The sight came intermittently. The crowd of angels dwindled to about two every now and then as we moved through the crowd. We didn’t know what the priest who’d been attacked looked like, nor did we know where Alistor actually was. You would think a hungry water demon would just eat him instead of giving him a ride as though he were Jonah.
But, no matter. I could see what Gwen meant about darkness leaving traces. All around the square there was a sort of shadow that moved about. It wasn’t everywhere and it did not stay still.
“Let’s follow the shadow Elle. I think it will lead us to its source. It seems confused somehow.” Ryan nudged me on and led me by the hand.
I nodded in response, glad that he was here with me. The shadow seemed to flow around buildings and into crevices until it stopped at a tree in the Pigna Courtyard at the museum. There were people everywhere, worshipping, sightseeing, looking in awe at the general splendor. But, just past the buildings was a sort of pool. It was like a liquid shadow forming a pool on the grass.
People stayed away. I wasn’t sure if there were signs saying to keep off the grass or if they could just tell that God’s presence was being muffled in that direction. The shadows filling the growing pool seemed to flow through the Academy of Sciences traveling from the Old Gardens.
Using vampire speed we managed to avoid the guards and observe the source of the shadows. A plain journal laid in the grass, with what seemed to be black ink seeping from it that moved on its own in spurts.
I never leave home without Holy water amulets. Crushing one with my hand, just enough to crack the glass, I set the now leaking amulet on top of the book. It was incredibly difficult to do so. Like a tersula was nearby causing night terror like seizures and immobilization.
Ryan felt it too. He tried to move towards me to help but wound up frozen, eyes fluttering, and angry that he couldn’t reach me. I crawled back to him and wet his hands with the Holy water that had leaked onto mine. He was instantly released.
“What do you think is in that book Babe?” I asked him. I flipped through my catalogue of memories searching for some mention of what this could have been.
The Holy water made the flimsy paperback cover sizzle as it made its way to the source. Thick papyrus inlaid with gold shimmered in the daylight revealing the true nature of the book underneath. Only one book tied to Osiris is made of the thick paper from the Nile and could contain any spiritual force… Someone wrote a scroll, a Book of the Dead, just for Osiris.
“Why papyrus do you think?” Ryan asked as we continued to inspect it from afar. “You’d think they’d use regular paper after all this time.”
“I know right?” I told him. “Maybe Primus had an authentic piece.”
A Book of the Dead is a set of instructions, enchantments and spells that the Egyptians believed could guide you through the trials of the underworld until you were granted entrance into a happy afterlife by Osiris. So, it makes total sense that Primus would write one in reverse. One meant to give Osiris instructions and enchantments to get from the underworld to here. Alistor must have performed the rite in the Old Gardens expecting the pure spiritual power from the city to fuel it as the tainted power from the book began to grow.
The amulet turned the black shadows to blood red and ate through the pages. Once the pages were just a soggy mess, the seizure and immobilization that stemmed from it stopped and it was peaceful here once again. So peaceful in fact that the guards that snuck up behind us finally registered on our senses.
Whack! Unconscious, just like that.
When I came to, my head was dripping blood… which thankfully was red enough not to give me away as a walking dead woman. Ryan was sitting next to me groaning slightly with a knot forming on his left temple. They must have hit him harder. We were tied to immaculately ordinate chairs and sitting in the midst of wall to wall paintings that seemed to glow with God’s glory all on their own. Despite myself I wanted to take a picture for my dining room.
“What are you doing here in God’s territory?” a robed man asked, well, hissed at us.
“Everywhere is God’s territory technically.” I answered as I tried to think more clearly. I felt drugged somehow and I wouldn’t put it past them to have tried. But, being vampires they probably overdosed us and then decided to question us since we hadn’t died. They must know what we are.
“True, but your kind doesn’t generally find yourselves here for a tour of the grounds.” he replied sharply.
“For what it’s worth, we’re fasting.” Ryan offered as he sighed and cracked his neck.
“Answer my original question or I will hose you down in Holy water right here and now.” he continued. Two young men in robes lifted buckets to throw the water on us.
“What do you think Babe?” I asked Ryan.
“It’ll be refreshing.” he snickered.
The boys doused us in water, and there we sat, smiling the horrible teethy grin of a vampire, NOT melting into a smoldering pile of ashes.
“Now before you jump to conclusions…” Ryan began.
The priest was horrified that their weapons were useless. “Oil, use the oil!” he shouted.
Someone behind us poured a sizable amount of Holy oil on us while praying in Latin. There again, still not dead.
“Raphael sent us.” I said while a cold shiver went down my spine. “He blessed us too. We’re all on the same side here.”
“I don’t believe you.” one of the young men hissed.
“How else do you think we survived just now? The girl, the prophesied destroyer of the angel given venom has arrived. We are here to help her help the last vampire convert. Once he is human, so shall we be as well.” Ryan told them.
“You do know about the prophesy don’t you?” I asked hoping they would not move for dismemberment next.
“Then why are you in Vatican City?” the man behind us asked, backing away. Probably looking for an exit just in case we were lying.
“A bitten Nephilim is here and he’s trying to open a portal for Osiris. Raphael sent us to intercept him. Only…” I started.
“Only the portal’s source may not have been shut down soon enough. Too much spiritual power from your city may have already pooled into the shadow making a doorway large enough for him to fit through.” Ryan pressed upon them.
“The ten kings are being summoned. He’s one of them.” I continued.
“Why would flatliners help us?” the other young man holding a bucket asked.
“Well, first of all, I’m impressed that you know what we really are kid. Secondly, we have to answer for everything that we’ve done on the last day too. We want to do so, human and redeemed. But, until the last convert is successful, we have to help in any way that we can to ensure his survival.” I said as I broke the bonds that had me tied down. Whatever they gave me was wearing off fast.
Ryan stood up as though he’d been tied down by dental floss. “Our work here is done. The incantation was purified by Holy water, but you have to repel the tainted spiritual power and close whatever is open of that portal and fast. They don’t need long to…”
I saw it too. Angels, two of them walked into the room. Everyone stood still and it was as though time had stopped. One motioned for us to follow them. I’m glad we did because as we passed through the doors we saw priests carrying swords and many of the same instruments I’d seen at the Sanctum for dismemberment. They weren’t messing around with having vampires in their city. We were toast if we stayed any longer.
Ryan and I ran back to St. Peter’s Square. As we neared the exit, time seemed to resume and we walked out just as security seemed to heighten their response and actively search for us.
We ran until we were a good two miles out of Vatican City, but we could still see.
A giant figure seemed to be fumbling. Like it was a child trying to crawl out of a muddy hole and kept sinking further in it. It was huge, like Godzilla huge. There was a wailing and a deep rumbling coming from its gut. It howled incantations in Egyptian that gave me a headache and again, I found myself trembling at the idea of being in Rome.
(Photo courtesy of: oursurprisingworld.com)
Music for this episode – Liquid by Jars of Clay