Chapter 29 - The Ancient Call
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Shock was running all through Sarah’s body. Feeling her heart beat, when it had been nearly two years had shaken her. After Martha had been banished, she checked her bag to make sure the jar containing the remains of the vital organ still filled it. It had been a close call, and her memories were screaming at her from within, bubbling to the surface as a result.
She was feeling again, and she knew that meant a crossroads would be laid out before her. Until now, she had let slip a few remnants of her past. She let them affect her and remind her what it means to be good. To care about others. Her control over it had begun to wane, however, ever since she saw the dress in London. Little by little, things like fear and anger, hope and love had escaped their sources in the jars, and found themselves deep within her.
Her mind was usually so clear, but things like that clouded her mind, and now had not been a proper time for it to happen. Not as she walked alongside Finn and the child of Thoth. The stitched-together woman named Corrine seemed so familiar to Sarah, and she feared it would trigger another event before she was ready. Did she still want to feel again, after all, she had been through? She could remember beings cold and afraid, as she stayed within the confines of her little room at her father’s estate. But she could also remember feeling happy. Those moments were few, but they shone through the others like diamonds in a coal mine. The question of whether they were worth it echoed through her mind nonstop, so she attempted to distract herself when she asked Corrine a question.
‘There are so many,’ she said. ‘How do you not go mad from all their voices?’ Corrine looked at her, puzzled.
‘I beg your pardon?’ she asked.
‘All those echoes,’ said Sarah. ‘So many fragments attached to you…’
‘You know about them?’ asked Corrine, shocked. ‘How?’
‘It’s kind of her thing,’ said Finn. ‘She spent so long on the other side, she knows how to see spirits and the like.’ Sarah nodded in a agreement.
‘You were dead,’ said Corrine. ‘And then you came back. Is that what you’re saying?’
‘Yes,’ replied Sarah. ‘Much like yourself, and while the the method was different, they both come from similar principles.’
‘I see,’ said Corrine, rubbing her scarred arm unconsciously. ‘To answer your question, it took some getting used to, but now they’re a part of me. It’s very much like breathing, when you forget it is there until you think about it.’
‘I haven’t breathed in over a year,’ said Sarah. Corrine looked at her in shock.
‘A year?’ she said. ‘I was dead for under a week. I could hardly imagine what it would be like to have been separated from my body for a year.’
‘I remember spending most of it angry at my father,’ replied Sarah. ‘Then the madness started to set in. The unbearable loneliness…’
‘I imagine that would drive anyone mad,’ said Corrine.
‘Nearly did it myself,’ interjected Finn, who was watching Sarah with concern. ‘Then I met Sarah here.’ Sarah smiled, a genuine one again. She let it spread across her face, and reveled in it. He was family to her. They all were, in some strange way orchestrated by the gods who had taught her.
‘You said your family name was Blake,’ interrupted Corrine. ‘I vaguely remember your father. He was always trying to worm his way into high society. No offense, of course.’
‘No,’ replied Sarah. ‘He is a worm that possesses knowledge too dangerous for this world. We have to stop him.’ Corrine didn’t seem to hear her, as she seemed to be lost in thought.
‘There was a party, I think,’ she said. ‘At his estate. I don’t remember a daughter, though.’
‘Born out of wedlock,’ replied Sarah. ‘I was kept as a serving girl and maid.’
‘That was it,’ said Corrine, snapping her fingers. ‘You were that cute little maid who kept sneaking over to listen to my stories. I remember you now.’ Sarah froze in the hallway, staring at Corrine, and suddenly it all came back to her.
‘The woman in the dress,’ she whispered. ‘That was you.’
‘I don’t blame you for remembering that,’ said Corrine, slyly. ‘I got it all the way from-!’
‘Paris,’ said Sarah. ‘At a little shop near Notre Dame.’ Corrine gave her a surprised smile.
‘That’s right,’ she said. ‘How do you know that?’ Before she could answer, Sarah doubled over. She could feel the memories flooding through her again, forcing her to remember. She scrambled for her bag and pulled out one of the jars, as Finn rushed to her side. It was the one that contained the remains of her brain, and it was glowing faintly.
‘What’s wrong?’ asked Finn. ‘Are you alright?’
‘It’s too soon,’ replied Sarah. ‘I shouldn’t have remembered.’
‘Remembered what?’ asked Finn. ‘Tell me.’
‘Being human,’ said a cold, familiar voice. The three looked up to see Blake and Father Grigori walking around the corner. Her father had a smug look on his face that was somewhat ruined by the beads of sweat that were running down it. He was breathing heavily, as if he had been running for hours, when it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes.
Finn and Corrine stepped in front of her, shielding her from their gaze. Finn began to snarl as he grew fangs and fur. Blake and Father Grigori stared on in horror and grim amusement respectively, as Finn shed his coat, becoming the wolf.
‘How?’ whimpered Blake. ‘The spirit said…’ He trailed off, as Finn advanced towards them, ready to rip them apart, when Sarah stood.
‘Stop,’ she said, commandingly. Finn looked back at her, but her eyes were trained on her father. She slowly made her way forward and placed a hand onto Finn’s shoulder. ‘I will take care of this.’ Finn looked at her, somehow managing to show concern through his animalistic face. Sarah looked up at him and nodded. ‘Watch Corrine.’ Finn took a step back, as Corrine peered round him curiously.
‘That’s my daughter,’ said Blake, relieved. ‘You wouldn’t let your father come to harm her.’
‘You are not my father,’ she said. ‘You have no right to refer to yourself as such, when you have never acted like one.’ Blake looked as though he had been slapped across the face. He stared at Sarah with a mixture of anger and fear.
‘How dare you,’ he said. ‘I took you. I gave you a home. Fed you. Clothed you.’
‘Murdered me,’ said Sarah. ‘Robbed me of any future I might have had.’
‘I gave you a glorious gift,’ replied Blake. “You have knowledge others have dreamt of. People have died trying.’
‘I did die,’ said Sarah, feeling the pain in her chest. Her anger was growing with every passing word, slipping past the threshold of memory. ‘And I have the knowledge you speak of, which you will never know.’ Blake turned red as he stepped forward, staring angrily at Sarah.
‘It is mine!’ he shouted. ‘You have no right to keep it from me.’
‘I have every right,’ replied Sarah, quietly. ‘I have suffered for it when you cowered in fear.’
‘I am not afraid,’ said Blake. ‘I’ve never been afraid!’ Sarah’s eyes narrowed.
‘Prove it, then,’ she whispered. Blake grabbed for his book and began to flip the pages hurriedly. He began to say something Egyptian, but was cut off by Sarah, who held her hands out wide. Her own eyes went blank, as she began to speak the same language. What’s more, Corrine and Finn began to join in with her, as they looked at one another, confused. The words simply poured out from them. Wisely, Father Grigori backed away from the scene and watched from a distance.
There was a flash of light, and the room changed. They no longer stood in the hall of the castle, but instead in the grand hall that had escorted Sarah and Martin. Corrine and a human Finn looked around wildly.
Flamel led Vincent and Maria down a long corridor, deep within the heart of the castle, and farther away from their friends, all by the light of a faint candle. The place had been abandoned so long, a thick layer of dust covered just about every inch and corner. Even the floor on which they walked had been so filthy, that they left footprints behind with every step.
As they continued to walk, Vincent began to notice something that caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. The footprints they had been making were not the only ones. Alongside them, he spotted the impressions of what looked like a thick pair of boots, operated by a wide gait. They were older than their own, with a thinner layer of dust already having settled over them, yet they still stuck out just enough.
There was very little doubt in his mind of whom they had belonged to. The mere thought of the man brought forth his wicked grin and insane eyes he had kept so well hidden from the likes of Maria and her father. Richard had followed this very path some months ago to steal the blood that would make Vincent the very monster he had become. The circle was complete.
It was too dark for Maria to see them properly, but he knew in his heart she would have spotted them far sooner than he had. She had a knack for things like that. Still, Vincent did not say a thing about them. He had tried to convince himself it was so Maria would not worry, but in reality, he was the that would have preferred to be kept in the dark. He was at his limit, and though Maria’s small donation of blood had brought some life back into him, he was far from being at his best. He was dead weight to the group, and he only hoped Finn would be enough to stop Richard.
The thought felt shameful to Vincent, but the truth was, even if he had been well fed, he feared Richard. The smell of the killer lingered about him like a perfume. An invisible trophy from every life he had taken, and even he wasn’t aware of, but to someone like Vincent, it was as clear as day. What made things worse was the mixture smelled foul, unlike the tempting blood of the Ottoman soldier he had accidentally killed. The difference was quite the puzzle to him, but it seemed to mark the real difference between him and his enemy: Richard was a killer.
The only life Vincent had taken had been accidental. He had been in a frenzied state from the starvation, and Corrine had convinced him of the truth: he had been closer to an animal than a human. There was no way he could have thought consciously when enacting the murder, and thinking back his time in the Hungarian forest, he had only thought about killing Marlowe. He now questioned if there was ever a chance he could have gone through with it. That was the major difference.
Richard was methodical. He was clean. He was efficient. But most important, he took every life conscious of his free will, even enjoying it. He was the surgeon’s blade, while Vincent was the blunt instrument. Both were destructive, but in the hands of a master, the winner was obvious.
They finally came to a door, which Flamel opened for them, ushering them inside a small room. It had no windows and appeared to be in the deepest part of the castle. To someone like Maria, it would have appeared pitch black, but Vincent saw it for what it was. He had studied such places in history books. The room was round, with no imperfections or edges to speak of, save a crack in the wall no bigger than a fist. In the centre of the room, there was a raised table, made of the same material as a wall. Every few yards, a brazier jutted out of the wall, unlit. This was a sacrificial chamber.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ said Sarah, who was still facing her father. He seemed to have forgotten how to speak, as he looked upon the hall in awe. As they all took in their surroundings, figures began to manifest above them. Lord Anubis, with the head of a jackal standing above Finn, while Lord Thoth stood above Corrine. Far away, one could see the ever-shifting shadows concealing another god, Lord Set, whose features resembled some unknown beast. He stood over Vincent, who seemed to be completely unaware of what was happening.
Blake fell to the floor in a prayer position, in awe of the gods he had prayed to so devoutly. They all looked down at him with their cold eyes, standing as still as statues in all their divinity. Electricity seemed to fill the air as they became more real, more connected with their chosen.
‘My lords,’ said Blake. ‘I…I am in awe of your splendour.’ They remained motionless as they watched him. ‘I have come far to claim what is rightfully mine.’ He tilted his head up and looked at Sarah, who barely seemed to notice him.
‘Lord Thoth,’ she said. ‘It is time for judgement.’
‘Judgement?’ said Blake, standing. ‘What do you mean? I am worthy.’
‘We shall see,’ replied Sarah. She looked over her shoulder and saw Thoth above Corrine, who silently moved past her as he pulled out his set of scales. He placed them onto the ground and sat before them.
‘Lord Osiris,’ said Sarah. ‘I beseech thee. Judge the one before us.’ A white feather drifted from the sky as Sarah held out her hand to catch it. ‘The judge of the dead has given us his blessing.’
‘What are you doing?’ asked Blake, frightened.
‘I said I am worthy.’ Sarah walked over and placed the feather onto one of the scales. She looked up at her father and stared at him. As she did so, a light emerged from his chest and floated forward. ‘No,’ said Blake, as he tried to catch it, but his hands simply passed through it. The light landed on the other scale and began to sway. It tilted side to side, back and forth.
Everyone watched in complete silence, waiting for judgment to be passed. Just when it seemed as though the feather would prove to be the heavier, the balance shifted and the light fell lower.
‘No,’ whispered Blake. ‘No. I’m worthy. I did everything right.’ He looked up at his daughter. ‘Tell them. I did this for you. It was a present. As he spoke the ground behind him opened, revealing a pit. Something large moved in the darkness with a thick and scaly green hide. Finn gulped as he saw row upon row of razor-sharp teeth. ‘You can’t do this!’ He seemed frozen in place, as Sarah advanced.
‘Father,’ she said. ‘You have been judged. Your sins have been weighed.’ As she walked forward, Blake backed up until he was at the very edge of the pit.
‘I am your father,’ he said. ‘You owe me everything.’ She continued to advance, until she was within arm’s reach of him. He looked over his shoulder, downward, as Ammit waited for his meal. He turned back to his daughter as he began to cry.
‘My little girl,’ he said. ‘Please.’ Without a word, Sarah raised her arm and pushed Blake into the darkness below. She watched as he screamed, falling backwards, right into the jaws of the massive reptile. There was a snap, and he was gone, out of Sarah’s life forever, weighed down by the sins he had inflicted on her. She took one last look, and felt nothing, save a small sense of freedom. Corrine and Finn ran forever, but as they did so, the hallway shifted back to that of the castle. They all stood exactly where they had been, save for Blake, who was now crumpled on the floor.
Sarah reached into her bag and felt the jars, all still full with her remains. She turned back to Finn and Corrine, and nodded.
‘What happened?’ asked Corrine. ‘That was…amazing.’
‘Thank you,’ replied Sarah. ‘I am at peace.’ Finn shifted back into a man and walked over to her and Corrine. There was a brief silence before he scooped them both up in a hug.
‘I’m proud of you,’ he whispered to Sarah. ‘You did well.’ He let go of them both and stopped when he looked up. They all turned to see Father Grigori standing over the body of his fallen comrade. Corrine stepped forward.
‘I’m not going back,’ she said. ‘I killed Frederick, and I’m not afraid to do it again.’ Father Grigori glanced up at her.
‘Very well,’ he said. He leaned down and pulled the ancient tome from Blake’s hands and thumbed through it. ‘I have what I came for.’
‘You’re not going to try?’asked Corrine confused.
‘No,’ replied Father Grigori. ‘I have my own path to make. Far away from here. I owe no loyalty to Marlowe or Blake.’
‘Swear to me,’ said Corrine, staring at him. ‘Promise me you will never darken my doorstep again.’
‘I swear,’ he said, nonchalantly. ‘May I go?’’ They all looked nervously at one another. Corrine nodded. He nodded back and disappeared down a hallway. From there, he would return to Russia, where an empire unknowingly awaited his arrival. A man who would change the course of history with what he had learned from Marlowe and the others. A mystic and religious icon, Grigori Rasputin, would keep his promise.
As they all stood in the hallway, a sense of accomplishment washed over them. For the first time, they felt confident. Finn turned to the girls.
‘I don’t know about you two,’ he said. ‘But we should probably tell the others.’ The girls nodded in agreement. But before they could make a move, a shot rang out. Corrine and Sarah turned to see Finn, a blank look on his face, fall to the floor, a gunshot wound in his back. Richard stood from down the hall, still aiming down the sites of his revolver with his insane smile, as Corrine screamed, Sarah looking down at her friend who had been at her side since the beginning.
‘The door used to be locked,’ said Flamel, entering the room. ‘But after the vial was stolen, there was very little need.’ He indicated the crack in the wall, and Vincent could see where it would have been considered safe. Flamel took his candle and began to ignite each brazier in turn.
‘Richard,’ muttered Maria. Vincent could feel her blood boiling at the very thought of him. While he may have feared Richard, Maria seemed to truly hate him.
‘I believe so,’ said Flamel, as he finished lighting the braziers. ‘It was the last of its kind until young Vincent here was reborn. Tell me, do you know what this room is for?’
‘Sacrifice,’ said Vincent, suddenly very wary of Flamel’s movements. The old man gave a slight chuckle.
‘In a sense,’ replied Flamel. ‘But not entirely. You see, chambers like this…are where the vampire is born.’
‘People would come here to get bitten?’ asked Maria. ‘Like a ceremony.’
‘Very good, Miss Bellefond,’ praised Flamel. ‘Though this one only ever saw the one use to make the warlord himself.’
‘Why did you bring us here?’ asked Vincent, curiously.
‘A history lesson, Mr. Harrow,’ replied Flamel. ‘I know very little about the vampires. They were before even my time, with the occasional one popping up from time to time.’ He began to pace back and forth on the other side of the table from Vincent and Maria, his brow furrowed, as he thought. ‘But there are some things I have come to learn.’
‘Like about the mist,’ said Maria. ‘Like when you helped Vincent escape from his prison.’
‘Indeed,’ replied Flamel. ‘It was a test, and even I was not sure if it would be true in the end. I am glad to see that it was.’
‘You didn’t know?’ interjected Vincent, dumbfounded. ‘You would have led us all to our deaths on a hunch.’
‘I am not that cruel, Mr. Harrow,’ smiled Flamel. ‘Precautions were in place that Miss Bellefond and the Lady De Marine would have rescued you.’ Flames thought for a moment, then looked at them. ‘And that horrid place needed to be destroyed regardless.’
‘He’s right,’ said Maria, her eyes glazing over as she remembered the atrocities. ‘It was a horrible place.’
‘Thats’ putting it lightly,’ said Vincent, having experienced the atrocities himself firsthand. Flamel nodded.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘But it proved you were a genuine vampire. An endangered species, thanks to the Ottomans.”
‘You knew about that?’ asked Vincent. ‘And you sent me there anyway?’
‘Another test, I’m afraid,’ said Flamel. ‘A cruel one, but a necessary one for you to evolve. The vampire truly is a miracle of nature.’
‘I beg to differ,’ said Vincent. ‘It has caused me nothing but trouble.’
‘That’s not entirely true,’ whispered Maria. ‘I’d be married to that…that brute if you were not as you are.’ If Vincent had any blood in him, he would have blushed a deep crimson. Flamel cleared his throat, which caused the pair to stand at attention in embarrassment.
‘The reason I bought you to this room, you see…’ he said, seemingly searching for the right words. He eventually found them, and it made Vincent’s stomach turn. ‘You are not strong enough to face Richard. Put simply, you will die.’ The silence following the statement filled the room until Vincent stepped forward.
‘We have Finn,’ he said. ‘And Sarah. And Corrine. Surely they would be enough-!’ Flamel cut him off.
‘You would risk there lives?’ asked Flamel. ‘While you cower so far away from them?’
‘What would you have of me?’ argued Vincent. ‘You said I am not strong enough. He slammed his hands down onto the table, which echoed throughout the room. Vincent found that he couldn’t meet Maria’s or Flamel’s gaze, his shame rising.
‘That is because you are hungry,’ said Flamel, matter of factly. ‘You must feed.’
Sarah watched on, as Finn fell to his knees, the world seemingly slowing as he did so. She couldn’t even seem to comprehend Corrine’s scream of terror and panic, as Finn lurched forward onto his hands, breathing heavily. On his back was a single blackened hole, where the bullet had entered. She didn’t even question what it was made of, as there was only one substance on Earth that could truly harm her friend.
Memories bubbled up, echoing inside her. They were screaming for Finn, wanting him above all to be okay. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than for him to tilt his head up and give her that cocky little smile he put on when he was trying to convince himself everything would be okay. Instead, he just lay there, barely breathing but alive.
Sarah was using every ounce of willpower she had to push her feelings down. To prevent the transformation that seemed to be forcing itself into her chest. She briefly wondered if that was how Finn felt when he transformed, but soon became distracted when she saw the smiling man down the hall, still pointing his smoking pistol where Finn had fallen. He casually walked up to them, carefully aiming his gun, as well as pulling along a suitcase.
‘Not dead?’ the man laughed. ‘Good practice, then.’ He looked up at Sarah and Corrine with his insane eyes, flashing his own wicked smile. He kept the pistol trained on Finn, who groaned. The man kicked him hard, causing Finn to cough up blood. Sarah had hated her father, but in that moment she knew she wanted the man before her to suffer. ‘Got tired of waiting. Your sister took too long, so I came running, and look at what I found.’
‘You’re Richard,’ said Corrine, watching his movements carefully. She was trying to put on a brave face, and failing horribly. He bowed.
‘You’ve heard of me?’ he asked. ‘I am quite the hero of London.’
‘I remember you from the asylum,’ said Corrine. ‘You’re a monster, just as Vincent described.’ Richard’s face darkened as he heard Corrine say her friend’s name, and Sarah was sure if she had been within striking distance, she would be on the floor with Finn.
‘I’ve heard of you as well, Lady De Marine,’ said Richard. He turned to Sarah. ‘As well as Miss Blake here. I must admit, for two women who have seen death, you two don’t seem very intimidating.’ He looked round the hallway, taking in the environment before turning back to the girls. ‘Tell me, where is the beast?’ Sarah and Corrine looked at one another, confused.
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Corrine. ‘If you’re referring to Finn-!’ Richard pointed the gun at Finn’s head and cocked the hammer.
‘You know whom I’m talking about?’ asked Richard. ‘That parasite that feeds on blood. Where is it?’
‘Vincent is not a parasite,’ Corrine said, indignantly. ‘You will not speak of him as such.’ Richard laughed. A sinister song that sent a chill even up Sarah’s spine.
‘So you do know what I want,’ said Richard. ‘Where is it?’ Corrine looked at Sarah, and they exchanged a silent conversation. No matter what, they would not tell this man where their friend was. ‘Playing games, are we? Unfortunately, I know what to do.’ He turned to Corrine. ‘Call it.’ Corrine shook her head.
‘Never,’ she said. ‘I will not help you harm Vincent.’
‘You’ve already screamed once,’ said Richard. ‘One more won’t hurt. I’ll even let you both go. You want to see your husband again, don’t you?’ Sarah looked down at Finn.
‘What about him?’ she asked, indicating her fallen friend. Richard laughed.
‘She speaks,’ he said. ‘No. I’m afraid he stays with me. He’ll make a fine trophy.’ Sarah stared daggers at him. She tried to summon the gods once more. She wanted to rip his soul out and cast it into the abyss for Ammit to devour, but found she was unable. It merely made her head hurt, breaking her concentration. A clear mind was required, something the jars in her bag were preventing.
‘We will not help you,’ she said. ‘Leave this place.’ Richard stared at her in a stunned amusement before laughing again.
‘My dears,’ he said. ‘If you won’t do so willingly, I shall have to provide incentive.’ He pointed his gun at Finn’s leg and squeezed the trigger. Finn grunted in pain as he began to cough up blood. The first bullet must have pierced a lung.
‘How about now?’ asked Richard. ‘I have four bullets left, and I need the last one to be in his head.’ He fired three more shots into Finn’s back. Sarah could tell he was still alive, but just barely.
‘One more to go,’ said Richard. ‘Let’s put the pup out of his misery.’ He cocked the gun and aimed it at Finn’s head. Sarah was beginning to run hot, as she felt her feelings growing within her, as well as her removed organs. She closed her eyes, trying desperately not to cry, when Corrine held her hand. Sarah looked up at her and saw she was resolute.
‘I’ll do it,’ she said. ‘I’ll call Vincent.’ Richard stood up and pulled the gun away from Finn’s head. He smiled at her.
‘There’s a good girl,’ he said. ‘You’re doing the whole world a service.’ Corrine looked back down at Sarah.
‘It’s going to be okay,’ she said, turning back to Richard. ‘He will never win against Vincent.’ Before Richard could make a rebuttal, Corrine opened her mouth and screamed with all the force of her reinforced lungs. It echoed throughout the halls, shaking everyone to their very cores. It was an unearthly scream that seemed to not be one of terror, as Richard had hoped, but a signal. A beacon for Vincent to follow. Corrine stopped and looked back at Richard.
‘He’s coming,’ she said. ‘And you will die.’
‘You’re right on one account,’ he said. ‘It could never resist being weak.’
‘Caring is not weakness,’ said Corrine. ‘It is what makes him human.’ Sarah was touched by the words, as she looked down at Finn, who was still bleeding on the stones, barely hanging onto the threads of life.
‘Is that what you think?’ asked Richard. ‘I will show you strength. I don’t want the wolf alive anymore.’ He pointed his gun once more at Finn, and just as Sarah was about to throw herself on him, there was a blur of mist that blew into the hall like a hurricane, shattering the windows around them. Richard looked around wildly until Vincent appeared on the staircase above them. He looked down at the scene below, and his eyes began to glow with rage. He looked over to Richard.
‘You want me?’ he roared. ‘Then let the hunt begin!’ Vincent ran down one of the hallways, as Richard laughed. Sarah could see the madness emanating from his very being. Somehow, seeing Vincent had made them invisible to him. Nothing else mattered to him, only that he find the vampire and kill him. They were the only two who existed now. Richard was lost in his own little world as he gave chase, leaving them alone.
Sarah and Corrine dropped to the floor and turned Finn onto his side. A bubble of blood pooled down the side of his mouth. His breathing was hard and laboured, and he seemed unable to speak. He tried to move, but Corrine held him still.
‘Don’t move,’ she said. ‘You can’t move.’ Sarah looked at her.
‘Can we save him?’ she asked. ‘You read all those books…’ Corrine seemed to be at a loss.
‘I…I don’t know,’ she said. ‘We could remove the bullets…but…’ Sarah knew it might not do any good. The silver was in Finn’s body, infecting him like a poison. Unlike the quicksilver he took in small doses, the hard metal was embedded deep within his body.
Sarah wanted to scream and cry and beg him not to go, but could not summon the emotions to do so out of fear. Her friend was dying before her, and she couldn’t do anything to save him, let alone mourn. As if reading her thoughts, Finn raised his hand, placed it onto Sarah’s cheek. He gave her a small smile, before his eyes began to roll back into his head, Sarah feeling his spirit leaving his body.
‘No,’ said Sarah. ‘I won’t let you.’ Corrine put her hand onto Sarah’s back.
‘There’s nothing we can do,’ she said, barely on the verge of tears. Sarah, I’m so sorry.’ Sarah looked up at her defiantly.
‘I can save him,’ she said. ‘I know how.’ She reached for her bag, and began to pull out the canopy jars, laying them around Finn like an altar, as they glowed slightly. She settled onto her knees and looked down at Finn.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Corrine. ‘Is it a spell?’
‘Yes,’ replied Sarah. ‘A difficult one that requires a sacrifice.’
‘And would you volunteer? asked Vincent, raising his eyes up to meet Flamel. ‘You’re immortal. You would survive.’
‘I would,’ said Flamel. ‘You, however, would not. The blood of an immortal is a powerful thing. It would be like ingesting acid.’
‘Sarah has no blood to drink. Corrine’s is diluted beyond recognition. I cannot even smell Finn’s,’ said Vincent. ‘So we are back to where started.’
‘You’re missing someone,’ said Flamel. His switched his gaze from Vincent to Maria.
‘Absolutely not,’ said Vincent, darkly. ‘How dare you even suggest it.’ Maria placed her hand onto Vincent’s shoulder, and he turned to see her soft eyes staring at him.
‘It might be the only way,’ she said. ‘I’m sure there’s a way.’
‘No,’ said Vincent, forcefully. ‘It would kill you.’
‘Not necessarily,’ interjected Flamel. ‘There is an alternative…’ Suddenly, Vincent’s mind was filled with all the failed vampires in the cell of the asylum. Their twisted features echoed in his mind. He clenched his fists and jumped over the table, pinning Flamel to the wall.
‘How dare you,’ he said. ‘How…Dare…You…’
‘What?’ asked Maria. ‘What is he suggesting?’
‘You would have her become one of those…things…’ said Vincent. ‘Haven’t you done enough damage? Is my life some kind of plaything to you?’ His eyes began to tear up, as he looked at Flamel. ‘The price is too high.’
‘No…’ wheezed Flamel. ‘Not one of them. One like you.’ Vincent released Flamel who crumpled to the ground, reaching for his throat.
‘I’ve seen what my blood does,’ said Vincent. ‘You can’t lie to me.’ Flamel pulled himself up and dusted himself off.
‘I won’t pretend I didn’t deserve that,’ said Flamel. ‘But it wasn’t a lie. She is not like the ones who became ghouls.’ Maria’s eyes widened as she suddenly realised what Flamel was asking of her.
‘How so?’ she asked, slowly approaching them. ‘What do you mean?’ Vincent looked at her, but before he could say anything, Flamel spoke.
‘You can smell it. You have even tasted it.’ he said. ‘The difference…’
‘Another one of your tests?”’ asked Vincent, disgusted. ‘I will not participate.’ He tried to leave, but Maria stopped him.
‘What smell?’ asked Maria. ‘Vincent, what is he talking about?’
‘Tell her,’ said Flamel. ‘What does her blood tell you?’
‘Vincent…’ said Maria. ‘What is wrong with my blood.”
“I…I…” Vincent stammered. He turned away from her and faced the wall.
‘Tell her,’ urged Flamel. ‘Go on.’
‘It’s foul!’ yelled Vincent. ‘Its smell is detestable and it tastes awful. Unlike anything I have ever partaken of.’ Another silence hung in the air.
‘Oh,’ said Maria, confusedly. ‘What does that mean?’
‘To put it simply, said Flamel, ‘You are a good person.’
‘Of course, she’s a good person,’ said Vincent. ‘She’s more than that, but what does that have to do with her blood?’ Flamel asked.
‘Old legends,’ he said. ‘Forgotten to time. Why do you think you need blood?’
‘It could be a number of reasons,’ said Vincent. ‘Perhaps I simply don’t produce it anymore?’
‘Then why would smell matter?’ asked Flamel. ‘The blood is merely a delivery system for the very essence of life itself.’
‘I’ve read every medical journal I could get my hands on,’ said Vincent. ‘That is utter nonsense.’
‘Now you question things?’ asked Flamel. ‘A girl with no internal organs. Another who is made of different body parts. A man who can become a wolf. And yourself, amongst all others. Living proof of the true nature to the world.’ Vincent went silent. He tried to find a logical argument, but there was none.
‘How would that affect the smell?’ asked Maria. ‘Why would being a good person affect something like that?’
‘Sin carries weight,’ replied Flamel. ‘That is what it makes so appealing to the likes of Mr. Harrow. He devours evil itself.’
‘That would mean all vampires could do that,’ said Vincent. ‘Why would they be wiped out for something so useful?’
‘A group of apex predators that can detect evil,’ started Flamel. ‘Think about it. They stood between evil itself conquering the world.’
‘Those kinds of people would want them dead,’ said Maria. ‘For that very reason. Vampires are literally at war with evil.’
‘Exactly,’ said Flamel. ‘It also serves as a marker for those who would become ghouls and those who are worthy to become like them.’
‘This is all conjecture,’ said Vincent. ‘There is no proof of what you’re saying. It's like you said, they’re old legends.’
‘That I believe to be true,’ said Flamel. He walked over to the pair and placed his own hand on Vincent’s shoulder. ‘It may be our only chance.’ Vincent pulled away and stared at him.
‘Even if you’re right,’ he said. ‘And she doesn’t become one of those things. I would never put this curse on her.’ Maria approached him and took his hand.
‘And if I said I want this?’ he asked. ‘What would you do then?’ Vincent stared at her.
‘Forced to feed on blood?’asked Vincent. ‘Never able to eat normal food. Looking I do now, forever. Who would want that?’ She smiled at him, catching him off guard.
‘I would,’ she said. ‘If it meant I could spend an eternity with you. The rest simply doesn’t matter.’ Before Vincent could answer, a scream echoed throughout the halls. They all looked to the door in shock.
‘Corrine?’ asked Vincent. ‘She’s in trouble.’
‘Then its time to make a choice,’ said Flamel. ‘And soon.’ Vincent looked at Maria, sharing her look of concern. She placed a hand on his cheek.
‘I want this,’ said Maria. ‘I want you.’ Vincent closed his eyes and let the words wash over him, and nodded. He turned to Flamel.
‘What do I do?’he asked.
‘Miss Bellefond,’ said Flamel.’If you could be so kind as to lay on the table.’ Maria nodded and did as she had been instructed.
‘What next?’ she asked.
‘Now Mr Harrow bites down on one of your arteries,’ Flamel explained. ‘He must drain you just to the point of death, where he must then feed you his own blood to replenish it. A small amount will do in that regard.’ Maria looked over at Vincent.
‘Will it hurt?’ she asked, a shadow of fear crossing her face. Vincent nodded.
‘I’m afraid so,’ he said, remembering his own transformation. ‘Are you sure you still want to do this?’ Maria nodded.
‘For our friends,’ she said. ‘Do it.’ She turned her head away, exposing her neck to Vincent. He moved in slowly, baring his fangs. Before he bit, he kissed her neck gently.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I love you.’ With that, he bit down and began to drink deeply. She let out a gasp as she grabbed for Vincent’s hand.
‘Keep going,’ she said. He did as she instructed, and could feel the blood rushing into his mouth and down his throat. Its taste was just as horrible as it had been, yet he kept drinking. He could feel himself getting stronger, as she lost all the color in her face. It was like receiving an infusion of life itself to Vincent. He kept his ears open, as Maria’s heart began to slow from its normal fluttering to a crawl.
Just as she was about to be drained of her last drop, Vincent pulled away and quickly slit his own hand with his sharpened nail. Maria had passed out from the loss of blood, her eyes closed from the endeavour. Vincent opened her mouth and let a stream of blood flow into her mouth. He stood over he and listened carefully.
‘It will take time,’ said Flamel. ‘Yours took several hours.’
‘Quiet,’ said Vincent. He was relieved to hear that her heart, although faint, was still beating. He looked up at Flamel. ‘If she dies…We will see just how hard you are to kill.’ For the first time, he meant his threat. Flamel nodded.
‘I expect nothing less, Mr. Harrow,’ as he said that, Corrine screamed again. ‘Go. You are needed.’ Vincent nodded and disappeared into the suddenly present mist, his powers restored. Flamel stepped over to the door and closed it, turning to look at the poor girl whose life he had gambled with. There was a part of him that hoped Vincent would try and kill him anyway, but there was much to be done. For now, he would watch over Maria Bellefond and hope again hope she would not be another death that he had caused.
Vincent moved, a mist weaving through the halls, listening for Corrine’s three hearts. the loudest one he could hope for. Finn’s was fading, a very bad sign. And another now stood among them. He knew exactly whose it was, and he silently prayed to the gods he would have the strength to face his foe.
‘I’m coming,’ he whispered. ‘Just hold on.’
‘Sarah, you can’t,’ said Corrine. ‘Finn wouldn’t want that.’
‘It’s not the kind of sacrifice you think,’ replied Sarah, concentrating hard on all of her old memories. ‘It is about time I make a choice. I need the gods to listen. I will make them listen.’ As she said that, the glow of the canopic jars began to turn vibrant. Memories began to flood into her mind, one by one, as though she were reliving her entire life.
Her entire childhood in Africa with her mother. Travelling to England on a boat and being left with her father. He would throw parties, and she desired to be a part of them. Corrine’s dress. The doll her mother had made her. The beatings her father would give her, all culminating in him holding her gently, as the blood seeped from her neck, right up to the darkness consuming her vision as she died.
Tears began to pour from her eyes as her chest began to hurt. She felt pain, unlike anything she had ever experienced. It had felt as though she were on fire, burning up her entire being, to speed up the process. It made her concentrate on the memories, even more, letting them echo inside her as she let herself feel them.
The light in one of the canopic grew so bright it nearly blinded Corrine, who held up a hand to shield herself from its brilliance before it began to dim. As it did so, the veins and arteries began to regrow within Sarah’s body from the outside in, as a new heart began to beat again in her chest. As it formed, she placed her hands onto Finn’s own chest.
‘As I am reborn,’ she whispered, so must he be.’ Sarah’s chest began to glow a deep red, as her new heart began to beat faster and faster, growing with every pulse. It filled her with life she would share with Finn. The light traveled out of the heart and up her arms, all the way to Finn’s chest. Once it made contact, he arched his back, as if electricity flowed through him. One by one, the bullets pushed themselves out of his back and fell to the ground with a clatter, until all five were purged from his body. Still, Sarah held on, as she felt his lungs and heart knit back together, until they were whole, and only then did the light dim, and she collapsed.
Corrine caught her and cradled her in her arms, as Finn fell back to the floor, motionless. Sarah scrambled out of Corrine’s arms and looked at Finn expectantly.
‘What just happened?’ asked Corrine. ‘Sarah?’
‘I grew my heart back,’ she said. ‘In doing so, it provided so much life I gave Finn some of it…but…but…’ As she spoke, she realised Finn was still motionless. She placed her ear onto his chest and tried to listen for a heartbeat, but there was nothing. She began to feel a sense of dread she had been too late when she heard it. Ever so faintly, Finn’s heart pulsed. His chest began to rise, as Sarah pulled back and watched. Finn’s eyes quickly opened, as he inhaled deeply and sat up. He looked around wildly, until he saw Sarah and Corrine.
‘Was I dead?’ he asked. ‘Because the dog-faced blow was there and…’ He trailed off as he saw tears were now streaming down Sarah’s face. ‘You alright, rags?’ Sarah answered by tackling him with a massive hug, knocking the wind out of him, and she began to laugh. She even pulled Corrine into the hug with them, and they just stood there for a few minutes, feeling alive.
Sarah would never be fully human, not after what she had been through on the other side. She would forever be something in between the worlds of the living and the dead, though none of that bothered her. By accepting her heart, she had given up the cold and calculating mind, and would now be swayed by emotions. It would be a while before she would accept the rest of her body, but that was just fine. For now, Sarah Blake felt happy for the first time in a year, and that was all that mattered, as she reveled in her new happy memory.
Vincent’s heart was racing, as he fled down the corridors of the castle, leading Richard close behind him. No matter what he did to focus, he could not get the image of Finn’s just lying there in a pool of his own blood. Vincent knew he was alive by his faint heartbeat, but it was fading fast.
He felt useless in that moment, as all he could do was draw Richard away from them. Use the maniac’s obsession to his advantage. Then maybe his friends could save Finn. At least that was what Vincent prayed to his dark gods, begging them to listen to him. It was all he could do at this point.
Richard’s ragged breathing reached Vincent’s ears as he followed. The chase was beginning to wear him down, just as Vincent had hoped. All his enemies’ professionalism had been dissolved in a pool of obsession, creating a madness. It would weaken him, but it would also make him unpredictable. A cornered rat will always bite. Always.
No matter what happened, Richard needed to die. No sacrifice would satiate his bloodlust, and if Vincent fell, the others would be next. He’d pick them off one by one, making sure they would suffer until he found Maria, if she wasn’t dead already.
‘Can’t think that way,’ said Vincent, ascending a set of steps to the upper floors, with Richard keeping pace. ‘She’ll make it. She’s strong.’ Some part of him truly believed the other was already mourning her, distracting him from the inevitable end. He flung open a door to a wooden scaffolding, connecting the tower he had just come out of, to one that had only been partially built. Abandoned after the master of the castle had been killed, no doubt.
Vincent casually walked to the centre of the bridge and looked down. Even if he could fly, the sheer height made his stomach turn. With all his senses restored, he could see every detail of the valley below him, emphasizing how long a fall like that would take before the sudden stop of death. It would happen so fast, you wouldn’t feel a thing. As he gazed below, Richard made his way to the scaffolding, and glared at Vincent, his insane smile reaching from ear to ear, almost reminiscent of Jack’s, albeit without his humour.
‘Done running, are we?’ heaved Richard, walking slowly towards Vincent. ‘But we were having so much fun.’ Their eyes met, and Vincent did his best to hide the fact he was terrified.
‘Go home, Richard,’ said Vincent in the calmest voice he could manage. ‘There is no place for you here.’ Richard stared in dumb silence for a moment, before bursting with laughter. Vincent realised too late he could not affect Richard’s mind, not because his will had grown stronger, but because he was driven by a single thought. Vincent could feel entangled in Richard’s soul like overgrown vines, squeezing out all rational thought.
‘It thinks it can talk to me like that?’ asked Richard. ‘How quaint. A rabbit does not beg for its life from a wolf. It just accepts its fate.’ Richard advanced, as Vincent held his ground.
‘But which one of us is the rabbit?’ he asked. ‘Which one is the wolf?’ Richard sneered, his arrogance breaking through the madness.
‘Do you have any idea who I am? asked Richard. ‘What I’ve done? Whom I’ve killed? I am the ripper of Whitechapel. I’ve killed things you could only dream of killing.’
‘Prostitutes scarring you, they?’mocked Vincent through his false bravery. ‘Not falling for the world-class charm?’ The anger was growing behind Richard’s eyes. He wasn’t used to his prey talking back.
‘You think your the worse thing to stalk the night?’ asked Richard through gritted teeth. ‘I’ve made damn sure that’s me. I’ve killed things that would make your skin crawl, Vincent.’
‘So you do remember my name,’ said Vincent. ‘I’m touched.’ That was Richard’s final straw. Vincent hadn’t noticed the case his enemy had been dragging behind him, but when he finally realised what it was, it was too late.
Richard opened it , and aimed the device at Vincent, who dodged to the side, as Richard unleashed a jet of flame in his direction, igniting the ancient railing of the scaffold. Vincent appeared behind Richard, and slashed at him with his claws only for him to tumble away with a fresh scar across his face. The blood trickled down his cheek, onto the device, as he strapped it to his back in a fluid motion.
‘I hear you don’t like fire,’ said Richard. ‘A shame there will be nothing left I can call a trophy.’ Vincent could feel the heat, as it spread round him, trapping them both on the scaffolding. If anything, they both would die now. A fact Richard didn’t seem to care about anymore.
Richard unleashed a long, continuous stream of fire at Vincent, who shifted into the mist to avoid it. Even then, he could feel himself dissipating from the heat. He was losing pieces of himself at an alarming rate. The smoke was gathering above, preventing him from using his gifts to ascend.
Vincent shifted nearly continuously, sacrificing what little advantage he had to attack Richard. A scratch here. A hit there. But nothing brought down the experienced hunter. Even with his mind preoccupied, Richard’s body was well versed in combat, seemingly moving on its own, in response to Vincent’s movements.
The thoughts flooded into Vincent’s mind. How Maria had risked her life to give him her blood. To make him strong enough to face down the likes of the madman before him, but it was all for naught. He let himself get cornered, his advantages taken away from him. The heat was melting his power away, draining him, making him the helpless victim Richard had always wanted him to be.
‘I’m sorry, Maria,’ he whispered.
Flamel paced nervously in the chamber, Maria’s pale body lying lifeless on the stone table. He would glance at her nervously, as though he half expected her to combust. Occasionally he would walk over to her and check her pulse, and was relieved to find, however faint it was, it was still there. It reminded him of grains in an hourglass, dropping little by little, as it gradually emptied.
He knew it was a horrible thing to suggest to the young couple, who had just declared their love for one another, but it was the only way. Deep down, they had all known that, but it didn't take away the guilt and the hurt. The centuries since his rebirth as immortal seemed to echo that fact, wherever he went, no matter what he did.
Flamel cursed himself silently, as he turned away from the poor girl. In the poor light, he had thought she might have looked like his darling Pernelle at one point, and he simply he couldn’t face her. Not after what he had done to her, and especially what she had been driven to to by him. His first true sin before many more would follow.
He had lived a hundred lifetimes since then, but nothing hurt as much as his beginning. It was the price he paid for immortality, and it was only in his advanced age he realised it had not been worth paying. What was worse was his influence had affected so many people, guaranteeing he would never be able to outrun it. Saving these few damned souls seemed like they might be his redemption, but now he feared he had led them to their deaths.
The string of thoughts was cut short, as he turned back to Maria who, to his surprise, had vanished. The door to the room was open, and not a sound had been made.
The scaffolding was holding, but just barely, along with Vincent. The fire had become all consuming, as Richard had cornered him against the blaze. There was no hope now. No escape. Vincent took small solace that even if he died that day, Richard would go with him as the blaze destroyed the bridge. He would probably die laughing.
‘No more games,’ said Richard, aiming the device at Vincent. ‘You put up more of a fight than I thought you would, but in the end you’re still that sniveling little bookworm.’ Vincent looked up at him defiantly. If he was going to die, he would rob his nemesis of as much satisfaction as he could.
‘And yet I am still the better man,’ he said. ‘How embracing for you.’ He flashed his fangs at Richard, who was taken aback, before letting the rage consume him again.
‘You aren’t a man,’ he said. ‘You’re a monster. I am a hero. The killer of the last vampire. I would be celebrated.’
‘You would be condemned!’ shouted Vincent, standing up. ‘You can’t hide who you are anymore, Richard. The beast is out of the cage.’ Richard slammed Vincent hard in the gut with the device.
‘I’m better than you,’ he said. ‘Say it. Say that I am better than you.’ It would appear Richard’s mind had finally reached its limit. His perfect little world he had lived in was shattered, and he was desperate to piece it back together, cutting himself on its sharper edges. Vincent took a bit of grim satisfaction at that.
‘You’re just an angry child,’ said Vincent, laughing. ‘Screaming at the world to let you have your way.’ Richard hit Vincent again.
‘Say it!’ he shouted. ‘Say I am better! Vincent!’ He began to beat Vincent relentlessly. Hitting him in the face and stomach, refusing to end it until he got what he wanted. Vincent couldn’t help but laugh. ‘You’re the monster! You’re the beast! I am the hunter!’
Still, Vincent laughed. He still had enough strength after every blow to raise his head defiantly at Richard and smile. Vincent couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. Just a little bit longer and the scaffolding would collapse, devouring them both in the flame and the fall. It would be a good death. As he thought this, something fell from above and landed behind Richard without making a sound, confusing Vincent. Richard didn’t take notice, until a voice rang out in in the night.
‘Richard?’ said Maria. He turned round, and they both saw her. She was pale now, all colour drained from her once-rosy cheeks. Her eyes had sunken in, giving her the appearance she hadn’t slept in days, and her hair down had realised itself from its bun, and now draped round her shoulder. To Vincent she looked like a beautiful statue carved from marble, capturing perfectly everything he had loved about her. His mouth fell open in awe, as he stared.
‘Maria?’ asked Richard, shaking clear some of his madness. ‘What are you doing here?’ He turned to Vincent and gave him another whack. ‘Is this one of your illusions? Another trick?’ Maria placed an ice-cold hold hand onto his cheek, and he turned back to her.
‘It’s not a trick,’ she said. ‘I’m right here. I’m real.’ He looked at her, confused.
‘What happened to you?’ he asked. ‘You’re so pale and cold.’ Before she could answer, he shook his head. ‘Doesn’t matter. You’re just in time to see the end of this monster.’
‘And would you kill me as well?’ she asked. ‘Your fiancée?’ ‘Why would I hurt you?’ he asked. ‘You’ll do as I say, and we’ll be just fine.’
‘No,’ she said defiantly. ‘It won’t be.’ She gave him a smile and revealed her brand new fangs, glistening in the fire. Richard stumbled back in shock.
‘You’re…you’re one of those things…’ he stammered. ‘He made you like him. But we’ll cure you.’ He regained his composure and walked towards her, his hand outstretched. ‘You don’t have to be one of those vile monsters. You can be with me. We’ll be happy. We’ll be human. Unlike any of them.’ As he inched towards her, with his eyes locked on hers, he never saw her hand reach forward like a flash of lightning, piercing his chest. He looked down at it in shock. Maria leaned in close and whispered in his ear.
‘I would rather live an eternity as a monster with Vincent, than a single day as a human with you,’ she said She looked at Vincent, who stood and rushed forward. Together, they used their fangs, and pierced his neck on either side as he screamed. They began to drain him of his blood, until there was just enough left for him to feel what would happen next.
They let go of him as he staggered forward, leaning against the railing of the scaffolding. He looked back to see the vampire staring at him with his glowing red eyes, his own widening with terror.
‘No,’ he said. ‘You can’t.’ He was nearly in tears, as they advanced on him. Together, they both pushed him through the weakened railing, sending him plummeting to the ground. His scream filled the air for an eternity, as Vincent had predicted until it suddenly stopped. Vincent and Maria looked at one another. She looked away to wipe the blood off her chin, but Vincent stopped her. He looked deep into her bloodshot eyes and smiled.