Previously in Chapter 6 The Two Societies
♫ Ad Mortem ♫
This piece gave me the title to this chapter and was what I listened to much of the time when writing. It perfectly sets the tone for these scenes and the events that take place in our story.
⚜️The voyage had been long, just as Tabitha Kinkade had predicted. And while not terribly eventful overall, there was one mystery that troubled them throughout their journey. Quite often they were watched by an ominous, dark figure. A man in a dark, hooded cloak. He always kept his distance, holding to the shadows. And while he never approached, he loomed over them the entire trip. At one point, Prince Jelani grew tired of the enigma and decided to confront the man. However, Tabitha advised caution, as situations such as these would usually reveal themselves in time. Tabitha had learned long ago in her training, that without provocation most things or people that lingered around her, would eventually proclaim their identity. And if provoked they might flee or be lost, which could result in a costly delay. Besides, he’d done nothing thus far that would warrant a confrontation. And so, they would allow circumstances to run their course.
⚜️Once safely landed at the port in Calcutta both Tabitha and Lexington needed a warm bath and some much-needed rest away from the constant bumping ride of the ship’s cabins. One of their porters was from Algeria and spoke Tamazight, a native tongue of the Berber people. It was obvious that Lexington was delighted to talk to someone from his native lands, which made Tabitha smile watching her friend speak in a language she had not heard for so long.
⚜️When the two travelers finally arrived at their hotel, both Tabitha’s and Lexington’s multilingual skills came into play when dealing with her pets and the porter’s fears. Tabitha had taken just two of her wolves on the journey, Rolf and Kiva, as they were natural mates. Neither offered any hostility toward the porters or anyone else for that matter without Tabitha’s command. However, aside from their daily walks on board the ship, they’d spent a great deal of time in their cages and were quite restless. Fortunately, with some gentle persuading, they were able to calm the porters and settle into their rooms.
⚜️The next morning was Easter. It was Sunday and their contact from the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary had sent a carriage to pick them up for services.
"We’re to attend the Christian services, my lady?" Lexington inquired as he held his hand to help her into the carriage.
Tabitha grinned politely before answering him with a lofty and nonchalant demeanor, as was her custom when jesting with her friend,
"But of course, Dear Lexington. It’s Easter! You didn’t believe we were going to escape services today of all days, did you?"
At which point, she patted the seat next to her in the carriage.
"Now, come along."
Lexington’s grumbling, as the rickety carriage made its way along the bustling streets of Calcutta, nearly made her laugh aloud as they rode toward the church. Not having the heart to tease him farther, she looked over at the handsome Berber while placing her gloved hands around his arm.
"Dear Lex, I’ve gone too far this time."
At which time she did laugh.
"The look on your face…. oh, dear Lexington, I adore you so!"
Lexington began to smile a little himself watching Tabitha giggle then asked. "What has brought this on my lady?"
Tabitha finally composed herself and assured him that she didn’t expect him to attend the Easter services at the church as it was not his faith. While Catholic herself, she nor her parents had ever forced Lexington into their religious beliefs. They believed the workings of the soul were God’s work.
Lexington breathed a sigh of relief at the news but in the end decided to attend anyway, out of respect for Tabitha and for their host.
⚜️Father Thomas Haskell was a lean man in his sixties. His bald head looked slick and shiny in the bright sun and his white hair gleamed. When he shook Tabitha’s hand, she felt how rough and callused they were, and his skin was leathery tan. It was obvious Father Haskell spent much of his time in the gardens around the church. He wore the traditional robes of a parish priest and as with most Catholic holy men of that day, he appeared humble and somewhat trite. After introductions were made, he did not hesitate to reveal to the duo that he not only believed in the evil beings that scoured the earth but were unfeigned in his support of the Shadowhunters.
"You and your kind my dear are destined to rid the world of these heinous creatures. I am at your disposal of course."
As the bells of the church rang and the church doors began to open the priest looked at the church and then smiled when he turned back toward his guest.
"It is a delight to have you both visit us this morning and if you’ll forgive me Lady Kindake I must attend to my flock. Services are about to begin, and I am expected inside. I’ve reserved seats for you both, won’t you follow me."
Tabitha nodded and smiled as did Lexington
"Of course, Father Haskell," she responded.
And with that, they both followed the priest toward the grand doors that opened to the church’s foyer.
As they approached, both Tabitha and Lexington noticed a striking man standing near a fountain. His hair was dark as a raven’s wing and his equally dark beard was neatly trimmed. He wore a very smart-looking cutaway coat and silk vest that gave away his social status and as the man began to walk in their direction Tabitha could see that he was of average height and appeared to be in his peak years. She also noted how mysterious and mesmerizing his eyes were, and it was at that moment a commotion could be heard at the entrance to the church which caught all their attention.
Father Haskell began to walk faster and broke into a run with Tabitha and Lexington close behind him. When they reached the onlookers, the priest was determined, but not overly aggressive as he made his way through the congregation that had gathered there. Once through the crowd, Tabitha was surprised to see that the mysterious man she’d noticed outside was already just inside the large doorway. Lexington reached to touch her arm quietly, his way of letting her know he’d noticed as well. Turning quickly to rejoin the priest, they were greeted with the most morbid sight. At the top of the staircase, hanging from her neck, and high into the massive, vaulted ceiling was a young woman. Her face, though discolored and contorted was still beautiful as her lifeless body swung several feet above the top of the staircase.
Wanting desperately to help, Lexington started to climb the staircase but quickly came back to his senses realizing the poor woman’s body was well out of reach. Looking over at Father Haskell, Tabitha watched as he moved his hand over his chest making the sign of the cross. His eyes were filled with dread and tears as he gazed up at the woman’s corpse. She thought he might be in shock as she walked over to him.
"Father! Father Haskell!"
Shaking his head, he looked at Tabitha and then back at the woman’s corpse.
"Dear God, whatever shall we do?!"
Tabitha motioned for Lex to join her and as he approached, she responded.
"This is your church Father and your congregation. They’re depending on you. I’d suggest you postpone services this morning or at least move them to another location as quickly as possible."
Father Haskell nodded, still bewildered when he gazed back up at the woman’s body hanging there, but when he looked back at them both again, he appeared to be himself.
"Quite right Lady Kinkade. We can set up chairs and move services to the garden."
Lexington looked back up at the girl’s body and then back to Tabitha.
"My lady, the local authorities will be here soon. I’d suggest, well, if Father Haskell would allow us to represent the church in this matter, we could begin an investigation."
Tabitha looked at the girl again then back at Father Haskell.
"Father, do you know this woman?"
He nodded as he answered.
"Yes, she came to me about a week ago, she told me she was having nightmares, very vivid nightmares that were very real to her."
Tabitha and Lex looked at each other then back at the priest.
"She said she’d been sleepwalking as well. I.. well, I just can’t think. I must get this situation under control!"
Tabitha nodded, reaching to hold the priest’s hands. "That’s quite alright Father. From what you’ve told us this young woman may hold clues to the mystery that’s brought us to Calcutta and you. Will you allow us to represent the church and aid you?"
Father Haskell nodded as he knew the Kinkade name very well and Tabitha’s father had been a friend. He also trusted Cardinal Antonio implicitly.
"Yes, yes of course. Cardinal Antonio has sent you to us after all. And as I said before, if there’s anything you need, anything at all. Please let me know. For now, however, I have much to do and must leave you."
⚜️Her name was Malini Gadhavi. She had been a mother and wife and her father and mother owned a bakery in town. She helped her parents with the business as did her children. Her husband, Harshad worked on the docks. They had all been notified of her death. Malini’s body was taken to a crypt beneath the church where so many people in the community had been taken for decades. Out of respect, Tabitha and Lex had not examined the body yet. When the family arrived, they both bowed their heads, watching as they were escorted to the undercroft. Neither Tabitha nor Lexington were looking forward to questioning them.
⚜️The afternoon wore on and with their interrogations near completion, they’d learned very little. That was until the woman’s mother told them about one of Malini’s dreams. Sitting with them in Father Haskell’s office the poor woman stared blankly at a candle’s flame as Tabitha held her trembling hands, listening. She said that on one occasion her daughter had been able to remember one of her dreams completely. Melini had said it was so clear in her mind, and unlike most dreams, it felt as though it had happened. In this nightmare, she had emerged from a cave not far from her home. She also told her mother there was a man there with her in a cloak and a hood over his head. This dark, ominous being followed her to the mouth of the cave. Malini said the man never came close but watched her from the shadows. Her daughter told her that in the dream she roared like an animal and when she peered into the trees, she could feel the forest come alive with the heartbeats and movements of every living creature. And then she told her mother that even at that distance she could not only hear but smell the people in town. It was then her mother began to cry. Tabitha comforted her, giving a nod to Lexington and Father Haskell. The interrogations were now over.
⚜️It had been a long day. Nighttime was upon them, and they all needed rest. Standing there in the small tomb, the air was cool, and the smell of old dirt filled their nostrils as they began to examine Malini Gadhavi’s body. Her fingernails and toenails showed no signs of dirt, blood, or flesh. Her body, as well as her hair, was clean as though it had just been washed. There were also no injuries, not even a scar, and when they turned her on her side to look at her back there was no tattoo, no brand of any kind. Holding a candle over the young woman’s corpse, Lexington glanced over at Tabitha.
"This is peculiar my lady. She should have some sort of brand on her even if she wasn’t a member with the pack we seek."
Tabitha nodded but didn’t look up as she continued to scan the woman’s body for any evidence and clues.
"Agreed Lex, this is odd. Melini’s dream was not an uncommon one for a werewolf, other than the presence of the dark man of course. And yet, I do not see a brand anywhere on her. Or any physical evidence she was Lycan for that matter. We must be missing something."
Lexington pulled his candle away to poor some of the melted wax onto the dirt floor and as he did, Father Haskell brought his lantern closer to help Tabitha see. Then just as Lex brought the candle back Tabitha gasped and cried out.
"Wait! I saw something. When you brought your candle back Lex. It was yellow like, like… It was something on her skin!"
Lexington and the priest looked at each other then back at Tabitha as she continued.
"The lights… somehow. Father, bring your lantern back to where you had it, and Lex you take the candle away, and then bring it back just as you did before."
Both did as instructed but Tabitha only sighed with disappointment asking them both to try again. Shaking her head, she was both exhausted and frustrated when she pounded her fist on the stone slab. After which time she folded her arms to lay her head down for a moment. Lexington watched her and then offered some sound advice.
"My lady let us retire for the evening and come back in the morning with rested eyes."
Tabitha looked up at him but didn’t raise when she answered.
"No Lex, not yet. I know I saw something. We must find it!
With her head still laying on her arms, she looked at them both.
"Now let’s do this again. And Lexington when you bring the candle back, do it very slowly please."
Lexington nodded unenthusiastically, then began to move the candle away from the woman’s body when Tabitha screamed out.
"Stop! Don’t move! Do you see it?! It’s there on her shoulder. You must not move, either of you. It’s the lights!"
Both men looked at each other, each wondering if the trials of this day had finally gotten the best of the hunter, then listened as she explained.
"It’s the lights! Look see, the glass of Father Haskell’s lamp is red, and so the flame gives off a deep red hue, while the candle’s light of course is much brighter. Obvious of course but, if you carefully peer into the candle’s blue flame and with the help of the red glow from Father Haskell’s lantern you can see it!"
Taking a candle in hand she invited Lexington to take her place.
"Now as I hold the candle look through the blue of its flame Lex. Can you see it?"
Lex nodded and gasped, then excitedly scrambled for his journal. As he did, Tabitha looked at the priest’s bewildered face and offered further explanation.
"My guess is it’s phosphorous under the skin Father. The lights set off some sort of chemical reaction allowing it to be seen. Once Lex has studied the tattoo and made a drawing, we’ll hold the lantern and candle so you can observe for yourself."
Having to peer through the flame made the study of the tattoo quite difficult, however, Lexington was able to examine it thoroughly.
"How very interesting Ms. Tabitha. The ink leaves no protrusions on the skin, and it’s entirely undetectable under normal light conditions."
Tabitha smiled as she listened and nodded.
"Is it our pack Lex?"
"Yes, my lady. She was a member of the pack we’re tracking.
Tabitha nodded once more and raised an eyebrow as she spoke.
"I think it’s obvious that Malini Gadhavi was not a willing participant. The poor woman. Such torment."
Gathering herself she redirected her attention toward Father Haskell.
"Father, do you know of any caves in the area?"
The priest nodded as he spoke, the radiant red hue of his lantern causing his face to look very macabre under the low ceiling of the underground chamber.
"Why yes of course. There are several smaller caves, but Mawsmai Cave is the largest in the area. It’s not far but it will easily be a day’s journey there and back."
Tabitha and Lexington listened intently,
"Could you show us on a map Father?"
"Of course. If you’ll follow me to my office, I can set you on the right path."
Gathering their things, they followed Father Haskell from the dank black corridor where Malini Gadhavi’s broken body lay. As they wearily made their way up the stone stairwell Tabitha muttered to herself.
"We will avenge you and your children Melini. Whoever did this to you will pay. I promise you."
A soft beam of light showed across the young woman’s corpse from the top of the stairs. From deep in the vault their faint voices could be heard and then the door closed, and all was dark, and all as silent, forever.
⭐This capture and this chapter of this story could not have been possible without the help of some truly wonderful people who I’m honored to know as friends
⭐First of all I’d like to thank my dear friend and mentor Morgan Talbot who not only opened up his beautiful sim to me to I could take this shot but provided the build itself and many of the characters. He also took the time to model for this shot. Morgan’s advice and support are always so very special to me. But perhaps calling him my friend is the most remarkable treasure of all. Thank you babes.💓
⭐Next, I would like to thank my dear friend Harper Blackwood for her help and for enduring my rough drafts for this chapter. Thanks for being the lab rat this time babes. Not a rat but like…in a lab. She gets it. lol But mostely I’d like to thank Harper for her support, her encouragement, and her precious friendship. You’re the best girl.💓
⭐Lastly and as the say, certainly not least, I want to thank my very dear friend and mentor Marcus Strong. His unwaivering support and encouragement is precious to me. He’s has always there to help in any way he can, whether thats advice, modeling, or just to tell me I’m doing a good job. I can never repay this man for all he’s done for me. I’m honored to call him my friend. Thank you babes.💓
Posted by Tupper Moran on 2022-07-16 16:53:05
Tagged: , Sanguinolency , Fiction , Story , Tale , Fable , Role-Play , Werewolf , Werewolf-Hunter , Shadowhunter , Wolves , India , Berber , Historical , Fantasy