Denial

Within the Church of Este

The myriad rivulets of blood do not go unnoted, and while Alexi is currently attuned to such things, he remains as of yet well above the point where one might consider licking up a mixture of cold blood, ash, and holy water. Too much crimson, and her skin far, far too pale.

The question issued he waits in quiescent repose, lost willfully in the woman’s flint gray gaze. It caused an ache in him to see the damage done, a fissure opened in the perfection that was her certainty. Even stone could fracture. The dialogue in her mind was mirrored so perfectly in the set of her features that felt no need to delve deeper. The beginnings of a frown register at the corners of his lips an instant before her attempted lunge. Unflinching, his steel blue eyes register something akin to regret as Katherina slumps to a stop at his feet.

“But that your frame could match the strength of that soul.” the dark-haired figure murmurs, his tone revealing a very real undercurrent of… compassion? Pity? Difficult to discern, but unquestionably present.

He stoops lower then, reaching out to lift her chin with his fingertips, staring in to the slowly-glazing storm-gray depths. Not a word passes his lips, but something seen within those orbs seems sufficient for him. Expecting no help from the golden-haired woman and clearly not needing it, he lifts her up momentarily. A brief glance around the Nave offers little in the way of suitable resting spots, with the mosaic tiles of the floor an ash-strewn ruin and the altar a stone-splintered echo of its former glory. It’s only a handful of strides to the nearest of the pews, lined up along the stone and mortar walls of the narrow little building, and he lays her down atop it with what might prove to be a surprising degree of care, should she prove to still be in a state where such would register.

Her position proves to hold a disturbingly accurate and convincing resemblance to death, with her arms crossed over her breast, the cut laid open despite the Cardinal’s best efforts to keep it closed. Rising to his feet once more, this time unburdened, he strikes out through the maze of fallen ash toward the ruin of the altar, the scattering such that he’s stepping over the marble-veined wings of fallen angels long before his goal is reached. A multitude of disembodied eyes stare out unblinking on the unlikely scene from angles innumerable, unable to pass judgment on what they’ve seen, even here. A host with as many lips, but no tongue. No voice.

It’s contents glistening amber in the last guttering flames of the once tall beeswax candles, the broken chalice catches his eye soon enough. Crouching with a soft sigh he lifts it from amidst the altar’s tattered remnants, a stream of water as clear and radiant as crystal falling from its lip to land with hardly a splash, spreading through the cracks in the grout, pooling about his feet. No reflection there, not even the dark of his robes. At least… no proper reflection. Something nebulous stood in that pool of angel’s tears, but it was not a man. The proper size and shape for a man, certainly, presuming one were holding one’s head just so and perhaps squinting a bit, but that’s where the resemblance ended, and the trouble began. Suddenly self-conscious, the dark figure nudges at the puddle about his feet with a booted foot, not allowing himself to show his relief as the ripples worked their way through his darker twin to distort, erase.

Alexi’s path toward the dozing pastor is an almost agonizingly slow progression of steps, covering far more ground within the confines of his mind than those of the chapel. Aside from the slight wrinkling of his brow no outward signs of this struggle appear, and with so little to base one’s suspicions on it’s difficult to say just when a decision is reached, much less garner anything as to its nature or leanings. Upon reaching the man he raises the broken chalice and swings it downward, giving the man a solid, though far from fatal, knock on the side of his sizeable skull. Entirely unaware, he does not stir in the least as the priest raises an utterly slack and rather rubbery arm to his lips, slitting the wrist with practiced ease before dropping it to drain with some speed in to the stone cup’s bosom. The wound is sealed without issue, leaving the pastor very much alive, if somewhat worse for wear, and the chalice carried with some care back to the pew whereupon the templar lay.

Couching beside Katherina once more he could still feel it there, hear it pounding in the back of his skull, but each dull pulse came fractions slower than the last, fading by degrees. Time, then.

Perhaps you’ll forgive me. Eventually.

Bending over her form already cool beneath his hands for lack of blood, he brushes back a portion of her cambric dress to reveal a single ash-pale shoulder, leaning down further still to press his lips to the smoothness of that skin. The beginnings of a smile find the corners of his lips only to flicker and fade as he murmurs, “You were never meant for Him… just look at you, Katherina. Look at you. You were made for this. I’ll show you.”

Another kiss, tender at first, little more than a brush of his lips, then those glistening white points pierce the skin and any nerves unfortunate enough to still be functional are drown in a deluge of pain, slowly sinking in to pleasure. Numbing beyond words. Distant, miles distant. The world falls away, fades away, and all that’s left is that kiss. Pressure. Need.

Drawing deep… so deep. Too deep. Pulling at the very core of her.

Lost to it, he pulls at the last drops with a single-mindedness completely unknown to man, feeling more than hearing her heart slow with a rapidness that disturbs him even as he wills it onward. A little shiver runs through his frame as she lies there, utterly still beneath him. Something… something nagging at the back of his mind. Persistent. So dreadfully persistent. What?

Finally pulling away, another shiver runs through him as he seals the wounds, purely an afterthought, half his mind following a course all its own as the other less instinctual portion of himself attempts and fails repeatedly to regain control.

Moments pass, haze lifts, the scene within the little chapel reaching his eyes in an entirely new light. Lips to wrist, a flash of white, a crimson river flows. Holding his clean-slit skin over the stone chalice’s remains, the rich red of his vitae mixes with the pastor’s comparatively thin blood, sinking fast. The result is just a few shades short of black in the candle light.

Raising wrist to mouth yet again, Alexi licks the last rivulets of vitae from the flesh, all the while careful not to seal the wound. The result is a very real headiness, and it takes him another moment still to remember just what it is he was doing. Reaching out with his other hand he slips long, slender fingers beneath Katherina’s head, cradling it with tenderness he’d only parodied in recent years. The wounded wrist is pressed to her lips as he wills little more than a drop of his life from the vein. Shining like a dark jewel it slides down her throat unabated, coming to rest at her core with a preternatural swiftness. Long moment pass, the umbra about them inching ever-nearer the pair, as if in anticipation of their new… Mistress? Convert? Slave?

No tunnel of light, no heavenly host with voices raised in song, no glimpse of the celestial firmament awash with promise and light. The world comes back all at once, a dull pain at her center throbbing in to sudden and complete agony as her body becomes aware of its new needs. Every sense heightened beyond the point at which the mind may contend. Slate gray eyes regard the shadows in the rafters as if they’re a foot away at mid-day. The soft sound of grinding, settling stones makes itself known from every inch of the walls surrounding them and the foundation below. The fabric of her cambric dress stands in amazing relief beneath her fingertips.

And… a sweetness fills the air. Fills it to capacity, until brimming, no, overflowing in to every part of her. The smell of her own lifeblood, altered irreversibly in much the same way as her frame, fills her lungs. It’s beautiful… but the longing! The need for it, almost too much to bare. Overpowering. Something in her stirs.

Something feral.

Smiling faintly, the Cardinal lifts the shattered, thrice defiled goblet toward her with both hands in a perfect parody of Mass, careful not to let its precious crimson contents spill.

The Body of Christ, the Blood of Christ…

Falling.

She was falling. From a great height; from a mountain or the top of the highest spire, she could not discern. There was the rush of cold wind above her, and the caress of a cloud’s etherealness against her cheek. Be that as she was in motion, all that is everything had stopped around her and, timelessness encroached into her being. She felt stone beneath her knees, the wetness of blood streaming down her arm, to well into pools so scarlet, so wide that she could see her very own reflection in them, a myriad of life’s mirrors – her life, and drawn into a vortex she was, hurtling towards the end of which she met the great, huge slate eyes of a blonde-haired girl clutching the broken pieces of a glass chess set. In the nebula of darkness, the glittering detritus of the chess set stretched; pawns scattered in an endless miasma of white dust, the knights fragmented into shards of jet, the bishop’s borne crucifix cracked, a single line of mockery running down the middle of the cross, the Queen beheaded and the King, crushed into a pile of scintillating powder.

The scene ripples and vanishes, like a fan folding itself quickly, pleating, doubling over like an old accordion, the shadows moving away with it, akin to the closing curtains of a theatre stage. The voice that cried to her so righteously, so zealously, had abandoned her, dissolving into nothing more, not even an echo or a semblance or it. And alone, she is, in a quivering membrane of night and she moves out a hand to touch what is before her, her fingers spread, for it seems so dark, so deeply dark light almost shines out from the white gown she wears.

Katherina hears sounds; sounds one would associate not with this obscurity, a dull knock against something, the soft parting of flesh and the rhythmic drip of water. She retracts her hand, having touched and grasped nothing and in the direction of the sounds, she moves, a step at one time, with no trace of any footprint left on the shadowy ground she is upon. The scenery remains unabated by her sides, a perpetual extended lightlessness, unchanging.

Where?

The dark is immutable until the entire landscape palpitates once more, shifting into nothing, like an invisible kidnapper pulling the blindfold and the gag away.

Freeing her into light.

The marble is cold under her skin.

Katherina’s mind faintly puts together the events in which perhaps she was carried and placed upon somewhere to rest. She is still in the chapel, her eyes could make out, just barely, the outline of the vaults of the Nave’s ceiling. A breath is drawn in to feed fast-weakening lungs and her lips part just a slit to murmur a prayer to the Lord. There is little to no more sensibility left in her now as she remains oblivious to a coming awakening that would soon take place in a bare few moments from the very last words of her final prayer to the One who made a mockery out of her.

Her heart pulses, singing a dying cadence and with the very final strand of consciousness, her gaze lurches upwards, her eyes dilating, in the onset of necrosis, to see the shadow-clad form of the Cardinal tilt over her, the fluttering of his chill fingers over her skin and that delicate smile upon his lips as if there is unspoken promise has been created between him and the angels to judge her deliverance.

…You were made for this. I’ll show you.

A whispering is pressed against the flesh of her neck; the Cardinal’s words, his lips, a nascent, blossoming sensation that dared the very rigor of her nature, that challenges her defeat, a sibilant insinuation that encourages her surrender to him. She would remain defiant to the very end if she could; but alas, Katherina is weak, weak like all mortals are weak, not even their Faith could save them when Death arrives in all His splendor to retrieve the shining vessel of her soul.

Katherina struggles against him, in all but a brief, short moment, the fragile attempt succumbing to nothingness, perhaps almost unfelt by him at all. Like the dying throes of a mermaid as she gasps in finality for the sweetness of the sea outside her watery realm, as the waves retreat far, so far that no longer she could return to them.

She ebbs, further and further, letting the haze of delectation bestowed by him, creep up her self. Oh, she has surrendered indeed, to what unnamed felicity this is, to the incognito one whom embraced her shoulders, to the ceaseless ribbons of persuasions against her throat. And that she has no more strength, none, except allow herself to be crucified by his hands.

This is dying. She thinks. And Death will come, like the first strains of an elegy quiet on a pianoforte. And her very last breath will be the coda that is the end.

Her heart misses a one tiny beat.

Her lips part in a soundless cry.

Her eyes glaze, harden, her sights affixed to the unseen gathering of angels above her.

But she could not see the light of Heaven.

She is lifted.

A hand. Two hands.

Her mouth thirsts for no reason.

Something is pressed against her lips.

Water? No, it is sweeter than water. Than honey, than anything she had ever drunk.

Her throat moves in greedy acceptance of Alexi’s sanguine offering, consuming the darkness, pulling it and all down into the very crux of her. Her mind slowly reverts out of the dredges of residual gratification; a strange perception assailing every singular filament of her body together with sunbursts of pain, agony that twisted like a serpent through her bones. She could not count how many times her eyes had blinked and no tears come to wet those grey orbs and yet, yet, beyond and beyond she could see, so clear, the very outline of the beams that made up the highest rafters of the chapel’s roof. She retches slightly, as her stomach turns within her and withers, together with the rest of

There was thirst. And now there is hunger.

The templar sits up, upon the altar, her legs, bare-covered by the tatters of the cambric dress she is wearing, stretched out before her. Her hands curl, her fingers arching over her palms, the clinging bits of clotted blood on her skin falling off like old scales from a dead dragon’s belly. She shifts on the broken marble, swinging her legs over the edge and her torn boots fall to the ground, leaving bare a pair of pale, ivory feet, of which her toes brush against the soft velvety robes of the Cardinal. Arms, perfect, unblemished, move back to perch hands against the surface of the altar to balance her lithe body.

Her head lifts up to behold the Cardinal, his visage, his expression and his form so distinctively different. The elegant way in which the umbra curls around his shoulders, trailing across his dark hair, waiting upon him like a faithful servant. Her eyes waver between an opalescent grey to a gleaming flint, faceted like jewels and her mouth opens, noiseless at first, finding new meanings slide up through her throat, to lodge into a pair of brilliant white points, poised against lips drenched in craving. Desire of wont towards the chalice Alexi is holding in his hands. Hunger clutches at her, everywhere, not just in her belly.

Katherina slips down from the altar with a spurt of grace, landing on naked feet upon the dusty ground, her exposed soles feeling nothing from the grit and broken marble she stands on. Her hands widen and lift, coveting the chalice, wanting it and with a swift motion, her fingers lash out, griping onto the Cardinal’s wrists, tighter and tighter, as now she drags both him and the cup of claret towards her and her lips with a rapacious urgency independent of any mote of self-composure.

The mixture of the pastor’s blood and Alexi’s own swirls into her mouth - an earthy, undesired taste amidst a more delectable, faintly arousing one. The newborn fangs feel alien against her tongue as she takes in more of the florid liquid, the blood moving easily down her throat and into her being; she does not even know where it went! There is singing in her head, rendering her dizzy throughout the frenzied satiation of her hunger.

Katherina finishes, the chalice discolored only with a wet smear of left-over blood on its sides and she releases one of her hands, the other still twisted around his wrist. Crimson stains her lips, rendering them an ironical blush against the absolute whiteness of her cheeks now she stares at the Cardinal, her head jerking back slightly as the fangs retract back into her gums, she obviously unsure of what is going on.

She breathes, with no sound and her mouth opens, finding real words now.

“Who are you?”

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