The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 11
Chapter 11

Lunarian.
I had an unsuspected visit from my spy this evening. He burst in through the door without bothering to knock and slammed his hands on my table.
"Your Highness, he is planning on recruiting Victoria," he said, leaving me confused, "He wants to save her life in exchange for her service!"
"Who are you talking about?" I asked.
"Morrow Obsidian," he said with such anger that I felt myself flinch. He started pacing about the room.
"I have only heard rumours of such a name ... he is with the Shadows?"
"He is not only with them, but the leader."
"So simply double-cross him," I said with a shrug, "Let him save Victoria's life and then kill him."
"Have you really never heard of him?"
I shook my head.
"He cannot be killed. The only reason he is not as famous as Niklaus is because he does not go about advertising it. No one has ever seen his face, and no one knows how to kill him, because those who did have already been dead for hundreds of years! Niklaus is the only person who could ever survive a battle with him, and even that runt is hiding from him."
"Why does this man, then, want Victoria's service? It makes no sense."
"He knows of her power. He wants to purify the sword and use her Dark powers for himself. We cannot let Victoria know of this. He is even more powerful than Niklaus. She will go to him without a second thought."
"How do you intend to keep her mobile?"
"I will reveal my identity to the other disloyal Shadow, and beg of him to keep her there. He is just as keen as I to find an end to Morrow Obsidian's life."
"If you hate him so much, why did you go to him in the first place?"
"I had no choice, as you full well know," he snapped. I sighed.
"Well, do whatever it takes to keep Victoria safe."

***

Sapphire.
All my chores were taking up so much time that I barely had any left to train, what with being both Lord Niklaus's and Lady Victoria's personal servants and keeping my end of the mansion in order. She made little or no recovery during the days that followed, and the butlers and those in the mansion that had medical experience safely concluded that she was in a coma.
But even so, I could not help but wonder. Every morning, when I went to check up on her before starting my chores, I would find that sword of hers, Dominatio per Malum, clutched in her hand, and then I would put it on the window-sill on the other side of the room. But the following morning, the sword would just be in her hand again.
Lord Niklaus was making absolutely no progress with the cure for the Tampered Mark, and after concentrated observation, I saw that he sometimes repeated something that he had done before up to three times a day.
I spend days summoning up the courage to go ask him if I could offer him assistance, during which time I did extensive research on every aspect of alchemy and the science of techniques.
Finally, one morning, I knocked on the door of Lord Niklaus's bedroom and, the moment he told me to enter, I started ranting.
"My lord, I know that I'm not the best servant in the world, and that you think I'm really clumsy, but I've been doing research about every aspect of alchemy and techniques and-"
"Sapphire-"
"-I really, really, really care about Lady Victoria, so will you pretty please allow me to help you find the cure to the Tampered Mark-"
"Sapphire-"
"I swear I won't be a nuisance-"
"Sapphire!"
I clapped my hand over my mouth, not believing that I had talked over him. I carefully look at his necktie, waiting for punishment.
But none came.
"I would be glad of some help," he said softly, and I was so sorely tempted to look into his eyes that I nearly did, but luckily Claude had trained me well. I curtsied.
"Thank you very much, my lord. I won't disappoint you."
"You had better not."

***

Lunarian.
I had all but given up hope. Nothing seemed to skew in my favour regarding Victoria's rescue. It was simply impossible to penetrate Klaus's defences, and I did not put all my effort into it because I still remembered that Lady Winter had said that Victoria would be the safest with him.
This did not make me feel particularly better, seeing as that meant that I did not have sufficient strength to keep her safe, and she was more than capable of taking care of herself, in any case.
But I had continued searching for Lady Winter, relentlessly calling into the icy wind at night.
Now, however, I simply sat at the fireplace late at night, wondering where I had gone so wrong, and wondering more intensely whether I should have followed Lady Winter's orders at all.
"Lunarian ..."
Was that Victoria, the way she called out to me in my mind, like she did on a daily basis?
"Lunarian, come outside."
But no, this voice sounded like it was carried by the wind that was hammering against my windows. A glance to the left revealed the snowflakes gathered together to outline the figure of a beautiful woman.
My heart skipped several beats. I sprang up and ran outside.
"Lady Winter!" I called through the wind. It settled down ever so slightly to allow normal conversation.
"Hello, Lunarian."
"You have finally decided to answer me, have you?" I asked, a little more annoyed than I had intended.
"Do not take that tone with me, dear king. I am not here on your account."
"Then why are you here?"
"The fulfilment of the prophecy about our young Black prodigy," she replied. I kept quiet, allowing her to continue. "One Morrow Obsidian of the Shadows is trying to carry out the prophecy. As I am sure you already know, he is attempting to convince her into joining the Shadows and training her himself."
"So what is the problem?" I asked, "The prophecy will be fulfilled."
"It is too soon," she replied.
"How can it be too soon? A prophecy is a prophecy, is it not? Why does it matter when it lives through its subjects?"
"You do not understand. Victoria is not ready yet, mentally and physically. A specific time was set for this specific prophecy. If we tamper with the laws of nature, dire consequences await."
"Just like you allowed her Mark to be tampered with?" I asked irritably.
"It needed to happen. All the things I allow are the things that are woven into the fabrics of nature, things that Fate had decided long before even my siblings and I were born. I know you do not believe in Fate, dear king, but he is responsible for everything that happens, and for every external force that has influenced every movement you have ever made. He has spoken. It is too soon.
"I have already told you some time ago. There is a natural order. If that order is not followed, everything will dissolve into chaos. A simple matter of a girl murdering her father too soon could, for all you know, mean the end of the world in ten years."
"So what do you want from me? You want me to kill this Morrow Obsidian person?"
"No. I need you to ally with Niklaus and protect Victoria from Morrow's grasp."
"Ally with Niklaus? Over my dead body!"
"It is your choice. Just remember that your choice will not only affect Victoria's life, but everyone else's, as well."

***

Sapphire.
Lord Niklaus and I spent hour after hour combing through every single combination of techniques known to both mortal and immortal (I pointed out to him which ones he had been repeating), but two weeks after Lady Victoria's arrival, we still had not even scratched the surface.
He had allowed me to look through an ancient-looking book that I had not noticed until then, and I saw that it was a summary of the effects of every kind of hand seal, and combinations thereof. The reason his backfired nearly every time was because he looked for a specific kind, and then added another for extra effect, but thus far, it had not worked in his favour.
At least Lord Niklaus allowed me a few breaks a day, during which I would do my chores and, if I had time, eat and rest.
Sebastian and Claude were acting very strangely. Each pretended as though the other did not exist. One afternoon, I grew curious, and tailed Claude after hiding my presence. He simply went about doing his own business, cleaning every inch of the mansion even though most of it was already in perfect condition. Just as I was about to conclude that nothing interesting would happen, he entered the lobby, where Sebastian was just instructing a maid to replace the roses in the nearby vase with new ones. I hid behind a large pot plant and peered through the leaves.
"Do not stop on my account," Claude said, starting to dust the sconces, "You always were better at giving orders than doing the actual job."
"Jibe all you want, brother," Sebastian replied with his famous smirk, "It would not make a better butler of you."
"Hmph."
"How is Lady Victoria?" Sebastian asked casually, clasping his hands behind his back while staring at his brother. "I am sure you spend as much time with her as possible. I assume you have even tried kissing her awake."
I frown. What was he talking about?
"I am doing all I can to determine what has caused her coma, and I will be the one to save her, yes."
"You truly are pathetic," Sebastian said, "As though it was not enough that you fell in love with Lord Niklaus's late wife, now you're in love with his ward as well."
I nearly fell over. I clasped my hand firmly over my mouth to stop a squeal escaping it. Claude was in love with Lady Victoria? What was he thinking?
"You will not be Lord Niklaus's favourite for much longer, Sebastian," Claude said, his voice trembling. He turned around and glared at Sebastian. "I will make sure of that."
"Oh, please, I implore you: try to diminish Lord Niklaus's trust of me, but I will always be better than you in - well, everything."
With that, Sebastian turned on his heel and left the entrance hall, whistling a jolly tune. I left the room and followed him, revealing my presence with a few simple hand seals before jogging to catch up with him.
"Claude is in love with Lady Victoria?" I whispered, having as silent as possible a laughing fit.
"Oh, yes. Quite intensely so, too," he said, "How did you hear our conversation? You are not a master of any sense-enhancing techniques of which I am aware, and I did not sense any nearby presence."
"You have your secrets, I have mine," I said with a grin.
"But the odds are in your favour. You know my secret," he replied, smirking. I was sure he was referring to his vampirism.
"That is the only thing that is in my favour," I snapped, "Rest assured that no technique I possess can cause you any direct harm ... anyway, Claude, huh? He sounded quite serious when he threatened you like that."
"Oh, I am sure that was just an opening to one of his famous prank battles. I look forward to his opening act. Usually it is quite - ah - lame."
"Prank battle?" I inquired.
"Our last one was about fifty years ago. He usually goes about starting such a battle when he is bitter because of a woman, or jealous of me."
"In this case, both."

The following day, when it was my break time and after I had eaten, I went to the entrance hall in the hope of finding out whether Claude had played a prank on Sebastian yet. I grinned when I found them alone, and Claude looked quite annoyed.
"Honestly, Claude, it was quite an unoriginal idea. Hiring some expensive prostitutes and sending them to my room, all of which would want payment up front? You honestly thing that I could not handle it?"
"What did you do?"
"They insisted on payment, naturally, and when I refused to give it, they attacked. I killed them."
I widened my eyes.
"That was not necessary," Claude said.
"Their blood is on your hands, not mine."
With that, Sebastian walked away, his famous smirk still plastered on his face.
I grinned before returning to Lord Niklaus's room. We worked for around four hours until he, once again, went rigid and fell over, for all tends and purposes, dead.
"My lord, aren't you concerned that you might actually die if you keep this up?" I asked, even though I knew he could not hear me.
I exited the room and went to the third floor, where I was instructed to pick up all the laundry before going to the laundry room and throwing all the clothes in the machines.
"I would follow Claude right now, if I were you," Sebastian said. I jumped.
"Could you please announce yourself before you just randomly appear everywhere?" I snapped.
"Why on earth would I do that?" he asked, smirking, "It would mean not seeing your expression when you get a fright ... he's on the second floor now."
I glared at him until he vanishes into thin air. After putting in some washing powder and getting the machine to work, I walked up the stairs to the second floor, where Claude was rearranging some flowers in a vase.
"Good lord, Sebastian," he said just as I approached. "Another?"
"What's the problem?" I asked innocently.
With a sigh, Claude stuck his gloved hand into the bushes and withdrew a head. I shriek in disgust before covering my eyes, trying to calm myself.
"Honestly, Sapphire, you have seen enough of these already," he said in an annoyed tone, even though his face remained expressionless.
I took a deep breath, and then another, before lowering my hands again. After getting past the sickness of it, I saw that it was really the head of a beautiful woman.
"It is one of the prostitutes that were with Sebastian last night," he said.
Knowing that he was trying to tarnish Sebastian's reputation, I decided to play along, "Sebastian had prostitutes last night?"
"I'm afraid so. It seems he killed them all once he was finished with them. Poor things."
Geez, Claude, you are such a little bitch, aren't you? I thought, fighting the urge to burst out laughing. Instead, I asked, "Where are the others?"
"I found one in a washing machine, another in a chest of drawers on the sixth floor, two more at the door of Lady Victoria's room, and the remaining three were on the pillows of my bed," he said.
"You have a bed?"
"You did not honestly expect that I never sleep, did you?"
"Well, actually, that's exactly what I thought, seeing as you're dead and all," I snapped.
"Any body needs rest, especially an undead one," he snapped, more annoyed than ever, before disappearing from view.
"That was quite a performance," Sebastian said from beside me.
I groaned and punched him playfully on the shoulder, "Stop doing that!"
He chuckled and asked, "Did you enjoy the show?"
"Not really," I replied truthfully, "You hid the heads of the whores wherever he has chores to do?"
He nodded, "A work of art, if I should say so myself."
"Don't say so yourself, because you sound psychotic," I said with a grin.

The following morning was Sebastian's turn to make breakfast. Everyone was excited, because he was the best cook in all the lands. Everyone agreed on that. But as everyone dug in, we all realised something was missing.
"This tastes like ... nothing," Aurora said with a frown, taking another bite, but then shaking her head again.
"What the hell?" Luka said from beside her.
I took a bite of my blueberry French toast, to find that, even though it did look delicious, it tasted like absolutely nothing. Fearing that there might be something wrong with Sebastian, I hurried to the kitchen.
I froze at the door with wide eyes.
Sebastian was going about scratching every part of both his legs, bending over in the strangest positions to do so, and scratching other parts as well. I burst out laughing.
"What the hell are you doing?" I cried between laughing fits.
"How - how was breakfast?" he asked, scratching his bottom.
"Horrible," I replied, "It didn't taste like anything. What's the matter with you?"
"There seems-" he paused to start scratching at his ankle before standing upright again, "There seems to be-" he bends over again to scratch his thighs, "I think there is something wrong with my trousers!"
Just then, I saw something fall to the floor. I take a few steps forward, inspecting what had fallen from inside his trousers, and laugh even more manically.
"Claude," I said, "He put fire-ants in your trousers!"
Unable to contain myself any longer, I slapped my hands on the counter, having the best laughing fit I had had since I came to this mansion.
When I finally calmed down and wiped the tears from my eyes, I noticed that Sebastian was nowhere to be seen. Before I could call out, however, he reappeared, unscratching and fuming.
"If that dullard thinks he can outsmart me, he is going to be highly surprised," he raged. He started going through all the cupboards, muttering to himself, "Where is it?"
"What are you looking for?" I asked, grinning despite myself,
"Ah-hah!" he said, withdrawing a large jug with a label on it.
"'Water'?" I read. "What the-?"
"You did not honestly think that it is water that comes out of the taps, did you?" he said, smirking again, "Oh no, because water is like acid to vampires."
"Then what comes out of the taps?"
"A special substance that Lord Niklaus created."
"And what are you planning on doing with the water?" I asked sceptically.
"Meet me tonight at midnight, in room 318, if you want to find out," he replied, "And spread the word, but do not let Claude find out."
"You're not going to kill him, are you?"
"Of course not," he said with a smirk, "What bond is stronger than that of two brothers?"

 

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