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Pasion Pasiva

Pulsing Blood and a Throbbing Beat

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She didn’t know whether it was the alcohol now or just the rhythmic pounding of her heart caused by the music around her but there was a certain sense of calm in this moment that comforted her. She was tempted to turn off her senses then and let whatever tense conversation she had injected herself in just pass while she indulged herself but the pang of remembrance concerning the plight of the city she cared for reeled her attentions back in. Her auditory senses somehow honed themselves spontaneously, the melodic tones of the Black Queen and the inexplicable cadence of the Mutator filling her ears almost as if the three of them were the only ones present here.

“Cheers. To charity...May I see it truly and honestly tonight.”

“If you’re with me, your chances are undoubtedly high.”

She lifted her glass and tipped it slightly toward Gabriela, enhancing the gesture with a playful smirk. Now that Rodan’s words were much clearer, she had begun to understand why the queen seemed so bothered by his presence. There was a knowing quality to his choice of words that spoke of a history that was clearly not welcomed by the golden-eyed beauty beside her. It was when she could make out the name Anima from her fixation upon their dialogue that she raised a brow. Xavier had told her about that whole affair then, having been spared by Raphael and hearing about how her savior had confronted the devil and the emperor and lived. This man couldn’t be talking about that day could he?

Gabriela turned and provided her a much better look at Rodan. Still, nothing registered, until she started to speak after. She revealed her relationship to the man beside her and thus revealed the man’s affiliation to Ilyana’s benefit. Yet, the Redeemer did not have any visible reaction to the knowledge. She knew better than to give anything away…to anyone. When the queen challenged the poor bartender’s stock, she felt a small bit of pity for the man but as soon as Gabriela started speaking Ilyana’s attentions were glued to the emotions and the specificity of her words.

Something kindred bubbled within Ilyana that forced her to feel a powerful sadness wash over her. Her lips curled into a frown as she overheard Gabriela’s personal accounts of the Carmine Emperor’s treatment of her and the pain caused by the Patian devil. Once she understood that Gabriela was practically sold into her predicament she felt her anger boil, which caused Obtenebra to ripple along her thighs and cling to the supple flesh as it felt its host’s current emotional state. Gabriela’s words resonated so deeply within Ilyana that she felt herself leaning in to the point that her body came close to Gabriela’s once again. The queen had managed to unearth memories that caused her own eyes to well up just then and Ilyana was having trouble recovering.

She was about to inject her voice into the conversation until she heard Gabriela explain how the man before them manipulated the flesh of others and solidified her suspicions that she did indeed know who he was. The Mutator was a member of her cherished family. He was a man who allied himself with her savior for the good of the oppressed. Ilyana felt torn then, sympathizing with the queen’s current situation but now also realizing another member of her family was here with her. She felt her desire to help Gabriela somehow and redeem her from the torture she was enduring but did not wish to interfere with whatever reason Rodan had for engaging her either. Thankfully, she didn’t need to make any rash decision then with the Mutator responding to the queen’s exposition.

 Listening to Rodan speak gave her insight few others could earn given they were not aware of the family that had taken her in. She would not be standing here, free to do as she pleases, were it not for the power she had been gifted that day in Hell’s Gate. What she thought was an abomination ready to end her miserable life had turned out to be the saving grace that freed her from being used and abused much like she understood Gabriela to be. Ilyana was quick to pick up on Rodan’s pitch. Being the astute businesswoman that she was, it was clear he was attempting to sway her into either purchasing his services or bind her into some sort of contract. She didn’t know why or to what end but she took this moment to finally inject herself.

“Freedom from the source..or sources of your pain should always be something within our reach. It is a shame if you are ever stuck to the belief that your pain will never end…that you are powerless to free yourself. Such is how many within Terrenus and abroad think which is a travesty. No one should ever feel this way.”

She gulps down the last of the Spider’s Bliss that was in her glass before she continued.

“That power you need to assert yourself should never be unavailable to those who need it. Whether by fate…destiny…or whatever divinity allows, opportunity should always be found in any circumstance if you truly search for it. I say you humor whatever proposition this man is trying to present with his words. Being the accomplished businesswoman I am, know a potential good deal when I see one even when the source of that opportunity may be from someone you utterly despise. Of course, I can also tell when it is best to simply squash an offer when it threatens to harm you more than it should. If you allow me to, I can consult for you now…free of charge”

Ilyana attempted to feign as much impartiality as she could given she was torn in her desires here. She ended up deciding to approach this much like she had approached her acquisition of Ventrix Industries not too long ago. She had much to gain no matter which way this ended so truly all that mattered was that the Redeemer emerges the winner and that everyone was all the better for it.

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Gabriela told her story not for the sake of sympathy. 

 

Gabriela told her story for the sake of background. She was trying to teach Roday something. She had a long winded-ness about her, a way of getting to the point that sometimes dragged and dragged, but there was a purpose for it all. She never intended to win Rodan’s esteem, or to instill in him some sort of compassion for her cause. She simply wanted to educate him when he had made the silly and prideful commentary regarding who her love belonged to and from who she ran away. She also, in her own way, wanted Rodan to understand the sort of monster that Raphael was, and also Roen. It was one thing to torture a person with pain, with agony, with emotional turmoil -- but it was a very different kind of beast to cause distress through sexual violation. There were degrees of degradation, and in her own way she had meant to prepare the man. Just because he was not the object of the Blood God’s affections or lust, did not mean that Rodan could not somehow end up in twisted games of flesh, pleasure, and pain. 

 

Whatever the intended purpose and whatever Rodan ended up actually getting out of it, in the end, Gabriela felt that same old tiredness wash over her. She had already said too much, explained too much, and re-lived too much to manage to sit still for much longer. The unease that came with the memories that had been stirred was beginning to make her skin crawl, and the churning of her stomach was not helping her nausea. 

 

“Forgive my presumptions then, your majesty, though it seems I was correct to some extent in most regards after all. But I am beginning to suspect that fate did have a reason for causing this chance meeting after all.”

 

There was indeed a spark of suspicion in her mind -- a dark and terrible possibility that had just taken hold, because sometimes hope could be a dark and terrible thing. It was so small, so utterly impossible that she dare not give it much thought. And yet, realizing that he too was considering it filled her, for a brief moment, with more and more of it -- hope. Raphael had let her go. He had sent her out into the world, knowing that she was already plotting her escape. He thought that by getting ahead of her, and granting her a preliminary freedom, he could control the outcome of the story. She felt the collar around her throat even now, she could feel the hold he had upon her leash as he pulled at her from across the sea.

 

There was only one way to sever their bond.

 

“...Would Raphael still seek to control you if you were not of his kind any longer?”

 

“Yes. Out of sheer spite. Out of sheer hate. For the sake of pleasure, for the sake of lust, for the sake of all that is cruel and vicious and ugly. The question is not to change me to dissuade him from seeking me out -- but rather so that he cannot find me when he does come looking for me.”

 

Ilyana, who had been blissfully quiet until now, spoke up. She had been holding back, listening intently to the conversation, but steadily drinking as well. Gabriela turned only enough to regard the woman over her shoulder. The dark beauty was pressed against her, with her shapely figure leaning heavily against her smaller frame. Although she should have been uncomfortable with the proximity, the Black Queen felt oddly comforted by the nearness, even though she knew she was practically being sandwiched by two people desperately trying to play her.

 

Where they working together?

 

“That power you need to assert yourself should never be unavailable to those who need it. Whether by fate...destiny… or whatever divinity allows, opportunity should always be found in any circumstance if you truly search for it. I say you humor whatever proposition this man is trying to present with his words. Being the accomplished businesswoman I am, know a potential good deal when I see one even when the source of that opportunity may be from someone you utterly despite…”

 

She felt small and young suddenly, even though she could well be older than both of them by centuries. How many people had taken advantage of her? How many people would continue to do so. She dropped her gaze and simply sat there regarding her empty shot glass, wondering what to say, or do, or what to even feel at the moment. Even with the story she had just told, she felt the cold and ugly grip of psychological conditioning rendering her helpless and pathetic -- she missed Roen, she missed his firm hand and his dedication to her welfare, at least in the last stretch of things, at least before he gave her up, at least before the moment she found out nothing had ever been as it seemed. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know who these people were. She stood at precipice not unlike the one that had left her cursed with Philippe, where she had been forced to marry Raphael.

 

Was she about to make another horrible decision?

 

“I don’t want to have this baby,” she said, but it was a whisper -- a quiet, sad, heartbroken whisper. It was unlike anything she had said, it was a confession and a plea. It wasn’t part of the deal. It wasn’t anything really. It was an addition to whatever they were discussing. “But I don’t have the heart to kill it. I can’t. But I don’t want to have it. I don’t want it inside of me. Can...Can you help me? If Raphael ever finds out, if he finds you...”

 

The implication in her silence was as heavy and pregnant as she was, and her inability to look up to meet either of their gaze was all the communication they would need regarding her fear. Yes, fear -- she had never intended to hide it. Indeed, Gabriela was very afraid of Raphael. 

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Alaric understood what it was he paid for, with the bartender whispering to him what it was costing, he just waved the notion away. Leaning forward to tell the young man that he could put whatever she drank on his tab, that he would manage it the next visit. The staff knew very well Alaric would be back in the same old spot as he was the night before, always indulging in his usual drinks. Nodding a goodbye, Alaric pushed himself from the very place he had sat the few hours he spent at the bar. 

With a hand still lingering on the surface, he sent out a soft static jolt that would travel around touching everyone who leaned or touched the bar. Giving the young female bartender a wink, he straightened the black overcoat he wore.

Walking past the three interesting characters, he would give a two finger salute from his dark brow. A smile was given, as a silver shimmer passed through his otherwise grey eyes. With the beat of the music pulsing through him as he moved towards the doors to exit the club, Alaric said one last goodbye to the gargoyle bouncer. 

The door behind him closed with what seemed like a crack of thunder just after a lightning strike, which seemed confusing to those who heard it whip the air. The jolt struck the ground giving a small shake, and disrupting the lights and music inside for a moment. Outside the ground let out a puff of dark smoke, leaving mark where a man last stood. 

[Exit]

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Rodan leaned in closer as Gabriela finished, her last words of fear about what may happen if Raphael were to find either of them...

"You know that he already has me by the throat, and no doubt already plans either terrible tortures for me, or endless toils for his own benefit. If I do nothing, I will face a fate little better than what I may face by helping you... The difference, however; is that we may be able to help each-other," he said this without his typical sinister grin, but in a straight face that was rare for him to show.

He leaned back again, to give the queen some space.

"I can remove the baby from you without causing harm to either, you know I am capable of this. I can likewise hide or alter the child so that you may possess it, or I may take it elsewhere myself, and even if Raphael manages to track it down, it will be useless to him. As for your, I can alter your body down to its very cellular structure; you also know this to be true. Whatever you desire to be, however you wish to live so that it will hide you from him and allow you live as you wish, I can make it happen. But in exchange, I must be free of him as well," he spoke simply, a slight smile creeping back onto his face, "I have no desire to die, which is assured if I do not heed his summons. But if I go to him, he will likely find a way to force me to reveal what I have done for you. However, if we can both escape his clutches, then we may go our own ways in peace, and we shall deny him his pleasures."

Of course, there was no guarantee that Gabriela could do anything to help Rodan against Raphael's powers. In fact, there may be no choice in the matter, he may still have to go forth and face the Blood God anyway. But if that were the case, he would not go alone, not without leverage. Even if Raphael was a man filled with hate and malice, he clearly valued something about Gabriela, her blood and racial ties to him, if nothing else. If he had to, he would use her and the unborn child as leverage, but only as a last resort. If something could be done here, so far away from the Carmine Emperor and his city, then Rodan could feel far more at ease.

"If you can do this for me, if you can help me free myself of him, then I can make your wishes come true. I shall even ensure your safe passage deeper inland, further from the sea and the emperor's influence. There are many forgotten corners of this continent where he will be hard-pressed to find you."

There it was, the deal. A more than fair exchange, if Gabriela could deliver what Rodan needed...

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Both Obtenebra and Ilyana were angered at the mere mention of Raphael now but for different reasons. Still, the fact that Ilyana was angered did not let her care to keep her ancient companion in check and it showed in the way that her dress lost its form and undulated with abandon. The fact she was so close to Gabriela would let the vampyre feel a rumbling behind her that cared little for where it rested on her form, the dichotomy of both cold and hot temperatures pressing forward until she finished expressing her fear. That fear, thankfully, served to quell much of the physical activity of what was obviously not her attire as she began to remember when she too knew nothing but fear.

When despair clinched on to her and began slowly suffocating all hope. Where this carnal vessel suffered from her weakness and her inability to overcome the fear others had nurtured in her being. The memories angered her more than anything nowadays which did not sit well with Obtenebra which sought to regulate, to protect, and to preserve its investment. Anger never benefited its primary host and it would not help the orc or this woman either. Ilyana cared little for the fact that her proximity now could be interpreted as intimate, the words spoken by the Black Queen reeling her in and drowning her in her own empathy for the woman’s current plight. The golden eyed beauty was no friend to her but she still felt this engrained need to treat her like one now.

The whisper that slipped from Gabriela’s mouth had trouble reaching Ilyana’s ears over the thumping noise of the club. She silently wished she could move them to a more private venue or arrange some sort of closed access but she refrained from suggesting anything in favor of trying to pick out the soft words that escaped the queen’s ears. She managed to hear most of it but did not let any visible reaction manifest along her face. Instead, she let Rodan initiate his offer, narrowed eyes scrutinizing the Mutator and making sure it was known that she was analyzing the man. Triumvir or not, she was not going to let the woman beside her enter into an agreement of ill benefit.

Rodan’s proposal was acceptable enough for Ilyana to stifle any sort of objection or counter on Gabriela’s behalf. Whether the queen liked it or not, she decided to appoint herself as an appraiser who would determine if the queen should deign entering into an agreement with a man who had wronged her once already. She spoke up, most of her words directed at Rodan at first.

“Your freedom in exchange for giving her some semblance of freedom with the risk of incurring even more wrath from a foreign emperor?  Still, I find you have more to gain from this than she does. A woman’s body once surrendered to another is most vulnerable. Someone needs to be present to ensure both sides hold up their end of the bargain. Normally I would suggest someone that holds no bias but if both parties agree then I offer myself up to be present and make sure that both of you get what you want. All I ask is that after this is over, you give me a moment of your time to ask something of you Gabriela.”

She made sure to now come to a stand now, placing herself close to both of them and in a position equidistant to them as well. This wasn’t the best pitch she has ever made but hopefully it would do for now.

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“You know that he already has me by the throat, and no doubt already plans either terrible tortures for me, or endless toils for his own benefit…”

 

His words conjured in her mind images of the shadow wolves that the Bartolome family was famous for taming and using as guardians and executors. She saw her cousin’s handsome face twist and rip appart into tendrils of blackness, until all that was left were jagged black shards that came together to make something that just barely resembled the ferocious beasts of the abyss. He was every bit as savage, violent, and as cruel as those nightmarish creatures. And again, she found herself unable to find joy or pleasure in knowing that Rodan might very well find his end upon the rows of pointed fangs that lined the maw of that horrendous beast. 

 

Vengeance, even when extracted from the most hated of enemies, should be a clean, quick, and above all else, respectable affaire -- or so her father had taught her.

 

“If I do nothing, I will face a fate little better than what I may face by helping you… The difference, however, is that we may be able to help each-other.”

 

While Rodan leaned away, she felt Ilyana press closer still. The woman’s breath, sweet smelling after her drinking, cascaded down her left cheek and along the side of her throat. Though Gabriela was modestly dressed, the warmth of the woman’s body still penetrated the layers of fabric of her tunic and blouse. She meant to look up and beg for space, but found instead that the undulating material of the woman’s dress settled her back into stillness. Instead, from her peripheral, those golden eyes watched with a mixture of discomfort and curiosity as the black ‘fabric’ crawled against the Ilyana’s skin, like a garment made out of thousands of black, blood-engorged leeches, all sewn together and still withering with life.

 

“I can remove the baby from you without causing harm to either, you know I am capable of this.”

 

A tortured expression turned from Ilyana back to Rodan. Her brows were pinched, her lips pressed together into a tight line -- she could not mask her hurt, shame, and anger. She had to resist the urge to reach down and touch the swell of her belly. She simply could not afford to feel for this child anymore, she could not spare the care that might make her lose her nerve. 

 

“I can likewise hide or alter the child so that you may possess it, or I may take it elsewhere myself, and even if Raphael manages to track it down, it will be useless to him.”

 

A bargaining chip…

 

“As for you, I can alter your body down to its very cellular structure…”

 

Rodan went on. He spoke clearly and eloquently about what he could do for her and what he would require in return. It made sense, of course and did not seem like an unfair trade. She wondered as to her ability to help the man -- Raphael was an elder, he was at least a millenia older than she was, but she had never bothered asking. Though they were equal, in regards to their pairing as a Royal Pair, they would never be equal in power. He simply had too much age, and short of draining the blood from his veins, there was no way Gabriela could outmatch him. But she was Tenebre’s beloved, she was the literal child of Darkness -- her bond with the ancient deity, the very creature that had bestowed so many gifts upon her people and their blood, surely gave her some leverage of her own. 

 

This was thin ice she was trying to walk across, where everyone was working to help her only so long as it was convenient. It was treacherous ice that would break and shatter under her weight at any moment. 

 

“If you can do this for me, if you can help me to free myself of him, then I can make your wishes come true. I shall even ensure you safe passage deeper inland, further from the sea and the emperor’s influence. There are many forgotten corners of this continent where he will be hard-pressed to find you.”

 

“Your freedom in exchange for giving her some semblance of freedom with the risk of incurring even more wrath from a foreign emperor? Still, I find you have more to gain from this than she does. A woman’s body once surrendered to another is most vulnerable. Someone needs to be present to ensure both sides hold up their end of the bargain. Normally I would suggest someone that holds no bias but if both parties agree then I offer myself up to be present and make sure that both of you get what you want. All I ask is that after this is over, you give me a moment of your time to ask something of you Gabriela.”

 

Not to be forgotten, Ilyana had slipped from her tall stool and was now pressing closer to them both. Gabriela could not stomach to look up and find her face, nor could she turn to regard Rodan. She remained seated and facing the bar, but her eyes were cast downward, staring at the empty shot glass that had never been taken away or refilled. With that same frown still creasing her brow, she studied the shallow pool of crimson left at the bottom of the glass and again thought of who, if anyone, she might have turned to for help. It was with ice in her veins that she realized how completely and utterly alone she was. 

 

“Excuse me… you’ve both given me very much to think about. I need a moment.”

 

She didn’t expect either of them to stop her. She trusted that Rodan would in turn trust her to know how little time there was to mull over. Even so, she fully expected them to give her a moment to take it all in. So as politely as she could, she pushed away from the bar and tried to step between them without touching either of them on her way…

 

Where was she going?

 

She considered the exit, but she didn’t want to give Rodan the wrong impression that she was leaving. The bathroom seemed the only reasonable option, and so she began the tedious task of trying to find it as she pushed her way through throngs of people. It seemed more and more had arrived and the crowd was growing thicker and more rowdy. She didn’t mind being shoved or pushed, but she did keep her hands protectively set over her stomach in case some foolish drunk tried to elbow her in the gut.

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Rodan watched her go, for a moment wondering if she did intend to slip out and escape. But even if she did, he would not pursue her himself; he had his own people that could do that. While Diego was here in the club with him, he had brought others in more inconspicuous guises to act as lookouts for him as he made his way to the Carmine Capital, and they remained outside. Of course, he originally expected to be dealing with Raphael overseas, not encountering the Black Queen here on Terran soil. But this was a welcome diversion, and if Gabriela could find a way to free him, even if it was temporary, it would be worth whatever effort he needed to put into it.

Diego stirred again, as if to follow Gabriela, but Rodan waved him down. There was no need to make the Black Queen feel ill at ease. Rodan still watched her as she weaved through the crowd, only looking away once he was satisfied she had entered the restroom instead of slipped out the door. With Gabriela momentarily unavailable, he turned toward Ilyana, able to speak openly with her for the first time now.

"I did not expect to meet any of my friend's, hmm... acolytes... here. Oh, forgive me, Rodan Allagi at your service, though I suspect you know who I was already," he spoke with a bow of his head, "Might I have the pleasure of knowing your name as well?"

He eyed her more closely now, though he really did not need to. He had already studied and memorized all he needed to know through his magical bio-scan. Even so, the dark woman was an intriguing visage from the outside as well.

"If it is not a bother, may I also ask what your angle is in all this? Are you here by happenstance, a mere random coincidence? Or should I feel flattered that our mutual friend has felt enough concern for me that he has sent one of his own to trail me?"

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Ilyana could sense that the queen felt slightly overwhelmed with the choices set before her. The Redeemer had a knack for discernment, one she never knew she really had until she had been given the freedom to actually exercise it. She moved away from Gabriela, not because she cared about the intimate proximity she had employed but because she had already foreseen that the queen would need to step away to mull over her own fate. It was in these moments of waiting that she dearly missed Aislyn who had no qualms initiating dialogue to pass the time but she was back home working alongside Lady Glasmann to see to one of her other affairs.

As Gabriela slipped away, Ilyana’s swirling black gaze stared hard at her movements until the queen decided to slip out of her line of sight. She was about to sigh and return to drink but heard Rodan start to speak. She had only heard stories about the triumvir, many of them horrific though not entirely too detailed given her source was Xavier. Still, she didn’t care to let that taint their first meeting nor did she think of judging him. Ilyana was not oblivious to her Savior’s capabilities or past nor how monstrous her family could be. What was it that Caeceila had said during their meeting? Ahh yes…”Man must become better and eviler.” She understood the need for monsters to motivate much needed change in a land full of powerful beings. Turning her body to fully face Rodan, she does not smile. She does not even smirk. Ilyana was all business…for now.

“I was not expecting anyone from my newly adopted family here either. My name is Ilyana Sevryn, owner of the Redeemer Inc. in Hell’s Gate. Our mutual friend had nothing to do with this chance meeting, I assure you. I am here on more personal business. A business partner of mine believes that Gabriela may be an asset worth exploring.”

Ilyana lightly shrugged, tacitly displaying that she did not necessarily agree that Gabriela would be of any use toward the goal she had in mind. An arm snaked behind her to grab her drink and she sipped some more Spider’s Bliss before continuing.

“From what I can tell you weren’t expecting any of this either. I will help you in any way I can to redeem you from your current predicament. Family is…family.”

She gulped down the rest of her drink and set the glass down on the bar behind her, searching around for Gabriela.

“I will go looking for her to make sure she is ok. Maybe your other friends can help too.”

Ilyana weaved in and out of the throngs of people effortlessly, clearly accustomed to this atmosphere. It was no Club Tablillas so someone as small and agile as her had no problem maneuvering her way through. Eventually she would be in the general area surrounding the bathroom where several women were chatting about a variety of topics, none of which mattered to Ilyana at the moment. With a finger tapping her lips, she contemplated what Gabriela might be up to and whether or not she had decided to rudely back out of any consideration for the proposals she had been given.

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To her relief, the bathroom afforded her a level of privacy she had not been expecting. Rather than endless stalls, walls of mirrors, and sinks -- there had been a narrow hall with six doors, three to the left and three to the right. Three restrooms for ladies and three for gentlemen. The wait hadn’t been long, for it seemed that no one was using the bathrooms for their intended purpose but rather as a place to quickly administer a number of illicit drugs. Proof of this was in the disgustingly sweet and tangy smell that lingered in the misty air, swirling around in wisps under the bright fluorescent lights, and the faint, but visible, powdery residue that remained upon the black counter top besides the sink and on the cover of the toilet tank. Besides these unsightly things, the bathroom was tastefully put together and decorated in black marble and stainless steel. 

 

Gabriela flipped on the faucet and waited for the water to run as hot as possible. It wasn’t until she could see steam rising from the gathering water that she dipped her hands in with nothing more than an initial wince that flickered across her pretty face. Carefully, she began to wash her hands although she used no hand soap to complete task. Mostly, she needed something to busy herself with -- a sort of excuse to justify taking up this valuable, private space. And even as her hands began to take on color from being held under the burning hot water, she didn’t pull them out, or do much more than continue to rub at them as if washing them. 

 

You’re incapable of giving the Flesh Manipulator what he desires.

 

I am aware…

 

So why haven’t you asked for help?

 

For the first time since she entered and took her position before the sink, Gabriela lifted her gaze to peer at herself in the mirror. It had fogged up from the hot water, but even so she caught the glow of her golden gaze and the dark outline of a shadow standing at her back. She knew he wasn’t really there -- she knew how hard it was for Tenebre to compose a solid figure here upon Terrenus. The illusion existed only in her mind, or in her blood, she couldn’t be sure. 

 

You’d never agree to me becoming human. I won’t waste my time on impossibilities. 

 

Vampyre, swan -- or human, your physical manifestation is but a vessel for what I desire and cherish most. In fact, you’re vampyric body keeps me from attaining that which I most love by keeping your soul encased in a nearly indestructible prison. A human lifetime is nothing to wait on, but a vampyric one? No one even knows how long one of your kind can live for. 

 

Golden eyes glared down and watched as her right thumb rubbed hard across her left knuckles, nearly tearing the surface layer of skin off. Hearing him speak about her soul always produced in her a deep repulsion. There was a long line of succession of those who believed themselves masters over some part of her, whether it be her heart, her body, her mind, or her soul -- but it had all begun with him, Father Darkness. He, and he alone, spoke with a certainty that chilled the very marrow in her bones. 

 

“Are you saying you’ll help me then?” she asked aloud, wanting to cut the pleasantries short.

 

It will be a grave insult to Raphael to interfere with his blood bond…

 

“The greater offense was committed against me when the mutator changed my body, kidnapped me, endangered my child, used me for leverage, and stole the secrets of my blood to create fledglings of his own. Raphael insulted me by taking away what is owed to me under the very laws he supposedly seeks to uphold. Justice should have been entrusted to me, and instead, he took it upon himself and claimed the man for his own. You are merely righting a wrong, Dark Father, you are granting me the satisfaction that is owed to me.”

 

You only ever speak of the old ways when it suits you, Gabriela. Don’t you ever grow tired of your hypocrisy. 

 

Hypocrisy runs in my blood, you saw to that.

 

At long last she pulled her hands from the water and turned, plucking a black hand towel from the counter and using it to dry her scalded fingertips. She turned and leaned against the counter top, and just as she expected, found that there was no shadowy figure standing there, looming over her. She was alone in the bathroom. 

 

“Help me free this man from Raphael’s blood curse, and see me through this alteration -- for I dare not trust either of them. If you ever loved me, do this for me so that I can find peace at long last.”

 

And what of the child in your womb?

 

I will give him to you. Take him away -- breathe life to him a hundred years after I am dead and gone, when all that’s left of me is dust and ash. He deserves every right to live, just as much as I have lived. But I do not want to be his mother. I do not want to bring him into the world. Love him as you loved me. Perhaps he will be less of a disappointment. Perhaps he can be the messiah you wanted, the child you deserved. Give him to Raphael, if ever he changes -- the darling boy he’s always wanted. I don’t know.

 

You’d sell that innocent into your lot in life so that you could have freedom?

 

Her brows pinched, she looked hurt. 

 

“Being loved by you was only ever hard because I could not love. The fault was not yours. It was never yours. Can’t you see that I am broken? I am unworthy of the gift you meant to give…As for Raphael, I don’t know. Perhaps he’ll change. In the end, it will be entirely up to you. And there’s no one who’s judgment I trust more.”

 

“My, my...you really must want this if you’ve resorted to flattery, dear one.”

 

“More than anything.”

 

So be it, Gabriela -- so be it.

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"Well met, Ilyana Sevryn," Rodan nodded again in acknowledgement, once Ilyana had introduced herself, then again when she expressed her intention to assist him, "It is most appreciated. I have no desire to interfere with your goals of course, but naturally I must prioritize my own needs first. Hopefully we shall both get what we want out of this affair."

Ilyana then finished her drink, then stood up and stated her intention to go look for Gabriela. Rodan nodded for the third time, but did not rise to join her. He doubted his other minions could assist though, not unless Gabriela had fled outside and made a run for it. They were watching the entrances from the outside, while Diego was the only one who had gone inside. And Rodan had already told Diego to stay put, so it was up to Ilyana alone to find and attempt to reassure Gabriela right now.

In the meantime, Rodan remained at the bar, occasionally tapping his fingers against it. The bartender came by and refilled his glass of water, grudgingly, since it was a not a chargeable drink, then moved on. Rodan glanced down the bar, noticing a few others leaned against it, in varying states of intoxication. To pass the time, he snaked his powers through the wooden bar down to each successive person, scanning each and every one to take in any unique traits they may have to offer. Then, for his own amusement, he made just a few harmless tweaks to each, nothing that they would notice now, but that they would question when their minds finally cleared from the fog of drugs and alcohol. One might wonder why his mole was on the opposite cheek now, another may question why her eyes turned from brown to blue, and still another might question when his hair turned red and began growing in curly instead of straight. But luckily for them, Rodan was only a little bored, and not truly in a playful mood tonight. The results may have been far more dramatic then what they were now.

At last he leaned back a little and pivoted again to watch for Gabriela and Ilyana's return. Despite his nature, Rodan intended to fulfill his promised end of the bargain with the Black Queen, provided she could manage to accomplish hers. He doubted this, and a strong part of him was expecting more and more that he would have to use her and the baby as leverage of last resort against Raphael. That was less desirable for them both, since it guaranteed little and likely promised them both considerable pain in exchange. But it was Rodan's only play right now, as he had less than three days to meet the Carmine Emperor, and that was not enough time to get word to Agony or Lunara. By the time the message he sent (carried by a messenger bird of... less avian origin) would reach them, it may already be too late.

This was his best chance...

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Ilyana stood in front of the entrance to the bathroom for several minutes, determining that this was the only logical place that the queen would go from where she had lost sight of her. She refrained from entering initially, giving the queen her much needed space though doing so caused her to become rather impatient. Shifting to place her weight on one leg, arch of her hip accentuating her curvy but petite frame, she heard a voice trying to reach her through the din of the establishment.

“What is such a small beauty doing in a place like this?”

A man with piercing green eyes slid through a group of dancing girls and approached rather swiftly. Glistening tawny flesh was muted a bit by the darkness of the club which was meant to make things more comfortable for the eccentric guests of this establishment. The man was well dressed, with a silky black shirt and black pants that were fitted. He towered over Ilyana with a height of six and a half feet and approached with a mischievous smile that he thought he wielded to his benefit but Ilyana clearly wasn’t impressed.

“Nothing you should concern yourself with.”

“Oh? Well ok then. My apologies. Let me get you a drink to make up for what seems to be an intrusion.”

Admirable attempt to placate in Ilyana’s eyes but she would not soften up for him…not today.

“Don’t waste your time.”

She needed a place to exit, one that would grant her the freedom she needed from this exchange so she started to walk toward the bathroom now. Weaving through the moving groups of people, she reached the threshold of the area before she felt a hand attempt to slide along her waist. The palm slid itself along her abdomen which fueled an instinctive response motivated by anger. Obtenebra repelled the man’s hand with a forceful push from her abdomen which caused the man’s center of gravity to fail. She took the opening with her small frame to flip the man over her shoulder with so much force that his body collided with the rough wall inside of the bathroom.

The thud of bone colliding with the wall would likely be heard by Gabriela before she would see Ilyana emerge from behind the corner and press her heel hard into the man’s chest as he sat hunched against the wall in pain. Most of her left leg lay exposed as she pressed against the man though it was clear Obtenebra did its best to keep her modest.

“If you want to be able to walk much less breathe, then I suggest you make sure you leave here, keep your hands to yourself, and I better not see your face again for the rest of the night.”

Her heel rose toward his face and she pressed forward, causing a cheek to rub uncomfortably against the wall behind her.

“Do you understand?”

She managed to get a single nod which was enough of an acknowledgment for her to move away from the man. Her eyes snapped toward Gabriela near the faucet, a look of righteous anger still lingering on her face though it noticeably softened before she addressed her.

“I came to make sure you were still ok, Gabriela, but I apologize if I ruined any calm you might have gained from stepping away.”

She turned to see the man struggling to a stand to get ready to leave. His green eyes met with her roiling black which only served to motivate him to leave even more. Ilyana turned to look at Gabriela with a peripheral gaze this time.

“I will be just outside if you need me beautiful…”

She would begin to step out just after the man stumbled his way out and wait for the queen to emerge so they could return to where Rodan was waiting and hear her final decision.

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There was more to be said and she knew it, but the deafening silence that followed his ending words held a mystical quality she dare not break. Nothing she could say at this moment felt appropriate. The mere fact that he accepted and agreed to help her went beyond any understanding she had of this being, and yet in her heart of hearts she knew better than to trust the gesture. Tenebre was not the sort of creature to do something out of the goodness of his heart, and it was not because he was a selfish or cruel being in nature, but simply because goodness or wickedness did not extend to, or relate to, the reasons that governed his actions. If time and space were set upon a  spectrum, and he like any true deity, was outside of this spectrum observing it from a distance, then it was by virtue of that very distance that he made his choices. He saw something, he understood something, he knew what was coming -- or perhaps what was to become of her when all was said and done, and therefore, decided that this path she was about to embark on was the correct choice to better achieve the goals he had set for her. 

 

He had never lied about what he wanted. His ultimate goal was never concealed. It was her soul he craved more than anything, and she knew that it did not matter if it was a vampyric body or a human body that housed it, in the end he would take it in whatever vessel it came packaged within. 

 

She could appreciate, in that regard, his decision to help her and to forgo the love and worship of a favored son -- Raphael. But was her soul, or the chance to gain access to it sooner rather than later (as a human’s lifetime was significantly shorter than that of a vampyre’s) truly worth the potential loss of vampyric followers, for surely Raphael would retaliate in kind against this betrayal from the Dark Father. 

 

She wondered -- she had to. 

 

It doesn’t matter. I am not like the modern Gods. I do not need alters and sacrifices of blood, nor do I thrive with frightened prayers whispered into the night. 

 

“No, you do not need any of those things,” Gabriela answered, shifting so that she could glance at her pale reflection in the mirror. For a moment, just a passing second, she found herself stunned at the beauty she found there looking back at her. It was hard to keep things in perspective at times. It was hard to remember that she was attractive, and that her eyes were colored an exceptionally rare and lovely shade of gold. In a way, it was as if her reflection had been a stranger, and for a moment she had found herself admiring someone else. It made her flush, but it appeared as nothing more than a slight shade of rose on her cheeks. “But you crave the company, and you’ll be terribly sad without it.” 

 

He never had a chance to reply, the door crashed open before he could and a burly man was thrown through. Though the initial entrance did not startle Gabriela so much, the sound of the man’s bones rattling against the far wall when he hit it did force an uncomfortable squirm out of her small figure. She disliked excessive displays of violence, regardless of how well deserved they may be. Even so, she only inched closer to the corner of the bathroom, giving Ilyana ample room to deal with the man as she saw fit, for it wasn’t long before the scantily clad woman was stepping through the shattered remains of the door after her prey.  

 

“If you want to be able to walk much less breathe, then I suggest you make sure you leave here, keep your hands to yourself, and I better not see your face again for the rest of the night. Do you understand?”

 

The man, toppled to the floor and pinned under a righteous high heel of justice, managed only a weak nod of acknowledgment. Gabriela felt neither pity nor anger for him, but she did feel herself inch back a little further from the scene. There were twin trails of blood spilling from his nostrils and the smell was thick and practically divine in this small, enclosed space. Though she did not much care for human’s blood, the man seemed to carry a scent about him as if he were mixed with something -- perhaps elf, perhaps something else. It made her curious, but not enough to bother with finding out. When Ilyana looked up to catch Gabriela’s gaze, all thoughts of blood, hunger, and anything that may have passed off as a normal existence beforehand, left her mind. 

 

“I came to make sure you were still ok, Gabriela, but I apologize if I ruined any calm you might have gained from stepping away. I will be just outside if you need me beautiful…”

 

Ilyana waited, and the man, as if understanding, began to crawl out of the bathroom when he found it nearly impossible to climb up to his feet. Just beyond the shattered door, which had been ripped off its hinges when Ilyana threw the man through it, friends of his were waiting and they helped him up and out the rest of the way. The woman with the fine, black dress, that even now continued to shift and sway against her flesh like pulsing leather, as if it were a living thing, was not made to wait long. 

 

I wouldn’t trust that one, if I were you.

 

I don’t. 

 

She was overly anxious to get involved.

 

Aren’t most people, when it comes to the Black Queen?

 

Though Gabriela walked in silence, it was clear that she was still considering her choice. By the time she and Ilyana returned the bar, where Rodan was patiently waiting, she had cemented her decision. Being that her choice was made, it seemed silly to sit, so she stood -- one hand over her belly, while people pushed around them, growing more and more frenzied as it grew later and more alcohol was consumed. 

 

“Alright. I will help you break the bloodbond that Raphael has set upon you, and in return -- you’ll turn me human and safely remove the child growing in my womb, without killing it. I can guarantee that the bloodbond will be broken, and that barring that Raphael manages to physically find you and put his hands upon your person that you will be free of him. I just pray you remember the vast amount of resources at his disposal. If he does not manage to get you in this way, he will more than likely find another way. But for my part, I expect that me, as well as my unborn child, will be fully emancipated from any bondage to your power. Once we part paths, I don’t want you to ever be able to find us, at least not through your magic. If you can agree to those terms, I am prepared to leave with you.”

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Rodan was exactly where Gabriela had left him, as patient as ever despite his pressing need. Every moment he spent here would be lost time he should have been spending en route to Rafael's fortress, should Gabriela prove incapable of assisting him. However, when she returned, her first words were to indicate that she could help break the bloodbond, which alleviated his worries considerably. Her specific requests were a minute price to pay, by his estimation.

"Your terms are accepted. Once we part ways, you needn't ever see my face again," Rodan nodded, "Let us then find a more private venue."

He stood up and glanced at Ilyana, who he assumed would join them, then headed for the exit. Diego needed no queue, as he could clearly see his master was leaving, so he stood up and followed them out at a distance. Once they were outside and could more easily speak without the deafening beat of club music, Rodan conferred with Gabriela again.

"Wherever you wish to go that would be most comfortable for you. I can work wherever, but I know not what you will need to do to accomplish your part."

He expected they might choose a motel room, or perhaps a secluded park. Even a back alley would suffice, though it would hardly be the cleanest or more desirable location for Gabriela to begin her life anew. It was all up to her, however; as he did not wish her to become too unnerved and back-out. He needed this as much as she did.

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The opinion she was forming of the Carmine Emperor grew darker the more she heard Gabriela speak of him. It turns out he seemed like any other man in a position of power, willing to impose himself upon that which he desires no matter the pain he may inflict on that which he obsesses over. Ilyana had a distinct fear that one day she may find that her own savior would turn out to be much like those she despised but she clung to the hope that the power he was amassing was only meant for the good of those underneath his shelter. This freedom she now indulged in couldn’t really be just so she could be a puppet to another…right? She would never allow it!

Ilyana walked beside Gabriela, nudging anyone who got close to her away gruffly though she was not a woman of much taller stature than the Black Queen herself. Still, Terrenus was more her home than it was the golden-eyed beauty’s and it was this advantage that she knew she could lord over the woman should things grow sour. Thankfully the agreement was well on its way to being finalized as she could see by Gabriela’s presentation of terms and Rodan’s acceptance. She was glad she didn’t have to step in as mediator or participate in any arbitration. Now she could begin fashioning her own rapport with Gabriela by offering something she knew the queen would be hard-pressed to get in a land that wasn’t her own.

“A win-win for both of you….wonderful. Such a delicate process warrants a facility equipped enough to handle such an intimate procedure. Both of you are fortunate to have met me then. Might I suggest this intricate procedure be conducted aboard my airship? It will grant you both some much needed privacy. Then, I can escort you wherever you may desire or we may part ways once business has concluded.”

She stood between them yet again, sliding her gaze from Rodan over to Gabriela slowly before she continued.

“Burdened individuals such as yourselves might have trouble finding a better deal. Of course you are free to decide for yourselves what benefits you but with a man as resourceful as Raphael Bartolome you might find the Redeemer and those allied with me who hold no true allegiance to the Carmine Emperor or the Terran government invaluable assets to buoy your aspirations.”

Her right hand moved forward to rest on the bar top between them, the peculiar black ring that decorated her middle finger swirling much like her eyes seemed to if one stared into those abyssal pools. She then stepped forward again, not caring whether she brushed up against either of them in the process. Motioning to the barkeep, she continued.

“I will pay for whatever is not already taken care of for these two as well as my tab. Make sure to let Rian know I will pay for the damage to the bathroom wall over there as well. All he needs to do is pay Ilyana Sevryn of Hell’s Gate a visit…”

A smirk fell on her lips before she cycled her sights upon Gabriela and Rodan.

“So do you both accept or are you going to let me leave here all alone?”

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Get down with the victim
We both know you need them
You’re stuck in the middle
Of all irrelevance
And your heart is beating
‘Cause you know that you gotta
Get out of the middle
And rise to the top now

Cool numbness spread across her fingers. It was heavy and uncomfortable, and it caused her to rub the flat of her thumbs across the length of the inside of her fingertips over and over. Her skin felt dry. The word ‘arid’ appeared in her mind, but not in letters but rather as a scene in a painting -- some ugly, gray, desolate place. Even the inside of her mouth felt dry, and she began to fret over whether or not her lips were beginning to crack and reveal the fractures in the foundations of her soul. 

“Wherever you wish to go that would be most comfortable for you. I can work wherever, but I know not what you will need to accomplish your part.”

“I don’t need anything to accomplish my part,” she replied, shifting a glare in Rodan’s direction -- it was as if she remembered suddenly how much she hated the man. They were walking, but she knew the man would not be able to resist making eye contact, even if it was just to ensure that he heard her gently uttered words through the throne of squealing and chattering people. And whatever he made of the anger he found upon her face, she did not care enough to examine his reaction, the radiant gold of her gaze flickered away to look forward and watch her way. 

But it was not a necessary thing, for Ilyana was a careful and diligent guide. It surprised Gabriela how close she remained, and she made certain that none of the shifting, dancing, and withering bodies never made it too close into her personal space even given the extraordinarily tight quarters. For such a small woman, and for such an attractive woman, she carried herself with all the physical prowess of a skilled fighter, but more so, one that relied on strength and not agility. It was a curiosity to see, but not remotely enough to take her mind from the dark and ugly things to come. 

You can’t fight the friction
So ease it off
Can’t take the pressure
So ease it off
Don’t tell me to be strong
Ease it off
You can’t fight the friction
So ease it off

“...Such a delicate process warrants a facility equipped enough to handle such an intimate procedure. Both of you are fortunate to have met me then. Might I suggest this intricate procedure be conducted aboard my airship? It will grant you both some much needed privacy. Then, I can escort you wherever you may desire or we may part ways once business has concluded.”

She had come to regret the sharpness with which she had initially spoken to the woman, but that was all forgotten with this new push of hers. Perhaps Gabriela was being pushed too far and too fast, but for whatever reason, something about all of this suddenly felt wrong. Maybe it was the idea of being taken up into an airship, maybe it was the curve of Ilyana’s perfect smile, her painted lips, and the dripping seduction that was replicated in the curve of her hip. The numbness in her fingertips was crawling up her knuckles and wrists, and she could feel it clawing at her forearms, and wrapping itself around her elbows. 

“Yes...so fortunate to have met you…” she repeated slowly, as her eyes shifted between Ilyana’s pretty face and Rodan’s nearly expressionless one. She had her feelings about the woman, and of course, about Rodan, but all of this did seem a little too well placed, a little too perfect, a little too fated. The idea that there was an airship now, just waiting to zip her away to wherever she wanted to go. It was just too much good fortune. 

“So do you both accept or are you going to let me leave here all alone?”

“You sound like a prostitute,” Gabriela whispered, she was breathless with disgust and anger -- she appeared a little out of sorts as she crossed her arms, tucking her hands into her armpits as if she were cold. She looked paler, as if that were possible. “A cheap one, trying really hard to pick one of us up. What’s in it for you? Do I even want to know...I am not going anywhere private with either of you, I think we can get this done right here and right now. Pick a booth, any booth.” 

Oh why can’t you let go
Like a bird in the snow
This is no place to build your home

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