Sometimes, I feel as if I am back in Jasper Cove, where whole days would often disappear without notice. I never did fathom out how that was, save that the passage of time there was always somewhat doubtful. Here, at least I know what went wrong. After all the time I have spent here, travelling through the land, crossing to faerie and back, this is the first time I have managed to lose time in the process. Seven days, more or less. And, I ended up back in Mysthaven, rather than faerie, as I had intended, managing to miss the Solstice celebrations with Ardan.
Oh, and Maric waking up. Did I mention that bit?
I emerged from the mists to find myself back outside the castle, somewhat surprising Milo, who was on duty. From his somewhat garbled explanation, I gathered that I had been missing for seven days. I didn’t stop to question the how or why, as my first thought was for the feeding regime for Maric. I rushed down to his chambers, hoping that Kustav and his brothers had kept the flasks refilled. Somewhere, on the way, I gathered up Aoibheann in my wake, and the brothers, but only Kustav came with me to the chamber door, managing to briefly explain that Maric had awoken, but things were not entirely well.
I went in anyway. Such was my duty. I knew full well the danger, but, it is not my way to retreat.
The room was a mess, to put it mildly. I don’t have much experience of tornadoes, Ardan aside, but I believe that the wreckage wrought by one would be appropriate to the state of the place. I was less than polite in asking what had happened, but then everything went cold, the blood draining from my face as I turned the corner and saw what was in the room.
Maric was there, kneeling on the floor, clad only in his trousers and with a few drops of blood around his mouth and tears of blood around his eyes. That awful compulsion was surrounding him, unfocussed, undirected, no doubt drawing people in if the guards were not there to prevent them. One guard was not so fortunate, lying comatose on the floor, as was the one that was my childer, still in torpor. Maric stared at me, unrecognising at first, as still as only he can be, rigid, controlled, remaining still by force of will. We should not have come, he told me, it was not safe.
It was only then that I realised that Aoibheann had come in with me and was making a half-hearted attempt to tidy up, at least, until she saw him. I told him that I had come because it was my duty. Behind me, Aoibheann managed to say only that she wanted to see him.
He would not look at her, perhaps he dared not. Behind the walls of his control, I could sense his overwhelming hunger, for her, for me, for any blood at all. To Aoibheann, he would only say no, that he did not want her to see him like this. He managed to face me, speaking slowly, in fragmented sentences, as if each one was a great effort of will. He had to go to Hell, he said, because that was the only way he could keep us safe, to pay the debts owed. The compulsion was almost palpable, grating at our senses, causing even the brothers, who presumably were more used to this, to shift uncomfortably. It was not duty, he told me, it was folly. He commanded me to find out what was changing, what was happening to the roses, to continue to run the castle and to keep the villagers safe.
He stood then, rising to his feet quickly and smoothly, with grace, but a dangerous grace, like a snake about to strike. I stood my ground; for all that he was in a dangerous state, I trusted him. I told him that duty always had its dangers, and I could not carry out my duty without having to face danger. I proffered the flasks, two of blood, one of the healing potion, placing them down before him. I backed up and without turning away, instructed Kustav to see that Aoibheann left immediately. I asked Maric if I should call for Galyanna, saying my first duty was to him, but if that was what he wished of me, then I would do it.
Aoibheann was not at all happy, proclaiming that she loved him even like this and begging him to promise that he would come back to her. She was reluctant to go, but did not resist Kustav’s efforts to move her to safety. Maric gestured at the flasks I had put down, somehow drawing their contents out like small fountains, splashing onto his skin and instantly being absorbed. Perhaps it energised him a little, for he started to come close, but I realised he was looking at me with hunger. He wanted my vitae, my sweet vitae, and I knew I was a double temptation, kindred blood and fae energies together. I backed away slowly, knowing that the others were already backing into the passageway outside the chambers. I told Maric gently that my vitae was perhaps too rich for him in his current condition.
He followed us with an easy grace, like a panther stalking its prey, the temptation clear on his face, as was the internal struggle, to remain calm, to restrain himself. He looked at the two of us, Aoibheann and me, hunger warring with his control, and then, suddenly, he was gone, a blur of speed, heading down towards the laboratory, and presumably the gateway to the Hell realms. “I shall return,” he promised, as he ran.
I sighed and sent Vuk after him to make sure he didn’t hurt himself on the way, asking Davor and Kustav to warn Galyanna if either saw her. Aoibheann eventually stopped crying and diverted herself with more practical matters, asking for a hammer and some nails. I didn’t dare ask, preferring to tell myself that she needed to do some tidying up in Maric’s chambers. I left the guards to keep an eye on things and returned to my office. I had been away for a week, and who knows what a mess the paperwork had gotten into.