The silence that filled the tiny corridor following Abraham's statement was complete. No one made a sound, not even Minto who was holding his breath. The vampire stared at Abraham as though her eyes were daggers and she was stabbing him repeatedly. Abraham appeared as though he were congratulating himself on formulating a plan of unsurpassed brilliance.
It was Minto who broke the silence, emitting a small gasp that gradually gave way to rapid breathing. So panicked was his struggle for breath, he was in danger of passing out and had to hold onto the wall to steady himself. When he finally calmed down, he found Abraham still standing quite still with a calm expression on his face. This was the complete opposite of how Minto felt.
"Are you deluded, Van Helsing?" Minto demanded, "That spell has been lost to the ages...and for good reason! A vampire with a soul is truly a godforsaken creature, an abomination!"
"There was one who had the spell," Abraham replied quietly, with one long look at the demon, he turned and made his way from the corridor out into the training room, he stopped next to a table laden with books, glassware and a package carefully wrapped in leather, "And it was my good fortune that he also saw fit to give me this..."
With great reverence, Abraham untied the cords that held the parcel closed and then peeled back the leather to reveal the small object held within. Minto gasped when Abraham withdrew a shard of blue crystal the size of his hand. The shard was transparent blue the colour of sapphires, smooth on all sides save one where it appeared to have been torn off from a much larger crystal. He held it out to Minto but the small man shook his head furiously and refused to accept it.
"The price?" Minto whispered in horror, "You cannot possibly ask me to pay..."
"I have already paid the price," Abraham replied simply, "And it time, it will claim me...but it was a price I was more than willing to pay in order to obtain this."
Abraham pressed the crystal forward again and Minto drew in a deep breath. This time he reached out to receive it, his hands trembling as he did so. As soon as his fingers closed over its surface, his entire body jolted as though he had just received an electric shock. His initial fear subsided and he fondled the crystal almost lovingly between his fingers.
As he watched Minto with the crystal, Abraham saw the man begin to transform slowly but surely. His hair was no longer so wiry, his skin no longer sagged from his bones and instead appeared firm and young. Minto's eyes shone with an intense brilliance and excitement where he had seen only fear up until this point. Upon witnessing its power, Abraham was satisfied that the crystal could indeed do what he had been promised it would do.
Minto finally tore his gaze away from the crystal, "Van Helsing, I am curious, the price he asked of you...what was it?"
"Enough questions, Mr Minto," Abraham spoke quietly, shards of sadness piercing his deep voice, "You will be handsomely compensated for your services so I expect nothing but your full co-operation. Will you assist me?"
"V-very well," Minto whispered, clutching the two objects to his chest, he managed a nervous smile, "Being a magick practitioner, or at least an honest one, is not as well paid a job as you m-might think so I suppose I could certainly use the money...my preparations will take me some time however..."
"Obviously," Abraham replied, "You will find everything you need on the table just beyond the door...call me when you are ready and I will bring the demon."
Minto nodded quickly and ducked his head. He then backed out of the narrow corridor, refusing to turn his back on the demon even though her magicks were bound and her physical body was behind bars. With the little man gone, Abraham turned his full attention to the pale face that stared at him from behind the bars of her prison.
If the demon had been hostile earlier, she was now livid with anger upon hearing of her intended fate. She gripped the bars in front of her with bone white fingers as though she were trying to tear them down with her mind. Abraham knew she could do nothing of the sort and taunted her further by leaning casually against the wall behind him.
"I will take much pleasure in ripping your throat open, Abraham Van Helsing," she snarled, rattling the bars of her cage.
Abraham coughed out a small laugh, "Ah, yes, considering you are in there and I am out here...I would say your plan is flawed, demon!"
She screamed in a terrible sound of rage and frustration. Just beyond the corridor Abraham heard Minto take fright and drop something that shattered on the ground.
"You think that pathetic fool will succeed in restoring Tara Maclay's soul?" Tara growled, thrusting her chin forward defiantly, "He will fail and you will be forced to destroy me!"
Nonplussed, Abraham cocked his head to one side in an expression of curiosity, "Answer me this, why did you come searching for the skull alone?"
The demon appeared disgusted, "You think I would actually answer that?"
He shrugged, "I do not care one way or the other...I just thought it was an incredibly foolish move on your part to come alone when you could have had several minions at your back," Abraham frowned suspiciously as he saw an uncomfortable expression settle on her face and he had a nagging revelation, "Unless the whole point was to succeed on your own...ahhh, I see now. Deliver the skull to your master single-handed...or even seize it for yourself without his knowledge."
She squirmed and released the bars, backing away into the shadows.
Abraham smirked, "That is the problem with power, once one has had a small taste you will forever crave more."
"You know naught of the matters of which you speak!" the vampire responded in a sullen voice.
Abraham felt an immense amount of satisfaction when he realised that all her words and chin thrusting added up to naught but empty blustering. He could see straight past this fašade to the terror that lay beneath at just the mere thought of being ensouled. Even if Minto failed to restore her soul, the whole endeavour would not be a complete waste of time. However, Abraham knew that this terror was nothing compared to what she would feel if the spell was a success. He could already hear her screams of pain and anguish echoing within the confines of her tiny cell.
The demon had one last card to play, and she played it to the best of her ability. When she emerged from the shadows there was a vicious smile on her face.
"Abraham Van Helsing you are a fool if you believe this little scheme of yours will work, even in the event that you do restore her soul, you will find yourself completely unable to lift a finger against the woman you once loved," Tara paused as she watched a flicker of emotion pass over Abraham's face, she smiled, "Ah, you think she did not know about your little infatuation...how could she not? The way you doted on her, she could see your eyes roaming her body, wanting what was not yours."
Abraham swallowed, blocking her words from his mind, She is trying to provoke you...you must not listen, think only of Willow and what this creature did to her!
"You may have a soul but you will never again be Tara Maclay," Abraham found it difficult to even choke out her name in the presence of the demon, but he continued strongly, "I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about your torture."
"You will cave in the moment she starts screaming," the demon predicted, she slid her tongue across her lips, "And I think that you are not man enough to take what I know you want...to finally lie with the woman you never stopped loving."
"Silence!" Abraham growled.
"Would raping her truly fulfil your promise to make me suffer?"
Abraham cried out in frustration and slammed his fist against the bars of her cell door. Such was his ferocity that the creature stumbled backwards and almost fell to the floor.
"You are a foul, despicable creature!" Abraham hissed, spittle erupting from his mouth, "Enjoy your last moments of guilt-free existence...for very shortly you will know exactly what it feels like to have killed the one you love and I will be there to watch that moment of realisation dawn on your face!"
Abraham turned and strode out of the corridor with the obvious intention of going to check on Minto's preparations, this concealed his real intention however which was hiding the small traces of doubt which had crept into his well laid plan. Although he had been anticipating the demon's ensoulment for decades, he truly could not say what his reaction would be when happened. For all intensive purposes, the creature would once again be Tara Maclay, or as good as...and Tara Maclay was not the person who murdered his sister. Abraham exited the corridor and shut the bookcase behind him; he sat down heavily in a nearby chair and watched as Minto sifted through various books, furiously scribbling notes without looking up once.
After a few moments of watching the man at work, he shifted his gaze to the center of the room and the well worn training pads that covered the floor. It required hardly any imagination at all for him to recall Willow lightly stepping across those pads, her feet moving gracefully as she worked on her footwork or learnt a new technique. Her red hair would be bound up out of her face, but small strands were always bound to escape and caress her pale cheek. She would laugh all too easily, especially if the butt of her humour was her brother. When Abraham re-opened his eyes he realised that he was crying.
His mind was set; he would not allow himself to be swayed by any tricks the creature could play on his mind. Willow deserved retribution...and she would get it.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump...
The steady sound was overwhelming, filling her entire head as though trying to make her skull crack and burst. She opened her mouth as she struggled for a breath but found even more pain. Air burned her throat as it forced its way down to her chest. As her lungs inflated she desperately needed to scream but she collapsed into a coughing fit. She lay on the floor, her back arched as she struggled to just breathe normally...
It is breath, you need it to live..., she paused, struggling to make sense of this, If I need it, why does it seem so foreign?
Gradually the breaths did come easier and she tried to rise once more, instinctively feeling as though there was something or someone near her that she needed to escape from but she could see nothing in front of her eyes but white spots. Panic gripped her, whatever it was, it meant to harm her!
It was too much, everything slowly faded to black and with a sigh she slipped backwards, unconscious before her head hit the floor.
As Tara finally lay motionless on the floor in front of him, Abraham stared in disbelief. He whirled around to face Minto and saw that the small man had collapsed in the middle of the training room, still surrounded by his chalk scribblings. The crystal in front of him bore a thick crack and from it blood seeped in large quantities, creating a pool around his semi-conscious form. Abraham picked the dazed man up by his shoulders and held him upright. As he shook the poor man he gradually came to his senses, enough at least for Abraham to demand answers.
"I didn't tell you to bloody kill her!" Abraham growled, shaking the still limp Minto.
Minto eyes opened, at first they were out of focus but eventually he brought them to bear on Abraham Van Helsing. He glanced first from the angry face in front of him and then down to the limp form of the vampire.
Minto drew in a deep breath in the face of Abraham's anger and stated the obvious, "Mr Van Helsing, she was already dead."
Abraham let another growl, "You know what I mean, fool!"
"I-I do not know," Minto stuttered, slowly edging towards the vampire. His eyes widened when he saw her chest rising and falling, "but it appears that she is breathing."
"Your powers of observation astound me!," Abraham replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "You haven't just restored her soul...you've restored her...humanity?"
At that point, Abraham's jaw dropped and his face sagged in horror. If his first impressions were correct and the idiot Minto had somehow managed to restore the demon to the person she once was, all his careful plans and sacrifices would have been for nothing. As twisted and revenge-driven as he was, even Abraham could not see himself torturing a young woman...and one he had once loved.
"Perhaps not," Minto whispered quietly as he studied her unconscious face.
Slowly he crossed the floor of the training room and selected a small dagger from the weapons rack. He then tentatively moved closer to the unconscious form. With a trembling hand, Minto drew the knife across his forearm and blood very quickly welled from the shallow cut, running over his skin. He knelt and held out his arm towards the vampire. There was no change in her condition as the first few drops of blood splashed onto her closed lips. However, he gently parted them with his fingers and let the blood fall directly into her mouth. Barely a split second later her back arched and she sat up with a start. Minto had to scrambled backwards to avoid clashing their heads. She stared at him through wide eyes for a few seconds before desperately scrambling away on all fours. Seconds later she was crouched under the book laden table with her back to the two men.
Abraham hunkered down stared at the demon huddled beneath the table, as her back was to him, he could clearly see the rise and fall of her shoulders as she gasped for air. While Minto's little experiment had made it clear that she was still a vampire, clearly not all had gone to plan.
He swivelled on his heels and faced Minto once more but kept one wary eye on the vampire. Even in her current state, he did not want to let her out of his sight. The thin man was clearly struggling to stay upright. The effects of the crystal were long gone; instead he appeared as haggard and drained as he had when Abraham had first met him.
"Just what did you do?"
"I-I am not entirely sure what I have done, Mr Van Helsing," Minto stammered weakly, "It would ah...appear that I have restored a few ah...um...other things along with her soul."
Tara was lost in a maze of corridors; with each turn she took she grew more and more confused. Something about the corridors was familiar and she felt that they ought to be comforting, but she could not shake off the deep set feeling that something was very wrong.
Gradually, as her thoughts became more coherent, she began to recognise things. A painting there, a tapestry here, she knew where certain rooms led...and she knew where she needed to go. Almost breaking into a run, Tara lifted her skirts and headed down the corridor ahead of her. Her heart was beating quickly as she found the door she was searching for...if anything, what she found inside that room made her heart beat even wilder.
In the middle of the room stood an all too familiar four posted bed of the type favoured by young ladies of good breeding, complete with fine lace hangings and pristine white sheets. However, sprawled in the midst of the bed was a young lady who could not possibly have been of fine breeding. She was stark naked for want of a better term, her arms were stretched out behind her head to give Tara a full view of a fine pair of breasts. Her legs too were spread, offering a view of a treasure of a different kind, dark but exceptionally inviting. Tara glanced from the offerings on display to the face of the woman in question. She found herself staring straight into the dancing and highly mischievous eyes of one Miss Willow Van Helsing who apparently was not a lady of good breeding as she appeared to have no qualms whatsoever about baring absolutely everything.
"There you are!" she purred, "You kept me waiting so long I almost started without you!"
Tara stared as Willow moved one of her hands down from where it lay above her head to trail downwards. She watched it glide over the pair of breasts and down over the creamy white stomach before coming to rest lightly atop the mound between Willow's legs. One finger moved further downwards, slipping beneath the mound and into the dark slit beneath. Tara saw Willow's eyes half-close in anticipation.
"I want your fingers here!" Willow pleaded, even as her fingers lightly stroked the flesh beneath them.
"W-Willow..." Tara whispered, her voice quite numb, lacking any emotion.
She made no move to do Willow's bidding and instead stood frozen in the doorway.
"That is not quite the reaction I was hoping for," Willow said softly, her fingers coming to a halt and sliding out from the folds between her legs.
Tara ducked her head and bit her lip, straining to try and remember something which last just beyond her grasp, "I-I am sorry, Will...I just feel so...lost."
"Tara?" Willow quickly lost the smouldering expression on her face as she gathered her limbs together and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of her four-posted bed, "Why do you feel lost?"
"It seems an age since I saw you last," Tara whispered in reply, taking a few cautious steps toward her naked lover, "I cannot remember when..."
Willow frowned slightly but offered something to jog Tara's memory, "Well, it has been a few weeks, not since Sunday last, after church...when you and I shared a rather naughty carriage ride together."
Tara remembered. Willow had begged Abraham to walk the three miles back to Hagley Park in order to let the two women ride alone in the carriage. No sooner had they folded themselves within its confines, Willow had drawn every curtain closed and set about undoing the laces on Tara's bodice. Moments later her other hand had somehow found its way up under her skirts and beneath the laces of her drawers. A few moments after that Tara had her legs up on the seat opposite her receiving the enthusiastic attentions of her lover. A wanton and blasphemous Willow had whispered in her ear that she had spent the entire church service imaging just what she would to do her when they were alone once more.
The heat rose quickly in her cheeks and also in her loins at the memory. She allowed Willow's small smile to relax her to the point where she could no longer resist crossing the room to her naked lovers side.
Willow stood before Tara reached her and gently threaded her arms around her waist, drawing her in close. She stroked Tara's back and felt her relax gradually, her breathing slowed and she nuzzled into the nape of her neck.
"You gave me a scare, Tara," Willow whispered quietly, drawing back so she could stare up into her liquid blue eyes. She reached up and trailed several fingers down the side of Tara's face, the blonde smiled and lent into the touch. "Are you quite sure you feel well?"
"Yes," Tara replied slowly, "I am sorry Will...I did not feel quite myself for some reason."
"I could make myself respectable and have Nancy make us some tea?" Willow offered helpfully.
Tara flicked her eyes down over Willow's naked body, her previous unease almost forgotten, "We could...but it would be a shame to waste your careful plans."
Willow's eyes shone once more with a mischievous glint, "It would indeed...what do you propose Miss Maclay?"
"You could...you could return to your previous position," Tara suggested hopefully.
"Yes ma'am," Willow moved to comply and a few moments later she was once again spread eagled against the pillows behind her.
Tara could not remove her own clothes fast enough. Naked, she joined Willow on the bed and their limbs threaded together in a manner that meant they belonged together. With her thigh moving slowly against Willow' centre, Tara bent to kiss her. A small sigh emerged from her throat which gradually became a drawn out moan as one hand closed over Willow's nearest breast. She massaged the tender flesh, teasing the nipple until it was rock hard beneath her fingers. Her attentions moved to the other breast, teasing it for several minutes until she broke the kiss, trailing her lips down over Willow's chin, her neck, her collarbone, to her breasts. Hungrily she took first one, and then the other in her mouth in turn, lavishing attention on the sweet flesh as Willow squirmed beneath her. Even as Tara was busy with her breasts, her thigh continued to move against Willow's flesh.
Gradually Tara became aware of the slick moisture between her thigh and Willow's centre. She realised with a fierce jolt that Willow was more than ready for her. Her fingers trailed over Willow's flesh, eagerly moving downwards. In moments her fingers slipped between the same folds that Willow herself had stroked to tease her earlier. She ground her fingers against the tender, slick flesh, her touch rough but gentle.
"Inside!" Willow gasped, desperately thrusting her hips forward against Tara's hand.
In response to Willow's demanding gasp, Tara thrust two of her fingers up inside her. Willow was more than wet and the fingers entered quickly. Tara ground forward with her hips as she thrust her fingers as deeply as possible.
Willow groaned, continuing to thrust her hips forward in time with the fingers that were filling her passage. She searched and found Tara's lips once more, claiming them fiercely for a moment before breaking the contact long enough to whisper in Tara's ear,
"Say we can stay here forever," Willow pleaded, "Please."
"Of course, Will," Tara replied quietly, "Forever."
Tara gazed down at the woman spread beneath her as she arched her back in the throes of passion. Her head was tilted back as she strained to hold herself together, baring completely the creamy expanse of her white neck. Tara thrust forward again to feel Willow's already throbbing cunt suddenly spasm violently around her fingers as she orgasmed. The redhead opened her mouth in a silent scream, her head digging back further into the pillows behind her.
As the woman bellow her writhed in the exquisite agony of her climax, Tara simultaneously thrust forward one last time and lowered her mouth to Willow's throat. She felt her own shudders of fierce pleasure as soon as she bit through Willow's soft skin and into the veins beneath.
Willow's silent scream of ecstasy became one of vocal pain as Tara drank deeply and savagely, tearing at the flesh to expose more of the sweet liquid. Her veins continued to pulse, spewing forth her lifeblood over her sweaty chest and onto the tangled white sheets beneath her. Tara continued to thrust forward as she drank until she had ridden out the last waves of her climax. With the pleasant, damp warmth still clinging to her thighs she emitted a small growl and dove forward with an increased determination, needing to taste as much of Willow as possible. Although she drank deeply and fiercely, she still craved more. Willow thrashed beneath her but she kept her body weight securely stop her and pinned both arms back against the bed.
In time, the cries and the struggling stopped but Tara continued to drink from the lifeless body beneath her.
Willow's sightless green eyes stared at the ceiling, the white sheets beneath her were no longer white but stained entirely red with her blood.
"Willow!" Tara desperately gasped out the name as she jerked her body upwards.
She was enveloped in complete darkness, unable even to see the hand she waved in front of her face. With cautious hands she reached out and felt her surroundings, a few feet in every direction she found nothing but cold, damp stone of the floor on which she sat. Eventually she came to a wall that was just as cold and damp as the floor. Even so it gave her some sense of stability and she curled up against it with her knees tucked up under her chin.
Crouched there in the darkness Tara felt only the chill of her own body and the steady thump-thump of her heart it her chest. It was almost like being in the womb...although completely lacking the warmth of a mother's body. Her thoughts were scattered, although she could remember her name, there were very few other solid pieces of information that she could grasp a hold of. Just as she was grasping at the edges of understanding where she was, she was interrupted by a screeching rasp and the sound of surfaces grating against one another. With the sound came a shaft of light, small at first and then growing quickly until she could see the stone walls that hemmed her in.
Eventually Tara had to turn her head towards the wall and close her eyes in pain as the influx of light overwhelmed her sensitive eyes. She heard booted footsteps echo on the stone floors as someone came to a halt nearby. Slowly, only able to see through barely open eyes, Tara turned towards the light. Beyond the heavy bars of a cell door, she saw a man's tall figure staring in at her. As her eyes gradually adjusted to recognise who he was, she realised that her heart was beating all too quickly in fear. So intense was the experience, she had to press her hand to her chest for fear of the organ thrusting through the skin.
As she clutched her heart she remembered the dream, while there had been fierce love making involved, Tara could only concentrate on one thing...the blood. Willow's blood. She squeezed her eyes shut once more as a plethora of images filled her mind, this time not from the dream but from a reality that might as well have been a dream.
The image of fucking Willow up against a wall was quickly replaced by one of a sword in her hand. Moments later she thrust it into Willow's unprotected back and watched her collapse to the ground, watching the life ebb from her body. Keeping one hand pressed against her heart, she pressed the other to her mouth to stop the sobs from emerging. She could not however hold back the steady flow of tears.
"It hurts to be alive does it not?" was the soft question.
Tears streaming down her face, Tara turned to face the man standing in front of her cell. Abraham Van Helsing. His weathered and lined face bore absolutely no trace of sympathy.
"I killed Willow," Tara whispered, the very words sounding so incomprehensible to her ears.
She thought perhaps if she spoke them aloud she would hear just how ridiculous they were and know it could not possibly be true. Instead she felt the truth of them pierce her beating heart. She tore her gaze away from Abraham and pressed her cheek against the cold, damp stone behind her, grinding her skin against it as though that would erase the memories. However, she already knew that she could bang her head against the stone a million times and it would not change what she had done.
"Yes you did," Abraham agreed in a chillingly quiet voice, "And that is something you are going to have to live with...for a very long time."