“Is that all of it?” Jacob asked gravely.
“Yes,” Zach replied. He and Damian sat in a medium-sized conference room with the vampire, who had opted, as he always did, to occupy the head of the long, oak table in the centre of the room. Neither the warden nor his handler had protested. Jacob had been greatly respected by Praesidium’s founders, having been one of the supernaturals who had helped to ensure the organisation’s early success. This respect had trickled down over the years and as he continued to support and help the organisation, had only grown over time.
“There was no other choice?” Jacob followed-up.
This time Damian answered, “There’s always a choice, but Anders felt that in this case, it was time she knew.”
Jacob didn’t respond immediately, his spring-green eyes focused on the white wall behind them. Added to glossy white hair which fell to his shoulders and strong angular features, Jacob looked more like an androgynous new-age supermodel, than a near one thousand-year-old vampire. The white linen shirts, embroidered and pleated woollen jackets, tunics and pants he wore, were the only indications of the period he’d been reared in.
He turned to Zach, “She refuses to speak to you?”
“Yes,” was all he managed for the second time. He’d already told the story more times than he could count and would have to again during his fourth round before the administration. Zach was no longer sure what more he could say, especially when every time he thought of what he’d had to do to Erin, he felt irrationally upset with himself.
“Where is she now?” Jacob’s gaze rested on Damian, busy wiping his eyes.
“China, some business with S.I.N. She should be checking in soon,” Damian replied, tucking his handkerchief away.
This was news to Zach too. He hadn’t asked where Erin’s assignment was, knowing better than to do so, but now that he knew, found himself concerned for her safety. She’d told him of a slip-up with one of the succubi on her first case with the Nation and hoped she wouldn’t indulge as she had before. She’s stronger now and smarter, stop looking for reasons to call her, the annoying voice in his head chimed in.
“I must meet with her,” Jacob said matter-of-factly.
Damian cleared his throat, “That’ll be arranged the moment she gets back here, shouldn’t be more than a few days or so.”
“No. I will go to her. She must understand the nature of what she is,” he said first, then rephrasing, “What she is, becoming.”
Zach spoke up, not sure what the vampire meant. “Becoming? There’s more to this?”
Jacob’s look screamed pity, “The young know so little.”
Zach knew it wasn’t meant to be offensive but also wasn’t ready to let go of his bone. “Then teach me.”
“That’s enough lad, I won’t have you bothering Jacob here,” Damian broke in harshly.
Jacob only smiled sadly. “He has done nothing wrong. He cares for her and his affection makes him bold.” He extended his hand to Damian who took it in a firm shake, then did the same with Zach. “Do not fear, all will be well.” In the time it took for Zach’s brain to register that he was no longer shaking Jacob’s hand, the vampire’s superior speed had already seen him long gone from the conference room.
“Don’t you know any better boy? You don’t question Jacob or the likes of ‘im, bloody hell, what ‘ave I been teaching you all these years?”
Zach said nothing, his thoughts too heavily clouded with new questions to take on Damian’s quarrel. Jacob’s words kept playing over and over in his head, what she’s becoming.
When Zach had first found out about Erin’s roots he’d been in shock. He hadn’t even been sure how he’d keep a secret of such magnitude from her but had somehow done it long enough that it’d become second nature. The only reason he’d even been trusted with the information, was so he would keep a closer eye on her, inform their superiors of any changes in her character, or any new powers she suddenly developed. Zach would readily admit that he’d been more than relieved when none of these things happened, that is of course, until Toronto.
When he’d seen her standing there away from the destruction, untouched and gorgeous, something in him had known that she’d started to manifest what Damian called The Rising. Erin was one of the seven remaining vodun priestesses of the Kahwasira bloodline. Hundreds of years had passed since the last vodun priestesses rose and it would be hundreds more until a new seven breathed life again.
At the start of The Rising, magic these women wielded was stronger than most and it was for this reason that it lay dormant, until some event drew it from the depths of their souls. Praesidium only had one of the priestesses — Erin, three others already belonged to supernatural factions and the rest had not yet been discovered. Zach had learnt even more than he already did when Damian relayed the truth to Erin and there was some of it that if he were in her shoes, he couldn’t even begin to imagine how he’d feel.
Knowing that she would die in less than two decades, that she would never be able to bear children or take a husband, knowing that as her magic continued to manifest and she became stronger, not only would her own memories be replaced by those of others who had gone before her, but those traits that made her who she was, would slowly disappear as it began to control her very being. Knowing all of this and still having to continue as though nothing had changed … Zach could not imagine the burden.
He tried calling her again.