Jivaja: Chapter Ten, Part Three

 

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Welcome to Free Fiction Friday! Every week, I’ll be posting a scene or two (in order, of course!) from my book, Jivaja. If you want to read along, just come on back every Friday!

Some scenes will be shorter, several hundred words. Some will be a thousand or more. Read them in order though, otherwise none of this will make sense!

Follow along as Mecca, a young woman with a Gift for manipulating human life force, runs head-first into a shadowy vampire-like society that discovers her power and wants to use her.

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Chapter Ten – Claude, Part Three

 

Claude strode down the long hall approaching Emilia’s quarters. At the door, a young woman perched on a sturdy, wooden stool. She had a faint smell of apples about her. Claude tried to recall her name, but her face, though pretty, was just one of dozens of young ones who’d come to Atlanta. Claude had lost patience in trying to keep track of them all.

She ducked her head as he approached, brown hair obscuring her angular face for a moment.

Respectful, at least. A half-breed? When she raised her head and met his gaze, Claude found her deep-set eyes compelling with their cornflower blue pools.

“She’s expecting you.” The young woman flicked the door handle with her fingers and gave it a push and it swung open without a sound.

“Thank you,” Claude said. She would make something of herself in this life. Later, though, when she’d learned the ways. “Your name?”

“Victoria Thornton.”

“Well met, Miss Thornton. And good evening.” He inclined his head, which brought a smile to the young one’s lips.

“Good evening to you, as well.”

He went through the entryway and into the sitting room. It looked exactly as it had the last time he’d come here, with Emilia at her computer again. He approached the desk.

“The girl at your door, Victoria Thornton, she’s promising.”

“Yes. She’d been working the streets for a few months before she was brought in.”

“She will accept responsibility well, I think.”

“I agree. I was pleasantly surprised,” she said, her voice melodic as it had always been. “I’m glad you could come by. Tonight, I’ll be dining with Mecca on the music room balcony.”

Claude kept his face expressionless as he listened and leaned against one of the chairs facing Emilia’s desk.

“I’d appreciate it if you would bring her up for me.”

A glorified nurse, pushing a wheelchair. “Of course.” Claude paused, then decided to take a calculated risk. “She is a willful girl, you realize.”

“Yes, she is. But I think I can persuade her.”

“Do you? Is there leverage you might use?”

“Have you seen the reports on her father?”

“Briefly. I didn’t look very close, I admit.” Claude had read each report on David’s former wives with care. “But I believe I caught the overall meaning. You will pursue him as well?”

“Yes. Having two in the fold will be a great advantage at this time.” She leaned back in the desk chair and the scent of cinnamon and cloves drifted over Claude again.

He waited a moment before nodding. “Yes, the power they have would prove very useful in the coming conflict.”

She turned her almond eyes on him. “I don’t want the war to come to Atlanta, but I am afraid it’s too late to stop it.”

“I believe that’s true,” he said. “In a previous age, you might have been able to fortify and keep the zealots out. Today, everything is immediate and it only takes moments to make something distant local.”

“Mecca’s power, along with her father’s, will tip the scales, I think.”

“Do you have a theory about this power?”

Emilia fixed him with an intent gaze. “Do you think we’ve had it wrong about the Blood?”

He didn’t answer right away. He wasn’t sure where she was going.

“Do you think it’s possible,” she said, “that the Blood isn’t what sustains us?”

Emilia fixed him with an intent gaze. 'Do you think we’ve had it wrong about the Blood?' He didn’t answer right away. He wasn’t sure where she was going. 'Do you think it’s possible,' she said, 'that the Blood isn’t what sustains us?' Click To Tweet

“What do you mean?” He ground his teeth, frustrated at himself for not yet understanding, but feeling an enormity behind what she was getting at.

“What if the Blood is only a carrier?”

Everything became surreal as his thinking shifted to accommodate the shake-up of all the long-accepted tenets of their existence. Just contemplating it made his world tilt, yet in a way that made him feel the need to embrace it. Because it felt true. “It’s an intriguing idea. Tell me what you’re thinking.”

“I’m not sure yet. The way she killed Hayden—she drained him of life, but not blood. Yet he wasted away. Does it not follow that there is something other than the Blood?”

“Yes,” he said. It made sense. “What about sharing blood with humans? How does that fit in?”

Emilia leaned back in her chair. Her nostrils twitched almost imperceptibly as they always did when she concentrated. “I don’t know yet. Perhaps whatever we take with the Blood fuses with us in some way? When we share it with them, it gives us some measure of control over them?” She shook her head, her brow creased. “I don’t know.”

“I believe it’s something we should consider seriously.”

“Yes. If all of the beliefs we have about the Blood are wrong…”

Claude remained silent for a time as they both considered the shift in reality such a discovery would entail. He did not want to abandon his original question, however.

“So how do you hope to use the father to get the daughter?” He knew Emilia would not deny answers outright, their entwined past would ensure that, though she might hedge.

Emilia’s eyes narrowed for only a moment and Claude knew her defenses had raised. He walked a fine line between acceptable curiosity and prying interrogation.

“I hope that his previous crimes,” she said, “will alienate Mecca and make her open to other possibilities. Wouldn’t a murdering father cause a daughter—even a loving one—to pull away?” The question was rhetorical.

“Do we know for certain that he killed his wives?”

Emilia shrugged, her petite shoulders barely moving. “Do I know without a doubt? No. But I think it’s probable. And, more importantly, I think Mecca won’t be able to come to a different conclusion, as much as she may want to. I’m counting on it to make her distance herself from him. Make her more vulnerable.” She watched him with fire in her eyes. “If not, we’ll eventually get him as well. He won’t be able to stay away forever.”

“And if he tries to rescue his daughter?”

“Him coming to us would make it that much easier. I suspect he’s the more powerful of the two.”

“Perhaps so,” Claude said, though he believed it to be exactly so. David Trenow had made short work of the two who’d been sent to fetch him. Claude wanted to ask more of her plans, but it wouldn’t be welcome. He shifted topics. “Are things ready for the Maze Gathering?”

“Almost. We have the offerings, and we’ve received most of the invitation responses. We have dozens arriving from outside the city. It will be a full house. We haven’t had a Gathering here in several years.”

“The diversion will be welcome.”

“Yes.”

“Have you chosen who will play?”

“Not as yet. You’re welcome, if you wish. We’ll only have five spots this time, as we did last Gathering. I believe having fewer players makes the competition that much keener.”

“I may play. I haven’t participated in a Maze in quite a long time.” At least eighty years, he thought.

“Oh, very good.” Emilia’s smile radiated sincerity. “I may send Victoria in as well. What do you think of that?”

“Do you think she has the constitution to gather the hearts?”

Emilia inclined her head, a smile curving her lips and a twinkle in her eye. “That’s the question I’m hoping to answer.”

“So you do have plans for her.” Claude found himself a little bit enchanted, as he sometimes did with Emilia.

“Perhaps I do.” She looked back at the computer monitor and then said, “You will bring Mecca to me at ten o’clock tonight?”

Recognizing the dismissal, Claude executed a small reverence to her as he spoke. “Of course. I would be honored.”

“Very good. I will see you then.”

“As you wish.” He stepped back and then turned away.

He had plans to make.


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