It was bright, much too bright, and Tina rolled and buried her face into the pillow, wanting to descend back into the comfortable darkness that with each passing second withdrew farther from her grasp.
You are awake. How do you feel?
“Like crap,” Tina groaned into the fabric.
Damon and Irene are in the room, waiting for you to wake up.
A scrape of the chair, the bed dipped and narrow hand touched her head, cupped it and forced her to turn around.
Tina swatted at the hand, her left arm unusually heavy. She refused to open her eyes.
“How do you feel?” a woman’s voice asked Tina.
“Quite understandable.” Irene pulled her into a sitting position. “Now, open your eyes.”
Tina held them tightly shut, refusing to even peek through the lashes, but a thumb touched her eyelid and pushed it up.
It was bright, so bright that it made her eye hurt. She pushed against Irene's hold. “Stop it. Stop it.”
“Stop acting as a spoiled child. Irene needs to examine you,” Damon said.
Tina didn't care, the light that poured behind her eyelids burned like acid. She struggled against Irene's cold touch until Damon sighed. He lifted his hand and with a flick of his fingers the blinds descended over the windows immersing the room in semi-darkness.
“It seems her sensitivity is worse than we anticipated,” Irene said, she shifted back, her hands sliding over Tina's body, touching, poking, feeling.
Tina rolled on her side away from Irene, she curled her body. She was so tired, all her muscles hurt as if she had spent the night before wrestling with a gigantic octopus. Under her half-opened eyelids she gazed at the Irene, who looked more like a librarian with fashion sense than a vampire -- no, not a vampire, a Bloodeater -- who was at the moment examining the calf of Tina's left leg. “What... What happened yesterday?”
You did something stupid. Really, really stupid, Trinity said.
Irene straightened and faced Damon, who sat on the armchair facing the bed. “I don't know why she's so sensitive to light since her transformation stopped at the second level, but beside that nothing else seems to be out of the ordinary.” She smoothed her pencil skirt. “She seems to be fine, and if you decide to, you can change her into Beliya or Ishaaas anytime now.”
Great, Tina thought, her mind slowly clearing of the fog.
“Thank you, Irene.” Damon crossed his legs and leaned his elbow on the arm of the chair.
Irene with small nod left the room.
“Now, explain to me, what were you doing in Abbas’s room?” Damon propped his chin on his hand, his eyes glaring at Tina.
Even though Damon's voice was even and his posture relaxed, Tina could see the anger hovering above him like a storm cloud. But what was he talking about? She would have never willingly gone in there, would she? But then when she searched in her brain for the events of last evening a memory of pain for a second coloured her vision red -- oh... She did go there, in that room and in that tent. And then -- She gasped, her hand flew to her left bandaged arm. “I got lost... was running in circles again...”
“That doesn't explain why I found you with Abbas attached to your wrist.”
“I don't know.” There was no way she was going to tell him about the stupid idea of using Abbas to strengthen the link between Trinity and her son -- not when he hadn't any idea about Trinity and she was determined that it would stay that way. She rubbed her bandaged wrist and frowned at the black veins clearly visible on her forearm and hand and the wetness that she could feel under the gauze. What had happened to her?
“I don't appreciate you lying to me.” Damon stood up and went toward the bed.
Tina pulled the blanket over her body and shrank back against the pillows. Was she like one of them now?
No, Irene said that her transformation had stopped at the second level... But what transformation? What second level? “What... What happened? Why is my arm black?” She didn't feel any different, except the tiredness that weighed down her limbs and the sensitivity of her eyes, when the weak rays of light coming between the blinds were almost blinding her. “Am I going to die?”
“You could have died. And even worse, after dying you would have become Akilueteer, nothing but a beast.” Damon stopped before the bed, his arm crossed; he pressed his brows together until they were almost touching, his eyes scrutinising Tina, burning holes in her.
“I... You could have warned me,” Tina said it more to Trinity than to Damon as she pulled blanket up to her chin. Trinity should have told her that before she stepped into the tent, not just yelled at her that Abbas was dangerous.
Damon’s hand shot out, he grabbed Tina’s collar and pulled her up, their noses almost touching. “Don’t mock me.”
Tina’s heart fluttered in her chest like a scared bird; she tried to push Damon’s hand away. “I’m not... I’m not mocking you.”
Don’t be afraid. He won’t hurt you. He just feels helpless and angry because history is repeating itself, Trinity’s voice echoed in Tina’s head, but did nothing to calm her fears.
Damon released her. He stared at her as she fell on the bed and then sighed, running his fingers through his short, black hair. “You are not allowed to leave this room on your own anymore.” One last threatening gaze before he turned away and walked toward the door.
“Damon!” Tina couldn’t let him go despite his anger. Her eyes descended to her left wrist, where the black lines looked scary under her skin. “What’s happening to me?”
He turned around, slowly. “Nothing. For now.” Then he strode through the door, slamming them shut.
You are fine. Just a little different now.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” If Trinity had been a person standing before her, Tina imagined, she would have grabbed her shoulders and shaken her. “How do you mean different? I’m not one of Bloodeaters, am I?”
No, you are not. But you are not exactly human either.
Something in-between. Trinity sighed. Abbas’s blood and saliva are poisonous. You would have died and then like Damon said you would have become Akilueteer, a Deadeater, an animal. You would have been guided by your thirst, attacking people, spreading the infection, making them the same as you.
“What stopped it?”
Damon’s blood. It’s been pushing Abbas’ poison out. For two days now.
“Is that those black lines? And if I have been out for two days, why do I feel tired? I just want to sleep again.” Tina nuzzled into the pillow. The fear and the dread that cleared her mind slowly left her body, making her drowsy again, even though she fought against it; she needed to know exactly what was going on.
Until all the blackness gets out of your body, you will be sensitive to the light and tired during the daytime. There are probably some other things you need to watch out for, but I don’t remember them all. But you’ll be all right, you’ll see. You may not be human anymore, but you are not Bloodeater either. In my time they called rare cases like you Aarsa Tiyaat, which means ‘remain in waiting’, Trinity said. You are lucky. When I was bitten by Abbas, Damon changed me into Beliya to keep me alive, not even giving me a chance to choose whether I wanted to become his underling or not. Not that it worked. The Blood Ritual gave me all Beliya’s strength, but it didn’t tie me to him like it should have. A moment of silence before Trinity continued. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t changed you yet. Damon’s blood gave you regenerating powers and you are stronger than a normal human being, but your strength is not even close to the Beliya’s, you are even weaker than Deadeaters. And if Damon’s blood leaves your body, you might become human again. Well, that or die.
“You are telling me all this now! Why couldn’t you tell me these things before? About Abbas. About Damon and his blood.”
You didn’t ask?
“Didn’t ask!” Tina pushed herself in a sitting position, regretting the fact that Trinity was part of her soul and she couldn’t glare at her and show her displeasure more vividly. “I did! I asked what Abbas is and you only said that he’s one of the kind. And then you yelled at me that he’s dangerous, not exactly telling me how dangerous. How should I know that one stupid head can do so much damage? I mean... He just bit me and I’m not human anymore. And I could even die.” She took a deep breath to continue her rant, but when she opened her mouth again, she didn’t exactly know what else she should say.
What had happened wasn’t Trinity’s fault. Trinity had warned her -- not very persuasively, but warned her nevertheless. And Tina wasn’t used to putting herself into the role of victim and blaming other people for her own mistakes. With her fingers she lifted the bandage and the gauze beneath it, stared at the black liquid that oozed out from four punctures, thick and sticky as honey. Even when that mistake had almost cost her her life and changed her. “Never blame other people for your actions, because that makes you a victim and takes control of your life away from you, and you don’t want that, do you?” She remembered what her grandmother had said and the old woman was right. Blaming Trinity would make Tina a victim and she refused to be one.
“What’s is Beliya, exactly? I understand that there is a Blood Ritual involved and that the word means Lord. And you told me that you were one and I know that Tristian and Irene are one too, but what does it really mean?”
Well, Beliyas are the Gelbeliya’s loyal friends, companions, guards and servants rolled into one. You saw how Tristian and Irene are. They are tied to Damon by a mixture of Damon’s and their blood, with the Blood Ritual to seal the deal. They are as strong as the purebloods, there have even been cases when they were stronger, and as Gelbeliya they are immortal and as you may remember they have the ability to turn other humans into Bloodeaters too. They are very important for the Galbeliya.
“I can imagine.” Tina lay down; her hands smoothed the blanket over her torso. She looked toward the curtained window. She believed that sunlight wasn’t an issue for the Lost, but Trinity had told her that their eyes were sensitive to it and that it diminished their powers, while the moonlight increased them. Did that apply to her now, too? “Is that all?”
No, there are some other things. Because Beliya are so powerful, every Lord of the Lost can only have three; except the leader, who can have seven, but when I had a body, Damon had only two: Tristian and me. Irene must be a new addition.
“Can you tell how many he has now?” Tina felt a little calmer now. Her life had just taken another strange twist, but she wasn’t alone, Trinity was with her and somehow she trusted this gentle voice inside her -- though not completely, of course. And since Trinity had gone through a similar ordeal Tina hoped that she would be able to overcome this Asa...‘remaining in waiting’ thing. She had to hope, right? She had to, because giving up... she hadn’t been brought up like that. “What doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger.”
I think only two: Tristian and Irene. You have something in mind, don’t you?
“I wish.” Tina sighed. “It’s just... I have been passive too long and it’s time to start doing something.”
Tina listened to the voice inside her. Following Trinity’s instructions she performed the forms of some ancient martial art that she couldn’t even pronounce.
No, not right; left and forward, Trinity corrected her stance.
It had been like that for three days, exercising to get over the anxiety of waiting for Muriel and alleged rescue and to fill the boredom after she had been locked up in the room and the sound of Damon’s, Tristian’s or Irene’s steps had hushed down into the silence.
Now, after the fiasco with Abbas, which seemed to have strengthened the link between Muriel and Trinity -- or maybe it was just Damon’s blood in Tina’s system -- Muriel’s boyish voice became a permanent companion, almost as familiar as Trinity’s.
Tina pulled her hands toward her chest before she pushed her right arm forward and her left one sideways, then made a circle with her left hand until it was parallel with her right one.
Pull the hands in, bend the elbows and now, palms down, push them down.
Tina obeyed. She knew this form by heart now, but focusing on Trinity’s voice helped her calm down, smoothed the edges of adrenaline that had pumped through her from the moment she had gotten up this morning and Muriel announced that he had just arrived in Venice. “What’s the time?”
Turn on your toes, just shift the heels.
Tina turned around in a circle, the movement of her legs and arms precise. She knew the rescue plan, just the part that involved her, since both Trinity and Muriel refused to tell her more no matter how she persisted, saying that the less she knew, the better. “Shouldn’t he already be here?”
Don’t be so impatient, Trinity said. Make an arc forward.
Tina let her hands fall to her sides and stepped toward the window. The street below was empty, the twilight drawing shadows across the walls and pavement.
“I can’t do it anymore.” Tina’s gaze slid to her left arm, where there were only two black veins now, and the blood still oozed under the small patch of gauze that was taped to her wrist with the medical tape. She never asked Trinity or Muriel, or even discussed with them, what would she do after she was freed. She suspected that going home was not an option, not that she had a home to return to, just an empty apartment. But what then? There were a lot of unknowns regarding her future, and somehow she was too afraid to ask. She leaned on the windowsill. But she needed to ask. “Trinity, what is going to happen to me?”
What do you mean?
“After I get out of this house. Where will I go? I know that I can’t go home, because that would be the first place Damon would look. But where, then?”
You will be staying with Muriel.
“I can’t intrude on him forever, can I?”
We’ll work something out.
“How can you be so sure?” Tina half-turned and leaned her hips against the wall, her gaze on the building opposite the house. She hadn’t thought about that before, but if she ignored all the bad things that had happened to her in this house, like abduction, therapies with Abbas and the pain that accompanied those sessions, it wasn’t that bad being part of Damon’s household. It was probably just Damon and his charm that made her want to spend more time with him, to learn more about him. She was probably a little bit infatuated with the image he represented: beautiful, powerful, ruthless if need be and in a strange, cold way also caring.
I learned not to be sure of anything.
“You are a great consolation. Shouldn’t you be putting me at ease, not --”
A loud thud shook the walls, it sounded as though it was coming from the roof, one floor higher, and then Tina could hear shouting and the sound of the feet as they rushed along the stairs and hallway.
“It sounds like there’s an army in this house, not just Damon, Tristian and Irene.”
There is. You just never saw them, because Damon doesn’t allow anybody except his Beliyas in what he considers private parts of the house. He was always like that, Trinity said. Now, you know what to do?
“Yes, get as close to the entrance as I can.” Tina rushed toward the door.
The door slammed open, almost hitting Tina’s side, with Damon appearing through it. His fingers wrapped around Tina’s right wrist, he pulled her behind him along the hallway and down the stair.
“What... What’s going on?” Tina tried to pry Damon’s fingers off her arm, but he had a steel grip on her hand. She was so close to her freedom, but now that Damon was here, all the plans meant nothing. There was no way she could get away from him. She needed to talk to Trinity, but she didn’t dare say anything out loud.
“Somebody is being stupid.” Damon rushed across the hallway, dragging her with him. “To attack me.” He snorted. “Whoever they are, they probably don’t know who they are dealing with.”
They arrived on the ground floor, where Irene, a group of men and women dressed in black and grey suits behind her, waited, probably for Damon’s instructions.
Damon pushed Tina to Irene. “Take care of her. Don’t let her out of your sight.”
“Yes,” Irene nodded. She grabbed Tina by her arm, pulling her to her side. “What about Abbas?”
“Tristian is going to take care of it.” Damon turned, but not before he gave orders to the group, taking half of them with him, leaving the other half as a support to Irene.
“Where... are we going?” Tina wanted to fight against Irene, against the hand that held her, but she knew that Irene was almost as strong as Damon, and struggle wouldn’t do any good. But what was she supposed to do? Her hands shook and her knees felt as like jelly, and she gritted her teeth to try to steel herself. What was she supposed to do? And why the hell was Trinity so quiet? She couldn’t even feel her presence.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Irene gave her what was supposed to be an encouraging smile, which, since Irene’s face most of the time seemed like an expressionless mask, looked out of place on her lips. She guided Tina into the hall and through the entrance door out on the street.
Tina was glad that the darkness had already descended over the street. Her sensitivity to the sun had improved, but she still couldn’t bear to be under direct sunlight.
Irene pulled Tina behind her as she rushed across the pavement toward the stairs that led to the canal, where Tina could see the shadow of small, sleek yacht. Then in the next moment the procession stopped, Tina bumped against Irene’s side.
Tina looked over Irene’s shoulder. She could see a man, his long coat and jaw-length hair flapping in the light breeze, standing a stone’s throw away from the boat. She couldn’t distinguish his features, but she clearly saw the outline of the sword that he held tip down.
The man stepped forward.
From under her dark blue jacket Irene produced two guns. “Emil,” she said and waited until a man appeared beside her. “I’m leaving you in charge of getting her on the boat as soon as I clear a path for you.” She pushed Tina into his hands. “And don’t wait for me, just go to the rendezvous point and I’ll meet you there.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Emil nodded and with Tina moved beside the wall, while Irene and the others cautiously approached the man standing in the middle of the street.
“You better step aside,” Irene said, lifting her guns.
“Do I look like somebody who would step aside?” the man asked.
Was that Muriel? Tina frowned. The man’s voice sounded coarser, more mature and confident than the boyish voice in her head. She moved forward, to see the man better, but Emil pulled her back, limiting her line of vision to a few wide backs.
Tina more heard than saw Irene charging toward the man, her pistols with hushed bangs lighting the semi-darkness every time she fired, while the others around her pulled out various weapons. Tina could see sparks and hear clangs as steel crashed against steel. “Trinity,” she whispered, hoping that even if Emil heard her, he wouldn’t recognise the name.
Tina, do you trust me?
“No, not really,” Tina’s voice was low as she murmured under her breath, her eyes still on the group of men, more and more of whom ended up lying on the ground; Irene’s pistols still in quick succession lit the air above her, making Tina wonder how her adversary wasn’t dead on the ground already.
Well, you will have to trust me now if you want us to escape.
“What do you want me to do?”
Just relax, close your eyes and let me access your senses.
“What is that suppose to mean?” Tina asked, but did as Trinity asked her. Well, she tried. She could feel tugs against her mind, small pushes until tingling sensation spread over her body, to the toes, and warmth enveloped her; it felt like somebody touched her mind and gently stroked her. Then it stopped.
Tina opened her eyes, but there was something strange, like there was something on her eyes. She lifted her hand to rub them, but her arm didn’t obey her. What’s going on? The words should have left her mouth, but instead they echoed in her mind. What’s going on?
A coldness rushed through her. Trinity! What have you done?
“Relax.” Trinity curled her, Tina’s hand, around Emil’s neck, the thumb found the dip between the Emil’s neck and shoulder and she pressed down until Emil collapsed on the ground.
Relax! Relax! Tina knew she was shouting, she couldn’t help herself. You just possessed my body. And you said that you would never do that. Even if you could. And you obviously can. What a liar.
“I wasn’t sure if I could. And it’s very tiring, so you don’t have to worry, it’s just a temporary thing.” Trinity moved alongside the wall like a shadow, she bypassed the opened door of Damon’s house, the hushed sounds of the battle spilling on the street.
Where are we going? Tina was still angry; she couldn’t believe that Trinity had taken her over without asking her. How could she?
“We are going to meet Muriel. Hopefully.” Trinity moved hidden by the shadows of the buildings in the next street.
Muriel. It would be nice to finally put a face to the voice, Tina thought as she made herself more comfortable in the greyness of Trinity’s soul. She could still rage, but that wouldn’t put her in charge -- not that she in this moment really wanted to be in charge. She was still upset, yes, but because Trinity had tricked her, not because she had a back seat to the show.
“There are some people behind us.” Trinity pressed herself into the niche between two buildings and let the group rush by her.
Were those Damon’s people?
“Probably,” Trinity whispered.
Mom, Tina could hear Muriel’s voice, which like a feather’s touch caressed her mind. Where are you?
“Out on the street.” Trinity’s eyes scrutinized their surroundings. “From the house... the first street on the left, the third building. You?”
On the roof, I’m a little busy. But... there was a long pause and then when Muriel spoke again, his words seemed slightly rushed. But Haniel is close by, he can get you.
Who’s Haniel? Tina asked.
“My other child,” Trinity said.
What do you mean ‘your other child’? You said you only had one, and that one wasn’t even born when you were alive.
“Now is not really the time to explain that to you.”
Well, when will it be?
“Shhh, can you hear it?”
“The sound of the motorcycle.”
Tina listened, but couldn’t hear any sound, except the distant thunder that came from the direction of Damon’s house. No.
But as soon as Tina said that, the roar of machine broke the silence and she could see the silhouette of the motorbike and a man in black clothes and a black helmet. Both the man and the machine seemed part of the shadows, the weak light of the moonlight and street light not even reaching them.
The bike jumped and made a half turn, stopping just in front of Trinity. The man reached behind him, at the side of the seat and a black helmet appeared in his hand. He offered it to Trinity. “Hello. Mom.”
The sound of rushing footsteps and shouts filled the street.
“Haniel.” Trinity smiled. She took the helmet, put it on and straddled the bike, wrapping her arms around Haniel’s middle.
Trinity? Tina couldn’t say that she felt frightened, she was strangely calm, too calm, but that was probably because now she was part of Trinity, who seemed to have nerves of steel, or maybe it had something to do with Damon’s blood. Since she had gotten it in her system, she had noticed that she rarely got worked up or exerted herself enough for her heartbeat to increase; not even while exercising. The adrenaline was probably still there, but now it pumped Trinity, not her, and Tina couldn’t feel anything else besides Trinity’s feelings. Not even the coldness of the night that seeped through her light shirt when she was pulled out on the street.
“Don’t worry. It’s Haniel. He’ll take us to a safe place.” Trinity wrapped her arms tighter around Haniel as the motorcycle made a dangerous turn around the corner with Haniel putting his gloved hand on the ground to keep the bike from rolling.
Not with the way he’s driving. Tina felt a little sick.
Trinity laughed. “If you close your senses -- just imagine that you are closing your eyes, you can block the outside sensation and go to sleep.”
Tina wasn’t about to do that, but when Haniel sped across the streets, rounded the corners and jumped over the canal, Tina decided on the second thought that maybe participating in this wild drive wasn’t really her taste, even without the adrenaline rush. She closed her eyes and descended into the darkness.