No Time Left. The Witches Of Demeter.
Music, This Chapter: Andy Leech – Dawn; Solace – Come Find Me.
Downstairs -, when they were all downstairs, poor Adriaan in his straightforward dark suit began to more fulsomely realise there was a lot more going on here than he had been enlightened on previously, by anyone. There was a young woman waiting at the front, outside. She had on all black -, a pants suit, and with a padded sleeveless jacket, and dark running shoes. In her right hand was an electric starting, gas flame torch about a metre in length - held pointing downwards, unlit.
She wordlessly beckoned them all to follow her, which they did. She did not walk fast, quite languidly if anything, and as if almost gliding in her unbranded black suede sport shoes.
Not too far along the terrace, she turned into a darkened lane, which led downwards, between two modern upscale residential blocks overlooking the view below. The lane travelled in relative darkness, with no lights in it, down the side of the mount, and through natural bushes and a few straggly not too tall trees, heading two hundred meters towards a lonely rough-rendered concrete structure, half built into the side of the mount, and half jutting out and looking out across the vast expanse further down below, where to the left was the city, and to the right riverside multi-lanes and then the wide, snaking river.
The girl in the black padded jacket, turned the gas flame torch she held on, using its in-built electric igniter switch to spark the flame, and then adjusting the flame height using a gas adjustment control positioned on the long handle.
There were plenty of glittery lights way down below, but right here, where the small party was walking, that immediate place was in virtual darkness, with thick heavy shadows falling everywhere and no obvious signs of human encroachment. Even the pathway was no pathway at all, just some space between bushes and trees, carpeted in short-napped wild grass -, and making the progress of the two women wearing their thigh boots tenuous and not sure-footed at each laboured step.
Even so, the girl leading with the torch was not fussed, as she walked slowly and tarried along the way too, her head turning this way sometimes to hear some night birds, and that way to peer at frosty snowdrop flowers wanly appearing at foot-level in regular intervals in the dark. There were crickets and other insects making noise too – a background hum with the odd louder one breaking out stridently above it all now and again.
Taking longer than it might have without all of the fuss of the outrageous confining clothing and the high heeled boots the two women were wearing, the small party nevertheless at last got to the designated place.
Sara was there waiting for them – she too wearing almost precisely the same style of attire, save for her embroidery being golden, not silver.
And she had on no boots, no shoes at all, but instead gold-embossed leather rather easy-to-slip-off flat sandals.
The concrete structure had a large twin-leaved ornate wooden door, which the girl with the torch pushed open, allowing them all to enter one after the other, into the dimly-lit space within.
There were pieces of elaborate candelabra in the place – all with their candles lit. And one long table, covered in a fresh ivory coloured French flax tablecloth, with tufted nail-head velvet chairs around it.
The man, that strange man that had been with them earlier, in the morning - was also there and brought around hinged black boxes, and opening these, he gave each of the two women emerald-coloured jewellery to put on -, with large, crazed green stones in their settings, some Paraiba emeralds, some tourmalines.
The jewels flashed with mind-blowing lustre in the candle-light.
At the two sides of the long dining table were two electric braziers, not containing obvious food, but instead wood bakhour chips and possibly heated not burned, frankincense and something else -, mysterious, strange and exciting.
In the centre of the long table too, was another electric brazier, also containing those same fumatory ingredients.
And there were large platters on the long table of what looked like luminous cubes of an amber-reddish gel.
There were crystal jugs of amber-pink liquid and fluted glasses also there.
The girl with the torch doused it and placed it down in an iron stand in one corner of the large room. And she went around the long table, pouring out the amber-pink liquid into glasses.
“Eat.” Sara said, but it was more of a command. “And drink.”
Everyone picked up a glass each, following Sara’s own example, and also the man there who took a glass. He even turned and offered a glass to Adriaan, ’*’s′ personal security man and bodyguard.
He next picked up a small plate and selected several pieces of the jelly cubes and placed them onto the plate and offered them directly to Liz. “Since you are the eldest, you may have the honour of demonstrating to your young friend, how tasty and truly delightful these are...”
Liz took the plate from his hands, hesitating for a moment as she looked at the faces of the others there, especially into Sara’s face, to see what her expression implied. It implied for her to eat.
She bit into a small mouthful.
“Safe enough for you?” The man inquired.
“Seems to be.” She said, still unsure because the taste was very subtle, not over-whelming at all.
Now wait a minute, Liz thought. This has the exact same and distinct flavour or scent, as what was heating in the braziers, surely...
It was like rose water, like frankincense, like honey, like Western red cedar fan needles, like sweet grape juice, also like maybe cochineal or saffron filaments in there too, and like wild angelica and like vanilla – all mixed together.
“You better try this, ‘*.’” Liz recommended.
The young torch-bearer girl brought out trays of some kind of thin French crêpes.
“Hey.” Sara spoke up, addressing the two women. “Are you eating with your mouths or with your minds?”
“Both.” Liz replied.
“And how about your soul... How is your soul going to eat...” She winked.
“I want everything.” Liz said. “That jelly stuff is doing something to me. More of your drugs, I suppose. What is in there?” Why was that man looking at her that way, she mulled it over in her head. Out of the corner of one eye, and while she was still looking back at the man, she noticed Xan had re-appeared quietly, and was standing there, back against a wall. Except this time, with him, there was another similar creature, taller, more obvious and prominently well-built, and clearly physically stronger-looking too, and with quite a good deal of musculature - when the two stood side by side so that Liz was able to make the comparison. Okay okay, she thought; so what is that making my Xan? Oh dear. My Xan is a female after all.
The one standing next to her Xan was clearly looking at ‘*’ with his attention focused on her. He seemed to be drinking her in with his eyes.
Suddenly then, Liz realised who this man was: this was the one they had called ‘Ion.’ But he was just an ordinary human male here. There was nothing particularly exotic about him, not like he looked ‘up there’ with those weird straight-across long eyebrows they all seemed to have.
He spoke directly to her, as though being able to follow every thought in her head as it stepped along in there: “And we also have real honest down-to-Earth food here too. So you don’t need to go hungry in that way.” He smiled at her but she couldn’t say it was ‘sweetly.’ It was more like he was toying with her.
And he continued. “Because I am not going to go hungry. That’s for sure.” And he raised his glass to her. What a presumptuous attitude, she thought.
“I’m not presumptuous.” He said out aloud. “You women never even noticed how you’ve been dressed.”
“What d’you mean?” Liz asked him, quite curious upon his insinuating remark.
“Never trust clothes that have been designed to restrict your chances of escaping.” He said.
She recoiled at his words.
He added: “But don’t worry. There’s plenty of time for you to see if you can plan some evasive action yet. There’s a whole genuine dinner to come first. Relax. You are safe.”
“You mean ‘for now...’” Liz countered.
“Oh, w-e-e-e-ll...” He shrugged and rolled his eyes heavenwards.
“Sara?” Liz turned to her.
“Depends how you are figuring ‘safe,’ Elizabeth.” The woman replied to her posing of the question. “Anyway once you have eaten of the ambrosia of heaven, of course, in any event you must walk through the flames until there is only what is real and permanent left. Walking through his flame is nothing, trust me.” She seemed to be scoffing at the very thought. “It will be nothing for you. You will easily handle it. So don’t be afraid. You can take some solace in that he has at least come to find you at all. And as I seem to recall it you had spurned your own self all on your very own that one time.
“Perhaps you should trust that he at least, has some better sense of your own true value. And perhaps, it is time that you discovered it now too, more fully. What do you say, Elizabeth? Are you going to run? I mean, I do recommend that you pretend to run, at any rate. If it will make you feel any better that you made such an attempt.” But she was laughing at Liz.
And she picked up another small plate of jelly cubes, and offered them to Liz, placing the dish almost right under her nose. “Eat, my dear. Eat more. Eat... ...more.”