My favourite Italian vampire, Lorenzo, gave me the topic for day nineteen. Nostalgia, however pure and innocent, can also be a destructive force when we cling too tight to the memory of something long gone.
(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
Nostalgia. J R Manawa.
None the wiser to how much the highest bidder finally paid for the unicorn, Emmeline and Charon were quickly ushered around the back of the circular room and out a side door by a tiny little man who apologised profusely for the inconvenience that had been caused to them.
Charon tucked the gun into the back of his trousers as they went, keeping Emmeline ahead of him. The last thing Emmeline saw as they left the auction room was a girl in a white silk nightgown being led to the bidding platform.
The doors closed behind them, and the hall they now found themselves in was a mile away from the seedy strip club they had first entered off a dirty back alley in Soho. Without waiting, the tiny man led them down the plush green carpet, beneath crystal chandeliers, and between gold embossed walls, to a suite of rooms fit for a queen.
“Please, take a seat. Miss Angula will be with you shortly, she is just washing up,” he said, indicating to the huge Edwardian couch to the side of the lounge. He turned and marched straight out the door before either Charon or Emmeline could have pointed out that there was currently a huge black cobra residing on that particular couch.
Charon looked at the couch, and then at Emmeline in the aftermath of his departure.
“You can sit if you like,” she suggested, “I doubt a snake is much trouble for a man who can turn a gun into a tarantula.”
“That is a very venomous snake,” Charon said in reply, keeping clear.
“Naja is a sweetheart, he wouldn’t hurt anything bigger than a cat, unless I asked him,” said a voice behind them.
Charon turned swiftly, and Emmeline jumped as Angula closed the door with a click behind her and stalked into the room.
“Really?” Emmeline asked, in wonder.
Angula laughed, “Really,” she confirmed as she circled Emmeline once.
Although Charon remained silent, Emmeline was awestruck. Angula was the same woman she had glimpsed dancing with the cobra through the gap in the curtains as they made their way here. Having seen her completely naked, she appeared no less immodest now that a thin grey gown was wrapped around her form and tied tight at her waist, and certainly no less elegant as her swaying body circled Emmeline with fascination. On the couch behind Charon, the cobra had suddenly sat up, coiling on its own body and raising its head to watch.
“Charon, my sweet!” Angula glanced over her shoulder to acknowledge him before she turned back to Emmeline, “It’s been so long since we last passed ways, but, could this be a gift you have brought me? A peace offering perhaps?” Angula licked out her forked tongue with excitement, “I can see her, I can smell her, but I simply don’t understand! I’ve never smelt anything quite like her! She absolutely stinks of magic, but I don’t see it?! You must tell me more.” Each ‘S’ that passed her tongue hung on her lips a moment longer than necessary.
On the couch, the cobra began to sway, enthralled by the very sound of her voice.
“Angula, she is not a gift for you,” Charon said calmly, reading the horror on Emmeline’s face.
“Oh but she is so afraid, and so innocent. I could just eat her all up! Surely she is for sale? How much?”
Charon rolled his eyes, and the storm within them moved too, “She’s saying that on purpose. Stop reacting,” he told Emmeline.
“However,” Angula said with a coquettish grin, as she leaned forward and sniffing the locks of Emmeline’s hair, “there isn’t a price I wouldn’t pay for something like you,”
“Could you imagine what her creator would do to you?” Charon said smoothly.
“Why?” Angula looked up from her state of admiration, “who made her?”
“I cannot say,”
“Ahhh, then I know. What a nasty little game he has begun to play.” She seemed delighted by the knowledge. She looked Charon up and down, the auburn coils of her hair bouncing as she said, “Don’t tell me this creature here is the reason your father disappeared for so long and then turned up dead?”
Charon’s jaw tightened.
“Ahhh, so my sweet,” she circled behind Emmeline, and stroked her thin bronze hands down the sides of Emmeline’s head, shoulders and arms until she had Emmeline by the wrists. She rested her head over Emmeline’s shoulder and looked straight at Charon as she asked, “Why are you trusting a man in the employ of the one who wants to kill you?”
When Emmeline did not respond, she flicked out her tongue to taste Emmeline’s face. Her tongue was light and feathery, almost too light to feel, though Emmeline winced away from her. But she couldn’t go far, Angula had wrapped herself tightly around her body, “Shhhhh,” she whispered in her ear.
“Let me go,” Emmeline begged in a whisper.
“Not until he gives you the answer you deserve,” she replied, her tone accusing.
“My father was protecting her,” Charon said, not appearing particularly worried about Emmeline’s situation.
“Not good enough!” Angula’s grip tightened, “if my sources tell me right, and they usually do, that was the reason you sided against her in the first place!”
Emmeline gave him a pleading look, “Charon–” she begged, Angula’s embrace was strong.
“Because I want to find out why my father chose her over me,” Charon said, his voice quieter.
“Still not good enough! You could have done that from the beginning. I want to know why you dropped her in her enemy’s lap,”
Emmeline let out a small gasp as Angula tightened around her again.
Charon’s expression turned, “I told you I was angry,” His face darkened, and he was looking at Emmeline now instead of the snake woman.
“You would have let your nostalgia destroy you Charon? Memories are just that, memories,” Angula closed one long hand over Emmeline’s throat.
“Enough!” Charon lifted his hand against her, and Emmeline closed her eyes, bracing herself against the magic that would come.
But Angula let Emmeline go in one fluid movement and stepped away, giving Emmeline’s cheek a harmless pat before she turned and walked to her couch. The cobra twisted around her waist as soon as she sat down.
Charon was furious, “I came here for knowledge,” he spat the words out in anger.
“I know, and I allowed you to come in order to gain my own,” she replied vapidly.
“So you will not help us?”
She shook her head at Charon with a smile, “You know I would not help you. Even if I was more aware, or able to help, you know I am wiser than to get involved.”
“I could’ve taken you home,” he told her.
Angula tilted her head and blinked her yellow eyes, “My sweet Charon, I have no desire to go home. Even if I did, there is nothing on this planet powerful enough to carry me, except for your delicious companion here, and alas I can see that her’s is blood you will never allow to be shed, not matter how much you hate her for stealing your father.” She patted the couch, gesturing for Charon to come and sit beside her, which he did begrudgingly, and without responding to her statement.
Emmeline watched Angula’s hands as she stroked the head of the cobra. The closer Emmeline stared, the more she thought her skin resembled scales as opposed to human skin. She was so enthralled that she did not notice Angula watching her.
“She sees me,” Angula whispered, smiling with delight. She bent over and kissed Naja on the top of the snake’s flat head before she rose and went to Emmeline again, this time offering for Emmeline to take her hands. Emmeline did so without hesitation.
“I like you,” she said, “I cannot tell what you really are, but I like you, and I hope that you live. But alas, of life there is only one certain thing, and that is Death.” She sighed, “Thus, he will outlive us all, even his own immortality he will outlive,”