Not Without Me
What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love...
Just a week after mother passed Ruby gathered us for an official séance. She conjured the spirits of Godric, Holly and Alcide’s best-friend Marcus all at the same time. Ruby wanted everyone to have a full understanding of everything that had transpired. Most of all she wanted to ease our troubled minds. As Godric spoke through Ruby, he consoled his grieving sons. He commanded them not to seek vengeance for his death. He only wanted his progenies to prosper and move on with their lives. Because of my Aunt, not only humans but vampires and wolves have confirmation that what Godric said was true; death is not the end.
More weeks passed and my internal struggle remained unrelenting. After all, we’d been through hell; we’re all diligently doing our best to cope with our losses. I couldn’t imagine dragging any one of us into another fight.
The only thing the Elders said that was clear. Mom and Willa’s souls are trapped in Absalom’s realm. That leaves only me to set them free. Now I stand in the white room of nothingness, this time, a shimmering object caught my eye.
“This is the Chimera of Isis.” The Elders voices echoed to me.
The amulet is like nothing I’d ever seen; it is intricate in design, heavy as a brick and pure gold. The gem is an encrusted wonder, as big as Eric’s hand, adorned with the head of a goat, a lion, a snake and with the body of a shapely woman. In the lion’s mouth, a white diamond, in the goat’s mouth, a sapphire, in the mouth of the serpent an emerald. In the chest of the charm is the biggest red ruby I’d ever seen.
“With the Chimera of Isis, the elements bond in the dark realm.”
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked them. All I ever did was question them; though I don’t know why I even bother, they never give a clear answer.
“Make haste to the dark portal.” Isabelle’s distinct voice commanded; she sounded worried. I snapped awake and a tidal wave of emotions flooded in.
It’s time...Tears brimmed my eyes and I fought desperately to suppress them. Quietly, I slipped out of bed, showered and put my leather and jeans on. I made the mistake of looking over at my man and I started to cry.
Although asleep, my Viking could feel my distress, he let out a faint grumble, his brow furrowed and his body fidgeted slightly. If I don’t chill out, he’s gonna wake up, so I tore my eyes from his gorgeous expressive face and grabbed a pen and paper. With all my might I pushed out my dread and forced in happy thoughts( Lafayette’s last crawfish broil)... His fidgeting stopped and I left.
Tall stone walls, thick thorny bushes, and a black steel gate surrounded the absent mansion on St. Charles Ave. As I walked down the brick driveway, The Elders blitzed my mind, “Aether, adorn yourself with the Chimera of Isis, recite the incantation and cross the threshold into the dark realm.”
“Okay.” My gut twisted in knots, I placed the amulet around my neck and heave in a deep calming breath. And then The Elders began to chant; as their chanting got louder, I could hear more voices, voices, I’d never heard before.
“Dues Isis, portas custodire ab aquilone ad meridiem ad orientem et ad occidentem -Terra largiturum virtutem elementorum, aer, ignis , et aqua - Afferte in opaca clavis- Aperite portas! Aperite portas! Aperite portas..!”
I listened to them a few times and then I joined in repeating the chant over and over. The winds began to whip about as we invoked the elements of my spiritual mother Isis. A gust seeped in causing my eyes to water and I gasped as my nostrils began to burn. The most god-awful stench stewed in the air and I almost lost my gumbo.
That’s when I saw it. At first, it looked like dense fog rising from the ground on a fall morning, but that rapidly changed into pitch-black smoke. The smoke bubbled and began to darken, increasing in width. Lightning flashed, thundered and crackled loudly, the sound, earsplitting. It churned, snaking in a loop, it went faster, and the storm spun and opened up. Suddenly I was looking into a place right out of your worst nightmare. And my crazy ass walked right in... Now I’m positive...I’m one slice shy of a loaf.
My father’s house walled a different air and I was forced to acknowledge the fact his home would never be the same without him. Godric’s house was the Aether’s Coven now. They’d lost everything and if Godric were still here with me, I’m positive he would have opened his home to them. I am grateful to the magical clan, granting me a final goodbye to my Sire after watching him meet the sun was nothing short of miraculous. I shall always be loyal and serving to Aether’s Coven.
I needed no invitation as I crossed the door’s threshold. Eggs stood in the foyer, he greeted me with a stoic expression, which is unlike him. While Nora and Naomi quickly trail down the stairs with Franklin adjoining close behind.
“Into the library,” Franklin uttered, picking up his leisurely pace, briskly treading through the foyer and down the hall.
The grand room was candlelit; the white candles strategically placed around the Vesica Pisces circle, reminding me of the time Tara and I spent with my father not long ago. Tara’s kin sat alone at the roundtable sipping her beverage, “Are you ready to go get Tara?” the medium said and then sipped once more.
“Ruby Jean..!” Naomi huffed as she flicked the light switch, turning on the artificial lights. “We need to speak with Eric, please leave.”
We both ignored Naomi.
“Yes, I am ready to go get Tara,” I answered the woman as I neared her. When I was in arms reach she lightly tapped the top of my hand with hers... I allowed it.
“You warm- I’ll be able to see you in there.” The conjurer lowered her spectacles for further examination, she looked positively stunned but pleased none the less.
“Speak clearly Medium...” I commanded.
“Tara’s is losing her spirit, she needs you...” She said, standing from her seat; she neared the exit of the room.
At the worst time, my phone rang...Of course, it was Pam.
“But I got your message, Cupcake’s gone, what can I do?” Her concern for my darling pleased me.
“Maintain vigilant eyes and keep our businesses in order in my absence.”
“So you aren’t showing up tonight?” She let out a long unsatisfied sigh. “Shit Eric, without you, the humans get all dreary and pissy.”
“I said-Not-now Pamela...” I release the call and shoved my cell in my pocket. while briefly scanning the room.
Eggs expression was unusually absent, as was Naomi; she timidly looked away when I met her gaze; Nora mimicked her actions and denied me eye contact. The clairvoyant had left the room.
“Call the medium back, I need answers.”
“Listen, Eric, that blabbermouth has done enough damage, we only brought you here to explain where your human is. This is not a rescue attempt.” Franklin said, taking a seat at the table.
“I don’t give a fuck about your attempts, my attempt is to be at her side in battle...Now... where - is - Tara...” I snarled, masking my despair with annoyance.
“She is long gone,” Franklin shrugged. His expression was not of smugness, it was of contemplation.
Was he actually thinking of something other than himself?
“Where?” I growled, unbelieving at how helpless I am, “Why can’t I feel her through our bond?” I turned to Nora, her manner was the most unnerving, she looked truly horrified.
“Aether is in the dark realm, the world of dark spirits and lost souls. Her soul is free, she is a beacon and therefore Ruby can see her.” she breathed in a heavy sigh, “Unfortunately, Ruby cannot see the two captured-lost souls Tara went to rescue, thus making this a mission impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible,” I assured her, “how do I enter the dark realm?”
“Through a portal, but it’s not a place you ever want to enter. It’s a place out of your worst nightmare. Nothing is what it seems; all logic is obscured, time, space, nothing makes sense in the darkness...and the darkness...it feeds on your fear, it consumes your sanity and eventually your soul. ” Nora warned me. “I pray to Isis that Aether realizes she will never find them and returns to us...one day...” she said, lowering her eyes; as the blood rushes out of her cheeks and tears fill her eyes.
“I fear nothing, not even hell can keep me from Tara.” My conviction brooked no argument. “Surely you all don’t expect me to do nothing and just hope for her to return.” I sneered through gritted teeth. They are wasting time, Tara’s side is where I belong. I felt a strong desire to beat them all into submission, but that is not my place. I must find a way to get them to see things my way.
“You don’t understand...” Nora began a futile attempt of detouring me, “In the dark realm, Absalom is just as powerful as Aether. For you it is much worse, vampires are not in control of their supernatural abilities, they may not even possess them at all.”
“I may as well have given myself to the tribunal. Being without her is like the true-death, I must try to rescue her.” I shoved my hands in my pocket to keep them from trembling.
“Tara wouldn’t want that.” Naomi shook her head in dismay, “She’d never want any of us, especially you risking your true-death for her.”
“That is a risk I am willing to take.” My nails dug into my skin and I clenched my fist even tighter. “You must allow me to follow my bonded into the darkness...I shall remain in your presence until you comply.” I had no choice but to continue shamelessly beseeching my beloved’s subjects.
“No!” Nora spoke solemnly, “Gehenna is an entire world of pure darkness, the demons will eat you alive or you will wander around for who knows how many centuries.”
“She is mine- I shall find her.” I had all confidence in myself... if Tara were anywhere on Earth, I would find her. I know the same will hold true in Hades.” The depth of Tara’s compassion is evident. Her fierce loyalty means her family, friends and loved ones are her life. Since the night Tara’s mother was slain, the witches feared Aether would try to release her trapped soul. I knew eventually she would gather the courage to go back into battle, but she should not have gone without me. “She should never have gone...not without me, my seraph...We need each other, we belong together.” I heard myself say aloud.
“Just do the bloody ritual,” Franklin suddenly cracked, catching Nora by surprise she let out a gasp, her eyes widen in response. “I’d go into that bloody-dreadful place for you...” Franklin added with a mumble, his outburst seemed to surprise him just as much as his companion. In fact, his comment shocked everyone; even I was momentarily staggered; Franklin had never spoken on my behalf before. Our baby brother smiled his warm smile. It seems Franklin understood me, he agreed with my sentiments and for the first time, Godric’s progeny’s were behaving like a clan.
We are truly united.
Undeniably, our father would be pleased. All our eyes remained on Franklin, and Franklin relished that.
“So will you do it? He’s not going to leave us if you don’t,” My English brother asked the Enchantress again. He must have felt her yield; he neared her and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Very good then.”
Eggs turned to his lover; he knew the answer was in our favor when Naomi hastily began suiting up in her black cloak, while Nora gathered their essential Wiccan supplies and beckoned the girl Jessica. She was asked to sacrifice her virgin blood for the ritual. The ginger-haired youth dutifully obliged.
Naomi drew the blood from her arm with a clean hypodermic needle and emptied it into a large golden chalice. “As High Priestess, we do not possess the powers of our ancient Elders and Aether. So opening this portal will be very dangerous, you may be severely injured during the journey.”
“I am ready,” I replied, the fact was I was more than fucking ready. I was on the cusp of being reunited with my beloved. I didn’t believe in heaven until Tara walked into my world and proved to me that angels exist.
“Lie down in the center of the circle, close your eyes and whatever you do, don’t open them,” Nora asked and warned at the same time.
Without hesitation, I did as I was told. The witches began to chant in Latin, I speak Latin, and thus I understood their words.
“Goddess Isis, watch over the gates of the north, south, east, and west...Bestow the power of the elements earth, air, fire, and water - Bring forth your key into the dark realm - Open the gates! -Open the gates! -Open the gates!”
Despite his instincts, The Norseman kept his eyes closed; at the same time, a sweltering heat began to burn his forehead, cheeks, and lips. The heat made its way down his neck, chest, and abdomen until his entire body felt like it was in an oven. He stifled back his groan of pain and permitted the heat to blister and singe his flesh.
The witches’ chanting voices began to fade and he felt his muscular body was lifted up by an unseen force. He levitated higher and higher, feeling a distance separate them. The vampire sensed his increased elevation, and he was certain he would soon crash into the ceiling of the library.
Suddenly everything went silent; he listened intently, but his keen vampire-ears heard no sound. He continued to drift, unsure if he should open his eyes or obey the sorceress orders.
After what seemed like several long and drawn out moments, he took a chance and opened his eyes. As soon as he did his eyes were scorched by something in the air; he began to fall fast, rapidly spiraling down into the silent darkness. He tried to gather his bearings and fly, but the air, the entire laws of physics seemed to be obscured, and he was unable to hover.
Several more moments passed and the vampire collided hard onto the ground; the only sound heard was his painful cry as his bones snapped and shattered. He lay there in the ire silence and invasive blackness for a while in sheer agony, but the pain did not last long, his veins coursed with Aether’s magical blood and he began to heal.
Once he was able to see, he stood and looked around. It was what he’d envisioned Gehenna would look like.
“I pray to Isis that Aether and her Chosen survive,” Nora said after she kissed Franklin, “our vigilance, combined with their love and devotion will sustain our existence for a millennium.”
“I hope so too.” The curly-haired vampire agreed as he blew out the last candle. They all looked at him wide-eyed again.
“What?” He grinned and with a mischievous wink he sauntered out of the library. The foursome left the mansion to enjoy each other’s company for the remaining night.
In the cozy den, the coven members studied the Vesica Pisces book as Nora had instructed, while, Mavis and Emma played Angry Birds on their tablets. Cathy lounged in the Lazy–Boy chair clicking back and forth from CNN to the BBC channel. Ms. Hamby was delightfully conflicted, the anchorman had announced new candidates for an AVL spokesperson and she was excited to know who would be chosen, but a Doctor Who marathon was on also.
Unbeknownst to all, Jessica Lynn Hamby had a plan. The young woman packed her bag with weapons and then waited until everyone was preoccupied. The young woman made sure the coast was clear and then she doubled back into the library. She repeated the ritual and entered the dark realm.