Bertran laid back on the bed, if you could call something ten feet square a bed, and took a deep breath, it occurred to him that he hadn’t done it in so long it felt it was an alien thing to him, a thing he was not supposed to, forbidden and for others who had fewer worries than he. His eyes drifted to the spot next to him where Victoria lay, her body sublime even in sleep, her wings fluttering just a bit with every heartbeat, the colors around her humming with every breath. He knew she was not asleep, she wasn’t particularly trying to make him believe she was, it was just a comfortable and intimate silence between two people who had shared in each other and had known satisfaction for the first time in longer than either of them could remember.
Victoria was glorious in her repose. Her breath deep and slow and the memories of the evening making her heart flutter just a little every beat. She had seen this new God as an equal, treated him as such and gave him power as he always should have been receiving and the rest of the night was a blur of colors never seen by man and noises that only the most ancient of things remember echoing off the cliffs in the dark of the night. Yes there had been sex and it was glorious, but the power, feeding each other like babes at the teat, literally on more than one occasion, it made Victoria feel young in a way she had not felt since there was ice in places there is desert today.
“Bertran.” The single word was languidly spoken through veils of self-decadence. “You have now come into your own, you will now be able to do what you have always been able to and not aware of. It is a dangerous time for those who are not like us to be around you. You need to discover what you can and can not do and be able to control it. That having been said I insist you stay here with me in Montreal or a dozen other cities we can go to together, and I will teach you and you will tell me your story in the pieces you remember and I will gather the information from the sources in the world that know more than the mere folk we walk with.” Victoria’s voice dropped off and her eyes closed and, indeed, she did fall into a light sleep with a man she had never known before inches away from her.
He could no more hurt her than set the moon ablaze. She had given him hope when for centuries of agonized waiting there had been nothing. No chance of the truth, no hope of knowledge about who or what he is and, more importantly, no way for him to repay each narrow mind who had ever shut him away and called him mad. The fury was a thing he easily hid from her because he was in denial about it most of the time, but when the thoughts crossed his mind as they did now, the writings wrapped around him shone like the sun a mere moment before fading, his eyes, a fiery ruby light that burned in hatred, remained bright the longest, only dimming in intensity when he too closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around the woman who would be the vehicle of his revenge and the martyr on the cross of his freedom.
Far away from where Madame Victoria sat with the newly discovered godling Bertran in the sweetest and brightest parts of Montreal, there was an empty studio apartment in Old Prague a young lady sat and contemplated the infinite.
It was a past time she was very well versed in. She didn’t particularly care about the infinite, but a woman in her position was forced to look at the vastness of the picture instead of where the ink dribbled over the corner of the canvas. She had been sitting here, every night, doing this same thing for longer than she would like to admit. A little dinner, a few carefully smoked clove-stuffed cigarettes, maybe catch a movie or go dancing and then back here to this ridiculously overpriced shit hole apartment that was a magnet for her and she would sit until sleep, thinking of why the everything was the way it was.
Her mind drifted backward this evening, think back to when old One-Eye had given the “privilege” township to what would soon become the nearly mythical city of Prague. She had been old even then, remembering Sumer and the nights of chaos that had been the ending of it. No, tonight she thought about when the town was formed and how she was so very proud of it, and herself, because she had done a good thing for the first time in so very long. She had been in this very room, well the room that had been in the building that had been here then. The original one was hundreds of feet below her now. Progress they called it. She would be there again soon, a girl needed to sleep after all.
First, though, she would allow the embrace of memory to take her back to that which was……
She was Charlotte then, or rather Karolina if you wanted to follow the Czech of the time. She had quite literally stumbled upon the city by mistake, having had no intention of being in a heavily peopled area again after the last time. However, like all things, temptation was there and she could hear the music, smell the food, feel the vibrancy of life pounding through the world and she could not help herself and settled down here, ostensibly a widow from the East, her husband having met an unfortunate fate in one of the dozen wars that were going on at the time.
She was wealthier than all of these young people. She had saved over the centuries and knew how to liquefy wealth in a hurry. Karolina had picked the best of what was available. Made sure to have a multitude of servants. She never could stand menial labor. As hard as it was, she was old enough to deny herself the instant gratification of the flesh. Sadly making the trek to the surrounding wilderness each night to find her sustenance…
An explosive sound shook her from her revelry. From where it came from she knew it could only be the damnable Council. Calling all of them to the Temple to meet again.
She who was Karolina and was now Kalypso grabbed the corpse of the young lady. She had brought her home for dinner. A tasty young thing who had been looking for a hostel. Kalypso made sure to dispose of her in the incinerator. Then with a heavy heart and anticipating a long evening, Kalypso made her way to the Temple. All of this so she could listen to infants. Those who did not know what it meant to be of the Darkness. They had the audacity to tell her that she was too dark for their plans.
Bertran fell to his knees as he felt the wondrous heat wrap about him as his markings illuminated the room with Victoria’s. He threw his head backward, his eyes seeking and immediately finding hers and knowing that she was the answer, the answer to so many questions he had not even knew existed before this very second. He knew that she was the key to the door he had been bashing his face into for longer than he could even remember anymore. His voice was thick with emotion as he spoke to Victoria, her eyes moist with tears as she looked down at him.
“Goddess, I ask you, nay I beg you, please tell me what I am, why I am this.” He had said it, he had been waiting to ask that question his entire life. He had asked it before of course, just never to anyone that was not a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman, an ally of darkness and the demonic.
Victoria reached down with both hands and lifted him to his feet, slowly guiding him to divan where she sat him down, sending calm into him so that he would take this moment in for the immense thing that it was and not panic through it. Her voice was wistful, almost smiling as she began to speak, the words making the room, all there was to see was grass on a plain that extended beyond sight in all directions.
“I was born, aye. I was born to parents and had siblings by the dozen. The Fae were a population that outnumbered modern man five thousand to one. Hundreds of billions of us on a planet that has not existed in thousands and thousands of years. The Fae count time differently than mortal man, immortals do not need to keep such precise measurements. In the counting of the years of man however, I am hundreds of thousands of years old. I will live a hundred thousand times that and more beyond. Immortality is true. It is not the tale the Irish have told, not the Darkness that feeds on the essence, but it exists. It is a burden to some, a gift to others and, to you my lovely Bertran, it is a curse. Your mother was cursed by one who had a deep knowledge of things old and powerful.” She leaned forward and Bertran softly on the forehead, making him calmer and yet keeping him focused on her words as she wove the truth he had so long wanted and needed to hear.
“You will never die. You will never be killed. You are one of perhaps twenty that walk the world forever that is not Fae or Darkness. You have never met the others because you actively avoid one another, as magnets do not touch one another. You have so much pain, so much sorrow from so long, it is a wave most cannot accept when they hear the truth, of which nearly none do. You will walk this world after it kills itself either by war or Siobhan returns to claim it as her own once more.” Victoria’s voice got much more serious as she spoke the next part, delicately as to not drive him from her.
“You have power, Bertran. You do not know how to use it and I humbly ask you to allow me to teach you to use it lest darker things find you and make you slave for them for all of time, feeding appetites you truly do not want to imagine. Stay with me here, in Montreal, and I will tell you everything you want to know, I will teach you all you desire to learn and, I will give you other things that one like yourself has abstained from.” Her voice took on a husky tone as she dropped the final line, his head snapping to hers in understanding. Immortals could not breed, they had no children, but they still desired the pleasures of the flesh as much as any other creature Siobhan created.
Bertran took a deep breath and nodded, he did not trust himself to use words to tell this Goddess that she had just given him more than he ever dared to have hoped for.
Victoria, a wonderful name that had served her for more years than she would care to admit. She would, in moments of humor, admit to stealing it from the Queen, she had loved the way it rolled off of her tongue the first time she had said it aloud and decided to simply become Victoria, and she had been doing that ever since. In time another name would take hold of her mind and she would become the person that name required her to be. Victoria lent itself to pomp, circumstance, elegance and wealth. All of those things were pleasant so the transition was an easy and quick one. Buying some properties here, having a fleet of horses there. It had bee decades before she had to use a little glamour to make people come back to the path she wanted them to walk on because it was a simpler time. There was no Internet and Television, hell radio wasn’t even a thing yet. So when she claimed her wealth and showed it, she was respected on that alone. It is when the communication became so blasted easy that she had had to modify a few things.
The knock upon her dressing room door made her shake herself from her cobwebbed mind and she made sure she used her voice to maximum effect as she answered the knock. “But a moment lovelies, I am putting my face back on, can’t let a Goddess be seen without her makeup now can we?” She waited for and smiled at the laughter she had expected and quickly moved her hands over her body and her clothes shifted into what she needed. No longer on stage, the regal bearing had to go, she needed intimate, approachable, so it was simple cloths, muted colors, showing off the marks just so that they would understand what she was and where she came from, to a point.
Standing, she walked to the door and prepared her best smile as she pulled it open. Before her was quite a dapper man, mid-fifties she suspected. His smile as real as any she had seen in some time and she looked over to Lou, who gave her a subtle nod and she opened the door wider and the man walked through the door.
Now is when the reasons these people came to see her would become crystal clear.
The man had sat down, his hands politely in his lap without showing nerves. His eyes followed her but not with the puppy dog-like adoration she sometimes saw in the men, and women, who came back to see her after the show. No, he wasn’t here to try and play Fuck the Fae, there was a deeper purpose to it and seeing as she knew precisely how much Lou charged people to even knock on the door, whatever he was here for was very important to him indeed.
He looked up at the woman as she closed the door without noise and made her way to the very comfortable divan in the corner of the room. She looked at him with eyes that expected absolutely nothing. No rush or worry, nothing except patience he had never seen in anyone before. he had a feeling she could recline on that divan for years without moving a muscle and not be irritated with him at all if she so chooses. Sadly, the man had a limited amount of time to be here, so he took a chance and decided to get right to the point.
“Madame Victoria, I know that you must have a great many people come into your room and ask you for favors ranging from the rudimentary mundane to things laced with that which is phantasmagorical in all of its essences. I am here to ask of you a boon, yes, but I hope that you will hear me out before you decline.” His eyes looked to hers to see what her reaction thus far.
She smiled softly to him and sat up, her fingers steeples in her lap as she spoke. Her voice was not as honeyed as it had been on stage, but, of course, it wouldn’t be now, would it?
“Firstly, I haven’t heard someone utter the word phantasmagorical in over a hundred years. It is a word that has sadly fallen out of favor in the day and age of the text message and the acronyms for virtually everything. Secondly, I give you my word on the Darkness that Consumes that I will listen to your request and give it every bit of my attention before I judge it as a deed I am willing to do.”
He swallowed as he heard Victoria speak the oath on the Darkness. He was not an expert in such things, but he knew it was not words that her kind used lightly, the consequences of being an oathbreaker were dire if the memory served. Even he had heard of the Wild Hunt and their eternal mission to bring oathbreakers to justice who had sworn such an oath.
“For your pledge to even hear my plea I will gladly give you everything in my name.” He straightened his back as he sat as his mother had taught him so very long ago. “My name is Bertran, I was born in the year of our Lord eleven hundred thirty and five in the cathedral at Carlisle in Cumbria. My dear mother was an indigent who felt shame at having a son out of wedlock, her beau having left her after they had consummated their relationship, his promise of marriage a lie, and she was an outcast. her family disowned her and only the church would allow her sanctuary to give birth to me. We lived there until I came of age, helping in the maintenance of the church, my mother taking her vows when I left to seek my own life.” he stopped speaking and noticed that Madame Victoria looked at him with piercing eyes, seeking anything she could from him. She spoke, her voice not hiding the emotion welling up in her throat.
“You speak to truth to me Bertran of Carlisle. You are not of any Fae line, nor are you of the darkness that makes the immortal promise to the weak, tell me now why you have lived nearly nine centuries as a man of flesh and blood and no magic and have not died. Tell me this now and swear upon the Darkness your words will be true or I shall deliver to you the Hunt myself.” Her words sounded bloodied even to her own ears, but she needed to know how this man existed. She felt not afraid of him, to be with someone even a thousandth of her own age made her feel youth she had not felt since the glaciers still shaped the world.
Victoria swallowed hard, her eyes welling with tears as she read the man’s story in the same writing that adorned her body She learned everything he was at that moment. The magic of the writing told her more than simply words. She composed herself, dabbing at her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Forgive my emotion, I thought all of them had died long before you were born. No, you are of them, you are the descendants of those that gave me the godhead. So, as the Goddess you did not know your whole life, I swear on the Dark Goddess herself, may her wrath upon me be eternal if I break my oath, that I will do anything you ask of me if it is in my power to do.” She stood and quickly made her way to him and kissed him softly on the forehead. As she did the lines, on her and him glowed as the sun as like recognized like.
The viscous fluid that ran through Victoria’s fingers glowed colors randomly and rapidly as she began to talk about the Great Goddess.
“Her story is told elsewhere by others, so I will tell you a small thing about her that is mine to tell. I will tell you about times when the world was not as it is now when all you saw was what you were directed to see by those with powers you could not imagine. Gods and Goddesses walked amongst you and all you could do was stare at their perfection with abject adoration.” She paused a second, her voice wonderfully decadent, like velvet on the soul of everyone there. Her words touched them in dark and secret places that some of them did not even know they had until that very moment.
Victoria took the fluid from her hands and let it drip on the stage in front of her, the stage disappearing as she did, her chair turning into the stump of a once-mighty tree, the theater about her slowly shifting into a great and natural amphitheater made of the white marble that sculptors sought very dearly. The wind caught their hair and their eyes closed as they breathed in the air of a world long since gone.
“Siobhan is the Dark Goddess, the Creator, and Destroyer of anything and everything. Don’t dare think that she is cruel for the sake of it, however. Every action is measured and calculated, every result fixed and known, every variable accounted for. She is everything, everyone, every place.” Victoria smiled at the awestruck cloud, babes in the woods looking at the colors brighter than they had ever seen, the air so clean you could taste it and enjoy it like a lover’s touch.
“I will teach you a word now. Badhbh. Badhbh is a word that is layered in meaning and mysticism, but all you need to know is that when one sees the Badhbh, the battle has already begun and you will die.” her voice turned dark, clouds covering the perfect sky above them, the smell of blood and other things replacing the cleanliness of the air. Flies could be heard feasting on the dead. “Badhbh is what you will never forget, you will always remember, you will deny.” They were hers now, they would be hers forever now and they happily accepted this fate and that is where the power truly was.
Victoria clapped her hands once, a loud and thunderous thing and they were all sitting back in the auditorium once again, their memories muddied with the pleasure and joy they felt, the last words buried deep in their subconsciousness where they needed to be hidden until…until later.
Standing up tall and letting the wings on her back unfurl completely the crowd erupted with applause and cheers in a dozen languages. They did not notice or did not care, that they had been sitting there for three hours that seemed like a second. Roses were thrown on the stage. Lecherous men throwing hotel cards and keys on stage, a smaller amount of women doing the same thing if a little more discreetly. Victoria smiled darkly and happily and heard the microphone pop into life again.
“Thank you so much for attending, the Goddess will see a limited amount of people for a meet and greet in a few moments. All gifts and tributes can be given to her directly if you are chosen to meet her, all others, please simply throw it on the stage and I assure you the Goddess will know where it came from and you shall receive her blessing.
Victoria kissed her fingertips and pointed them at the crowd, each of them feeling the intimate nature of it on a deep level and the whole of them silencing for a moment as she did it before walking back to her dressing room with a laugh starting on her lips and the old plan in her mind still slowly coming to life.