Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Renee's jaw clenched tighter as Brigytah’s dark eyes peered into hers. The seconds stretched on as her command continued to be disregarded. Outrage danced behind her eyes like warriors preparing for battle, and Renee prepared herself for war. This is where she took her stance, in this moment she had to show her strength. Everything inside of her told her if she gave in to what the woman wanted, she would be making a bad move. Renee didn’t believe too much in superstition, but she believed in following her gut and her gut was screaming that something was foul. She would refuse Brigytah’s order, regardless of the position it put her in. Less than 24 hours in her new House and she was already making enemies, powerful ones.
"No, we do not." Renee stated firmly and caught the sharp glint of fire in Brigytah’s eye when she made her announcement. “Xavia doesn’t want me to do it, and until she tells me otherwise, it won’t be happening.”
Brigytah inched forward, teeth bared in a hungry sneer; but then paused with the sharp inhale of air from Tiffany who still watched them. She frowned, straightened her posture, and stepped back from the redheaded vampire. "Very well, have it your way." Brigytah turned on her heel with a warning look at Renee and walked away. This would not be the end of things. Not by a long shot.
Renee’s shoulders fell from their taught position the moment Tiffany disappeared around the corner, following the angry woman. Great, just what she needed. If Xavia didn’t make it and Brigytah became the head of the Chicago House, she would really have some shit on her hand. She’d been wishing that that didn’t happen when the chime of the elevator sounded off and the doors slid open.
"What the hell happened here?" Moon stood at the opening, blood sucker hanging from her lips, and wide eyes taking in the chaos of blood-stained floors and the returning lab rats who retrieved what evidence they could.
"Xavia was injured, stabbed, she isn't healing," Renee stated the facts as she found the dagger that had fallen from Calista's hand and picked it up. "There's something about this," she pulled out her phone and took photos of the weapon before it was snatched away by an overly aggressive lab rat who sneered at her about contaminating the evidence.
"What do you mean?” Moon stepped out of the elevator and aloud the doors to shut behind her ending an incessant chiming, the revolt of the mechanics that ran the transport. “What the hell is going on?"
"I don't know.” Renee continued to study the space around her. She made note of everything from the fallen papers that Xavia once held and their positioning in the blood on the floor. She traced the outline of the blood spill in her head and noted the odd scent that came from the fluid that was quickly staining the white floors beneath it. Sulfur, that was the smell, why the hell did her blood smell like sulfur? Renee pulled her eyes from the spot of the floor and found Moon in the midst of a building panic attack, she answered her question. “Calista was here, it looks like she may have been the one who did it. The weapon was in her hand, blood on her fingers."
"Where is she now?" Moon asked as her feet rooted into the ground beneath her.
"Calista!" Moon shouted as if they hadn't been discussing two different people. The sharp gasp from Moon’s lips caused concern for Renee, perhaps she was closer to Calista than she’d known, though she hadn’t had much time to feel out the relationships of the people there.
"Oh, they took her away, I'm assuming to lock up." Renee glanced over her shoulder in the direction of where they girl had been taken.
"Fuck," Moon took off in that direction and left Renee alone with her thoughts and the crime scene.
Renee examined the space further. There was no sign of struggle outside of the blood on the floor, nothing looked out of place. She couldn’t imagine Xavia allowing Calista to attack her without a fight, it meant she wasn’t expecting it, it mean Calista gave her no reason for concern. She ran through a number of scenarios in her mind that would allow for the attack to occur without resistance. She was on her third run through when she heard the mechanical whirring of the camera in the ceiling at the corner of the hall. She made note of it, she would have to find her way to the security room to get a look at the tape.
Her attention turned to the phone that remained in her hand. As the rest of the scene was scrubbed away the photo to the dagger claimed her. She zoomed in and out of the image as she made a mental map of the design. The blade was serrated, meant to cause the most damage when wielded. The handle was metal and partially wrapped in a thick leather. There was something there, scribed on the handle. She could nearly make out the words, but they were partially covered in blood. As she tried to stretch the image to get a closer look the phone rang. Unknown caller. She swallowed the lump in her throat and answered it.
“Hello?” Renee answered the phone in a hushed tone. Not that it would stop the vampires that surrounded her from hearing every word spoken.
“The game has begun, and you were warned to play fair, but did not.” She could hear the satisfied grin that wrapped around every syllable.
“That wasn’t my choice,” Renee watched to see who was listening to her, ears snapped in her direction, they all were.
“Consequences, always consequences, who will suffer next?” The call went dead.
A moment later, the phone buzzed in her palm, with a text message from the unknown number. “The next riddle is in your hand.”
The only thing she was holding was her phone. She stared at it then swiped across the screen to unlock it and reveal the picture of the weapon, still zoomed in on the words.
Qui secat in ea est et esse sub imperio, as she squinted her eyes, she was able to just barely make out the blood smeared words. Latin. What did they mean? She recognized the language, had seen it many times before but there was no way in hell should would able to decipher its meaning without a great reference book and a shot of whiskey. The mess always gave her a pounding headache. There was more to it, as she pondered the meanings of the word she realized there were etchings, a design that wrapped around the handle to the other side. She needed to see it, she needed every bit of information possible. The lab rats, they had it. Taking one final look at the hall and the lack of evidence that remained when they finished their clean-up, she headed off in the direction of the lab.
Following the sounds of chaos Renee made her way to the massive room where they had taken Xavia and all evidence collected from the scene of the attack. The room was heavily guarded and Brigytah stood just outside the frosted doors scolding someone about their carelessness. Behind them, Renee could see the shadows of figured moving hurriedly around the room and hear the muffled voices of their panic. The second in command lifted her anger filled gaze from the woman in front of her to Renee. There was no way she was getting inside. Renee looked at the phone in her hand again and sighed. She would have to make do with the photograph.
With some difficulty she found her way back to the library where Tamerra sat at a small desk sobbing softly into folded arm.
"Tamerra?" Renee called her name on a whisper.
"Renee," the librarian lifted her head to reveal swollen, bloodshot eyes, "Xavia, is she okay?"
“You heard,” Renee spoke softly. She didn't want to agitate the woman who had already shown that she could go off the handle without notice.
“It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have helped you. I shouldn’t have broken the rules.” She shook her head and pressed the palms of her hands against her temple. “She warned me not to. She told me!”
“None of this is your fault. It's his. He is the monster behind this. Not you.” Renee tried to comfort her, but she could see that her words fell on deaf ears.
“I’m so sorry. Will you tell her I’m sorry? I can’t leave, I can’t.” she looked at the door then shook her head fervently.
“I will, when I go back. Now I need to find some information.” Renee held up the cell phone for Tamerra to see. “I need to figure out what this says.”
"That's Latin," Tamerra began then slapped her hands over her mouth. "Oh, no."
"It's okay," Renee assured her, "I already knew that. I just need to figure out what it says. I can do that on my own. If you can just point me in the direction of the books I need, you won't be helping me decipher its meaning."
Tamerra nodded and pointed in the direction she needed to go. Renee smiled and headed to the back of the massive space where the Latin books were. She muttered about a shot of whiskey and needing to feed. By the time she'd loaded her arms with helpful books and made it to the small study where there was a table and chairs, Tamerra had provided both. On the center of the table on a silver platter was a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey and a pint of fresh blood.
"Thank you," Renee called out and smiled when she received the hush response. She thought to herself how she wanted to learn more about the librarian as she sat down, poured herself a shot, and started in on her task.
Renee spent hours digging through anything she could to try to identify the blade and the words written. The blade itself was a simple thing. She'd seen the design before, mostly used by the agents in China. They were deadly things, but even when a well-fed vamp was hit by one, they healed. It wasn't the blade that did the damage. It was whatever was scribed on the handle. After half a bottle of scotch and finishing the last drops of the blood, Renee finally stumbled across something in the memoirs of an old witch. The text was there, written by a shaky hand and translated by a sure one.
It was a spell meant to enchant, one meant to control. The words stood out to her tired mind.
“Whoever wields this shall be under her command.” Calista didn't do it. Physically, yes, she was the one who held the weapon and cut into Xavia's core, but she was being controlled. But, by who? Renee shut the book, slammed another shot of whiskey and headed for lock up. If someone was controlling Calista, she had to find out who it was and how they did it. As she stormed down the hallway to the elevator, it hit her. The words read "under her command" which meant it wasn't Donovan who controlled Calista, it was a woman. He had a partner in this crime.
By the time Renee found her way to the lockup, it was too late. She would never be able to question Calista about what happened. Being held back, and screaming with tears in her face, Moon watched as a drugged Calista was carried away on a stretcher, bound by vervain soaked chains and muzzled. Blood still stained the hands that were chained to her side.
"No!" Moon screamed, "You can't do this! She didn't do it! It wasn't her fault!" She fault against the women who held her but it was no use. Calista was loaded into a back elevator, and the doors slid shut.
"What is going on?" Renee asked as Moon was released and fell to her knees sobbing.
"That bitch is taking her to the Arcs!" Moon yelled at the camera that watched them. "She doesn't deserve this! It wasn't her fault!"
"Wait, what? Already?" This wasn't standard protocol; no proper investigation had been completed and already Calista was being moved. Renee looked at the camera that hung in the corner, she needed to get to that security room. Before she could move, her phone rang again. Unknown Caller.
“Who is she?” Renee answered knowing who was on the other end. He wasn’t working alone and she now suspected without a doubt that it was someone on the inside. “Who are you working with?”
He ignored her question and issued his next riddle. “What build its house with earthen string and ensnares its prey with a biting sting? Answer now or the elevator falls.”
Renee looked at the doors behind her, the ones that had just slid shut, lifting Calista to the ground floor for transport. The alarm sounded as the gears screamed out in protest as they were forced to stop.
Does Renee get the riddle Right?