This is the continuing story of the Succubi called Storm Clouds…
If you want to read previous chapters, please click the link in the Tale header at the top of the page marked Storm Clouds or click here...
Another week of pain and suffering for me personally… which makes writing something impossible and that’s really starting to get to me a lot… Sorry…
Storm Clouds 178
The thing about the Dark was that it was too confident. It thought that it had all of the answers and that no one could oppose it.
That was almost true.
She could, and did . . . regularly.
It had become almost an obsession for her now. There were so few who would challenge the Dark when it appeared, and so it fell to her to do so. It wasn’t a chore or an imposition; it had to be done, and she had seen enough of the Dark and what it was capable of to know that the best thing to do was what she did: drive it mad with anger and make it stop thinking.
Losing the one portal did that. Then letting it stew in its anger had made it get involved intimately with mortals and their world. She wondered if, this time, it would actually learn something from the experience or not.
Making the portal vanish was child’s play for a being like her. If the Dark ever figured out just how powerful she was, it might actually pause to think twice about the plans it had against Tera and her kind.
The thought did make her smile as the portal showing the severed tail reappeared among all of the Dark’s other ones. She stood there for a time, tapping a single pink fingernail against the surface and trying to decide what would be the most unpleasant thing she might do.
She could destroy this portal—the thought had been there before—but she had her own plans, and, for those, this one portal needed to remain, at least for the moment, in spite of what it showed.
The tapping stopped as she placed that hand against the surface and whispered to the awful image that it showed, “It will not be long. Promise.”
And, unlike some beings, she kept her promises.
She turned away, coming to the decision that, for once, just this once, she was going to make the Dark know what it was to lose something valuable.
What followed was the sound of fingernails raking across portal after portal, each of which turned white against the darkness, throwing light into a place which despised it. She didn’t ruin every single one of them, but, when she was done, she had left the Dark but three portals.
She thought that she just might be able to hear the scream of anger from it from three universes away when it returned to see what she had done here, and that thought made her smile slightly.
She glanced once more at the portals that remained, satisfied that this would be a problem for it, that it would have to spend effort and time repairing the damage if it could, and that, thankfully, might give the others needed time to figure out what was happening and where.
As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t actually get involved in the battle or make choices for those involved. It was, after all, necessary that all beings make their own choices, no matter how wrong or ill-advised they might well be.
Still, she had one thing that the Dark didn’t have: trust. Trust in others, trust that they would make good choices, but, most of all, trust in that one person that saved her life so long ago and, in doing so, changed her own universe for the better.
She would always owe that person for that gift.
She passed into the ether, on her way to where she needed to be. If the Dark could get involved with mortals, she could as well … to a point. But first she needed to talk to someone who needed to understand that some paths were not worth following.
Following the path of one who owed the succubi—and Tera, in particular—her life … that was the most foolish thing that it had ever done.
And it would soon learn.
As for the Dark, possessing one of its pawns was distasteful. But there was little choice. That damnable creature had cost it its watch over the tail. The one thing that would, if its plans went to completion, cause the barriers to fall before it and thus have what it wanted most.
But having to deal with a corporal form? That was something that it did not enjoy in the slightest. Emotions, thoughts, images from this pawn were getting caught between its own thoughts and, as well, it knew that its own thoughts would be mixing the other way.
But the important thoughts, the ones that it needed for itself, those it kept under lock and key, or so the Dark would believe. The problem was, as it always was, that nothing is ever completely closed off when beings merge, even if only for a short time.
Fingerprints leave smudges, after all …
It took the Dark some time to return to where the tail was kept. The wards around the place made it impossible for someone to appear there without seeing the place first and entering at one specific spot. From the outside there were traps and obstacles that it knew would stop any magic user from getting close.
But this pawn was tuned to the place, and the wards would fall before it. Even so, the time … the time was taking far too long for the Dark’s liking.
And so time passed, the Dark fumed, and the universe turned …
“I think I am.”
Tom looked behind him expecting to see Camilla there, and she was … sort of.
It was Camilla, but her tail and horns were grey instead of black and her hair had changed color from blonde to purple. Tom couldn’t stop the words that came out: “I liked the blonde and black better, Camilla.”
And Tom paused. He was pretty sure that Camilla didn’t smirk.
“It’s a long story, Tom, and right now we haven’t got the time.”
And that was wrong, as well. Camilla never called him “Tom.” Mary Ann tried to get away again, and Tom was forced into flipping her over, straddling her, and then locking her wrists together with handcuffs before sitting on her legs. Having some control of the situation, he looked at Camilla and said, “We’ve got the time. You want to let me in on why the style change? Got tired of your hair color or something?”
She ran her left hand through her hair, pulling on it slightly, “Okay, short version: I’m Camilla’s bad side; I’m a bitch; I’m nothing like her, and you don’t want to screw with me. That good enough for you?”
“I’m never going to understand this, am I?”
She smirked again, “Oh, I dunno … You’d make an interesting Incubi … I can put in a good word for you if you’re up for it.”
Tom shook his head: “Thanks, but I have enough issues with my life as it is. The universe isn’t what I knew it was, there are people—like you—who are legends, and I am supposed to deal with that. Oh yes, and I am acting under the command of the Queen of a race of beings that exist on sex and pleasure and I have no idea why I should be, but I’m doing it anyway.”
She nodded, “Tera does have her ways, doesn’t she? At least she isn’t using that pitchfork of hers on you. Mind you, some like that sort of thing…”
“So what do I call you? ‘Not Camilla’ or ‘Punkie Brewster’ or what?”
She leaned down so that they looked into each other’s eyes: “You really want to know who I am?”
Tom didn’t finch: “I trust Camilla. She’s proven herself. I don’t trust you.”
She nodded: “Good; backbone and will. I can see why Tera wants your help. You may call me ‘Nina.’”
“All right; ‘Nina’ it is. Tell me something, seriously: does every one of you have an ‘a’ at the end of your name?”
She laughed, “No … Just some of us do. Congratulations, Tom; you just endeared yourself to me. Camilla will be pleased to know that. Make sure you tell her when you see her again.”
The smirk vanished and she looked past Tom to Mary Ann on the floor beneath him, “You mind getting off her? She and I have … a past.”
“Good or bad?”
“I won’t kill her, at least, not just yet.”
“If I don’t?”
“Then I’ll have to move you, Tom. You don’t want me to, I promise you.”
Tom got up and moved to the side. Nina reached down and pulled Mary Ann to her knees by the handcuffs before grasping her chin. “Hello, bitch. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. How long has it been?
The fear in Mary Ann only allowed a quiet whisper of an answer, “Babylon.”
“That’s right. As I remember it, you came into my temple and tried to turn my followers, didn’t you? You corrupted them from the top down and, in the end, you were responsible for how many deaths?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do. I remember them very well. You watched as they fought, four hundred eighty-six of them falling to your promises of riches that were hidden from them. And when it was over, what did they find inside the walls?”
Mary Ann closed her eyes, “Because everything they gave you, you returned to them … and more. You … you cared about the cattle and …”
Tom didn’t see Nina’s hand as it struck Mary Ann, sending her sprawling across the floor.
“They are not cattle, you worthless bitch! They are more than you will ever be or ever could be. You can’t understand that, can you?”
There was no answer, and Nina pulled her once again to her knees by the handcuffs: “Here’s the deal. You tell us what’s going on and who’s in charge, and I won’t kill you today. You lie to me, and I’ll start taking you apart one piece at a time …”
She extended her left hand and, to Tom’s shock, a silver sword appeared there, flames dancing along its blade. Tom thought he could hear the sword … growling?
She placed the edge against Mary Ann’s neck: “You know what this is. You know exactly what will happen if I strike you with it. Camilla wouldn’t; she follows the new ways. But I don’t. So make up your mind, right now, and tell me why you are here and what you have done to Ginger.”
Tom coughed, “Nina … You said you wouldn’t kill her.”
She didn’t look at Tom: “Oh, this won’t kill her. It will, however, take away what makes her special. What she is, she won’t be anymore.” A cruel smile appeared, “And since she is so enamored with being immortal …”
Mary Ann closed her eyes, “You are a fool. I serve powers greater than you. You’ll never leave this room alive if you harm me.”
“Oh I’ve already harmed you. Now I’ll cripple you …”
And she pulled the blade back and then swung it towards Mary Ann’s neck …
What happened next was something that Tom would never quite be able to explain.
The blade came down and struck on her right shoulder, then passed through her body and came out at her waist … leaving not a mark on her. Mary Ann still breathed, still was alive, but the look of disbelief in her eyes that she had been struck was matched by the satisfaction in the look that Nina had …
… and what the sword now held upon its blade.
Tom could clearly make out what looked like a twisted, ghostly image of Mary Ann’s form wrapped around the blade, with the flames licking against it and a silent scream of pain on the ghost’s face.
Nina didn’t look at Tom, she just held the sword in front of Mary Ann, “You have very little time, bitch. I’d say about three minutes before you aren’t immortal anymore. Maybe ten and you’ll start aging, and we both know what happens when you do.”
She looked at a clock on the wall, “Three minutes. Talk.”
Tom wanted to intervene. This was torture and he knew it. But he didn’t know what would either help or harm in the situation he found himself in. He didn’t expect that he would be able to disarm Nina, nor did he have any way to fix whatever Nina had done.
Tom hated being helpless … it reminded him of Beth and …
… he just turned away and kept his thoughts to himself.
To Mary Ann’s credit she held out for an entire minute. She just looked back at Nina, but when Nina drew a finger along the shaft of her sword and then licked a wisp of Nina’s ghostly form from her fingers, she caved in…
“Ginger is nothing. She was a convenient way to gain power. She didn’t care about anything save her own beauty and screwing her husband. It was child’s play to alter their minds and take him out of the picture.”
Tom heard this and asked, “What did you do?”
“I made him get involved with the mob, you asshole. I made sure that he was stupid about it. I saw to it that they would find out what he was doing, make him transfer everything to Ginger and then you so helpfully took him away, leaving Ginger to my tender mercies. Didn’t take a week and she was a hot little slut that would do anything for me to degrade her and …”
Nina interrupted, “Nice story. Now, how about why you did it in the first place?”
Mary Ann gritted her teeth, “I needed power.”
She didn’t answer that question. Tom had a thought, “You needed power for a purpose. You seem to have a past with Nina and her kind … is that why you needed this … power?”
The look she gave him spoke volumes.
Tom sighed, “Peachy: a war between omnipotent beings. I should have stayed in bed.”
Nina placed the point of the sword just in front of Mary Ann’s lips, “Who are you working for.”
“Give it back to me first!”
“No. You give me the information and I’ll give it back to you. Better hurry. You’re running out of time … rapidly.”
Mary Ann finally broke down and said in a whisper, “The Dark. It’s the Dark …” Then she screamed, “Now give it back!”
Nina stood up and then wiped the length of the sword with her fingers, balling the ghost into her hand before tossing it casually at Mary Ann. It fell into her body producing a sigh of pleasure from her lips and then a look of defiance on her face.
Which Nina promptly removed with another strike of her hand against Mary Ann’s cheek which resulted in her falling to the floor unconscious.
The blade vanished in a flash of light and then Nina then stood up and looked critically at Tom, “Tell me something. Other than you being human, is there anything special about you?”
Tom shrugged, “Cats like me.”
She looked at him for a long, long moment.
“That would be telling. Come on, if she is working for the Dark, then we need to get out of here right now.”
And then she pushed past him making for the elevators without another word, Mary Ann on the floor out cold and Ginger in the other room pleading for her Mistress to come back to punish her again …
Smoke. The first thing he smelled was the smoke. Then he noticed the flames licking up the walls of the warehouse, the beams falling from the ceiling, and the yelling from behind him.
And then, as he watched three men rush past, John had a horrible realization. He was back at the fire. Not a fire; no, the fire … the fire where he was injured, the one that haunted him every day. He felt and then saw the fire axe in his hands and knew exactly what was going to happen next. He would rush after the rest of his company, follow them into the hell around them and search.
There would be … What would there be?
That part he never could remember exactly, when no one could tell him what happened, between this moment when they last saw him and the next, when they found him underneath the remains of the structure.
He hesitated there a moment longer, the others vanishing into the smoke, and then, twisting the axe in his hands, made his way forward, the smoke becoming thicker, the sound of his breathing loud in his ears as the respirator cycled back and forth, keeping him alive. Coming to a locked door, he kicked it open and then drew back as more smoke poured out and around him, making it almost impossible to see.
But did he see … something? Did he hear something?
There was no choice: he was going in there and searching. He had to be sure.
John pushed his way in while calling out, “Is anyone there? Answer me!” He didn’t hear anything, and so he moved deeper into the space. The light from the hallway, which showed him the way out and to safety, slowly dimmed as the smoke thickened more and more. But that didn’t matter. He had to search, had to help. That was his job and, no matter what else, he was going to do it.
He spent almost five minutes searching, the odd layout of the room confusing him. It seemed like an office, there were desks around him, but the space was too large for a simple office. Still, he pressed on, moving back and forth, calling out and listening even as he searched, his axe in his hand and the flashlight attached to his helmet probing into the smoke around him.
And then John saw her.
A woman crumpled to the floor, covered in black soot and grime. Her figure was indistinct. He knew it was a woman, but her features–hair, eyes, skin tones, what she was wearing–were all a blur.
But that meant nothing to him.
He knelt down beside her and checked: she was still breathing, but unconscious. The problem was that he had no idea if she was seriously injured or not. He found his spare mask and, after hooking it up to his air supply, placed it over her face. Her breathing improved, but now he was stuck there. He couldn’t leave her, which left him one choice: reporting on his radio that he found a survivor and then triggering the beacon built into it to call others to assist him.
He was about to do that when he heard the first shriek of the ceiling starting to come down. John’s only thought was to protect the woman however he could. He dragged her under a desk and then pushed himself under it as well, his body over hers.
The noises stopped for a moment, everything was silent around him, and then, just as he was about to look out from underneath the desk, there was the sound of a train wreck as the world came down around them both.
Then all was quiet again.
Except this time, standing amid the rubble, there was Tera, her dress pushed around by the smoke and fire, her arms crossed over her chest, and a look of concern on her face. She considered the pile of rubble that now held John and the woman, her long red tail moving slowly, catlike, behind her.
“Well … that explains a lot.”
From the smoke and fire, Jane came into view to the other side of the rubble. “Damn it, Tera! We don’t have the right to do this!”
Tera considered her for a long moment and then explained, “We need a clue, Daughter, an idea of what has happened. He has that clue in him; we just have to pry it out.”
Jane stormed up to Tera and then poked her into the chest with a finger, “You tell us to respect others, to help them. This does neither!”
Tera looked down at the finger pressing against her, then took hold of Jane’s hand before gently moving it away.
“His mind is blocked from what happened here, Daughter. He knows he came in, he knows he found someone in here, but he remembers nothing of who that woman is. She’s the key to this in someway and we need to know.”
“It’s not a good enough reason!”
Tera looked bemused, “Oh it is … It most certainly is.” She then reached around behind Jane and took a hold of something there, making Jane gasp in surprise. Tera then showed the tip of a grey tail to Jane, a tail that was connected to her body. “Daughter, you look like yourself.” Then Tera, that enigmatic smile still on her lips, released Jane’s tail.
Jane felt behind her, touching her tail in surprise and then running her hands over her horns. “How?”
“That is, of course, the question, isn’t it? Why should things be fixed here? It doesn’t make any sense … or … perhaps it does.”
Tera walked over to the pile of rubble and then pointed a finger at it, “The answer is in there, isn’t it? Who is the woman he rescued? Why can’t he remember her? How was that done? Most of all: why would all this make it necessary for your physical appearance to be changed?”
Jane didn’t answer the questions. She didn’t have the answers.
Tera then began to twirl her finger in a slow circle, “While these are his memories, they are not immutable. We can alter them, to a point, or, get a better look at them, can’t we?”
Jane rubbed her temples: “Yes, Tera … That’s Succubi 101 in the Realm, isn’t it?”
Tera continued to work at the rubble, bits and pieces of it vanishing at her touch, “What was your grade, Jane?”
Jane mumbled, “B Plus.”
Tera smiled in spite of herself, “Well, at least you passed.”
“I passed because a certain Queen made me work at it harder than anything I have done before.”
“Are you complaining?”
“Tera … I’m not. Honestly.”
“Oh, I’m not mad at you Jane, perish the thought. No, what I am, however, is very confused at this moment.”
Jane looked to where Tera was focusing and saw something that she didn’t, couldn’t expect to see. There, in the rubble, was John, but the woman that he had saved … wasn’t.
“Tera, what’s going on?”
“We missed something while talking, Daughter. Something happened here, and we didn’t pay attention to it when we should have.”
Jane’s look was one of confusion, so Tera continued: “Something, or someone, took that woman away after the ceiling collapsed, and we missed it.”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? Why take her away? Why make him forget about all of this? What was the point of it?”
Tera rubbed her fingertips over her temples and sighed: “We’ll just have to start all over again and, this time, not look away.”
In the next moment, the collapse of the ceiling happened again, John saved the woman and all was quiet once more. But seconds later, the two succubi saw what came next.
A black shadow fell over John and the woman, covering them both and then vanishing, taking the woman with it and leaving John behind … alone.
“Tera, what was that?”
“Something I hope you never have to face: the Dark.”
“Tera … Why would it care about either of them?”
“Oh that’s easy. It wanted the woman; it didn’t care about John. But taking her and leaving him with these memories would have been worse. So it damaged him, made him forget about what he actually did, and then continued on with its plan.”
“Tera … you are being evasive.”
“I have an idea of who the woman is, Daughter. A pretty good one, but I don’t like where that idea is leading me.”
“Who is she?”
Tera ran one hand through her hair and sighed, “It has to be Patricia.”
Jane just stared at Tera in disbelief …
Tom followed Nina out of the office and watched her hand slam against the call button for the elevator. “You know,” he deadpanned, “putting your hand through that wall won’t make it get here any faster.”
Nina shot him a look and began to pace, “Tell me something, Tom: what was the story that scared you the most when you were a child?”
Tom had to think about that for a moment, “The Boogieman, I think.”
She stopped in mid-pace: “Okay, then you can think of the Dark as him on steroids, if you want.”
“He scares you?”
“Me and just about anyone that knows about it.”
“Hang on; he’s an ‘it’?”
Nina waved her hand at Tom, “No one is really sure. ‘It’ seems to be the best way to describe it; likes mayhem, destruction, and violence above everything else.”
“So, why you?”
Nina laughed, “Oh it’s not me that it’s interested in. It’s all of us. Tera’s told us about it, told us not to get involved with it, and, no matter what, we don’t allow it back to our home.”
“How’s that working for you?”
Nina smirked, “So far, so good. But it’s a persistent bastard.”
Tom pinched the bridge of his nose, “So what you are telling me is that an omnipotent being is responsible for killing Patricia?”
Nina punched the button again and started to pace once more, “No, someone killed Patricia either under the influence of the Dark, or for it, thinking they would be rewarded with power or something else.”
Nina sighed, “And they likely are under the Dark’s control somehow, still acting for it, and are possibly looking to be the cause of something else happening.”
“Wonderful. This just gets better and better.”
She turned back to Tom and, with a hard look in her eyes, said, “If you want out, go see Tera and tell her that.”
“I’m not a quitter. I complain, moan, and curse, but I don’t walk away from a fight.”
Nina’s answer was, “And you have no idea why Tera asked you to look into this?”
Tom smirked, “I figured she liked my looks.”
The doors to the elevator opened and Nina grabbed Tom by the shoulder dragging him inside before punching the button for the ground floor. After the doors closed, she continued, “The thing is, Tom, I think you are involved because the Dark uses humans for its own gains.”
“And you don’t?”
Nina waved her hand at the ceiling, “You want me to claim that we’re pure and lily white? Sorry, Tom, I can’t do that. Yes, in the past, a long time ago, we weren’t nice; we didn’t care, either. Once upon a time we had humans as pets, toys, and worse; we would twist them into whatever we wanted them to be.”
Tom flinched at the tone of her voice, but still asked, “So, what changed?”
Nina’s hand dropped to her side, “One human, just one, showed us that there was a better way and we took it.”
“Have I met this person?”
Nina laughed, “Oh no, no you haven’t … Trust me, you would know if you had.”
Nina looked wistful, “You’ll have to ask Tera about that sometime …”
Tom filed that away for later before prodding her, “Okay, so back to me being involved?”
She nodded, “You’ve been told that some beings need humans to do their work for them. The Dark needs willing humans, or at least humans that it has touched, to do its bidding.”
“Still doesn’t explain me.”
“You know human nature better than we do, Tom. You see more than we do. It used to be that we would just take control of someone and force them to talk. You saw what Camilla did, right?”
“She hadn’t done something like that in about a thousand years, Tom. Oh, she was brave about it, but it tore her up inside to have to do it.”
“So, what we have to face are people who might be … mind controlled or something, acting for the Dark without knowing it, and best of all, you really can’t be sure until you come in contact with them?”
Nina sighed, “The Dark isn’t stupid, so it’s placed some red herrings to draw any investigation away from it. Lots of humans to comb through for an answer and …”
Tom waited, but Nina just started tapping a finger against her lips as the elevator descended. After ten floors, Tom slapped her tail with his hand, which jolted Nina, so that, in the next moment, Tom found himself pressed up against the wall, a very angry Nina looking at him.
“Why … did … you … do … that?”
Tom pushed Nina’s hand away, “I lost you for a minute. You drifted off into thought, and I wasn’t sure that something wasn’t wrong with you. My cat doesn’t like it when I swat her tail; figured you would act the same.”
Nina ran a hand through her hair and tugged on it, “Nice. I was thinking about what Patricia was missing when she was buried. Something important wasn’t there.”
Tom pushed, “Like?”
“Her tail; it had been severed from her body, and we couldn’t find it when we buried her.”
Tom was confused, and the look on his face spoke volumes.
“Okay, Tom, quick lesson about succubi and incubi for you. Beings like us are, in fact, two beings in one body. In our case, Camilla is the dominant personality most of the time. I am what we call a Tail. I reside in her tail, oddly enough, and I can see and feel everything that she does. But, normally, I don’t appear.”
“So, why now?”
“Because I saw who you were pinning down to the floor, and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to get a measure of justice. And, if you had left me alone with her, I would have killed her.”
Tom shrugged, “I figured as much. You aren’t anything like Camilla, really.”
Nina’s tail swished behind her, “And?”
Tom smiled, “And, as you said, you are a bitch to those who have done you wrong. But, so far, you haven’t been to me. So, like I told you before, you still have to prove yourself to me.”
Nina reached out a hand and stroked it against Tom’s cheek, “It’s because Camilla likes you, and I have to admit that I find you … interesting …”
Tom closed a hand around Nina’s and drew it away, “Sorry, Nina. My heart belongs to someone else.”
Nina sighed, “So does your soul, Tom. So does your soul.”
Tom’s face soured, “Why is it that you all have to be so damn cryptic?”
Nina looked away from Tom, “I apologize, but that’s how our kind is. I’ll give you a hint, though, that you should keep in mind … You want a direct answer? Give a direct question.”
Tom gripped the railing behind him and looked away from her. Neither of them said anything for a dozen floors, but then Tom asked, “Tell me about Tails, Nina.”
She didn’t turn around, but Tom could see her body tense, “Tails are the succubi or incubi of the past. If you can recall your myths, you might remember that we can be very evil, very dominant, and most of all, we have, on occasion, claimed souls.”
Tom frowned, “That’s not exactly comforting, Nina.”
She shrugged, “It’s not important. What matters is that we exist in order to keep the young aware of what they might be if they do not learn, and if they go off the path, or worse. We are there to help them.”
Tom considered what she said, but before he could ask more, Nina added, “Your next, obvious question is, I think: ‘Do you have a soul?’”
Tom nodded slightly, “Seems to be a reasonable question to ask at this point.”
Nina smiled, “We both do. Very much like yours, really …” Nina looked over her shoulder, “Would you like to know what I can see in yours, Tom?”
He didn’t have to think about his answer, “Not really. I suppose that it’s not that important.”
As the bell sounded to announce their arrival on the ground floor Nina sighed, “See, that’s the biggest problem in the universe, isn’t it?”
The doors opened before Tom could ask what that meant, and they found themselves staring at a group of security guards who were waiting in the lobby, their backs to the elevator doors.
Tom reached for his weapon, “Got any ideas? I left my holy hand grenade in my other pants.”
Jane threw her hands up in disbelief, “How could it possibly be Patricia?”
Tera shrugged, “The facts are quite plain, Daughter.”
“My sister is … was … a mother. She loved her children and her Eternal. That’s all she was.”
Tera smiled softly, “Being a mother, no matter how or why, is not a little thing, Jane. You’ll understand that someday.”
Those words brought Jane up short as she remembered her sister holding her children, playing and laughing with them … and she regretted what she had said, “I meant that Patricia wasn’t a threat to anyone, Tera. There was no reason for her to be attacked.”
“There you are wrong, Daughter, and I should have been more aware. Most of our kind are … involved … in some way. Those that are not are not always aware of everything that goes on when they are away from the Realm.”
“Tera, you can’t put the blame on yourself.”
“Every mother does when her children are hurt …”
Tera then began to list off the facts she knew: “We can be certain that Patricia was targeted by someone or something. Her tail was severed from her body. That means that someone knew the way to kill us. Then the question becomes: who would be foolish enough to suffer our wrath … or would want us to seek revenge?”
Jane said nothing, waiting for Tera to continue.
“There are very few beings that have tried to control us; fewer still who have survived. Still fewer continue to try and try again, using whatever means they think will be enough to push us over the edge.”
She held up a finger and then continued, “The Dark cannot act in the material world itself. We also know that it uses the darker emotions to gain a foothold in our world and bend beings here to its will. It collects puppets and then plays them to make what it wants to happen … happen.”
“That still does not explain how you can connect what happened here. I haven’t seen anything that proves you are right, Tera.”
She sighed softly, “I haven’t explained everything as yet, Daughter.”
Jane rubbed a hand over her forehead and waited … again.
“Patricia was not involved in our work here, that’s very true. However, she did, occasionally, assist Brent in his work, or, very rarely, would help in Realm business.”
Jane’s hand stopped, “Are you saying that you put her in danger?”
“No. I am saying that she was led here for a reason and the Dark took advantage of that. Perhaps it planned to murder Patricia by fire and then leave no trace of her body for us to find, and thus cover up the taking of her tail. But our hero got in the way and then it had to try and cover its tracks.”
Jane’s head was spinning at the idea, “But why was she here, and why did the Dark let her go?”
“Those are the questions to work on, Daughter.”
“Tera, what about John?”
“We remove this block on his memories, so that he can see that he saved someone. We don’t hide what happened from him. All of this was in his subconscious mind, so it’s unlikely to intrude on his thoughts once it has been released. I only hope that it won’t be completely clear to him.”
“What about me?”
“If this works, then the hold on you is no more. If not … well, then things become a lot more complicated, don’t they?”
“Wonderful. Just … wonderful.”
The memories they were looking into vanished and reality replaced them: John sitting in the chair, seemingly asleep; Tera standing beside him, her right index finger touching John’s left temple; and Jane across the room from the two of them watching unhappily.
And still not looking like herself.
“Nothing’s changed, Tera.”
Tera tilted her head to the right and looked at Jane, “I haven’t actually done anything yet, Daughter. You young ones are so impatient at times … Stop and smell the roses; you may discover things you have overlooked in your rushing about.”
Jane’s response was to put her head into her hands and moan softly.
“So. do I or don’t I, Daughter? Or are you going to do it?”
“No. No Daughter. There isn’t a maybe or could be or might we here. He is … damaged–quite badly to be honest. He is, at the moment, a tool being used for someone else’s gains.”
Jane looked up and she wasn’t happy, “I am not responsible for that.”
“No, but, in another way, we all are. If we had given in to what it wants, become its puppets, then he would not be where he is right now, would he?”
“We can’t protect everyone. That’s impossible and you know it.”
Tera turned away from Jane and looked at John, “Perhaps. But is it right to ignore such things when they are in front of you? What right does it have to do this to anyone? Most of all, what right does it have to try to force us into doing something that we have turned our back on?”
“I didn’t make that choice, Tera. You did.”
Tera looked at Jane once again, but this time there was sadness in her voice: “So, you would rather act in the old ways, then? Are you so enamoured with that time?”
“We were strong Tera. We could, easily, reach out and destroy our enemies. There was nothing to fear. There was …”
“Nothing. There was absolutely … nothing. You just don’t understand, do you?”
Tera walked away from John and stood over Jane, her red horns and tail visible now, “Are you so eager to give up your soul, Daughter? Lose all you are? Be yet another puppet? Really? Truly?”
Jane tried, she really tried, to look Tera in the eyes, but found that she couldn’t bring herself to.
“I’m playing devil’s advocate, Tera … You are so sure that you are right about everything. How can you be?”
Tera pointed a finger in John’s direction, “I am right because what is sitting there in that chair is so very, very wrong.” She then pointed at Jane, “I am right because you are in a trap that you can’t escape and he is the only solution that can fix this.”
Jane was silent, her eyes closed in thought before she answered, “Will he remember … anything?”
Tera took hold of both of Jane’s hands and led her to John’s side, “That depends on you, doesn’t it?”
She smiled, “Daughter, can you admit to yourself one single truth? Tell me one thing about yourself that you know to be the truth that you have not admitted to anyone else.”
Jane tried to answer Tera. The first thing that came to her thoughts wasn’t really the truth, and she knew that Tera would know that. So it was with the next things that came to mind. But then, finally, she told Tera her truth: “She’s gone, Tera. I’ll never see her again, never hear her voice, hug her … I’m … I’m alone.”
“Do you honestly believe that?”
Jane clutched at Tera’s hands, “Who is there that cares about me? My sister, the only one that I knew who loved me … I’ve lost her. I am alone. That’s my truth.”
Tera shook her head sadly, “You are alone because you cannot find the way to allow anyone inside, Jane. You have so many walls around you because … because you want revenge on the person who took your sister from you. So you are alone, right now, because you want that revenge. You think that will give you closure.”
Jane just stared at Tera, the words not coming to her, no idea how to answer her queen’s assertion.
Tera then looked at John, “But you let him in. You won’t admit it, but he’s there inside of you. He’s in your thoughts and …”
Jane shook her head, “I can’t. I have to …”
“You have to let go of revenge. You have to give yourself a chance, no matter how small, to be as happy as your sister was.”
“I don’t deserve that.”
“You don’t deserve to be an emotional wreck.”
Tera’s tail pointed at John, still sitting there quietly and unmoving, “You asked what he would remember. That’s something you’ll have to figure out, Jane. Open his mind, take away what the Dark put in and let him see that what happened. When he comes out of this … then what happens next is up to you and him alone.”
“I’m not prepared for this, Tera. I haven’t the control or the ability you have.”
“No, but you do love him, don’t you?”
The word escaped Jane before she could stop it, “Yes.”
Tera smiled and then guided Jane to sit on the armrest next to John, “Then let that be your guide and try.”