xxxv. You Must Jump In After Her
Silver water now lapped at Eva’s thighs—while silver mist swirled and slithered around her waist in tendrils.
With her vacant gaze locked on Seven’s earnest expression―she backed away further down the stairs―unknowingly deeper now into Faye’s evil and mad,menacing essence.
“Eva … Please come with me now―please. I don’t want to lose you …”
“I feel like … I don’t even know you anymore, Seven,” she said, eyes brimming with silver tears. “Like I don’t even know who I am anymore. What am I Seven?”
She waded in up to her waist, where for a moment she hesitated, coming to her senses. She rubbed her eyes feverishly.
But now looking down into the silver swirls that were swallowing her up―she started to feel comforted, as if wrapped up by an old familiar skin. She was torn so.
“Do you love Her?” she said weakly.
“No … Please …” Seven said, his voice cracking. “It’s not like that, at all …
“I hate Her … I hate Her, Eva …”
“What does She want at all then?”
“Me. She wants me, Eva …. Please … I’m so sorry, Eva … Please come … Come … Please come now …”
Draca surfaced under silver shallows—right behind Eva now―circling in for the kill. The snake easily sensed her fear.
In the crux of the moment, Seven thought Eva might panic if he warned her―in turn quickening the snake’s offense. So he tried to just remain calm and speak slowly, not to alarm her so.
“Please … come … Eva … I love you … I love you more than anything …”
“More than Her? Than yourself?”
“More than, myself … Anybody.”
Suddenly, the pooling silver turned into a dark twister—with Faye’s jealous heartbeat pounding at the core of the roaring vortex. She was circling in now.
Eva’s breathing grew troubled—as she froze in a sudden panic attack. “Seven? Seven … What is going on now?”
Thunder boomed hard, rolling outside. It sounded like the end of time.
The house shook under Her awful wrath. There was no time left to back off.
Bright lightning flashed fast in the stairwell. Their final folly was to dally.
A tree suddenly crashed through the window, sending glass shards shattering over everywhere. The scene scattered.
Twisting out of her trance, Eva screamed, running, shielding her face in cutting rains of countless broken panes.
Seven waded in—pulling her out of striking distance―just as Draca had come upon his prey. He saved her just in time.
Eva allowed Seven to lead her further up the stairs―out of the water—out of Faye’s clutches. She clung to him.
“Keep moving, we have to get higher …” he said earnestly, out of breath.
“Why did you lie to me all that time?” she said. She could not let it go.
“Two more flights or it won’t matter,” he said, just trying to escape.
“What are you afraid of? Loving me?” she said, when it was her own fault.
“No,” Seven said—stopping her. “I love you … I do―but … The thing is … I don’t deserve you. I’ve disserviced you.”
She stopped on the stairs—crossing her arms. “I’m not moving until you explain,” she said in her stubborness, despite their fast and impending doom.
“Listen, Eva. I’m so very cursed.”
“Damn you,” she growled. “Damn.”
“Okay … you want the truth …. In the kitchen just now … You saw Marietta turn―didn’t you? You saw her change skin right before your eyes? Didn’t you?”
For a moment, Eva acted confused—but then she nodded in understanding. “They aren’t albinos are they really now?”
He shook his head slowly to be sure.
“What are they really then Seven?”
“I think you know now. Don’t you?”
She mouthed the word: ‘Vampires?’.
He nodded, rather long and gravely.
“I want to hear it from you. Say it.”
“Vampires, Eva. They’re Vampires.”
Her lips parted wide to hear it aloud.
“You are too—aren’t you?” she said.
“Half. My father was a real human.”
“Why didn’t you ever just tell me?”
“I was afraid you would leave me …”
“Wish you were honest from outset.”
“We’re losing time. We must go …”
Silver water gathered at their feet.
They soon regrouped with Olin, Aly, Godwin and Marietta on the third floor, where the family heirlooms hung. Suits of armor stood on display down the walls.
At the front of the hall, their family crest hung proudly―below which was displayed an old scroll by a dead ancestor, ensconced in a block of inch thick glass.
Swords and spears once used for battle against the New London Ripjoys hung throughout the West Corridor—and family rugs lined all along the East Wing.
Seven took down his old longsword off of the wall. He felt its familiar weight and balanced it one side to the next, remembering how it felt to wield at will.
It was not formally his sword, but it was his weapon of choice for battle. On its hilt was inscribed its name, bestowed upon it by a knight long ago: Tréowlufu.
“I hurt my ankle,” Eva said wincing. “You were pulling me too fast, Seven …”
He turned―and their eyes met for a brief moment of true, open reconciliation.
“I’m so sorry, Eva,” he said softly.
They returned to the others to find that Godwin had a livid look blazing in his eyes. He seemed entirely like a mad man.
“I’m going to buy us some time,” he informed them all. “Had enough with this nonsense,” he said, taking down off the wall the mace with which he was most familiar—on which was etched the namesake Réðscipe—and a steel diamond-encrusted shield emblazoned: Hilderand.
“Please, Godwin,” Marietta pleaded.
“She will crush you,” Olin boldly warned. “She has no discernment between us while she’s raging like this. She will kill you like you were Seven himself. She does not care about you.”
“He’s right Godwin,” Aly added on.
“Just get yourselves up to the roof and safely away from here,” Godwin replied. “Leave Her to me. I will it.”
Godwin was not afraid of dying at the hands of the Silverskin—but before he did, he would endeavor to infect Her with his mind-control venom. Thus he might have a chance to stop Her dead in Her hunt, by taking over Her body via his parasitic blood magic, of hypnotic mastery. It was his oldest trick in time.
“You saved my life, old man,” Olin said, offering his hand. “I’m just trying to return the favour. Tell me how to help.”
Godwin grabbed it. “Good on you, boy. Watch out for your mother for me, okay. Be brave, son. Take care of us all.”
Olin nodded grimly―smirking in a bitter pride. “I will, father,” he said. It was hard watching Godwin go—but he could hardly admit it to himself even then.
Eva gave Godwin a brief, big hug.
Aly also embraced him, teary-eyed.
Seven so shook his hand good-bye.
“She’s got some nerve for a human, boy,” Godwin said to him. “Good on you.”
Seven nodded. “Good luck, Godwin. The key to killing Her is in the snake. Kill the anaconda. The snake dies, She dies.”
Godwin nodded—more bloodthirsty ideas already popping into his already fertile predatory mind. He snarled now.
He pulled Marietta into a final embrace. It could be their last connect.
She bit him once sharply on his cheek. He bit her back with equal gusto.
A thin line of blood ran down to his lip―where he licked it, tasting the bitterness of departure. Life was hard.
She looked away, now tearing up.
His eyes brimmed in dark red blood.
He gave up one last side-long glance over to Marietta―and then turned back down the stairs, toward the great swirling silver storm below. He sacrificed himself.
His breathing hastened—as his shoulders widened—and he mutated into a great monstrosity―fangs winding out long from the sharp trap of a magnificent maw.
Just then, Faye emerged from her mercurial whirlpool―with Ierre and Hete readied for battle. She was ready to die.
She swung hard at Godwin―but to Her dismay, his matchless reflexes caught Ierre in his bare hand. He squeezed it.
He grimaced as it burned through his flesh, down to his finger bones, where it etched a hot passage. He cared not.
He smashed Hete with Réðscipe—blood from the shield splattering both of them. They were locked in death throes.
She buckled under the blow, falling back into Her maelstrom—but then instantly re-emerged—weaponless—with just black claws drawn, ready to pounce.
She lunged at him—and he ducked to dodge Her attack—but She dexterously spun into his evasion, tearing away his pale flesh with relish. She grinned evilly.
“Die you bitch,” he grunted—swinging Réðscipe around again—connecting with Her jaw—jarring Her head to the side, sending broken fangs flying everywhere—along with a shower of blood. Solid contact had been achieved.
She paused for a second, slowly looking back at him―clearly about to lose all control. She could not be humiliated.
‘I CANNOT DIE,’ She growled in a deep demonic voice—shaking in a boiling fury. ‘I AM DEATH. I … AM … DEATH …!’
He gulped, suddenly unsure that he had not gotten himself into a quick and dead end this bad day. He recoiled a bit.
Then suddenly Draca coiled out from the silver pool around his waist—and began slowly crushing him—causing him to drop Hildebrand. He still kept a hold on Réðscipe, despite the torturous silver vice.
Then She closed in, unsheathing Ierre again—from out of Her ether dimension. She arced blue flames across his neck—scorching his exposed jugular.
Blood burst like a fountain from where the blade entered—and he sensed he would not live long. He could tell that his time had finally come to travel beyond.
Remembering Seven’s advice, he gnashed his fangs deep into Draca’s lashing tail. Draca loosened his grip―and then slithered away into the silver water.
She then swung about to finish him off—but he recovered his command of Réðscipe in a pinch—and managed to pull up fast enough to smash Her in the back. He hurled Her hard against the far wall.
He now moved in fast to follow up, but then quickly grew dizzy from his blood loss—and he staggered in his approach. The scene spun around him in his vision like drunken sailor on a rocky sea boat.
Faye retreated to Her swirling waters—and with the last of his will, Godwin summoned all left in him—daring to jump in after Her—even though the molten silver was sure to finish him off.
Godwin swam down through the pool of silver after the Silverskin for what seemed like forever. The water burned him at every stroke—and he figured he could last an hour submerged like this before it was total lights out forever.
What he did not count on, however, was to suddenly break surface, as if he had gotten all twisted around, and what was up was down. He found himself now transported, treading water in the River Payne, down a ways into French’s Forest.
But the River ran silver, for She ruled the Payne that day. Yet these eddies were half-blessing, a double-edged sword for the elder vampire, for while the silver rivulets ran right through him like knives, the natural waters healed him.
So even as fast as he was regenerated from the crystal stream beneath, he was equally eviscerated down to the bloody bone by the silver overlay, leaving him in pure agony, a grotesque fusion of living corpse and dying light.
Yet he swam on in a grim determination undeterred by the horror of it all. He had seen his share of demons and destruction in his day and he was not going to let the Silverskin be the end of him, if he had anything to do about it.
Several times he thought he almost had her, when she slipped free of his grip and got away. She was an elusive eel—for every time he snagged one of Her ankles—she simply kicked him off—and swam further down. She was taunting him.
A hundred yards down now, he saw Her slipping below the water. He dove down after her, kicking his legs with supernatural strength, propelling himself up behind Her. He grabbed her in a bear-hug, pulling Her down in a death spiral.
The waters were depthless here—and he suspected that they had entered another dimension. Then there was a ball of light beneath them, as if the sun was below them now—and they broke surface, on another world, on a raging silver sea.
He had lost grip on her and tried to grab for Her again—but She just laughed and swam away like icy mercury. He languished about, being tossed like a rag-doll by fifty foot waves that threatened to crush him under their massive weight.
‘YOU ARE IN MY WORLD NOW, OLD FANG! HOW DO YOU LIKE THE VIEW?’
“Show yourself, fiend!” Godwin barked—as another wave carried him up and slammed him back down under its silver froth and fury. He almost lost consciousness, desperately trying to find his bearings under the chaotic tumult.
Silver clouds now opened up, casting down a wall of lightning that danced across the burgeoning waters—rolling over Godwin—zapping him with enough voltage to kill a hundred mortal men—but not him.
His cries were thunderous—roaring under torture. This was not how he had pictured the end, but it was fitting given her depthless malice. She had always been a plague on the Banes, and here he was with his last chance to finish Her off.
‘LISTEN NOW, GODWIN BANE,’ Faye’s voice crackled and boomed overhead. ‘IN THESE LAST MOMENTS, AS YOU SLOWLY CLOSE THE DOOR ON YOUR LIFE—I WANT YOU TO CONSIDER WINNING YOUR FREEDOM BACK … AND ALL THAT I AM ASKING IS ONE THING.’
“I’m going to make you pay for this!” Godwin feebly retorted—in no position to be issuing threats. He lashed about in the water, furiously mad at Her.
‘Now, now,’ Faye soothed. She hovered down before him, legs crossed—holding Her hands out—as he writhed in agony, struggling to keep composure.
‘This could all be over, all for a favor,’ She said seductively, enticingly. She attempted to lure him in with Her eyes, to wrap him up in Her allure, locking his heart up in a hypnotic trance to trap him on that foreign world forever. In so doing She then would own his old soul.
“NEVER … !!! !!! !!!” he screamed, slapping the water, raising one fist to the sky, sending off every vibe of vile hatred, from the very core of his being emanating.
The silver water was making his insides boil—clouding his primal thoughts—as the searing pain gutted his courage—and left him forgetting his main mission.
All he wanted was to be with Marietta now, to be back at Bane House, happily married, with two kids grown and out of the house. He had it all so made.
‘Such a mess you have gotten yourself into—and all for a son who was not even of your blood … Such a shame—such a pity to consider how your life was wasted, because Seven got messed up with someone like Me. Hahahaha haaa!’
“I love my son!” Godwin growled.
‘He does not love you, Godwin! He told Me so himself! We were close, remember … very close … He confided in me many times how much he hated you … Bah haha ha ha … Bah haha ha ha ha ha ha … and you’ve given your life for him …
‘I’m sure he appreciates it so very much Godwin … Such a pointless martyr you have now become … Such a waste.’
“You will suffer for your ways one day, Faye … For messing with dying minds … Nothing is free! You will pay!”
‘Bah! You and your pathetic moral compass. It always got in the way of your family. If the Banes had just been like other vampires—and stopped trying to fit in with the humans all of the time—you might have actually been satisfied in life. But instead you damned yourself to a castrated existence. You were never meant to be a monk, Godwin. You were meant to drink blood. Real human blood.’
Godwin was so weak now, he kept bobbing underwater, choking down the silver—only to resurface with resurgences of strength enough to get a few last words in edgewise with the orchestrator of his demise. He had about reached the hilt.
“What is it …?” he finally growled, unable to stand the agony any longer—unable to kill the idea that She was right about Seven not loving him—and that he had given up his life for an ingrate. “What do you want …? What is it …? Please just tell me … Just tell me what to do … !!!”
(Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr)