TWENTY SIX – THE CURSE
Glory knew immediately upon awakening what had happened. She’d known the same helpless sensation on the Titania’s final voyage and during the terrible, sleepless years she’d spent under the waves of Lake Superior.
She pounded on the lid of her box, terror piercing her dead heart.
She wailed in dread, fearing that once again no one would hear her.
After what seemed an eternity, the lid of the box opened, and she gazed on the handsome face of Anthony Frost. He smiled in a way that sent a shudder down her spine.
“Why?” she asked, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
“So you wouldn’t leave me. I’ll never let you go, you know.”
She leapt out of the box at him, springing like a wounded tiger. He fell back but brought up the terrible silver dagger as she bore him down.
She screamed and leapt off him, backing into the corner of the darkened room and throwing her arms over her face.
“Please! Take it away! I’ll do anything!”
“You don’t have to do anything but stay with me. Stay with me forever. Make me one with you.”
“Destroy me, then! Destroy me now, before I destroy you.”
He shook his head. “Never.”
“Take me,” he commanded. “Make us one for all eternity. Make love to me now.”
She couldn’t find the will to resist. Instead, she merely nodded.
He put the cruciform dagger into his pants pocket and smiled.
Then he walked to the corner, raised her up, and embraced her.
“Not here,” she said. “Not here in the cold darkness. Take me to the studio by the fire. Take me there.”
He nodded and led her upstairs.
After making love she sat astride him, their bodies still joined where they met. She looked into his eyes and the unbridled lust she saw scared her. But she had no will of her own anymore.
She took one long, sharp fingernail and ran it across the nipple of her left breast, drawing a trickle of dark blood. He pressed his face to her tit and drank.
“Is that it?” he asked, her blood staining his lips.
“No,” she said forlornly. “Now I must drink until you are dead.”
“When it is done, will I be like the others? Like the men in the boxes?”
Glory shook her head, and her pale hair fell over her eyes. “You never were, nor ever will be, like them. Though at first your powers will be similar, you will have what I denied them—part of my life essence. You and I are joined forever until one or the other of us is destroyed.”
She rose off him, breaking the union of their bodies. As she spoke, she paced the room, not daring to look at him. “For a time, you will be very vulnerable. You will not be able to change shape or dissolve into the mist.
“You will be able to fly, though only in human form. Sunlight or piercing your heart—not merely with a stake of ash or a blessed dagger, but with anything—will kill you.
“Religious icons that are strongly believed in will become repellent to you. A blessed cross or a Star of David will feel like white-hot iron if you touch them. Holy water will sear the flesh from your bones.
“But you will recover from anything that does not destroy you outright—if you are given enough time and nourishment.
“As you grow in power, you will find the shapes that suit you most—wolf and bat, maybe, or perhaps moth and owl. There are many possibilities. What remains of your personality after you are dead will determine the forms you take.
“And your clothing can be anything you imagine: the garb of the richest millionaire or the poorest pauper. The ectoplasm will embrace you and conform to your desires.
“If your will is strong and you feed regularly, you will become powerful quickly. Your victims will not be able to resist you. They will follow your commands.
“If you kill them by draining their blood, they will become like the men in the box—pale shadows living under your wings, servants to your beck and call—at least as long as your will or un-life lasts.
“But if you share your essence, as I have done with you, those with whom you share will become like you. They will grow powerful in time, and perhaps have desires of their own.”
She walked to the fireplace and gazed into the fire, accidentally resting her hand on a small, velvet box atop the mantelpiece. Tony lay back and closed his eyes, as if drinking in the details of the new life before him.
“In time, they may even come to rule over you if you let your guard down… or your will becomes weak.” She paused. “Or if you love them too much.”
She fingered open the box and stared at the cold diamond inside.
“Then,” she continued, “though it may take a shard of the True Cross to kill you, and though you possess a million shapes, and though the beasts and fell creatures will do your bidding, and though you command the elements and the very storm itself… Then you will be lost.
“As I am lost.” She closed the box and turned back to him, hanging her head. “Tony, I beg you… Take the dagger from your pocket and run it through my heart.”
He opened his eyes, got to his feet, and embraced her.
“Will I still be able to paint?”
“I don’t know. I have never been able to.”
Tony thought silently for a minute.
He took a deep breath. “It will be worth it,” he finally said.
She pressed her face against him and wept on his shoulder. “Then I have destroyed you,” she said softly. “I’ve made you into the man I fled from those many years ago.”
Suddenly, all the windows in the room shattered, and three dark shapes leapt in.
The shadows fanned out quickly, surrounding the lovers. The intruders’ eyes shone bright red in the firelight.