A mouse! Where there were catacombs, there were always rodents ~ rats, mice, any kind. In one fell swoop, Flint let the Anubis surround him, and he was wrapped up in his rat form. In spite of the pain of his shredded ligament, he dashed in the direction of the mouse, literally on three legs. When he reached the rodent, he saw there was more than one. Three rats and two mice cowered in the corner of the altar room, closest to the door. Flint instantly cloaked himself and became more of rat than he had ever before been.
Cadmus sprung to his feet, leaving the Harming Tree on the floor behind him, and he looked beyond the blackness that absorbed the candlelight. His eyes rested upon the rodents, and he moved toward them with murderous intentions. Two of the rats dashed alongside the wall of the temple, whilst the other rodents were frozen under Cadmus’ Egyptian gaze. Cadmus inclined his periwinkle brow toward the filthy animals, and they burst open, their entrails splattered on the walls and stone floor. Cadmus moved forward to study the remains, focusing particularly on the legs, looking for the desecration he had just visited on his lover and his enemy.
There were no such wounds on these scattered corpses. Cadmus felt an anger rising like bile within him. Flint had to have been one of the two rats that had sought escape from Cadmus’ attentions. He spun and searched the sentient darkness of his altar room, looking everywhere for the filthy fugitives. But he did not see them, either one.
In his fright and desperation to escape Cadmus’ attention, Flint had inexplicably cloaked the rat that had dashed with him to the other side of the temple. He had no inkling how he was able to avoid Cadmus finding him, but that seemed to be the case, at least for now.
“Where did you go, little rat?” Cadmus whispered into the night that was his temple. He felt himself even more confused and not a little frustrated that he was unable to locate Flint. “There is no escape, not from this sanctified place. All means of escape are lost to you.”
How did the rats and mice make it in here then? Flint wondered to himself. He watched his rat companion closely to see where it may go. The rat remained frozen in place, though, too terrified to move. And this made sense for, if the rat moved, it would lose the protection of Flint’s cloak and be lost to Cadmus’ murderous whim. Flint huddled with his rat brother in utter stillness, watching Cadmus’ eternal eyes move slowly along the haunted angles of his temple. Then, miraculously, the dread Abomination turned away, directing his attention back to the Harming Tree he had unceremoniously left on the floor behind him. Stepping back to the Tree and kneeling before it, Cadmus deftly unwound the Bloody thread he had taken from Flint, and he licked Flint’s Blood off it, letting it trail along his teeth like gory floss.
“I know you are trapped somewhere within this sacred space,” Cadmus murmured, his voice a song. “You shall not escape my attentions forever, and it is forever we both have. I can wait for your revelation, my mendicant plaything. And when you finally emerge from your plague-bearing form, I shall be here to tear you asunder, in vicious ecstasy. Until that time, know this: your addition to my Harming Tree is the first living flesh to ever adorn its branches. For eternity shall you be bound to my Sacrament and, therefore, to me. In a kind of symmetry shall we revolve around this relic of the New Hive, you and I. Let it be a reminder to us both of the pleasure we have shared, of your pain in which I have basked, and the promise of the agonies to come.”
Cadmus returned to his altar and wove the piece of Flint’s ligament around an outer limb of the Harming Tree, leaving a long piece of it to dangle in anticipation of the suffering branches to come, each one climbing ever upward to a heaven that did not exist…not in this place, not in the presence of Cadmus Pariah. His back was turned to the two quaking rats when, suddenly, the rat cloaked with him began to creep along the edge of the wall. Flint followed his rat brother, hobbling on three legs and strengthening the magick of invisibility with which he had suddenly been blessed. And there he saw it; a wide crack where the wall and floor met, a breach within Cadmus’ impervious prayer room. As they neared the means of their escape, Flint boggled at his fortune. He knew exactly what he needed to do after breaking free of this desecration.
Silently the rat and Flint squeezed through the crack, and into the great hall down which Cadmus had led Flint on the way to his emerald bedroom. The air was not nearly as claustrophobic here, even though Flint had barely noticed that, as he wrapped himself around Cadmus. Once the two rats were free, Flint’s guide high-tailed it down the hall and into the darkness. Flint had a different idea, though. If he ever had a chance of escaping Cadmus’ home, he would have to be ingenious and crafty about it. Raising his nose to capture the aromas and odours of Cadmus’ veiled West Country castle, Flint sought out the mouldy passages of the catacombs the Plenipotentiary had mentioned.
The smell of decay almost overwhelmed Flint, but he knew he had found the means of his eventual escape. Following the scent, Flint scurried down the hall and into a kind of vestibule. An arched wood and iron door loomed before him. There was a large space between the floor and the door; so large in fact, Flint found no problem passing under it. Down the precarious stairs he ran, fear finally overwhelming him as it transformed into panic. The closer he got to the castle mazes, the worse it smelled. He finally reached the end of the stair well and emerged into a nightmare of old flesh and half-remembered dirges laced with terror. This was no simple underground fortress; no, this was a hellish tomb, partially immersed in stagnant water. All around Flint lay bodies tossed willy-nilly into the water and on the slimy stone islands that dotted the seemingly unending charnel chambers. Flint swallowed and tried to hold his breath to block out the stench, but he could only do that for so long. Just as he had guessed, though, there were hundreds of rats swimming in the water, dividing the film that lay atop it, and there swelling numbers populated the stone islands. They swarmed around the desiccated corpses and gnawed on bones long released from the bodies of those who had fallen victim to Cadmus’ charms.
Flint hobbled forward, joining his rat brothers and sisters in the filth that rested beneath this accursed castle. His leg was almost unbearable, but Flint knew it would heal quickly. To his surprise, he could already feel the ligament and flesh knitting back to pristine form. Why was he healing immediately like this? And how was it he could so completely mask himself from Cadmus’ dread gaze? Clambering up on a piece of wood floating by, Flint pondered this mystery.
And then it came to him, this sweet epiphany: Flint had drunk Cadmus’ Blood. Had Cadmus not said that no one had ever taken Blood from him? Flint smiled inwardly, as it was impossible to smile in rat form. He had so seduced Cadmus, that the Dark Child of Night had lowered his guard at the most important moment. Cadmus had succumbed to true Ambrosciata, not the one-sided rhapsody from which he had always pulled his pleasure. Tarmian Blood now combined with Flint’s own, Blood that brought with it all the magickal wonders only Cadmus had possessed until now. It was as though Flint had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge just as he had sacrificed to the Harming Tree. Certainly he was cursed, and had been for centuries; but this partaking of the forbidden fruit seemed to cement not only his accursed state, but also bestowed him a divine nature. He knew the blessedness that Cadmus threw away like the empty corpses of Bled Vampires. And he treasured it, as it was worthy of worship.
It also meant that his abilities were increased to an infinity Flint could barely perceive. He had always been difficult for Cadmus to find, considering the peculiar wall that separated the two, but now his presence could remain from Cadmus’ senses indefinitely. All he needed to do was escape this deathly hell into which he had spirited himself.
For now, though, Flint could hide in the midst of his rat brothers, and Cadmus would never be the wiser. He may have fed the Harming Tree, but it was a price he gladly paid for the passion he had shared with this angelic monster, and for the innumerable gifts afforded him by way of that union. He had no doubt that his newfound abilities would someday allow him to avenge Gareth Owen, and give Flint and the entire New Hive the eternal peace denied them by the presence of the Pariah and his insatiability.
Cadmus exited his temple, went to his bedroom, and wrapped himself in the priestly robes worthy of his stature. He could not sense Flint anywhere, but he had no doubt the young Vampire was still trapped within the confines of his veiled castle. Why he could not even touch a residual presence of Flint dismayed him. There it was again, that confusion, the insecurity Flint brought to bear. Walking delicately down the hall that had once had been the passageway to his Beautiful Pats, his bare feet placing themselves with an exactness bespeaking his perfection, Cadmus raised his face to the cool air that wafted through castle home. All too briefly, he thought he smelled a hint of opium and tobacco, then it was gone. Something led him to the stairs that ended at the expanse of the caverns of desecrated flesh. Stepping forward into the twilight of his castle mazes, Cadmus let his eyes course over the population of filthy rodents that congregated in these cold tombs. Something told him that Flint was amongst these animals, but he could not capture any hint of him here…or anywhere for that matter. Cadmus’ confusion trickled into a simmering frustration.
He scowled at these plague-bearers, the host of the damned the Apostate had used against the people of Europa in the Dark Ages, hoping to cull the herds and further subjugate humanity to his dark devices. Cadmus well-remembered those years of horror, as he had roamed among the mortals, seeking out the chalice and insinuating himself in the secrecy of the Templars and their unhallowed rituals. Most of that age Cadmus thought on with satisfaction, but the rats had disgusted him then, and they disgusted them now. They were a blight, albeit a necessary blight in such places like this godless tomb.
Flint was an unkempt and unnecessary nuisance. Was it any wonder his Anubis totem was the rat? Cadmus could barely comprehend the passion he had felt for Flint, nor could he conceive that it remained within him, a muted spark in the recesses of his spirit. It was a weight upon his psyche, one Cadmus could not tolerate, but found impossible for him to ignore.
Curling his lip at the squalor before him, Cadmus spun on his naked heel and retreated back to his realm above. He returned to the prayer room where he then knelt before his altar, absorbing the low hum of the Harming Tree as it accepted his gift of flesh. He was confident that he would eventually capture and kill this irritation but, before he ended Flint’s life, he would once more partake in the pleasures of his flesh…and then luxuriate in the sonorous screams wrapping around him like a concerto of suffering.
This assurance, this black comfort, seemed to be inscribed in the fires of Cadmus’ spirit eternal. The Child of Night lifted his angelic face, and closed his Elven eyes in a rapture only he could understand. A hint of a smile graced his lips, and his Harming Tree vibrated in response to his unholy reverence.
(c)Tracy Angelina Evans
10 September, 2012
with thanks to Barry Andrews and his Harming Tree