By Willow Taylor
"I would swallow
my pride, I would choke on the rinds
There was dark here in a way that he'd never seen before - and Victor Shelly had seen plenty of darkness in his days.
He couldn't even see himself. Upon lazy reflection he couldn't feel himself either. It was freeing and relaxing. Nothing to worry about. Victor closed his eyes - or had they always been closed? It made no difference - and drifted away.
* * *
"I don't know Amy, I just don't know." Shaper collapsed into a chair and put his head in his hands. Amy, who was wearing his mask, granting her the power of speech, said something most unladylike.
"You know that's a real waste," Shaper said quietly, without looking up.
"Oh shut up." She sat on the edge of the bed, and put her hands on Victor's cheeks. They felt cold to her, which was definitely not a good thing. "Please wake up Victor... please?" she whispered softly. For long moments there was silence in the room, then Shaper clapped his hands together.
"This isn't getting anything done!" he pronounced standing. He walked across the room to the bed, and took Victor's holster from where it was looped over the bedpost. He looped it around his own waist. Amy looked up at him from her perch on the edge of the bed. "Look at him Amy - he's cold, paler than usual, and his eyelids aren't even twitching. Something is wrong, and he's not going to be able to find out what!"
Amy sighed, then nodded, crossing her arms across her chest. A few weeks ago, at Victor's insistence, she'd abandoned her six yards of veil for a jumpsuit and boots. It was high necked and sleeveless, and she wore matching gauntlet-gloves. It was made out of black kidskin and only made her look paler. "I think we should start by examining him."
"The doctor didn't find anything."
"That drunken horse leech couldn't find his arse if it was soaked in whisky and set afire."
"He was the only doctor in town, Amy."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." The vampire waved her hand at him, then sighed again. "Well give me a hand here, somehow I think that Victor doesn't have anything you haven't seen."
"Yeah, but I don't want to see it personally."
Amy rolled her eyes, and proceeded to strip Victor down, running her white fingers over his cold skin. Shaper sat back down, and looked at the ceiling with a distracted expression.
"That's odd," Amy said after about fifteen minutes.
"There's a small hot patch at the back of his neck, just under his hair."
Something was blazing through his darkness. He watched it abjectly, because it wasn't anywhere near him.
"You're right Amy, that is strange." He held out his hand. "Can I have my mask back for a few minutes?" With a soft sigh, the vampire peeled it loose and passed it over. Shaper leaned over and looked at what felt like a small bump just above Victor's hair line at the back of his neck.
"He's been poisoned," he said softly after a few moments. Amy made mute noises frustrated, then grabbed a piece of paper. Shaper grabbed her hands before she could write anything. "It's all right Amy. I know what you're thinking and no, it's a really bad idea."
Amy gave the rizen a look that clearly said he had no idea what she was thinking.
"You wanted to suck the poison out, right?"
Amy made a small gesture, that yes, Shaper was right.
"And you don't see why that's a bad idea huh? Well I'll tell you." He let go of her hands, and twitched a blanket over Victor's back. It was creepy seeing him lie there without moving, like a corpse or something. "He hasn't let you drink from him, right? And as lovers that's confusing you." Amy nodded.
"There's something wrong with his blood. Vampires who drink it kind of fall over, choking, like it's eating their insides."
Amy's pale pink eyes flew open in shock.
"Yeah, I know, that rot vampire did it, but she was pretty fucked up anyway." Shaper rubbed his eyes and took his mask off again. "Besides which all the evidence points to him having been like this for more than a day, at least, and the poison would have moved through his bloodstream."
Amy threw herself backwards into a chair and scowled at Shaper.
"We have to think logically here," he said earnestly. "We have to think like Victor."
Amy raised her eyebrows. And Shaper could see the thought in her head.
'What, like a suspicious bastard?' The rizen handed his mask back to Amy. "Here, it'll make talking easier."
The inert porcelain like substance came alive as she put it on clutching at her face, and rearranging its features slightly so that it resembled her.
"Well, I don't think this was an accident. So, we should start making lists of his enemies."
"Most of his enemies don't survive becoming his enemies."
"That is going to make it harder." Shaper sighed.
Amy sighed and threw her arm over her eyes. She thought that if she traveled with Victor instead of following him, she could help keep him safe. The man she loved had death written all over his face, and staring out from his eyes.
But he'd disappeared again, and when they finally found him, he'd been like this, with that bedamned horse of his standing over him like a granite statue.
"I'm going down to the stables and talking to Damyew."
"If you get a straight answer out of him, let me know."
"He's a better conversationalist than you."
"You're so sweet."
"Anytime you want it."
Down in the golden-pine paneled stables, Amy buried her nose in the horse's mane. She had to almost stand on tip-toes to do it. It was a constant amazement to Amy that Victor could ride the plow-horse cross at all. Damyew turned his head to wuffle in her hair, then turned to look at the stable door, as if he was waiting for someone to come through it.
"He's not coming Damyew. If we don't solve this he may never come again." Her eyes squeezed shut, and she refused to let tears leak through them. After all what good would tears do Victor now? Victor needed someone who could save him, help him, and she couldn't. The door opened behind her and she and Damyew both looked up.
"It's just me," Shaper said, closing the stable door.
"You left Victor alone?"
"It's not like he's going to notice."
"But if someone did that to him..."
"If they wanted him dead, they could have used a poison that'd kill him!"
Amy thought about that for a moment. "I suppose. So what are we going to do?"
"Well, find an apothecary or an alchemist, maybe they can make sense of how to fix the poison. After that, I'm going out looking. Hell, I don't really know Amy. Victor got taken down by something bigger, badder, and nastier than he was, and should I find it, I'll have to try and be nastier, or there'll be TWO of us in comas and you left to deal with it. Got any better ideas?"
"I think you're wrong Shaper," Amy said quietly, hand scratching under Damyew's halter. "I think he got taken down by something smaller, craftier and more evil than him."
"Smaller than Victor? I'll start questioning Gnats."
"All right, smaller and meaner you said - guinea pigs all the way."
"Shaper..." glared the albino vampire. "Fine. I'll go talk to the alchemist and you go look around where we found Victor again."
Shaper sighed, and reached out to take the mask back.
"If I run into whatever it is out there, I'm going to need this more than you will." The mask popped off her face easily. And he slapped it on, gave her a disturbingly wide toothy grin, and slipped out the door.
Shaper stalked about the woods like a cat tracking prey. He at last found the minute clearing they'd found Victor in, and he began searching it meticulously. Which he'd been kicking himself for NOT doing before.
Meanwhile, Amy sat down between Damyew's feet and waited for dark. 'Need this more than you my ASS!' she thought rebelliously. 'He never thinks. At all. He's sure it's a monster of some sort. A big supernatural thing that kicked Victor's ass into next Tuesday. I don't think so. That would have left marks. And the only thing wrong with Victor is that he won't wake up, and that hot patch.'
Shaper came back after sundown, tired, and 'sprouting' random leaves in his hair, along with the odd stick or two.
"Didn't find a damn thing. Just Victor's boot prints, mine, and yours, and Damyew's hoof prints. If whoever it was was human, then they could have used a dart gun or a blowpipe, but even then I should have found the dart... or something. Damnit... I'm out of ideas," he said, flopping down in the hay by Damyew's hooves, and holding the mask out to Amy, as he buried his real face in his unoccupied hand.
"I've had some time to think," she said as the mask melded with her face. "Seeing as I've been stuck here all afternoon. Maybe we're barking up the wrong tree, maybe it's just a coincidence."
"With all the shit Victor does that pisses people off?" demanded Shaper, raising his face slightly.
Amy held up her hands. "Hear me out - it could be that he's just allergic to bee-bites."
"No..." Shaper said. "That just doesn't add up."
"I know. I don't think that's it either, but we have to not jump to conclusions."
"I know, I know... but that spot on his neck did NOT look like a bee-bite to me. And if was simply that, the doc would've noticed THAT blindfolded and drunk, again and Victor would be up and moving already." Shaper sighed and buried his face the rest of the way with his other hand. "I'm not very logical, Amy, I have my moments, but lord and lady help me, I'm an idiot. An answer could be smacked right in my face, and I'll still not see it. I'm a fighter - I don't think... I do." He sighed, and looked more miserable than he had when he'd come in.
"Or on your face," Amy said. "You act pretty grumpy about Victor sometimes too."
"Are you implying that I did it?" Shaper demanded, storming to his feet.
"Not really, but it got you out of your downward spiral."
"You are such a bitch."
"No. Do you think Victor would like me better if I was?"
Damyew, who'd been following the exchange like a person at a tennis match, wuffled exasperatedly.
"Well, let's try the alchemist... and if that doesn't work, we'll be back at square one again. Right?"
Amy shrugged. "Well, it's all we have, but without anything but symptoms to go on, I don't know how much good it's going to do."
"At least I'm thinking!"
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Beautiful Oblivion © 2001 by Willow Taylor
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