The Cursed of House Whoticore vignette Part Two – Last Chance Lost
The news from the Carekeeper had shaken Young Jim “Helios” Solare to the very core of his being. Uncertain what to do in light of this news, he politely excused himself to take a break to go into town for lunch, though it was mostly to digest this terrible turn of events and rethink his plans.
After finding a small cafe on the outskirts of Mountainville, but not far away, Jim withdrew to a patio table, nursing something non-alcoholic, but mostly staring into the glass in utter helplessness.
After a time, other emotions surfaced; shock, anger, pain, fear, confusion all warred in his head and all overshadowed by sheer disbelief at the turn of events against him.
Jim had asked Karl what ‘soul erosion’ meant, having never heard the term before. It wasn’t a magickal reference, it turned out, but one that had the most terrible implications for its unfortunate victims. And while he could not have wished a better, more agonizing death upon Loki Whoticore, it was only justice if one believed the soul survived after death. Jim wasn’t sure he did.
Still, whether it existed or not, it was firmly believed by both the Carekeeper and the madman’s family that Loki had something terminal and that Jim’s time to get answers, vindication or any form of satisfaction at seeing the evil man die was now pigeonholed into a very short window.
So, within several hours, Mr. “Helios” found himself back at Mountain Sanitarium, again in the wing reserved for Loki, in a seat before the glass, staring into the impassive face of his enemy.
The “animal” of his nightmares had been much different in person from what the head of House Solare had expected. Loki Whoticore cut the most regal, impressive figure Young Jim had ever seen. He could never have faulted his daughter Serena for having picked such a handsome specimen on the surface – sadly she was still too young to have judged what evil lurked beneath its normally pale skin, beautifully sculpted face and well-toned body.
Apparently, Loki was also an impatient specimen. He waved a hand in Jim’s direction. “So, Solare, ask your questions. I haven’t got all day.”
“No, you have maybe two at the most,” Jim replied, surprised and inwardly pleased at the look of discomfort that came over the larger man’s face. At last he had an edge over the brute.
“So Karl told you,” Loki grunted. “Not surprising, but inaccurate, I assure you.”
“Oh, I don’t think so, ‘Lord’ Loki,” his guest shot back. “I may not believe your soul is eroding – mostly because I don’t believe creatures like you have a soul to begin with, but I do believe what my herbal training tells me. And it does confirm that something rather disturbing is happening to you.”
Loki grunted again, crossing his arms over his chest in silent defiance of Jim’s opinion. “‘Herbal training’, psah! An inferior art to the new sciences of mind and body we stand upon the precipice of.”
“I don’t need your ‘science’ to tell me why your fingernails are falling out, your skin is yellowing and your teeth are loose,” Solare pointed out. “Your immune system’s stopped working, as well as your liver, and if the tremor in your hands is any indication, your nervous system’s breaking down as well.”
The House Head’s eyes narrowed at the observant man. “What of it?” he replied steadily.
If Jim had thought his skills at diagnosing patients from visual queues would impress the rival housemaster, he was disappointed. “It’s a pretty horrible way to go, Loki. Not the way I would choose.”
Loki eyed him sharply, smiling slightly. “Do you offer me a better way? Those little bits of grass in your possession, perhaps? If you are who I think you are, you’d rather my molecular structure fall apart from this soul affliction.” He leaned forward, hands flat on the top of the desk. “Think it fitting revenge better than you could ever orchestrate.” He sat back. “Compassionate healer, hah!”
“Apart from your lack of qualifications to judge the character of another, who do you think I am?” Jim challenged him.
“You could only be Serena’s father,” Loki shrugged. “No one else would dare face me down, in my own territory and with the gall to believe he could exact revenge for something he imagines was an affront to his child.”
Jim knew he should keep his temper, but the beginning of anger blazed in his green eyes. “‘Imagines’? You’ve got some damn nerve, Whoticore.”
“You came here for answers before executing me, Lord Solare,” Loki interrupted abruptly, subtly pointing out Jim’s refusal to use Loki’s title and how crass he thought it was. “You better ask your questions before Karl comes in here and throws you out to save our family’s face.”
“I’m not a ‘Lord’,” Jim said sourly. “Only an arrogant sonuvabitch like you would take such a title and keep it after what you did to my daughter.”
Loki actually laughed. “We are both ‘Lords’ of our respective houses, Jim – oh yes, I know your name. Serena spoke of you fondly. As to the title, we are the guides and guardians of Whocate’s bloodline on both sides of Her family. Demigods are we. The title is fitting. You just think it makes you better than us that you are too humble to take it for yourself.” He smirked at Young Jim’s dismissiveness of his attitude. “But we are wasting precious time, Solare. What questions burn you that you dared come here to ask me?”
“Why?” Jim asked simply. “And why the spell? What evil have you cast upon my daughter? To force her to conceive some abomination is – “
“- a miracle, Solare,” Loki said quietly. “She is carrying a miracle.” His smugness fell away for a moment and he looked lost in the pride of a father in his soon-to-be-born child. “Both our houses have lost the ability to bear any more children, but one more most be born if our families are to not only survive but be forgiven by our mother goddess.”
Jim shook his head. “You deluded fool. Whocate was a witch, a demoness of death whose physical incarnation on this dust spec only brought evil and suffering upon everything she touched!” He stood up, no longer seeing a point in conversing with Loki. “There’s nothing further I want to hear from you. Enjoy your death.” He turned to go.
He expected a parting barb from the dying man. What he heard he did not expect.
“Take care of Serena’s daughter, Solare. She is more precious than you can possibly comprehend.”
Jim turned quickly around, hatred blazing now more than ever in his eyes. “You gave her a daughter on purpose? You bastard! That makes what I have to do even harder!”
Loki’s cheek twitched, finally a sign of fear, Jim thought in satisfaction. “What are you going to do?” he asked.
“That baby will never be brought to term, Whoticore,” Jim said flatly. “I’m going to abort it as soon as I return to Moonville.”
Now it was Loki’s turn to do something Jim did not expect. He grinned, made even uglier by the now obvious decay of more and more of his teeth. The grin was not nearly as disturbing as how fast the Whoticore male’s physical deterioration was becoming. The head of House Solare could see its acceleration in the past few hours alone. “You can try, Solare,” Loki taunted, rasping. Apparently, his vocal cords were now being affected as well. “That child is protected by magic you can’t even begin to comprehend – and by the goddess herself!”
“I’ll find a way around it,” Jim countered him. “You can count on it.” He walked towards the door.
Behind him, Loki yowled in rage, slamming his fists against the glass. He screamed something in another language, one Jim had never heard before, yet incomprehensibly he understood it immediately. *Karl, stop him!!!*
Jim tensed for a fight, but no resistance came as he walked through the doorway, back down the hall. Strangely he met with no one – the Carekeeper Karl was absent and no one else challenged him as he strode with a grim, determined purpose towards reception.
He passed through another doorway when he was hit with a mild wave of dizziness. His determined expression faded slightly. He looked around, uncertain for a moment where he was.
Oh no, memory dampening…
Jim panicked, recalling Karl had told him one doorway had been cast with a memory erasure spell. But that only applied to Loki, right?
He forced himself on, fighting to keep his mission, his purpose in the forethoughts of his mind. He wasn’t going to go down easily.
The corridors blurred, but Jim clung to the walls, his memory kept fading and he fought it with every ounce of his will. He came to the heavy oak and steel door, not sparing a thought as to how he would get through it for fear the memory of what he needed to do when he escaped here would be taken from him by such distracting thoughts.
Then, incredibly, the door opened from the other side. Karl stood beyond it.
“You – aren’t going to stop me,” Jim growled, anger keeping his purpose alive within him.
“If Lord Loki wishes the child to live, Lord Solare, it must live,” the Carekeeper told him without anger or judgment. Of course he knew who Jim was. He must have been listening in the entire time. “He created her for a destiny – “
“Bullshit!” Jim growled. “Any purpose will be of his own sick agenda!” He was almost to the man’s throat. He would kill him if that’s what it took to escape this Tartarus-bound place!
“Why isn’t his memory gone?” came a man’s voice behind the Carekeeper.
“Some witchery on their side of the bloodline, no doubt,” another voice, an older woman’s this time.
“Lethe protect me, you dogs,” the herbalist cursed, seeing the outlines now of three people behind Karl – two men and a woman. “I will never forget and I will never let this child live!” They were his last words before he felt a tingle of magick wash over him, then darkness.