The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 9
Chapter 9

Sapphire.
I could not find any reference to any person named Morrow Obsidian ever being born. During the weeks that followed my conversation with Sebastian, I searched the library top to bottom, but nothing gave any indication that there had ever lived such a person. But I did not believe that Sebastian lied to me either. It had been the first time I had seen him so serious, and he never warned anyone about anything, unless it is truly dangerous to more than one person.
I eavesdropped on Lord Niklaus's conversations as frequently as I could, but there was never any more mention of anything of importance. I subjected myself to spending my time training instead.
Summer passed, and Lady Victoria's seventeenth birthday neared. Everyone knew to stay well out of Lord Niklaus's way when the day arrived. I tailed Sebastian two days beforehand.
"What do you think Lord Niklaus will do?" I asked, "He won't lose control, will he?"
"I doubt it," the butler replied, "But if Lady Victoria does not return soon, I fear he will lose his mind."
"Is he working on a cure for her Mark?"
"Every minute of every day. The only times he stops is when he can no longer control his hunger."
"How close is he to perfecting it?"
"Very far," Sebastian replied solemnly, "He has the base technique to work off, but he had never intended for there to be a cure, so creating one will be very difficult."
"How does it work?"
"What?"
"Creating techniques," I replied, "Do you just perform random hand seals and document their effect?"
Sebastian chuckled, "That is the simplest way, but a normal human would be dead within the hour if they did that. No, creating a technique takes many years of study and research. You have to try and combine techniques and throw in your personal taste without a single mistake. It could mean putting your life on the line. Lord Niklaus has been interested in the science of techniques since he was a young boy, he told us. Even as a teenager, he already knew all the effects of most of the combinations of hand seals that are being used commonly. The moment he became a vampire, and death was no longer a threat, he would spend every waking minute creating his very own techniques."
"That's why he's invincible?" I asked, "No one knows the counters to his techniques?"
"No one is invincible, Sapphire," Sebastian said, the smirk that was always on his face fading, "Everyone has a weakness, even if it is not physical."
"Do you think that Lady Victoria is his weakness?" I whisper.
"In a sense, she could be."
We worked together quietly, washing the laundry and the dishes. On our way to the lunch room, I got a sudden idea.
"When will Master Manson visit again?"
"Two days from now. If Lord Niklaus loses control while working, he will be trapped in a hallucination to calm down."
"Master Manson can make Lord Niklaus hallucinate?" I asked, shocked.
"He is the only person who can," Sebastian replied, nodding.

Two days later, I found out early in the morning that I was charged with being Lord Niklaus's personal servant for the day. Even though it was a perfect - yet eerie - coincidence, I favoured my remaining eye, and I did not know whether I would be able to keep Lord Niklaus satisfied.
I walked up the stairs with my head hanging, receiving many 'good luck' wishes along the way, until I reached the eleventh floor. I knocked a few times on the door. There was no answer. After waiting a few moments, receiving no answer, I knocked a few more times.
"Come in," an irritated voice said from the inside. I took a deep breath and entered Lord Niklaus's room.
I nearly fell over.
The bed, paintings and table had all been removed. Instead, there was a large circle lined with strange symbols painted on the floor where the bed used to be, in the centre of which Lord Niklaus stood. A long table lined the far wall right underneath the curtained windows, atop which stood the strangest of instruments among several differently shaped and sized bottles full of the strangest of coloured liquids. Beside it, to my surprise, stood an alchemy table.
My eyes darted back to Lord Niklaus when I realised that he was glaring at me, but I was careful to look as his ornately decorated tie disappearing underneath a waistcoat.
His hair was greasy and hanging in curtains over his handsome face. Dirty brown blotches could be seen all over his white dress shirt, but the most unsettling were his eyes. They had never been so devoid of emotion before.
"Is there anything you need, my lord?" I croaked, trying my best to hide my shock.
"Yes," he said, stumbling forward and grabbing my shoulders. It took all my concentration not to look into his eyes. I wondered if he was drunk. "Get me some Aether."
"Some what, my lord?" I asked, never having heard of such a thing.
"No, that's not what I need. No, no, no, no. I meant obsidian. Get me some obsidian."
He let go of my shoulders and stumbled back to the table, where he closely inspected some of the liquids. Knowing better than to hesitate before carrying out an order - thanks to Claude - I headed out of the room in search of either of the butlers. I found Claude dusting the window panes for non-existent cobwebs on the fifth floor.
"Where am I supposed to find obsidian?" I snapped at him.
"Why would you want such a thing?" he asked.
"Lord Niklaus wants some ... by the way, is he drunk?"
"Yes, but not because of alcohol," Claude said with a sigh. I decided that I did not want to know what that meant. "Stay still for a moment."
I watched as the butler disappeared in his vampiric way, only to return seconds later with a glassy black stone in his hand.
"Where did you get that?" I asked, taking the stone.
"Sebastian and I have learned to keep a private - ah - stash."
"Why?"
"Lord Niklaus eats it when he is in desperate need of inspiration, and he gets violent when it is kept from his reach."
"He eats it?"
"Yes," Claude replied, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Well, not only the stone. He treats it first. It is the only rock that works. Well, should you not be returning to our master?"
"I - I guess," I said, frowning.
I returned to Niklaus's room, knocking a few times before entering. He grabbed the stone out of my hand without a word and returned to the long table. He searched among the bottles of liquid until he grabbed a tiny bottle with vivid green goo inside. Working carefully - well, as carefully as he could with trembling hands. I started trembling myself, because I had never seen him so agitated - he poured three drops onto the obsidian, and I watched as it became translucent and then returned to its original state. He placed the tiny vial of green goo back in its place before standing upright and calmly taking a bite.
I had expected to hear a crunch or some other sound that indicated the cracking of a stone underneath teeth, but Lord Niklaus's teeth easily sunk into the black stone's depths as though it was a cupcake. He gazed out of the window, calm for the first time, while eating the stone.
I watched with wide eyes as, suddenly, after eating, he rushed toward the alchemy table and started working all the strange instruments with such speed it seemed like he had tentacles. He returned to the strange circle painted on the floor, performed a few hand seals with incredible speed and then said an incantation.
I shrieked as there was a mighty explosion that knocked Lord Niklaus off his feet. Before I could run to him, he calmly got up, speaking in some other language while shaking his head in such a manner that suggested he simply did not like the day's weather.
He grabbed at more bottles of liquid, lighting a fire underneath an object the closest description I had for was a retort - but it was far too high and had far too many condensers and tubes and other strangely shaped glass containers than the alchemical tool I learned about - before returning to his circle. He performed more hand seals, spoke an incantation but, this time, was thrown forward into the wall.
This was getting ridiculous.
"My lord?" I asked timidly as he got up and returned to the table.
"Not now," he said in a trembling voice.
"But I-"
"I said, not now!" he growled, turning around and glaring at me with glowing red eyes and menacingly large canines.
Was it possible that he had forgotten I had been there the whole time?
I decided that my curiosity as to what he was hoping to achieve was too great, so instead of leaving the room, I merged myself with the wall beside the door.
I watched him for a long time, but there was simply no end to his madness. He would concoct some mixture of liquids and either drink it - before crouching in a fit of coughs - or take it with him to the circle, performing some unfamiliar technique and throw a bit of the liquid in front of him.
I feared he was busy with a suicide mission, and decided to leave once my stomach began rumbling.

***

Lunarian.

During the days that followed Demetri's devastating news, I spent every free minute trying to contact Lady Winter. She was the only one who could help now, or even offer me guidance.
I thought about the prophecy she made. She had said on the night of Niklaus's invasion that Victoria was destined to kill her father in order to save much of the world. That surely meant that she had to be alive, so there had to be something Lady Winter could do to help.
But she refused to answer any of my calls. Instead, even though it was summer, she sent a snowstorm, and a message along with the wind, "Leave it be, Lunarian."
I threw a banquet on Victoria's birthday in the dining hall of the High Tower. Only the people who were aware of what she had done for the Village were invited, including the guards who had guarded her cell.
When the evening was over, I struggled to go to sleep. I could not believe that Lady Winter was so ignorant to our troubles. It was her own words. She told us that Victoria had to live so that she could kill her father.
How terrible it was to be king, and yet so helpless.

***

Sapphire.
Master Manson finally arrived around noon, and he could not have come at a more opportune time. Watching Lord Niklaus was driving me insane. He looked like a lunatic and, even though I knew he was trying to work as fast as he possibly could, he was making no progress. Every vial of liquid and every combination of hand seals he tried back-fired.
The moment Master Manson entered through the door, I bolted past him without greeting. I feared for my life, because every explosion Lord Niklaus's techniques made was bigger, and more potent. They had started knocking me off my feet.
Around dusk, I heard the Summoning Claude used to call for us from the direction of Lord Niklaus's room. I hurried there as fast as I could, only to find him sprawled on the floor, his eyes blankly staring upwards at the ceiling and his limbs lying at odd angles. Master Manson was hovering above him. When I entered, he looked at me blankly.
"Is he-?" I started in panic.
"I think not," Master Manson replied, "But even a vampire body has its limits. He will wake in a few hours, I think ... he should not overexert his body like this."
"Try telling him that."
"I already have, I think. I warned him, but he would not listen. Now that he has seen that I was correct, he should heed my words, I think."
"I see ..." I said, not knowing what else to say, until I remembered that I actually wanted to see Master Manson urgently, "Hey, what do you know about Morrow Obs-"
"Do not speak that name in this building!" Master Manson said, his voice filled with such panic and power that a nearby window cracked. My voice stuck in my throat. "There are powerful seals here that punish any who speak that name. If you value your life, you will not do so again."
"But, I-"
Before I could finish, he had stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him. Not sparing much thought, I ran out of the room in pursuit of Sebastian. But he was nowhere to be found. I found Claude on the fifth floor, mopping floors.
"Where is Sebastian?" I demanded.
"Not here, I'm afraid."
"Where is he?!"
Claude looked up at me with wide eyes. I had never shouted at anyone before, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
"Why do you want to know?"
"I need to talk to him - about some of the maids that are under his control. They-"
"You can tell me, and I can-"
"No, I need to tell Sebastian! They are not your responsibility!"
"Sapphire, what is going-"
"Damn it, if you won't tell me, I'll find him myself!"
"Sapphire-"
But I had already run past him. I searched every room on every floor starting at the tenth. When I reached the lobby it was almost midnight, and I was the only person still going about. I could not find Sebastian anywhere.
I wondered what kind of seals it was that punished him for telling me about Morrow Obsidian. I hoped they did not apply to vampires.
I ran my fingers through my hair in fear.
The only place I had not searched yet, was the torture chamber underneath the mansion.

 

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