Poison

She sang the song of death and poisons. Cover credit goes to the amazing @River_Summers

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2. Chapter Two

Cassandra strode through the door briskly, hoping she hadn't trodden on any broken glass outside. If she had, she wouldn't notice - a siren's pain threshold was abnormally high - but it would be an annoyance to pull out. It was foolish, but she preferred to work magic barefoot. It wasn't that there was any particular logic behind this, but Cassandra had a hazy, half-formed belief that if she could feel the turf of the world beneath her feet she'd somehow share a heightened connection with nature, which would in return heighten her own powers. It was preposterous, it was absurd, it was utterly ridiculous  - but it was the sort of nonsense irrationality that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't quite shake off. 

Superstition was like that.

She wondered absentmindedly if she should maybe have disposed of the boy's body instead of leaving it unceremoniously face-down on the patio, quickly deciding against it. Doubtless someone would find him, she was sure, and cause the appropriate commotion commanded by an unexpected murder. That was what she did after all, the way she fed. She committed unquestionable, cold-blooded murder - and enjoyed it supremely. 

Perhaps it was harsh to damn herself so readily. Really, Cassandra killing humans was much like the humans hacking the mindless creatures of farms and zoos to pieces for their meals. Less murder, and more an obligatory slaughter. A hunter hunts the game of the night to feed his family, and Cassandra hunted for herself; tonight, the boy had been her prey, the hunted. 

Well. Less hunted, and more dead. 

No one would find him just yet. Even if they did, no one here knew her name, and she could disappear from the party just as seamlessly as she'd entered. There was such a vast amount of people, and the house and grounds were so unusually large that it would be at least another hour before anyone noticed the boy was missing, anyway. Good. 

That was the advantage of raucous celebrations like this. 

She didn’t know whose party it was, but whoever they were, they knew how a party should be thrown. Just by standing breathless on the threshold, her hair lying in a windswept dagger across her face, she felt almost like she should stretch out her arms and embrace the buzzing humdrum of companionable laughter that rippled across the air like a children's fairytale. When she looked over at the dance floor, it was like the dancers were twirling and whirling and spinning just for her, and she liked that. She was selfish - she knew this and had no care to change it - and the idea of something so irrationally ethereal just for her, only for her - it made her heart flutter and her feelings serenade the stars. 

It was strange. Usually she hated parties. The point of them had never really felt the urge to show itself to her, and she’d certainly never found herself searching for it. Normally, she labelled them as...hollow. Wrote them off as little more than insincere events full of insincere people. A kind of simmering pot of corrupted disingenuous that was only too eager to boil over. An attempt to be charming that hadn’t quite got it. And yet – and yet looking at this party here, now, Cassandra couldn’t help but marvel at the strange sense of community amongst the mortals: fighting, and hugging, and slipping hand in fragile hand from the room to a more private place. 

The food adorning the tables, though bland and every day, seemed suddenly like something stolen from a dream. It was bordering on a epiphany – the sort that she’d read about in books as a young child, describing Kings throwing out their riches as they recognised a greater calling. They decided in a minute, or a second (or even after death because it was never too late for them to change their ways because they were fictional) that something momentous they'd experienced was something more than a miracle. Something better. A revelation. This might be her own revelation – the dawning of a destiny that it was necessary she realise. 

She shook her head desperately, as if by doing so she could fling away these realisations - these guilty hopes and secret wants - as easily as they had come. She was being ridiculous and she knew it, caving in to such human impracticality. Some revelation: actually, after everything you've always believed on the contrary, parties are the best thing since forever. Just to let you know. 

Cassandra knew she no longer had any reason to be here, any reason to stay any longer than she needed to. Normally she'd be running from this sort of gathering without a second thought, but tonight she lingered, longing, tonight...

 It was madness. Maybe she was going crazy, her mind spiralling away from the long, straight path of sanity. Perhaps she’d eaten something out of date. That was probably it.  

It was probably something in the boy’s soul.

Food poisoning happened. She knew she had a sweet tooth, and was definitely prone to selecting the more virtuous of mortals to sate her persistent voracity. The boy had seemed a little too syrupy, after all. Too innocent. Too pure. Not the usual run of the mill lout, governed solely by his hormones. The boy’s aim had been seducing her, yes, but it hadn’t even crossed his sugar coated little mind to hope to go further than a kiss.

She knew this all too well. She’d devoured his very soul without a whim to give mercy, and with it every thought that had ever crossed his mind. She could certify without any niggling doubt that getting past first base hadn’t been on it, or ever really much of a priority. 

The slightly high pitched love ballad that was blaring from the speakers in the corner of the room switched to a dance track, amidst a shout of delight from tipsy party goers. Next to the speakers stood a gaggle of girls, laughing loudly at something that likely wasn’t anywhere near as hysterical as they found it. 

"Drunk. And human," Cassandra muttered. They were bad enough words separately, and possibly the worst combination she'd come across. 

One who stood slightly apart from the others at the edge of the group (but didn’t seem to notice or mind, either way) caught Cassandra's eye and frowned. It was with an imposing sense of horror that the siren realised that the girl had been frowning at her, and had now begun to pick her way across the dance floor, walking with the familiar wobble of drunks.

Cassandra cursed colourfully, a murky rainbow birthed from her tongue. She had already fed that night – she was no longer hungry, and for all her speculation of joining the party there had never been anything truly serious about it. Casting her eyes towards the floor, she pretended to scrutinise it carefully, even as the malicious oder that arrived beside her made the girl all to obviously known. Cassandra cursed again, though this time under her breath, She should have left as soon as she'd finished off the boy. She should never have stayed. She was an idiot to have stayed, she was a fool, she was -

 “Hey,” the girl slurred, rending her thoughts separate with a carving knife. Cassandra looked up into the two pools of fluid, liquid blue that were the girl’s eyes, and took in the waving, curling hair the colour of dusk that framed her face as if it were a picture. She was very pretty, she admitted to herself half guiltily. Then she looked away, folding her arms decidedly, and started in a direction - any direction - away from her companion. As she strode away, the exit looking more welcoming than it ever had before, she remembered in a rush why she so hated parties – more specifically, why she loathed the people who populated them in their dozens. It was the way the people wanted nothing more from their vapid, insignificant lives than for the person they asked to dance to accept; the way they drank and dallied their nights away (occasionally their money as well), and for what? A headache in the morning? A gambler's reputation? 

It pained her to watch them. She should really have given the boy from earlier a chance to thank her. She'd saved him, in a way - saved him from the life he'd have so carelessly wasted had she not confiscated it first.

Her last shards of admiration for the festivity crumbled to dust when she felt the girl’s hand on her shoulder. She tugged Cassandra to a halt with a force she was surprised any mortal could possess.

“No, I mean it. Hey. Hey!” garbled the girl, her speech muddled even as she smiled infuriatingly wider. The siren sneered, and the girl laughed delightedly at the reaction, her hand slamming heavily against the wall to keep herself upright. “You look…so lonely. Yesh, so lonely. And I thought that maybe I could remey - remad - waitwaitwait - remedy that! Maybe I could remedy your...loneliness.” She hiccupped, and giggled again, her hand dancing upwards to cover her mouth. 

It was with a fixated sort of horror that Cassandra noticed the girl’s nails were the exact shade of black that Satan sees when he takes the time to look inside his soul. If it is imaginable, then they were even darker.

As the girl twined one finger through her hair with the ease of only one exceptionally versed in the art of flirtation, she blinked purposefully before she prompted: “My namesh Marianne. Whatsh yours?”

Cassandra arched an eyebrow sceptically, barely muffling her revulsion at Marianne. "You have lipstick on your teeth.” She paused, weighing the impact her words would have. “It’s disgusting. And I'm not interested, by the way." I've already fed twice tonight. My hunger does not rule me any longer. 

“And you’re not wearing any sh-shoesesh," retorted the girl, although her tongue flicked over her teeth worriedly. “Doesh that make a difference?”

 Cassandra furrowed her brow, muttering under her breath in her own native tongue. 

"What doesh that mean? Koryitsawhatsy? Eh?" Marianne asked drolly, ignoring the original question. "You're weird, you are. I likesh you." She held out a hand to Cassandra, not dropping it when the siren didn't take it, but leaving it hanging between them in the air like an iron barricade of hope mixed into hostility. 

How quaint. 

Cassandra growled, allowing her eyes to crackle just a little with all the pent up immortal anger of the oceans, colour flushing through her cheeks as the drunk girl tottered from foot to foot before her. "Koritsàki. It's Greek, not that someone like you would know that. I'm not your type - I'm not interested, honey - not at all, not even a little bit. You repulse me, you know that? And if you knew me, you would run - so run away now, little girl, and leave. Me. Alone!" 

When the human shrugged in answer, Cassandra had half a mind to forget about not being hungry and relieve Marianne from her soul there and then - and she would relish it, she knew, relish the pain on the girl’s face and her helpless agony that would come when spirit was separated from skin.

Perhaps, if what happened next did not happen, she would have snapped, discharged the drunken maiden from her mind. It is not a great stretch of the imagination to decide that she would have succumbed to the temptation, if only Marianne hadn’t turned away from Cassandra distractedly, her eyes gleaming and sparking like she was a bonfire and Cassandra the Guy. 

Marianne shook her head and the garish plastic clasp tumbled to the ground as her hair tumbled around her shoulders. She realised, with the sinking sensation of despair, that Cassandra had not recognised her, despite the fact they had once known each other so well, so beautifully, terribly well. Known each other better than friends, and better than sisters, and better than any ordinary lovers. 

She spoke to Cassandra in a voice like freshly mined crystal, or carved diamonds, or both, her words like runaway raindrops on her lips, pronounced articulately and precisely in the unfamiliarly extrinsic accent that played cards with Cassandra's own. Not drunk, nor human, she realised with a growing sense of unease.

The unease was only heightened by ten or hundred or thousand times when Marianne said, her voice rolling over the stones of memory in Cassandra's mind with a scary easiness, "Gods above, you really don't recognise me, do you? Cassandra? Cassandra. It’s me. I’ve been sent to bring you back. To take you home."

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