Scene 1.24 - The Lost Plains
Kindred Underground Fortress:
Arik lay over Eve on the bed, his mind shattered in a billion tiny fragments. He wanted nothing more than to revel in the aftermath of what had happened between them, but he couldn't allow himself that luxury.
She was lying beneath him, drifting off in subspace. Her mind was utterly detached from her body. In that moment, he had the ability to capture her life essence and the opportunity to do it might never come again. He hadn't started this with the intent of stealing her soul from the Earth, but he could not deny wanting to do it now that the opportunity presented itself to him.
From the moment he'd taken hold of her, his only intent was to capture her using one of the oldest known rituals that could tether the Kindred together, both in mind and body, albeit he'd done so unfairly with a mortal who had no knowledge of what the act was in the first place. In that much more primitive frame of mind however, he had merely been acting purely on instinct, knowing only that he wanted to possess her.
Now though, he was fully awake and aware of his mind once more. In these brief moments, he had the chance to reap the reward in stealing her very soul from her body. He would never have that chance by any other means. That fact was not lost on him.
Still deeply connected to her by the bond that wove so completely around them, Arik pressed his temple softly against hers. "Come with me," he beckoned her, whispering the words into her ear as he slowly pulled her inner being toward him.
She came effortlessly toward him, unaware it was even happening. His essence blended with hers as they slowly became one. Her thoughts were becoming his and images began flooding his mind. Some of it he understood, yet there were many visions playing into his thoughts that he did not understand at all.
Filling his mind with what was absolutely clear to him, Arik knew he could use it to discover far more about her now than he ever could have in physical form. All at once, he pulled them aloft in the room and broke open a door outside of time and space. They were entering a realm his kind had once inhabited quite frequently. The Lost Plains…
He hadn't visited it in a very long time. It was a place where intent and thought blended together in a dreamlike environment as real as anything present on Earth. It was a veritable playground that could only be accessed by those who were able to freely wield the energy required to open and alter it.
In her mind, it would resemble nothing more than an incredibly vivid dreamworld. In times long since past, the Kindred might lure humans into this world using the many gifts of its environment to seduce their spirit. What he wanted from her in this moment was something far different than that. Using the information he'd gleaned in her mind, he allowed her thoughts to become reality all around them.
Sitting by a shallow puddle of water, Eve looked around the dimly lit tunnel she'd been wandering through. She felt wary and confused, as if she couldn't possibly be where she was at all. She knew that she'd been traveling alone for a very long time. It frightened her to imagine she might truly be lost, left alone to die and no one would ever know. Who could possibly find her in here?
She looked down into the water as she rested there for a while. Her reflection lay in shadow and she poked at it with her finger to watch it ripple over the water. When it stilled, she saw the image of a man standing just over her right shoulder. At once, relief flooded her system.
Whipping her head around, she was dismayed to see no one was standing there at all. A frown marred her features then. She'd been so sure he was with her.
Where are you, a whisper question sounded in the darkness. It drifted to her like a soft breeze in the tunnel.
Arik? She recognized his voice at once, accepting the sound of it without reservation. Where was he? Hovering in the shadows somewhere? A particularly disturbing thought formed in her mind then. He thought she had been running from him. Why would he think that? She'd been looking for him, hadn't she? She thought she had been.
No, she would never run from him… That was ridiculous. Why was the thought fluttering through his mind? Rising up, she peered into the darkness in search of him.
"Where are you," she asked him. "Why do you hide from me?" Surely he must know that he was the one keeping them apart right now, not her.
Silence met her ears and she chose to accept it, allowing him to have space for the time being. Her eyes shifted to look around at the unfamiliar surroundings and she felt herself beginning to lose focus of her thoughts. A veil of darkness arose in the air until she found herself walking alone, wandering aimlessly to find—what?
"Lost," she breathed in answer to herself. "I'm lost," she shivered.
She couldn't recall what had brought her to this place, but it was somehow eerily familiar to her. She'd been here before. It felt so long ago that she could barely even remember it, but the faint glimmer of recognition allowed her to follow her instincts and keep moving further through the veritable maze. Somehow she knew if she kept on moving, she would reach safety soon.
The tall caverns were primitively carved out of pure bedrock. There were dim lights notched into the walls and they flickered every now and again in silence. Strange emblems and glyphs had been carved into the stone that she couldn't decipher, but she recognized that they led the way home. Her pace increased at a dizzying speed then. She began jumping across great distances merely with the desire to do it. Skip-shifting, she remembered in the back of her mind. She'd been told it was skip-shifting. One step turned into twenty, yet she'd barely really moved at all. How strange this place was!
She suddenly stopped when an opening appeared in the distance. She hovered there indecisively, crouching down low to the ground as she peered into the room up ahead. It was a wide open cavern and there—it was him! Every fear she had suddenly evaporated, completely forgotten the moment she saw his face.
"My friend," she whispered to herself with glee. Her feet were moving of their own volition then, dirty, bare feet crossing over the cold ground with great enthusiasm.
It was Will! He was the oldest of her many friends, having just turned twelve in recent days. Leaning back against a rock and looking lost in thought, he was mindlessly tossing pebbles into the distance to hear the echo they made as they hit the ground and bounced off the wall.
"There you are," he called out to her. "It's time to get back before we get in trouble."
Her smile widened broadly then. She would always head out to search for the others and he would always cover up for her absence at camp. How could she have forgotten?
He reached to take her hand in his and she nodded up at him agreeably. She hadn't found what she was looking for today, but nevertheless, she'd tried.
Who is he, came a whispered question in her ear.
"My friend, Will," she replied happily. Once again she accepted Arik's presence beside her without reservation. He was still following her, she realized. That made her feel even better. "He keeps me safe," she told him. "I was lost when he found me, so he took me home with him. He's taught me everything," she smiled. Her voice almost sounded wistful as she followed behind Will's retreating back, idolizing him as she walked to keep up. She would have done anything for him. She would have become anything he wanted her to be if it would keep him close by her side.
He turned to look back at her just to be sure she was following and she smiled to see his eyes. They were so familiar to her as they mirrored the image of her very own.
Eve stuttered then as a veil of darkness suddenly took hold of her surroundings once more. On the image of that happy memory, one born so very long ago, everything began to darken and fade. The world around her suddenly disappeared and Will vanished into nothingness before her eyes.
"What did you do," she demanded angrily. Why would Arik take away such a happy memory like that? "Arik? I want to see him!"
But the curtain was already lifting as life resumed around her once more. The darkness was receding and she found herself in a far different setting.
Who are these people to you, Arik asked.
She looked around the room curiously, vaguely aware of what she was seeing. Oh, of course! This was the old cavern in the underground shelter. It may have been no more than rock and stone in darkness, but it had been immaculately furnished to resemble something far more comfortable for its inhabitants. The room could easily fit fifty family members in it at a time. This was her home. She was home!
Looking into the faces all around her, she spied the youngest ones kneeling on the floor by a woman who sat in a chair reciting a story from memory. "Those are her children," she told Arik. "She took me in. This has been my family since she made me one of hers."
And him, Arik pushed.
Eve's gaze was drawn to the being standing just behind the woman. She swallowed with some effort as she looked upon his strange form. He was so different from everyone else in the room.
"He is their father. I stay out of his way. He knows I'm not his—but she took in dozens who were lost like me. He doesn't like it, but he loves her and so he let her keep us all."
Are they fearful of him, Arik asked as the scene continued.
Glimpsing the faces of the children, she realized he was right. They were fearful, but it wasn't because of him. "It's because we have all been in hiding for a long time. Now it's time to leave and everyone is afraid we'll be separated when it's time to go."
Because you are not his, he assumed.
"No," she shook her head with great sadness. She found herself pitying the woman who was as a mother to her. "We will all go with him. We're of his kind, but not her. She is human… They don't think it will be allowed above ground. No one wants to lose her and she fears losing all of us."
For the second time, Eve felt as if she'd begun to lose herself in what she now perceived as nothing more than a dim memory, yet as she looked around to view the faces of the children, it all felt so incredibly lifelike. The smell and sound of things seemed so real to her. Still, her brain was catching up with reality. This had all transpired in the past. It was not happening right now.
"Arik, what is this?"
He was the cause. He was bringing these memories to life. Somehow she had allowed him to enter her thoughts and he was sifting through each of them one by one. How she knew that was a mystery, but even as she began to make the connection, the environment around her began to darken and her mind felt like everything within it was being rewritten and reset once more. It drew her from the lucid thoughts she'd been having as a dim light began to appear before her eyes.
Oh, God in heaven! No!
The world was a blur as her eyes opened and closed repeatedly. A haze of distorted images filtered through her brain, flashing before her mind's eye one by one. She realized they were pictures, glimpses of things she had seen during her time in captivity at the facility. The others! The ones she had recognized as friends and family!
One after the other, she was shown glimpses of blue mist that rose and hovered in the air over narrow examination tables. As their forms were presented before her mind's eye for inspection, she realized she knew them, each and every one. One was connected to the lifeless form of a man who had been stabbed in the chest and another had fled a woman who had been screaming out loud in agony. Then, yet another image of another one shifted before her eyes… And then others… Each one she saw she could connect to the face of a human who had died a very intense and miserable death.
Her gifts allowed her to see so much more than what the prone position of her body might ever allow. As she viewed their spiritual essence, she was able to look through their eyes to see the horror that they had witnessed, feeling the torturous pain they'd all felt.
She knew them! Every last entity that had been ripped from its host's body so unwillingly! She could see their human faces and knew the terror they had felt before they were executed in cold-blood. All she knew at first was tremendous grief and despair, but that soon began to morph into anger, fury and ultimately intense rage. The longer the images flooded her mind, the greater her contempt for it all began to grow.
That was when her thoughts zeroed in on just one man. His image flashed and froze before her eyes and Eve felt the world grinding to a halt as she stared into his eyes. His was the face she saw time and again, standing there completely devoid of emotion as he severed the connection between human and spirit. The outrage she felt as she viewed his face caused her thoughts to suddenly shift, ripping sharply from the tether that seemed to be holding her immobile.
Her eyes opened fully, unwilling to allow her thoughts to be played with a moment longer. She was no one's prisoner. She had been freed! She had been awakened…
Taking a deep breath, she sat up on the narrow cot and looked around with wide eyes. The door to her cell, it stood slightly ajar. She could feel the wealth of energy pouring in from the outer corridor. That was what had roused her sleepy mind.
She could hear an argument ensuing in the hall just outside her cell. The sound of it had penetrated the nightmare she'd been having—helping her break free of the ghastly images that had been invading her mind. She took another deep breath then, feeling herself recharging—truly awakening for the first time since she'd been brought to the facility all those years ago. Her body was regenerating, yet she had no time to dwell on it at all.
She viewed the restraints on her wrists with annoyance, scorching the material until it began to incinerate into mere ash. Free! Her hands were free!
Sliding to the end of the bed, she lowered herself cautiously to the floor and felt her feet bearing the weight of her body. The muscles in her legs were already regaining their strength at an impressive rate and she knew she had to act while she had the chance. The door was open. Somehow, it was finally open!
A loud blast rang out in the distance then, one that she didn't immediately recognize. A man was shouting incoherently up and down the hallway and she moved to open the door to see what was happening. It was the first time she had ever stepped foot onto the unit in her life.
It was one of the doctors. He was ranting on and on, swinging a gun wildly about as he strode from cell to cell, raving that it didn't matter how many of them he killed. With little fanfare, he ripped open the glass door to one cell and stormed inside to put a bullet through the patient's head.
Then and there, time seemed to grind to a screeching halt in Eve's mind. Her eyes turned to look into the patient's rooms one by one. The doors all along the unit were haphazardly flung open, just as hers had been.
Her mouth dropped open and she felt tears spring to her eyes as she looked into the cell directly across from hers. God no! There lay the teenager she had been watching from afar for many months. There was no way to help her now. She was collapsed lifelessly on the bed, motionless on the cot. Hovering over her body in the cell was another of the celestial entities. It just floated there as if in complete shock.
How many had she seen ripped out of the humans who lay in that cell? Dozens? Hundreds???
Eve wasn't even aware she'd made a sound until the man in the distance suddenly turned and drew down low to the ground. She saw his mouth moving rapid-fire, barking out orders and she knew he must be shouting. She couldn't hear him though. The blood was coursing through her veins, her heart pounding so loudly in her ears that it deafened her to every noise in the room.
A veil of blinding light suddenly cast over her vision and the world was awash in a vivid white glow. Every person hovering in the distance came into focus as their image darkened to that of a faint skeletal form. She could see every detail of them as they all began running, scurrying to try and take cover in the far corners of the lab. High on the distant wall, a door burst open against a second-story rail and she could see an iron balcony filling with men who seemed to bleed into the room like a swarm of angry ants.
Her feet planted themselves on the ground as her arms spread wide, then she felt it begin. Power, the likes of which she'd never known, was flooding her system from every conceivable angle. She wanted these men dead. All of them! Their insidious infestation and insane experimentation on these innocent victims would end now.
All at once, the room was thrown into complete darkness as the power grid failed and a siren began wailing in alarm. Thrown into a blind panic, many people began running back toward the exits, but it was far too late for them. She could still see them! She had filled her being to overflow with all the energy she could draw as far as her senses could reach—and still her reach was extending outward, pulling that power within. She was ready to end it all here and now.
A series of electrical spikes shot from her hands, striking each man she saw in turn. Their images instantly lit up in a blinding light that burst forth from every orifice that exited their bodies. She brought down two, then seven, then ten… Pain! She wanted them to feel it! Every last agonizing ounce of it, before she would let loose an explosion that she knew would level the entire facility. The power was radiating from within her even as she continued drawing far more into her being. She would feel no remorse or sorrow for ending these sick freaks of nature. Vengeance was her only friend in that moment…
Her momentum stalled out when a split-second blast lit the darkness in the distance and a fiery pain shot through her side as something hit her full-force. A second shot sounded, then a third—both of which hit their mark. She looked down to see two darts sticking out of her skin, having embedded themselves deep into the tissue of her chest. Someone up ahead was rushing in her direction then, spraying her dead int he face with a chemical that burned her eyes, forcing them to close.
I will kill them all! She swore it to herself as an oath. She would sacrifice herself to see the deed carried out.
Her sanity was teetering on the fray, breaking off bit by bit with every passing second. She was not down. She was still standing there, stripping the Earth bare of energy, intent to use it even as the tranquilizers in her system began to take effect.
Eve felt strong arms suddenly close around her from behind. Blind and deaf to everything around her, she immediately struggled to be free, but the strength of that hold was virtually unbreakable. Only vaguely did she hear the inhumane shriek that came from her throat as she was brought down to her knees. Her arms were pinned against her frame as a weight was suddenly pressed against her chest. She was being pulled back hard against a body that felt like it was made of pure steel. The very breath was knocked out of her before a torrent of energy was suddenly ripped straight from the heart of her.
She couldn't breathe! The fire burning within her was being ripped from her system and it signaled doom in her mind. Without it she would be defenseless again!
"Eve stop!" Arik shouted in her ear. "We are not there! They are not here!"
She was straining against him with all the strength she possessed and it was all he could do to maintain his grip on her as he fought to hold her against him. She had no idea where she was or what she was doing in that moment. He did and it awoke a desperation in him that bordered on hysteria to try and stop her. His hands were locked in place over her chest, absorbing every bit of energy that she had stolen from the environment all around her.
He had realized far too late how badly he'd screwed up. He'd pushed her too hard, far too quickly. He'd had no idea of the demons she'd kept buried in her subconscious. He had used his abilities to try and uncover the truth about her, but now he was reeling in the aftermath of what he had learned.
He'd felt something was wrong the minute she took hold of the visions, morphing them to reflect her own desires in the final moments that they'd been there in spirit. What he'd seen had sickened him, but not so fully as what he had felt when he opened his eyes to the living world. Eve had somehow risen from the bed, remaining in control of herself both here and in the netherworld. The entire fortress had gone black as she drew every last drop of energy from it that she could reach. Her entire being was aglow with it. Her eyes were aflame in light as any Kindred's might be in the midst of the berserk rage that had overtaken her mind. He knew what she intended to do in that moment. He had barely fled the realm of the Lost Plains in time to realize she was set to detonate the entire fortress in which they dwelt. She just didn't realize it!
The level of power flowing into his chest, pulled directly from hers was astonishing. That she could wield this much energy without dropping dead on the spot was mind-boggling.
"Open your eyes, Eve," he beckoned her. "See where we are! We are not there! None of them are here to kill!"
It was an impossible struggle as Arik fought to pull the energy from her while also trying to expel it from his own system. Doing both simultaneously was not an innate ability that he possessed and his body felt ready to implode from the incredible power of it.
"Eve, I'm sorry—please, just stop!" He was reduced to begging. She was simply a force that he could not control by any means. Whether it was the Grey blood that ran through her system or the Kindred soul that lay within her very being, Eve was the only creature he'd ever been matched against that he absolutely had no control over! "Just open your eyes and see where you are. Please!"
Then it was suddenly ending. The lights began coming on in the room. He could see it even behind his closed lids as she stopped the endless draw of energy from the fortress. He was breathing hard, panting as he continued to release what had been absorbed into him from her. The heat emanating from her chest began to cool, although his hands felt as though they were still on fire against her.
She ceased her struggle to be free from him, slumping back against him as though all the strength she possessed simply drained from her body. Arik was sweating madly, his muscles cramping from holding her so tightly.
"Look upon the room," he breathed into the back of her neck. "You are not there," he promised her.
Just as he thought it was at an end, she was suddenly clawing at his arms, electric spikes casting out in wild arcs, piercing his skin as she ripped out of his hold. He had no strength left with which to restrain her. He knelt where he was, ready to accept whatever came next, yet she merely whipped around, staring him down with the deadliest look in her eyes as she viewed him.
Whether she saw him as the enemy now or not, he could not say. She was pinning him in place with a look that told him she'd like to kill him now in place of those she would have incinerated in the netherworld. Her teeth clenched and she was fairly hissing as she breathed in and out in rapid succession.
"Get out," she seethed as she stood over him.
She was putting the pieces together one by one. He could see that she was. She knew what he'd done and the betrayal in her eyes left their mark on his soul as he felt himself flooding with intense guilt and remorse.
He had used his gifts in the most perverse sense imaginable. What he'd done harkened back to the days when a rogue Kindred would set out to seduce the spirit of a human that they desired enough to move heaven and earth to possess. He had forcibly pushed her down onto the bed, then capturing her soul the moment her defenses dropped to their lowest point. He'd violated her mind and body, and she knew it. He could see that she did…
That it had bled over into a fuel-filled rage as she'd revisited the horrors of memories better kept buried only made what he'd done that much more of an unforgivable sin. It was like nothing he had ever attempted at any point in his wretched life before… And he was already on trial for the most egregious of sins against nature as it was!
"I had to know what you were," he implored her, weighed down with an emotion he had never experienced in his long-lived life. "There are others here that I have to protect!"
"I said get out. Now!" Her eyes held the promise of immediate repercussions if he did not heed her warning that very moment.
Arik held still for the briefest instant, then all at once he evaporated into thin air, his essence fleeing the area in the blink of an eye. She would never forgive him for what he'd done. He knew she'd never be able to accept any reason he could possibly offer her.
It was the first time since he'd cast the curse that spelled doom for all of the Kindred that he felt his soul darkening with a stain of shame. It was only the second time he could remember doing something that made him curse being what he was, having used his gifts to exert his will to commit an act from which there was no redemption.
He receded into the darkness of the catacombs deep beneath the fortress, intent to imprison his own very soul there to repent for an eternity, knowing it was what he deserved.