After that strange day at the beach, Haven did agree to go and check to make sure Awsha’s current state of torpor was still as it should be. Claire and Sean insisted upon coming along to the locked and hidden room in Haven’s cellar where he had stored her body in a solid, nailed shut coffin. Inside, she was as they thought; completely unresponsive, though showed no signs of decay. Those two factors told them that she was indeed still in the state they had left her in. Though, that did not solve the mystery of why Erica had made such strange statements in the time since Awsha was placed in such a state.
Though that mystery would have to be pushed to the side for another. Shortly after they had checked on Awsha before nailing the coffin shut once more, and locking and covering the entrance to her new subterranean quarters, the attacks all through the now rather large coastal settlement started up once again. Over the next eight years these attacks continued, and Haven and his councilors had to take action. It was true that the Caitiff were so inferior in the eyes of most other Kindred that most barely acknowledged their existence, let alone enforced the law of presentation to their Prince upon them. However, when the actions of any Caitiff endangered peaceful Kindred, simply put, the problem had to be eliminated.
Not only had the attacks grown in frequency, but when bodies were found with obvious fang marks, that was when Haven and company were forced to jump to action. The chosen action was definitive, and a blood hunt was declared on any Caitiff that was a likely culprit. Basically Haven was forced to put out a kill order on any Caitiff that could not prove their innocence in regards to the attacks. And it was left to the councilors and their still rather small number of local clan members to enforce this justice that any mortal law keepers obviously could not. Of course, any Caitiff that would lead them to their unofficial leader, this so-called serpent, would be allowed to retain their existence. Though it was apparent that each they found were either bound to or terrified of their hidden Setite leader, and all so far had chosen death over revealing any and all information about him.
As the attacks continued over the first ten years of the century, so did the hunts for the offenders and the erasing of memories of any mortal survivors or witnesses who may otherwise take up arms against all Kindred if allowed any recollection of these attacks. Of course, this unofficial near nightly war left Claire to look after Erica on her own most nights. And the mystery of the girl’s strange connection to Awsha was made only more difficult by the usual acting out that came with human teens. As Erica was now nearly fifteen years old, and quite a beautiful young girl at that.
On this particular night, Claire had made the rather short walk to Haven’s home to claim some bolts of cloth as well as other supplies for Sean’s art that had come in on that day’s shipment. As she gathered the items and started back out of Haven’s house, she came across Erica heading toward the front door as Claire exited it.
“What are you doing here, Erica?” Claire asked as her emerald eyes met the walnut colored eyes under the crop of long black waves surrounding near flawless tanned skin. Needless to say, Erica had definitely grown quite pretty over the years, just as Claire had promised her on the night that Erica’s family had been claimed by the same creatures that Claire’s peers currently hunted.
Erica paused only a moment as though trying to find an answer “same as you, seeing if anything worthwhile had come in on the ships today” she decided on, though those beautiful dark eyes were cast downwards as she spoke.
“You could have checked on that earlier today though. Why are you here after dark?” Claire asked worriedly, the girl’s hesitance at answering obvious.
“Why does it matter?” Erica responded defensively.
Claire was taken a bit by the mild hostility but moved on “you know where the others are and why. Is it really that strange that I don’t want you wandering around alone after dark?”
“I’m not a little kid anymore, Claire” Erica returned with the same coolness.
“Well, you are almost fifteen, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s dangerous for any of…. For anyone” she corrected “to be out here alone after dark.”
Erica just scoffed as she cast another furtive glance at the door to Haven’s home that Claire had just shut behind her “you are” Erica responded simply.
“That’s different, Erica” Claire attempted, to which she received another loud scoff. Claire just shook her head “come on. Just come back to the house with me” she stated, forcing gentleness into her voice despite the mild defiance she was being faced with.
“Why is it so different? Am I a prisoner or something?”
“Erica, you know that is not true. You’re free to come and go during the day as long as someone knows where you are. It’s just honestly not that safe out here at night. Now please, just come home with me” Claire asked again, still managing some gentleness to her tone.
“So why is it safe for you?” Erica asked, not yet moving to follow Claire as she started back in the direction of their home.
Claire sighed slightly before turning back “I’m older, and better prepared for anything that might happen” she decided on.
“Older? You don’t look much older” Erica pointed out smartly.
“Thank you” Claire swallowed again, “but please, I know what kind of people are out here, and I really don’t want you to have to find out. So please, just come home with me Erica.”
“So, if these people are so bad, how come you’re not out there helping everyone else find them?” Erica continued.
“I’m not part of the council. And besides, I wouldn’t want to leave you here without any of us around, just in case” Claire supplied the best answer she could think of right then.
“So, in other words, the only thing they think you’re strong enough to do is look after the so-called children and the servants?” Erica returned coolly.
That was when Claire whirled around to face her again, forcing down her own immediate response “Exactly what have I done to garner this kind of disrespect, Erica. Please, tell me” Claire stated, forcing her tone to remain even.
“As far as I can see, you haven’t done much of anything. You sleep all day, and then make your little dresses until we all go to bed so you can let Sean fuck you in peace. That’s about it, right?”
Claire had to force back her urge to slap the girl back into some semblance of respect, and took a long moment to force that composure, her angry pools of green centered on the girl the entire time. She then easily remembered other influences she feared had been affecting Erica’s behavior for the last decade of her short life.
“So, is that your opinion, honestly Erica? Or someone else’s?” Claire stated in an eerily calm tone, having forced down her own anger long enough for rational thought.
Erica scoffed again, though there was a brief flash in her eyes of some other emotion “Like whose?”
“Oh I think we both know that. I can just imagine the things she’s telling you” Claire stated with a sad shake of her head, wishing that Awsha’s presence still wasn’t a black cloud over all of them even now, years later.
“Now you sound as crazy as Minna” Erica returned, though in a mumble, pretty eyes averted.
“You wanna hear about crazy Minna?” Claire returned as she took a step closer, though her words did throw Erica enough to cast the briefest glance back at the older woman.
“What about her?” Erica asked, though much of the volume had gone out of her voice too.
“She had a vision, a prophecy, before we ever came here. Would you like to know what she saw?”
“I’m guessing you’re going to tell me” Erica returned.
Claire looked down a moment as well before rehashing that prophecy that had plagued them for nearly twenty years “the daughter will murder the father. That’s what she said” Claire stated plainly.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Erica returned, though Claire did seem to have gotten her attention at that point at least.
“What we think it means is that Awsha was going to kill Haven someday” Claire allowed a slight sigh “but we didn’t want to consider her guilty because of some crazy prophecy. But then she did try to hurt me, badly. Very badly. And that’s why we pushed her out of our lives. She is not a good person. And listening to anything she may or may not be telling you will make you less of a good person. And that’s even more terrifying” Claire told her in a whisper.
“How could her just talking to me be terrifying?” Erica asked, though there was an obvious fear in her voice.
“Look at the way it’s already making you act. You’re lashing out at me for no reason” Claire sighed again “and what makes that terrifying is because it’s also true that Sean has been a father to you for the last ten years, daughter. Now do you see why you listening to her could be so terrifying to me, and to Sean?”
“You think I’d hurt you, or Sean?” Erica returned in her own whisper.
“I don’t want to believe that, but when you act like you believe the things Awsha is telling you, however she even is doing that… Can you blame me for worrying that it could be true?” Claire whispered as she quickly turned to hide the red tears she could feel forming at the corner of her eyes.
“I try to ignore her” Erica finally admitted with a shaky breath “but it’s almost every night. For years now. I try to block her out but, I can’t” she confessed with a sniffle.
“Oh sweetie” Claire returned as she dropped the items she had collected earlier and moved to wrap her arms around the beautiful young girl “how I wish I knew how to help you. All I can do is assure you that the things she says aren’t true, and beg you to please remember that.”
When they finally broke off the embrace, Erica looked up at Claire and startled again “your eyes” she gasped, her own pools of hazel widening.
Claire reached up quickly to wipe away the red remnants “Remember, we’re a little different” Claire attempted a smile. Though that smile quickly disappeared as she saw in Erica’s own eyes some kind of realization as ten years of eccentricities seemed to all click in her head as once.
“You cry blood?” Erica choked on the words “And the way Sean heals, and how you all sleep all day, and don’t ever seem to get any older, and never go in the sun, and always feel ice cold…” Erica’s tears were replenished then, though her breath seemed to leave her “that’s why you were there that night. That’s why you know who really is attacking people. Why you knew what happened to my family; my real family. You’re just like them” she sobbed the last words before rushing to get away as quickly as she could.
“Stop, please Erica!” Claire called after her loudly, through her own tears, bloody as they were.
Appearing as though she didn’t want to obey the command at all, Erica nonetheless was forced to stop her flight in her tracks. The fact of being unable to ignore the force of Claire’s will overtaking her own, she stood there in place, the sobs wracking her body even more intensely as Claire slowly approached.
“You? You’re doing this?” Erica cried the words as Claire reached her, though she refused to look up at the sadness on Claire’s bloodstained face.
“I had to keep you from running” Claire stated with vast helpings of regret in her tone.
“You can make me do anything you want?” Erica cried the realization as her tears continued.
“I just had to stop you Erica. I just didn’t want you to run away from me. I wanted to assure that we’d never…” she couldn’t even bring herself to finish the sentence, all things considered.
“Never hurt me?” the words were some combination between a sob and a scoff “just take over my mind any time you want. Yeah that’s so different” she added the last in a whisper.
“I just wanted to keep you from running from me. That’s all. I swear it’s the only time I’ve ever forced you to do anything” Claire attempted any comfort she could.
“And I’m just supposed to believe that?” another tear-filled scoff “you’re just like the things that killed my family. Who knows what else you’ve made me do or think or believe. You and that one in my head. You’re all monsters” she added with another sob.
“Please, Erica, you know that’s not true. All we’ve done is try to look after you and care for you after you lost your---“
“Lost?” Erica bit out the word angrily, finally looking up again “don’t you mean after they were taken from me? Taken by things like you”
Claire forced back her own sadness “I swear to you we’re not anything like the ones who hurt your family. All we ever wanted to do was keep you safe from them. Because we knew we were the only ones who could” Claire attempted to reassure her.
“Yeah, I feel real safe here being forced to do or believe whatever you want me to” she returned, hiding her face in her hands through more slight sobs.
That was when Claire too felt hopeless to find any way to calm or convince the girl of her words. She allowed her own defeated, regretful sigh as she forced herself to take the only option she had left. “Look at me Erica.” Though shaking the entire time; Erica brought her eyes up to meet Claire’s “go back to our house. When you finally get back, you’ll not remember leaving the house tonight, or any of this conversation we had. You never left. You’ve been there all night” and on Claire’s final words, Erica turned away, slowly walking back toward their house in a seeming trance.
As the young girl moved away, she was unaware of Claire falling to her knees and hiding her own face in her hands to try to force away those bloody tears once more. Along with the tears, Claire now also had to find a way to try and force down even more guilt over her own actions yet again.