Hey guys - sorry for the slow updates - work ate my life! lol Firstly thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter - you made me so utterly happily! I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.
For those of you who want to read further about Gregory Magnus's adventure to meet the ancient vampire in South America - head over to 'People of the Sand' chapters, 'Whispers of the Tombs' and 'Confessions of Murder'. There's a fair bit of backstory there about Helen's childhood as well.
Also, when this fic is completed, I will be uploading to an external site - an ILLUSTRATED version of this story - so look for that link later :D
SO MUCH LOVE - ellymelly
The brick buildings loomed, walling in the paved streets that criss-crossed the inner city of London with their bleak facades. Webs of wire choked their way from rooftop to rooftop, sagging and rocking in the occasional breath of wind. Rubbish, scattered in the gutter, joined in – waltzing endlessly with itself in sad spirals.
A line of soft gas lights appeared like a string of lustrous pearls on dusk, accentuating the blue on a lady's dress as she knocked on one of the non-descript doors. She waited, tilting her head up to the sky as it blushed pink.
He has watched her for several nights – always on the same doorstep when the evening begins. Then, half an hour later, she returns to the street and embarks on the short stroll down Miller's Court, under the filthy curve of a small bridge before disappearing into the Ten Bells.
John slipped in amongst the other patrons of the bar, indulging in a drink. He sipped it slowly.
She was beautiful.
Her lightly curled blond hair was pulled up and then left to scatter over her shoulders and down her back. Whenever she caught John's gaze, it was with piercing blue eyes that always seemed to smile. By all accounts, she was the superior of the room, somewhat of a breeze drifting through the dreary setting.
While the others drank, she chatted, courting several of the better gentlemen. It wasn't until this particular night that she approached the tall man perched at the counter of the bar, quietly observing the room.
There was a peace around him and Mary liked that – it reminded her of someone she used to see back in Oxford.
Helen, Gregory and Nikola braced themselves against the cold as they stepped off the train and onto the small platform.
There was a light snow falling around them, dusting their fur trimmed clothes with white flakes. The air was cold but clean, buffeting them in occasional gusts as it ripped through the river valley, guided by the edges of the pine forests and cliff faces.
The dramatic scenery was like a drug that wooed the party forward toward the carriage that awaited them with four black horses and a rather intoxicated driver clutching a bottle of whisky protectively to his chest.
Having never been outside Oxford since she was a child, Helen took a moment to graze her eyes over the jagged black mountain range disappearing beneath a layer of low lying cloud. It was positively wild, a land free of the modern harnesses that cities imposed upon the earth. Then Helen realised – she had seen this place before, every time she looked into Nikola's eyes. He carried it with him.
She sighed, her cheeks turning red with the cold.
"Helen, we're late," her father said quietly, nudging her toward the carriage where Nikola extended a hand to help her up.
The wire came for James Watson mid-way through morning. He was still at the university, shuffling through the piles of research and unreturned library books that Tesla had left behind when there was a knock at his dormitory door. His lecturer appeared and handed him a slip of paper.
"It came through my desk directed to you," said the lecturer. He still had a bandage taped to the back of his head from the attack more than a week ago in the library.
It has started – Holmes
James folded the paper into his pocket. "Thank you, I shall join you in a minute," he said, and closed the door.
So, it wasn't over yet.
Though James knew it was morally ambiguous at best, some part of that message filled him with a rush of excitement - there was still a chance to solve this case, to outwit another human being – a monster in all regards. There was no choice, he would away to London at once and offer his assistance (and suspicions) to Holmes.
Before he could leave the city, James went to collect his research from John's hotel room. They had spent most nights in each other's company since the sudden disappearance of the others, sharing theories, trying to see through the chaos of the Ripper's actions. John would bring home as many newspapers as he could find in the evenings and then James would rip them apart and pin articles of interest to the back of the couch. Their shared passion for the hunt had inadvertently sparked a friendship neither of them really understood.
James fumbled for the key and then slid it into the lock of the rather battered and sticky hotel room. It creaked open.
"Evening, James..." said John's voice almost at once. He was waiting in his armchair with a larger than normal pile of newspapers on the table beside him. "You're early."
"Have you heard?" James slipped into the room and closed the door.
John raised an eyebrow and then purposefully glanced at the sheer volume of newspapers he had spent the better part of the afternoon collecting. "Evidently," John drawled. "It appears the subject of your obsession has re-appeared."
James crossed the room, collapsing behind the couch where he threw his briefcase to the ground, snapped it open and started filling it with the newspaper articles from the couch. This caused a flurry of paper, which John observed serenely, making no move to assist.
"You are going then, I knew you would," said John.
"I can't stay here and be a silent observer like everyone else," replied James, with his fists full of paper.
"And you're going to catch him?" James added, with his relaxed air of amusement. "Don't forget these..." he tapped the newspapers beside him.
James muttered something and shifted the pile into his case, making it bulge unnaturally at the seams.
"This too..." John leant across the arm of his chair toward the coach, stretching out an envelope in Watson's direction between his two long fingers. "It came for you an hour ago."
With no time to spare, James snatched the letter and threw it in his briefcase with everything else.
"You could come," offered James, closing the lid on the case and rising to his feet. His heavy trench coat swelled around him – it was the last of many layers of clothes.
John averted his eyes and shifted further into the warmth of his chair. "I have work, unlike you, I cannot abandon my life so easily. Be careful," John added, before James could leave the room, "this killer is a nightmare in his own mind, mocking you from hell."
James nodded earnestly, and left.
The snow continued to fall, turning the road into a dangerous, ice-ridden indent that the horses struggled to navigate. Their driver was on his feet, leaning forward to investigate the road ahead, carefully tapping the rumps of the beasts with his whip.
It was a slow, nervous journey that was taking more than twice as long as they had planned. The world around them was dimming – disappearing...
"Do not worry," Nikola said to Gregory and Helen. "He has passed these roads in much worse."
Eventually the weather cleared. The snow stopped and for the first time since arriving in Smiljan they could see patches of blue sky.
Nikola's house comprised of two white buildings perched on a gentle rise, pushed up against the encroaching wilderness of thickets and low trees. The smaller of the two was the family church, no more than twenty paces from the front door of the main house.
The carriage pulled up on the flat between the buildings and released its travel-wearied passengers. Burdened with luggage, they trampled through the snow toward the house. One of the old trees strewn in the snow caught Helen's attention. It was a large, gnarled creation that had been split into two and left in a blackened, horrific state for all to see.
"Nikky?" a small voice poked out from behind the front door, pushing the heavy thing open.
Nikola dropped his cases to the ground and strode forward to meet the young woman who threw herself into his arms.
The sight startled Helen, she was not accustomed to seeing him show such open affection.
"Missed you," said Nikola, lifting his little sister off the ground, spinning her before returning her safely to her feet. "God, you have grown," he added, she was nearly as tall as him.
"Come inside," Milka beckoned. "Introductions can wait until you are all warm."
"I received your letters," explained Milka, as soon as the party was settled around the open fire. The letters in question were piled on the table beside her. "You were most adamant about the urgency, so I wrote to my trusted friend. He shall be here presently."
Nikola stoked the fire with a large iron poker before returning to his seat on the couch beside Helen and Gregory.
"I do not intend to sound forward," Gregory set his cup of tea down on the table in front of them. He couldn't help his eyes wandering to the glass jars resting on every available surface. They were full of the preserved remains of creatures, yellowed with age. "But time is against us."
Milka glanced at her brother who nodded discreetly. "You want to see the rest of Dampier's notes," she said. "As you wish – but first," she flicked her clear, sharp eyes up at them. They were the mirror of Nikola's and matched her pale, delicate skin. "You will tell me everything."
Watson waded through the sea of navy policemen. Their faces were sombre enough to drown in London's miserable grey as they relayed orders to each other.
"James! Let him through," the tall, thin figure of Sherlock Holmes stuck out from the crowd like a giraffe, brandishing his cane. He pushed people roughly aside, allowing James Watson to claw his way to the entrance of the building.
"I've never seen such a fuss," said Watson, as he was pulled into the shadow of the narrow hallway of the small terrace.
"It is warranted," replied Sherlock in a tone that near froze the air around him. "Never, in all the long years I have spent on this earth, digging through the worst of humanity – and believe me James, I have dug, have I seen anything like it."
They approached the bedroom at the back of the house. There was nobody in there except the crime scene photographer, folding up the tripod of his camera.
"Can you finish it in time?" Helen roamed around the small room at the back of the house. Her father was at the centre of a sprawl of papers on the floor, carefully leafing through them.
"I think so," he replied after a few long moments. "Exquisite..." he whispered at the notes.
Helen leant against the wall beside the solitary window, bowing her head in the candlelight. "He's getting worse," she finally said. "Since we crossed the border he's been paler – more withdrawn and sometimes I think he's hovering on the edge of –"
"It's the countryside," Gregory replied, not letting his eyes leave the coveted notes. "I had wondered if bringing him back to this ancient place would have an effect."
"And yet you let him come?" she snapped, surprised that her father would do such a thing.
"He has to be here, Helen," this time, he did look at her. "Mr Tesla is the closest thing to Sanguine Vampiris that we'll find in the time remai-"
Helen was shaking her head in disbelief, "You're risking his life for your research? Father...."
"Helen," Gregory worked his way to his feet, "I am only going to ask you this once. Are you a scientist? Not long ago you stood in my study and demanded that I share this world. You have to make a choice but know this, if I can complete my research I can help him but without him, it can't be done."
Her eyes fell closed.
Gregory sighed softly. "Now you understand. We cannot know where knowledge will take us or who it will sacrifice."
"It's time for his treatment," she pushed off the wall and crossed the room briskly. Helen couldn't stand to entertain the thought of Nikola as some form of 'price' to be paid in the quest for knowledge. "I'll fetch him," she added, closing the door more heavily than was necessary.
So this is how John had felt – that night he had discovered her with the others.
Helen shook her head sharply, flicking her long curled hair back over her shoulder as she checked the rooms lining the narrow hall, eventually ending at the empty sitting room with its raging fire burning alone.
"Nikola?" she offered the room, but found no answer. Aside from the fire, it was near dark, so Helen lit the lamps sending a warm glow through the room, playing off the specimen jars that cluttered every corner and shelf.
A bright flash of light through the window caught Helen's attention. She had not noticed the storm lingering overhead, sitting mute over the nearby mountains. It was neither raining nor snowing and the wind was quiet against the plate glass windows. What struck her was a dark silhouette against the sky – a figure standing outside the window, staring out at the storm.
Helen paced down the hall and pulled open the heavy front door, stepping out into the night. She smelt a thousand foreign things on the air. Trees – the late fallen snow – the stables at the base of the small hill where wild roses clawed their way over headstones, they all mingled together as she padded through the snow.
"Nikola..." she announced herself.
The sky ahead was flashing silently with pink and green. Like far off sparks, the lightning played in the clouds.
"Can you feel it?" he asked, his body facing the storm. Every hair on his body was prickling, alive with the electric potential energy in the air. Nikola could literally feel the pull between the sky and the ground – like standing in under a waterfall, threatening to drown him in its power. There had been no time to explore this particular change in his biology, indeed, he wasn't exactly sure what it was – but there was a definite affinity with electrical force developing inside him. Nikola wanted to understand it and to do that, he had to experience it – share it.
The small house was aglow behind them, each of its windows hurling forth yellow light into the evening.
"I can't feel anything," Helen replied softly, swaying on her feet.
"It's beautiful," Nikola murmured, as a branch of light spilt through the inky space above them.
"No," Helen corrected him, her voice dragging unnaturally. "I can't feel anything," she finished, as the world faded to black, slipping away from her as it had done back in Oxford.
Nikola turned in time to see Helen collapse into the snow, splayed out like a fallen angel.
At first James didn't see the body.
The bedroom was small, barely more than four brick walls with a table and bed pushed against the far side. There were blood-soaked sheets strewn from one end of the room to the next, sitting in deep crimson puddles that were yet to be soaked up by the floor. A particularly large bundle had been left on the bed and on the wall behind there was a fan-shaped spray of blood that could have only be made in the initial attack.
James was about to ask after the body when the full scope of the scene struck through him. The pile on the bed was the body.
He stepped further into the room, careful not to disturb the evidence on the ground. James tilted his head to the side and found himself staring at the mutilated face of a woman.
"Christ," he exhaled. "Christ – Christ..." James repeated.
"He's getting bolder," said Sherlock from behind, letting James make his own impressions of the scene.
Sherlock could have imparted the initial police report – explained what they already knew, but the more that James Watson came with on his own, the more valuable his input into the investigation would be. Sherlock was walking a fine line as it was. He was not officially a police officer. He was, at best, a self employed investigator that the police force tolerated – allowing yet more unknown guests wander through a crime scene was definitely stretching the line thin.
"We have to talk," ventured Sherlock, after a good hour spent inside the room, "about this..." he produced the long letter Watson had sent him a few days ago detailing the experiment The Five had engaged in – and its consequences. "You are incorrect, my friend."
"Do we know who she is?" James was still crouched by some of the woman's remains. Most of her internal organs had been removed and placed with purpose around the room as were large portions of her skin. The stroke that killed her was undoubtedly the large gash across her neck, severing several of her major arteries.
"Yes," replied Sherlock. "Mary Jane Kelly – she appears to have been well kn – James?" Sherlock launched himself forward in alarm as James staggered backwards, about to fall.
It was Nikola who ventured into Gregory's temporary study this time, closing the door purposely behind him. He had left Helen asleep on the living room couch under Milka's care. She was unconscious but breathing normally exactly as he had seen her the day Watson had brought her to his attic.
Gregory looked up and saw at once that Nikola had not come for an idle chat.
"What are you keeping from Helen?" Nikola asked seriously.
Gregory tilted his head, examining the young man. "She showed you her mother's letter?" his question was answered with an affirmative silence. "I don't know what you mean..." said Gregory.
"Helen may believe you blindly," said Nikola, "but you know more about her abnormality than you let on. She is immortal – what else?"
The older man had to swallow hard. Since Gregory had discovered the truth, he knew that he would have to share it with Nikola eventually.
"Nature's Balance – have you heard of it?" asked Gregory, seating himself behind Nikola's father's desk. "It is contemporary theory which states that just as physical forces come in pairs, so too do biological systems. For every species on this earth there is a counter – every predator has its foe."
Nikola moved in front of the desk, standing rather than sitting in the opposing chair.
"You are a predator Nikola," Gregory continued. "A divergent species of human that branched off from humanity leaving you a cut above our natural enemies. Nikola, you may not be aware of this yet and, believe me, it hurts me to tell you," Gregory motioned for Nikola to take his seat which he eventually did. "My research has led me to believe that Sanguine Vampiris are an enduring life form. Now, I realise that you are not a pure blood vampire but judging from what I've already seen of your healing abilities, you have inherited their signature gift of immortality."
"I can't die?" Nikola replied, unsure of what he felt.
Gregory moved his journal into view, opening it. "Nikola, what I'm about to tell you, no-one knows but me. I need your assurances that you will tell no-one, especially Helen. It is for her own safety." Satisfied by the quick nod of Nikola's head, Gregory continued. "Some time ago, I managed to track down the last living pure blood vampire. It had isolated itself in a cave in South America, hidden away from the world. It is only a guess, but I believe that vampire was nine thousand years old. I won't lie to you – he was a weak and broken creature but I that is likely due to the vow he made to never take human blood."
"It is a choice, then?"
"There is hope for you yet, Nikola."
"But that is not why you are telling me this story..."
"No," Gregory confessed. "What the vampire confided in me was something worse than I had feared. Helen is – she is an immortal – but it is not a benign gift. She is your balance, Mr Tesla, designed in every way to hunt and destroy you. Helen is still young, there is some biological process going on inside her, transforming her. She is drawn to you, I can tell but soon Nikola, very soon she will try to kill you and you will do the same."
"The vampire described it as an irresistible urge to feed," Gregory interrupted. "Her blood will kill you, Nikola – and likely not a lot else will but you'll crave it beyond all reason, resolve and love."