Nick laid Gwen on her bed, pulling the quilt over her. He believed that physically she would be all right, but mentally was another thing entirely. Leaving her for a moment, he went to the kitchen. He rummaged around in the fridge, finding a container of orange juice in the back. She would need it when he brought her around. Returning to the bedroom, he placed the juice on the bedside table, and sat on the bed next to her. "Gwen," he called, "it's time to wake up. Do you hear me? It's Nick, you’re home and safe. There's nothing to fear here, Gwen."
He heaved a sigh of relief has she began to stir, but his relief was short-lived as she became agitated. She began speaking, her tone angry. But what shocked him was that she spoke in Latin. Not the church Latin that Nick had learned as a child, but an older form that he was having trouble keeping up with. He did, however, recognize one phrase, one that only deepened his confusion about what was going on. "You will betray me, Lucius."
As Nick looked on, unable to help, the memories that Gwen had only experienced in dreams began to integrate with her conscious mind. Her encounter with LaCroix triggering a massive psychic upheaval. In a detached corner of her mind she was aware of what was happening; she knew that her mind was close to snapping. Unable to fight any longer, she allowed the torrent of memories sweep her away.
Transalpine Gaul: Autumn, 78 AD
"You will betray me, Lucius!" Brigh shouted angrily. "Me, my people -- your people!"
News had reached her earlier in the day about a Roman raid on a settlement a few days’ ride from village. The Romans had believed that the fugitive Sabinus was receiving shelter there. Brigh had stormed to the Roman fort to confront her lover, demanding to know if it had been on his orders. Lucius had informed her in no uncertain terms that he was responsible, he was performing his duty, and would do whatever necessary to bring the renegade Gaul to justice. She had wanted to know if that included bringing her to Roman justice. Both of them furious, they had hurled accusations at each other, trying to hurt.
"My mother's people, not mine! I know my duty and will follow it," he angrily replied. "You knew what I was, I never made a secret of why I was here." His voice turned venomous. "You came willingly enough to my bed. If we are talking about betrayals, perhaps we should examine yours."
At that, she ran for the door. As her hand reached the latch, she was pulled away forcibly. Brigh struggled, but to no avail. She soon found herself immobilized against him.
"You aren't going anywhere! Are you mad? It's late and there is a storm blowing. Damn it, Brigh, stop fighting me or I'll have you locked up till morning!" he threatened
She stopped her futile struggle, knowing that his threat was not an idle one. Suddenly he let her go; caught by surprise, she almost fell. Only his hand on her arm kept her from landing at his feet. He'd enjoy that, she thought to herself angrily, pulling out of his grip.
"Are you prepared to act in a mature fashion?" he asked her sternly. "Or should I tie you to the bed for the night?"
Enraged at his condescending attitude, she swung around, her arm coming up to strike him. Unfortunately, Lucius seemed to expect her action and easily grabbed her wrist before her hand struck. In a blur, Brigh found herself pinned to the bed, her arms restrained above her head.
"That was unwise, my love." His eyes glinted dangerously down at her.
Realizing how untenable her situation was, Brigh went limp and turned her head away. Let him do his worst, she wouldn't fight him. She heard him sigh, then to her surprise her arms were released and he rolled off her to lie next to her. They lay in silence for a time, Brigh confused by his sudden change of mood. Struggling with the tempest of emotion that wrenched at her soul, she sighed, closing her eyes. She had known from the beginning that this was fated. How could she in all honesty hate him for following the path that has been set for him? That had been set for her? Her anger dissipated, and she reached over for his hand, squeezing it tightly in hers. "I don't want it to end like this, Lucius," she said softly even as she told herself that it could end no other way.
"Nor do I." He shifted onto his side to look at her. "I swear to you, Brigh, that I shall never betray you. I'll keep you safe from what must come, you have my oath…."
"Gwen, Gwen...," Nick called insistently. He shook her gently, continuing to call her.
"No, leave me alone," Gwen said weakly, sounding irritated.
"No I won't leave you alone. You have to come back now," he said firmly.
Gwen ineffectually tried to push away the hands grasping her shoulders, but she was too weak. She finally seemed to realize that he wouldn't leave her alone until she did as he asked, and forced her eyes open.
"Nicholas?" she asked, confused.
He gently propped her up against the pillows, and placed a glass to her lips. "Here, drink this."
She complied with his request, drinking the whole glass thirstily, and then the second one he held before her. Silently she watched Nick as he placed the empty glass on the bedside table.
"How do you feel?" he asked, concern evident in his voice.
"How should I feel?" she asked. "Tired," she finally answered.
"What do you remember?"
Her hand went to the two small wounds on her throat. "Everything." She looked at Nick, the question in her eyes evident.
Sighing, he answered the unspoken question. "Yes, I'm a vampire too. LaCroix is my Master, the one who made me." He waited for the disgust to appear on her face. Instead, a look of compassion softened her features.
"And you don't want to be what you are." It was a statement, and a look of surprise crossed her face that she knew this.
"It's called blood knowledge," Nick explained. "There is a link between a vampire and those he feeds upon. It can overwhelm the mortal -- it usually does, and few survive to remember the experience. You have some of LaCroix's memories, that must be one of them."
"Eight hundred years." He took her hand in his, changing the subject back to her. "Gwen, you need to tell me what's going on. LaCroix said the two of you have a past. And a few minutes ago you called out in Latin, you said the name 'Lucius'. That was LaCroix's name before."
"You were the one that just explained blood knowledge to me." She shifted in discomfort, not meeting his eyes.
"I also know it was more than that. How can I help you if you won't tell me what's going on?" Nick took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him. "Believe me, you need my help. LaCroix is terribly dangerous to you, you must know that."
They were interrupted by the trill of Nick's cellphone. He left the room to take the call, returning a few minutes later to explain, "I need to go, Gwen, there's been another murder."
She nodded her understanding.
"I will be back," he promised. "I want you to stay here, call in sick. You need to take it easy," he admonished her.
"I will," she said reassuringly. "You need to go," she reminded him.
Nick quickly kissed her on the forehead and was gone.
Gwen slept fitfully through the night, her dreams of both the past and the present melding in one confused tangle. The dreams turned to the past evening, reliving that moment when LaCroix's fangs had pierced her throat. She awoke in fright, her hand once again going to the wound. Considering what had happened, it didn't hurt like she thought it should. Just as the initial bite hadn't hurt, there was sensation but not the pain of an injury. A bemused corner of her mind wondered why she was taking it all so well. I must be in shock, she decided. Gwen shivered, recalling LaCroix's hands on her, and then.… No, she said to herself firmly as she pushed the memory away. She had to stop thinking about it.
Getting out of bed, she went to the window, pulling open the drapes. It was almost dawn. What must it be like, she thought, to never again see the sun? To be like Nicholas, like LaCroix? She knew Nicholas thought himself damned, but she couldn't believe that. No doubt in his long life he had committed evil acts, but now, she knew, Nicholas Knight was a caring and compassionate man. Surely he could not be damned simply because he was a vampire. Too bad they never taught her about vampires in seminary. Laughing out loud at this ridiculous thought, she headed for the shower.
Feeling much more human after showering, Gwen dressed in a mandarin-collared green blouse and gray tweed slacks. Sitting on the couch with her tea, she looked out the window thoughts of LaCroix invading her mind. She felt an overpowering desire to go to him even though she kept telling herself it was probably fatal. And even if it wasn't, Nicholas would kill her for going in the first place. She knew that it wasn't just her, it was the woman she had been so long ago. The woman who had loved Lucius. What a strange feeling, this being one person but remembering being someone else. It was giving her a headache just thinking about it. Gwen had never believed in reincarnation before, but what else could it be? She didn't know what to believe any more. Nicholas had told her that LaCroix had mentioned a past they had shared. Did he hold the answers to her questions? Could he know the reason for the mental torment she was suffering?
She couldn't stand it any longer, she had to go to him. She left the house and headed for the Raven.
She was not really surprised to find the front door unlocked; she felt she was expected. Closing the door behind her, Gwen made her way across the empty club. She knew he was here, she could feel his presence in the back of her mind. Was it part of what had happened here last night?
"I have marked you as mine, my dear Gwenyth." That voice came out of the darkness, near the back of the club, answering her unasked question. "No mortal that survives an encounter with one of my kind emerges unchanged from the experience." The voice drew closer, until suddenly he was beside her. "What you are feeling is only the most infinitesimal part of what a master and his fledgling feel through their link," the voice said, low and seductive.
Gwen's heart began to beat faster as the power of LaCroix's voice drew her in. It began to race as he moved behind her, his hands lightly resting at her throat. She tried to pull away, but her body betrayed her, refusing to move.
"Shhhh, no need to fight what you feel. Indeed, it is quite impossible," he said, supremely confident as he ran his hands down across her breasts, her ribs, coming to rest on her hips. "I'm still not quite sure what you are," he said as he pulled her against him, "but I shall enjoy finding out." His voice was chilling in its certainty.
She made one last supreme effort to break free from LaCroix's mental grip. This time, instead of trying to push back the other memories, she let them come to the fore. "You haven't changed, Lucius," Gwen said in a language she had never known in this life, "still using seduction to get your way," she said mockingly. She felt him stiffen at her words, and then found herself being whirled around to face him.
"So, you finally decided to make your appearance did you?" he asked derisively in the same language. He watched with fascination the struggle taking place, played out on her pale features.
"No." She gripped his arms, herself once again. "I don't understand what's happening. You know, don't you?" she asked, entreating him with her eyes for an explanation.
LaCroix remembered the last time those same eyes had looked at him like that....
Transalpine Gaul: Spring, 79 AD
The winter had been a mild one; spring had come early to this mountain valley. The streams and rivers were swollen with the melting snow and wildflowers had begun to appear in the nearby meadows. Lucius looked out of his office window, down at the troops forming up in the muddy yard below. They were preparing to march out to yet another suspected sighting of the fugitive Sabinus. He felt that this time it might be the real thing, not just another false lead.
Slowly, the great gates of the fort were opened and his men began their march out. He watched them contemplatively as they disappeared from his sight, wondering how long it would take the Gauls in the village below to realize what was happening. Not long, in his estimation, and then only a short span of time till Brigh found out. Lucius sighed, not relishing the coming storm.
The end was nearing for these people and this culture -- the Gauls in the village below would be swept away in Rome's advancing tide. And it would be soon if Lucius were any judge of the political climate in the Empire. He had planned for the eventuality; Brigh would be kept safe from the impending destruction. When it was all over he would take her back to Pompeii with him, and then they would marry, have a family. She would be angry at first, he knew, but she was a sensible woman, she would come around. He would make sure that she was happy in her new life, and she would adjust. He pushed away the memory of his mother, of her sad eyes when she told him tales of her people and of her home. He had been but a child when she died, but he remembered. No, his parents had cared for each other, Lucius would not allow doubt of that to invade his thoughts. Of course his mother had been homesick at times, but she had been content, he was sure of it. And Brigh would be as well, he would see to it, as his father had for his mother.
He decided that it would be best if Brigh heard the news of the raid from him and not from gossip. He called for his aide. "Have my horse made ready, Octavius."
"Yes, sir, right away."
Lucius watched out the window, lost in thought, as he waited. The arrival of a centurion with his horse brought him back to the present. Going outside, he took the horse from the centurion and mounted. Without a backward glance he rode off to find Brigh in the village below. He decided that he would try her home first -- she was usually there this time of day, concocting her salves and healing powders after a busy morning of seeing her patients.
Tethering his horse to a nearby tree, he walked towards the house. It was terribly quiet, as if nature was holding her breath. He entered to find Brigh, not working on her apothecary as expected, but sitting on a stool staring into space. She didn't even notice his entrance until he stood before her. She looked up at him, entreating him with her eyes to tell her it wasn't true. He was too late -- she knew already, and more than that there was a look of defeat in her eyes that he had never before seen. He realized in that instant that Brigh knew that his men would find Sabinus this time, because she knew where Sabinus was, had probably always known. Knowledge was, after all, her vocation.
Bandruaid, he thought angrily. How could he have been so naive, that it had never occurred to him that the woman he had taken to his bed had all along held the knowledge he sought? Because you didn't want to know, he mocked himself. Didn't want to know that the woman you love is conspiring against the Empire. Lucius was torn between love and duty. Duty had always won before. In fact, he had never thought anything could override it, till now.
Brigh just watched him silently, her eyes windows to her soul. She didn't attempt to hide anything from him this time. He could see it all now, the pain, the conflict between her love for him and her duty, her knowledge of the nearing end of her people, her family. He dropped to his knees beside her, pulling her into his arms roughly. She began to kiss him with a desperate passion, holding him with all her strength. They fell to the floor making love like two people who would never again be together....
On to Part Six