Chapter 16- What Walks the Night

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With hair made pitch black by the night, Silvia stood,  facing a house on a rise. Its wide windows tightly warded against the night with lacy curtains. A long curved drive headed down the hill to town, met at intervals by drives of other mansions. On the edge of the paved road, Silvia lurked at Halis' side. Her black hair whipped around her shoulders. She shone from amid plain garments like a star.

Halis did not. His dark skin faded with the dusk and left him nearly invisible in the night. Where she gleamed, he moved like the shadows children see lurking at their bedsides. If the face he wore was wonderful, it was clearly only a guise for evil. He stood behind her, the demon at her back.

"I want that one," Silvia said and lifted one moon-white hand to point at the mansion.

The dwelling was not the largest on the cliff overhanging the moon's cratered surface. Its gardens were its real beauty. They spread out on every side, even up to the drop-off to the moon's barren surface outside the protective air-shell of the colony. They were a rich man's gardens and a rich man's house.

The grounds appealed to her. She could relax and listen to the moon-sand pounding against the air shield while bathing in the moonlight. She'd watch dewdrops glisten on spider webs spun over unending months and bathe naked under the stars in the splashing fountain. Most importantly, the life inside her would be able to learn magic as she had from her own mother, by bending nature to its will.

Halis smiled. His teeth glowed as Silvia did. "The house shall be yours, my queen."

Silvia touched her stomach. It was not as flat as it had once been but just as hard. "It'll be ours."

She said it to herself as Halis was already climbing up the cliff. His human form discarded easily. Now a different form of blackness slunk among the true shadows. Silvia smiled brightly and tilted her head up to stare at the house she had chosen. The current owner was the only impediment. Soon he would not be.

Two birds with one stone, as the humans said. Halis would feed, and the house would be for sale.

Wealth was a simple matter. For years, Silvia had ferreted money aside. If Yahal had not been so backward, had used electronic currency, it would not have been possible. But paper was easy to hide to store and to exchange.

What she hadn't managed to save, well, that was easy enough. Silvia closed her eyes and thought of the first ship they'd boarded after their vacation to see the remains of Revia drifting in space. A small, sleek black vessel captained by a strange furry fellow. They used pods to put passengers in stasis, so the speed of the flight did not cause them illness. No one woke up, and when the ship came to harbor the officials labels the stasis pods as malfunctioning. Inside each was a corpse. But oddly money was withdrawn by each deceased passenger after the flight.

Halis said the furry captain tasted foul.

"Soon you will walk among us, little one." Silvia touched her stomach. The boy inside her kicked in response. "Do you feel the other child? Conceived the same night, I wonder... Sweet Marim will never survive but her baby might."

Silvia sank into the cover of trees that lined the drive up to the mansions on the hill. One there she wove stands of the blackness around her. Energy crackled around her, and her human form faded. Using all eight legs, she pulled herself into a tree and waited for Halis' return.

***

Darith reach out across the bed where Marim tossed and whimpered. The two months they'd spend apart before the wedding had altered her—and not for the better. These nightmares that hounded her gave neither of them peace. As his hand fell on her shoulder to wake her from the visions that haunted her, she turned to him.

Her large eyes swirled with inky black. Like Silvia's eyes, a shiver ran down him.

"Gods, Marim," he said.

He let go of her shoulder. How could he wake her from this?

Why is it doing this to her? The night filled his blood and like a web energy pulsed through him—in the distance Silvia lurked. The eyes within the web were Silvia's and even now the shadows danced with her form. The voice in the web was not Silvia's, but a hiss of thousands of voices.

In the night, he saw the web as it linked to him. But Marim was not attached as he was. She was trapped, stuck to the strands.

Darith set his hand on the still slight swell of her stomach.

Marim gave a screech and her hands flew up to her face, her nails scoring her pale flesh.

Darith grabbed at her thrashing hands and pulled her close against him.

'Give her back,' he said into the web. 'You cannot have her.'

The voices hissed their wordless hunger.

"Come back to me, Marim. Come back."

"The eyes," she screamed, struggling against him. "They watch me."

"I'm here. Come back to me." The words were a mantra. Gretta said they worked better than anything else she found. Darith faced Marim, still leaning his weight on her and holding down her writhing arms.

Black eyes stared back at him.

I can't help her. She can't hear me.

But the strands inside him tugged with her struggles. Disturbingly thrilling jolts of her fear coursed through him, but something else to. In the darkness he tasted Marim's adrenaline, her tears like an aphrodisiac.

That's not me. Those are not my emotions, no my desires. Yet the hunger flowed in him. A metallic tang hung in the air and it jolted through him.

"Marim. Marim, I'm here," he said.

As if responding to his wants, a strand of darkness deepened, widening like a road—he threw himself forward into the dark, tasting her, seeing her. He played the strand and moved closer to Marim. And found the baby there with her, half formed, just a mess of legs and eyes.

He knelt by them in this place that wasn't a place.

'You're hurting her. Let her go.' Darith reached into the web and stroked the infants head. Then with a sweep, he tore the strands that held Marim.

"Marim." He fell from the web back into his bed, into his crippled body. "It's me. Come back to me."

Beneath him, Marim's slight form relaxed, and she lifted her face. The self-inflicted scratches on her face were beaded with blood, as previous lines marked her neck and arms. But the eyes that stared out at him were no longer black. Nor were they Marim's eyes.

Her eyes glowed a bright yellow, and the tears that flowed from her eyes were starlight, filling the dark. For the first time since the party, Darith lost the pull of the web. Everything was gone but Marim and those luminescent eyes.

"Darith, the dark tugs me." Marim touched her stomach. "She doesn't' know any better. It isn't her fault Darith."

"I won't let any harm come to your child. You must rest."

"You can't save me. I—"

"Hush." Darith lay back on his pillow, tugging her against him. I can't remain like this. I can't help her—useless. A man with a wife he couldn't' touch, couldn't protect. I'll find a way.

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