Angel frowned darkly. Once again, he had assumed his angelic form. Stripped down of his armor, his black robes also stripped down but to his waist, he was sitting in a divan with his legs crossed, his feet beneath his thighs. His wings were spread out – two of them. Behind him and in human form, Aramis tended to his wound. Angel rolled his eyes impatiently as a couple of the small, fluffy feathers that covered the inner side of his wings floated in front of him. The brothers had locked away in Aramis’ room.
“Why is it taking this long?”
Aramis gave a small sigh. “You’ll be alright soon… The dagger pierced clean through the wing but your wound will be completely closed in an hour or less. The feathers I removed will grow in no time. After lunch all trace will be gone.”
“I hate you.”
Aramis sighed. “I know”, he said. “But I also know you don’t really mean it, so…” He shrugged. Aramis had a black eye that was slowly fading. His hands were stained in angelic blood and he had removed the stains from the outer feathers. He removed the bowl of water and a couple bottles he had been using to tend to the wound, leaving them at a nearby table, went into the bathroom to wash his hands, then came back.
“You got another in your shoulder.”
“It’s a mere scratch…” Angel leaned forward, putting his elbow on his knee and his chin on it. “You are stepping on one of my wings.”
Aramis walked away. He plopped himself down on a couch, then sighed again, burning his face in his hands. Angel frowned and turned to look at him; he flapped his unharmed wings a bit for balance with a hushed sound. “It was very dumb to donate that book to help me from reading it. You disappoint me, Aramis.”
“I think you’ve made your point.”
Angel frowned and rubbed his own eye.
“These things hurt me as much as they hurt you”, he mockingly said. “However, it’s only a link in the chain. I need more information – that book alone isn’t all!”
“Are you trying to comfort me?”
Angel growled. “I don’t know”, he said in discomfort. “You didn’t read it yourself.”
“It would’ve been the same. It’s true you already know what I thought… back then.” Aramis sighed, his face still buried in his hands. “It was foolish, I know.”
Angel looked at him, thoughtfully.
“Perhaps there’s something there I’m reluctant to find out. I, Belial, I mean.”
Aramis sighed and leaned back in the couch, stretching his legs in front on him. His black eye was almost completely gone.
“I don’t know.”
Angel rose from the divan and closed his unharmed wings low, so that the long edges of the mighty wings brushed by the thick Persian rug as he walked over to Aramis, fully aware of the thoughts tormenting him.
“Azrael doesn’t give a damn about you. She doesn’t even know what you feel, I believe. You don’t even know it yourself! Believe me, you’re just obsessed.”
Aramis stared hard at him.
“All these ages?”
“It’s a sick obsession.” Angel shrugged it off and Aramis closed his eyes as if he wished Angel would disappear. “You are not in love either. What you feel isn’t love. It’s lust, believe me. One of the most popular sins.” He intended the last phrase to be a joke, knowing Aramis would get mad.
Aramis opened one eye and looked at him angrily. “Stop bugging me!”
Angel shrugged. “You need some relief”, he softly said. “It’s nothing an experienced courtesan can’t fix. I met madame Desirée in a soirée a few weeks ago as you know. She manifested her interest in the two of us. I can drive her interest to you alone, of course.” Angel wasn’t trying to be mean, honestly in his concept of things.
Aramis however was outraged.
“Are you sure?” Angel was concerned.
Aramis sighed in exhaustion – they never seem to agree on certain points of view. It was no use to get angry at him.
“Yes. I AM sure.”
“Well, alright…” Angel turned around and extended his wounded wing, which was considerably better, trying to check it out by himself. “Let’s go out for lunch.”
Aramis bit his lip.
“I am not hungry.”
“You will be”, Angel severely said. “I am. Put yourself together and let us go. I want to drop by the Club.”
Aramis pursed his lower lip in discontentment. After a few seconds, he mumbled, “Alright… I need some distraction.”
Angel nodded. “We’ll leave in a few minutes, when I’m ready.”
The White Club. It was one of the most exclusive and elegant aristocracy clubs in London: a place where nobles and high-class various characters spent time and money without much restrictions and also a place to see and be seen. The membership was quite selective and to be a member of the White Club meant to be part of the highest stage of the british society.
Lately, the White Club had been attacked by women rights advocates for not a woman had set foot in the place since it’s foundation in late 18th Century. The members were considering the matter, yet it was highly unlikely they’d open the membership for women. So they allowed women visitors in the White Club London House – to certain sections, at least. Why women wanted to go inside a cave full of men in contempt? It was a mystery, but it was also a primary impulse of woman’s nature.
The Count Blanco and his brother were considered an important acquisition to the White Club, for they were expanding across Europe and the Blanco’s lineage was so ancient it’s deep roots were impressive. The members had a number of projects and activities, and among these archeology was listed. They had organized many expeditions to Egypt and the Mediterranean, and some spoke of going to South America to continue the british campaigns. Aramis and Angel Blanco were considered an authority in egyptian culture, specially about the fascinating mummy topic.
Angel and Aramis set for lunch in the fine restaurant of the White Club London House; the place was full of golden and colored light, for the high windows were of stained glass in Art Nouveau Style. The dining chamber was large. The lamps were made by Tiffany’s specially for the White Club, and the furniture was in dark oak with Art Deco details. It was quite elegant and chic. The brothers sat at their own reserved table in a semi-private booth, for it was open for them to see the other people. It was still somewhat early and there were not many people there yet. After ordering, Angel laid his chin on his hand, watching his brother.
“Estás empezando a preocuparme”,(1) Angel murmured.
“Pues no veo por qué.(2) I’ve not… exceeded the limits.”
“You better not, for our own sake. Lo último que necesito es preocuparme por tí cuando los arcángeles se están reuniendo(3). If this gets worse, we’ll merge again.”
Aramis looked down and bit his lip.
“It won’t get any worse.”
//Azrael won’t let it get worse, huh?// Angel looked at Aramis in disapproval.
Aramis ignored his brother’s mental sarcastic remark and swept a look in the chamber. The tall ceiling was caissoned in dark carved wood squares.
“There isn’t many people at the time.”
“It’s early”, replied Angel examinating the wines chart.
“Yes, daddy, I know the rule. Don’t speak unless spoken to.” Lilly Mayfair smiled, showing off her perfect set of brilliantly white teeth. She cocked her head the side, letting her loose waves fall over her shoulder. “You know I never say anything of my own will, daddy, and I’ve done this a million times already, so don’t worry about it.”
“Good,” Sir Aaron hoped out of the carriage and offered his arm to his daughter, which she accepted gracefully. When she touched the ground and gained her balance, her father gave her a kiss on the forehead. “You look lovely dear, absolutely lovely.”
Lilly just smiled and followed her father into The White Club. She should look lovely after the mess her father had made her go through earlier that morning. He had specifically picked out her outfit and told her exactly how to wear her hair. He was also nosey and picky on the days when she had to charm and beguile her father’s business partners.
Lilly looked down at the dress she was wearing; she loved the dress and had been dying to wear it, she just didn’t want to waste it on an occasion like this. When she had first seen it, she fell in love with the lavender silk with the faintest hint of purple lilies that had been woven into it. In fact, the only thing she didn’t like about it was the risque cut. Especially since her father had made her wear her tightest corset, which made her already ample chest stick out like a sore thumb.
She sighed, this was how it always was when she went with her father. She had to admit, he had been getting a lot more business since she had been coming with him to the strange “business meetings” that she wasn’t even aloud to listen into.
When she and her father entered The White Club, they had been ushered to their table promptly. Lilly hated the place they sat in. Since they were expecting a large group, their table had been placed in the middle of the room where anybody could see them easily. However, she smiled and took her seat quietly.
After no more than five minutes, her father’s soon-to-be customers came streaming in. Lilly remained seated while her father got up and greeted everyone with the customary handshakes, jokes, and introductions. He was especially theatrical is introducing his daughter, which all the men gave impolite once-overs. All she could so was smile and politely say “Hello” or make silly little comments about the weather.
Before long, the meeting was underway. Her father took about half of them men off to a private room and Lilly was left to stay with the other half. She avoided their advances skillfully and innocently; she had had so much practice that she hardly had to think about her responses. So she just sat there, like some kind of trained pet, waiting for her father’s meeting to be over so she could go home a perhaps have a bath or take a nice, long walk in one of the parks.
Do you feel it? Lilly was snapped out of her daze all of a sudden. A voice in her head was speaking slowly and softly, it made her feel dizzy. The feeling stopped after a few seconds and Lilly was left to ponder what the voice had said. No, she didn’t feel anything except the feeling that voice had invoked in her.
No, wait… She did feel something. It was like a strong pulling in her mind. A few words kept spinning in and out of her head: Lilith, Azrael, Raphael, Belial, Azazel… The words kept repeating themselves over and over and finally it narrowed itself down to one. Belial…
Lilly gripped her hands in her lap and she could feel her fingernails cutting into her palms. It was such a strange feeling, like a recognition. But why did the name Belial sound so familiar to her. She cast a glimpse around the whole room and her eyes were drawn to the area of the booths that were there for a little bit of privacy. Suddenly, everything went back to normal. Lilly turned back to her food and dodged a few more advances.
Aramis frowned slightly. After the entrées, their main course was served: it was a Mediterranean delicacy the chef had included in the menu exclusively for them. Angel was taking his time to eat, and Aramis could easily hear the course of Angel’s thoughts in his own head. Aramis ate quietly and didn’t interfere. He discretely watched the other people in the room, which was almost full at the moment. A group called for his attention: a large group of businessmen and a single woman dressed in a most outstanding lavender dress. Half the party left the table after a moment and went to a private room. The rest of the party remained at the table, talking to the woman. Seeing them, Aramis evoked in his mind a flock of vultures flying in circles above a wounded wolf. A wolf, for he perceived a strange strength beneath the delicate face of the young woman. The vultures would tear her down if allowed…
Angel cast a displeased look at him. “I’m still eating! Can’t you think of anything more according to our meal?” Angel skillfully handled the silverware, which included three types of forks and two different knives for different foods.
“That girl has something within I’ve known before.”
Angel looked at Aramis, then at the group that caught his brother’s attention. “The blossoming flower, you mean?”, he asked with irony, alluding to her cleavage. “She’s an effective bait. But yes… she seems familiar.”
Angel ate some more, tasting his food and the things his inhuman senses perceived. He tilted his head and looked into Aramis’ eyes.
//It’s subtle… but there’s a demon in there. In second plane.//
//I think it’s… Belphegor. It’s hard to say.// Angel continued to eat as if nothing had happened.
Aramis watched him with a blink.
“¿No vamos a hacer nada?“(4)
“¿Y qué sugieres?(5) I’m eating.”
Aramis looked over to the group’s table.
“It’d be clever to find out why she’s here.”
Angel shrugged. “Yes, it’d be. Wait, however. She was never one to need help when in a group like that. Watch and get in when opportune. I don’t like the second plane thing, so be careful.”
Aramis forced a smile.
“Which means you won’t leave the table.”
“Oh, I would be pleased to, but I am very busy taking care of my ill mother and helping father with business.” Once again Lilly rejected an offer to meet one of the men’s sons. It was an outright lie, her mother was nowhere near ill and she never helped with her father’s business. However this man was very persistent. He dropped his hand underneath the table and grabbed hers which was laying gently in her lap. She started at the forceful touch and her eyes met his face. She blinked and narrowed her eyes slightly. She was about to say something, when one of the waiters placed his hand on her shoulder and whispered in her ear.
“Madame, your father is requesting your presence. Walk behind you and then go down the long hallway. Your father is in the last room on the left.”
Lilly snatched her hands back from the persistent gentleman, stood up, and brushed her dress off gracefully before turning and making her way towards the hall the waiter had been talking about. She passed the booth that her attention had been drawn to earlier and she was dying to get a look inside, but she passed it by without a glance because she assumed peering in would be rude.
She followed the hall down and came to the door. She knocked on it slightly and it was opened by her father. She came in and greeted the gentlemen again before they all got out of their seat and poured out of the door. Lilly calculated that it would be around fifteen minutes before her father would get somebody to fetch the other half. Sir Aaron closed the door behind them and Lilly took her seat at the table.
“How has it been out there so far?”
“Routine, daddy, completely routine.”
“Hmmm.” Aaron walked up behind and placed his hands on her shoulders, rubbing them slightly to relieve some of the tension. “You’ll be happy to know that I’ve sold all of them, and a few of them were quite taken with you, dear.”
“Oh, is that so.” Lilly’s voice dripped with sarcasm and she wanted to flinch form her father’s touch. Instead, she stood up from her seat and faced her father, waiting for him to tell her to go home like he always did.
“Yes, actually they were all quite taken with you especially the younger ones. But I let them know that you were daddy’s little girl.” Her father leaned in and placed a kiss on her forehead, far too friendly for Lilly’s liking. “Lilly, you can either finish your lunch at the table, get a private booth, or you can go home. The choice is yours.”
“Oh, thank you. I think I’ll at least finish lunch.” Lilly kissed her father quickly on the cheek and headed for the door. She made her way down the hallway but she began to be accosted by the sickening feeling that she felt earlier. She was walking past the booth that had intrigued her earlier when she began to feel faint. She stopped dead in her tracks.
The girl passed by the booth. Aramis cast a look at her table and then his gaze followed her.
“It’s a curious feeling.”
“It is”, Angel replied. “This chef is good.”
Aramis laughed. “Yes, but I’m not talking about the meal!”
Angel smiled. “Will you order desert?”
“Let’s see…” Aramis read down the list of deserts for the day. “I’d like…um…” Angel arched an eyebrow and picked up his goblet. He tasted the wine, watching Aramis with a smile. “Choose one for me.”
After a few minutes, they could feel Belphegor coming back. The strange mix of a human presence and demoness was changing like a wave. The brothers exchanged a glance. The girl passed by their booth and suddenly stopped as if she was about to faint. Angel left his goblet on the table and Aramis promptly got up, gently taking the girl’s arm to give her support.
“Excuse me, m’lady”, he gently said. “May I offer you assistance? You are pale.”
Angel rose to back up Aramis in case someone would think about interfering. Angel had an imposing presence that discouraged the possible meddlers. Angel pulled a chair for the girl in a slow, elegant movement.
Aramis nodded at the girl, kind and polite.
“I am Aramis Blanco. This is my brother, Angel Blanco.”
Lilly took the seat and smiled gratefully, first at Aramis and then at Angel. Her eyes were blurry and she couldn’t yet make out all the features of the two gentlemen, but she could tell they were both very handsome. She waited a few seconds for her vision to clear and was a little taken back when she discovered the two were twins.
“My name is Lilly, Lilly Mayfair. Thank you so much for your help. I can’t imagine why I feel so awful.”
Belial… Let me speak with him… Lilly rubbed her temples distractedly, wishing that irritatingly sensuous voice would shut the hell up. It was making her sick. And what was this about “letting me speak with him?” Lilly smiled once again at the two brothers as they sat down across from her.
“This may seem awfully forward of me, but do I know you two from some where? You both seem so familiar and I was thinking I might have known you from one of my father’s business meetings, but I don’t seem to recall anybody younger than thirty-five ever showing up at those things.”
Lilly closed her eyes tight for a split second and then shook her head lightly, wishing that her head would stop hurting. It felt like her head was getting too full and it was about to burst from the pressure. She placed her hands in her lap and smiled mischievously but entirely innocent at the two, waiting for them to respond.
Aramis nodded at Lilly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, miss Mayfair. I doubt we’ve had the honor to meet you before… Indeed, we would not forget miss Mayfair if we had met her before!” Aramis smiled, and unlike Angel there was a friendly innocence to him. Angel looked more withdrawn and collected, yet polite and commanding. “I speak for my brother, too. We usually travel together.”
Angel nodded politely. “I could add no more. It’s an honor to meet you… miss Mayfair.” Angel smiled and something different shimmered in his silver gaze. He distinctly perceived the demoness within wanted to communicate.
Aramis was aware of it, too, but he was sympathetic to Lilly – sympathetic and curious. The smile on her lips was familiar to Belial.
“Would you like to have desert with us?”
“That would be simply lovely.” She cast a quick glance over at the table where the business men were acting chummy. “Besides, I think my group seems to doing fine without my presence.”
Lilly took a moment to observe the brothers. They were both handsome, and they were definitely twins, but each one seemed different. Aramis seemed to be more… innocent, and Angel seemed a little bit dominant, both in looks and mannerisms, and perhaps more calculating than his twin.
“I can’t imagine how I haven’t met you yet. My friends usually try to introduce me to the most prestigious and handsome men around, obviously they missed you two. But why don’t you tell me a little about yourselves?”
Lilly suddenly felt a searing pain on the small of her back, but she kept her face from tensing up. The last thing she wanted to do was yelp in pain and ruin the conversation. She found the two quite interesting and engaging, and she was eager to learn about them. She placed her lightly clasped hands on the table and leaned in, prepared to hang on every word.
Angel picked up his goblet by the rounded part and gently moved it in a circular motion, letting the liquor in the glass warm in the contact of his hand. He tasted the wine, thoughtfully as he looked at Lilly above the glass. When she leaned in, her bosom was pushed up some more by her tight corset, but Angel kept his eyes on her face – for the moment. Aware of Belphegor’s presence and also aware that it wasn’t her yet who spoke, Angel watched and waited for Belphegor to take over, leaving the socializing work to Aramis.
Aramis smiled at Lilly. “I may depend on who are your friends”, he said in a mischievous way that was not his usual mood, with a charming smile. “It’s an honor you’ve decided to join us. What can I say about us to deserve your interest? Our family is the Blanco House, from Spain. My brother Angel is the current Count. On our mother’s part, we’ve inherited German blood and the county of Niemeyer. Our interest in the White Club is archeology, for the most. We’re members of several prestigious societies across Europe; but now that we are in London this is one of the places we’ve chosen to socialize.”
Aramis cast a glance at one of the waiters, and the man immediately came to their table and took a light bow. Without a word, he indicated Lilly with a gentle nod. The waited nodded and promptly added dishware and silverware for the lady, along with her napkin and glassware; he laid a menu next to her plate and bowed his head, waiting.
“Would you like to order now or later?”, Aramis asked Lilly. “Of course, we’re anxious to know more about our mystery guest”, he added, inviting her to tell them about herself. He smiled and his silver gaze shimmered in innocent friendship. Angel, on his part, simply nodded and tasted his wine again.
Luna strolled into the male-dominated White Club with the self-possessed air of a queen, practically dragging the poor specimen of the male species that clung to her slim, white arm. This place is disgusting. I can smell the arrogance a fathom away. Her pale face was resolved into a mask of beautiful meekness, painted delicately with the best tints others’ money could buy. Her long black hair was elegantly coiffed and accented with teardrop moonstones and silver, and her sky-blue gown, embroidered with silver lace, flowed like a river. It was too bad that her beauty had to be spoiled by the toad on her lace-gloved arm. Her golden eyes gleamed bitterly for a moment before she could regain control.
“D-dear Lady Luna, w-w-would you like to meet some fr-friends of mine?” Emmerson stuttered, flinging an arm to a table. He was a banker, and a rich one at that.
“Surely.” She smiled condescendingly down on him. For a wonder, he was smaller than she.
Angel swept a look around. A beauty on a sky-blue gown had entered the place with a gentleman; he took her arm to lead her, but it was hard to tell who was actually leading who. She was taller than him, but beyond her height she had something more above the man, who looked diminished by her queen-like poise. A woman with character, he thought to himself with a slight smile. More than a simple woman, too.
Luna dearly wished to take the man hanging off of her arm and tear his toady little throat out. She was in no mood for weaklings, and had little patience with them on a good day. She continued to smile at him, however, until she noticed the handsome, dark man with silver eyes smiling slightly at her. She acknowledged him with a nod, then turned back to Emmerson.
“On second thought, I see someone I recognize. Go on, I can find you,” she said, as if shooing him off to play. She smiled sweetly at him, then turned to glide to the man, who was accompanied by a beautiful young woman, and what appeared to be his twin.
She curtsied slightly, declining her head.
“If you will excuse my interruption, I noticed you as I came in.” She smiled slightly at him, sensing that he would not be taken by deception or coyness. “I am Lady Lamina. You seem familiar somehow… Have we met?” She lied, still smiling at him. He was indeed handsome, and had the look of a Spaniard about him.
She had come to their table. With his silver gaze fixed on Luna, Angel tasted his wine again as she spoke. Angel put his goblet on the table. With a slow movement, he rose to his feet and took a polite, elegant bow at her.
“I had never seen you in my entire life”, he said with a strange, dark smile, “situation which afflicts me deeply. If you’d be magnanimous and forgive my fault, I’d be grateful.” Angel’s silver gaze remained in hers. “My name is Angel, Count Blanco. Would you honor me joining our table?” He cast a glance at Aramis. Aramis had risen his eyes to look at them. He rose and took a small, polite bow. “This is my brother, Aramis”, Angel said. “Miss Lilly Mayfair…” Angel looked at Luna after introducing the others. “Will you join us, milady?”
Luna bowed her head in acceptance. “I would be most honored and delighted, and I apologize for my impertinence.” She meant it in more ways than one, and startled herself with the fact that the apology was, for once, sincere. The White Count? That sounds vaguely familiar.
Luna examined Aramis briefly. The two were twins. However, Aramis’s eyes were soft, gleaming silver, whereas Angel’s eyes were hard and glittering. She dismissed Aramis immediately; she had no use for softness, only strength. “I am pleased to have the honor of your acquaintances, Lords Angel and Aramis, Miss Mayfair.” She curtseyed slightly once more, and gracefully took a seat.
Aramis motioned to the waiter, who was waiting for the lords and ladies order. The waiter promptly provided Luna’s place with the proper tableware and placed a menu next to her plate, as he had done for Lilly. Aramis and Angel took their seats back, and for the brief moment they did they looked exactly alike, but it was a mere couple seconds.
Angel followed Luna’s gaze as she quickly classified Aramis into a different category than his. Angel watched the process and tasted his wine, his dark smile still upon his lips. “We are about to order desert”, he told Luna. “Perhaps you’d like to order something else, if you’d like a main course or entrées. The cave is well supplied, specially with appreciated wines from the Mediterranean and other lands, such as Chile and Argentina.” He warmed his goblet in the hollow of his hand with elegant, circular motion.
Aramis nodded at Luna in response to her greetings, fully aware of what Angel had seen and adding his particular point of view. He had a gentle smile, then his gaze moved to meet Lilly’s. He smiled at her, waiting for her to order desert.
“On second thought, I don’t believe I’ll eat desert. My faintness hasn’t completely gone away, and I think eating would only make me feel worse.” Lilly turned her head to the waiter and smiled slightly. “I’ll have a glass of wine, the kind my father always has.”
Lilly then turned her attention to Luna. She had never seen the girl in her life. She was surprised; she thought she had met everybody that was important in London, but some to find out, she had missed at least three. She wondered how many more prestigious males there were left for her father to try to persuade her to marry.
“I’m very pleased to have met you, Lady Lamina.”
Lilly wanted to tell the twins about herself, since they were kind enough to answer her questions, but now that the other woman had shown up, Lilly suddenly felt a little awkward elaborating on her family and her life. Instead, she sipped her wine absently and waited for either the Blancos or the Lady to begin the conversation.
Her heart skipped a beat of all of a sudden and the sick feeling began to come back. She tired to block it out, but she suddenly heard a piercingly loud shriek of a young woman resound in her head. She shut her eyes tight and her breathing came a little quicker.
Belial, I want to speak with him. Let me speak with him.
Lilly could only silently scream that she didn’t know who the voice was talking about. Well then, if you won’t let me, I’ll force you.
Lilly eyes began to blur and her vision began to fade. As soon as her vision went completely black, her head felt like it was splitting open. She felt like she was falling and all of a sudden, she lost consciousness…
Lilly laughed, a tinkling and enticing laugh that filled the booth, and sipped the wine out of her glass while giving both Angel and Aramis a mysterious and sensual look. “I’m sorry if I seem to be out of. My near faint made me just a little lightheaded.”
Lilly slipped her hand underneath the table and grabbed Aramis hand, scratching lightly with her fingernails the name of somebody on his palm. At the same time, her eyes seemed to change from their steel gray color to a deep, dark blue with tiny gold sparks in them. She let go of his hand and winked at Angel before her eyes changed back to their normal color.
//Is she what you want Aramis, do you want Azrael?//
Normally, Lilly would have made a scene, but the gestures such as grabbing Aramis’ hand and winking suggestively at Angel went unnoticed because of the gracefulness and quickness. Even Luna who sat next to them couldn’t have noticed them.
Aramis smiled. “Very well. I will order something. After you do, lady Lamina.” Aramis nodded politely. Belial perceived the fight within Lilly. Angel and Aramis waited. Lilly’s eyes closed tightly, her breathing changed… and suddenly, Belphegor took over. The eyes, the gestures, the impertinence.
Angel smiled at her and took a sip of wine as welcome sign. “I hope you feel better now, miss Lilly.”
Aramis smiled. “Perhaps you could have a lighter drink”, he gently suggested with an ever so kind smile.
//I don’t know what you’re talking about, Belphegor. You surprise me.//
“Hmmm, I don’t know about the drink, but I do think that I should be heading home. Mother is probably waiting for me so that we can go for a visit to her friend’s.” A complete lie, Belphegor just wanted to get out that stuffy restaurant so that she could talk to one of the halves of Belial, preferably both, but she assumed that this couldn’t be arranged. “I’d be absolutely delighted if one of you could escort me to my carriage.” She smiled again, letting her words hang in the air. Her tone was so sensuous. It would be hypnotical to a normal human being. And every move she made was suggestive, though not in a crude or obvious way. It was obvious only to the people that were really watching her, and obviously Belial was considering she was probably the only demon he had seen in quite a while.
//I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. I can sense these things from a mile away. You may not want her in a physical way, but you’re definitely intrigued by her. Now one or both of you come along. I think that we, as demons, have much to discuss about the Gathering.//
Angel smiled. “Such filial devotion is rare to see these days”, he softly said. “It’s admirable how a daughter gives in to her mother’s desires, setting aside her own wishes.” Angel’s words had a cruel significance only available to Belphegor and some fellow demons. “Give our best regards to your mother, miss Mayfair; perhaps someday we can tell her by ourselves what a wonderful child she’s raised.” Both brothers rose and gave a polite bow to Lilly.
“Shall I have the honor?”, Aramis asked.
Angel smiled with a nod. “So be it.”
Aramis offered his arm to miss Mayfair.
“I’ll escort you to your carriage, miss Mayfair”, he said with a smile.
//I can be intrigued by many things; I specialize in occultism and others secrets, remember? To see you evokes memories in me… How far away some things seem to be now! I remember a little love story – one little family affair. But those things wouldn’t interest you, would they? Let us focus on the present. Yes. The Gathering has begun.// “Shall we go?”
Luna smiled as Aramis escorted Miss Mayfair to her carriage. Funny. I don’t recall ever hearing of her in any circles. Of course, these three are all Other… I should have realized from the start that they would infiltrate the nobility.
She smiled at Angel, and ordered a light spiced wine and small finger sandwiches. She wasn’t very hungry; her corset was squeezing her poor stomach to pulp.
“Lord Aramis is your twin, correct?” She asked, attempting conversation. It had been quite a while since she had spoken to anyone she knew was far more powerful than she. I wonder what exactly he is… What they are. She thanked the waiter as he promptly returned with her order. Cupping her light, sweet wine, she gently swished it in circles, enjoying the soft color.
“Lovely, but before I leave, I insist that you and your brother come to my house and join me for dinner sometime soon. I think my mother would be happy to meet you, even though she knows what a wonderful child she’s raised. Good day, Lady.”
Lilly got up with a smile and nodded to Lady Lamina and then shot a teasing, bedroom-eyed glance towards Angel before lacing her arm around Aramis’. As they walked out of The White Club, she noticed that most of the male heads were turning to look at the her and Aramis leaving, especially the business men she has been sitting with earlier. She could feel their jealousy, and she laughed to herself. How could they possibly think that they ever had a chance with her.
Upon Aramis and Belphegor’s departure, a strange smile curved Angel’s lips. Belial tasted his wine narrowing his eyes, being here and there – the fact ever different and new, old and known. Belphegor words sounded a little harsh, but he simply smiled in condescension as they walked away. Angel turned his attention to Luna. Over the sweet scent of her drink and beneath the luxurious smoothness of her perfume, he perceived a different, subtle scent that informed him about her were nature. It spoke about the night and the moon, a controlled might… and about night wild flowers.
Angel’s dark smile lingered on his lips, his silver gaze fixed on her as she spoke. “Yes. Aramis is my twin – also my only sibling. Some people think we’re quite alike. Aramis however, has a different character.” Angel smiled to himself. “Your name is peculiar, if I may point it out”, he suddenly said. “Lamina alludes to a blade. May I ask your full name?” Angel’s eyes shimmered silver beneath his black eyelashes as he looked onto her hands. “You’ve only told me you are lady Lamina.”
Luna smiled slightly. So there was something the Other did not know… Or chose not to take. She gave him a dark smile of her own when the light of recognition shone in his eyes. So he knew what she was as well. Good.
“My full given name is Luna Dimadiata Lamina. Lamina is our family name; we are descendants of the Greeks and the Romans. My father named me… Half-Moon Blade, in Latin… Or, in other words, sickle.” Her golden eyes flashed with memory, reflecting into the light wine like twin flames. She toyed with the glass, thinking. His grand joke to me, his only child. Of course I would be strong in the Blood… I deserve the allusion and the shadow.
“What of yourself, Angel, Count Blanco of the Spaniards?” Once again her dark, slightly taunting smile resurfaced from the mercury.
With his head still lightly bowed, Angel watched Luna by the corner of his eyes and had a subtle, charming smile. He perceived she was aware he knew by now. Angel was delighted but he didn’t give any sign about it. He spoke gravely. “I’m afraid my name isn’t nearly as interesting as yours. Angel, Ángel in my mother tongue, is a name out of my quite spiritual mother. Ángel Blanco means White Angel.” Angel rose his head and picking up his goblet, warmed the wine in the hollow of his hands with a slow circular motion, for a few seconds. He watched the liquor leave subtle shadows on the glass that quickly disappeared as a new slow wave took their place on the glass.
“My mother came from Germany. She met my father in her own land, the Harz Mountains.” He looked at her as he tasted his wine to see what effect the story reference about the Harz had in her. “After sometime, they moved to Spain, to my father’s lands. They died long ago; Aramis and I are their only children… It’s disappointingly simple, I guess.” His dark smile showed in his eyes as he tasted his wine.
Luna limited herself to a delicate snort. Harz Mountains…
“I doubt anything is simple about you, my Lord.” She smiled in response to his own. Are you a White Angel, Other, or are you a black demon? She took a small sip of her wine, crisp and sweet. Quite refreshing. “What brings you to here, to London?”
Slightly disappointed, Angel bit his lip lightly when he saw no reaction on Luna’s part. It was too soon however to let out too much about himself or Aramis. Angel tilted his head and smiled again.
“You are too kind”, he said before tasting his wine again. His gaze lingered on her as he did. Was she already wondering about his nature and his name? He had deliberately let reference to Aramis out of the question.
Angel could’ve looked into her mind, but that was a last, boring resource. Luna’s intelligence intrigued him.
“Curiosity and boredom have brought me here, most probably. Some would find this strange, but the bright blue sky of my land was getting monotonous. So for some reason I followed Aramis to these lands.” Angel smiled darkly. “I have interests in archeology and some in occultism, too. The White Club has interesting collections and I have donated a couple works, myself.”
Luna chuckled darkly. Count Negro would fit better. As time went on, she could pinpoint his energy more accurately… This Other could very well be a Demon, ancestor of her kind. Far removed, of course. The Black Count. Funny, she could believe in angels and demons, but not a god that she couldn’t see and couldn’t sense.
“I have a… More than passing interest in the occult myself. I have several… Books in my possession that may interest you, if you ever come to visit me.” Grimoires and other such ‘books’ at least, and several scrolls. I wonder how long it will take until I have to renew the preservation charm? She cleared the thought out of her mind. Distracting.
Angel sensed the changes in her aura when the pieces fit for her. The mystery had been unfolded – to a basic extent. Angel tasted his wine, his eyes distant. Now that she knew he was a demon, part of the fun was gone.
“How interesting”, he said. “I always have interest for books and old scrolls. There’s a revival of the dark arts, but many are nothing but frauds, a rude imitation of things. Médiums, séances… nothing but impostures.”
Angel bit his lip slightly. No wonder if he’d find his own words in her books. However, there’s always something to be found or tried. He initiated the dark arts after all. Thoughtfully, he warmed his goblet in his hand, moving it in elegant circles.
“There was a time when all things were new.” Angel frowned slightly and rose his goblet to his lips, then paused.
“Oh, but of course I’d be glad to visit you sometime.” He tasted his wine.
Fleeting gray veiled memories fled across her mind’s eye, like the memories she could access in Were form of her people and her ancestors. There was a time when all things were new, and she did not deny that… The scents on the wind, the trees and the sky… But the sheen of newness wore off quickly. She took another sip of her wine to rouse her out of sudden reverie.
“I would be delighted to have you. I assume you have your own lodgings here in London?” Luna cocked her head inquisitively, like a wolf listening to the wind.
Angel nodded slowly, watching her. His silver gaze was inscrutable. Belial was looking into Luna’s eyes, but his gaze also lingered on Belphegor’s face. Angel tasted his wine and Aramis heart ached. Angel smiled darkly but this time there was a subtle bitterness to his smile. The bitterness faded out quickly; it had lasted less than a second.
“Yes, I do. I own a mansion in London and a couple country manors, I believe. It’s Aramis who takes care of such things.” Angel shrugged his shoulders lightly in an elegant movement. “We’re moving constantly. If it wasn’t for him, I’d get lost in those places.” Angel snickered under his breath then smiled for an instant, his gaze fixed into hers.
“Do you have a particular interest in occultism?”
“I study the Lunar magics and the effects of the moon on the tides of energy.” She noted that while he was looking at her, he also seemed to be looking through her at someone else… Peculiar.
“And yourself?” She asked politely, although she was sure what it was. She could scent necromancer all over him now. The longer she spoke with him, the more she could scent out. Interesting… She wondered if that applied to the rest of the strong Others… Maybe one day she would have the honor of knowing. Perhaps his twin was Other as well.
Angel leaned back in his chair.
“I have some interest, yes. The dark arts are my specialty, to say it in a way.” He poured some more wine in his goblet.
Angel looked at Luna. He did notice her eye had wandered slightly as if she was wondering if he was looking at someone else. Inside, Belial found that interesting. No one ever from any kind had ever perceived such things. Aramis – or the side of himself that was called by that name – was letting the dark within surface in his talk with Belphegor. In both places. Belial laid cards carefully, reading some more between the lines.
Angel had a dark, charming smile. “You have told me little about yourself. May I ask then, what are your interests? What does a lone hunter do in her spare time?”
Lone hunter? Am I now renegade because I am no longer within Father’s territory? She resisted the urge to growl. Angel was baiting her.
“Other than looking pretty, you mean?” She chuckled darkly. “In my spare time, I enjoy the… occultic and philosophic pursuits… As well as collecting information.” She laughed again, a melodic sound. It was amazing how much a beautiful, ‘harmless’ woman could learn just by sitting pretty and nodding in a manner suiting one of the Court’s dolls.
She took a sip of her wine and eyed him considering over the rim. Why is he carrying on conversation with a being less than he? Should he not be destroying me or binding me to his will? I thought that was how the demons operated… I assumed. I shall have to wait and see. I do not think I would mind being bound to this one’s service… She pushed the thought away. Improper for a future Lupa… She would be the master, not the mastered.
As Luna chuckled darkly, Angel’s eyes shimmered with a strange light. Some of the excitement of discovery returned to him. The phrase ‘lone hunter’ had stirred a kind of rebellion within her as if his would have stung something important to her ego with his last words. Angel tasted his wine as she spoke. She perceived he was a powerful demon, yet she felt confident enough to sit at his table and talk about the dark arts with him. She had simply waved away her former companion – one that obviously was not in the same league she was.
She is delightfully ambitious… Proud and ambitious. If she had a pack of her own, she wouldn’t be seen in non-worthy companies. She could be a Lupa. She wants to be one. She wants to be a Master… or a Leader? Luna took a sip of her wine and eyed Angel. She expected him to do something more proper of a demon, it seemed. Angel smiled, slightly amused. Everybody expected him to rip their bodies and souls to pieces. Belial had his own ways. Luna is interesting, he decided. I’ll study her and find out possibilities.
“Collecting information?”, he said as if he were a little surprised. “It’d be interesting to find out what you have done with the information you have collected…” Angel tasted his wine, barely touching the liquid with his lips. “As I’ve mentioned, there’s a revival of the dark arts in the mortal world, but it’s been a mere imposture. The true followers of the dark arts remain in the shadow. I perceive you are a bright mind. I don’t need to be subtle about it. Women have senses men lack of, for the Occult. Women know about leadership. Men have set them aside to keep the lead of civilization – of what they call civilization. Intelligent women can get all they want while pretending to be subdued creatures, beautiful stone guests. Information! That is interesting. Knowledge is the way of Power.”
Angel had spoken in a low tone enough for her to hear, in a melodic, mesmerizing, emphatic voice as if he spoke to Luna, not to the lady trapped in a corset of formalities. His eyes blazed silver beneath his black eyelashes, his gaze fixed on hers.
Angel waited to see what effect his words had on Luna.
The strange look in his mesmerizing silver eyes held her. “What I do with my information? That which is not useful to me… I sell, or trade. That is how a woman can find her way into higher circles here, in what men call civilization,” She replied, falling into his voice with a harmony of her own. ” ‘Know thine enemy, then know thine self.’ We are not all weak, but we are not all strong… Like poor Emmerson, over there.” She gestured vaguely to the banker’s table with a flick of her wrist. “He could be one of the most powerful men in England. The problem is, he inherited the business from his father… Emmerson is a spineless, mindless twit. His accountants have been running it and lining their pockets with silver for years, now.” She shook her head in mock sadness. “The power of information, even in daily life, is that what you don’t know can hurt you, and what you know may hurt others. The key is to know who, and why.” Her golden eyes gleamed almost feverishly against her pale moonlight skin.
Angel’s eyes remained on Luna, the subtle magic of his gaze holding her. His eyes narrowed slightly as he listened to her. He wasn’t too pleased to see she pitied someone she knew weaker than herself, plus the stranger had annoyed him to some extent.
Angel smiled slightly and tasted his wine.
“Knowledge is Power, some have said”, he gently pointed out. “Beyond knowing who and why can be hurt by the things you know, the question is: when to use such knowledge? Why and about whom? We’re immerse in a web of relations. Everybody has attached that secret string that is stronger than the rest of the threads that bind them.” His eyes shimmered strangely. He tasted his wine and had a charming smile. Belial decided to drop a little test and find out more about Luna’s ambitions.
“When you find yourself as a leader”, he said, “you come to see your followers by the relations between them. A leader must be expert enough to weave them together and keep the bonds of the group strong – to make them feel they belong in the group and to gain their loyalty. A leader does this making them feel each one is equally important to the group, no matter if they are weak or strong. A master however, simply pulls the secret strings like a master puppeteer to keep the group together with the bounds of fear and sometimes, hatred. A master doesn’t fake the importance of anybody and only the strong are to survive under his rule. The weak perish. Both a leader and a master are powerful, by different means.” Angel made a pause. He smiled at her. “Which way do you think is preferable? The way of a leader or the way of a master? I’d like to know what you think about this.”
Luna smiled slightly, captivated. “A Master may accomplish as she wishes without wasting time assuring members of their importance. Beneath a master, all know their place. As you say, only the strong survive. She may work most efficiently when all of her members know their exact place and only the strong are her members. It may not be necessary even to rule by fear or hatred… Two such in high usage that the subject may always rebel against the master. Sometimes ties stronger than loyalty and far less fickle than love may be used. And sometimes, information.”
Her eyes glimmered… It would be a cold day in Christian hell before she saw herself as the strings of a puppet.
Angel gave a slight nod in approval as he listened to her response. He warmed his wine holding his goblet in the hollow of his hand and moving it in slow, elegant circles. The dark, purplish liquor left ephemeral shades on the crystal. “Your words hold truth”, Angel said with a smile, carefully tasting what he had found out. “Everything is to be used with a measure. Some great masters have fallen by miscalculation, and always someone lurks in the shadow, waiting for the chance to take the former master’s place. It is more complicated when many masters are to work together. They must recognize the primacy of the one who sets the common goal – but there must be balance in the web of relations, or else war and discord will sprout. Should I say the name of this? It’s called alliance in your mother tongue.” Angel’s eyes shimmered. He leaned slightly towards her.
“I’ll tell you something. The powers are not even. One can be far more powerful than you – in some aspects. In other aspects, you may be more powerful than that same one. The one who believes she or he is only weak or strong is doomed. I perceive you know my nature by now. Have you wondered why I am in a place like this, when I could be somewhere else torturing a random soul with unspeakable horrors? Why wouldn’t I kill you on the spot? The answer to the second question is, because that would not be an smart move. I perceive abilities in you that may be developed. Maybe someday you’d bite my hand. Maybe we’d be allies. Maybe you’d decide to go on your own way to discovery. There are many possibilities open.” Angel leaned back to his former position and tasted his wine with a strange smile. “Ties stronger than loyalty and far less fickle than love, you said. Tell me about those!” Angel laughed softly and tasted his wine. “One can learn new things every day.” His eyes shimmered again. “I am a curious being.”
Luna nodded thoughtfully. So, he had at least answered one of her questions, while providing her with… Food for thought. She took a moment to reorganize her thoughts.
“Lust, jealousy, and greed… Truly, all one and the same. Even in this age of fire and brimstone,” she chuckled a bit at the unintended joke, “Men still behave as they are… And I am not unattractive even in severe attire. It is quite simple to dance someone on the end of a wire when you have what they want. The trick is to keep them at arms’ length so they cannot bite you and cannot be freed from you. It may not even be something you yourself have; but something another has and you promise.” She sat in silence for a moment.
“Now may I ask you a question?”
Angel smiled and a cunning look passed by his silver eyes by a mere instant as she spoke. When Luna asked if she may ask him a question, he had a polite nod. “You may ask and I shall see if I’ll answer your question or not”, he said. Angel’s gaze shimmered. “What is your question?”
Luna took a moment to find how she pose this question. It was not some poor excuse for a flirtatious comment; it was truly serious, and she wanted it to be taken in such a manner.
“Now. Do you believe in love as a true emotion, or as only a higher form of lust? Does it have the potency to tie two spirits beyond death, or cause one to kill for another?” She asked gravely.
Luna’s question was startling, for it immediately reminded Belial of his ever so annoying household issues. Angel frowned slightly and his eyes narrowed. Angel perceived she wanted an answer, not to pull out a flirt… He tasted his wine, but this time he tasted it longer. Should I reply or not?, he wondered. Anyway… Angel’s gaze darkened yet his eyes still shimmered with as much intensity as before.
“I have two points of view on the subject”, he said. “It depends. Love as true emotion exists. However, it’s the rarest thing to find. Most of the time, beings call love the highest form of lust and greed – this is the ‘form of love’ that abounds. When it is put to test, it vanishes. Self life preservation instinct prevails over anything else, including love.” Angel smiled darkly. “I won’t deny however, that love can be found. It’s the worst curse one could imagine and it’s extremely difficult to control. However, love may be a powerful tool in all it’s variations. Filial love, ‘romantic’ love, and so on. Love may die, too. About if love may tie spirits beyond death…” Angel had a sardonic smile, “it also depends. I’ve carried on studies on the subject. If both souls love each other with reciprocally intense love, it may. It’s a roulette wheel, however. If one survives the other, the soul remaining will be more likely to bound himself or herself to someone else after his significant one’s demise. To kill oneself to prove one’s love to a loved one is the silliest idea ever.” Angel took a sip of wine.
“Oh. I forgot. Love, let it be the real thing or the highest form of greed and lust, can easily cause one to kill for the other.” He tasted his wine. “What a curious question you’ve asked.” He looked at her and his eyes were not narrowing anymore.
Luna nodded, watching his eyes relax and lighten. This question, he did not expect. It hit a nerve. If I can keep him on his toes? Did he really say that it was possible for me to be his ally one day? How strange. The world changes rapidly. Not only have I met… Two demons, Others, one of them acknowledges me. I will keep up, however. Sloth is for the weak.
“I see.” He did not answer my question the way I expected, though. “So, you believe love can be found in two separate forms, lust and truth. I only see it this way- lust, and love. I do not believe a true love exists. I do not believe that someone would preserve something out of beauty without motivation of greed, for the want of keeping it to themselves, not because it is something of beauty. I believe in desire, in greed, in lust. Love is something I find beyond my true grasp, lest I experience such turbulence for myself. They say knowing is just a short step from wanting.”
Angel didn’t like this question. However, he decided to use it to his advantage. If she thought she had found something about him, it’d be a two edged sword for he’d know from which way a blow could come, and he’d know how to react on time. She was thinking deep about his answer; her cryptic reply revealed so.
Angel smiled. “I see you have a single point of view on this matter. Your cool reaction tells me you choose the cool mind state, which is always a good choice.” His dark smile came back. “Could it be otherwise? A cool mind state is always a good choice.” His words seemed to have a strange significance.
Luna’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “A cool, level outlook is a desirable trait. It allows that emotion will not rule over your reason, making rational thought impossible. However, coolness is not always the best path. Sometimes you must act in anger or want, desperation, to accomplish what you so desire. Strength may also come from the path of emotion.” She paused slightly.
“Strength may come from the path of true emotion,” she amended. “Falsity or hesitancy, impurity, dilutes and flaws. What you feel, when you choose to feel, should be pure in intent. By pure, I do not mean some misled higher good or cause. I mean pure as in pure anger, pure lust, pure fear. Pure emotion can be pure energy… Although such emotions can ruin you irretrievably.”
Angel carefully listened to her words as he tasted his wine. He smiled, darkly but as if pleased on a personal thought. “Thoughts of the lupine bring images of a proud freedom, of passion and a continuous quest for primacy in the pack and survival of the individual. The old law of survival of the fittest. Also, the whirlwind of emotions to high peaks: no restrictions, no remorse, no pity and a continuous hunger. It’s a remarkable development.” He tasted his wine. “Passions blind the mind’s eye. In that second of existence, when emotions reach the highest peaks, its the hour of evil.” Angel shrugged with a smile.
Luna smiled darkly, golden eyes ablaze for a brief moment. We will see who is superior, Father, when I find a replacement for you in the pack. I will find a stronger male than you, and I will dominate him. See what a devious, cunning wolf you raised? Filial love does not extend farther than arms’ reach, and water is thicker than the bond of our blood. I love you, and I will destroy you. She sighed, the sigh of a lover… Lover of power.
She took a sip of her wine, eyes now cool once more. She waited for Angel’s next question.
Angel watched Luna’s eyes ablaze as her mind was set on fire with personal desires and ambitions. Then she sighed and her gaze cooled down again. That sigh had special notes to it: an unfulfilled ambition and the will to fulfill it in the future. It had come right as Angel spoke about the lupine. Adding this reaction to his earlier impressions on Luna, Belial was now more certain that she had a strong ambition to be a master; the Lupa of her own pack. Angel tasted his wine. It would be natural that she’d want to form a pack of her own and conquer territories of her own. But what if she wanted to rule her current pack? After all, there she was in a place dominated by men, imposing herself to a rule against women now that she got the chance to. Why wouldn’t she do the same at home? Angel’s eyes shimmered and narrowed slightly. He didn’t yet look into her mind, for Angel was enjoying the conversation in his own way. “Your people has come a long way from the Mediterranean to England”, he said. “Did your family come with the roman invaders? I guess you are all british by now, unless you keep ties with the lands of your ancestors. About your pack’s ruler. Is he a leader or a master? What do you think about his rule?”
Luna responded to the first question promptly. “Our ancestors did indeed come with the Romans… However, over the years to keep the blood strong, there have been marriage ties and we do keep close contact with them.”
She didn’t answer the second question right away, however. “My Father… Is the leader of a medium-sized pack. He is a decent leader, and we are of medium strength…” She left the ‘but’ unsaid. She would be a better Master; she could increase the pack, root out the weak and expand the territory. Her Father insisted that even the weakest were of value; those too old and feeble to fight or think, those too weak to barely transform, those who were too faint-hearted… She would be one of the greatest Masters in their history, her name not to be forgotten. Why sit in the back row when you could be out front, on the stage of the world’s theater, directing the actions and pulling the strings? “We can be so much stronger… But he is too weak to make the changes, and too weak to let me.”
Curse you, Father, for holding us back, for not being able to adjust and make the necessary changes. We could be the largest pack in three continents, the most territory, the strongest of them all! Curse you for not being able to take out the weakness… Curse you for not allowing me to! Curse you for your own weakness! She growled softly under her breath, eyes flashing once more before she could regain control. This Angel seemed to be awakening something more primal and more powerful in her than she knew existed.
Medium-size, medium strength… All this spoke of discontentment. “We can be so much stronger… But he is too weak to make the changes, and too weak to let me”, Luna added. She growled softly then, and the vibration found an echo in Angel’s crystal goblet in his hand; her eyes flashed for an instant. Angel smiled and tasted his wine, his eyes fixed on her.
“He is too weak to let you make changes?” Angel had a strange smile as his eyes shimmered. “Oh, but I’m sure you’ve got some extraordinary ideas of your very own to improve your pack’s development! What a pity.” His voice had a subtle sardonic tone to it. “Perhaps there’s something you could do to make him change his mind. Why wouldn’t he step off in your behalf?” His gaze darkened even though it shimmered cold and his melodious voice became deeper and colder. “I’m sure he’s taught you the way of the were. The weak die, the strong survive.” Angel smiled darkly. “It may be the time to apply this. Surely all this medium-size, medium strength thing does not please you, and of course you have better ideas for the future. What blocks your way? There’s always a path to follow. I might give you assistance, if you’d like. I can give you powers and ensure your success.” Angel tasted his wine, his silver gaze fixed on Luna.
Luna snorted delicately. “A female cannot rule a pack. She is a Lupa; she must rule the pack through her mate. Father sent me here that I may not challenge him; and if I did, I would become an outlaw, a renegade hunted down and to be killed by all of my kind. I must find a mate to rule through, or insinuate myself tightly into our pack so that none would question me. But you can see, I am isolated from them. So perhaps I must join another pack, be a Lupa for another territory. But how would I find them? I scent them, but they melt away before I find any more than a trace.”
I need not gifts of power. I have enough strength in my own right… I am among the strongest in three generations of weakening blood… We must become strong once again.
Oops. I forgot females are oppressed… “Oh I forgot the gender role thing – forgive me.” Angel had a dark smile which made difficult to tell if he was apologizing or being sarcastic. “That’s an additional obstacle.” He tasted his wine.
“I see in any case, either if you go into a new pack or remain in yours, your first need is to find a mate. I understand your father is already prevented about you, and he’s taken his precautions, plus he has isolated you in order not to let you gain any influence over the others. Seems like the Wolf has looked within his offspring.” Angel’s eyes narrowed.
“Of course I won’t tell you what to do, for it’s your own choice. However, it seems like you’d get better possibilities by going into a new pack where the others are not prevented about you. The were have always been quite exclusive to pick new pack members, and they are hostile to newcomers; however, you’re powerful enough to get anywhere you want. The problem is how to find them, it seems.” Angel watched her, warming his goblet in his hand.
…He’s mocking me. Luna sat in alert silence, returning gaze for gaze with Angel. He would say what he had to say, and she would wait, patiently. She had patience when it came to getting what she wanted.
Angel laughed within, even though all his eyes showed was a subtle shimmer. He decided he didn’t simply find her interesting. Now he liked her as well – for now, at least. He acknowledged however, he wouldn’t get anywhere making her feel diminished in any way. She was proud and very self-assured, and she knew what she wanted. Angel smiled darkly as her gaze remained fixed on him. He planned.
Angel let out a sigh and poured more wine into his goblet, his dark smile lingering on his lips.
“I perceive you are powerful among your kin. You don’t need to remind me that…” He smiled as she stared. “I see you reject any gift of power. The offer remains open, however. I understand you have your own ways and you’ve sketched the final picture by such means. I suppose if you’d have a little advantage, that would be of help.” Angel’s eyes narrowed. “You mentioned you can’t trace the other were packs down because they are elusive. If you’d have an demonically increased awareness, you’d sense them easily. I could do that for you. Which additional uses you may give to this as in combat or tracking, is up to you.” Angel watched her after suggesting this choice, warming his goblet in his hand.
Luna’s gaze changed to thoughtful. Put that way, it wasn’t so insulting. She almost laughed aloud. She could sense his cautious interest. Even demons couldn’t mask their scent.
“And what would you gain from… Such a gift? Do you have something in mind?” No one gave anything away for free; there was always a price. And some prices she was not willing to pay.
Angel smiled, slightly amused. “Do I have to have a reason for everything I do?” His dark smile came back, but it was mischievous as well. “What a fame my kin has gained! I’m not going to buy your soul with this – it’s not that cheap!” Angel’s eyes shimmered.
“Well, if I must… I’m eager to gain something. I’ll do this for you and someday I’ll ask you a favor – nothing out of your reach. However if you’d like, we could simply exchange some good will. I mentioned we could someday be allies. Which one do you prefer?”
Luna shook her head slightly. She wasn’t afraid of losing her soul.
To see… Would I rather good will, a possible ally, or not to owe? I think the choice is simple; alliance.
She could be blunt when she chose. “Alliance.” She held a slender, laced gloved hand out over the table. She suppressed an inner smile… It would be hard to tell who had manipulated whom here.
Angel took her hand and gave a gentle yet firm shake. His dark, mischievous smile lingered on his lips, yet it diminished to a more cool and collected look. “It’s an honor”, he said. It took sometime but she finally said yes. At last something interesting in this damp and dark, foggy land – besides what brought us here. I like her smile; she thinks she’ll manipulate me. Angel rose his goblet.
“May I propose a toast. For the White Club restaurant, which have brought us together.” His eyes shimmered slightly, mischievously.
Luna smiled back with a mischief of her own as they clicked glasses.
Maybe I can learn a thing or two from him… And once I am able to observe other packs, I will be able to find what I could not. Half-taught is more dangerous than un-taught at all.
“To the White Club. May we prosper.”
“So be it”, Angel softly said. He tasted the wine, barely touching the liquor with his lips. He watched her over his goblet as he did.
“This enhancement of your own awareness is quite simple for me. You’ll need a little rest afterwards, while your body gets used to the new awareness. You might feel a little uncomfortable with your sharpened senses at first, so I suggest we go to a place that’s safe for you, so I’ll cast the spell on you there.”
Luna smiled slightly. “My erstwhile guardian’s manor will do. He is a ‘friend’ of Father’s… His house is set as a focal ground to the Arts. He is rarely there… He certainly will not mind, so long as the magical residues are taken care of.”
She tapped the crystal goblet with a red-lacquered nail. “Can we accomplish the… Necessary this evening?” She made a mental tally of what may be needed… “Will you require… Some sort of blood sacrifice? It seems that many of your kind, even the lesser devils, practice blood and necromantical majick.” She personally thought it was disgusting; using pain as a source of majick. It was a sign of weakness as well; if one could not properly prepare themselves with natural energy, how could one survive when victims were not available? But her ‘guardian’ had provisions for that, as well. She wondered often just whom or what he was… He was never to be seen at the manor, but it was always well stocked, with orders and arrangements always perfect.
Angel read her body language as she spoke, and his dark smile went slightly more pronounced, for he saw she had imagined one of those complicated rituals with much blood and screaming and she wasn’t pleased with the idea.
“I won’t need to shed blood today”, he said after tasting his wine again. “As I said, for me it’s a simple thing to do. It’s between you and me, and I don’t need to summon any additional power; I don’t need to invoke anyone.” Angel’s eyes shimmered, for it was very true. He is on top of the necromancy power chain, yet he hadn’t told that to Luna yet.
“Sacrifices and whatnot involving death and life contained in the blood of victims are for certain tasks, but not all. The are designed to enhance the own power, or to invoke certain helpful demons – some of them on their own, some against their will – but this won’t be the case.”
Luna relaxed slightly. She scented a secret, something important but not threatening. She smiled and leaned back into her seat once more, waving away the waiter who had come to refill her wine. She had had enough wine for one evening with majick on the horizon.
“In that case, I would like to invite you to dinner at the manor.” She smiled dazzlingly at him. “You can tour the library at your leisure. My guardian has many interesting topics of such lore… Sadly, much of it is truly inaccessible to me, not being in my sphere of majick. But I still find it rather… Useful.” Good to know what the weaknesses of other majicks and Others who use it, to say the least.
“Very well”, Angel accepted. He cast a melancholic look at Aramis’ empty seat. “I’m always eager to explore.” Angel’s gaze lingered on her as she smiled, and he rose his goblet in salutation to her, then tasted his wine. He’d have to see what protections and spells that manor had, if any, given that the owner was interested in the dark arts and practiced them.
Belial perceived a flock of archangels moving fast in the skies of London. What could be happening? He’d need to find out later. “We may go when you wish.”
Luna smiled in acknowledgement and rose, noticing the quick mournful look Angel flashed at his brother’s former place. “I think you may be quite interested in the protections on the house… It lies on a natural source, a nodule if you will, of power… The manor’s construction has a singular purpose to concentrate that power.”
She felt a powerful surge of energy moving swiftly nearby; something she had become accustomed to in the last week or so. It… They were not Were; they had more in common with this Other, although their majick seemed to be of a holier sort. Perhaps there were angels… Or at least spirits of the sort.
She offered him her arm and smiled.
Belial took Luna’s arm and they walked out of the restaurant of the White Club. If Luna’s former companion noticed their departure or not, that was of minor importance. The captain of waiters bowed as they walked out of the restaurant. They walked through a sumptuous foyer and down the imperial stairs to the main lobby, then they left the White Club London House. They left in Luna’s carriage.
(1)You are starting to worry me.
(2)Well I don’t see why.
(3)The last thing I need is to worry about you when the archangels are gathering.
(4) Won’t we do something?
(5) And what do you suggest?