The Master Race [A Hero Falls]
An unnatural silence precedes the resurrection. The shadows cometh, and then they go, as if they are disembodied mourners at a wake shuffling past the cremated remains of a loved one.
Movement—the dust that was her, stirs. Then, it takes shape. For one as old as her, there is death and then there is death. What does kill you often makes you stronger.
As the corpse reconstitutes itself, so does her coffin. Both are undead things. All that was needed was blood to begin the cycle anew. All the better that it was the tainted blood of a cursed hero. Best of all, it was the sanguine of her bride. For a brief moment, she makes contact with her bride [Fisher]. She wears the girl. She is outside with her slayer [Hawk].
The moment passes. No matter. Soon. Very soon. She will wear the girl again. She will wear the girl forever. The girl belongs to her.
There are no recriminations. There’s no—I told you so. There is only the now. There is only forever. She comes back, but not as she was. She’s reborn as another. From her bride, she gleaned that another. Time to walk amidst the food, as if she’s that another. Nobility. And, a conservator, no less. That rare blueblood who her bride enjoys bodyguarding. Fisher’s personal favorite, in fact. Lady Glenda Noreen McKay. The beloved aunt that her bride always wished for, but never had.
She will leave this place that she has called home, for her new life. When the others come to desecrate her abode, they will find it just as Hawk and Fisher left it. A smashed coffin and a pile of dust. And, none will be the wiser.
Days lapse into weeks … Weeks into months …
With the monster officially vanquished, and thus the menace finally over, things return to normal in Haven. It’s as if The Master never stalked its streets.
“But … who was The Master?”
The old man points at his empty mug. The fine young gentleman, in fancy dress, smiles and motions for the barkeep to refill the wizard’s glass.
“Some say she was Lilith … the whore of Babylon … the bride of the devil, and the mother of all Nosferatu–the first true wife of Adam. But because she was a dominant female, Adam didn’t like her, so God banished her into the wild where she met the devil and laid down in sin with female demons.”
“And what do you say?” The dandy asks, coyly. His fellow collegiates snickering, from the adjunct table. But, the dandy does not laugh. Unlike his friends, he’s not here to mock the wizard.
The old man shrugs his shoulders. Once he was clean shaven and respectable. He was an august conjurer of the king’s court. But that was decades ago. Before drink and debauchery took hold of him and he sank into the depths of obscurity and disgrace. Penniless and disheveled. Filthy and ragged, his effluvium is quite pungent. His sour breath stinks of cheap spirits. He climbed into a bottle, and he never climbed out. There is still that stray tinkle in his bloodshot eyes. And he’s been known to have those flashes of brilliance. But, mostly he’s just a pathetic old drunk, the butt of jokes. He pays for his watered-down drinks with sad parlor tricks that usually go awry. He sleeps in the gutter and prays for the day when death takes him from a life that no longer has any meaning.
“I could take you there, if you let me keep the bottle.” He flashes a mouth of rotten, snaggleteeth.
“What happened to you?” The dandy asks. The concern in his voice is genuine. He can see that the old man’s mind has begun to wander again.
“She warned me, but I wouldn’t listen. I was so arrogant. So … I kept looking into the abyss … And one day it looked back …”
“Who warned you?”
“The Fallen speak in dead tongues and bath in the blood of children.”
A woman enters the tavern. She is dressed in the shabby attire of a common streetwalker. The slut-for-hire still causes a stir just like she did when she came in for the very first time. She’s a deadringer for Lady Glenda. It’s a likeness that has enabled her to make a lot of coin off of the clientele that frequents this establishment. The commoners get to pretend that they are fucking royalty. Traffic has increased. More drinking and eating. And, the owner gets a nice cut of what the new girl makes. She pays him off like clockwork at the end of the evening.
She walks straight over to the dandy’s table. The wizard ceases his babbling and becomes completely silent. He avoids the woman’s gaze.
The dandy is not shy, though. Nor are his friends.
“And who might you be?” The dandy asks, rhetorically. Word has gotten around about Lady Glenda’s doppelganger.
“Glenda, just like my namesake the grand lady herself,” the woman coos. She is fast, quick witted, and flirtatious. A sharp mind and ravishing looks are uncommon for the cheap whores that usually work low places like this. Although she doesn’t charge much, she’s doing a healthy business and it adds up quickly, as aforementioned.
“Are you sure that you’re not her twin?” The dandy asks. Tit for tat.
She brushes back her long golden platinum blonde tresses, momentarily baring the leftside of her neck. A knobb disfigures that side. Black imperfection in a sea of lily-white perfection. Her hands klaw, when idle. The real Lady Glenda, of course, has neither the creepy mole nor the creepy hands.
“How much for me, my friends over there, and my wizard drinking buddy here?”
The dandy hands her the money. She tucks it into the cleavage of her ample bosom. His friends get up, ready for action. The wizard stays seated.
Her surging popularity aside … There is much about the woman to be cautious about, besides the obvious [engaging in commerce with a prostitute is problematic, at best], but none but the wizard seems to be concerned. There is that cold, soullessness to the woman’s eyes, as if they were deep blue bottomless pits of nothingness. The eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul, and her eyes say that she has none. There is the mole and her hands: Hardly normal, to say the least. The woman is rather leaden and robotic. Her clipped, pause-filled, heavily-accented speech only reinforces the animatronic nature and “modus operandi” of her “presentation”. Then again, maybe it’s all just that … a gimmick. Or … Maybe this is the real her. Who can really tell with harlots?
The dandy notices the wizard’s reluctance. But he has a foolproof solution for that. He gives the barkeep the high sign. The barkeep brings over a bottle. The dandy shoves a wad of bills into the barkeep’s mitt, and gives him a “keep the change” wink. The barkeep grins from ear to ear. The dandy slides the bottle into a jacket pocket.
“Wizard, you get all of this,” the dandy taps the bottle, “if you come along. And, don’t drag your feet, either. We make haste to fuck this wanton wench.”
The wizard downs his glass in one swallow and falls in step behind the party. He still refuses to meet the woman’s gaze. Once he was somebody. Once he had a name. Once, he was John Jaspers. But that man died a long time ago. The one who walks in his stead is a nameless drunk. A tavern buffoon. As they exit the bar, he feels a momentary chill in spite of the heat. He looks up and notices the alignment of the stars.
This cannot be!
He must know if it’s the mirage of the spirits that he’s partaken of or the truth of something evil revealed. The wizard makes an arcane gesture with his hand. Subtle. Discreet. Adept. He couldn’t have done better if he was sober.
A light that only he can see, briefly frames the woman. An echo of his former greatness. One, maybe two magicians in the entire kingdom could do what he just did, and then only if the foul creature allowed disclosure.
She’s one of them. And, she wants me to know it. Even at the height of my prowess, I could not disclose one of them unless they permitted it. She must be quite powerful, very old indeed, to pretend so convincingly. An Old One? Maybe one of the Fallen?
The prostitute looks back at the drunk as if she’s “heard” his thoughts. She smiles that smile. It’s a hungry, evil smile. The drunk shudders. John would do something. But, the drunk does nothing. As aforementioned, he’s no longer John.
He allows himself to be carried along by the tide of the events. Like the others, he’s sheep to the slaughter. Unlike the others, he’s no unwitting pawn. They’re already dead; they just don’t know it, yet. But, he knows. Yet, he follows. Hoping for the release, that is death. He wallows in self-pity and degradation. Broken beyond repair. What happened to him? Is his babbling about the abyss true, or it more of the same–i.e., the ramblings of a disturbed mind?
A madman, anesthetized by drink, there is only libation to keep him silent. His insanity strains to break free so that he can scream and shriek. But, he dares not. He might offend the others and not get his promised bottle. He can almost taste the cheap spirits burning its way down his gullet. He’s suddenly so very parched. His mind, what’s left of it, drifts in and out of lucidity. He oscillates. Sometimes he’s almost John. Sometimes he’s just walking shit.