Cleanup on Aisle 3

Nathaniel yawns and stretches with a sigh. Sleep clearly was unlikely to happen, so he swung his legs out of the bed and got up. He looks at his watch and grimaces. “Five in the morning. Is that getting up early or staying up late? Ah well, I might as well get up and do things.”

He goes to the wardrobe and scans the available clothing. An idea occurs, and he grabs some older, working clothes, stuff that didn’t matter if it got dirty. A few minutes later, he was fully dressed and heading out of the castle door with some bedding tucked under his arm and a mop and bucket in hand.

Down in the vaults, he puts his burdens down and surveys the lab. He shifts a few bits of furniture around and sweeps up one relatively clean area. Once that is ready, he makes up a makeshift bed and, ever so gently, slides the sleeping form of Maric over and makes him as comfortable as can be expected under the circumstances. Going to the shelves, he selects one of the containers that he knows are good for keeping vitae fresh. He puts it down for a moment and removes the stopper before biting at his own wrist and holding it over the open container. He allows the vitae to flow out until the container is full, then seals his own wound and replaces the stopper. He places it on the floor near Maric’s head and writes “thought you might need this” with a grease pencil.

Having settled Maric, he pulls up a stool and sits down, closing his eyes. He takes a few deep breaths and then slowly opens himself to the castle senses. Without being aware of it, that sense merges with his wyld senses. He feels the tiny rustles and rushes of the life that lives within the fabric, birds, rodents, insects, the slower pulse of the vines and roses. He senses the warm pulse of the castle residents, mostly sleeping, save for the livelier sense of the guards on duty and such of the servants who are already up and about their business. Maric was a solid presence, dark, cold, but in a way, burning where he touched the castle floor, a part of it, yet separate. For some reason, Nathaniel was put in mind of his youth, lying in bed with the family cat curled up on his chest, and of times, spent with Alexandra, lying together on lazy mornings, two beings, separate, yet connected. He can sense Maric’s presence, but not his consciousness, which tallies with the lack of presence through the mental link.

Carefully now, he opens his senses to those parts of the castle that had been affected by the taint, breathing a little more easily as he touches the affected areas without feeling the pain and nausea he felt before. There are remnants of that pain that he can only liken to the dull ache of a fading bruise, the strange void of an extracted tooth, the phantom itch of a healing wound. There are scars, yes, but the taint itself is gone. He notes a few places that might need a little structural attention, but nothing immediately threatening.

The area of floor in the middle of the lab presents a curious ache, not of the castle, but of a life snuffed out, echoes of the rush of blood and life spilled on the stones, driving the taint before it. That patch of floor seems strangely empty, a little numb perhaps. The blood now dried to a dark stickiness and ochre dust, devoid of power and life, as if it had all been expended in fighting the taint. The walls and stones around carry a faint after-image of the moment of sacrifice, a blinding flash of power, and an ending of life, but the floor itself seems devoid of even the normal slow, stone-life he senses elsewhere.

The mirror itself, still standing in the corner, seems an ominous presence, a void that sucks at the senses and refuses to give up its secrets. He drags his senses away, no more willing to probe it again than he would to poke an injured tiger. This was something best left well alone. Breathing slowly, he allows the castle sense to fade into the background, still there, like the sound of the wind in a forest, but secondary, for now, to his more conventional senses.

He stands up, stretching and yawning, looking around. “Ah well,” he mutters to himself, “The lads will be pleased that they can start bringing everything back again.” He looks at the dark stain on the floor and crouches, rubbing a finger in the stickiness and sniffing at it. There is no life there, no power, nothing that attracts his vampiric senses. He stands up and looks over at the mop and bucket. “Ah well, I can’t ask anybody else to do this,” he says. He grabs the mop, and after a silent apology to Dyisi and Vedis, begins to clean.

Cleanup on Aisle 3


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