The town square of Vaxen darkened
As the tree line swallowed the evening sun.
Lilian hurried out of the inn,
Driven by the nameless fear she’d felt inside.
The square was nearly empty now
As the good folk of Vaxen fled the coming night,
Fled the unseen evil stalking the town,
Fled with an urgency even they could not have put into words…
And then she froze.
The Cardinal came across the square, toward her,
Staggering, lurching, wheeling drunkenly,
His eyes wide with terror;
His mouth agape, moving without speaking;
His arm outstretched toward her, reaching blindly
Although she knew for sure
He couldn’t see her.
She raised one hand to her mouth;
Never before had she seen her mentor
In such a wretched state as this.
The Cardinal stumbled at her feet,
Falling to one knee as
She tried her best to catch him.
He slowly lifted his head and then,
His eyes widening in recognition at last,
He clawed at her arms, pulling her face to his,
His mouth forming
Words that wouldn’t come
Until at last, barely above a whisper he rasped,
“L-L-Lilian, please h-help m-m-me!”
She held his face, trying to calm him,
Trying to ease his fear as she pled,
“Cardinal, what can I do? What has happened?”
But his eyes widened again,
Looking past her, seeing an evil
Only he could see,
His voice reduced to gibbering nonsense.
Lilian knelt before him, tears filling her eyes
As she stroked his cheek.
Murmuring softly, a mother to a frightened child,
She did her best to reach inside the prison
She didn’t understand… but to no avail.
She closed her eyes and said a prayer,
So intent upon the Cardinal that she didn’t hear
“What a shame, my dear Lilian.
And what a waste of pity
On such a wasted life as his!”
Startled and confused, she tried to place him
As she saw his face. A glimmer of recognition…
“Mr. Chase, isn’t it?”
He merely smiled. “Hello, Miss Devin.
A lovely evening, all the more so for your presence.”
“Mr. Chase, can’t you see? The Cardinal is ill.
He needs your help! Won’t you help him?”
Again the smile. “My dear, my dear,
I think I’ve helped him quite enough already.”
Suddenly she saw,
As if her eyes were opened for the first time.
She tried to back away but
He merely said, “No, Lilian. Please stay.”
Despite her best efforts, she did.
Chase smiled at her again.
“Lilian, my dear, because you asked so sweetly,
Perhaps there is something I can do to help –
Not for him, you see, but for me…
With that he crooked a finger underneath the Cardinal’s chin
And drew him to his feet, with little effort,
Then looked him in the eyes.
The broken man’s stupor broke as he saw
Chase’s mirthless grin, and he tried to draw back;
Chase’s finger was sufficient to restrain him.
“Jarvik, my old friend,” he crooned,
“I have need of a messenger… and I’ve chosen you.”
He leaned close to the Cardinal’s ear
And whispered something that caused Jarvik to flinch;
Then he said, “Hurry, boy. Deliver your master’s message
To the Father and his dog.”
As Jarvis lurched off into the deepening gloom
Chase touched Lilian’s chin and lifted her to her feet.
“We have much to discuss, my love,” he said quietly.
He was stunned to feel the sting of her palm
Against his cheek. A flash of anger crossed his face
She froze as he merely gritted his teeth
And clinched his fist. She winced in pain.
She winced… but still managed a defiant sneer.
Chase laughed. “You have spirit, girl. I like spirit.
Breaking it is so much fun.”
He turned and motioned her to follow;
Against her will she jerked along behind him.
“Come, my dear. Come and await our guests.
They have much to answer for.”