Whitesteeple Ch. 09bythelastempress©
The wolf who once was Ava hit me hard on the left side, even as I wheeled towards her, and I lost my grip on Benedict's dagger almost the moment she hit me. Ava knocked me to the pavement and skittered onto my body snarling in my face. She was fast, beautiful and sleek but the only thing I saw was her large, snapping teeth. I managed to get my hands around her neck before she mauled me but not before she bit the palm of my right hand hard enough to take my breath away.
I could hear Jack and Radu clashing in the in the darkened street as Radu's broadsword rang out as it struck against Jack's razor, the resulting clash sent out sparks. However that was all background for me, as Ava's salvia dripped onto my face and I could feel my arms begin to shake I felt a bit of personal angst. Things were going to get worse before they got better.
Have you ever seen one of those survival shows where they tell you that if you are ever attacked by such and such an animal you that you should poke them in the eye or insert random body part into such and such an orifice? Let me add only that it is somewhat difficult to do this when the animal is flailing on top of you.
But I still tried to do it. I also swore at her.
Ava's paw got to close to my face and I turned my head and gnawed it like a wild thing, she yelped and tried to draw it away, rewarding me with a mouthful of hair. My mind was spinning because I knew that Jack had told me something important, he had given me a puzzle piece he wanted me to complete and to use in some manner. Inquisitor's daughter. I wanted to share with him that these were not the ideal circumstances for problem solving. If I lived through this situation I might just do that.
Ava was winning this fight. She was stronger than I was by a long shot and as I fought with her my palm began to drum painfully. I gripped her neck and I knew my life was measured by my actions.
I could smell her breath potent and animalistic inches from my face, but wisely she would not meet my eye, she had learned from our first expierence.
I wondered as I saw the glint on her bright teeth and saw the flashes of bright light that illuminated the dark street why Jack and Radu did not make any noise. Perhaps it was their presence, perhaps it was thier nature's perhaps it was thier deadly dance. There was no sound from either of them, no uttereance of pain or excaimation beyond Radu's soft prayers and the clanging of metal on metal.
As I lay on the ground struggling for my life, I wondered why no one came out to help me. I wanted them to, because I needed help. My whole life didn't flash before my eyes, as I struggled with her but Benedict's face did, the way he looked on the day I first saw him as he stood in the hallway in Whitesteeple and also the way the light had shone on his golden curls on that fist night we spent together in my bedroom. I saw Kira as she sat at her desk in her office. But that wasn't all either, there was also my mother's face and the plaid jumper I used to dress in every day before school and my kitty Gracie who has been dead for years and strangely, disturbingly, I saw Jack.
In the church when I had been tied to Radu's stake, knowing my death was upon me, I had felt a strange peace come over me. Then and there I had been willing to accept my death then. But now as I strained to keep Ava from ripping my throat out this knowledge had the opposite affect and I became polarized in my desperation for self preservation.
Do you remember some time ago when I asked you if you have ever been in mortal terror? I soared above that feeling now, beyond fear and terror and maybe even beyond pain. I saw red. I felt a rage boil up, so strong and primal inside me, so powerful was it that I was borne away by the fury of it, I rode the wave of it.
I began to scream and dig my nails into the thick ruff around the wolf's scruff and I struggled to get my legs up under her belly kicking and pummeling her. I was spitting and growling like a cat or a badger or a wounded animal, as I did I thought of my father. I wondered if, as he faced Radu, on that last day if he knew he was going to die. I thought he probably had. I thought about the courage it must have taken to face his death bravely, knowing he would never see our faces again, and do it bravely, for a reason I can not explain to you it fueled my wrath.
Although Ava got a piece of my left forearm she began to yelp as I kicked her ribs over and over. She hopped awkwardly trying to avoid my kicks but unable to disengage from my grip on her scruff. In her panic to escape,she began to drag me across the pavement.
I am not ashamed to tell you that under ordinary circumstances I feel guilty when I kill spiders (or anything for that matter) I find in my bathtub (or anything else) and I can't do it unless I have to...I have to take them outside and release them. But at that moment in the street I wanted her death and her blood on my hands. If I could have ripped her throat with my own teeth I think I would have.
As she dragged me bodily across the pavement I allowed myself two quick glances. The first was towards the whole in the window and consequently the wall where Radu had assisted Jack and by association myself to exit the building. Many of Whitsteeple's patrons had spilled out onto the street and were pressed against the building but none made a move towards us. I would later learn that this was because of the situation and some very specific rules regarding dueling in the supernatural world but at the time seeing this was somewhat......frustrating...which is a great understatement.
I saw Benedict, the strong lines of his body were caressed by the shadows on the darkened street, he was kneeling on the sidewalk with his hand on the silent streetlight. Templeton stood immovable and massive behind him and he barred his teeth and growled low in his throat at the wolf who was trying to kill me. I saw Kira where she stood beside him and I could just barely see her green eyes flicking back and forth between Jack and me, but if Benedict was aware of anything going on around him I could not tell. His eyes were trained on me and when I looked up at him I got another strong whiff of his immortality.
The other glance I allowed myself as Ava dragged me off in the darkness was towards Jack and consequently towards Radu. We have discussed them enough that you know how they appear don't you? Radu towered over Jack in height and he moved like a fighter confidently, patiently, he was not erratic but assessed his movements before striking out swinging the great broadsword with an ease and elegance that I can not describe. His black cassock spun out as he turned and he appeared like a whirlwind to my eyes/ I could hear him speaking the benediction to Jack as he did so and I saw with some dismay that embers were smoking on Jack's finely tailored coat sleeves. I imagined his great displeasure.
What pause I felt watching Radu, and believe me it was brief, for I was otherwise occupied but my amazement was far surpassed by Jack. Jack is a small man, and if not for the strange smoldering fire that leaked from him, or his oddly bright eyes he would appear to be bland, although still well dressed older gentleman.
But now as he fought the inquisitor he moved like.. like.. like.. The last shadow before the sun's light? Like an oil slick over the ocean? Like fire in space? He had a dancer's elegance but with a casualness that was disturbing by its offhandedness. I could hear him humming a lullaby as he met Radu's broadsword with his glinting razor, and for a single moment I wondered how such a small thing could stand up to a broad sword, but my mind remembered the way it had looked on the desk in his room the first time I saw it and I did not think of it again. Jack did not seem concerned with anything that was happening, but then as I reflect Jack never did.
I had hurt Ava, and she had hurt me, she was bleeding and I was bleeding. But she was stronger than I was and I was, for all my rage beginning to feel my strength waver. I knew instinctively, with an instinct as old as man, maybe its caveman instinct I don't know, but anyhow I knew that if I let go of her neck she would turn on me and that would be the end of me, so I began to dig my heels into the paved street to stop her or turn her I was thinking about Benedict's dagger.
Trying to steer a wolf is difficult. It is not impossible but it is not fun or easy and when you are bleeding and fighting for your life, I will add that it seems impossible and that caused me to make some mistakes and I missed my chance to turn her in the direction of the dagger. She very nearly dragged me between Radu and Jack and would have if the Ripper had not spun towards us, his blue eyes elated and wild and kicked Ava as hard as he could in the snout.
It sent her sprawling back and sent me along with it, we landed just short of the sidewalk by Whitesteeple, close enough that I could hear the Jukebox playing "Soul Man" in the background. I heard patrons scrambling to get clear of the fight and I heard Cecelia gasp. I felt really suddenly like I was going to be violently ill. My palm and my arm began to throb where she had taken chunks out of me and my leg ached where the stitches had been pulled apart from the scrambling across the street.
I heard Benedict somewhere behind me, his voice was low and dark, below the noise of the crowd. "Rena, the glass, look on the street." I didn't get a chance to look back at him but I wanted to, I looked at the ground instead and the effort cost me. The blood from my arm and my hand had made Ava's fur slick and I nearly lost my grip on her, I moaned low in desperation but I saw a large shard of glass long and wicked, jagged and cruel.
I snatched it up with my wounded right hand, as I willed myself to close around it pretending I didn't feel the edges. I did feel them, the worst was cutting my fingers. If I would have thought about it I don't know if I could have started, but I didn't think about it. I acted on instinct and I began to stab her, over and over. I was crying as I did it, because I didn't want this and because the glass went in deep and I had to fight with it to pull it out, but I did and I plunged it in again.
Ava began to squeal and yelp in that high pitch way that dogs have when they are distressed or hurt and I began to sob than, great wracking sobs. She fought to get away from me and she tried to free her head, she was snapping at me in her fear but I wouldn't let her. I kept on, I was cruel and desperate. I don't know if it means anything to you to say that it was either me or her. I don't know what you will think of me if I tell you I don't care what you think. I have to live with it.
I heard a great anguished cry from Radu, it was the sorrow of a lover denied it was heart wrenching, then Ava stumbled. She changed back into the form of a woman in front of me. She was naked and beautiful and bleeding badly from a dozen deep stab wounds all across her body, there were also various bite wounds and and a few scattered other wounds. She looked over to Radu, the pain in her voice got nearly set me off again.
" I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." She repeated in a thick throaty voice. I leapt on top of her and raised the shard above my head, the blood from my hand and her bite wounds dripped down onto her face. The scarlet color was harsh against the smooth perfection of her skin. She looked up at me and I saw she expected her death. I was disgusted with myself.
Clarity is a strange thing, have you noticed it usually only comes to you late at night or after a few beers or I have also found after a conversation with good friends but I tell you I had a revelation I found the serenity in her, and the power in myself, I pulled her chin towards me zapped her. I froze her with my mind. She stared up at me, her wide eyes unseeing, I could feel her fluttering awareness trapped inside me, but I paid it no more mind than I would have a moth fluttering against a light.
I rose up off of her chest, my hair had long since come out of the bun it had been hastily secured into and hung raggedly around my shoulders. I was dripping blood from half a dozen different wounds and my clothes were rags that barely covered me now, the patch that covered my left eye was pressed against my left cheek. I clutched the shard of glass in my hand, I was unwilling to relinquish it. I looked on towards Radu and Jack who continued to fight, in their unworldly way. In the dim street, it began to rain. I could smell the acrid smell of rain as it fell against the pavement and washed away the sins of my city. Radu was speaking to Jack but I could not hear what he was saying.
I heard Benedict behind me, I could almost feel him. He was speaking, saying something to me, but this one time, I could not stop for him. If I had I would not have continued so I kept walking and as I did I thought that I was falling in love with him and if I died today that it may be alright because as ridiculous as this sounds to you all he had helped me find meaning in my life. Yeah I know...a vampire.
I walked towards Jack and Radu...well stumbled would be more accurate. I am sure I looked like a crazy person, I felt like a crazy person, and in my mind I heard all of Radu's words, the ones he had spoken to me in the church, I felt the brush of his lips against my hair.
I came to this conclusion as I walked towards them and it seemed like a very long walk when my leg felt as if it was going to fall off, good people do not kill other people for no reason. Good people do not torture other people for any reason. Good deity's do not advocate these things or they are not good. Vengeance is not a justification for violence but an excuse for it.
I decided at that moment that Radu was the same as Jack, except that Radu was worse, because he hid behind the mask of righteousness, when he was not. At least Jack was honest about what he was as vile as he may be.
The two combatants were evenly matched as they danced, the rain shimmered off Radu's cassock but it seemed that it evaporated before it ever got to Jack. I noticed that each had drawn the other's blood. Radu's was a bright sacrificial red, but Jack's was black and thick like unrefined oil. Suddenly as I stumbled towards them, I saw this battle going on, and on and on and on. Although Radu's face changed Jack's never did, nor did the dance, an eternity of clanging swords and shimmering sparks.
If fate was a chessboard, these players were the kings at a standoff, and I was the last pawn. Jack's face lit upon me only once as I advanced in the shadows and he sniffed the air, as one might sniff a glass of wine. He looked exceptionally pleased and mouthed something I could not understand, I could not see well. My left eye was gone courtesy of Radu and blood dripped into my right from a cut on my forehead from who knows what.
He may have tried to say it again, but as he did Radu's shining sword swung down at him and Jack spun neatly out of the way his fine wrist flicking the razor to deflect the blow easily. His neatly polished shoes made the water from the street steam.
Weirdly I thought of my purse. Wherever it was, and I hoped it was in Benedict's possession because I had last had it before Ava nabbed me the frist time and I hadn't seen it since, but anyway in the front pocket I still kept the clipping for the advert for my job at Whitesteeple. I thought of the line of my life that brought me here. I was profoundly thankful I had answered it, doesn't that sound nuts? I was also profoundly and totally exhausted. Fifteen steps from Radu I couldn't go any further and I sank to my knees with a quiet little sigh, I knew I wouldn't get up for awhile if I got up again.
My shoes were wet, and water tricked down the back of my neck and I hated it, I watched Jack and Radu fight and I cursed myself for being weak and being stupid, I gripped the glass tighter in my hand hoping the pain would fuel me and enrage me. It just hurt like hell and reminded me that I didn't want to die, and that Radu was before me and would likely kill me when he had half a second to do so.
I took another moment to think about Jack, "Inquisitor's daughter" the questions he had asked me about my father. Why would he want me to know, what purpose would that serve? Why had he wanted me in this fight? Surely he could have picked others who would have been more use to him. He hadn't really needed anyone to help him, he could have done this himself.
What could I do that no one else could? My mind trick was neat, but I knew it wouldn't work on Radu, and I knew Jack woulnd't think it would, he was to clever. Besides I didn't think it would be that useful in this situation and I doubted...sincerely that it was specifically related to my father. There must be something else, and he knew it. He just wasn't telling me, I wondered if he was trying to lead me to enlightenment. I did not want enlightenment from Jack the Ripper.
As I kneeled, exhausted on the concrete sagging against the weight of my reluctant body, I wondered why no one else had come out into the street to see what the cataclysmic ruckus was about, I guessed that it was magic. Everything here was about magic, and that was it I think, because I thought suddenly of the look on Radu's face as he entered Whitesteeple. I recalled how familiar it had been to me, how I had almost known it.
I focused and reached out with my mind, I didn't know what I was looking for, but I was surprised, wait shocked when it found me. Clear as the ringing of the bells that my mother kept in the house for Beltine a tone sounded in my head, and maybe it was my father's blood speaking to me over the years, or maybe it was Radu's face that told me, maybe it was just my instinct.
I had called the sanctum.
Ok. I never expected to be able to use my head like a telephone. I felt strange enough being able to use my head to Vulcan mind meld them. Suddenly finding myself connected with the sanctum was like looking directly into the sun, bright and alluring and devastating and it burned me. The sanctum is a collective, a pond of swirling minds and thoughts all joined in their togetherness and their will. It is warm there and bright. It is pure.
If ever I have been in a holy place it was at that moment.
The sanctum noticed me immediately, it registered my presence and I felt a mind, which was individual, recognizable from the swirling, confusing, brilliant minds. It called my name and beckoned me forth. As my head swam and I fought to stay conscious I became aware that for all my life the sanctum had been watching over me, but not in the crazy frightening way that Radu claimed. They knew me even if I had never known them.
The image of Jack as he stood in his room flashed bright in my mind, this was his idea after all things so I did what he instructed me. I hoped that they would see Radu for what he was because if they didn't we were all going to die. I concentrated, so hard that my head pounded, I had to lean forward and spit up what was left in my stomach before I could do it, then I told the sanctum exactly what happened and hoped it was the right thing to do. I hoped and prayed, because they were coming. I had called the sanctum down on Whitesteeple.