered, her arms fell to her sides; her face became blank and her gaze distant, and then she looked directly at Dain. "Forgive my delay," she spoke in a monotone. "My second sought and audience with me."

Dain nodded.

Just as quickly as Camille's smile had faded, it returned, reanimating her to her former state of contented bliss. I couldn't help but wonder how much venom she had running through her. It must have been a lot.

"Jonas is here?" Dain sounded confused.

"Oh yes," she said in her singsong tone, which made her sound very much like a fairytale princess. "For some time now."

Dain glanced toward Anna again. She averted her eyes toward the floor once more looking beaten and worried.

"What just happened?" I whispered to Ashe.

"Argus speaks through Camille," Dain offered.

That no one other than myself found this concept terrifying, worried me even more. I chewed my bottom lip and moved a few inches closer to Ashe.

As we stood in painful silence, waiting for who knows what to happen next, I glanced nervously around the room. Ashe watched Anna, Anna watched the floor, Dain watched the doors across from us, and Camille watched all of us, ever smiling and gently swaying, I was sure at any moment she was going to start spinning or dancing or break into song.

A moment later the doors across from us slid open. After the singsong human intercom I had no idea what to expect. And after what I'd seen at Club Azure I really shouldn't have been surprised by the early nineties vampire rock star stereotype that walked out. He was tall, with long sun bleached blond hair. He was gorgeous, commanding and exuded sex appeal and classic bad boy danger. It was oddly intoxicating and somewhere in my psyche it was also hilarious. I might have laughed if not for the impending sense of doom I couldn't quite seem to shake.

"Anna," he said looking relieved to see her as he took long strides toward her.

"Jonas," she said, her tone curt as she stepped toward him.

She looked taken aback as he scooped her up into his arms and hugged her. "I have missed you," he breathed as he set her down and kissed her.

"Have you?" she asked, her tone doubtful. "There's someone I would like you to meet," she said extending her hand toward Ashe.

Ashe gave me a reassuring nod as he let go of my hand. It took about a half a second for panic to set in, and Dain offered his hand to me. I wondered briefly what panic smelled like as I took hold of his hand, and stepped close to him, standing half behind him.

"This is," she hesitated, glancing briefly toward Dain. "This is my son - or rather," she sighed. "Our son. He is... He was a gift. From Meline."

Dain had huffed as she called Ashe her son, but his entire being had tensed as she said the name Meline.

"You give her too much credit," Ashe said.

Jonas extended his hand to Ashe, his eye catching the locket at his chest. He eyed it for a moment then turned to her. "David has... kept me informed," he sighed. "I am sorry I haven't been able to be what you needed me to be. I hope you will be able to forgive me one day."

"Will you accept my exchange?" she said.

Jonas eyed her for a moment, then Dain, then Ashe. He shook his head then said, "I will."

"Then, all is forgiven," Anna smiled, with tears in her eyes.

Ashe hung his head.

"You see Jonas," came a smooth voice from the elevator behind them. "You're worries were unfounded."

I had been so engrossed in what was happening right in front of me I hadn't even realized that the doors had closed and opened again.

There was little that made the man who stepped off the elevator unique. He was barefoot like Camille, wearing blue jeans and a grey sweater. He had dark brown hair and deep blue eyes, which was the most unique thing about him.

Anna gasped when she saw him. The color drained from her face as she pushed and stumbled past Ashe and Jonas to get a better look at the newest arrival to our bizarre little soirée.

"Oh my God," I heard Ashe say softly.

A full range of emotions danced across Anna's face as she took him in. She eventually settled on anger, quite obviously suppressing tears. "You lying bastard," she snarled.

In one deft motion she lifted her hand and lunged forward in an effort to strike him but Jonas moved faster. With graceful fluidity he spun between them taking hold of her arms and effectively restraining her.

Jonas's response was immediate. A reaction without thought to protect the 'lying bastard." Though by the look on his face it was clear his reaction had been more for her protection than that of the unassuming stranger.

"It's alright Jonas," the stranger said calmly. "Let her go."

Reluctantly, Jonas released his hold on Anna who didn't hesitate even a second before continuing her initial motion forward and slapping the lying bastard hard across the face.

"Anna!" Jonas growled.

The stranger rubbed his hand over his cheek.

Ashe stepped forward, grabbed her around her waist and hauled her out of swinging range. "Mother, stop this," he said fiercely.

"Don't pretend that hurt you," Anna scowled at the stranger.

"It did hurt me," he said sincerely. "I expected you to be angry with me, but I thought you would at least remember who left who."

In odd synchronization, both Jonas and Dain's mouths dropped open in shock.

"Have our lives been nothing more than a game to you?" she cried.

"Anna," the stranger's tone condescended.

"I know your laws," she said. "I know your lies. I won't play this game with you Argus." She said each word with careful emphasis, twisting the last - his name - as though it were an insult.

"I don't appreciate your insinuation," he looked suddenly fierce. "Or your tone." He looked to Dain for a moment, and then to Jonas.

"Mind your manners, Anna," Jonas said firmly.

Anna looked at him for a moment, then nodded, slowly relaxing in Ashe's arms. "I'm sorry, father," she said softly.

Dain scoffed and shook his head.

Argus looked amused by Dain's reaction. "Now if you would be so kind," he said as he took a step towards Anna. "Tell my first who you are."

Anna stared at Argus for a long moment, then turned toward Dain. She calmed herself with a deep breath and said, "I am one of two, a twin," she said. "And the eldest daughter of the woman you knew as Elizabeth Greiling."

Dain glared at Jonas, and shook his head, disgusted. "Yes," Dain said, brusque. "I saw you once as a child."

"I remember," she said. "It was just before Jonas came into our lives. Meline thought it was Iona coming to visit. We didn't know who you were, didn't understand, we cried."

Dain was eyeing Daggers at Jonas, who calmly looked back at Dain. "A replacement for Nespa?" Dain accused.

"How dare you?" Jonas said, defensive.

"Stop," Anna demanded. "Meline and I were born immortal. I was born October thirty-first, nineteen twenty. Meline was born the next day, on November first."

"It's... not possible," Dain said.

Argus scoffed. "Anna and her sister Meline were conceived despite incalculable odds," Argus said crossing to Anna, and eyeing her with what could have been admiration. "She is the first of her kind, and her son," he turned to Ashe, "Is the first of his kind. We are at the dawn of a new age," he said. "We must be prudent and mindful. It would be irresponsible to continue to overlook the situation and this phenomenon."

I'd almost forgotten about Camille until she laughed softly behind him. Why was she laughing? There was absolutely nothing funny about what was happening. It was creepy. She was creepy.

Dain let go of my hand and crossed to Anna.

I immediately stuck my hand out to Ashe. He suppressed a smile as he stepped toward me and took my hand in his.

Dain looked intently at Anna, examining every feature, every likeness. He brought his hand up to as if to brush her hair away and without touching her carefully traced the line of her face. "The things we do not say," he sighed.

"Yes," Anna nodded as tears wet her cheeks.

Dain pulled her into his arms and held her tight. Anna returned his affections. Holding tightly to him, she closed her eyes and rested her head on his chest.

"Daughter," he sighed.


Chapter 40 - The Tangled Web Unweaves

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart