Over the next five years, the pain of Claire’s decade of addiction had at least faded enough for her and Sean to give the appearance of their lives having returned to normal once more. However, it was purely a guise they each adopted to avoid having their peers continuously question them about how they were faring in the years since their darkest period. They could force smiles and conversation when in the company of others, but when they were alone behind closed doors, things were still not as they used to be between them. It was still near every night that Claire wanted to feel that pain she still felt she deserved, even after this long.
On this particular night, Haven had asked Sean to accompany him on a trip up the coast of their ever-growing settlement to help oversee the repairs on some homes that had not held up very well against the most recent earthquake. As Haven came to stand next to where Sean made some adjustments to the plans for the stronger, more resistant homes, he couldn’t help catching the smell of Claire’s blood on Sean; not to mention seeing the remaining melancholy that still saturated his childe’s aura nearly every night.
Sean muttered a curse under his breath as his pencil broke in his fingers. The sound made Haven return his attention from Sean’s aura to his face as he raised a brow “perhaps if you weren’t pressing so hard” he offered quietly.
“Thank you. I’ll have to remember that” Sean mumbled with slight sarcasm as he attempted to locate another writing utensil from the bag he had brought with him.
“Sean, I’ve been waiting for you to come to me, but you’ve apparently chosen not to. So I must ask, does she actually enjoy the pain?” Haven dared to broach the subject that had been bothering him for many nights now.
“Excuse me?” Sean asked, as he quickly looked back up at Haven from where he had just retrieved another pencil from his bag.
“Does she enjoy the pain, the way she used to enjoy pleasure?” Haven repeated more firmly.
“What the hell kind of question is that?” Sean exclaimed, using anger to cover his shock at even being asked such a thing. After all, it wasn’t like he or Claire had shared their nightly encounters with Haven, all things considered.
“I need to know, Sean” Haven returned.
“Really?” he scoffed, looking away with an angry shake of his head.
“If she is honestly enjoying the pain, rather than just wishing for you to punish her; It could be a sign of something worse, Sean” he attempted to warn him, though gently.
Sean was quiet for a long moment, biting back the first angry responses that immediately sprung to his mind before he finally settled on a reaction “well if you’re already spending so much time digging around in my head, then I really don’t need to answer you, do I?”
Not denying the accusation, Haven was quiet for only a moment before responding “so, she does still feel it as pain, not pleasure.”
Sean looked back at him with further disbelief that not only had Haven not denied violating his mind, he appeared to be continuing to do so in order to seek the answers Sean was refusing to vocalize “you asking me or telling me?” he retorted angrily, and then added “well are you getting pleasure from ripping things out of my mind then?”
“No, Sean, I’m not. But if you will not answer me, then that’s the choice you leave me with” Haven stated in the same even tone.
“I shouldn’t have to answer you! It’s none of…” Sean began, only to have Haven cut him off.
“There is a very real reason this has been concerning me, Sean” Haven insisted.
Sean just scoffed again, “not sure how what me and Claire do or don’t do in the privacy of our own home really concerns you.”
“Because Sean, if she was indeed taking pleasure from this pain, it could mean something very, very tragic” Haven attempted to explain, “but it appears that at least, from your perspective, the pain is still pain to her. And though that is worrisome; it would be much, much worse if she had twisted it to pleasure inside her head.”
“What are you even talking about, Haven?” Sean’s own worry about Claire forced him look past his anger in order to try to understand what Haven’s goal in this conversation even had been.
“If she starts to see pain as pleasure, it could be a sign of her turning” Haven stated quietly.
“Turning? Turning to what?” Sean asked, trying to keep his own tone even, as impossible as that was when it came to any fears of something ‘tragic’ happening to Claire.
“Antitribu: The opposite of us. And us being the most human of the Kindred, I’m sure you can imagine what the opposite of us would be” Haven informed in the same soft tone.
“How could she turn into something else?” Sean asked fearfully “it’s been 132 years.”
“132 years since the two of you have been truly human. It’s actually more likely to lose your humanity as you get older, and start forgetting what it even meant to be human. The struggle against the Beast is eternal, Sean. You can never forget that; and never let Claire forget that” he told him in the same hushed tone as he slowly moved away to survey the servants working nearby.
Back in front Haven’s home, Claire somberly moved toward the docks to begin sorting through another night’s shipment that had arrived shortly before dusk. However, when she reached the docks, she was a bit thrown that even though the ship had arrived a few hours earlier now, there still had not seemed to be any unloading done yet. She furrowed her brow and walked out onto the still empty dock, her senses immediately catching the smell of blood drifting from the ship.
Bracing herself, she moved more quickly up the gangplank to discover the source of the smell, which just grew stronger with each step. It was only moments after stepping onto the deck that she caught sight of the first crew member’s body. She gasped a bit and moved more quickly to soon find several other bodies littering the ship. All bore bloody fang marks to announce that the attacks had started up again with a vengeance. And this time, the attacks were not merely aimed at unsuspecting settlers in homes dotting the coast, but literally right at Haven’s doorstep… and perpetrated against his own employees.
Attempting to compose herself long enough to make her way back off of the ship, she then caught the sound of a woman whimpering somewhere below deck. Immediate tension and worry filled her as she turned to hurry down toward the cargo hold where the sound seemed to be coming from. As she entered the hold, she adjusted her vision to find the source of the pained sobs.
She quickly moved to find Haven’s favorite servant in years of late: the statuesque blue-eyed, red haired beauty, Deborah. She was curled into a heap behind a pile of crates, her body beaten and bloody, and her clothes having been forcefully ripped from her beautiful body and strewn about the hold around her.
“Deborah?” Claire choked the girl’s name as she quickly moved to her side.
She jumped at the sound of Claire’s voice, having been so traumatized that she hadn’t even noticed Claire’s arrival from the broken heap she had been curled into there on the floor of the hold “Claire?” she managed through a choked sob as her pale blue eyes fell on the other woman with a barely noticeable trace of relief.
“What…My god, what happened, Deborah?” Claire asked, trying to force her own emotions into check as she doubted her own upset would do the young girl any good.
“I came to see why they hadn’t started unloading the ship yet, and they were still here on the ship. They were killing everyone. I tried to run, but they caught me” she whimpered.
“Vampires killed all the crew, but left you here?” Claire asked, trying to make sense of why on earth they would leave the girl alive after so relentlessly slaughtering every crew member on board.
“They knew I was a ghoul, and it wasn’t hard for them to figure out whose I was” she sobbed again.
“They left you alive because you’re Haven’s servant?” Claire shook her head, still trying to make sense of any of it.
“They didn’t want to kill me. They wanted to hurt me. To warn Haven” she explained as another sob wracked her body as Claire took off her long coat to cover the girl with.
“It was vampires though that…hurt you?” Claire asked, as she shook her head.
“They did more than hurt me” Deborah sobbed again as she pulled the coat tightly around her shaking body.
“You mean they…?” Claire swallowed hard at the thought. The only response that Deborah could offer was barely a nod to confirm what had been done to her “vampires did something like that?” Claire choked out. It was not that she wanted to sound as though she doubted the girl’s claim, which she did not. But it literally made no sense to her that any Kindred would choose that way to hurt someone; as they had so many more efficient and deadly ways to hurt mortals had they wanted to. Not to mention that their desires usually only included the blood of their victims, not their bodies.
After leading Deborah back to Haven’s house and trying to get her as cleaned up and calm as she could, Claire sat there with her on Haven’s couch as the girl quietly sobbed in her arms. Claire continuously watched the clock, hoping upon hope that Haven would return soon.
Finally, after nearly an hour of not being able to do much more than weep, Deborah found her voice once more “I don’t understand why they did what they did” she choked out.
“Neither do I, sweetheart” Claire whispered, biting back her own sadness “I’ve never known any vampires to want to do that, instead of just… what they did to the rest of the crew. I mean, I could see them feeding on you ‘til you nearly lost your life; something like that. That still would’ve served as a warning to Haven if that’s what they truly wanted to do. But to…” Claire just shook her head.
“How could anybody do that to someone?” Deborah choked on more tears, “I’d rather they fed on me, or even killed me. But to hurt me like this…It just hurt so bad…” she couldn’t say more as another sob forced her to curl more tightly against where Claire held her, finding herself truly shaken by the girl’s words in more ways than one.
Once Sean and Haven returned home, the hour was already nearing three. Claire had the unfortunate task of telling them that not only had the attacks started again, but now they were much nearer, and much, much more vicious as well as personal. After leaving Haven to try and comfort Deborah, if such a thing were possible, Sean and Claire returned to their own home in relative silence.
Upon entering the house, Claire took a sad seat on the couch while Sean paused a moment and then took his seat on the nearby chair. After another moment of silence, Claire finally spoke again, interrupting the distraction both seemed to be suffering that night “I just don’t understand why any Kindred would… would rape a girl. How does that make any sense?” she asked as she shook her head hopelessly.
“I think they just wanted to do as much damage as possible. And doing that would be even more damaging than just feeding on her or even killing her” Sean posited his own theory “I think it was simply about being as cruel as possible; making her pain last as long as possible” he added nearly inaudibly.
Claire flinched a bit at those words before she found her own voice “what are we even dealing with here? It’s not just vampires in bloodlust. This is personal; and it’s not just violent. It’s evil” she added as her voice broke.
Sean was quiet a moment, somehow relieved that Claire was so upset by the night’s events. At least that showed that she still felt that girl’s pain as actual pain, and found no joy in it, as Haven had worried just that night.
Sean then spoke up again “back when I first told Haven about the beginning of Minna’s prophecy, he told me what he thinks serpent means” he began.
Claire looked over at him quickly, the reminder of that prophecy that had still not come to pass jolting her a bit “what did he say it means?” she urged him to continue.
Sean took a moment to share with her the warnings that had haunted him for all the years since Haven had originally told him of his suspicions about who or what this serpent really was “Haven said that serpents, snakes” he swallowed slightly as his mind moved to another even more upsetting part of the prophecy “that those are nicknames for a kind of Kindred called a Setite” he had to take a moment to decide whether he wanted to add even more worries to Claire’s already overburdened soul.
“Ok, so what did he say about them?” she pressed “what does he think they really want?”
Taking another moment, Sean answered “corruption; that’s all they want above all else. They seek to subvert and destroy whatever is good, noble, safe or beautiful within both Kindred and mortal society. It’s the only thing they care about. All they want is to destroy and corrupt everything around them. And that’s not even the worst part” he added more quietly.
“It gets worse?” Claire returned shakily.
“Haven believes that this serpent is at least a century old; and he told me that nearly thirty years ago, so…” Sean then shook his head and pushed himself onward “and he said that they have even more terrifying powers than Lissa’s clan. Which makes them a lot more dangerous than any member of our clan, including Haven” he finished as his voice dropped to an even lower volume.
Claire was silenced for more than a moment “he told you all this thirty years ago?”
“The attacks stopped though. I thought… hoped, that I wouldn’t need to make you worry even more. I hoped we were done with him and he left after we killed off so many of those working toward his ends. But apparently not. He was just rebuilding” Sean added with defeat.
“And now it’s gotten so much worse” Claire added in her own near whisper.
She then took another long moment to stare at the floor as Sean watched her. She finally stood and looked over at her husband, her sadness apparent. Before Sean could offer any words of his own, she moved to the chair with him, curling herself into his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. Shocked by her motions, Sean nevertheless immediately moved to return her embrace.
The only explanation Claire could then offer was “I think I’ve finally had enough pain, after all.”