Mercedes found it hard to fall asleep. The strange alliance she had to forge was against her inner nature. Julius, he was okay, but Diana was another matter. She felt the sexual tension hanging between both vampires. They had a relation that was a fact. Even if she wasn’t a witch, she would have read the signs. Diana felt threatened on her own territory. Mercedes knew she had to watch her mouth because she couldn’t risk putting their cooperation to a test.
Eventually, after remembering and going through the conversations a dozen times, she had fallen asleep right into a restless dream. When she suddenly startled out of her sleep and remembered what it was about, she realized the enemy had struck again. She jumped out of the bed, pulled on her clothes and went to the room where Diana and Julius were staying.
When the door opened, after an impatiently bouncing, she saw Julius’ distorted face who looked surprised at her. ‘What’s up, Mercedes, is something wrong? I can’t imagine sleeping in a bed, but I thought the mattress was sublime quality.’ The sarcastic sound was proof of his suppressed powerlessness against the situation. Mercedes knew that the solution she had dished up to them to travel to the Water of the Lost Sighs hadn’t received a positive response.
‘I’ve got to go, it’s urgent. The enemy has attacked again. I’ve dreamed about it!’
Diana came behind Julius and frowned. ‘Those dreams of yours, Mercedes, aren’t what you call pretty at all. Maybe you have to try a sleeping pill sometime.’
Without paying much attention to the nasty reaction of her female opponent Mercedes spoke further. ‘I’ll try to be back by morning light. Then I’ll look how we can pass to the Underworld.’
‘Who has he slaughtered now? Someone in your witch-family or has he come for my people again? Julius looked at her with piercing eyes. He didn’t doubt her words for a second. Mercedes was a witch and she saw things, it was her power just working like the inherent powers of a nightwalker.
‘No, not witches or nightwalkers,’ this time she instantly had used the right term, ‘my brothers and sisters of the werewolf community have been attacked. An old friend, Marcel Thibodaux, who once with his flock has helped me, has sent strong signals. A slaughter between the ones who are near and dear to him in a place called Dead Men’s Hill. He’s the only survivor. Red Fang, that’s his wolf name, is afraid, that I’ve felt very clearly. I’ve never experienced that my wolf brother takes a step back in danger. I have to go to him. He’s a powerful ally and if I can persuade him, he has to go with us.’
‘No problem, we have to join forces to kill that monster. The more we are, the stronger.’ Julius gave his blessing with these words. Despite the fact he didn’t know yet how Mercedes would succeed to let them travel beyond the death to the Underworld, he knew that to prevail they’ll have to tread on extraordinary roads.
Diana’s answer was signed by brevity. ‘Go!’
Mercedes hurried to the elevator that would bring her to the surface. It was still early in the night. She would travel better in her wolf form. Her transformation wasn’t painful as with the werewolves. The air was wrinkling around her body and while as being Mercedes she started running, she changed in a few moments in an auburn colored wolf with shades of red. Nobody witnessed the changing. The night was young and the loner who saw her running through the streets of Horseville would think a large dog was passing. Now she was Flame. It was the name she was known by her animal and half-human kindred.
Flame possessed an incredible endurance. She ran along the streets and alleys and jumped over almost impossible barriers. This night nobody would stop her or they would pay dearly trying. She felt her body in the deepest cells of her muscles. Flame sent her thoughts to Red Fang, the one who was called Marcel Thibodaux in his normal life.
I’m coming, my friend. I know of your loss and your sorrow. Wait for me. We’ll fight together and avenge the death of your friends. We shall have to put aside all our prejudices to win this battle. I’ve already made an alliance with the Nightwalkers. Wait for me. I’ve got a lot to tell you about our enemy. Maybe we have a chance to beat him.
She heard no answer, but she felt his sorrow. A piece of him had died together with his murdered friends. His next of kin was almost eliminated, but his kind was also in danger. When she returned being Mercedes, Flame would tell him everything, after all, some things were more difficult to tell as a wolf. She would tell him about her mother Pandora and about all the evils she had unleashed on the world. Also about a second box and of the Water of the Lost Sighs. Eventually, she would ask him the question. Would he want to die first to get the information about the finding place of the artifact of their salvation? For her, there was another difficult question. Would she be capable of bringing them back from the Underworld to the world of the living?
Vladimir Sango under the name of Daniel Ainsworth had booked a trip to Lourdes. From there it would be a short voyage to the caves of Bétharram in the Pyrenees. There he would find the man he needed. Eligo was the name of the hermit. Vladimir had made a few phone calls to the touristic service in Lourdes. First, they wouldn’t give information to him about this recluse. Eligo was a stain on their flag, they preferred his room to his company.
The man was aggressive when tourists tried to approach him and he eschewed every attention of the media. He was last seen in the proximity of the caves of Bétharram by a Swedish couple of archeologists who did research for a university. They had spotted him on the lowest floor of the caves where you could pass through by boat. The public services wouldn’t confirm it, but Vladimir knew from the couple the police had made attempts to remove the man of the caves. They hadn’t succeeded. Eligo seemed to know his way in the caves and they had lost his trail very soon.
Vladimir had sponsored the Swedish archeologist service of the University of Uppsala in Sweden to obtain plans of all the five floors of the caves. With the explanation, he had received from the married couple he had studied the plans in advance. There had to be something the police was looking over. There had to be a secret way to the cave of the hermit. The man who had sold his soul to the devil. His memories told him about Abigor, the demon Eligo had called to in his death-agony. Eligo had asked for an eternal life to the demon Abigor who was the Grand Duke of Hell. In exchange, he had given his soul and his demand was granted. As every contract with servants of the devil, there was a little bitterness in the aftertaste of the made pact.
Eligo had become a creature of Darkness and his eyes had changed in proportion. His meeting place with Abigor, the caves of Bétharram became his final habitat. He kept living, forever like he had asked, in the dark caves of Bétharram. Some claimed that the spirit of Bernadette Soubirous, a servant of the Blessed Virgin Mary, denied him the exit to civilization. Abigor’s power was finding what was hidden and forecast and insight in the future. He had given a part of his power to his disciple. This power would help Vladimir on his quest after the second box of Pandora.
He would go on foot to Bétharram and at night. He also had the night view, dark didn’t confine him, but he liked the light equally. For him, it didn’t make a difference. He would squeeze the truth out of this elder if it was necessary.
The trip was more difficult that he had thought because he had to avoid public roads as much as possible. It resulted in climbing steep slopes and descend in dangerous ravines. His superhuman force and resilience compensated the shortcomings of the human body possibilities. He could exclude the pain when he made an unfortunate fall or when he ripped his arm or leg open on the sharp rocks. His powers made sure he was healed a lot faster than a human being. That he shared with the vampire people he hated so much. He knew sometime in the past it had been different, but he pushed that thought the moment it surfaced in his head.
He had memorized the plans and at his arrival in the caves of Bétharram, he hurried further down according to the scheme that was engraved in his memory. Steel fences and gates didn’t stop him. They weren’t a match for his force.
When he was on the deepest floor, he stood still. He lifted his head a bit and let his nose do the rest. In the chill air, he sensed something bitter, something old. Unwashed it almost reeked in front of him. A normal person would never have noticed it. His nose followed the track which ended in a corridor that was closed to the public. There was a notice board in front of it written in French: ‘Attention, Danger, Effondrements.’ Pay attention to the danger of collapsing ceilings. He saw in the dark as if it was as clear as daylight. A bit further into the corridor, he saw a pile of big rocks. The way through was blocked. Even so, the smell came from that direction. He broke open the fence that led to the collapse and went into the corridor.
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere