Chapter 2: Commitment

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 11

Ilex City settled into winter over thenext weeks. Downtown came alive with Christmas time celebration. Nights came early, but the sun never really set in Ilex as thedowntown island was kept mostly lit with festivity. Anything nestledwithin the three big towers at the center, roughly a couple squaremiles, was constantly lit brightly by spotlights, streetlights, andmulti-colored rope lights strung all over. A large Cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary sat on its own block within this relatively small area. It was normally lit up in greens and reds forthe season, but tonight, it was all white. So were the Cadillacs outfront with the cans tied to the bumper and the flowers adorning the windows if they hadn't fallen prey to the gales trying to tear themoff. When one did, it fluttered into the only black Cadillac sitting ahead of the small convoy. It alone sat running with red lights of the brakes glaring onto all the white around it with jarring contrast.  A window cracked open released a puff of smoke into the air.

Inside the cathedral was all white plaster, statues of angels were under each load-bearing column, wings meant to be part of each arch. The pews will filled with people watching the front of the venue, a raised platform where a couple in juxtaposed black and whites were quietly exchanging their vows with one another with their gazes locked and slightly nervous smile on their faces. Only in hindsight, and when  the groom had already finished and the bride was halfway through her notecards did someone get them a microphone so the crowd could actually hear them.

A middle aged priest with nearly stark white receding hair and rough beard with only a glint of pepper resisting the encroaching white was standing near a set of confessionals watching the late evening wedding in front of him.  The young couple had just finished exchanging vows and his fellow clergyman continued on with the rehearsed ritual. All of the people in attendance lowered their heads, the bridal party and groomsmen as well. The white haired priest waiting did too, but only to take the opportunity to check his watch. It was seven thirty on the nose, and he cast a glance towards the front door of the huge cathedral, which was shut tight against the winter wind. He shook his head disapprovingly and clutched the silver double-cross hanging from his neck. He looked around at the people who had all come out for this late ceremony, and specifically looked upon the mix-matched collection on each side of the rows of pews. The bride's side consisted of people of means, people dressed rather fashionably and conservative, they had excellent taste and could clearly afford it. Short and tidy hair on the men and tastefully up-done styles on the women. Her side had brought their best to show, putting it on display. The same could not be said of the groom's side. A small portion did mean well, dressing in their best, as best as they could manage. Cheap, and mostly clean tuxes or bargain dress shirts and somewhat moderate dresses and pant suits on the women. They clearly, for the innocent-looking boy's sake, tried to put their best foot forward to impress their new in-laws.

The front door slammed shut with an echoing boom that stole the attention of the grand hall. As everyone turned they met the gaze of a large, burly woman with dark eyes and girded in a studded leather jacket. Her knuckles cracked the frigid leather they were covered in and scanning each one of the wedding guests and moved around the back of the pews slowly, swimming in a heap of blue hair of various tones, and decorated with a few hawk feathers from light to dark out of her rigid expression and from between her pierced bottom lip which, with her dark lipstick, looked etched into her copper face. The priest leading the procession went to inquire about the interruption, but the woman reached to her neck and revealed a golden double cross from her halter top, briefly showing it before returning it to its place under her layers of leather. After which, the priest continued the ceremony and tried to pull as much attention back onto him as he could.

With the moderate success of that endeavor, the blue woman pulled the door behind her open again. After a moment, another woman entered. She was draped in monochrome with hints of scarlet. Also tall with exceptionally long and wavy silver hair that flowed from the part in the middle of her head to behind her loose black and red clothes. A black cross, equal on all sides, dangled in the center of her robed top covering up to her slender neck. Her sky blue eyes, darkened and accented with minimal black makeup, ignored the stares that were drawn to her like a beacon and followed her as she gracefully flowed past the first woman and immediately banked around the corner of the rows of pews and towards the confessional booths and to the waiting elder priest without a glance or explanation. Her companion was close behind, purposely moving between her and all spectators and stared them all down with harsh recognition along the seats. The waiting priest nodded affirmingly towards his confused compatriot on the altar, who nodded back. He then cleared his throat and continued with the ceremony after making a polite anecdote about the church being always open. The waiting priest disappeared, heading into one end of the confessional to wait. In a short moment, beyond the lattice window inside the wooden box, the silver haired woman covered shadow came in and sat. The whole booth rocked as the woman with dyed hair leaned against the front of the booth blocking the side the silver-haired queen had entered of the confessional.

Inside, the two were silent for a moment as the priest went over a small collection of papers he pulled from his pocket. The darkness made it hard for him to see more than the silhouette of the woman on the other side, but the tight quarters and ceremony outside in the church made it possible to talk with little chance of being overheard. He cleared his throat somewhat purposefully to gain a reaction from the silent confessor on his opposite side.

"Father Drake," she finally stated, "must I begin formally, as a sinner before a man of God?"

"Are you sinful, Abigail Whitmore?"  The priest asked in reply.

"A matter of perspective."

"Sin is not a perspective."

There was a pause, the silhouette became a statue momentarily, "My father usually sees me directly," she asked, "why did he send you, Drake?"

"Father Drake," he corrected, "if you please, Lady Abigail."

"I do not.  If you are acting as a liaison from the White Court, you are beneath me," Abigail said.

"A chamberlain," he sighed, "officially acting on behalf of your father,  the Ivory King Alexander Whitmore."

"You are Drake, and I am not a lady of the White anymore. No formalities are due, unless you wish to address me as the Viper Queen of the Red Court? Is my father so frightened of casting a shadow he hides in his ivory tower? Sending serfs to communicate with his own daughter?"

"He's tending to other matters. We do have our own troubles from time to time."

"I thought we had all your troubling business," Abigail laughed to herself, "territory clashes, frenzied newbloods, thefts, defections, rogue shades, and soon. Things even your exalted Ghosts cannot do on their own."

"We aren't as accustomed to the gutters of society."

A pale hand suddenly pressed against the veiled window, making Drake jump.

The sound again drew attention from a few guests in the pews, distracting the congregation. The bronze and blue woman in black guarding out front glared at each trespassing gaze with her own, unblinking. Few maintained contact, none strayed from the ceremony for more than a passing moment, disregarding the confessional.

"Apologies, Lady Whitmore, "Father Drake regained his composure, "I was merely referring to your company whom come from the darker shadows than the White Court, you place a great deal of faith in them it seems."

The hand relented, "The shadows are wonderful place to hide the truth. The White Court forgets that," again Abigail snickered, "shades who want to hide in the light."

Drake opened his pamphlet, "Onto matters then?"

"We are here. Amidst the cold I despise," she sighed, "the Red's tasks are near completion."

"I'll be judge of that, Abigail, "he cleared his throat, "the trial of Father Strigucci and the Moth Queen went unimpeded?"

"Yes," she said, "The Black Hawk reported the priest's newfound faith did not hold. The Moth Queen killed him quickly."

"That's a shame," Drake sighed, "Strigucci made mistakes, but his heart was pure."

"Purity is not protection," Abigail responded, "not from us."

"I suppose the matter is resolved then," Drake scribbled on the pad, "the Black Hawk then slew this queen?"

"No," Abigail answered.

"No!?" David scoffed, "She was not cleared to ascend.  After all the trouble this," Drake checked his papers over, "so-called Moth Queen did? A chance to thin their possibly high numbers?"

Abigail's head cocked slightly, "The Accords were followed.  The Black Court can ascend any of their own if they see fit.  It is not the business of the Red Court.  Or the White . . . chamberlain."

"Perhaps you are failing to see the danger in their kind, Abigail."

Drake jumped at a flash of white orbs suddenly replacing the faint space of her eyes, burning from beyond the veil separating them. They glared for a while.

The orbs echoed with another voice, not coming from them directly, but seemingly around him,  "I forget much, child, but not the danger we are. I will actively deter it. The Courts are no longer at war, there is no war. If, and only if, the Moth Queen Luna Lissette had broken a tenant of the Accords, then she would have been ash. By my own hand if necessary, "the orbs faded away, "this applies to the White Court as well. You may insist there are sides to betaken, but the Red Court will not partake. We are on the side of Ilex City."

Drake could tell she was still staring right back at him, even without the white orbs to signal. Her immortal eyes could see him right through the darkness, surrounded by black, framed by platinum locks. 

 The feel of her reptilian gaze was unmistakable, "Shades are prone to forgetfulness, Drake. Sore mind the elders. Remind my father. If you please."

Drake shuddered and flipped a page or two, "The White Court is aware of the purpose of your Red Court. And it's activities."

"As we are of theirs. And the Black Court's."

"You keep tabs on the Black?" He asked excitedly.

"As best we can. Their tribalistic nature makes the task difficult, they oft do not talk to one another, let alone reach across to the coast for our aid. Justas often, as with the Moth Queen, the Black will attempt to refuse our involvement in any measure. A stark difference to the White, who require frequent assistance."

"And now you may kiss the bride!" Announced the priest on the altar, the music went all at once and cheers and applause rang out from the reception. The woman shifted in front of the door that housed Abigail. She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at the crowd who paid her no mind as they shouted and cheered for the happy couple who rapidly proceeded down the aisle amidst confetti and rice thrown about as they exited along with their respective parties and a good portion of the guests. After ten minutes or so of ruckus, it began to quiet back down.

"I did not know mortals married in a church anymore," Abigail said.

"Some people still hold to traditions, I suppose," David answered.

"Too theatrical. Still romantic, in a sense."

"The Boardwalk Butcher," Drake pressed on, removing his glasses, "this heinous traitor traipsing about near your domain, he has been dealt with?"

"Trevor," Abigail paused before speaking too informally, "pardon, the Black Hawk is cornering him as we speak and will attempt to apprehend. Judgement will be passed before dawn breaks."

"I thought this would be handled by now," Drake took of his glasses again, "Bertran Ward attacked the Spectre King, his own sire, and broke out to assault people on your territory."

"That is just it, he is not only on our territory. And his pattern was erratic, making him difficult to track. Fortunately, he had been restraining his victims with a pair of handcuffs. Using the Hawk's psychometry, we learned a great deal about your traitor."

Drake made a disgusted noise, "I do not need details."

"As you wish," Abigail leaned back, relaxing slightly.

"So Bertran has not abdicated? Did not turn Black?"

Abigail shifted, "No, Bertran is not well."

"He is not ours anymore, Abigail."

Abigail studied the remark for a moment, "He is very confused, a sickness of the mind I was not aware a shade could possess."

"He is simply foolish, "Drake assuaged.

"We believe he attempts the ritual."

"He is far too young," Drake again assuaged, "he will fail."

"Nevertheless, he will try. From what was gathered, he believes he alone can change humans in great numbers.  Has some kind of unique gift in his blood.  Once the Black Hawk tracks him down, he can get more information."

"The Black Hawk should simply destroy him," Drake announced with frustration, "not interrogate the thing."

"Trevor Delaserre is not yours to command," Abigail defended, adding a stern tone to her voice and a hint of an accent. She pressed slender fingers to her mouth when she detected it as well, attempting to play it off. Drake sighed heavily, placing a hand on his chest. Abigail leaned in, listening to his heartbeat. She started mouthing the beats she heard, closing her eyes to focus on the rhythm.

Breathy, she whispered, "It sounds awful, Drake. How can you stand that macabre racket?"

"Excuse me, Lady Abigail?"

"That broken fuel pump in your chest. It is off. A skip in the melody. Why did you scorn the offer? The ritual? My father could have you made into one of us."

Drake shook his head, "Even when I first met your family, I was too old. Eternity is a young man's gambit. I will be with God soon, once the Lord deems his work I've done here completed."

Abigail leaned back again, "He has abandoned this city. Formally and figuratively. That is why we are here."

"Perhaps that is why I am here as well," Drake responded, "a link for your kind to the light."

"You serve the damned, as you proclaim us to be. Enthralled by their king. You think your God will accept that as his work?"

"Alexander Whitmore is doing everything in his power to combat the violent and amoral instincts of his kind. Much like you. He's taken his oath and no longer partakes of the holy essence of blood. Even took another wife, Queen Alice, as you know. Doing his best to be human, Abigail."

"Yes, even got himself a new progeny, Aaron. No more warriors. A proper academic like he really wanted," Abigail held the onyx and even cross draped around her neck, looking at it upside down, staring at it retrospectively. Drake could see this, though shadowed, from the inside of his box.

"Are we regretful?" Drake had a scold to his tone, "You had every opportunity to rejoin them and your court. To rejoin the proper path and give up on this ridiculous experiment of balance. Even your obstinate kin and this adopted Black Court Titan could bewelcomed in."

Abigail smirked, "The proper path?  Do not be naïve."

It fell silent in the boxes, Abigail playing with her cross. Drake simply breathing out loud, looking up and lost in thought.

Abigail finally returned to reality and broke the silence, "If we are done here. I have not fed in some time. I think will join in these provincial festivities and invite a guest home. Give the ivory my regards."

"There is the other matter of our stalker, Lady-"

"Abigail, Drake."

"Old habits, Abigail. Our . . .stalker that has been researching the Whitmore family, she's been spotted around the Oak College campus, the Whitmore Tower, and the Mircalla. Despite our efforts, she continues her crusade of truth. She's been quite tenacious, this-" Drake stared closer at the paper in his hand,"-Veronica Stone. She was interjected by the Black Hawk at Strigucci's trial. I had hoped matters were settled from there?"

"In a manner of speaking," Abigail tersely responded.

"Because we noticed she had not passed from this world," Drake looked at his papers again, "we understood she'd be handled like any of the others."

"She was not. However, the matter has been resolved."

Drake took a deep, frustrated breath.

"She had been given a fright, "Abigail continued, "a glimpse of what we are. A bloody one tobe sure, but an encounter not soon forgotten.  Not soon believed either."

"And what good would that accomplish? Abigail, even you cannot betray the veil your kind has hidden behind for generations, it's the only thing that has kept you alive."

"My survival was never determined by secrecy, but by adaptation.  The dead do not change.  It took quite a shock to learn I was not among them," a slight sigh escaped her, the only sign of life she'd really given, "I learned I had much to learn."

"I see becoming a sire has changed you, Abigail. Even if he's nothing but a headache, "David shook his head, "why in the world did you turn that man?"

A thoughtful smile crept across her dark red lips, "He keeps me humble."

"Humble? That what you call this? If he serves no other purpose-"

Abigail nudged the door in front of her, "Iron sharpens iron."

Drake inhaled sharply, "Sharp!? Sharp you say? A chance to slay a Black queen and he failed. He was drink a silly girl before she betrays our secret and instead he gives her the freedom to out your whole species. His mind is crass, Abigail, unworthy of you or your family. Trevor Delaserre has only a sharp tongue. Though I imagine, to have kept him so close, you must be very aware of his tongue."

There was an eerie silence as the last of the wedding attendants seemingly disappeared from the priest's hearing, and in a moment he realized he heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. The next moment, he blinked, and then saw nothing.

"David Drake," a calm, sensual whisper came from across the darkness, "look at me."

Drake obliged, without thinking, and looked up to nothing. A dizzy feeling flooded his head, like going up in an elevator. The box he sat in and the latticed window he'd been talking through was gone. The church around him as well. The sounds from the outside, gone. He could no longer see, smell, or hear a thing. Could not feel the wood beneath him. Could not even breath in. No sensory input of any kind, nothing was near enough. He could see his own form, hands and legs, but nothing else. He was very alone in a vacuum, the daze in his head the singular sensation. He looked forward, also nothing. Just an empty, infinite black void. He went to stand, but a pair of slender white hands, tipped in crimson and decorated in various rings rested on his shoulders, violently shoving his back into his chair, suddenly leaving him paralyzed. His heart started beating loudly and arrhythmically in his ears, deafening him. As the two hands slid down his chest, he felt something cold and moist begin to tighten around his shins and ankles, binding him. The same feeling on his wrists, forearms, and stomach. Glancing his eyes down, the only part of his body that would respond, he could confirm a black mass of pulsing reptile binds wrapping around his body. He could make out the various colors of the patterns and saddles as they tightened him, cold and contracting, to the chair. As they constantly shifted, they multiplied covering more and more of his body. The hands moved out of their way as they covered his arms and legs, and almost his whole torso. Mercifully, they stayed from his neck and head. He felt a cold, scentless breath in his ear, and a soft moan.

"Mmmmm, now this I have not donein awhile," Abigail's words echoed all around him in theemptiness, "I pray this does not kill you. Thatweak heart of yours, clutching each fleeting second at life."

Drake struggled to move his mouth and form words, but so much as the idea passing from his brain to his muscle and the red, frigid claws slapped over his mouth.

"That . . . is the third, Drake," Abigail said, between words other whispers bounced between his ears, indecipherable, but with clear malice and belligerent snickering, "three times you have directly insulted me, my court, and my kin. So let me be without pretense, that will be the last time. I will feed you to something far worse than a shadow like myself. Something that only lives here, in the darkest corners of your psyche beyond where even nightmares dare tread. I will leave you there, in the limbo of the cold maw as it tears you to pieces, or swallows you whole, depending how much your quivering body excites it."

Her cold fingers went under his chin and caressed his throat, sharp nails dragging a murderous razor's line along his tender throat. He still struggled with his own vocal chords.

"Oh I know, you want to speak," a callous, haughty laugh echoed along with her words, mocking his futile resistance, "desiring to say something about the White Court's protection. I am not allowed to harm you. Wrath of the Ivory King Alexander Whitmore, blah, blah, blah . . . "

The blahs also echoed around Drake's ears as well, like bullying children, in distorted and elongated tones. His head then jerked back, and he stared the familiar glowing white orbs dead in the face. Silver streaks fell down around him, forming a narrow tunnel leading only to the blinding light of the Viper Queen's lidless gaze. At this distance he couldn't tell if she was upside-down, as circumstance would suggest, or not. His entire perspective was disjointed, all he could see was those brightly glowing, colorless rings she had for eyes. All that could be heard was the uncomfortable, malicious whispers and snickering around him. All he could feel was the wet, reptillian bindings. All he could taste was the wet musk and sweat of the warm meat that twisted and expanded horribly over his whole body. Any flinch he tried, and they only tightened and multiplied.

"You are wrong, though. You are a mortal, replaceable, dispensable. This pedestal you sit on, it is really the gallows. That white collar that feeds you the King's immortal kiss, a noose. And . . . if you ever forget to whom you speak with . . . I would be the black mask, pulling the lever. And here in my merciless pit, it is no short drop, sudden stop for you . . . no," again the 'no' echoed and carried, backed with more snickering and laughing. She caressed his cheek, tracing a tear with her blood red claws,". . . I will make your exquisite suffering last forever."

He felt soft, cold lips touch his forehead, and with a playful and delicate smooch, he was jerked back into reality. His senses regained, he flailed around the box violently, cursing and checking himself over. There was no slime from the bindings, and no marks on his throat, save a fresh stain of moisture in the middle of his receding hairline he smeared as he ripped the sliding door opened and tried to flee. As he opened it, Halsey, the blue-hued vampire in a black leather jacket, was waiting and pressed her hand against him. Try as he could, he couldn't move as the bronze-skinned titan held him against the doorframe with a single hand. She stared at him as well, with normal brown eyes.

"Calm yourself, she didn't hurt you," she told him, vacant expression or emotion. He settled and caught his breath as the other door opened casually and Abigail exited, throwing her long, silvery hair out of her way. It drifted well past her waist and flowed like a cloak as she turned towards Drake and placed her hand on Halsey's shoulder, who relinquished her pressure on the man.

Drake pulled at his shirt and adjusted himself to presentable standards, then met Abigail's eyes, now blue again, and lowered his head, "You've certainly made your point, Lady Whitmore. My humblest apologies."

"Abigail, Drake."

"No. . . with respect . . . Lady Whitmore, "he cleared his throat, "With such command of your power, you are a Lady. I see that now and beg your pardon for my behavior."

She fought a smirk, "That is most amenable of you, Father Drake."

"And this business with Miss Stone-"

"She is our responsibility, more specifically, Trevor's. If she has not rescinded her investigations and is still being obstinate, we will deal with her."

"With respect, it is already beyond your hands."

Abigail narrowed her eyes, "Meaning?"

"We've been tracking her, and she's coming to the Mircalla. She's being let in by our staff on the ground level and making her way to Aaron Whitmore's celebration at the top. The other covens of the White are waiting for her arrival, amidst others. That's the business Alexander is dealing with."

Halsey interrupted, "A trap?  That's against the Accords."

"Not precisely," Abigail snarled, "if she enters willingly."

"When she reaches Pandora," Drake affirmed, crossing his body, "the Spider Queen Corinna Casta will take her."

"She is our task," Abigail demanded.

Drake pressed his hands together apologetically, "I'm afraid, not anymore. Your father wishes the Spider Queen to deal with it now."

Abigail recoiled slightly, then turned and hurriedly rush towards the door, Halsey followed closely behind, getting out of the father's hearing, "I told you, didn't I?  Fucking Trevor!"

"Do not blame him."

"Don't protect him, Abigail," Halsey complained.

"Do not command me, warden."

"Halsey lowered her head, "Apologies, but you knew what the White would do.  We both know."

"There may yet be time," Abigail responded.

Halsey ground her teeth, "The Mircalla.  I don't like it."

They exited the church and got into a waiting black Cadillac, Halsey opening the door for Abigail. She then walked around and got in the opposite side. The driver who hurriedly dropped a magazine he was holding turned back and looked at the two of them, pinching a half-smoked cigarette from his mouth.

"The Mircalla, Lazlo," Halsey commanded.

The driver, Laz, nodded and turned, flicking the ash and putting the cigarette arbitrarily into his mouth and started the car, heading off down the empty street.

"We're in a hurry I take, Abs?" Laz asked, is voice muffled as he struggled to keep the cigarette in his lips. "Matter of life and death?"

"Indeed," Abigail responded, "keep speed, but do not stop for anything."

"A call to the Pit could have Trevor down here as well, "Halsey offered.

"He would not make it by that time," Abigail reassured, "we have to get Veronica from the fangs of the Spider Queen."

They sat silent as Lazlo sped the long jet-colored car through the ever widening streets, bringing the massive rose colored castle of the Mircalla Plaza into view. Spotlights lit up its gothic architecture, two near the entrance cutting across one another to form a W passed the large circular courtyard and the massive glass entrance. Both women watched it drag itself closer with steady gazes. Halsey being the first to strike the door handle with a gloved fist. The leather and plastic ripped from the relatively weak blow and Lazlo cursed at her from the driver's seat.

Abigail eyed the damage, then the brooding blue Titan, "A matter upon your mind?"

She leaned forward, taking a breath to make the golden rings of her eyes fade back to dark, "Why her?"

"Trevor chose to spare her," she held Halsey's gaze to reiterate, "chose."

"She's a threat," Halsey advised, "he should've killed her. It's been his job since things settled down."

"She is exactly what I have been waiting for," Abigail answered, picking up and caressing a silver-handled sword next to her.

"The White are supposed to be our friends now, you think they're gonna have a set up for you too?" Laz asked.

"No," Abigail sighed as she gazed out the window at her own blue eyes, spotting the limo overly decorated with white lilies and roses and a broad sign of 'Just Married!!' being trailed by several tin cans bouncing along the freezing pavement, "secrets and shadows, they are never ready for confrontation."

"And if she dies?" Halsey asked, "Do we just chock it up to a loss? Or a mission completed?"

Abigail narrowed her gaze at Halsey.

Halsey didn't avoid Abigail, "This is stupid, Viper. Why do you let Trevor get away with this crap?"

"I do not," she sternly and carefully stated.

Halsey maintained for a moment, only to nod and lean back to the leather seat and lookout the window, "He's your soldier and your kin. What he does reflects on you and us. If he doesn't, or can't, follow your orders, you need to discipline him."

Abigail returned to her weapon, running a red claw across the glossy steel sheathe to the polished silver grip made of two vipers intertwined and devouring each other at the guard, wrapped around a glittering ruby. Gears and pegs of copper sat underneath the snakes and, with a secret trigger, Abigail released the blade slightly. The blade was segmented and each segment consisted of three bladed prongs overlapping. A glow of red hummed under the silver steel and through the seams of the two showing segments. Abigail could see her reflection in the first segment and smiled tightly.

 "He is no soldier, Oathkeeper."


Submitted: March 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 LJ Stepek. All rights reserved.

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