Mac and Eliza got married on October 13, 2001, just down from The Point on the farm. Mac wore a white suit and Eliza looked surprisingly natural in a pretty pale dress that swirled around her ankles when she moved. Stephen’s face was solemn as he stood before them, saying the vows the bound them together as man and wife, vows that Eliza had made sure didn’t have ‘obey’ remotely located anywhere in them. Siofra and I stood by her side, while Uncle Angus and Glenn were next to Mac.
It was a small wedding, mostly family and a few friends. Bobby Lonetree, an old hunting friend of Mac and Eliza’s, and his girlfriend, Jenna, and their son, Paul, were there as well as a few of my grandparent’s friends, as we stood in the crisp fall air, the sun beaming brightly down on us.
After Stephen pronounced them man and wife, Glenn boomed, “About bloody time!” in a happy jibe that made everyone chuckle as the couple kissed.
It was a perfect day. No fights or arguments were had, even though some of the werewolves drank a little more than anticipated and my Grandmother had to quickly conjure up some ice to cool things off. Everyone had a great time, and all was happy.
My Grandfather’s friends, a married couple and another man, stayed the night in the already cramped house and I got the feeling they were there for a reason other than the wedding, but I didn’t ask.
The next day started off just as bright as the one before. Mac and Eliza had decided to not go off somewhere for a honeymoon, but wanted to spend time with the family instead. I noticed that Eliza didn’t eat anything at breakfast, but didn’t think much of it. She was a habitual early riser and since it was actually a brunch we were having because most of us had gotten up later than normal, I figured she had already eaten.
What I did find odd was that she wasn’t drinking her usual coffee. For the most part we all drank tea while in Ireland, but Eliza had never developed a taste for it. Grandmother kept a special store of coffee beans in the pantry for her new daughter-in-law, but this morning Eliza was nursing a cup of tea that was offered only to her and one that she made a face at every time she took a sip.
Neither did she eat anything at the late buffet-style lunch that Grandmother put out for us to help ourselves to when we felt hungry. My grandfather sat in a private huddle with his friends while Mac shared secret looks with Eliza, Glenn and Siofra. It was hard not to think something was going on, but I knew better than to ask. No one would tell me anything unless they needed me, using the old excuse that it was nothing for me to worry about. I decided to approach my grandmother since she was the one who was usually the most open.
I found her in the kitchen making cookies. I strolled in, pretending to be casual, as if I didn’t have a motive for seeking her out.
“You leave those cookies be for a few minutes longer,” she warned as she spooned dough onto a sheet. “They’re still hot and I’ll not hear you carry on when you burn your tongue.”
“Okay,” I told her with a smile as I reached into the cupboard for a cup for tea. “Chocolate chip?” I asked hopefully.
“Of course,” she replied with a grin of her own. “Warm my cup as well, will you darlin’?”
I nodded and filled my cup and hers then returned the kettle to the stove. “What are Grandfather and his friends talking about?” I asked as I took her cup and set it next to her on the table.
“Alaster has been working on a very tricky spell, and the others are helping him out a little bit later,” she said, quickly turning to switch out the sheets. “Nothing to concern yourself with, dear.”
“Does it have anything to do with that curse thing that Mac was talking to him about?” I asked, taking the plunge.
“Don’t worry yourself over it, lass,” Grandmother insisted, never quite meeting my eyes. “Braden and Alaster know what they’re doing,” she continued firmly as she used a spatula to scoop the done cookies onto a rack to cool. “Now why don’t you go find Paul and Ian for me? I’m sure they’d like some of Grandma’s cookies.”
I knew a lost battle when I fought one. I turned to leave the room, but stopped at the doorway and looked back at my grandmother. “If it involves Eliza then I am entitled to worry and I will no matter how much I’m told not to,” I said in a voice that was low, but respectful and full of sadness. “I’m supposed to be learning about Gaia and how she affects us, but how can I when I’m sheltered from the real life matters that maybe I could help with?” I left the kitchen and went to find the boys as I had been told to. After sending them in to the kitchen for their treat, I went for a walk to try to clear my head.
I was really beginning to hate this protective bubble that my family loved to put me in. The idea that I was twenty-one years old and treated like I couldn’t handle reality was so ludicrous that it made me mad most of the time. I felt the icy sting of betrayed at the thought that they all thought so little of me that I had to be kept out of what was going on around me.
Eliza was my best friend, my mother, the most important person in my life. If something happened to her and I wasn’t allowed to be there I would never forgive them. I didn’t care if it left me completely alone in the world.
I had had enough, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
About two hours after my conversation with my Grandmother, Uncle Angus suggested that a bunch of us take a drive around the area to visit some nearby sites. He made it a point that those us who weren’t native to Ireland should come along with him and Aunt Cara for the outing since they knew the best places that you couldn’t find in any of the tour books. So Bobby, Jenna, Paul and I got into our coats and assembled in the front of the house.
Siofra was going as well and asked if I would help her get Ian ready. I knew it was a diversionary tactic, but I played along, knowing nothing I did would get me the knowledge I wanted.
It was obvious that my grandfather and his friends were about to start whatever spell they had put together and they didn’t want the rest of us around when they did it. I was scared to leave, instinctively knowing that whatever was going on had something to do with Eliza and that I wasn’t being allowed to be around to see what happened.
We piled in my uncle’s van for the outing. I sat next to Siofra and Ian, but I mostly looked out the window, preoccupied by what was happening back at the house. I was vaguely aware of Uncle Angus and Aunt Cara as they told us about the different places we drove by.
“What’s wrong Corrine?” Siofra asked after a while. “You seem rather quiet.”
I didn’t want her to know that I was upset by whatever was happening to Eliza, so I looked at her and hoped that the small smile I made my lips curl into was convincing enough. “Just tired, I guess,” I lied. “It’s been a busy day.”
She looked at me then replied, “I suppose that it has been a busy past few days for all of us, hasn’t it?”
I nodded at her comment. “Yes. But I’m in Ireland and that makes everything a little better. I love the green and the flowers. It reminds me of home on the farm.”
Her expression turned serious. “Have you ever thought about staying here a while and studying with your grandparents?” she asked and the question surprised me. “I’m sure that they would love it. Glenn and I could help as well from time to time if you wanted.”
I didn’t know how to take her suggestion. Given the way the family tended to overprotect me, my first instinct was that the proposition was a set up to put me in a position where someone from the family would always be watching over me. Eliza and Mac no longer lived in Salem and couldn’t keep an eye on me so it seemed like it was a ploy to put me under someone’s attention. Eliza had mentioned once that I should leave Salem because of the Tremere threat, but I wasn’t about to leave Jared’s tutelage and I had told her as much.
I looked at Siofra for a moment, not sure how to react. “Not that I wouldn’t love to spend more time with them,” I started, hesitantly, “but my life is in Salem now. Jared is my teacher and I would never disrespect him by leaving. Gaia led me to him and I can’t question her wisdom.” I reached over then and touched her arm. “Thank you for your support but I’m okay. Going home to Bar Harbor and coming here helps restore my need for nature. I’m okay.”
I was afraid that she might be offended by my lack of enthusiasm at the idea, but her reply made me think that her suggestion was just her way of trying to help make things easier for me. “Well you know that the offer still stands at anytime,” she said with a smile, then looked at Ian to make sure he was comfortable.
“Thank you,” I said, returning her smile, then glancing down at my watch before turning to look out the window with a sigh. It was getting late and my anxiety over what was happening with Eliza came back as I watched the countryside go by.
My uncle stopped at the bay and we all exited the van to watch the sun set over the water, but I couldn’t let myself appreciate the splendor of the sight. We lingered there for about a half an hour before continuing our tour, but I was finding it harder and harder to concentrate on the places we went by or what my aunt and uncle told us about them.
As if on cue, Siofra piped up, saying that it was about time that we returned to the house and my Uncle Angus quickly turned to go back. It was dark by then and really hard to make out the landmarks we were passing by. When I glanced at her questioningly, she was quick to say something about the babies getting tired and that it was too dark to see anything anyway. The fact that they were all still pretending that nothing was happening made me angry, but I refused to comment on it.
We were about twenty minutes from the house so it was nearly nine when we got there. Ian was fast asleep when Uncle Angus shut off the van and all I could think of doing was to get into the house to see if Eliza was all right. In an effort to keep from running inside, I offered to carry my sleeping cousin and Siofra agreed. It took everything in me to walk steadily up the steps and into the house with the boy in my arms.
Mac, Eliza, Glenn and my grandparents were all gathered around the table in the kitchen, Eliza had a large plate of beef stroganoff sitting in front of her that she seemed to be wolfing down, and had cheese and bread on the side as well. She looked tired, but fine as all of them looked up when we entered. Mac had a plate in front of him, too, but it was small compared to the portion Eliza was working on. I stopped near the table and waited for someone to speak.
“Hello,” Mac said with a big grin as they all looked at us. “Buy anything good?”
I didn’t reply, waiting for a response from Eliza instead. Her mouth was full, but she managed to smile at me and waved to Ian, unaware that he was fast asleep.
“We didn’t buy anything,” Siofra replied as she took off her coat and hung it on the back of one of the unoccupied chairs.
Suddenly the worry I had been feeling throughout the entire day seemed like too much to deal with. I was relieved that Eliza seemed to be okay even though whatever they had put her through had drained her enough to leave her ravenously hungry. I felt tears of frustration begin to build in my eyes that I was determined not to let anyone see. I looked toward Siofra, careful not to let her see my eyes, and said, “I’m going to take him up.” I quickly left the room as I felt the tears as they threaten to spill down my cheeks.
Somehow I managed to make it up the stairs and put Ian to bed without letting the tears escape. I was doing my best to take all this in stride, to not let the fact that I wasn’t looked at as an adult and an equal member of the family bother me, but it was hard to act like the adult that I knew I had to be. I lingered upstairs for a few minutes and watched Ian sleep as I got a hold of myself, then went back downstairs.
Everyone but Glenn and Siofra were still gathered around the table when I came back to the kitchen. I took a seat next to Grandfather while they all made small talk, but he soon stood, saying that he wanted to spend some time with his friends before they left the next day. Mac and Eliza had finished eating and Grandmother began to clear the table as Mac looked at me. “Let’s take a wee walk, shall we?”
I nodded and stood, slipping back into the coat that I had brought back into the room with me.
“Shall we?” he asked, motioning toward the door. I nodded again and went over to the door to open it and stepped outside, waiting for Mac to join me.
To my surprise we didn’t go in the direction of The Point. We walked in silence for what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only a few minutes, before Mac stopped. He turned to face me and said, “Well luv, I promised you I’d tell you what the curse was, once it was lifted. I know you’re not happy about not being included, but had it gone wrong, I needed to be sure you would be safe.”
I didn’t understand what kind of danger I would have been in by just being there, but I contained my anger and kept a calm face as I looked at him. I was sure that there had to be a perfect explanation as to why they hadn’t wanted me there. That’s what I kept telling myself anyway.
“There is a Tremere ritual that is called the Curse Belated that I performed on Eliza prior to our encounter with Marbus,” he began as he watched my closely for my reaction. I stood looking up at him with my hands in the pockets of my coat, saying nothing and waiting for him to continue.
“It is a ritual that is designed to save a favored ghoul from death,” he went on. “It bestows a contingency embrace, should anything happen that takes their life.”
The expression on my face must have shown the confusion I felt because Mac stopped and glanced at the ground by his feet, then cleared his throat and continued, “The curse leaves blood from the vampire in the ghoul’s system. If the ghoul dies by any means, that blood makes them a vampire, childe to the person who performed the curse. We called forth some spirits and they had to remove the affected blood. Because of my blood line, Eliza would have come back a vampire with no memory of her life before her death.”
That I understood all too well. “So she wouldn’t have remembered any of us?” I asked.
“She would in time, if she met us. Remember how I was getting my memory back?” he asked. “It would be the same.”
I felt a little put out that he had actually performed a ritual on Eliza that would have deliberately left her incapable of knowing any of us. I was silent for a moment as I stepped to my right, using the time to take in what he had just told me. It was easy to see that he had the best of intentions, but I had to admit that I didn’t like the prospect and was glad that he had removed it.
Even though it was no longer an issue, I still felt a need to know one thing. “Did you ever remember everything?” I asked. I was looking out ahead of me, my hands still in the pockets of my coat. I asked because I wanted to know if I would have ever had Eliza back if something had happened to her after Mac’s death.
He chuckled slightly. “Not until this life. But I would have, in time. The only things left were from very long ago.”
I nodded as I pulled my hands from my pockets and crossed my arms over my chest. It had been only a year since they had found each other and if in that time Mac had been able to remember most of his life from before his embrace, then I guess it didn’t seem such a burden to be suffered through.
“It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, really,” I said. “Eliza assured me that she wouldn’t do anything to hurt herself after you were killed and now I see why. I can also see why you would want it removed now that you aren’t a vampire anymore, but why all the secrecy?” I turned my head to look at him. “Why did you wait until now to tell me about it?”
He looked slightly uncomfortable. “If something had gone wrong, and she had turned… she would have tried to feed. And we would have had to contain her.”
I frowned. “What do you mean ‘contain’?”
His tone was very serious. “Magick, stake through the heart,” he paused to look down at his feet. “And if we couldn’t contain her…” he trailed off and fell silent.
I felt as if he had slapped me. My arms that had been crossed over my chest dropped to my sides as I took a couple of steps away from him. “You would kill her?” I asked in astonishment.
“As a last resort,” he said lowly, almost chiding, “and only to prevent the deaths of others. Like your Grandfather or Uncle Glenn. Or your Grandfather’s friends, who took part as strangers to Eliza as a favor to an old friend.”
I felt slightly numb as I let what Mac just said sink in. After a minute I met his eyes and said, “And it’s done now? It worked?”
His head bobbed once. “Aye.”
Relief washed over me. It was over and done with now and it didn’t matter what might have happened, only that we no longer had to worry about it. I looked at Mac again and took a deep breath. “Then I guess the rest doesn’t matter right?”
He took a tentative step toward me and asked, “The rest?”
I closed my eyes as I turned away from him and took a couple of steps away. “I understand that you hoped to spare me from what could have happened to her and I thank you for that. Given the choice, I would have rather been there to be with her if for nothing else, but what’s done is done. She’s okay now, right?” I looked over my shoulder at him hopefully.
“Yes, she’s fine.”
I felt better about the situation, but I was still irritated at being kept from participating. I gave Mac a small smile and took a deep, even breath, trying to let go of my lingering feelings of hurt. “I’m glad. Thank you for removing the curse.”
“It was my fault the curse was laid in the first place,” he said, his voice full of remorse and he wasn’t looking at me.
I shook my head. “But with the best of intentions from the beginning, I’m sure.”
“Yes, but intent only goes so far, luv. The fault is still my own.”
It was odd for me to see him so full of remorse about something. Mac was a very strong and proud man and I had never seen him apologize for anything. I met his gaze and smiled, and visibly relaxed a little. “At least no one can say that you aren’t honorable,” I told him with a tinge of dryness as I tried to lighten the mood. I moved closer to him, my hands slipping into the pockets of my coat because it was chilly. “You can only be faulted for loving her enough to want to take care of her. It’s the same for all of us.”
“I’m glad you understand and forgive me,” he replied, his tone making it hard for me to determine if he was still blaming himself. The night was getting colder and even though he didn’t seem affected, I was beginning to feel the chill and shivered slightly.
“It’s not for me to forgive,” I told him as I moved closer and put my head on his chest, my arms around his waist. “But thanks for explaining.” I felt his arms go around me and soon I felt the warmth of him begin to push away the cool, autumn air. I lifted my head and looked up at him. “Let’s go back to the house.” We walked arm in arm and I hoped that this was the last secret that lingered from his life as a vampire.
Of course the Tremere were still a very real threat, but for now they didn’t know where Eliza was and more importantly, they didn’t know that Mac was back from the dead. These were two very important facts that couldn’t be allowed to slip out when I was in Salem. Even one hint of the truth could leak back to the vampires of the city and I knew enough about them to know that they wouldn’t stop until they had my parents dancing in the palms of their hands again.
We all had to be very careful.
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