The Voice In The Dark
Giselle looked out the window and took the coffee cup to her lips, then she set it aside and looked mechanically at the crimson lipstick imprint she’d just left on the cup edge. Since she was 15 years old, absolutely every day of her life she would get up and put on make-up carefully. Her mother had taught both her and Kristina that make-up made the ugly beautiful and the beautiful further beautified - and both had always been very beautiful. She’d never missed the ritual in front of the mirror where with dedicated focus she covered her white skin with a touch of colour, highlighting the green of her eyes and painting her lips in red, giving herself a truly exquisite appearance. At least, until Kristina had suffered that terrible accident which disfigured her face. The most skilful surgery hadn’t been enough to completely restore her lost beauty.
Giselle was very attractive, and could’ve had any man she wanted. Her slender figure, her delicate face, and her soft voice made her infinitely sensual. However, her coldness and her vocation devoted to science in body and soul had made her become a strange laboratory goddess, as insensitive as inaccessible. She’d closed the door to be happier herself. She was still young - twenty-eight years was nothing. There was still time for...
She didn’t realize the cup had slipped from her fingers until she heard the dull crashing to the ground. The sound startled her but she didn’t lower her gaze.
“Doctor...” Schäffer approached her from behind. She went rigid, staring at the beautiful seascape, with hands still in position of holding. “Adolf...” She murmured, her voice cracking.
The burly mercenary bent, picked up the cup shards and tossed them into a nearby waste-basket. Then he turned and looked at her with a critical eye. She hadn’t moved.
“May I speak with confidence from now, Giselle? I won’t unless you authorize me, but there’s something I want to tell you.” He crossed his arms and cocked his head. The doctor turned to face him, her eyes dilated. “Giselle, we’ve hit bottom. From now on, the way forward is gone. Decisions must be made.” She didn’t react. Schäffer went to her and grabbed her elbow. “Open your eyes, Boaz! We’re alone in this. We’ve to think of something to do. Staying here in this fortress will only hasten our fall.”
“What did I do wrong?” She whispered, stunned. “I’ve given everything for science - everything for Eckhardt, for Joach... Joachim. I gave my uterus to breed a being more beautiful than any flower and more powerful than a raging ocean. I killed Gertrude, who was the oldest of us. I risked everything. What have I done wrong?” Her voice trembled.
Schäffer himself was aware that situation humiliated her and later he’d pay for having seen her so vulnerable - but he shrugged. “You must forget the Lady... your daughter. Look, she’s not human. For some time she’s been following her own path. She marked a destination for herself we don’t understand and so she refuses to share with us.” He hesitated. “I’m not smart, Giselle, just a man of action...but I learn from my mistakes, and especially from the mistakes of others. All who came before us, strong and weak, mortal and immortal, have fallen. We’re alone and we have hit bottom. We must think what to do next.”
The young scientist took two steps and sat at the table. “Are you talking about leaving my experiments, my patients?”
“Your doctors and assistants will take care of them. You’ve been a good Mistress and they will know how to go on.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What would I do out of my world?”
Schäffer’s mouth twitched. “Giselle, Giselle... it’s shameful to see how you waste yourself. No, let me finish. I won’t woo you like a drunk or tell you obscenities like that Italian asshole. That rage should have its way out, my pretty, otherwise you’ll explode. You fell in love with a being that wasn’t for you, who would never be yours even if you’d begged him on your knees...”
For a moment the woman’s cheeks flushed and she returned to being Dr. Boaz - she stood up, furious, on her two heels, and exploded: “How dare you? Insolent! Who told you...!”
“Please forgive me. That was rude. But it was an open secret, my darling. Don’t think I made fun of you. Even the boss Gunderson pitied you.”
Giselle snorted - for her, her servant’s compassion was worse than her enemies’ hatred. “All that has to do with Joachim Karel is ancient history.”
“You sure, pretty?” He walked up to her and looked at her with affection. “You still mourn him at night. We tortured the Lux Veritatis so viciously we almost killed him - but it wasn’t enough for you. When will you rest, Giselle Boaz? What does it take for you to find peace, so you can love again, so you can erase the face of that ruthless Nephilim from your eyes and your memory?”
Then something happened she hadn’t anticipated. Her eyes filled with tears and slipped softly down her cheeks. Her eye make-up ran, leaving two black strands on her face. “I want them dead. I want Kurtis Trent dead. I want Lara Croft dead. I want Selma Al-Jazeera, Vladimir Ivanoff dead... I want that bloody Marcus dead... I want all who made fun of me dead. I’m sick of all this. No more torture, no more prisons. Death, Adolf! Fast death, simple and serene. I don’t care anymore about their suffering. I just want them wiped off the face of the Earth. That they can’t laugh anymore. That they can’t celebrate their victory. That they can’t do anything.”
Adolf smiled. “Killing is easy, nice doctor. You do it every day - so do I. And when they’re dead, will you have peace? Will you be able to look at me as something more than your faithful servant?”
Then she looked at him speechless.
“I hope you understand I’m trying to make this easy. I’ve a lot of respect for you and I won’t hesitate. I’m at your service. Ask me anything and you’ll have it.”
Suddenly she laughed. She threw her head back and burst into a hearty, youthful laugh. Her teeth were pearly white. Then she rubbed her wet cheeks, black smearing over it. She imagined what her mother would’ve said seeing her with such appearance, and that made her laugh even more.
“Anything, Adolf Schäffer?” Giselle laughed again. “Fine. I’ll leave the Island at the hands of my servants. Take all your men, here they will no longer be necessary. We’ll go and find out what my daughter ails. I learned she’s into the worship of that dark goddess so adored by Gertrude. I won’t let her go, she’s very valuable and she’s still my daughter. But first...” The scientist walked two steps up to him and ran her fingers down his chin. She smiled slyly. “First, we’ll kill them all. One by one. I want to be present at their death. Will you give me this, Schäffer? Perhaps this will be different once all is over.”
He smiled coldly, took her hand and kissed her fingertips. “I only live to serve you, Doctor.”
Lara found Marcus sitting on a bench under a tree outside the castle, his face thrown back so he could enjoy sunlight, ignoring the people who came and went on Bran. Seeing him, the British explorer became aware of how fragile he was, almost nothing left of him - so skinny, gaunt and aged. The clothes provided to him by Ivanoff fit him huge. In a way, his serene and resigned old age reminded her of Winston, but her faithful butler had never been locked up or starved for months.
“I know my report uneased you.” The Lux Veritatis said without opening his eyes, when he barely felt her close. “It was long ago when I wrote that and I still know so little about him. No one really knows him, not even Marie, who’s been with him longer than anyone else. So I assume I can be wrong and even misjudge him, but facts are facts.”
“What about that piece of paper at the end?”
“The one stained with blood.”
Marcus opened his eyes and looked surprised. “No, child, there’s no bloodstained paper. What are you talking about?”
Lara shook the sheet before his eyes. “There’s a bloodstained piece of paper at the end of your report, small and wrinkled. Seems written by Kurtis himself, but that doesn’t make sense, because that happened far away from your cell and... and the situation in which he was back then would’ve prevented him from writing.”
The old man’s eyes narrowed. “Show me.”
Lara handed the piece of paper to him. As soon as he saw it, Marcus paled and caught it with his fingertips, as if the paper burned. Then he read it hastily, his dry lips moving rapidly, and suddenly he stood up, upset. “Where was this?”
“I’ve already told you.” Lara patiently answered. “In the manuscript.”
“I haven’t got it here! I swear this by the Light! This...” Suddenly he started walking as fast as he could towards the castle.
Lara followed him. “Marcus, what are you doing?”
The old man didn’t reply. Determined not to get angry with him, she followed him to Ivanoff’s study. Passing next to the professor, who was engaged in the reading of various manuscripts, he came to the fireplace.
“Marcus, no!” She jumped towards him, but it was too late. The Healer had thrown the note into the fire, and stared at the flames. “What did you do?” Lara said, annoyed. “Why the hell did you burn...?”
Marcus was speechless when he made her, with a sudden movement, look at the flames.
The note, which should be burnt, trembled and twitched in the fire, as if it were palpitating viscera. Horrified, she leaned even closer and heard a sort of groan, a soft gurgling, like a repressed sob.
“What’s that?” they heard Vlad behind them, adjusting his glasses. “God! That thing is alive!”
After a couple of crackles, the paper burst into flames and a sickening smell of burning flesh filled the room. Lara held a spasm. With a stumble, Ivanoff ran to open the window.
Marcus, livid, drew a curious symbol in the air, and muttered a phrase in Latin. Then he translated: “May the Light free us from Evil, to each and every one of us.”
“What was that, Marcus?” Lara muttered dizzy, and dropped into a chair.
“It wasn’t a paper, Lara, and whoever put it there didn’t wish any good to us.” The Healer shuddered and marked the symbol again, as if crossing himself. “We must tell Kurtis about this. We all are in danger, and he more than any other.”
Maddalena slipped her fingers under the heavy lid and pulled it. A snap confirmed she’d broken a fingernail, but paid no attention. What the hell did a nail matter? She took another pull and flipped the lid, leaving the well-head exposed.
It was late afternoon and the castle was closed to visitors. The Italian redhead sick of shadows because of all her wandering about like a lost soul, had begun to delve into the well. Bending, she was surprised to find no water, only blackness together with a blast of stale air.
“Careful. It’s a long fall from there.” Kurtis’ voice suddenly rang a few feet away.
Maddalena pulled up her head and smiled bitterly. “Who cares if I fall?”
“Well.” He replied, shrugging. He was leaning on a column in the courtyard. “Doesn’t make much sense. I’ve been down there, and there are only stinking passages and a torture chamber. This was owned by Vlad Tepes.”
The Italian woman sighed and nibbled at her broken nail.
“You look different.” He said then.
“You mean I no longer behave like a whore.” She said, and before he could answer, she continued. “No, truth be told, I’m tired of it. I’ve been sick of that for a while now, but I neither wanted to admit it, nor had the guts to change. I’d give anything to go back and start again.” I’m sure I’d be something different for you then, she thought quietly, still looking at him.
Kurtis then said: “You risked too much by going to the Island. Why?”
“You ask me that?” She smiled, and thinking what the hell, she added. “It was for you. I robbed Monteleone because I believed those documents were valuable and someone could pay for them. Bathsheba... well, I thought she′d be interested and...”
“Too bad you did that. I can’t give you what you want from me, Giulia.”
She put her suddenly trembling hands on the pit edge and looked at them. “Why do you have to be so wonderful?” She murmured in a broken voice. “Rejecting me that way only makes me love you even more.”
Then she heard him laugh softly, but she didn’t look up. Nevermind, she’d lost the little dignity she had left.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not wonderful at all. I’m a despicable being. What you love is just the shadow of an illusion.”
“Is that what you said to Lara?”
He didn’t answer. Slowly, Maddalena looked up and saw him frowning. Somehow, her comment had upset him.
“I can’t believe you.” She was quick to answer. “Sciarra was a despicable being. Monteleone was a despicable being. All those minions, all that mob who torture and kill on the Island are despicable beings. I see nothing of that in you.”
“Nor anything wonderful either. You don’t know me, Giulia. You’re suffering in vain.”
“But I love you.” She murmured, blushing. “I’d rather suffer like this than be again the hateful person I was before.” Suddenly, the Italian woman left the well and went towards him and he didn’t move. Having her so close, her face without makeup, her pink lips, her amber eyes, the rain of golden freckles covering her nose and that wonderful red hair which haloed her face. “It’s because I’m a whore?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“So this is because of her. You loved her from the beginning, right? What does she have that I haven’t?”
“I won’t talk about Lara with you, Giulia. It would only make you feel worse. You’re torturing yourself for nothing. You deserve better than me.”
“But I love you...”
Kurtis stopped the hand that was about to stroke his face and pushed her away with a sigh. She’d rather have him shoving and hitting her.
“You always reject women like this?”
“Wrong about me again. I’m not a heartbreaker - and I don’t have a legion of women after me either...”
They turned, startled. Marcus was in the doorway of the courtyard - at his side was Lara, who frowned when she saw Maddalena.
“We need to talk to you. It’s urgent.”
For some reason, Marcus preferred Lara to speak. She chose not to mention Marcus’ report and merely told him about that piece of paper conveying his thoughts in that short time he’d been dying before Minos and the other monks found him.
Kurtis listened to her with a frown and shook his head. Exasperated by his astonishing serenity, Marcus jumped out. “You know what this means, right? An evil spirit had access to your mind and has been using your memories. You know the risk you run, we all run now because of you?”
“Guess I’ve been pretty vulnerable lately.” Kurtis said calmly. “They’re always lurking. I’d be surprised they haven’t take advantage of this golden opportunity.”
“But what that note said was true?” Lara jumped.
Kurtis looked at her tenderly. “Guess something like that haunted my mind as I almost bled to death.” He waved his hand dismissively. “But who cares anymore.”
“What kind of demon would pretend?” Lara turned towards Marcus. “Is it Bathsheba?”
“Don’t imagine her using that.” The old man replied. “I know her as I knew her father. They both loved being my jailers. She’s too delicate, too subtle, to resort to such... filthy resources. There has been another entity which has shown off through the paper.”
Marcus paled when hearing that name. “Don’t mention that impure... freak! She’s asleep, unlikely to wake up and we want to her remain so. I’m afraid...”
“I know what it could be.” A sudden voice said. All three turned. With the nails sunk in the doorway, Marie looked at them anxiously. She walked up to them, and her haggard look disturbed Lara. The Navajo woman was bewildered. “It’s the Voice in the Dark.”
Maddalena was left alone in the yard, clinging to the column where Kurtis had been leaning. Her soft breasts, her tender belly, pressed against the stone, looking for his body heat in it. The porous rock stroked her cheek.
At first, she heard the soft hum. Then she thought it was some gust of wind blowing in through a narrow place. Only when the wind stopped blowing in the yard, she realized what she was hearing was a whining voice.
The Italian woman separated her face from the column and looked around, stunned. She felt her hair bristling when noticing the groan came out of the well.
The black aperture was broadcasting, by a resounding echo, what sounded like a girl crying, a strange sob choking with sighs. Maddalena’s legs failed, she crossed herself at full speed, and found her touching this strange Indian charm she’d found in a truck in Turkey, hidden between her breasts, with the feathers brushing her skin - although perhaps that pagan symbol wouldn’t protect her... Don’t be a brat, she scolded herself, ashamed of her cowardice, and forced herself to walk towards the well, although her legs were shaking.
The crying grew louder when she looked into the dark abyss, but saw only blackness. “Is... anyone there?” She stammered.
The groans faded sharply, and when she was going to withdraw, she heard a soft whisper in the background. “Excuse me?” She muttered, shaking like a leaf. “I c-can’t... can’t hear you! Need help?”
The whisper grew louder, and she began to get fragments of words.
... two ... ... blood shed ... Mother ....
Maddalena gasped and covered her mouth.Santa Lucia, protect me!
... seven ... bitt ... ath
The whisper was rising in volume. The redhead couldn’t withdraw from the pit’s edge, she stood still as if petrified.
Warrio.... zonian ... pure ... Wis .... cent ... Angel ... hide ...
“Angel?” She said. “You say you’re an angel?”
Voice ... Darkness ...
Maddalena tried to pull away, but it was as if her legs wouldn’t obey her, as if she’d her arms glued to the rim of the pit.
... redempt ... Goddess ... ineffab... light ... deadly ...
Then her eyes widened in horror – she’d seen the form of a creature rising clinging to the walls of the pit, its head bobbing on the neck and empty eyes staring at her, with a haggard smile.
Maddalena wanted to scream, to run away - but she couldn’t. She stood joined to the well until the thing came to her and sank its fingers in her chest.
A piercing scream tore the air. Almost in unison, Lara and Kurtis jumped to the door, pushing aside Marie, and came running into the corridor of the yard. In a column on the top floor, Radha, clinging to a pillar, was looking onto the courtyard with wide eyes and her mouth distorted, while with a trembling finger pointed down. Lara looked at the edge of the window and what she saw made her gasp.
Maddalena was lying on the floor, face up, legs open and hair scattered on the floor slabs. With a convulsive hand, she tore off the front of the dress as she bowed her back, letting out blood curdling screams. Between her breasts there was a bloody mark, like the imprint of a hand. Lara soon found out that was a kind of burn, and the blood bubbled and gurgled as the screams that came from the prostitute’s mouth tore her ears. With visceral momentum, she scraped her chest and breasts, tearing the flesh, as if trying to pull that mark away from her skin. Her eyes went blank and her mouth was foaming.
“Come here, honey.” Lara heard Marie muttering, surrounding Radha with her arms and taking her gently away from there. “Don’t look at that. Come with me.”
Who couldn’t be impressed by that? Lara was petrified with horror.
The fight didn’t last long. Maddalena gradually quit struggling and remained rigid, stretched on the floor with her breasts shaking and the mark foaming on her skin. Suddenly, she turned her eyes and stared at Lara, who recoiled instinctively.
The redhead woman got up into a sitting position, and then, displaying a smile out of joint, she pointed towards her with her index finger. “You!” She gurgled with a voice that was not hers. “You’ll also fall, you prideful! Within three days, remember, within three days, I’ll give you your well-deserved!”
Kurtis grabbed Lara away from Maddalena’s sight. “Don’t look at her!” He whispered in her ear. “Don’t look at her eyes, don’t listen what she says!”
As in a vision, Lara saw how Marcus hurried off and placed around Maddalena, as one who gropes a wild beast. But she did nothing more - she rested on the floor again and began to chant, with her ghastly smile, in a language she didn’t know, she never would’ve heard from any human being on Earth.
“You mean she’s possessed?” Selma whispered, horrified.
“Seems so.” Lara replied. “Kurtis and Marcus have locked her in a bedroom. She hasn’t tried to attack them, but she wanders from side to side singing a litany in Nephilim language, and laughs alone. She also threatened me and told me in three days she’d give me a lesson.”
The Turkish girl shuddered.
At that moment they heard voices in the hallway. Lara hurried to look out. The two Lux Veritatis were arguing.
“I won’t do that!” Kurtis said. “That’s what that thing wants! There must be another way to get that out of her.”
“It’s up to you to tell me what to do, boy?” Marcus jumped, offended. “As far as I know, casting out demons is a Healer’s job!”
“We’re in the XXI century, in case you don’t remember. We no longer burn people with hot irons or try to suffocate them! You’re hurting the body, not the demon within!”
“With your moral objections, son, Meteora’s poor hegumenos has been struggling in vain and he’s reaching his death! I won’t let the same thing happen to this poor girl!”
Hawking, Lara moved ahead. “Have you tried to speak with her?”
Marcus lowered his head, and Kurtis sighed and ran his hand across his forehead - he’d dark circles under his eyes again. The last two nights he’d been sleepless beside Lara.
“She just wants to talk to you. She won’t talk to anyone else, child.” Marcus then said.
“Me?” Lara muttered.
“I won’t let her see Lara.” Kurtis started again. “Don’t you see? She’s threatened her. I won’t let that thing to hurt her.”
“Son, we can’t lock her up ’til Judgement Day!”
“Fine, let’s burn her at the stake like you want!”
“I don’t want...!”
Lara’s scream echoed through the walls. In the next room, a startled Zip took off his headphones and looked out.
Lara breathed deeply and put her hands to her temples. Again she had nausea.
“You’re not well.” Kurtis then said, staring at her. “You’re sick.”
Sort of, thought Lara, and smiled. “I’ll talk to her.”
“She’s already cursed me, right? Let’s see what she wants. Otherwise, she’ll catch me off guard.”
Marcus nodded in approval, astonished at her resolution. Kurtis’ face, however, gave her quite a different impression.
“Here.” Schäffer put the report sheet on the table. “They are in Romania, in Brasov, and currently living in the castle called Bran.”
Giselle nodded. “From what I could find out from Rouzic before he died, this is where Vladimir Ivanoff used to live, serving them as an investigator.”
The doctor got up and walked to the window. They were in two adjoining rooms at that Athens hotel, a city chosen to carry out the first feelers in search of their targets. Schäffer was good at his job and they were soon located. “Tomorrow we’ll go there.” She concluded, touching the cold glass with her fingertips. “You sent your men there?”
“As you ordered, Giselle.”
“I’ve been thinking. It’s better not to intervene unless necessary. I want something clean. We′ll deal with them, you and me personally.”
Schäffer smiled. He liked the way she thought. At the end of the day, the only flaw of Gunderson, besides his own arrogance, had been attracting too much attention with his men. The current boss preferred discretion. “As you wish.” He added.
Giselle nodded and looked out the window. She noticed he approached her from behind and next thing she felt was his breath on her ear. He took a lock of blond hair and watched it, fascinated.
“Leave me alone.” She whispered, laconic.
“There are lots of women who have their hair dyed to get this blond.” The German noted. Then his lips stroked her ear and hissed. “When was the last time you slept with a man?”
Giselle turned quickly and slapped him. He, far from being offended, laughed and grabbed her by the wrists. “You’re a kitten. Let me do you a wonderful favour.”
“Let me go!” She whispered with the same apathy.
Ignoring her, he gently pulled and pushed her towards the couch. He forced her to lie, still smiling sarcastically.
“I’ll scream.” She warned, still without resistance.
“You offend me, sweetie.” He mocked. “If I disappoint you, you can slap me again. But I doubt it. I’m pretty good at this.”
The scientists turned her face from him. Some strands of hair covered her face. She let him unbutton her blouse and take down her stockings. She′d no interest in refusing – but she neither cared at all. She was dead inside.
“I’d never rape you.” Schäffer whispered in her ear as he leaned over her. “This happens because you consent.”
“I don’t love you.”
“Ah, but you’ll love me. Right now I really don’t care, I’m content with having you.”
Giselle let him to make love to her with passivity, and truth be told, the experience wasn’t unpleasant in any way - and though Schäffer noticed she seemed to dream it was another who was with her, and he knew which one it was, he didn’t care. When he finished, he left her with a mocking reverence.
The doctor, half naked, spent hours staring at the ceiling.
It was funny, but the version of Maddalena who was sitting at the stool next to the window was more like the brazen prostitute she’d been before. Seeing Lara, the redhead smiled and leaned blatantly against the wall. Her open neckline showed her cleavage and that hand-print like a bloody rash.
“Lara, Lara Croft.” She sang with a voice that was not hers. “Amazon and slayer of immortals.” Then looked at Kurtis, next to Lara. “Leave us alone.”
She smiled and shrugged. “Whatever... you can’t protect her from me.”
“Who are you?” Lara began, sitting opposite her.
“I am the Voice In The Dark.”
“Why have you seized Maddalena?”
The alluded playfully leaned on the sill of the window and began to roll a silky red lock around her index finger. “She’s perfect for me: a beautiful young body and she’s full of love and hate. Love and hate move the world, so she’s perfect for me.”
“Leave her alone.”
She arched her slim eyebrows and looked at Kurtis. “Why? She’s just a whore... and the man she loves has rejected her, haven’t you, Warrior? She doesn’t suffer. She’s not hurt. She’s happier like this, rather than being victim of an ungrateful one’s contempt.”
“Why do you call yourself the Voice In The Dark?” Lara cut ignoring the previous comment.
“I’m Lilith’s messenger. I’m Her voice, Her mouth. I convey Her message and I’ve come to announce your end.”
“Are you a woman?”
“Those who dwell with the Mother have no sex. I am the Voice.” Then she closed her eyes and recited: “Although two will shed their blood at the foot of the Great Mother, it will be seven going through the Bitter Path: the Warrior and the Amazon, the Impure and the Innocent, the Wise and the Angel, and also the Hidden One. This has told the Voice in the Darkness: among the two who shed their blood, only one could be redeemed, and will be redeemed by the will of the Goddess. But woe to them if they don’t satisfy the Ineffable: none of them will again see the light of mortals.”
“That’s what Selma told us. She heard it from the spirit inside Meteora’s hegumenos.”
“Then you know you’ve been chosen to go in second place, right?” The possessed woman mocked her, and looked again at Kurtis. “He’s the first, hence he can’t do anything to save you.” She moved forward a bit to look more closely at Lara. Her hair slipped over her shoulders and hid her face partly. “You have the Angel of Death upon you. The sooner you go to face the Mother, the sooner this will end.”
“Is that the only way to stop her?”
Maddalena - or the being within her threw her head back and laughed. “Ignorant! How will you be able to stop the Great Mother, who can crush you with just Her presence?”
Lara stood on the seat. “We won’t enter into a game we don’t know the rules or the reasons.”
“You will whether you like it or not. Otherwise, you will pay the highest price. And you, woman, will be the first of them.”
Then Kurtis took Lara’s arm and made her rise. “Enough. You’ll get nothing from her. She may confuse you for hours.”
Maddalena went up sharply. Kurtis instinctively stepped between her and Lara and held her: “It’s Lilith Herself who speaks to you! Keep making fun of Her! You will regret it!”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Lara said quietly.
The redhead struggled in Kurtis’ arms, who firmly forced her to retreat. “I warned you. The Vortex claims you, the first of all of them. Pray it finds you before the Angel of Death does!”
“If you’re done,” Lara said, undaunted, “leave Maddalena alone.”
“Why?” She smiled sarcastically. “Then who would guide you?” She looked sensually at Kurtis and said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for centuries. Now we can say this really gets interesting.” As she’d stopped struggling, Kurtis let her go. She smiled, winked and leaned back shamelessly in the chair, humming to herself.
“I’ll make you leave.” The Lux Veritatis said then.
“You can do nothing against me. I’m the Mother’s lieutenant. The beings you’ve been fighting since you learned to kill are like babies to me. And whatever you do to me,” she whispered, “all the damage will fall on Giulia Manfredi. You’ll hurt her body and leave me untouched. Although, of course”, she added, leaning back, “if you want to fuck me, I won’t refuse. I’m curious about what you mortals feel, and something tells me Giulia would be more than pleased.”
The British explorer had heard enough - she left the room and went downstairs.
She didn’t turn.
“Don’t get mad...”
“No need for that.” She answered, wincing. “What that thing may say can’t bother me. Although I was delighted to discover that harlot had been courting you...”
“That’s the least of our problems now, Lara.”
She turned and looked at him, this time from the lower end of the ladder. “I know. Need to talk to Zip and Vlad. It’s time to face our problems. You remember that thanks to Cardinal Monteleone’s texts we found the location of the Vortex’s entry was in...”
“... Syria.” Kurtis finished, going towards her. “And knowing you, you want to go there soon.”
“Now that you’ve recovered, of course.”
He shook his head. “Not the way to do it, Lara.”
“We can’t sit waiting for who knows what to happen!”
Kurtis smiled, walked up to her and gently took her by the shoulders. “So far, everything I’ve done, I’ve done it your way. It’s time we do it my way. I’m sorry you’re stuck in this mess, but since you are, you must know your rules and ways are no good for this. It’s... a different world.”
“Fair enough. What do you suggest?”
No, no please. Let me go...
You have to. It’s necessary. She must know, she must be forced.
Tell your followers to force her. I’m tired.
Giulia, Giulia, beautiful Giulia... you’re my miracle, my executor hand.
I won’t do such a thing.
But you hate her. You really hate her. You heard her moaning at night, when he makes love to her. You have desired to kill her a thousand and one times.
Not like this. Not that way. I can’t... I can’t.
If you do, I’ll promise he will be yours, in body and soul, once she’s gone.
You don’t understand ... he’ll never love me if I kill her.
Oh, well then you must say I forced you to. Because I force you to. You have no choice.
No, please... not like this...
It’s time to stop being the victim, my beautiful Giulia. Now it’s time the others pay for what they have done to you. I’ll raise the dead from their graves and make them bow at your feet. I’ll have Giacomo Sciarra crawling before you. I’ll make Daniele Monteleone kiss your feet. You’ll see the Lux Veritatis on his knees, begging you desperately to love him.
I don’t want ... no...
Not like this...
Somebody help me... oh Dio mio, somebody help me...