Ariane’s off in another part of the house, and I’ve been left alone with my thoughts for the night.
She’s not settling in very well, and I can understand. Both of us miss New Orleans. I’m actually surprised at how much it bothers me, being away from the city I’d spent so much of my undead life in.
We’ve had our first fight since getting here – nothing major, but not really pleasant, either.
I don’t know what to say or do that will help.
It’s not as if she has a choice. She kinda has to go where I do, or she’ll die. I don’t say this to be dramatic. As well as being my girlfriend, she’s also my ghoul. It pretty much means that she has to drink at least some of my blood every night, or she’ll… well, you get the idea.
Granted, it has its perks; never aging, never getting sick.
None of that helps when the only blood family you have is a fifteen plus hour car ride away.
After having said her piece, she had suggested that we both take a little time away from each other; at least for the night.
It twists my guts knowing how unhappy she is, but there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.
You’d never guess that I’m a fairly simple, uncomplicated person, really.
Well, at least that’s how I’d been up until recently.
Now I’m away from my friends, from my home, stuck out in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the next train of corpses to come in.
Fuck, how bleak.
I’m a gardner now, but all I plant is rotting bodies and bones. I try to be as gentle with them as possible, but so many come in a given shipment, that I’ve had to set up teams to work long hours to get everything out of the containers. It doesn’t help that most of them are stacked like cordwood in boxes. Granted, some are ornate, some less-so, but all contain the same thing.
What’s worse? There’s absolutely no interesting fucking nightlife here. Gone are the nights where we’d go rolling out with Gigi, tearing up the town.
Apparently, few things in this country are less entertaining than Ellsworth, Kansas.
How completely fucking depressing.
It kinda gets me thinking almost fondly of the last big, gruesome ‘to-do’ back home, and the repercussions that followed…
I stood at the edge of this completely insane, murderous ruckus, getting ready to do something that I swore I’d never do again.
The streets around the convent were almost full of every damned monster I’d ever thought could exist. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion and the sounds were muddled, almost as if my brain couldn’t keep up with what it was witnessing.
Hell, I’d have gotten a vid with my phone for posterity if I hadn’t been almost shitting myself with fright.
This being said, the surrounding skirmish wasn’t what scared me.
It’s what I was going to have to do if shit went sideways.
Throughout all this, my gorgeous girl Ariane kept a careful eye on me, even though she wasn’t really sure what was gonna happen. I didn’t really talk about the past all that much – with anybody, but she had a vague idea. It was her job to make sure that I didn’t pass out, just in case.
Glamazon sorceress and Goddess Divine Gigi stood on my other side, makin’ with a funky shield of some sort; it kept everything away from us in case I needed to do my deadly dog and pony show.
I was getting the shakes just thinking about it.
Ariane’s hand lit on my shoulder, lightly squeezing, and I tried to dial it down a little.
“Breathe, honey. Just breathe.”
God, she had the sexiest fucking voice. I tried to focus on it, working to block everything else out. I was stressing out too much, dammit – I really needed to get it together.
I looked over to see Gigi shaking, just a little, her face starting to drip with sweat. Ariane gasped, and when I turned to look, something had changed. The various nightmarish creatures, no longer happy with simply trying to destroy each other, seemed to have gone insane. They had started tearing into anything around them, whether friend or foe.
Oh, ugh. Some of them had started to eat each other. It was turning into a goddamned supernatural buffet.
Something started howling, and a mess of them all took up the call as well, making my hair stand on end.
This couldn’t be good.
:: Roane! ::
Argent’s voice sounded urgent and tight, almost stabbing at me.
:: Strigaisha? ::
:: I must ask you to do what we spoke about earlier. There is no other way. Already our supporters begin to turn against us. ::
My stomach dropped, and I immediately went cold.
Sure, I’d been stressing about the possibility – but I hadn’t actually expected it to happen.
Jesus. This shit had just gotten real. I was actually gonna have to do this.
I took a long, slow breath, then grabbed Ariane’s hand. She squeezed it and my throat actually closed up.
I looked over at her, meeting those eyes I’d always wanted to lose myself in. Ah, god, I felt so lost.
Her voice was even and soft as she murmured, “Do as you must, my love. We fight for our very lives now.”
My stomach jumped again, adding a little nausea to the mix. Fucking brilliant. I really didn’t want to think about the last time I dipped into this, so I blocked the memories that surged forward, screaming for me to pay attention to them.
I took another a deep breath and was jarred by a loud roar before I could get myself under control.
What the hell was that?
I shook my head, angry that I’d allowed myself to get distracted.
Get to it bitch, I growled to my lizard brain.
Fists at my sides, I took the first few steps down into that dark, terrifying place I never reached out to.
There was a minute or two of picking around inside my psyche until I found it – it had been too long since I’d recognized it; since I’d had anything to do with it.
I dove down, rushing at it, and there was suddenly wetness on my cheeks as I was filled with such a sense of… comfort.
An odd song started playing, somewhere far away. The tune sounded almost as if was coming from underwater. Was it a lullaby? There was definitely something familiar about it that I just couldn’t place.
Suddenly, the darkness was filled with shining points of light, twinkling and dancing. Each one of them, the tattered remains of a spirit, wandering and lost. How could such broken things be so bright and beautiful?
I reached out to feel each and every one of them as they sighed, the sound almost seductive.
-Finally, we have purpose! We are complete!- they seem to shout; every fiber of what’s left of them vibrating with it.
-Yes, my weary, fragmented beloved ones-, I replied. -I will give you purpose, love and all that you wish. Just come to me, and you will have all you desire.-
It didn’t feel like a lie when I said it. It felt real, and I believed it myself as my words went out to all those little souls so lonely, so desperate.
Their response was staggering, and it shook me to the core.
Had I ever experienced such love? Such naked adoration? I honestly couldn’t remember.
They all worked eagerly to escape the bounds that held their bodies in the surrounding aboveground mausoleums. There was so much noise it almost drowned everything else out.
I was vaguely aware of someone grabbing my wrists and jerking my arms down. Something was crying out, a mournful keening sound that damn near broke my heart to hear it. Where the hell was it coming from? What the fuck could make such a sound?
What would have to happen to bring that kind of soul agony out in somebody? I was pretty damned sure I really didn’t want to know.
It took a minute to realize that I was the one making it.
Suddenly, Ariane swam into focus and I started quickly blinking to try to orient myself.
Where the fuck was I?
I grabbed at her, trying to keep from falling over, when I was thrown forward by an overwhelming pressure on the back of my neck. It literally knocked the breath out of me. I gasped to try to get some air into my lungs, and my head started throbbing, feeling like it was about to split open – to make way for something else.
I was suddenly terrified. This had never happened before, and I had no idea what to do.
I didn’t think I could stop it.
My skin was fucking crawling, and I could hear myself screaming. My throat already hurt like a motherfucker. I wasn’t going to be able to talk without croaking for days after this.
Something slapped against the back of my neck and the pressure was immediately gone, replaced by a slight burning sensation.
There was a loud sucking sound in one ear, then the other, and then I heard Ariane cursing up a storm in Creole. Damn, something must have really pissed her off.
“Come back to me. Come back to your body.”
Ariane’s words were fast and rough as she shook me and growled, “Roane, can you hear me? Roane… ANSWER ME.”
It was enough to snap me out of it, and I started blinking and nodding as I looked over at her.
“I’m here. I’m ok.”
Christ, it sounded like I’d been gargling with Borax.
I steadied myself, realizing that something was off. I needed to figure out what and fix it, fast.
With a deep breath, I reached back out to all those points of light. I wasn’t sure how I new it, but I could tell that they’d all freed themselves and were now waiting.
Ariane was squeezing my hand and I gently shook her off.
“I’m all right. They need somebody to connect to them, to direct them, or they’ll disconnect entirely and begin going off on their own.”
I took another deep breath, counting them all. Their numbers were dizzying.
“My god. There are so many of them. How…?”
My mind whirred, trying to find an answer, and suddenly it came to me. Something in me knew exactly what needed to happen next. I let it drive while I took a stuttering step forward, feeling the power surge out of me in a cold wave.
As one, they began to take their own steps in my direction. A wave of adoration swept through me and I realized that to be near my radiance, they’d do anything.
God help anything, or anybody, that got in their way.
This was so much stronger than anything I’d previously experienced. Granted, it had been unsettling before, when my… ‘talent’ first surfaced – and again, that one unimaginably horrible time when I was forced to, but this was almost unbearable. It was too much.
It wasn’t right to have this much blind adoration and worship from anything, much less a teeming mass of corpses animated by tattered scraps of humanity unable to figure out how to cross over.
It was a struggle to maintain the connection, when all I wanted to do was release them. I didn’t want to enslave anybody, for any reason.
I shook it off, hating myself for it as I reached out to them, all sweet reassurance and love as I fed their need, my power sending out whatever these poor bastards needed to animate them and bring them to me.
I turned to Ariane with tears in my eyes.
:: It’s done. They’re coming. ::
Relaxing for a few moments in my love’s embrace, I looked back over to see Gigi. She was exhausted already; her makeup completely ruined. She’d be mortified later.
Ariane squeezed me gently as the first of my dead soldiers arrived.
When one of the council monitor dickheads got his first glimpse of them, his reaction damn near had me in stitches. He really didn’t take it well.
A strange, melodic chanting filled the night air and Ariane stepped away from me with a grin that sent a chill through me. God, I loved it when she got vicious.
Her people were coming to the party, apparently.
The songs were haunting and seemed to give me a bit of an energy boost, which was a little surprising. I’d always loved the songs for the Ghede.
The combined vision of both frenzied dancing and shambling bodies was almost hypnotic.
Once enough of my adoring dead had come to the edges of the fray, I told them, -When I give the signal, you need to destroy all those who stand between you and me. They want to hurt me. To kill me. You must destroy them utterly – but only on my mark.-
Their rather loud, hissing response was fairly satisfying.
All the members of the court, as well as our allies, started moving behind me as I took a step forward, reaching out to my people, my beloved ones.
Ariane tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that our friends were safe, and now it was time to boogie.
Left hand raised, palm up, I focused my intent, sending it out to all those radiant, broken souls before shutting my fist and slamming it down.
Dropping the fucking hammer.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on my gruesome, animated flock, continuing to send them acceptance and love as they literally tore everything apart around them to get to me.
Ariane laughed beside me, joyful and triumphant. Her spirits, and consequently her descendants, were receiving an enormous blessing this night.
Hours seemed to pass, although I was pretty sure that only minutes had. God, the sounds alone were enough to give me nightmares for years. I opened my eyes to check everything out.
The Ghede were happily gorging on the blood of their enemies, most of which had fallen horribly. I had no idea how all the blood would ever come out of the surrounding streets, sidewalks and buildings. Still, I knew the council would handle it. They always did.
Once the situation was back under control, it was time to pull the plug on this particular hellish shindig. At my command, the corpses nearest to the remains of the fallen Sisters collected their heads.
:: I think you’re gonna want these. ::
Argent seemed surprised, but pleased, as he walked over. He actually fucking saluted me. It almost made me giggle. I was actually fucking giddy now. What the hell? Manic much?
Argent made a brief show of parading the heads around, saying something suitably pretentious. It was his style and it worked for him.
Ariane stepped away from me, walking up to Argent, leaning into him and whispering into his ear. When they started heading over to the Ghedes, I nodded, realizing what she was doing.
Although they hate his kind, they’d respect the gift. It was a good political move.
She was so fucking amazing. I took a moment to consider how lucky I was to have found her, then laughed as one of the large men painted as skeletons decorated Argent’s face with blood. I could almost feel the Strigaisha wince from here. The blood was too old to be appealing to him, and I know it likely disgusted him. I couldn’t blame him. Cold, dead blood did nothing for me either.
The man then smacked Argent in the chest. The Lwa were always so physically expressive, and I knew it irritated the hell out of him.
I got my kicks where I could, but I would never tell him that.
Ariane’s descendants began heading back off into the darkness, and it was time for me to focus again.
All my collected souls stared back at me as though I was the light of their world, and for all intents and purposes, I was.
I was suddenly crying.
Jesus, this shouldn’t have been fun. I shouldn’t have laughed. I felt like such an asshole.
I’d done such an unforgivable thing.
My heart was breaking.
How could I abuse anybody like this? Much less so many at one time?
Still, the love they showered down on me was so strong, so comforting. It was going to be so difficult to let that go.
Gigi’s voice brought me up short, reminding me.
“You have to send them back, sweetness. It isn’t fair to keep them in this state, never being able to have what they so badly want.”
And, of course, she was right – and now I was shaking. My heart felt like it was going to crack open as I looked around me. I wanted to stay with them almost as badly as they wanted to be near me, and this surprised me.
Somewhere in myself, I found the courage to smile back at them.
“C’mon guys. Now that you’ve eaten, mom says it’s time to get you all back to bed.”
I hoped being cavalier would help.
My heart was breaking.
I waded into a sea of bodies in various stages of decomposition. The smell was surprisingly comforting. I should be nauseous, sick even. At the feel of light hands on my arms, renewed tears started spilling down my cheeks.
I was desperately trying not to break out into huge, gasping wails, just barely fucking holding it all in when Ariane was suddenly there, pulling me into a tight hug.
“I’m here, baby. I’m here. I’ll come with you. I’ll be whatever you need.”
Her words were so soft and soothing.
I looked up at the stars, wondering what the fuck had chosen me for this life.
This horror show.
With a deep, shaky breath, I took Ariane’s hand and we started walking.
I wake with a start. Damn. I hadn’t expected to get drawn that far in, and apparently I fell asleep at some point. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m honestly surprised that Judiana hadn’t pressed me to use my unique, fucked up ability during Argent’s long absence. Maybe he never told her?
I’d have to ask him at some point.
That is if I saw him again.
The events recalled in this initially take place in It Never Ends (Book One of The Vengeance Cycle)