Chapter 10 ~ Blood on the hands
Her eyes were heavy. But even heavier was her body. Her limbs felt like lead, and when she managed to lift her eyelids a little, she was unable to raise her hand and shield her eyes from the glare that blinded her.
"Don't strain yourself, child. Your body isn't ready yet. Sleep some more."
Her brain was just able to give her the information that the voice sounded like her mother's before giving into the temptation to do just that...
With a groan, she opened her lips and tried to moisten them with her tongue. Her body felt so strange. Had she not had enough to drink? Did being dehydrated feel like this heaviness that held her captive?
"Lilia? Are you awake, little one?"
"Nana?" she brought out as she recognized the voice. But her own wasn't really recognizable in contrast.
"Yes, it's me, my little one. Here, have some water. It will do you good."
And feeling a small object against her lips, she opened them and eagerly drew the water through the straw into her mouth as if her life depended on it.
"You just missed the doctor, but don't worry. He could only stand next to us anyway," the old woman puffed good-naturedly. "But it's all right that they pumped you full of morphine."
"Why?" asked Lilia languidly, slowly managing to get her eyelids under control and lift them. Her grandma's smiling face was worth every effort in the process, and something tightened painfully inside the young woman at the sight of her. Unfortunately, she was too weak to hold back the tears fighting their way to the surface, and a shadow of sad anger passed over her grandma's kind eyes.
"It's okay, little one."
"Where is he, Nana? Where's Leo?" she sobbed.
"Your brother is fine. He was released today. Actually, he could have left yesterday, but he didn't want to leave you here alone, so he holed up in your room. Only a show of force from your father could bring him to his senses."
"Today... What day is it?" With difficulty, she turned her head and looked through the room a little more closely, as far as she could make out anything from her reclining position.
Frowning, she took note of this information. But what to make of it she didn't know. In her mind, the fog seemed to thicken again, while her body seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the bed.
"I'm so tired..." she mumbled and felt a warm hand on her arm a moment later.
"Go back to sleep, Lilia. You should feel much better tomorrow."
Stoically putting one foot in front of the other, she struggled forward. With a will of iron she kept up her neutral expression as she climbed the stairs to her apartment. Otherwise, she feared, she wouldn't be able to suppress the screams that burned in her throat because of the pain that the counter-spell to the paralysis had caused her. Now it was clear to her why she had been given morphine…
It would get better, her grandma had assured her. The nerve connections always reacted that way after such a forbidden spell had been used, she had explained.
Well, three days had passed since the attack and at least Lilia could walk normally again. Even if her body felt as if it was in a constant state of waking up after a limb had fallen asleep, overrun by an entire ant colony wearing steel shoes on their feet.
That she could almost normally grasp with her hands felt like a small miracle. And so she clutched the police report with her fingers like a lifeline, because worse than the annoying and over-zealous little animals under her skin was Caleb's betrayal. The police report spelled it out in black and white what the former family friend had done. And had wanted to do.
And who had prevented it.
Eric Northman... Lilia had no doubt that this Eric was Godric's Eric. Not a syllable in the report mentioned that he was a vampire, but how else would he appear out of nowhere in her room. The very fact that the officers obviously had no reason to ask him how he had gotten into the apartment led Lilia to the conclusion that he must have glamoured them. The only question was, why? Either he wanted to protect her family from being known as vampire sympathizers or he just wanted to protect Godric. Lilia could imagine that a former vampire sheriff, who now walked around in the body of a small animal, needed protection.
A few moments later, standing in front of the door of her apartment, she tried to insert the key into the lock with shaky fingers. But before she could turn it, the door was torn open and Leo stood in front of her with bloodshot wide eyes.
Lilia had never before seen her brother like this, and at the sight of him, everything inside her contracted painfully. Again, like the day before, she felt the tears welling up, and when Leo spread his arms, she literally flew into his embrace. Feeling her twin awake and physically unharmed against her broke the last dam - an ugly sob escaped from her throat and she was unable to do more than cling to him, gripping his shirt in her fists.
After a while, she felt Leo stroking her hair. Slowly and with constant movement, he gradually soothed Lilia. But it still took minutes for her to regain her composure enough to even notice that they had both sunk to the floor in their embrace. Sniffling, she released her cramped fingers from his shirt and tried to wipe her nose.
"I'm so sorry, Leo."
"Mmm," she sobbed once more. "If I hadn't been so blind to see his advances on me, I could have prevented it!"
"No! Listen to me," her brother spoke with a suddenly angry tone, cupping her face. She saw that he had been crying along with her. "I'm sorry! I was so intent that there could be more going on between him and me that I didn't see the warning signs! I was such an idiot! It's all my fault! I-"
"You're both idiots if you think this is any of your faults."
Startled, they both looked up at the new voice that had appeared in the still-open doorway.
"Mom?" Lilia asked incredulously, squinting her eyes to counteract another wave of tears.
"Oh you two..." Their mother sighed, closing the door behind her before squatting down on the floor as well. "Come here and listen to me," she spoke, hugging them both. "Neither you, Lilia, nor you, Leo, are responsible for the actions of others. You can every so often guess, suspect, and yes, sometimes prevent them. But what happened to you are the actions of Caleb. He alone is to blame for what you have been through. And he will be held accountable accordingly. His family has already disowned him."
"Disowned?" Lilia asked, startled. "But his parents love him? Melinda hasn't been able to have another child after him."
"Oh my little girl."
If Lilia hadn't seen in her eyes the love her mother had for her, the emotionless expression on her face would have frightened her.
"Not only has he used a spell that has been forbidden for centuries, he has used it against someone in his own coven with absolutely vile and despicable motives. And we hadn't even mentioned to his parents that he had drugged you, Leo, with knockout drops. Yes, it broke Melinda's heart. But she doesn't put her blood kinship with him above the fact that those were unforgivable acts. Later tonight, all of the coven will come together and sever his connection to the goddess."
"What?" Lilia muttered weakly, looking at her mother with wide eyes.
"Don't feel sorry for him, sis. Everyone trained in our coven knows the consequence around the use of a forbidden spell."
"My children, one hour before the beginning of the new day, we'll begin the meeting. You are invited to present the accusations in person, if you feel confident to do so and can stand to see him again, even if it will only be a projection of him. However, no one would hold it against you if you are unable to do so."
"I'll be there, Momma. I want to ask him personally how he thought he could get away with it," Leo growled.
"Oblivion spell," Lilia muttered, staring past her brother.
If she had looked at her family members, she would have seen the astounded look the two gave each other.
"Did he mention this one, Lilia? That he was going to use it?"
"No, Mom. I heard a voice whisper it. In my head." She rose heavily and shuffled toward the kitchen with no real destination.
"You're hearing a voice? Since when?"
"Momma. I don't think now is the right time for this conversation. I'm afraid she's spiraling again right now. It's better if you go. I'll take care of her."
Was that what was happening to her right now? Lilia didn't know, just saw the faucet in front of her and headed for it, lost in thought.
"Okay. If you need help, let me know right away," she heard someone murmur softly somewhere behind her and winced slightly as the door opened and closed far too loudly for her ears.
"Can I give you a hug?"
Startled, Lilia flinched and slowly turned around. Somehow, after two steps of recovery, her limbs seemed to have taken another step in the wrong direction. She looked up heavily, and her heart ached at the sight of Leo's sad eyes, so full of understanding.
"I... think I need to drink something..."
"Okay," he replied, nodding. He grabbed a glass and filled it with fresh water. But instead of giving her the glass, he turned to her and looked at her demandingly. "How would you punish him for what he did to you?"
"I..." began Lilia, but then her head went blank and no more words came out of her.
With a sigh, her brother leaned against the kitchen counter and looked at the floor.
"To you, it is disproportionate that his magic should be bound. I understand that. It is a punishment to have one's lived connection to the goddess taken away."
"If I hadn't called out to Godric, this wouldn't be done to him now."
"You- Damn!" Energetically, he put the glass down, approaching her and slowly but firmly grasping her upper arms. "You don't just feel sorry for him, you feel guilty! Oh, Lilia!" Gently, infinitely gently, he enfolded her in his arms, and even though she didn't want it, her pulse quickened. But Leo's familiar scent, his familiar warmth, and his familiar brotherly embrace didn't allow her to get caught up in the memory of when he had touched her.
Minutes passed with the two of them just standing there, holding each other. When Leo spoke again, her pulse was back to normal and her brain was capable of thoughts again.
"Listen to me, sister. Do you believe in our Mother?"
"You believe in her, have done all your life, even if you didn't have a direct line to her. That's how it's going to be for Caleb, starting tonight. We can take away his magic, but we can't take away his faith, little sister. So you don't have to blame yourself for the fact that he will no longer have access to her. As long as he holds on to his faith, she will still be around him, just as she is around you. Only the ability to hurt others with her powers is taken away from him. Do you understand?"
"I think so," she spoke quietly, thinking. Lilia had always felt left out of her family because she was the only one who couldn't weave magic. But she had never doubted the Great Mother and had also felt her presence, even if she had never heard her voice.
Or... had she?
"Leo, do you think it was her? Whose voice I heard? Who had warned me about the oblivion spell?"
When her brother looked at her with a smile, her heart suddenly beat excitedly.
"With everything that's happened in the last few days, I'm pretty sure of that."
Then his face became serious and with her water glass he guided Lilia towards the couch. Wordlessly he pressed the glass into her hand, and with greedy gulps, she gave her throat what it demanded.
"What we need to talk about, though, is Godric, sister."
Nodding, he reached for a piece of paper and when Lilia glanced at it, she saw that it was a copy of the police report.
"Do you know this Eric Northman?"
The question was innocent enough. But she saw something in her brother's eyes that made Lilia suspect he already knew what Eric was and that's when she knew he just expected honesty from her. Smiling, she placed her hand in his and tried to banish the still gnawing traces of the guilt she felt from her chest.
"I wouldn't break our vow, Leo. Sunday... Godric had asked me not to tell you he was a vampire. But I think that's moot now. He's gone, isn't he?" Sadly, she slowly looked around the open space and felt the need to bury her hand in his soft fur.
"I've been talking to Cassy. She'd even waited for me when I got back here." Carefully, he closed his hand around Lilia's and sought her gaze. "She'd stayed with us until the end. Said the cat wouldn't let go of you, probably even hissed at the paramedics and stood over you. Any attempts to calm him down on the part of the paramedics were fruitless until that Eric just grabbed him and moved away from you. Amazingly, he put up with that, and Mr. Northman told Cassy that he would watch over Godric while you were in the hospital."
This news shook the boulder inside her a little. "Did he leave an address where I can find Godric?"
"No. But Northman wasn't hard to find if you used the right search terms..."
"You- You've already looked for him?" Excitedly, she moved closer to her brother, who laughed dryly.
"Whatever was going on between you and that cat, the connection was abundantly clear, sis. I'm still missing the big picture, but I knew you'd want him back."
But to his astonishment, she shook her head. "I don't want him back, Leo. I promised him I'd help as much as I could. He is Godric, maker of Eric Northman, and both are known to our family, to every single generation since Magdalena."
As if in slow motion, she could see the information settle into him and he understood the meaning of her words. The next moment he jumped up and looked at her angrily.
"Why didn't you tell me that you shared a bed with the same being that imposed himself on our ancestor!"
Puffing like a bull, he began pacing back and forth, causing Lilia to stand up quickly as well.
"Eric had slept with Magdalena, Leo. Not Godric. Yes, he was there. It was him who had killed her husband, but Eric had slept with her."
"And that's supposed to reassure me now? Then you were in bed with a murderer!"
Lilia felt herself getting more upset with every word he said, until anger threatened to wash away everything inside her. But, suddenly, she was swept over by warmth that wrapped itself around her body like an embrace and was accompanied by a soft voice. With eyes wide open, she stood there listening to the soothing whisper. She didn't understand the words, but she didn't have to, the meaning was more than clear... Hugging herself, Lilia closed her eyes and smiled.
"Thank you, Great Mother."
Looking at Leo, her field of vision was a little blurry, but she kept smiling as she wiped away the tears of joy.
"She's here, Leo. She's speaking to me. She's actually speaking to me. I felt her so clearly just now!" Laughing, she flopped down on the couch and held her face for a small moment. Breathing deeply, she calmed herself and then pointed beside her. For endless seconds, he just looked at her unfathomably. Then all body tension seemed to drain out of him and he sat down next to her.
"Godric is a vampire, Leo. I'd be a fool to deny what that means. So, I know Godric has blood on his hands. And he didn't have to tell me, I saw it. The vision I had? When I accidentally addressed you as Eric? I saw all the blood and suffering and death in his life. And yet I have never felt so safe and secure in my life as when he is with me. He's concerned about me and has even told me that we need to add important information to the chapter on werewolves."
Looking at him calmly, she held out her palms to him. After a moment's hesitation, he placed his hands on hers.
"I don't know what our Mother's big end goal is. But I can't ignore what she's trying to show me. That he needs help. And that I can give him the help, whatever it may be. And... I like him, Leo. I wish he wasn't a cat."
For a second, her throat threatened to close. But taking a deep breath, she overcame the tightness. "He feels similarly about me. But that is not a priority. We were going to figure out together how to… circumvent Magdalena's spell? He doesn't want to be a cat and I will help him get his old body back. What will happen after that remains to be seen. For now, I really need your support, brother."
"I wish you'd have yelled at me," Leo whispered, knowing he couldn't stand against the combined forces of his sister and the Great Mother. "If I tell you what I know, you have to promise me you won't do anything today. I want you to rest tonight while I'm with the coven and tomorrow you are welcome to go and find Godric. Agreed?"
"Agreed." Satisfied with their conversation, she leaned forward and let him take her in his arms. "Thank you."
"When he gets back here, though, I'll have a man-to-man talk with him. Even if he's still a cat. I hope you realize that."
Laughing, she wiped a stray tear from her cheek and lightly punched him in the shoulder. "But don't scare him away!"
"If he lets me scare him away, he doesn't deserve you!"
Lilia felt him press a kiss to her forehead and was caught in another warm wave. But this one quickly threatened to drift into something more somber. Her brother had always protected her. And what had she done?
"You know, I could," swallowing quickly, she pulled herself together, "come with you. You don't have to face Caleb alone."
It was almost imperceptible but she felt his hands clench into fists on her back.
"Oh sis. I know how strong you are. You managed to get a vampire in cat form to reveal himself to you!" Shaking his head, he laughed softly before looking at her seriously again. "But that's something you can't help me with. I need to finish with him personally."
"But it might possibly help me if I could have a sleepover in your room afterwards..."
"With popcorn and pickles?"
"Eww! And I thought your bizarre teenage years were over!"
Laughing, they both lay in each other's arms for several minutes, enjoying the quiet understanding that their twin bond had given them and that they had nurtured all these years.
When Leo left for the meeting, Lilia felt much lighter. She retrieved her brother's pillow and blanket and draped everything on her bed before deciding that she was too awake to sleep yet. Turning on the TV, she didn't really pay attention to what the reporter at TBBN was saying because she kept skimming the police report.
But when a tortured gurgling sound was heard, followed immediately by a scream, she looked up with a jolt and couldn't tear herself away from the screen for the next three minutes. She barely dared to blink.
She should have been frozen in fear for herself because she was human, but as she watched the blood drip from this Russell Edgington's hand while he delivered his monologue, she felt only fear for Godric's safety. A dark foreboding spread through her until Lilia felt like she could barely breathe. This Edgington was almost three thousand years old? Who would oppose him?
Eric... whispered the now familiar voice.
Nodding, her heart contracted. For one thing was clear, if Eric fought him, Godric wouldn't be far behind. And in his current body, he wouldn't stand a chance!