Chapter 36: Love
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
It was highly entertaining watching the look on Martha’s face when she saw me sitting beside my love. She just couldn’t believe it.
Neither could Ned. Poor Ned, he doesn’t really want to be a vampire. He is cute, though. Maybe I’ll just enslave him and try to see if it’s actually possible to make a vampire sexually perform. It will probably kill him. But I’ll have a lot of fun trying.
The washed-up nobody with the warrant, who is she? I probe into her mind, and find that she and this Kammen vampire that supposedly screwed me up are lovers of a sorts. So maybe there really are possibilities with vampires. Her situation is so interesting that I want her now.
You, Sally Truax.
She turns my way, unable to resist.
That’s right, you and me, we’re going to be great friends, along with your vampire buddy.
That makes her smile. Probably the first real pleasure she’s ever felt. No, I can see in her head something she and the vampire did. Ingenious.
I hear Martha’s voice, turn to look at her. She’s speaking to Ned. She says, “Clearly Cross has Love under his control. I know she’ll try to seduce almost everyone, but Cross is below even her standards.”
That’s a raw hit. I get angry, start to get up, but dear Edward reaches over and squeezes my hand. I relax.
Edward addresses Martha. “You’re a rather rude little creature. You don’t even address me with a proper title. It’s Monsieur Cross to you, you pathetic little vampire.”
But Martha’s not paying attention. She’s looking at my latest conquest, the Truax woman. She knows I did something to her. But you’re not going to get her back, Martha.
To my surprise, she doesn’t even try. She turns back to my dear Edward, and says to him, “Corpses don’t need titles.”
Edward laughs. He has a wonderful laugh, though thanks to his condition it is not very hearty. And he says to Martha, “In that case, I will dispense with your title, Martha Fokker. And you with it.”
It had only been a few hours ago that Edward’s sorcerers had caught me at Ned O’Donnell’s house and knocked me unconscious. It seems odd to me now that I had been working against Edward at that point. They say love is blind, and I guess I was.
The next thing I knew, I felt a sharp pain and woke up with a scream, for two different sorcerers were beginning to torture me. I was chained against a wall in a small windowless cell. It was almost antiseptically clean, except for the places on the floor and wall where my blood had spilled when they had cut me.
But then Edward arrived. He was already so noble, I just didn’t see it quite yet. He came through the cell door and looked at his wizards in disgust. Poor followers, they didn’t really understand him. He told them, “Put those things away. I’ll handle this one.” He was so masterful.
The next thing I knew he had his hands on me, and I couldn’t keep my hands off him. Or any of the rest of me. I’d found true love, and it was hard to wait until we got to a bedroom to consummate it.
Afterwards, I just watched him and ran my fingers up and down his naked body. Its gauntness haunted me, charmed me. He let me play with him a while. Then he sat up and said to me, “I’m expecting a visit from a friend of yours, Martha Fokker.”
“She’s no friend of mine,” I replied. Really! Martha! That trouble-causing little squirt has caused me no end of problems. Thanks to her, I’ve probably got a death sentence hanging over my head. Thanks to her, I had to leave London. Thanks to her . . . oh, to hell with her.
“Nevertheless, my dear, you know quite a bit about her. She wants to kill me. Can you think of any way in which she is vulnerable, any way I can keep her from killing me, maybe even kill her if I have to?” Edward gave me his best smile.
Oh, I could think of a way she was vulnerable, very vulnerable, as in it would kill her.
Martha makes a move to lift up her blasting rod to attack Edward. But I had warned my love about Martha’s odd-looking blasting rod, and he is ready for her. He lets go of my hand, lifts the magic mirror out of his pocket, and points it at Martha. Concentrated sunlight: no vampire can withstand it. Not even Martha. I’d already demonstrated that some weeks ago. Edward activates the mirror, and the power of five suns crashes into Martha. It knocks her back, step by step. In seconds she will start to burn.
And then she stops. Stops and starts advancing forward. It is hard to see in the glare, but she has her sorceress’s wand in front of her. And she isn’t burning!
I panic, clutch at Edward, foolishly dragging down his arm. The ray spills away from Martha. And at that moment she fires a blast of energy at Edward.
Had it been her blasting rod, Edward might have been hurt. But Martha must be weakened, and she is using only her wand. Edward is so strong, he just shrugs it off, knocks me to the side, and lifts the mirror again. The beam hits Martha and holds her. And then I see just how resourceful Edward really is, how brilliant. The power of the ray begins to increase. It doubles, quadruples. Martha roars, shaking the building. But it begins to force her back again.
I understand what Edward had already figured out, smart as he is. Because I had used it on her before, Martha was ready to counter the concentrated sunlight, but only at the intensity at which I had used it. By stepping the power up as he could, Edward is overcoming Martha’s prepared defenses.
Edward shouts to me, “Take care of the other two before Martha thinks to use them.”
So smart. I’ve already got Sally under my control, so I stand up and take over Ned’s mind, too. It is simple. They will do nothing. No, better than that: I make them turn and watch Martha being destroyed.
Martha is falling back under the intense beam. She has stopped roaring. I think I can see her face despite the glare from the beam. It is still unburnt, but Martha knows what is happening to her, and it shows: fear and rage play across her face as she falls back one step, and then another. Soon she will back into a wall, her defenses will collapse under the pressure, and it will be over.
And then someone else appears out of nowhere, at the end of the table nearest me. I don’t know her. She’s just a girl. I reach out to take control of her. But I can’t. Instead, I can feel something happen to me. What’s happening to me? And then I heard a voice in my head.
I’m freeing your mind of Edward Cross’s control.
What control? What do you mean? I’m in love with Edward.
For how long? When did your thoughts change from fearing him and wanting to avoid him?
It’s hard to think back. I was different then, wrong. I did fear him, then, as late as this afternoon. But that was then.
And this is now. You know a more powerful sorcerer can control you. What Edward Cross has done to you may be gentler than what Jacques of Marseilles did to you, but it is still of the same kind.
I don’t like to think about what Jacques did to me. And that Edward did the same . . . but he’s Edward. I love him. And how the hell is this woman reading my thoughts? How does she know about what Jacques did to me?
Because I’m really two people acting together. You see before you Nora O’Donnell, who is sister to Ned. But I am also the spirit of Ivy McIlwraith, and am drawing on her power.
That’s another person I could do without. Why should I listen to you?
How long have you loved Edward Cross? And how long have you hated Martha Fokker? Did she not help you escape Jacques’ clutches? What has Edward done for you, that you should love him?
If Martha hadn’t worked with me, neither one of us would ever have escaped Jacques. But she causes me so much trouble. And maybe Edward hasn’t done that much for me . . .
. . . except brainwash you.
Shut up! I suppose you want me to throw in with Martha, for your precious brother.
Not exactly. Look at what is going on between those two. Look.
I look. There is Martha, desperate, falling back ever so slowly, rage contorting her features into a vicious creature. And there is my beloved Edward. But he is so changed. His brow is so furrowed, his eyes practically popping out of his head as he strains to push the magical beam of sunlight to a high enough power to destroy Martha. Even with all his power, and the sunlight at his command, Edward is barely winning.
They are completely committed to each other’s destruction, now. And, truth be told, I do not want either of them to win.
Edward Cross is cruel, and Martha Fokker is vicious. If Cross wins, Martha and her children will all be destroyed to appease his wrath, and he will be free to torture and inflict harm to the end of his life. And Martha is not much better. Surely she will slaughter Cross’s sorcerers to the last man. And she feeds off her blood lust. She may not be able to stop herself.
I’d seen that. Martha hadn’t been able to stop herself in London. For that matter, she really hadn’t been able to stop herself here in Chicago. I’d had to devise that concentrated sunlight trick to stop her.
I have not the power myself to resolve their struggle. But you do, Love, with my help. Tell me, which one should win?
I love Edward. I owe Martha. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. You decide.
No. You know them both better than anyone else. It is for you to decide. What do they want, Love? Besides killing each other?
I don’t know, I told you. No. Wait. Let me think. If I can think. How do I know what I’m thinking is what I’d really want to think? Do I really love Edward?
That’s for you to decide. But right now, tell me, what does he want?
Now that I think about it, that’s easy. Edward wants power. I can see that in him. He’s dying, but he will cling to his power in Chicago at any cost.
What good does it do him?
I don’t know. He just is that way.
I don’t really understand Martha. She wants to get Ned back on the police force. I think she’s still mad about Vic getting killed last year. She was in love with him, or as close as vampires get to that. Otherwise, she usually just wants to be left alone.
And what is to keep her from going on another rampage?
Nothing. Cripes, what am I? Her keeper?
Had Edward Cross not suspected Martha of threatening his power, he would not have attacked her, and she would not have attacked them. This whole conflict is pointless.
Tell that to them. Just look at them. That’s all they can think of, right now. You said it, yourself.
Then what can you offer them instead?
No. What do you do, Love? What are you good at? What can you give them? What do you want from them?
Nothing. I . . . wait, I think I see what you’re driving at. I’m in love with Edward.
Because he made you so.
Doesn’t matter. Shut up, you asked me to think this through and that’s what I’m doing. I’m in love with Edward, I don’t care how or why. I want him to be in love with me. And if he was in love with me, he’d have something other than power he wanted, and he’d be willing to settle this business.
And Martha . . . hmm, that’s tougher. I wish she wouldn’t get out of control the way she does. It always causes trouble for me. It causes trouble for her, too. She even admits it. She knows it’s what causes her to do stupid things. Hell, the time she almost bashed Ned’s head in, she was crying afterwards because she’d hurt him. Maybe if she was more in control, less violent, or less hasty or something. But I don’t know how to do that.
But I do. I spent the last few decades as a ghost helping Sherlock Kammen control his sadistic tendencies.
Yeah, well what a success that was. No, forget that. I just saw what this cop Sally here thinks of Kammen. He’s got her in love with him without enthralling her. But your work wasn’t perfect, was it?
No. But Martha thinks she can improve on it for Kammen. Perhaps between what I know and what she knows, we can improve on it for her. Even if the work was imperfect, it might help.
Well . . . I suppose. How do we do this?
You go to Cross and begin. I’ll support you.
I break our little magical mental dialogue and go over to Edward. Dear Edward. Or Edward Cross the damn head sorcerer here. I don’t care which any more. I just want him to love me. And I want Martha to be less vicious.
I put my hands on Edward’s head and begin using sorcery on him. Immediately I feel more sorcerer’s power flowing into me, power with a great deal of knowledge and design behind it. Nora and Ivy join forces with me and we reach into Edward’s mind. He wasn’t expecting us, he’s too committed to fighting Martha, he can’t stop us. So we begin to change him. And then, through him, we change the magic of the concentrated sunlight into a beam of our own sorceresses’ power to reach out to Martha. It’s almost too much energy for me to handle, I feel light-headed. I’m not sure I can really do this. And then it’s over, just like that. I drop my hands, slump down in the chair beside Edward, feeling drained and tired.
Edward looks over at me. He smiles, even looks a bit shy. He says to me, “I have an idea of something we can do together, Love. Are you interested?”
All of a sudden I feel a lot better. I smile back at Edward, one of my more enticing smiles. He deserves it.
But what of the others in the room? What of Martha? I look around. I had dropped my control of Ned and Sally when I treated Edward and Martha. The two cops look like they’re collecting their wits, perplexed and unsure about what happened. Martha is sitting on the floor, looking stunned and tired. The girl, Nora, is seeing to her. I turn back to Edward. “What about them?” I ask.
Edward shrugs. “Let them find their own pleasures.” He stands up, takes my arm, and we leave. I don’t look back.
End of chapter thirty-six
Wait a minute. Martha’s wand and her blasting rod aren’t one and the same?
The big problem with the exchange between Love and Ivy/Nora is that it goes on for a LONG time, only once really checking in on the stasis between Cross and Martha. That’s a long time to have Martha trying to repel Cross’s sunlight!
I can see Ned and Sally going after Cross as soon as they see Love and Cross turning to leave.
I’m so used to thinking of Martha carrying her wand, blasting rod, and her favorite dagger, that I didn’t notice that I never make mention of this practice of hers in the book. So I’ll have to go back to a chapter with Martha as narrator. But, yes, the wand and blasting rod aren’t the same thing. The blasting rod is a specialized wand, optimized to fire destructive blasts of sorcery.
The interchange between Love and Ivy/Nora does seem to go on for a bit, though if you read it out loud, it takes only a few minutes. I had imagined it taking place in their minds, where it would be faster still. For now, I’ve changed a bit of the wording to indicate how slowly Cross is defeating Martha. But I think I’ll need a better explanation, the problem being that Love wouldn’t think to explain such things herself. But that’s ultimately my problem as author to deal with!
I could imagine Ned and Sally going after Cross, too, but they don’t. Just like Love, who can’t quite think straight about Cross even when free from his mind control, they are still “coming out” of Love’s control. And Ned in particular is distracted by seeing his sister there.
Well, that was a surprise; truly make love not war. And to have Love suspended between the horns of dilemma. Yet I have say that Love did remind me a tad of Lydia Bennett talking of her ‘beloved Wickham’. Probably because they both are women held in the corrupting enticement of manipulative men. Can’t wait for Halloween. But then we must wait for the next tale to begin. I do hope you’ve decided upon the Norse one.
Love wasn’t going to be the narrator of this little episode originally. She was going to be a tailor’s dummy. But I got to thinking about how neither Nora nor Ivy are all that crazy about Martha, and how it’s hard to think straight when one’s emotions are manipulated. And that led to the chapter you’ve just read.
I’m reading a book by a Harvard prof named Mitchell on Nordic medieval thinking on magic and witchcraft. I need to finish that before contemplating whether I can make a go of such a story.
So you know the Norse accused the Finnish sorcerer’s of using flies as spies. And the hamms (skins) that can be donned to shape-change? A long time ago I gave you a link to an Icelandic-English dictionary. It’s well worth a plough through for its incidental information. That’s where I gleaned of those two. Good luck.
Norse fear of sorcerers among the Sami/Lapps and Finns seems to go a long way back. Eric Bloodaxe’s wife Gunnhild was supposed to have been trained by Finnish magicians, that they were Finnish being another black mark against her. But flies? Ho-boy!
To the Norse, Finn was synonymous with sorcery and sorcerers. But yea, flies were said to be sent by Finnish sorcerers as spies. It makes me think of the Irish story of Etain, who was reborn when her soul was swallowed in form of a fly. And the donning of skins surely underlies the Welsh tale of Cerridwen and her apprentice, Gwynn. Let’s not forget that the Vikings were into Cumbria, Wales and Ireland. Toli wants to tell a tale based on the above, but if that’s where you’re going, I’ll tell him to hold back. 🙂
Nae, nae, if Toli wants to tell a tale along those lines, then let him go ahead. Even if I tell a similar tale, we don’t talk alike or think alike, so there will be enough of legend for the both of us. 😉
🙂 Yet I felt I ought to run it by you.
Your delicacy on this point has my appreciation.
And speaking of Nordic superstition, someone just sent me this link: http://disinfo.com/2013/10/horrifying-necropants-iceland/
But no instruction on how to preserve the skin. Surely untreated it would harden and crack. Not to mention the human’s 10-25% subcutaneous fat. But interesting concept, and knowing the Norse had a tradition of donning animal skins (hence berserkers), this article doesn’t exactly surprise me. Interesting photo though. Have you made your agreement with anyone yet?
I need more information on the preservation techniques, too. Is there shrinkage? And won’t this be uncomfortable for the larger/bigger person if the shorter/smaller person dies first?
Well, from what I understand of the ‘hamm-skin’ technique, which is clearly related, the wearer’s own body in some way shrinks or grows or reshapes to fit into the skin. So being bigger or shorter wouldn’t matter. I’m just concerned of the rancid reek from the rotting fat. Would you want that hot and slippery around your personals? And that thing of a coin? Now that’s what you do with a new purse. And that is interesting because ‘purse’ is very old slang for female genitalia. Hence granny’s advice ‘to keep a hand on your ha’penny’. There seems to be a transsexual element here.
Do I want lovelier legs? Hmmm . . .
But where is the space for the coins if the skin comes from a female? Transsexual, indeed!
Indeed, my point entirely
Interesting about the flies and spies. I suppose flies are looked at as somewhat invisible and can listen in without being noticed…don’t we all want to be a fly on that wall? Is the orgin of the expression Norse?
I enjoyed Love’s POV actually and the way her captive thoughts were revealed to herself through Ivy’s questioning. I do not think it is uncommon in writing to have the inner thoughts take up space or time. There’s the written expression of it which takes time to express just as with out loud dialogue. I don’t see a difference and in fact since thinking seems to always take up more time than we realize, its is what it is.
Can’t wait for Halloween. The kids will miss me at the door with candy cuz I’ll be reading at my computer!!
I’ll try to get things posted early enough for you, Judy!
The whole issue of what happens when you remove magical mind control interests me. Traditionally, it’s been treated in the literature like binary states: you’re either mind controlled or you’re not, and if it’s removed you go back to your previous mental state.
But that’s not how the human mind really works. If we have experiences, they change us. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine once had an episode in which the Irish fellow got put through a punishment that was purely mental, but seemed like ten years, and when he came out of it, he retained some of the personality features he’d had going in. I think that closer to how humans would really react. Hence, Love’s confusion.
I love this chapter, Brian! Nordic magic or not, this one was a real delight! I mean, what should be more obvious here than Make-Love-Not-War (I call her “fuck-don’t-fight”) acting on her name? And still, readers are so used to violence – fascinating, breath-taking, extravagant, creative and mind-boggling, but still violence -that it’s easy to forget there could be other ways. Especially since as implied by Nora/Ivy, these two, Cross and Fokker, fit the Hebrew saying “One is non-Kosher (treyfa), the other one just stinks…”
I like the saying: as you say, it sums up the situation quite well. And you’ve got Love’s number (or should we say name?).
I actually had planned a violent end, more than one, in fact, but as I wrote other possibilities emerged, including especially the one you’ve just read.