A Dark Night's Melody: Second Stanza
Elisabeth oriented herself carefully to follow the trail; just as she was about to race after the Sabbat pack, the mortal authorities--in the form of a highway patrol car--once again proved their stunning knack for showing up just when you didn't want them around.
The officer must have fancied himself some kind of modern-day Lancelot, his solicitous manner so annoying that she wanted to cave his head in. Especially considering that his idiotic presence kept her from hunting down the Sabbat and retrieving Zoisite. She knew what the Sabbat was like. With every passing minute, they could be doing virtually anything to him . . . and here she was, stuck with a damn mortal cop hanging around.
It took almost thirty minutes to get him to go away. Her driver--who was a ghoul--was unharmed; the car needed towing, and that's what kept the officer waiting around so long. Before he left, she skimmed the location of the nearest cemetery from his mind.
She took her driver's long dark duster, pulling it on over her velvet dress; the tow truck departed with the ghoul and the limo, and Elisabeth exploded into an impossible run from a standing start. Her speed was beyond belief; Celerity was one of her clan's primary powers, and in addition to her already-great prowess in that Discipline, she carried enchantment to increase it yet another level. Silver nails had been driven into the heels of her dainty feet until the points were embedded in bone; the flat, smooth head of each nail still dimpled the flesh, yet there was never any pain. Only that incredible speed.
The directions the cop had given her--all unknowingly--were accurate, taking her off the highway and down a quiet side road. Within minutes, she spotted the cemetery fence, tall pillars of granite with wrought-iron webs spun between them. The gate was locked, but she could see--and smell--the signs of the motorcycles' passage.
Les monstres . . . bringing him here. Oh, I will have their blood for this.
The gate's lock didn't stand a chance; she put one hand on the metal and pushed, and the lock snapped silently. Rows of small stones and crosses stood before her; the road led farther back, into a grove of trees. The place had that smell that she hated--the musty scent of earth, the sick-sweet odor of flowers left in tribute, the underlying tang of decaying corpses. Another scent touched her sensitive nose, and she narrowed her eyes suddenly; it was blood, but also . . .
Non. Mon Dieu, do not let it be so. Not that . . . not my innocent angel.
She cloaked herself in invisibility before racing silently down the road, her hair and the duster whipping behind her in the wind of her passage. It took only a few moments before she saw a light, heard sounds; she veered off into the treeline, anger boiling in her veins. Laughter and crude comments, accompanied by obscene grunts--that was what she heard. The seven motorcycles were scattered to either side of the path; she stepped carefully between them. Five sarcophagus-like marble crypts, each adorned with a large headstone and capped off by a heavy slab of stone, were arranged in a semicircle on the far side of the clearing; the crypts provided nice lounging room for the six Kindred who were watching the spectacle taking place in the middle of the open space. The electric lanterns placed on top of each headstone provided ample lighting to make every detail of the sickening scene blatantly obvious.
Zoisite was either unconscious or had no more strength left with which to fight. Stripped down to bare skin, braced between the two sweating, panting ghouls like the horizontal bar of a capital "H", he wasn't moving much--beyond the jolting that came from the depraved ghouls' efforts. He'd been beaten, bruises already showing along his side, and his arm just didn't look like it was hanging quite right. Bite marks showed along the soft inside surface of that arm, and she could see another wound on the side of his neck.
But he wasn't dead. She could smell the life still in him, over the scent of the blood and . . . other fluid that stippled his fair skin.
Sitting on the middle tomb, two women--one black-haired, the other platinum-blonde--were engaged in a half-naked embrace; the brunette was licking the other woman's breasts, while that one ran long nails down her partner's back and watched the brutal scene with a lazy smile on her face. A tattoo of a black rose marked the brunette's shoulder blade, and the blonde had an eerie, sharp-edged quality to her features. Probably a Toreador antitribu and a Tzimisce, if hints were any good.
Three of the other four Kindred were male; two were big, crude-looking bruiser types. Cookie-cutter Brujah antitribu, probably; the third male was a scrawny, skittish little creep who was giggling incessantly, his voice a thin, warbling screech. He kept picking and scratching at his arms, torso, and face, as if trying to rid himself of invisible insects. Malkavian antitribu, likely as not. The final member of the pack was a feral-looking woman with pointed ears, elongated nails, and eyes that glowed slightly in the reflection of the lights. Either Country or City Gangrel antitribu.
The ghoul who was clenching Zoisite's golden head in his dirty hands growled, starting to shudder. The platinum-blonde Tzimisce giggled, leaning forward, obviously eager to see a little more of the show.
Fury burned through Elisabeth. How dare they defile him.
She was moving, so fast that motion was a blur. Her first backhanded slap killed the ghoul who held Zoisite's head, caving in the brutish face and collapsing the skull in a bright spray of blood and grey matter. The body slumped backward, releasing the mortal, its final act uncompleted.
The second blow, a closefisted punch delivered with the same hand that had struck the other ghoul, drove into the dead center of the second ghoul's chest. The ribs broke like twigs as the sternum was smashed back to meet the spine, crushing lungs and heart. Blood gushed from the gaping mouth as the follow-through hurled the body backward, out of and away from Zoisite; Elisabeth's free arm caught him gently, lowered him to the ground. He was limp, unresponsive, but definitely still alive; she swept the duster from her shoulders and laid it over him before rising again to face the Kindred. She did not look back at him, or she might have seen the glazed emerald eyes open enough to see what was happening through the veil of bedraggled, spun-gold hair.
They were just starting to react, her speed having caught them off-guard. The feral woman hissed and leaped for her, clawing at her face. Elisabeth's hand closed around her neck at the same time that the other hand punched into her chest, just at the base of her throat; the opposing forces decapitated the Gangrel at once, and the enraged Toreador elder dropped the rapidly dissolving body.
The Malkavian, somewhat braver--or stupider--than most of his clan, skittered toward her, wielding a long, gleaming knife. She slapped it away, shattering his arm in the process, and held up her hands. Flame burst from them, wreathing her fingers; before the Malkavian could retreat, she caught him neatly between her palms in a maneuver that would have merely popped his ears if she hadn't used both her full strength and the power of the flame, decapitating him in a somewhat more spectacular fashion than the Gangrel.
The Brujah, unsurprisingly, leaped to the attack as well. Elisabeth took two steps and pulled the slab off the top of one of the crypts, breaking the bolts that held it in place; the steel casket beneath gleamed in the electric light. The slab was six feet long, four feet wide, and a good six inches thick; it probably weighed a quarter ton. She handled it like it was a sheet of cardboard.
She smashed the first Brujah with an overhand blow as though she were swatting an insect, the slab coming down on him with terrible force, crushing him down into the leaf-strewn earth. The second Brujah, seeing the fate of his comrade, turned tail and tried to run; she hurled the slab in a sidearmed throw, sending it skimming flat, parallel to the ground. It sliced him in half at the waist and continued on to chop a few young trees down before it lost its momentum.
The Tzimisce had shoved her paramour aside and now stood atop the crypt, her shape rippling and flowing into a ghastly monstrosity--the zulo, the Horrid Form. A beast eight feet tall, covered with sickly grey-green chitin that oozed a vile slime, its face deformed and hideous. It roared and swiped at Elisabeth with jagged black claws. She leaped back nimbly, then dodged close; she was simply too fast to avoid. Long, curving claws such as those the departed Gangrel had displayed suddenly extended from her fingertips; she used those claws to rip open the monster's chest, its armored hide no match for her strength. One hand plunged into the chest cavity even as it grappled her with its powerful arms, trying to crush her.
She wrenched its heart out with one jerk of her arm; the beast faltered and collapsed, dead on the spot. She dropped the heart atop its carcass and leaped across the clearing to seize the fleeing Toreador antitribu.
"You will go to the Bishop," she hissed at the dark-haired woman, her eyes burning into the other's frightened stare, implanting the commands. "You will inform him that if any other members of the Sabbat dare to interfere with me or my protege, I will destroy the sect in this city. My name is Elisabeth Maurier--he knows my reputation. And once you are done delivering the message, you will attack him with intent to kill."
The antitribu nodded dazedly, stumbling away as she was released. The moment she attacked the leader of the Sabbat in this city, she'd be destroyed; the thought was pleasing indeed.
Elisabeth returned to Zoisite's side; the young man was shaking violently, his eyes huge and stunned. He'd seen . . . probably too much. And he had endured too much. She lifted his unresisting body into her arms gently, wrapping him in the coat, gazing down at him with sorrow and the embers of anger in her eyes.
"Sleep, angel," she whispered. "Sleep. I will see to it that you are safe . . ."
Perhaps he wanted to resist, but her will was stronger than his; the long lashes fell softly against his cheeks, and he slept, beyond all pain and fear, as she began to run again.
She knew where she had to go. There was a hospital here in the city; an old friend of hers both worked and lived there. She just prayed her angel would not succumb to his injuries, to exposure, to shock . . .
The ride itself had seemed like Hell, what with the surreal sound of the motorcycle engines and the seemingly maniacal shouts of the bikers, the bitter cold of the night air made worse by the fast speeds, and the bone-jarring, damned uncomfortable position he was in being rather casually held in a steely embrace around his waist. For some reason, the brawny arm around him seemed a bit more chilled then he himself was, but he just couldn't be sure.
He endured it because he needed to. Of course, the longer the ride went on, the more he realized that this group knew what they were doing. That didn't bode well at all; it would take one hell of a slip of concentration or some major laxness to give him an opening to exploit.
When they stopped, he tossed his head upwards, flinging the tangled strands of his fine hair from his face. Twisting around to face forward, since the brute hanging onto him like he was a sack of potatoes had basically had him dangling over the side of the bike with his head facing behind them, he looked around to take stock of his current location. The large emerald eyes got just a bit wider in shock as he saw where they were. A cemetery?
Massive, forbidding, wrought-iron gates blocked their way, attached to a fortress-like stone wall. In the deep shadows of the springtime night, it looked far more sinister than was its usual wont in the light of day. He recognized the place, it being one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Hallowed ground for well over a century, it seemed as if it was used for other things in the dead of the night. As he watched, a lone figure unlocked the gates from the inside and began to open the way to the seven cyclists.
He took the opportunity to glance quickly around himself, taking in the details of the gang that had snagged him. Off to the side, a pair of females--one dark haired, the other one sporting pale hair--waited side by side on their sleek machines. Behind them was someone that seemed almost lupine in appearance, a woman that put him on edge with her vaguely bestial looks. To the other side were a motley crew of men. The one in the lead looked like some sort of punk bouncer, rather similar, in fact, to the brute that hung onto him. Behind him was one just the opposite, a small, nervous, giggling male that seemed to be far more interested in picking at himself than in waiting for the gates to open. Trailing the one with the nervous twitching was a guy that, despite his slightly filthy appearance, seemed to be the most normal out of the lot.
Suddenly the world exploded in pain as a ringing blow smacked him upside the head. "Stop twisting around, bitch-boy. You'll get to see everyone up close and very personal soon enough."
That comment seemed to send the entire troop into amused laughter, especially the thin giggling of the twitchy one. Hissing in a breath, Zoey clenched his eyes shut as he tried to will away the pain.
A feminine voice sounded, a sultry purr with a chilling tone to it. "This one ought to put on quite the show. He's just so pretty . . ."
Another female voice, this one with a faintly sharp sound to her sensuous tones. "I think you're just pleased that we snatched him away from that simpering bitch."
"And why not? Can't have the stuck-up, stinking Cammie have the prize, now can we?"
"Of course not."
That thin, reedy, giggling voice. "Blood and screams and sweat--the fire of passion, the passion of blood. The true way of unity is in the broken vessel."
Dear God, what have I gotten into? To his horror, he found out far too soon.
Once inside the cemetery, they drove farther into the sacred grounds, within a grove of ancient, gnarled trees that surrounded an old family plot. Sheltered from prying eyes both by the twisted trunks and by the placement of the amphitheater-like crypts within a small valley near the center of the graveyard, the place seemed the perfect setting for the Devil's own outdoor theater. He'd managed to catch quite a glimpse of his new surroundings as the big bruiser clad in black leather and silver studs dropped his motorcycle to the side of the path after cutting the engine. Still bodily hauling the slender singer around like a sack of potatoes, he barked out a series of orders. The skittery, creepy one as well as the two somewhat normal-looking guys--apparently the one that had let them in had followed the bikes here; the fact that he'd appeared rather swiftly startled Zoey--scrambled to carry out the orders.
He was dropped unceremoniously onto the damp ground. The impact alone was enough to jar him quite a bit, but he managed to bite back his cry of surprise and pain. Rolling over and bracing himself with his hands, he shook his tangled mane out of his face and swiftly glanced around.
Five ancient crypts coldly greeted his gaze, the three figures wandering between them. When the first lantern was turned on, he quickly rose, elegant and graceful, to his feet, shielding his eyes. Now that he was loose, he decided that perhaps it was worth taking a chance. He ran.
Not too far, though. The wolfish-looking female neatly cut off his escape by somehow appearing right in front of him. Shit! Digging his feet into the ground, he twisted back on himself, attempting to race away in a different direction. The bestial stranger's slap sent him sprawling to the ground. Apparently deciding that he had far too much energy at the moment, and figuring that it would make for a great show for the two women sensually stripping one another as they sat on the central crypt, the lupine woman and the two punkish bouncer types spent a few minutes beating the fight out of him. Curling up into a fetal position, he managed to endure that as well, his determination able to keep him from giving them the satisfaction of hearing him scream or even cry out.
He was hovering on the brink of unconsciousness when he heard one of them--through the haze of pain, he had no clue who it was that spoke. "He's probably tender enough by now."
"Hrmph. Who'd believe such a pansy-ass prick wouldn't be screaming his pretty head off yet?"
"Oh, don't worry. We'll have him screaming soon enough."
He lay there, panting, trying to collect his wits despite the throbbing pain. Before he'd had a chance to do more then start to make a mental assessment of his condition, he felt rough hands pulling off his clothes. Hearing the laughter of some of the others and somewhat aware that he was being watched in the glare of the lights--it almost seemed like a surreal, twisted reflection of his performances onstage, his pain-hazed mind thought--he gathered together what strength remained and did his best to twist and fight his way free. In the end, he lost; someone viciously jerked his arm, snapping the bone as he slammed face first into the ground. He screamed then, the fiery pain overwhelming everything else in that one moment.
It only got worse from there. Rough hands jerked him up by the hair, forcing him into a standing position. His left arm still in agony and hanging awkwardly, he couldn't help but whimper as other hands held out both arms straight out from the sides. For some ungodly reason, the position made him think of the crucifixes that were so much a part of his Catholic upbringing. Then all thought fled his mind when the agonizing sensation of something big and hard was rammed up his rectum. He screamed again, a sound that fell off into sobbing whimpers as his rapist slammed deep into him again and again.
Ah, God, make it stop. Please. Ah, God, it hurts. Stop. Please. Oh, God, it hurts . . . Around him, just vaguely over the horror and the pain at what was being done to him, he could hear the various jests and catcalls, all having to do with his beautiful, slightly feminine looks and his screaming and sobbing. Perhaps it was a credit to his will that his desperate pleas only sounded within his own mind. Then, just as he didn't think it really could get much worse, there came more pain--sharp, stabbing jabs along both wrists and his neck, the one in his left arm making that limb flare in torturous agony. A wracking sob escaped him, despite the odd sense of languor that filled him and made his entire body feel like it was made of lead. This was worse than the continuing physical violation of his body, since he could feel his very life force being raped, stolen from him through those three wounds.
It seemed like an eternity before he was again unceremoniously dumped onto the cool, damp ground. Landing on his broken arm, he screamed again in pure agony and curled up to try to shelter that limb, only to suddenly feel something thick, wet, and sticky splash over his face and into his mouth. Catching the salty-sweet taste, he felt his stomach churn as he realized just what it had to be. Shuddering, he violently spat out what he could, doing his best to keep himself from gagging.
"What a rude little cunt. The bitch didn't swallow."
"So teach the pretty-boy some manners."
"Go on. You heard the priest."
Again he was grabbed by his hair, two great fistfuls of the golden silk, and violently yanked to his knees. Whimpering softly, he prayed for the strength to just endure whatever else they had in mind. Those hands grasping him slammed his face into the stranger's groin, the still slightly-erect penis forcing itself into his mouth. Again the salty-sweet taste filled his mouth, along with a rather bitter, foul one that made him violently gag. Unable to pull away from the steel-hard grip on his head, he felt bile rise up in the back of his throat. As his rapist started to fuck his face and he felt his hindquarters being lifted up into the air, Zoey found it almost a ray of hope to choke to death on his own vomit. No such luck there, but the guy's hardening dick constantly ramming down Zoey's throat left the singer hardly any room to breathe. Getting lightheaded and giddy from the lack of oxygen, he barely even twitched or whimpered when the second person joined in and roughly penetrated the slender blonde's ass.
The next thing he really knew, he was being gently lowered to the ground, once again able to breathe unobstructed. Scraping together the will to feign unconsciousness, he tried focusing through the pain to get a clue, perhaps, on what they were going to do now. It was hard; everything seemed to hurt. If it wasn't in sharp agonizing twinges, it was in a low, roaring throb. But the eerie silence and the feel of something suddenly covering his battered, nude form gave him the impression that something had changed. Curiosity faintly aroused, he forced himself to open his eyes.
What he witnessed was as horribly surreal as everything else that had happened from the moment he was yanked out of the comfortable limousine. Somehow Ms. Maurier had found him. That little detail lost its awe in light of the superhuman speed and ungodly strength she displayed as she wreaked pure and utter chaos among those that had been torturing him. The fact that they too seemed to be something beyond normal seemed to make perfect sense, if any of what he'd seen made sense at all. In fact, he would have been willing to jump at the chance to dismiss it all as a terrifyingly vivid nightmare, only his abused body knew better than that. Unable to tear his gaze away from the monstrous killing machine the dark angel had become, his dazed, emerald eyes wide in horror and shock, his slender, lithe body began to violently shudder in delayed reaction to everything he'd experienced. Almost as if were happening to someone else, he watched from a corner of his mind as the gorgeous, dark-haired angel approached him. A whimper died in his throat as he felt her pick him up and tenderly wrap his body in the black coat. Despite what he'd just seen her do, he somehow felt marginally safe in her presence. When she urged him to sleep, he surrendered to whatever she was doing with a sense of relief. At least she's willing to put me out of my misery before she does me in . . .
Then his eyes fluttered closed, the eyelids seemingly too heavy to keep open. Within seconds, he had slipped off to sleep, knowing nothing more.
At this hour on a Saturday night, the emergency room was full of the usual noise and rush; seemed like everyone wanted to pick the weekends to really get hurt. Three car accidents with a total of five victims, a small house fire that had burnt two more people, a few cases of alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses, the aftermath of gang fights; the duty nurse at the desk was so used to this that she looked like she was bored out of her mind.
Another ambulance team came charging through the doors with some kid--probably no older than seventeen--who another kid had seen fit to empty a .38 into during a quarrel over "turf". The nurse barely looked up as the gurney rattled past; the EMTs would remember to give her the paperwork eventually.
A young mother rushed in, semi-hysterical; her two-year-old child was having terrible stomach pains and she was afraid he'd swallowed something poisonous. The nurse spoke in a monotone as she patiently got the woman to calm down a little and talk more rationally. One look at the kid told the nurse that he'd probably gotten into the candy behind his mother's back. That guilty expression was universally recognizable on any kid.
"Get. Out. Of. My. Way."
The voice razored through the babble of the emergency-care waiting room, leaving a sudden hush in its wake. Her footsteps hit the linoleum like triphammers as the woman in black velvet, a stole of gleaming black fur draped around her mostly-bare shoulders, stalked up to the desk and seemed to tower over the nurse; the young mother dragged her child away instinctively. The aura of a predator rage barely kept in check radiated from the gorgeous woman, who cradled a slender body wrapped in a black trenchcoat in her arms. A mane of bedraggled golden hair was virtually the only thing visible within the shrouding black folds.
The duty nurse felt her gut knotting up as the woman leaned forward very slightly, her intense eyes like lasers. "Dr. Jacob Goldstein. Call him."
"D-Dr. Goldstein is off-shift--"
"Call him," the woman repeated ever-so-softly. "Do it now. Tell him that Delphine is here."
The nurse had the feeling that to say "no" to the command was to say "yes" to a death wish. She grabbed the phone and dialed Goldstein's office. When the line was picked up, she managed to say, in a single almost-hysterical rush, "Dr. Goldstein, this is Kate at the ER desk, there's someone here named Delphine and she wants--"
"Send her down," Goldstein said patiently, and hung up.
"Ma'am, uh, the doctor says that I should send you down--"
"Where is his office?" She had the most amazingly melodic voice--and amazingly cold eyes.
Kate hastily rattled off the directions; Goldstein's office was one
of the few located in the belowground floors of the hospital, adjacent
to the labs. She'd barely finished speaking before the woman nodded sharply,
turned, and strode down the hall; the long golden hair of the body she
carried fluttered softly in her wake with her own shining dark-chocolate
Jacob Goldstein was tall, though his height was de-emphasized by the stoop of his shoulders. He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, a gentle-faced man who could be every little kid's favorite grandfather, with salt-and-pepper hair worn slightly longer than usual and a full beard. His voice was very deep; he spoke with a middling-heavy German accent. A noted eccentric around the hospital, he always wore an antique doctor's headband complete with silvery reflector; behind gold-rimmed spectacles, his blue eyes were bright, lively, and kind.
Those eyes were focused on the quietly furious brunette beauty who had just stalked through his office door, carrying an unconscious mortal. "Delphine . . . or may I call you Elisabeth?"
"Call me whatever you damned well wish, Jacob," she shot back. "Just point me toward an exam room. You are going to help me."
"Of course," he agreed amiably. Goldstein was always amiable, good-natured, and generally a very relaxing person to be around. Kids loved him, and his colleagues all liked him a great deal.
None of them knew that he was Kindred. A Malkavian, to be exact, and probably one of the saner Malkavians around. The madness that ran in the blood of Malkav had given the gentle old Jew nothing more severe than a quirky case of permanent eccentricity and an odd sense of humor.
He led Elisabeth and her still-sleeping cargo through a connecting door into an examination room; the Toreador elder slowly, carefully laid the blond mortal down on the padded table, then hovered anxiously over him.
Goldstein waved her away. "Relax, relax. Let me see the boy." She backed up a few feet and continued to look edgy as Goldstein wiped his glasses on the hem of his white coat, then unwrapped the duster so as to get a look at his patient. "Hmm . . . white male, approximately twenty-one to twenty-four years of age, has been quite thoroughly thrashed." He glanced up at the glowering Toreador. "Friend of yours, eh?"
"He wound up the plaything of a pack of Sabbat. Just fix him, Jacob," Elisabeth said darkly. "You owe me for Dachau."
"I have not forgotten," Goldstein answered, looking back down at the young man. Extending his hands over the motionless body, the Malkavian closed his eyes and opened . . . other senses. As he moved slowly down the length of the table, his hands not quite touching Zoey's body, he murmured quietly. "He's very cold, but not to the point of danger. Bite wound on the right carotid; bleeding has been stopped, but the wound is still open. Some bruising on the upper palate and pharynx. Four cracked ribs, some internal trauma. Ach--left shoulder partly dislocated, radius and ulna both broken cleanly. Bites on each wrist--again, little to no bleeding. Hairline fracture of the right tibia." He paused at the foot of the table, hands still extended, eyes still closed. "Turn him, please."
Carefully, Elisabeth lifted Zoey and turned him onto his front, trying not to jar the broken arm any more. Goldstein resumed the supernatural scan. "Strained Achilles tendon in the right leg." He paused again and frowned, his expression somber. "Ruptured anal sphincter, extensive internal tearing and hemorrhage. Gott in himmel, poor liebchen . . ." He shook his head and continued upward. "Bruised kidneys . . . mild concussion and laceration of the scalp." Elisabeth cursed herself for not noticing the dark blood matting the back of Zoey's head in a palm-sized area. Then again, she had been rather rushed. Goldstein opened his eyes. "I can heal him." He glanced at Elisabeth. "He is not a ghoul?"
She shook her head. "I only met him a few hours ago . . ."
"You used to be a much faster mover, my dear." Goldstein reached up and removed the antique headband. In the dead center of his forehead was an odd, horizontal crease, like an old scar. "In Dachau, you pounced on me within the first hour."
"That was different, and you know it. I had to get you out of there. The Tremere had discovered where you were." Dieu, the memories--helping to conceal the Malkavian, then providing him with escape from the death camp. As a Jew, he'd been a target for the Nazis and had allowed himself to be imprisoned so that he could try to help the mortals trapped within the camp; the Tremere had hunted him because of the knowledge he had gained from one of the few remaining members of the clan that the Tremere had exterminated during their rise to power in the early half of the millennium--the Salubri. Their powers of healing and preservation were legendary, but the Tremere had managed to cast them into the roles of soul-devouring devils. It made the Tremere look better. Admittedly, the ways of the Salubri could look odd and ominous--as was now being proved by the gentle old Malkavian who had learned the powers of Obeah from a surviving member of the mystic clan.
Standing beside the table, he folded his hands for a moment, murmuring in Hebrew as he bowed his head; the crease on his forehead opened, revealing a third eye that glowed faintly with a soft bluish light. Still praying quietly, Goldstein reached out and laid his hands gently on the back of Zoey's head, the power moving through him like a tide, easing the concussion, healing the wound in his scalp. When that was done, Goldstein moved down to repair the trauma done to Zoey's kidneys; the damage that the rape had caused took quite a bit longer. Elisabeth saw absolute red for a moment, just thinking back to the ghastly scene that had greeted her.
The strained tendon took only a moment. As Lis was carefully turning Zoey onto his back again, the long-lashed eyes flickered, then fluttered open; the command to "sleep" had worn off, allowing the young man to awaken. He looked around slowly, obviously confused and muzzy with sleep; then he shuddered suddenly and tried to squirm in her grasp.
The pain of the broken arm shot through him and he cried out softly; she groaned in sympathy, letting her arm remain beneath his shoulders as she touched his lips gently with her fingers. "Hush . . . lie still. Please, don't be afraid." The emerald eyes found Goldstein suddenly and widened, obviously both shocked and frightened by the Malkavian's eerie appearance; Lis pressed her fingers against his lips again. "Please . . . trust me, angel. Trust me. Hush, now . . ."
He still looked wary, but he was quiet in her arms, watching as Goldstein touched his right shin; there was a moment of pain in his eyes, but that faded quickly, leaving him both relieved and puzzled as the Malkavian healed the fractured leg and moved on. The punctures on his wrists closed; the bruises on his ribs faded as the cracked ribs were mended. Then Goldstein gently took hold of his arm.
Zoisite tightened up, whimpering, turning his face instinctively against Lis's breast. She cradled his shoulders, her other hand pressing against his head, stroking his hair soothingly as she murmured in French--soft, meaningless words meant to calm him.
Goldstein did not use much force in putting the shoulder back in the socket; his long, sensitive, skilled fingers gently manipulated the joint, his powers restoring the traumatized muscle and tendons. Aligning the break used the same sort of careful, unhurried movement; again, the healing took effect, banishing the pain.
The Malkavian touched the side of Zoisite's neck, smoothing away the bite wound; then he took the young man's face between his hands, the warm tingling power easing the ache of the bruises inside his mouth. Stepping back, Goldstein folded his hands once more in prayer; slowly, the mystical eye in the center of his forehead closed, becoming once again a seemingly innocuous crease in his flesh. The doctor picked up his headband and slipped it back on, tilting it a bit at a rakish angle. "Done, Lis. You can take him home whenever you--and he--are ready."
"Thank you, Jacob," she whispered, then looked down at Zoey, still holding
him against her. "I want to take you back to my home with me. I do not
wish to risk leaving you alone, angel." She stroked his cheek softly. "Please
. . . forgive me for not being able to prevent those things from happening
to you. Come with me . . ."
Please, Mama, let me sleep just a bit longer . . . He really couldn't remember why; he only knew that it felt so good to be asleep. Asleep and away . . . Away? Away from what? Curse that damned streak of curiosity that welled up in him. He hated not knowing. Then he was aware of being turned over to lie on his back onto something cold and unyielding, the rustle and feel of thin paper coming to him from what seemed to be a long way away. That made him more determined to claw his way out of the drowsiness, no matter how comfortable it was.
Hospital room . . . Why the hell . . . ? What happened? He became aware of pain flooding him, some sharp, some dull and throbbing in time to his heartbeat. Flashes of grotesque images suddenly came to mind: a cemetery in the dead of night, the sinister glare of lights, the mocking laughter, the sensation of being a mouse caught in a trap, slowly dying of torture . . . In a flash, it all abruptly came back, and the force of the horror, the shame and the sheer sense of violation hit his awareness like a sledgehammer. A scream started to well up in mind and throat alike as he became aware of hands on him. Dios mio, they've found me again! Somehow they survived all that and they're going to finish the job. Shuddering violently, he started to try to get the hell out of there, eyes wide open, heart racing, adrenaline surging through him in sheer, mindless panic.
Agony ripped through him when he moved his left arm, and though all that sounded was a soft, shuddering moan, he was sure he'd screamed. Above him, he heard a soft sound, then the feather-light touch of a finger on his lips. Flicking his frightened gaze upwards, he managed to focus his eyes . . . and found the heartbreakingly beautiful brunette murmuring soft words to him. Lie still? Don't be afraid? What was she going to do? Madre de Dios, he'd seen her throw a huge slab of marble like it was a fucking frisbee. The panicked emerald gaze then glanced down along his mud- and blood-spattered, grass-stained, bruised skin and he suddenly realized that there was another person there with Elisabeth.
If he thought he'd seen enough creepy, frightening and bizarre stuff to last a lifetime, that didn't seem to matter as someone that appeared to be a complete alien--what person on God's green Earth had a glowing third eye in the center of their forehead?--was hovering over his pain-wracked body. The panic welled up again, but before he could try to escape, that light touch of a finger again was felt on his lips. Trust me? How could I possibly trust her, him or anyone ever again? Yet, there was something in that exotic voice of hers, some tone that held both sorrow and sympathy for him. Something that was far more than what he'd gotten from that pack of supernatural whatevers that had done this to him. Despite every nerve in him screaming at him to get the hell out and go hole up where no one could reach him again, he forced himself to lie still and see why she was cooing to him to actually trust her.
The grandfatherly-type alien reached down and gently grabbed Zoey's leg, sending a twinge of renewed pain through him as the injury there protested the touch. Then, just as suddenly, the pain was gone, washed away in a gentle flood of warmth and . . . rightness. Too stunned to even think, he just lay there and watched as touch after touch did the same. First a twinge of protest, then nothingness as the stranger's undisputed power physically fixed whatever was wrong. After a night of horror, to find this miraculous mercy was almost beyond belief.
The stranger was patient and thorough, working on him apparently from the feet upwards. Considering what Zoey was aware wasn't hurting anymore, he had to come to the conclusion that his backside had been treated in this eerie way before he'd woken up. Then the mystic picked up his arm, and the blond singer felt dread wash over him along with the grating pain of something seriously wrong with the shoulder as well as the broken bones. Oh God, this is going to hurt. Bracing himself as best he could, he couldn't stifle the soft whimper that shivered from his throat. Without thinking, he turned his head, pressing his face up against Elisabeth's soft velvet dress, the spun-gold hair catching slightly on the fibers of the black fabric.
Between the dark angel comforting him and the stranger's slow and steady method, Zoey found the process of mending his shoulder something far less painful than he'd imagined. That alone deeply surprised him; after what he'd just been through, pessimism seemed the most appropriate manner of anticipating things. Yet he'd seen enough to be awed in wonder at something truly miraculous; it was certainly one hell of a counterpoint to the rest of the after-performance evening. He'd made himself look up at the Healer as the injuries to head and neck were whisked away by this unexplainable power, and was surprised to find that despite the oddity of the sight, there was something truly noble in it as well. His dazed mind was still trying to take it all in when he felt those healing hands lift from him, then heard the murmured words of the stranger.
Almost by instinct, he found himself staring back up at the brunette of the unearthly beauty, speed and strength. She seemed so . . . human at the moment, yet the flashes of horrified memory that rippled through his mind made him acknowledge that she just wasn't what she seemed. And yet, there was still something about her that made him want to be there with her. None of it made any damned sense, and he was too shell-shocked to really try to make it make sense in the first place. For some reason, her asking him to forgive her made him want to laugh; through sheer will, he was able to keep the hysterical giggling from breaking free.
When it came down to it, though, there was only one thing he truly knew. She had saved him from them, she had seen to it that his injuries were healed. She cared. And he didn't want to be alone. Not now, not after--
His voice was as lyrical as always, if perhaps just faintly roughened from the screaming he'd done. As the mud- and semen-spattered face, the bright green stain of grass coloring one cheek, looked up at her, the large emerald eyes haunted by what he'd been through, he said a single sentence. "Please, just don't leave me alone."
Please, just don't leave me alone.
Lis closed her eyes a moment, the ocean of misery, fear, and desperation behind the soft words striking to her very heart. Dieu, he'd been hurt so badly, so cruelly; she could help him, take away the memories . . . but not yet. Not without his consent--and to have his consent, she would have to tell him the truth. The Masquerade would lie in ruins for this one young mortal, but that thought didn't disturb her.
"Yes, angel," she answered quietly. "I promise, I will not leave you alone." She glanced up. "Jacob? Do you have anything he can wear for the time being, until we reach my home?"
The other Kindred nodded slightly, walking over to a cabinet; after a moment of fiddling with the lock on the bottom drawer, he slid it open and tugged out a set of green surgical scrubs. "This is the best I can do, I'm afraid."
"It should be enough for now. Thank you, Jacob." She stepped away just long enough to let Zoisite pull the loose pants and short-sleeved shirt on; then she moved close again, helping him off the table and holding the duster so that he could slip his arms into the sleeves.
"Do you need me to call a cab for you?" the Malkavian inquired, automatically tugging the paper cover off the exam table.
"I've already made arrangements." A few moments of telepathic communication with her retainer back at the house while she ran to the hospital had taken care of the problem of transportation. She was not going to carry the poor mortal child on another run in the cold night air; he was shivering even now, huddling into the coat. "Thank you again, Jacob." She paused, then murmured a brief blessing in Hebrew.
Goldstein smiled and answered with a blessing of his own in the same
language. "Now, out of my office. And shut the door!"
He hadn't realized that he had been holding his breath until, with her answer, it slowly escaped in a long sigh. Closing his eyes for a moment, he gathered what was left of his courage and his tattered dignity. He would still have to face this alone--after all, no one could crawl into his head and deal with this for him--but just knowing that someone was there, that he wasn't abandoned, helped a little bit. Honestly, he truly felt like crying to Mama, but she wasn't here anymore. A tear glistened in an emerald eye as he silently cursed the drunken driver that had made his mother road pizza that winter night two years past.
Jacob . . . Such a normal-sounding name for a three-eyed alien. Of course now, one could never tell that about the congenial older physician. But then again, the aliens were supposedly good at hiding themselves among humans. The whole thought of rag-mag headlines coming to life actually made a sly smile dance upon his lips for the faintest of moments. Shaking his head slightly, fine wisps of blond hair not tangled or spattered with something swirling in the faint breeze of his movement, he continued to smile. I must've been seeing things. Too traumatized to think straight. Ah, but then why is nothing still hurting, Zoey? whispered that little voice of his skepticism.
He was actually rather relieved getting something to wear. He couldn't help but feel vulnerable, extremely exposed as he was, the dirt from the assault still clinging to him. Slipping on the green hospital scrubs as fast as he could, it wasn't until after he was helped down by the breathtakingly beautiful woman that he realized just how horrid he must look. Equal parts of shame and fury flashed through him as he shrugged on the long black duster; he was filthy, bedraggled and dressed abominally, all states of being he abhorred. Huddling up in the coat as he was rather pointedly reminded by his body about how chilled he was, he silently watched the exchange between the deceptively charming doctor and the equally deceptively demure woman. At least his teeth stopped chattering as they walked through the hospital.
Everyone seemed to get the hell out of the way. That was the most obvious thing that he'd noticed as he walked behind the stately brunette. Almost like she's a queen . . . or something . . . The "or something" stuck in his mind as he recalled scenes of her pulverizing the gang that had snagged him from her. That, and the other memories that he didn't dare try to think on just yet, left him shuddering more as the two of them stepped out the emergency room door.
The sight of the mint-condition, special edition Rolls-Royce, however, made his thoughts fly right out the window. These are her "arrangements"? Dios mio, somebody pinch me. I have got to be dreaming . . . That notion was swiftly dispelled as the chauffeur politely greeted his mistress and held the door open. Recoving his wits, he glanced up at the unearthly beauty. "Nice arrangements." He sighed, following her gestured request to get in; as an attempt at humor, it even sounded as lame as it was.
He couldn't help but lapse into a stunned silence. All this beauty and luxury made him just that more aware of how dirty and filthy he looked--and felt. He didn't think he'd ever be truly clean again. Closing his eyes for a moment, he could feel his skin pull slightly from the drying fluid. Shuddering, he vowed to himself to be doubly sure he never subjected a partner of his to that bit of grossness. Not that he ever did in the first place--it was rather icky--but he now had even better reasons for doing so. The emerald eyes fluttered open again as he mentally sighed. His mother would die of a heart attack had she known what had happened, and she'd be appalled at his appearance. Especially in the presence of such a high-class woman. Maybe it was a good thing after all that she was already dead. Heartsick, mind still reeling from everything done to him, everything he'd seen and the feeling of humiliation at his condition, he endured the ride in silence.
|First Stanza||Third Stanza||The Silverlands|
This page formatted and © by Dianna Silver
"The Silverlands", "The Obsidian Tower", "A Character's Chronicle: Zoey's Story", "Argent Stag, Silver Rose", "The Rose Garden" and the "Rose Realm" all © 1997 - by Dianna Silver. Some material also © 1998 - by Krissy Ryan.
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