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Chapter Fifteen - Das Vadanya




Chapter Fifteen

Дьявол, Дьявол


“I… I’m sorry,” is the first thing Ada hears through the door. It’s a little hard to make out, the wood on the bottom floor of the manor is old and thick. But still, she endeavors, her relative invisibility emboldening her to stand closer to the door than she potentially should.


Something is going to happen soon, she feels it in the unusually stagnant air, so Ada was staying up late, pacing the hallways. Imagine her surprise when she heard voices and saw a light through the cracks in the dining room door at such an odd hour. And lo and behold, it turns out to be the two sisters talking, the very center of the conspiracy. They could be discussing any number of things, but maybe, just maybe, it will turn out to be important.


For a long time, however, there is silence in the room. Ada nearly turns away, but then Natalya begins to speak. Ada is shocked to hear her voice shaking. “There is no point in grieving now, not after it happened so long ago.”

“Still…”


“Can you understand now, Marie? Why I am doing this? Why I cannot stop?”


“I don’t think I’ll ever understand. But yes… it’s all a little clearer now.”


“That thing has been here for so long, sitting on my chest.”

Ada realizes that she has no idea what they’re talking about. She wishes she’d gotten here a few minutes sooner. But she keeps listening. This is absolutely important.

“But it’ll all be over soon, right?” Maria asks.

Natalya pauses. “If everything goes right, then yes.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then I will not… be myself anymore. Maria… please. Promise me this. If something does go wrong, Ivan will know what to do. No matter what happens, make sure he doesn’t hesitate.”


“But—“


“No. No exceptions. You’ve seen what’s happened to Monsieur Steel,”


Ada stiffens at the mention.

“I would rather die than face humiliation like that. Make sure Ivan does not miss.”


“A-alright,” Maria whispers hesitantly. “I promise. Is… is it really tomorrow?”

“Yes. It has to be. This is the only chance we have for the stars to be right.”


Ada has heard enough. Something is happening tomorrow. Something that no doubt involves Jack. As quietly as she can, she hurries down the hall, away from the dining room door, and the two hellions inside.


What can she do? What can she do? She needs to get Jack out of here, away from the manor. But in his condition? Whatever is wrong with him, she doesn’t think she can do it alone. Once again, Ada is powerless to do much on her own. She needs Mishka.


Except she stops, rather abruptly, in the middle of the corridor. He won’t help her this time. He still has something to do in this manor. Something that she promised to help him with. Of course, as it turns out, she’s had a lot less time than she realized all along, he will understand. But she’d be breaking her promise.


“You seem to be facing quite a dilemma there,” comes a voice from the darkness. She sees his wide, white smile before anything else. The figure of the spindly daemon emerges quickly from behind, lit by a single, flickering candlestick.


“It’s none of your business,” she tries to turn, but he steps in front of her.


“On the contrary, I do believe it is.” He grins. “I have an investment in you, after all, I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.”

Ada glares. “What. Do you want?”


“I only want to help you, just as I always have. Time’s ticking, you know. So just what are you planning on doing?”


She can’t believe she’s going to do this, but ultimately, he is the only person she knows she can trust, or at least, that she knows has no reason to act against her. Ada glances around. The dark hallway seems thoroughly devoid of life, save the two of them, and even if the sisters leave the dining room, they’d have no reason to come this way.


She sighs, and leans against a wall. “I don’t know what I can do. Even if I run up to that filthy room they’ve got him stuck in right this second, I don’t know if I could even get him out by myself. Jack’s… not right in the head. What if he doesn’t cooperate?”


“A likely scenario,” Cowell nods.


“And say I did get him out, what then? I’d be stuck in the middle of the Russian tundra with a madman. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”


Almost as if he knows exactly what she’s going to say, Cowell prompts her. “It sounds like you need help.”


“From who?” Ada rubs her temples in frustration. “Mishka won’t leave now, not when he’s still got… things to do. And who else is there? You?”


“Beyond what’s expected of me, I have a strict non-interference policy with all contractors.”


“I figured it’d be something like that,” she huffs.


A silence falls over the hallway as it dawns on Ada that there’s no ‘right’ option here. Ultimately, she has no idea what she should do. And every second she wastes is one second less she has.


Cowell sighs, running a hand through his sandy hair. “You’ve never really had to make a decision before, have you?”


Thinking back on it, she hasn’t, not really. Not ever one where the right answer wasn’t obvious. “No…” she admits.


“Look, love,” he blinks apologetically. “I can’t really help you, real sorry, hands tied. But I can, I suppose, offer some advice. Would that be alright?”

Ada nods, but for some reason gets the distinct feeling that the question wasn’t really directed at her.

“Alright, the way I see it, you’ve got three options,” he continues after a pause. “You can go grab him right now, assuming his extra passenger will so kindly open the door again—“


“Extra passenger? What are you talking about?”

Cowell cuts her off, ignoring her entirely. “You could try to get Mishka to help, though there’s no guarantees on that one. Or you can just… wait and see what happens? You don’t really know if this whole plan of there’s even involves your brother, do you?”


“It does. I know it does,” Ada insists.

“Trust your gut, sure, but don’t let it paralyze you,” Cowell intones.


“None of those options are very good at all,” Ada frowns. “I still have no clue what I should be doing.”


Shrugging, and flashing her another grin, Cowell turns away from her. “Can’t help you there, love.” He tiptoes back down the hall, the light from his candle slowly fading. “This is you story, not mine. Just try to make it a good one.”


The last thing she sees is him waving over his shoulder before he fades from view entirely, leaving Ada behind, in the dark, and very much alone.


~~ o ~~

Eventually, her thoughts somewhat put to rest, Maria leaves the dining room to perhaps fall asleep. The vodka helped, Natalya had offered it to her slightly for that purpose. Natalya herself stays behind a little longer. There’s one more thing she wants to do tonight before everything finally ends.

Yet it takes her a while to work up the strength to begin. Without Maria’s help, it may be a nonsensical farce of a conversation. Honestly, she doesn’t even know why she has this urge, why she’s ever had it. Natalya needs to speak to the Volk.


Finally, it’s the dying fire in the hearth that gets her moving. There’s no sense in sitting alone in a dark, cold room, after all.

Natalya stands before she can change her mind. She quietly returns the gold-fleck vodka to its place in an antique cabinet and grabs the candlestick from the table. In a worst-case scenario, she can always use it as a weapon. The only person she would really succeed in hurting is Jack, however, so she hopes she doesn’t have to.

Every noise seems amplified in the thick miasma that penetrates the air tonight. The howl of the night air pushing against the windowpanes, the creak as she shuts the dining room door behind her. It’s ridiculous, of course, how she feels the need to tiptoe around in her own house. But it feels as if the very wood and stone of its foundations knows that something is about to happen.


It’s sometimes said that old buildings can develop souls. And if that’s true, this fortress is a prime candidate.

That silence becomes so profound that once it’s broken, Natalya almost jumps out of her skin. For a moment, the halls fall silent again, and she begins to wonder if she’s just hearing things, when it happens again: a sudden, sharp tapping sound.


She grips the candlestick tighter as she places the sound. It’s coming from around the corner just ahead. Natalya doesn’t know why she’s preparing for an attack; there’s nothing hostile to her in this house that isn’t under lock and key.


But she readies herself for anything as she creeps forward and slowly, slowly, turns the corner.

From the dark emerges the small figure of a girl tapping against the wall, pressing her ear to it, and then repeating the process a few inches further down. The slight clench in Natalya’s chest is replaced instantly with a dull loathing.

“What are you doing out of bed?” she asks Katya, who jumps at her voice. “Do you know what time it is?”

The child shrinks in on herself as she turns her gaze upward to Natalya’s sour expression. “It’s late, I know it is,” she mumbles. “But right when I was about to turn out the light I saw a roach climb right behind the wallpaper through a crack, and I wanted to see if there were any more of them.”

Natalya crinkles her nose in disgust. Everything about the girl embarrasses her. Her loud mouth, her interest in the most grotesque of subjects, and the fact that she can never sit still. If she wasn’t the most vital of excuses to procure the… parts Natalya needed, she would have done something about her a long time ago.


Plus, as much as she hates to admit it, Natalya needs her. Natalya herself can’t touch the parts for the ritual, lest it fail entirely, and because of her sister’s odd proclivity towards anatomy, she can make cleaner cuts than even Ivan probably could.


That doesn’t mean she has to like the child, however.


“You’re a little demon,” she snarls at the girl. “Stop playing with bugs and go to bed. So help me if I see you before dawn…”


Usually, whenever she gets this angry, Katya obeys her. But this time, something unusual happens. She stands up straight, and stares directly into Natalya’s eyes. The older sister’s skin crawls as she’s forced to stare into the face of the child who killed her mother.

“I don’t want Monsieur Borozov to get hurt tomorrow.” She states it loudly and simply, though her clenched fists are shaking. “I want him to keep teaching me.”


Natalya scowls. She’ll give her one chance to back down. “What did you just say?”


“I won’t hurt him.”


After everything she’s done, after ruining Natalya’s life, she has the gall to disobey her? With hot, dark rage boiling in Natalya’s chest, she grabs the child by the collar of her nighty and presses her into the wall. “Listen here, you little welp. Your pathetic existence on this earth has one purpose, and that is to make up for the mistake that was existing in the first place. You will carve the tutor up as much as I want you to, and maybe, just maybe, I might let you live afterwards.”

Katya doesn’t cry, Natalya’s not sure if she’s ever done it at all. She just stares up at her with those large eyes, taunting her almost. Every time Natalya looks at her face she’s reminded of what her life might have been like if she’d never been born.


“Do you understand me?” Natalya hisses as she’s met only with silence.


Slowly, Katya nods, and with her rage fully expelled, she lets the little maggot go. Katya scampers off into the darkness, just like the rats she loves to play with.


Natalya leans against the wall, her heart racing hard. One more day. One more day of all of this. Hopefully she scared the child enough that she’ll just quietly do her part and not cause any more problems. And next the manor will break free of its foundations and fly. Natalya rubs her temple. She doesn’t need to deal with this right now. Tomorrow will be hard enough as it is. And she still has one last thing to do before she can turn in for the night.


She needs to go to the north wing.


The air seems to thicken to a stew-like consistency as she pushes the curtain aside, and her candle light holds less effect against the darkness beyond than she thinks it should. Yet her lingering anger keeps her from being too fearful.


That’s no good. He feeds off of anger like that. She needs to exile Katya from her mind before she gets to the door. Of course, as soon as it comes into sight a wave of nausea hits her so strongly that all thoughts of the brat vacate her head instantly. They can’t withstand the sheer, pervasive evil that is leaking through the crack under the door to slowly poison the rest of the house beyond.


Natalya doesn’t know why she’s doing this. So much hinges on her plan succeeding tomorrow. Perhaps she wants to taunt Him, or maybe she’s just afraid that He knows.


But she doesn’t have time to question herself. If she just continues to stand out here, the door will open for her, and she will have lost the metaphorical advantage in this encounter. So she grips the worn doorknob with a firm hand and wrenches it open without hesitation.


She always forgets just how disarming the intense darkness beyond that door can be. Waves of it penetrate the hallway like questing tendrils, and the sheer pressure of it nearly brings her to her knees. But Natalya grits her teeth and step by step, ventures into the room.


Well, well, well,” intones that all too familiar voice, only distorted by the unnatural ways it forces Jack’s vocal cords to contort. “Finally, the prima ballerina makes her appearance. Alone, even. Having second thoughts?


“Not for a second.”


He laughs at her, freezing her as stiff as an icicle. “What other reason could there be? It couldn’t be to see this one?


Even through the darkness, she can see the figure on the cot distort and shift. Natalya knew this would not be a very coherent conversation. That’s why she usually uses Maria to separate them.


“M-madame V-V-Volkovna,” Jack’s voice is shaking so badly he can barely get the words out, and while the Volk’s voice is strong and even, Jack’s is barely a whisper. He’s in bad shape. Natalya desperately wants to tell him to hold out just a little longer, but she holds her tongue.


“I…” he continues speaking. “I’ve… learned something about… Him.”


It will be nothing of importance, I assure you.

“Please… come closer. I… don’t think I can… stand.”

Natalya has no idea what to do. Jack could very well have learned something, something that might help her. The Volk did seem awfully quick to dismiss it. But who knows how much control Jack really has in this situation. Regardless of what happens, He won’t kill her. He needs her too much. And he is chained to the bed, after all. There’s only so far he can go.

So she approaches, though her hand twitches reflexively. “What is it?” she asks softly, staring down at the creature on the bed, currently scratching at scabs on his wrists that won’t heal. Will this be what becomes of her, should she fail?

“You should… know” he whispers even more quietly. “That he knows… everything about you. Even the things that you might not know yourself. For instance—“

Natalya doesn’t even have a chance to react as the thing on the bed lunges for her neck, throwing her against the wall with a force that nearly knocks the breath out of her. A trick. Of course it was.

“He knows that you like it rough.” As he’s squeezing her neck hard enough to make her gag, he presses against her. The smell makes her eyes water. “Just like this. Does this remind you of how your brother does it? I hope it d…”

He stops, looking straight at her suddenly, and Natalya’s heart ceases beating. There’s no trace of the Volk in those eyes, nor in his voice. It’s not the Volk choking her. “D-d-d-d,” he stutters, stumbling backwards and falling back down onto the cot.

Natalya collapses to the floor, coughing hoarsely.

“No, nonononononononono,” he mumbles, hitting his head like one would a broken record player.

“Jack…” Natalya chokes out.

“It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me.” He clasps his hands together, pleading with her to believe him. But they both know that the person he’s really trying to convince is himself.


Yet he doesn’t get a chance to say more, for a harsh, cold laughter commandeers his vocal cords. “Do you see what your negligence has caused?” The Volk asks. “Tick tock, Natalya, my love. His time is almost out.


“Tomorrow,” she manages to squeeze out. “It’ll all be over then.”


Is that your plan?” he cocks his head, then begins mumbling inanely:


“Tick tock, tick tock.”


He shakes his head. “Then, I suppose, one way or another, it will be.


“You’re insinuating I’ll fail,” Natalya finds her feet and glares at the shadow.


You will,” he says with a certainty that nearly knocks her legs out from under her. “If your father couldn’t do it, what makes you so sure you’ll succeed by repeating his mistakes?


Natalya will not repeat his mistake. She’s worked too hard for this, but she mustn’t let him know that, so she bites her tongue to keep from speaking.


Taking her silence as confirmation, the Volk stands and approaches her slowly. Natalya wants to move so desperately, but her mind is filled with the smell of rotting meat and the coldness of the cellar floor. She wants this thing out of her life. Out of her house. But she can’t seem to move.


He rubs her cheek gently with the back of his hand, and smiles as he feels her trembling. “You are special, Natalya. In the whole cosmos there is only one vessel that can contain me at any one time. And you are mine. You know it is true, and right. I know you can feel it.


With an awful sneer, He snakes a hand between her legs. It feels as if her skirt isn’t even there, and Natalya bites her cheek so hard she tastes metal, if only to keep herself from crying out.


I know you want it,” He whispers, “Let me in.”


“You…” the word finally slips out, and as the pressure in her head builds, more follow behind. “You have no idea… what I want.” With her mouth back under her control, she musters all her willpower, and spits on him.


Before she can even blink her head is whipped to the side from the force of his palm. But as He laughs, wiping His face with a blood-crusted hand, He chuckles. “You want to kill me. Of course you do. Violence is the only thing more satisfying than sex, after all. Too bad killing me is all but impossible.” He plops back onto the bed, and gazes up at her.


“I don’t even care about that,” she says. “I just want you gone.”


Finally, without warning, her legs thaw. It’s easier to maintain control when He’s on the bed, looking small and frail. She takes several steps, and grabs onto the door handle for stability.


Too bad that’s the one thing you just can’t have.” His voice echoes despite the denseness of the room. “No matter what you try to do, I’ll be here until the day you die.


Natalya thrusts open the door, and steps outside. “Then I’ll await that day with anticipation.” Without a second glance, she slams it behind her.


She marches down the hall, back straight, posture severe. Natalya doesn’t know what she expected, but what she got was confirmation. Confirmation that everything she’s done up till this point has been worth it.


Tomorrow, that’s all she has to wait for. At long last, tomorrow she’ll kill that son of a bitch.

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