The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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15. But Blood Can Grow Thinner if Drained

“Estha, Estha-”

    “Don’t touch me,”

    “Calm down, Estha.”

    She was shaking so hard, Ichais couldn’t even get a grip on her shoulders.  But that might have been tied to how she backed away from the baobhan, holding her wrists together in what could be mistaken as prayer.  

    “Don’t touch me, please, I-I need to - I need…”

    “If you don’t stop panicking I’ll have to stop your heart.”

    “I’m not panicking!” Estha snapped, her fists held and wrists still bound with rope only she could see, “I’m just - I’m-”

    “Enough of this,” Ichais said.  She took Estha roughly by the shoulders, the hyperventilated breaths she took blowing from her body as she was pulled forward.

    She turned her, and pressed her flush against the wall, the last of the air in her lungs knocked out with the force, and straight back in with this hiss of pain as Ichais bit down into her neck.

    “No, no, please-” Estha rambled for a moment, but before she even had a mouthful drained from her she collapsed on the flood, her body cold and clammy and pliant in Ichais’ hands.

    “That was only half a cupful, what a baby,” she said to herself, resting the girl against the brick wall she had been shoved against.  Her head fell forward and Ichais watched her for a moment, wondering if she should give her something to lean on, as well as if she should feel bad or not.

    “I’m sorry, Estha, but you got too loud,” she whispered, before licking up the two puncture marks, sealing them shut, and standing to look around the church, and at the lifeless body of the preacher of the aforementioned.

    She sighed.  It wasn’t as if she had meant to, but she had spent a very long time in churches back when after she turned, and if had learned anything, it was that holy men tend to look down on those who need someone to look up to.  When he had touched her shoulder, brushed against her skin - even by mistake - she couldn’t help herself, or the growing teeth within her jaw.  He smelled of a tomb and had skin of decay, but to her he might as well have been a masterpiece of a meal.

    His wrists were in two, the rosaries in his hands constellations of gore, no wonder Estha had panicked so much.  She hardly saw people, let alone them dead.  

    Ichais looked back at her.  She seemed peaceful, at least for now.  She pushed a stray piece of hair from her face, leaving a nasty streak of blood behind.  She looked down at her hands, sliding down the wall and sitting by the other two.  Now, they all had blood shared, and Ichais couldn’t help but feel it was her fault.

    The man finally stirred after what felt like an eternity, she already had to put Estha under again.  The holy man sat, and held his head with a palm coated in religious pearls and blood as cold as melting ice.  He looked to his hand, to the cracked stone of his pale arms, and then finally found her face within the shadows of his shelter, his church, his home.

    The man was not afraid, and if he was it didn’t show.  People never were afraid when they turned, in Ichais’ experience.  She pulled her knees up closer to her chest, hiding her heart and yet refusing to surface the shame that she rarely felt - only with a child’s corpse in her arms, or Estha’s even breathing by her side.  The preacher stared at her, crossing his hands on his knees, watching her with eyes as black as coal.  He was not old, but here he was, dead with little to show for it than a life of prayer and shame to those who hide under his term “sin”, with little help or compassion.  She felt the guilt fall from her stomach until it was out of her soul again, the man’s eyes now not blame but filled with a challenge.

    “What were you?” she said.  She spoke softly, knowing that his hearing would now be sharpened to a pricking edge.  She felt his hands wander into his mind, but she was stronger, and could push them before he could grab her thoughts.

    He tilted his head to one side, glancing between the two girls, both with ribbons of red falling on their stilled skin.  He was hungry, Ichais saw it in his mind.  Estha tossed in an uneasy sleep, pulling her cloak around tighter.  He could only see the ringlets that fell beneath the hood, she realised, and to him she was as sweet as cream, and easy to bite and rip and tear apart as an unwritten page.  His teeth burned with rot, his gums gushing blood that surfaced beneath the cracks in his drawn lips.  He was so hungry, and Estha, she was so, so sweet.

Ichais hissed at him, and his head turned back to her, his hungry stare still locked.

    “I was once goblin, but I suppose that is all behind me now,” he said.

    “If I wanted to curse you, I would have speed up my satisfaction and killed you where you stood,” she said, “I never understand the point in curses, all they do is stir trouble.”

    “And if you didn’t want to harm me, may I ask, why did you drink my blood, demon?”

    “Not demon, baobhan sith - remember that name - and because of something you’ll soon understand.”

    The man barked, his lips furled, smiling, bleeding, boiling, “Vengeance, is it?”

    “Because of hunger.”

    “Hunger wouldn’t let you kill in a heartbeat, I doubt that very much,”

    “It’s not a craving for fat or wine that I mean,” she said, pressing her nails into Estha’s skin with care, pushing her deeper into her own mind, keeping the memories and dreams of their conversation at bay all she could, “No mortal would even understand the feeling of the hunger we face.  It will begin as a creak in your teeth, the grinding of bone, and spread through your temples, your face, your eyes.  It send venom into your marrow, and the hunger has made baobhans cut out their own retinas before to ease the burn.  They have drank their own blood from their chests, and eaten their hearts to mimic or mock the pull of meat between their teeth.  The hunger will take over every thought an urge and it will take you from the inside out and set every nerve ablaze until.”

“Until?” the preacher said, licking his lips like a wild animal.

“Until you feel the blood on your tongue.”

Ichais usually spared the young that she turned.  Given them their while to adapt to the pains of feeding, or the lack thereof.  If this was any other case, she would have apologized through her teeth and been gone by now, but she couldn’t, because she saw how he looked at Estha.  He saw his own blood on Ichais’ lips, but he could smell Estha’s stronger.  The honeysuckle within her veins, the liquid sugar and syrup that covered his stained glass floor, wasted, pumping, beating, still very much alive.  And when she thought of Estha this way, he heard it, and began crying out for the master who had turned him to feed him, to give him power, to hand him the girl’s heart still full, and that Ichais never could do.

“Lucky you,” he said, his voice still taunting despite the obvious strain, “You get your pet all for yourself.”

“She’s not my pet.”

“No?” he said, the sweat clogging his pores, face blistering and tongue swelling like a sponge, “Then are you hers?”

    “If I turned you, preacher, I can end your life too.”

    He raised his hands in cunning defense, “It’s a simple question.  Are you hers?”

    “No.”

    “No?  Can you not here her thoughts too?”

    She never listened into Estha’s head, she never listened to many thoughts, it drove most baobhan insane very quickly, but now she did.

    She heard her dream, and saw her own reflection in Estha’s mind.  A beast.  A woman as old as time, her face coated in blood, mould growing on her wrinkled lips, wired hair falling from her scalp as if it were being pulled by an angry mob that she could not see.  But Estha could.  Estha watched her friend being pulled apart by dogs as clear as if through glass, and she watched Ichais cackle and scream in horror as she got what her inner thoughts knew she deserved.  They chanted for a monster, and that’s what Ichais became.  Draining, drinking, bloody.  There was blood everywhere.  The walls of her mind, dripping from the roof, an ocean to the floor.  And it was only when her head was ripped from her shoulders did she realise that it was Estha who had sent the hounds to do this in her place.  Her head toppled, expressionless, and Estha walked away, stirring in her sleep, waking before being put back down.  The preacher watched her caring, knowing teeth slice the tendons with a great delight, drool falling down his robes in streams.

    “You are never to be hers,” he said, catching Ichais by surprise, “And she will never be yours.  You know how she sees you, monster.”

    Ichais looked at her face, unmarked, free of tension, at peace.  She wiped her gloved hand across Estha’s forehead, scratching away at the flaking blood, “She will never be mine and that I care not for.  She is simply afraid now after all that…”

    “Death?”

    “Yes.”

    The preacher chuckled, black pupils trailing over the shadow of Estha’s body, fingers dipping into the puddles around her and running across his eager lips, “You care not for being hers?”

    “Why would I care?” she said, and for a moment, she nearly made herself believe it too.

    If only she had.  He said, “Don’t bother lie, master.  I hear it too, the ringing in your head, the love you feel.  You can’t even bring yourself to want to drain her, you love her more than a baobhan is meant to love any man, woman or child.  Even Eros would be sick hearing of your fondness for her,”

    She stared at him, and opened her mouth to answer, but before she could get so much as a word out, Estha stirred and pulled the hood from her face.  Under the shadow of the old church house, her complexion was revealed to him.  Each wrinkle and bruise and blister, the horror on the man’s face as clear as day.

“A monster,” he said, wiping her blood from her lips with the sleeve of his robe, “You two were made to be, only a sinner could love or deserve such an ugly beast as that.”

Even in her sleep, Estha could hear him, and she winced gently, a small change that Ichais would have seen, if not for her standing above the preacher’s weakly reanimated corpse, pulling a knife from the scabbard around her thigh, and plucking the teeth from his head like flower petals.  

 

When Estha awoke, she was in a bed in the bell tower, dressed in clean robes, bandages around her neck.  The light streams through the lifting dust, rainbows of block gold colours littered above her head, tightropes across scaling wooden beams, tying around the iron church bells.  It was beautiful, she thought, and as the words came to her mind she wondered where Ichais could have been.  She then remembered the blood on her friend’s face earlier that day and felt shame wash over her like a tidal wave.  What had she expected from what she was?  Maybe she could have not moved so quickly, opened him so graphically, or at least spared Estha from moment and long sleep she had been subjected too, but there was no use sitting and wondering with the other girl somewhere in the church house what she did not know.

She sat up slowly, the potion from before only beginning to take full effect now and the pain only starting to subside.  She stood, swayed, and sat back down.  She was glad she did, as if she hadn’t, she doubted that she would have seen Ichais sleeping on the hardwood floor by her own mat.  

She seemed so serene, so calm to Estha.  She then bent down, brushing the long black hair from her eyes.  

She frowned, though she couldn’t help it.  Ichais was perhaps too beautiful, her flawless complexion, her hair woven by Gods and her lips carved by Goddesses.  For a moment, Estha wondered why she had traveled so far with a hideous beast such as herself, but she pushed the thought from her mind.  She must have dreamt badly to think such a thing, let alone let the idea get in the way of far graver things.

She pulled the covers around Ichais’ neck, and rested again after changing the bandages.  Estha would have to grow used to two facts.  Number one, that Ichais would spend forever needing blood to survive, and that was simply an unspeakable truth, it seemed.  

But two, she would never want to drink from Estha.  She was kind enough to hold her as she almost died, and stay as she recovered, but Ichais would never want anything to do with her.  That was not new, and she would pretend that everyday she walked a step ahead of Estha or didn’t turn to her as she spoke didn’t even hurt.  

She turned away from Ichais, and faced the small tower window.  Below were the streets of the lakeside town they had found.  They had promised to discuss in the morning whether they would go back to the elvish towns or part ways, but she supposed that the answer was obvious.  If they spent a second more together, they would just fall apart.  It wouldn’t be long before Ichais snapped and stopped looking at Estha all together.  It never was with people like her.  She knew, despite the fact it hurt her to say it, that they could never be together.

Her eyes drifted shut, weighed by the sound of marketplace chatter and the songs of nesting birds in the tall spire above.  She would not be hurt, she promised herself that since long ago.

“And if you grow weary, I rest by your side.  Darling, look now - for me, never hide,” she whispered to herself like a holy prayer, and took it as remembrance.  She was still there, still walking, growing closer to what she had wanted all her life.  She promised she would stop when she reached the sea, and by God, she was so close that she could feel the sand burn the soles of her tucked feet.

Ichais snored gently, and she looked over her shoulder at her fondly.  This was always the way that it was meant to be, she figured.  Estha was always meant to be alone, wandering, fulfilling tasks for the dead without praise, and Ichais lying there, still, unchanging, gorgeous.  Estha would never be that, could never be that.  That was the way it had to be, that was as fate lay.

Estha was very wrong.

The next day, before the first birds awoke in the towers, Ichais and Estha sat in the pews, sharing few words and making little plans.  Both seemed unable to commit.  When one wanted a longer rest, the other wanted to go home to the woods, and the other wanted to continue an old quest, and the other wanted to start a new one.  No one said the words together.

Ichais knew that Estha saw how evil her heart had been turned she she had been.  Estha was not an idiot, and was as warm as the sun itself.  Her smile was formed by Gods, her heart granted Goddesses.  They could never be together, because before long Estha would grow tired of her selfish, manipulative ways and snap once more, as it always happened to her.  That was the way it had to be, that was as fates lay.

Ichais was very wrong.

The preacher came in as an awkward silence fell, both girls grateful for the distraction, no matter how solemn.  He winked at Ichais while Estha was looking away, but both girls saw, their faces red with misunderstanding.

“We’re leaving,” Estha said, both at least agreeing that while the undead stayed in the house of God’s, they would be cursed with bad fortune.

The man nodded.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” she felt obliged to say, but he simply nodded once more.

“Let’s go, Estha,” Ichais said, taking her by the elbow, “He’s not there.”

They walked quickly at Ichais’ pace, but Estha risked sparing a glance back down the church aisle one last time, before the doors swung open.  She swore for a moment that the priest smiled, nothing but blood in his mouth, and bare, black gums, as if all of his teeth had been torn out one by one.  She swore that she had dreamed something similar, but before her mind came to it, the door opened and the ghost of the muted preacher disappeared into the light.

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