The banquet raced towards me that week and before I knew it the night was upon me. I had attempted to visit Luke during that week but I was turned away by Raine each time. On one occasion I shouted to Luke to hold fast and to be strong, reassuring him that I would save him and spoke in code to instruct him as I was being dragged away by his monstrous guard. It tortured me that I had not only brought Luke into this world of mine but that I had dragged him into that cell through no fault of his own. As much as I hated that I had imprisoned my brother, I hated Cran and all his suckling sycophants even more. They were all together a rotten filth that had somehow crawled back up the sewers and sprawled across an otherwise idyllic place. Had the Mayor not been such a man as to use violence at every turn then, perhaps, I would feel some measure of regret or sympathy, but I was certain then as I am now that he was such a man.
The morning of the banquet I went about my business as usual. I spent hours preparing the feast and shut myself away from the goings on of the house. Nobody interrupted me and before I knew it the sun was falling behind the horizon. The guests arrived and I delivered my speech, then I served them all the lemon water followed by their meal. True to his word, Cran allowed me to bring food to Luke, and Raine. I walked down into the hidden chambers beneath the house and left the bowls of stew out of sight brought Raine a snifter of brandy. He poured it down his throat and when he handed the glass back to me I turned heel and fetched the food, taking my time to be sure that the serum could enter his blood.
When I had given Raine his and Luke’s stew, I feigned effort to talk with my brother, but Raine of course rushed me away. I knew that Luke would be starved and I wasn’t sure that he had understood my cryptic message, but it was the only play I had. Once Raine had dragged me away from the jail door he turned and walked back to have his meal. A good and duteous guard, Raine never left his post, not once, nor ever again. A little more than two hours later I stood over Raines body and took the keys to Luke’s cell from his pocket. There wasn’t a morsel of stew left on in Raine’s bowl, at least he enjoyed his last meal.
Once I released Luke we embraced and then I led him upstairs. He was malnourished and his mind was desiccated but the excitement of his escape fuelled him. He didn’t ask and I didn’t tell as we walked past the full, yet silent banquet hall – its usual roaring bustle a brittle echo of its past.
While Luke gorged himself in the kitchen and lined our pockets with Cran’s ill-gotten gains I bought refreshments to the outer guards “courtesy of the Mayor” and then returned to my brother to wait. I can still see the bodies. Dozens of big grizzled men laid flat by the very mechanism of my salvation. I wasn’t sad or upset, though, all I cared about was getting Luke away from that place. It had been good to us, but for all the wrong reasons. I know that now.
Once we were on the road again I admitted to Luke that I had had to use all the serum I had bar one small vile. This put us in a precarious position, but with our new found wealth we chartered a ship and headed back to the capital of our homeland in the hope that the Doctor was still alive.
The journey took little more than a week, but with the capital looming in our minds it felt like an eternity. I wondered about Madam Sabine and Christof. And Baron van Broone. During those few long days traveling home I imagined Madam Sabine most. I had not had a woman in over a year and she had remained the finest of those feminine creatures in my mind, despite my final image of her. I hoped that she had recovered. I knew that if she regained even a third of her strength then I would have had her for myself. I wanted her so very much. I wanted to taste her and consume her with all my senses. But I knew that, despite our temporary wealth, the likes of Luke and I were beneath her. But still I daydreamed of my first patron. The first refined woman I had ever seen. She was the dream of dreams.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey