Chapter 61 - Comfort
Rowan reached out with her other hand and pushed gently on the head of the ornate beetle. The wings clicked open, as if someone manufactured it the day before, to reveal its body; a perfect black diamond set in gold and surrounded by thirteen miniature blue-white diamonds.
Rowan seemed compelled to touch the head a second time, and instead of closing the wings, the lower part of the body shifted backward to reveal a tiny compartment which hid a single grain of rice.
“Push it again,” Marcus instructed. The compartment closed, the wings folded back into place, and it sat innocently in her palm.
“There are words on that grain of rice,” Rowan pointed out with foreboding growing into a lead ball in the pit of her stomach.
“I know, but we’ll leave this place now, and take it with us to the ship. We found what it meant us to find, and will leave the dead to their rest,” Marcus decided, and they wholeheartedly agreed.
Back on the ship, Marcus let her open the scarab once again. He examined the grain of rice and found it perfectly preserved. He brought out his magnifying glass, and under its glare, revealed Latin text.
Marcus read the words out loud, but they were all jumbled together, and he directed Alena to write them down before he returned the grain to its resting place. He chose a small satin-lined box from among their possessions and settled the fragile treasure inside.
They spent hours rearranging the words before they found the pattern which made sense of it all, but when it did; they wished they never discovered the little scarab.
“I knew you would come,” they could almost hear his voice speak to them in some ghostly whisper through the ages. “I saw you through her eyes,” his words conjured the hidden image in the tomb in Alena and Rowan’s minds.
“My beautiful vampire,” Alena turned pale as she fought the images in her mind, “and my former Damphir swayed to sin,” Rowan lowered her head with a feeling of shame created by his possessive use of the ‘my,’ as if they already belonged to him.
“The Seducer,” they sensed the aggressive hiss of his voice, and Marcus stiffened with his expression cut from stone. “My gift far exceeds his meager talents, my Precious Ones,” the jealous rage of that statement made them glance at each other and avoid Marcus’s eye. “He is not worthy of your blood,” why would he say this when Marcus turned them? They wondered, and so did Marcus.
“Come to me,” the invitation made them shudder with dread. Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly. “I wait,” this wasn’t a statement of intent, but a threat.
He led them to this place because he knew they would follow. He waited for them to discover the scarab and made certain by invading her mind. His message left them at a loss. They were at a loss. He had tainted them, marked them, and sealed their fate.
They settled down out of habit, but their minds didn’t grow quiet. Alena and Rowan fought the memory from the tomb as it tried to come to life in their minds. Marcus knew they were keeping something from them again, but his mind kept repeating a single phrase; “He is not worthy of your blood.”
They couldn’t sleep. The cabin turned humid as the sun rose, and despite the comfort of the unnatural dark, their bodies sensed the sun outside, the threat it posed, just as they perceived him and the unknown danger he presented.
Something woke Marcus from his restless slumber, and he tensed as his night vision flared. Rowan slid into bed beside him, and nestled close to him like a kitten, despite the heat. Her skin appeared colder than usual and clammy. She didn’t fall asleep, and he sensed how unsettled she was. She wasn’t one to seek comfort in such a way, but she was afraid.
Marcus woke a second time and this time he shifted over without allowing his night vision to flare. The bunk was wider than most but far too narrow for three.
They needed the physical comfort of not being alone. Some unclean thing had sidled into their thoughts, their blood, and their bodies. The distance between them and the monster they thought they were hunting, but who hunted them instead, had disappeared. He might as well have been in the room with them.
It was their trust in him, his reliable presence that they clung to, to keep the insidious presence of the Dark One from overpowering them.
This was not just some rival, a strong vampire that wanted what was his. Sin cloaked this ancient, malevolent creature with its callous disregard of life, its wickedness, and darkness, like a shroud. Marcus experienced its malice in that simple phrase, and he understood that the creature intended for him to die.
It didn’t covet these women he divined in his ancient dreams. He desired them, not because he wanted them, but because he needed them. This thing had some dark purpose with Alena and Rowan. He required something from them, and Marcus suspected that it had everything to do with their line, Victor’s line.
Marcus wanted to take them and hide in some faraway place, but it was impossible. They were being drawn into this, and the certainty in his chest told him there was no way to avoid their shared fates.
This journey was never a choice. The Dark One, drove them to react, and to follow the road to their destiny.
His arms tightened around them as Marcus stared into the darkness. Why shouldn’t they be afraid? He suspected that he would never see the end of this journey.