Chapter 26: Ivy (II)
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
I had been shocked by what Martha was doing to Shylock, but hadn’t the power to intervene. That’s why I had wanted to bind her, so I could always control her. I didn’t have enough power to force her to do anything, otherwise. All I could do was watch. Then Martha collapsed on the floor.
I rolled her over. She had apparently passed out. I tried prying into her mind, but it was in even greater chaos than Shylock’s had been, and it was as if I was looking at it through some sort of interference. Having no idea of what to do with her, I turned to Shylock. To my surprise, he was no longer sinking. Instead, there was an overmastering fury against Martha in his mind. Whether or not it was what Martha intended, it was an improvement of sorts.
Not knowing what else to do, I sat there keeping watch on both Martha and Shylock, while reviewing what had just happened. So it was true: Martha was a sorceress as well as a vampire. I could no longer doubt it. On the other hand, I couldn’t even imagine how that had come about. There was nothing like it in any of the many volumes I had read. And judging from what she and her sorceress friend had done in 1874, Shylock had underestimated her age. Martha had to be at least two centuries old, maybe older. That made her one of the oldest sorcerers in North America. Truly a frightful creature, to be used, not to be trusted.
She finally began to stir, opened her eyes, and after a few false starts managed to sit up, leaning against Shylock’s coffin. She looked at me as if she were still a few marbles short and asked, “How long was I out for?”
I guessed. “Maybe five minutes. Is this normal for you?”
She shook her head. “Never happened before.” Pause. “Shouldn’t happen now.” Pause. “But I haven’t done serious magic since London. Maybe something’s changed.”
“What were you doing to Shylock? It looked like you were hurting him.”
Martha noticed the anger in my voice. She shook her head, wobbled a bit, finally replied, “Not the way you think. He’s . . . he’s angry at himself. It’s destroying him. So I got him angry at me, instead. It’ll, it’ll give him mo . . . motivation to get better, and distract him from thinking of what he did.”
Martha shook her head repeatedly, as if trying to clear it, stood up, staggered unevenly over to Jenny’s coffin, and lifted up the lid. She looked in, shook her head. “Cripes, I can barely stand. I’m going to need a blood meal or two before I can tackle her. You’ve done this all wrong, Ivy.” She dropped the lid and sat down facing me, looking wiped out.
I must have looked startled, because Martha smiled in a knowing way. She said to me, “Picking through Kammen’s mind gave me your name, but I should have remembered it anyhow. We met in the late 1940s, not long before you died.”
“I don’t remember you.”
“When do sorcerers ever remember vampires, except when they’re using them? And you’re such a sage by reputation, Madame McIlwraith, but I can tell from the way you tried to fix Jenny that you don’t know a damn thing about vampire physiology, even after having Kammen for a pet.” She sounded disgusted.
“He’s not a pet, and better that than your offspring, Madame Fokker.” I was getting mad at Martha, using the courteous title for a fellow sorceress in mockery, just as she had to me.
She shrugged, as if the argument wasn’t worth it, which it wasn’t. “Maybe.” She turned to look at Jenny’s coffin. “She’s going to need blood, too, and she can’t feed herself. She really shouldn’t wake in this condition, either, not after what Kammen put her through. And Kammen will need blood, too, and we can’t let him run loose until we’ve worked on him.” Martha shook her head. “Damn. I’m in no shape to go out in the day to hunt prey, let alone for three of us.”
What I should have done was the obvious: used sorcery to bring someone down here that Martha could feed from. But her criticism of my knowledge nettled me. I tried to think of something clever I could do that would impress her. I recalled a trick Make Love Not War had pulled when Martha was badly burned a few months ago, a trick I learned while poking through Love’s mind. I reached out with sorcery and began stealing small amounts of blood from the library patrons and people passing by, and transferring it into Martha, Jenny, and Shylock.
Martha almost jumped a foot when the first blood passed into her system. She was puzzled at first, but then turned to look at me, shamefaced. “I guess I’d better take that back, about your not knowing vampires. How are you doing that?”
It was a petty triumph to impress Martha with someone else’s idea. I wouldn’t do it. “No credit to me. This is the technique your friend Love used on you after she burnt you. I’ve modified it a bit, eliminating the intermediary.”
Martha chuckled at that, gave me a wan smile. “Smart. How long can you do this, and can you do it for all three of us?”
“It’s hardly any power to do it, and I’m already doing it for all three of you.”
“Good. Keep it up and don’t bother me. I need to work on Jenny.” She stood up, still a bit unsteady, opened Jenny’s coffin again, kneeled down beside it and leaned over Jenny’s corpse. It was several minutes before she began, but then she started ordering me to withdraw spells from Jenny while she began building new ones in their place.
We were that way for about two hours, me transferring blood, mostly into Martha and Jenny, Martha using sorcery to reattach the salvageable parts of Jenny’s body properly. It was slow work, especially at first. Martha gradually became more alert and more skillful. I followed what she was doing carefully, and she even let me watch through her mind. I noted how she gave a high priority to reestablishing circulation, while all but ignoring the nervous system, almost the converse of what I’d done. She couldn’t reestablish circulation in the left arm, it had been too badly mangled when Shylock tore it off, but set up a different spell to allow Jenny’s body to absorb it and rebuild the arm.
At the end, she just fell back and laid on the floor. She looked up and smiled at me. “Thanks. I’ve got her body in about as good a shape as it’s going to get. But her mind’s a shambles, and she’ll freak out if she recovers her senses anytime soon. So I’ve put her under a spell similar to the one on Kammen. And now I just want to sleep until dark, if you don’t mind.” She closed her eyes.
“One question,” I said. Martha opened her eyes. “Why are you helping me?” I asked.
She frowned. “Kammen may be yours, Ivy, but he’s also one of mine. I clean up my messes. And besides, I don’t want you to kill me in my sleep.” She smiled, shook her head. “Now let me go to sleep.”
So that was my first experience with Martha. She was not what I’d been expecting, based on Shylock’s account of her and what he’d learned from the other vampire cops. Oh, there was the obvious difference that she was also a sorceress, but it went far beyond that. By reputation, Martha was supposed to be absurdly chirpy or simply vicious. I’d caught a glimpse of both. But what had predominated was something different, something that explained more about Martha. Behind those personalities, she was intelligent, and even showed some human sympathy for others. That explained some of the loyalty her progeny and the sorceress Make Love Not War felt for her.
It probably also explained why she was still alive, and that touched on a matter that had been puzzling me for decades. We know vampires age very slowly and can live for centuries, and sorcerers who can stabilize their age can do likewise. Both vampires and sorcerers are also supposed to get more powerful as they get older. One would assume that both peoples would be dominated by very old members, that young members would be few and never in a position of leadership. Yet in fact the converse is true: there are very few old vampires or sorcerers around, and there’s a steady stream of new leaders, most of whom are under a century old.
This wouldn’t be apparent to most observers. Among vampires, it is considered rude to ask their age, and few are forthcoming on the subject. Sorcerers tend to be close-mouthed about their age as well, primarily to keep any potential enemies guessing. It wasn’t until I turned a century old that I realized that almost all the leading sorcerers I knew in my youth had died and been replaced by younger sorcerers.
It took a while before the truth hit me: we sorcerers kill off our old leaders. None of them ever dies a natural death. Younger members gang up on them and destroy them, just as Make Love Not War and Martha Fokker destroyed Jacques of Marseilles, though usually not so savagely.
The results are striking. Today, in 1969, there are no more than four sorcerers in the Americas over two centuries old, if that many, including the curious creature asleep on the floor here in the basement in front of me. There is not one in Europe over four centuries old since Jacques was destroyed in 1874. The colonial powers killed off all the old sorcerers in Africa, and probably in Australia as well. There are supposed to be sorcerers of seven centuries in India, China, and some remote parts of Asia, but I have to wonder if they are merely legends, or echoes of earlier times.
I suspect the situation is even worse for vampires. Sorcerers who sit on councils usually hold their seats for decades, while vampire gang leaders and “kings” rarely last a single decade. While Martha herself is evidence of how well a vampire can hide, she may be the oldest vampire in existence outside of Asia.
To judge from this encounter, and what I had learned from others, Martha seems to identify with her vampirism, and looks upon sorcerers with some disdain. Yet she was both. Just as I couldn’t figure out how she had become both vampire and sorceress, I could not imagine what caused her to choose being a vampire over being a sorceress. But it may have been another element that explained why she was alive today. So long as she moved among vampires, she could always fall back on sorcery to defeat her enemies, while she probably would have died in a power struggle among sorcerers centuries ago.
A little bell went off in my head at the thought of centuries of time. My reputation as a scholar of sorcery was not undeserved. I knew the names of every sorcerer who had signed the Conventions between 1749, when they were promulgated, and 1960, when the last official lists were published in North America and Europe. And none of those names belonged to Martha, almost certainly so prior to 1874, and absolutely without question after 1874. Martha was an outlaw sorceress twice over, both for not signing the Conventions and for slaughtering Jacques of Marseilles with Love’s help. Maybe that was why she identified herself as a vampire, because if she ever publicly revealed herself as a sorceress, she’d be hunted down and killed by the other sorcerers.
Had I myself known what Martha was when she says we met, two decades ago, I would have denounced her to the Tribunal and the Council. Now I was counting on her to help save Shylock and get him and his fellow vampires back into the police force. And what about after? Having been killed on order of a Council member, I had little loyalty left there. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted Martha Fokker running loose. Not unless I had a better idea of what she wanted.
End of chapter twenty-six