In the darkness where dreams had once been, Idora hoped.
What she hoped for, she was not certain; did she hope for life to end, so she may at last reside in eternal tranquility? Was she hoping for a new tomorrow, even though it was her Master’s will that there be none? Or was she hoping for…
“Shh, Varyi, shh. No speak. Almost done.”
Words, nasal and high pitched, echoed through the darkness. Idora felt as though the person speaking stood right next to her. She understood, somehow, that she herself was laying down.
“Shh, Varyi. Little longer.”
The crunch of bone resounded in her ears. Darkness bleeding into reality, Idora begun to remember what last she had felt.
“No move, Varyi.”
She did not know whether the voice had comprehended her meaning. Little did it matter; what mattered was the boy. The vessel. Kooga. Last she remembered she had entrusted him to someone – but who? And, more disturbing: why? It was her duty to bring him to the eastern outpost of the H’Jen Desert, where Necromancers would take care of him.
Take care of him… Kill. Kill the part of him that was his soul by tearing it from his body, allowing thus for her Master’s master to possess the means to penetrate the Land of the Living unhindered. Such a small cost for such a great cause. One life.
One single life… that Idora had learned to know over time, since taking over the body of the boy’s mother. The going had been rough. Often he had fought her decisions, her opinions, down to her very concept of death. They had not agreed. Kooga had been a foul-mouthed, defiant, downright frustrating presence that had pushed her patience to its very limits.
But, Idora realized, it was not possible to frustrate the dead. Patience was a natural way of life for beings without end. Only mortals were subjected to such base emotions – or to any emotions at all.
You’re more Human than you think – the Denumbran girl’s words echoed in the vast darkness of Idora’s silent heart. Here, everything was truth. And as she looked up towards nothingness, the memory of Kooga’s words returned to her: I guess you could say your soul ain’t the same anymore.
“I can’t be.”
Idora struggled against the bonds of Necrolorian ethics even to utter these words. She knew the thought behind them to be false. She was not alone to think so.
“Slow beat, but warm. Can you hear, Varyi?”
“Responsive. Good. Not long now.”
Light slowly crept through unseen cracks, blurring darkness into viscous shades of white.
Idora blinked a few times. Dim light greeted her hazy sight.
The first need she perceived was to take an exceedingly deep breath. With it, Idora ascertained impossibility.
“I can’t be alive.”
“You are,” a voice spoke a small distance away, its pitch high and nasal, “Low low beat, but warm. Varyi heal well. You heal well. Very good.”
“Where is Kooga?”
Slowly, painfully, Idora straightened herself into a sitting position, to the incomprehensible complaints of what she discovered to be a black-haired Elven woman clad in light blue, but only the strange sleeve-like tube attached to her own left forearm gave Idora pause. She lifted her arm, her gaze following the colourful liquid bubbling along numerous tubes tied into the metallic stand of a large ball Idora guessed made out of glass. Within the globe a faint yellow light pulsed, like the fragile beat of a dying heart.
Her eyes fixed on the orb, Idora spoke without realizing. “What is…”
“Heart, ah… mey-zoor?”
“Heart measure,” Idora corrected her, more for her own benefit than the Elf’s. As she set her free hand on the glass ball, a slow pulse filled its glass walls with yellow warmth.
It cannot be.
A knock disturbed Idora’s contemplations.
“Is this the Varyi’s room? The woman with the shattered skull?”
Idora glanced over her shoulder. Through the room’s open exit she saw a wrinkled man’s face upon the glint of armour.
The Elven woman immediately headed for the threshold, gesturing wildly. “You no come here! Resting!—”
“I am Captain Ignas Seres of the Honorary. Forgive my insistance, but I must speak with this woman right away.”
Idora watched the old Human for quite some time. From the moment he had resisted the Elven woman’s frazzled defiance to the woman’s departure and his remaining in the room unsupervised, Idora had analyzed his every move, every twitch of muscle, each and every polite word uttered with repressed urgency. What manner of situation could be so dire that this high-ranked man needed to break a clearly well-orchestrated protocol?
Her mind answered that question at once.
“You came because of Kooga.”
The Human made himself comfortable by sitting in a nearby chair, which he pulled closer to Idora’s bed. “‘Kooga’?”
“The boy I entrusted to… someone of your kind,” she said, gesturing towards Seres’ armour, “His name is Kooga. I asked that he be brought to see this city’s healers.”
Seres gaped, for a little while. Whether he was awed by her words or by her presence, Idora did not quite grasp. She sensed a strain in the man’s soul.
“Let me understand what you are saying,” Seres finally said, an index finger briefly at his lips for thought, “The Elf we arrested under suspicion of battery… is indeed a boy – whom you entrusted to my men? On the condition of bringing him here, to the Guild?”
Idora briefly glanced at the tube-like sleeve wrapped round her arm, and the glass globe it was attached to. Measuring heartrate. She was at the Healers’ Guild.
“Where is Kooga?”
“Who is this Elven child to you?”
Idora took a pause. “…That is none of your concern. Where is he?”
“Jailed,” Seres boldly stated, stiffening, “As he should be. I will hold him for attempted murder until our Lady Nadieja returns to pass judgment.”
“He did not attempt to murder me—”
“But he did attempt to murder me,” Seres interjected, eyes glinting with resolve, “This child is volatile and, I have seen, highly dangerous. Did he, or did he not, fracture your skull?”
Idora tried to reply by the negative, and found it impossible to do so. It was a lie, a blatant lie – though Kooga had not directly caused her skull to come undone, his words had paved the way to thoughts and memories. Indirectly, it was his fault. She could not allow this Human to use her silence against her charge.
“Indirectly,” she replied at length, measuring every word, “Though it is true we had… an argument, he did not by any of his own means fracture my skull.”
Seres’ eyes narrowed. Idora had the clear perception that this man understood her chosen words were meant to conceal a greater truth.
“So it was not this Kooga’s fault.”
Idora hesitated. “It was. Indirectly. He did not harm me, for that is what you are asking me.”
Seres stood up and came closer, staring Idora down. “He did not harm you,” he drawled, weighing every word, “yet your injury is his fault. Help me understand.”
“Memories? As in what?”
“Memories harmed me.”
It was as close to the absolute truth as Idora could get. She saw disbelief in the Human’s posture, in his eyes, in his every pensive twitch. Eventually, he granted her the benefit of the doubt, and went to seat himself again in the nearby chair.
“Moving along. I would like to know who this Elven child is to you – and, perhaps more importantly, what the both of you are doing in Malmern.”
“I cannot say.”
“Cannot, or will not?”
Idora briefly hesitated. “I cannot say.”
“Understand, Vampire, that not only the boy’s life may be at stake – depending on your answers; but also your own.”
Idora felt a smile stretch her lips. She was as surprised by its sudden appearance as Seres, who commented on it right away.
“You find this amusing?”
“Not at all,” Idora replied, the smile fading from her face, “Perhaps it might be best that he die here. However… I cannot allow it.”
Idora lifted the darkness of her pink gaze, boring straight through Seres’ disconcerted Humanity. The man rose to his feet at once, unsheathing his sword.
“I am placing you under arrest – for threatening a city official. You will comply.”
In response, Idora outstretched her hands towards Seres, palms turned towards the floor. “I accept. Take me to this prison of yours.”