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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

For the Love of Deadly Nightshade - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by CrystalWren
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 3

Belladonna and Lucien had travelling down the silent glowing tunnels for close to three hours now, and if Belladonna had been tired before, now she was nigh on collapsing. The food that the Antiquaryís child had given her had refreshed her to a degree, as had the brief rest, but they simply were not enough. Her legs beneath the oh-so-sweet white stockings were aching and trembling, and her feet hurt. And she was definitely sure there were blisters on her heels, because she had felt them burst half an hour ago. Her stomach was uneasy from the lack of food, and to top it all off Belle could feel the beginnings of a headache just starting behind her skull. She staggered behind her seemingly inexhaustible companion, wondering dully: doesnít he ever get tired?

Lucien was trying his best to be tough and manly (stronger than Belle- sheís just a girl!) but he was failing miserably. His feet ached, his legs were sore, and he didnít want to admit it, but he was seriously beginning to wish he had not given the last of his food away. The healing bruises on his back were annoying the hell out of him with their itching, and he was wishing death and damnation on the idiot who had last washed his immaculate white shirt. Who ever it was had used too much starch, and the constant scratching was making him look for something to kill. He looked at Belle, and carefully looked back at the tunnel ahead. Not her- too many sharp edges. Itís not that I couldnít beat her! He told himself, trying to save his pride. Itís just that I donít feel like it at the moment. He snuck a glance over his shoulder at his companion again, determinedly marching forward. He groaned under his breath. Doesnít she ever get tired?

They may have remained like that, forging onward, determined to prove that each was the tougher than the other, until they both collapsed from sheer exhaustion. But the Lady Fate must have had a rare feeling of mercy, for a rather large sewer rat- actually, it was the size of the proverbial small cat- suddenly jumped onto the way in front of then. Belle and Lucien ground to a sudden, shocked halt. Belle was horrified of course- it truly was a hideous, filthy creature- but Lucien was terrified. He gave an utterly dreadful scream and jumped backwards, and made to run the way they had came. Belle grabbed a handful of shirt and just barely managed to hold the frantic boy back, but it was a difficult task with his arms windmilling and his hollering at the top of his lungs. After a few seconds she gave the task up as helpless, and simply punched him in the gut. He went down onto his knees, alternating between dry retching and gasping for breath. While he was occupied doing that, Belle drew one of her myriad and hidden knives and threw it at the huge rat (who obviously didnít have the sense to dodge) neatly piercing the side of its body, causing enough damage to its vital organs to kill it instantly. She used her handkerchief to prevent her fingers from actually touching the disgusting creature as she retrieved her knife, holding the loose skin behind its neck firmly between thumb and forefinger. She placed it before the boy, who was still kneeling on the floor with his arms wrapped around his ribs, as a kind of offering. She used the dirtied hankie to clean her bloodied knife, and them discarded the cloth on the stone floor. Lucien raised his head and gazed at the carcass as if he expected it to rise from the dead at any second. A few tense minutes went by before Lucien wiped his eyes and stood up. He walked a few paces away, rubbed his face again, then turned to face Belle with an expression that clearly said he planning to pretend the whole thing never happened. He opened his mouth and drew breath to speak- then he was violently sick all over the stone floor.

It took a great deal of time for Lucien to get himself under control. It was embarrassing to the pair of them, neither of them being exactly well adjusted when it came to emotional expression. Lucien had precious little in his stomach, which proved to be a small blessing, because the most he coughed up was a small quantity of brownish fluid. It was messy, but not as bad as it could have been. At worst, there were some drips on his no-longer immaculate white shirt, but he had no qualms about taking it off and using it as a rag with which to wipe his mouth. He was wearing an equally immaculate white singlet underneath it, so it was not as if he was actually half-naked. Wordlessly, they wandered away from the scene, and plopped themselves down on the floor, crossing their legs and facing each other like a pair of best friends in the playground about to tell secrets. Lucien sighed, and looked firmly at the stones before him, interlocking in a complex pattern. At length, he opened his mouth and began to speak.

"My Master isnít a good man. He pretends tí be refined aní elegant, but sometimes, when he gets really angry, or when he-" Lucien stoped and darted a glance at Belle, and changed what he was about to say, "when he- he plays with us, he gets funny. Not funny Ďha haí, funny as in strange. My Master is not just a Thief like de others in the rest of de Guild, he does other tíings. Iím not sure exactly what it is that he does, but sometimes he would bring strangers into the Velvet Ministry. Sometime he would give dem stuff for whatever it is dat dey done, but sometimes, he get really angry. One time, he got really angry with dis man for some reason, I donít know what. So he say to one of my older brothers (who was almost old enough to be sent away) Ďgo and bring that box over dere to me.í So my brother goes, aní gets de box. My Master opens it, aní quick as lightening grabs sometíing outta it. It was a rat- a huge, ugly, squirming black rat. My Master says to the man, ĎIíll teach you to deceive me!í He grabs a big, rough, bag outta de box as well, and puts the rat in the bag. The man, he tries to run, but my Master makes a spell, aní he canít move no more. He walks up to the man, quick as a flash covers the manís head wití de bag, and ties it off around his neck before the rat can jump out. The man, he canít move, but he screams- a lot. The bag rustles as de rat moves round and round, and here aní dere blood started to seep tírough. After a while, he stopped screaming, and if it hadnít been for my Masterís spell, he would have fallen. The Master takes off the bag, and dereís de man, wití his face all cut típieces aní blood everywhere. He didnít- he didnít even have eyes no more. Aní the rat, as soon as itís free runs across the floor towards me. It runs onto my shoulder, aní sits dere, calm as can be as it begins tíclean de blood off its claws."

Belle twitched and gulped, as if trying to clear something unpleasant from her throat. She looked up at the ceiling, as if asking it what to do now. Perhaps it replied, because she stood up, and walked over to Lucien, and offered him her hand. He blinked up at her, as if he was surprised to see her there, but nevertheless he laid his hand in her own. She pulled him up, and, still wordless, began to walk down the corridor together.

A few hours later, the glow had faded from the stones, and gradually they became worn and rough and wet. It became very, very dark, but Lucien evidently knew what he was doing, because he produced a small penlight, dim but adequate. They could see the end of the tunnel by now, a tiny pinprick of light that grew larger and larger as they got closer. The paving stone abruptly stopped, leaving them ankle deep in smelly, noxious bayou mud. Charming. It seeped into their shoes and through their socks, leaving them with wet feet and a definite potential for growing mould between their toes. In the excitement of finally getting out of that infernal tunnel, however, they ignored their discomfort and despite their aching limbs, began to run. They shot out of the tunnel mouth, now scarcely a drainpipe, and into freedom. It would have been nice- and poetic- to say they stepped into the bright light of freedom, but truth was the tree canopy was so thick it was impossible to tell what time of day it was. They paused at the limits of the swamp, and tried not to breathe in too much of the methane.

Belle stretched, and touched the tips of her toes with her fingers. Lucien looked around at the not-so-pretty scenery as if it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He turned to Belle.

"We did it!" he said wonderingly. "We escaped!"

He should have known better than to utter those words- they were an invitation to Murphy, the Imp of the Perverse (and other things) if ever there was one. The forest promptly exploded with movement all around them, and the second last thing Lucien saw was an unidentified flying object rushing towards him in a speeding blur. The last thing he saw was a brilliant flash of every colour of the rainbow behind his eyes, an accompaniment to the pain resulting from the violent introduction of the U.F.O to his skull.

Lucien came to with the sound of shouting in his ears. He recognised the sound of the voice of the Thieves Guild Master, Jean-Luc Lebeau, a man he had met only a few times. He didnít recognise the sound of the second man shouting- it wasnít anybody he had met before, that was for sure. He lay very quietly, feigning continued unconsciousness. His plan was to stay that way until he figured out what to do next. It was a plan he threw to the winds when the next thing he heard was the calm, smooth tones of his voice. His Mastersí. The one who ruled his world, every waking and sleeping second of it. The man he loved with all his heart. The man who scared him so totally, so utterly that he had had no choice but to try to get away from him, no matter how it tore his heart and soul. He no longer had the option of staying still- the Master no doubt had already knew that he was awake. Lucien jumped to his feet and immediately began to run to his Mastersí side, with the intention being to throw himself to the ground and kiss the shinning boots from toe to ankle in hopes that the Master would be appeased enough not to punish him too badly. Despite the agonising pain in his head, Lucien made the small distance without falling over, and as soon as he reached the tall, lean form he wrapped his entire body around itsí feet like a hysterical German Shepherd dog, and howled in much the same manner. His Master made a slashing movement with his hand, and Lucien promptly shut up. Otherwise, he ignored him. Lucien clutched the black-booted ankles tighter, and listened.

Thief Guild Master Jean-Luc LeBeau was arguing with a man dressed as a Master Assassin. He was as tall as Jean-Luc, but not as wide or powerful across the shoulders. He had white hair that was balding very slightly, and he looked a lot older than Jean-Luc. But to be honest, that meant very little when the Thieves Guild (and their long-life elixirs by extension) was involved. What was remarkable about the man was that blonde little Belladonna was clutching at his hand and pressing against his side- the man was obviously her father. She briefly made eye contact with Lucien then looked away, her face white and pinched and frightened-looking. But why was her father arguing with Jean-Luc? It was forbidden for any Assassin to speak to the Thieves Guild Master, and vice versa for the Thieves. Then he made the obvious connection: Belladonnaís father could speak to the other Guild Master because he was a Guild Master himself! Heíd run-off with the Assassins Guild Masterís daughter! Lucien whimpered, and buried his head in his arms and hoped that his death would be quick. Painless was too much to hope for.

Belladonna huddled against her fathersí side and desperately wished it was all over. Thieves surrounded her, people she had always been taught were dangerous even to a trained Assassin. It was one thing to make friends with one, lone, small runaway thief, but it was entirely another matter to be in the midst of what seemed like hundreds of them! Her father had his arm around her, but not for her comfort or reassurance- it was keep her from running off again. He refused to meet her eye, or even look at her. He ignored her almost totally, except to gesture at her to illustrate a point. Across the glade Lucien was had wrapped himself around the legs of his master, a man that was the equal of both the Clan Masters when it all came down to it. He didnít join in the argument at all, but stood somewhat apart, watching, with an expressionless face, and an occasional glint in his eye that looked like- amusement? Lucien he ignored entirely. And the one who had started it all, her brother Julien, was watching her as he always did. Belle wished she could shed her skin like a snake, because his stare always made Belle feel like she needed a bath. Belle made a soft noise in the back of her throat, and buried her face against her fatherís leg. She wanted Julien to go away- why wouldnít he leave her alone? She listened to the argument between her father and Thieves Guild Master in an attempt to forget him.

"How dare you use dis- dis apprentice tí kidnap my daughter like dat?" roared Marius.

"How dare you use you daughter tí kidnap my apprentice?" snarled Jean-Luc. "Dis one is valuable property- do you have any idea what de Antiquary paid for him?" (By tradition, the children stolen by the Antiquary were regarded as property, not as people.) "Heís worth far more dan your brat!"

If Marius had had been an interesting red before, now he turned absolutely scarlet. "My daughter is of the blood of my clan- not some devil-spawn foundling!"

"Dat Ďdevil-spawn foundlingí is a mutant, you idiot!"

"As if I hadnít noticed! It still looks like sometíing dat crawled up from Hell itself! Why are you keeping it around anyway? Give it to me and Iíll kill it- put it out of its unnatural misery!"

"Unnatural? Unnatural? You of all people tí be sprouting dat nonsense Ďbout what is natural and what ainít! Youíve all got powers dat no man should have!"

"Oh, so now de Ďimmortal oneí is giving me lectures!"

"Datís right- boy." Jean-Luc leaned forward and looked Marius straight in the eye. "Your daughter was in our tunnels," he hissed. "She was trespassing. Maybe she was a spy, no?"

Marius spluttered incoherently for a few seconds, before yelling something inane and alone the lines of "how dare you!" He never got the chance to get his thoughts together before Jean-Luc spoke again, this time very, very quietly. "You daughter is a trespasser by both our laws. She has even attempted tí steal a valuable piece of property-"

"-she was kidnapped!"

"Whatever!" snapped Jean-Luc. "You havenít got anytíing you can challenge us for, aní you know it!"

"If I may intercede," said the hereto silent Antiquary, neatly stepping out of the grip Lucien had on his legs, "it appear that both our sides are in the wrong." There was no trace of accent from any nation in his voice- he had lived for so long in so many different countries there was absolutely nothing from his place-of-origin (or time-of-origin, for that matter) in his voice. Rather, it was smooth and polished and rich and coloured like a piece of polished, red mahogany centuries old. He walked gracefully up to the two very angry Guild Masters. "I apologise, Guild Master Marius, for the liberties my child has taken with you daughter. I will punish Lucien both for this transgression and the one he made in running from me. I love all my children dearly, but like all children at times they need to be disciplined." He cast a fond glance at Lucien, who reacted by grovelling harder in the soggy dirt. "That is the nature of children, to stray from their path, and it our duty to correct them."

One of the thieves or assassins that surrounded the arguing group muttered "yeah, and we all know how ya do dat."

Jean-Luc cast a cold look around him, and whoever commented did not do so again. The Antiquary gracefully pretended nothing had been said, and continued his own speech. "My child erred in not taking your daughter immediately to me or Guild Master LeBeau, or even taking her back to the beginning of her own territory- you daughter erred in leaving her own ground in the first place. Is this not so?"

"Dis is so," said Marius coldly.

"Therefore I suggest that our children are both in equal error- it is a small inconsequential thing, this error, it is not really much to fight over. Why, if Thieves and Assassins fought over the disobedience of our children we would be in arms over litter dropped in the street!" There was a general rumbling among the surrounding Thieves and Assassins, mostly of agreement or embarrassment. Marius pressed his lips together, but nodded his head sharply in agreement. Jean-Luc just scowled. "This misunderstanding is not important enough to shed blood over- it is a better action to return to our homes and deal out whatever punishment we feel suitable upon the heads and backs of our children."

Jean-Luc looked as though he was thinking of something distasteful- probably the Antiquary. Nevertheless, he looked at Marius and said, "dis makes sense tíme. Fighting is pointless."

Marius snarled and looked fit kill Jean-Luc with his bare hands, but he did give his agreement. He gripped Belladonnaís hand, turned, and stalked out of the clearing, dragging her behind them. She twisted back to meet Lucienís demoinic eyes for the last time, but he wasnít looking at her. Instead he was gazing at his master with an expression of mingled fear and adoration, her father dragged her away before she even considered calling out. He did not speak to Jean-Luc, didnít speak at all except to his gathered assassins, and that was a short "follow!" which they did.

Jean-Luc glared at the Antiquary.

"What are ya up too dis time old man?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"What are you planning?"

"I plan nothing," said the Antiquary with a look of offended innocence.

"No, of course ya donít," drawled the Master Thief with heavy sarcasm. He looked at his lurking Guild people. "Go home!" they faded into the shadows and disappeared. Jean-Luc stepped up to the Antiquary, close enough for the men to feel each otherís breath on their faces. ĎListen to me, old man," he hissed, "whatever grand scheme ya tíinking up now, forget Ďbout it. Remember you are a part of my Guild on my sufferance and my sufferance only." He glanced quickly at Lucien, before he too stepped into the bushes and disappeared like the rest.

The Antiquary rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "No, Guild Master LeBeau, I am a member of your Guild on Candraís sufferance, not yours." The soft words went unheard. He walked up to Lucien who hid his face against the ground. The Antiquary dropped to his hells in front of the boy, and stroked the soft, red-brown hair with a gentle hand. With the other he gripped the pointed chin and titled the head so the red eyes met his. "Why, my little love," he said softly, "why are you frightened?"

Lucien licked nervous lips and trembled. He tried to avoid the piercing blue eyes, but his Master held his chin too tightly. "Master, Iím sorry I ran away!" he burst out.

The Antiquary raised his eyebrows and laughed softly. "íRan away!í" he repeated in an amused voice. "Oh, my child, do you not know by now you simply cannot do what I do not want you to?" He got to his feet, bringing Lucien with him. "Let us return home," he whispered, and spoke the spell that would materialise them in the midst of the Velvet Ministry.

As the trees of the clearing and the mouth of the tunnel began to fade away, Lucien had the thought of: if he wanted me to run away, then how much in my head is me and not him? He looked into his Masterís eyes and the thought vanished into the icy blue. Unbidden, another came, this one wistful and somewhat sad.

I wonder if Iíll ever see Belladonna again?


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