After the destruction of Fiona Bishop, Ara had fallen.
Jayden carried her into the library. The same room where he spent one year waiting for her to heal from the last time she was harmed.
This time, it was different. The Brute was not responsible for harming her. They were caged, helpless and now at the mercy of a Brute’s return.
How things had changed, Jayden never expected to be waiting for a sign of Mazen’s compassion.
The first week Ara lay silent, still. It was perhaps the most peace he had seen in her. With no idea what to expect once she opened her eyes, he waited by her side.
Mazen could heal her, but without him around he had no idea what parts of Ara would need healing.
How does one recover from such a thing?
Then after one week, Jayden heard Ara scream.
She had awakened in a panic. Her words and sentences all running into each other. Making her speech patterns unrecognizable.
Jayden heard her call for Maze from the main hall of the church. He immediately went into the library.
Ara are you —
He stopped himself, realizing, there was something missing in her eyes.
She briefly glanced up at him, and then turned away and repeated:
Maze, every fifty years!
After desperately calling and reaching out for Maze, repeating the same few words “every fifty-years” an exhausted Ara would falter onto the bed.
Day after day, she would experience the same panic and remain mostly unresponsive to the presence of Jayden.
Then there were times Jayden asked her what she meant by “fifty-years”, Ara would briefly sit up look in his general direction, and gazing past him she would state:
What have you done with them.
With who Ara?
My husband and daughter. The Bishops, you are with them.
Then she would look away and lie down again.
Ara always spoke with such precision, the Ara in this room was confused and unable to maintain a conversation.
He tried to help her through the agony of gaining Mazen’s memories. Everything the Bishops had done to Mazen was in Ara’s mind now.
Memories which dominated her.
Jayden did not quite understand what Mazen had been through, to see Ara this way was all he needed to see the price they both paid.
Every fifty years.
Ara, what happened every fifty years?
They brought it all back to you.
Ara had a plan for everything, and she had contingency plans. Before the resurrection of Fiona, she explained to Jayden if she did not pull through this, and Mazen failed to return, there was one other way for Jayden to be free.
He argued with her, telling her he would never again do anything to bring her harm. Bringing her to her death was not part of his plan.
Jayden was a powerful being yet at this time he was at a loss.
Three months passed and not a single sign of Mazen.
Time was more of a hidden peril than meant to heal her.
Jayden continued the rain in order to conceal the sunlight from all of Midnight Hollow. It is much easier for a Brute to roam at any time of day under a cloak of mist and rain.
That Brute could heal Ara, but the longer he remained away it was uncertain how much he would be able to heal. It was the first time Jayden doubted Ara’s strength. Three months of no sunlight and still no sign of that Brute.
Mazen remained at Rose’s apartment for the last three months. No longer under the hemlock, his abilities fully returned. After the first month he’d influenced Rose to carry on with her daily life, wiping any history of Holly from her mind. Rose would leave her place to run the tavern, then return at night. She continued to bring blood from the local hospital, Mazen would take it without a word. The entire time they spent together there was silence. All Mazen seemed to do was look out the window. She was still cautious about him, even though in this time he never actually came near her.
With his abilities fully reinstated, he’d heard every word and seen every thought in her mind.
For three months, he’d been listening.
And then Mazen spoke to Rose.
Your savior has got a particular way of communicating.
What do you mean?
Haven’t you noticed the cloud cover and rain?
How do you know it’s from him?
A loud and clear message, from that mutt. Are you ready to meet your savior, little hemlock?
You’ll take me to him now?
You know what I don’t understand?
No. Why don’t you tell me.
In all this time, not once did you try to drink from me.
You are a Drinker. Your kind have proven to pay little attention to controlling the urge. I can think of two possible explanations for it.
Go on then, tell me what it is you still think you know of me.
It’s possible that harming me works against whatever it is you’re after in that church.
How do I know you are not setting me up to be trapped?
Is the Red Fox really in that church?
Why hasn’t he come out of there?
What do you mean he can’t?
Follow me, and you can ask him yourself.
What else is in that church?
You ask a lot of questions.
You reply to very few.
How is anything important to you, besides draining life? What else is in that church?
I’m collecting on a promise made.
There’s something else.
Was it something taken from you?
That’s enough talking.
Rose could see Mazen’s focus was now on the Bishop church.
It was the same concentration he’d given in the last three months as he looked out the window.
She begins to wonder if it’s possible for a Drinker to have interests beyond easing his undead biology.
H o w l o n g m u s t a F o x b i d e,
b e f o r e h e b r e a k s?
You weren’t wrong about Drinkers. We are opportunistic.
What are you trying to say?
You’re right to be cautious. Remember that in all your dealings.
What is that god-awful smell?
The scent of ancient Bishops being destroyed.
Who would do such a thing?
Ah, I see. You hold your savior with such admiration, yet you know little about him. You’ve got much to learn little Hemlock.
Why would the Red Fox have anything to do with dark magic, that doesn’t make any sense.
Drinkers aren’t the only ones capable of monstrous acts. Your kind is equally capable of turning against one another. It would do you right to remember that as well.
It is about time, where the hell have you been?
Ah, the mutt appears.
You were to return in a few days. It has been three months.
I don’t answer to anyone, especially not you. The agreement isn’t with you.
She has fallen ill, and needs healing. That was part of your agreement, was it not?
Ah, right. I doubt madness can be cured, even with my blood. Three months is a long time…she has gone mad hasn’t she?
How the hell! You have known this and still you did not return at once?
If you are incapable of healing her then why the hell are you back?
I said I doubt my blood would heal her. If there’s a chance of her seeing our agreement through, I suppose it’s worth the effort. But my efforts aren’t without cost.
She has already agreed to a lot in exchange.
Yes, but you haven’t given me anything in return for helping that Bishop witch and you.
What could you possibly want from me?
I’ll give her my blood, so long as you stay clear of that room for as long as it takes.
Why would I ever leave you in a room alone with her?
You probably shouldn’t. But you haven’t much of a choice. I could just as easily walk away.
I could shut you in here just as well.
Closing a door, that’s what you think will prevent me from walking out of this place.
No, but the minute you open it, the endless sunlight will return. It stopped you once before, it will stop you again.
My offer wont change. I’ll give her my blood, but you are to be nowhere in sight, you are to wait like a good pup until I’m done.
How do I know you will keep your word, and heal her instead of harm her?
You don’t. Though by now you must know I’m here to collect on what she promised.
Which part? The one where she gives you the ability to roam in daylight or the part where she spends the rest of her days with you.
All of it.
Now, do we have an agreement?
If you do anything to harm her again—
Get off it already. You’ve made yourself clear from the beginning. You’ll protect the witch at all costs…just as the Bishops intended. Neither one of us can be destroyed, yet you know why I’m different from you?
I can think of several reasons.
For one, I’m driven by what I am and not by who I am or who I should be.
I told her you would not change. Returning your memory, it would be lost on you.
Although the flame burns through my flesh, it’s but a fleeting sensation. It’s understanding what I am, that sets me apart. You remain hidden in that human vessel. Weakness is what you find at the bottom of not understanding what you are. Secondly, you might bring on the endless sunlight, but it will not wound me. And you, your wounds don’t heal without time or help. You can be harmed. You should remember that, the next time you threaten a Brute. Not all Brutes waste time on bargains.
Right, it is how you operate. The girl who came in with you, is she part of the bargain?
Finally, he asks about the little Hemlock.
Who is she?
Consider her a gift, from the Bishop witch. Now you have a little fox of your own. I hear there are plenty more.
Why does she not speak?
Ah, she’ll come right out of it, as soon as you let me through and into that room. Do we have an agreement?
I will let you through. If you harm Ara in any way, I will make your undead existence miserable.
Now be a good pup, and let me through.
I’ll do my best to heal her.
I n t o t h e S h r i n e a B e a s t G o e s .
As Mazen stands in front of her, he listens to her breathing, followed by reading her mind. Containing the memory not only of her own history, but also of Maze had proven to be too much, even for a Bishop witch. Then he is returned to what he is in this moment of time, the scent of her blood is as overwhelming as the day she walked into his cage. The Beast in him would like nothing more than to shred her to pieces just as he had attempted one time before…but Maze’s memories are not only in her but in him as well.
Maze had become this, to see her once again.
Maze was in control when he had chosen to become this Beast. Once he was imprisoned, Candace returned every fifty years and made Maze the same offer. Freedom but he was to stay away from her daughter. Each time Maze refused and Candace was left with only one recourse, strip the Beast of all memory and keep him imprisoned.
Three hundred years of memories taken and then returned, it was this Bishop witch who inadvertently turned him into a true Beast. The instant she returned his hunger, it is the Beast who was to become dominant.
Is there an impact of Maze’s memory now inside the Beast?
The time she walked into his cage, there was a part of his undead biology which led him to shred her to pieces.
Yet at the same time, another part forced him to stop. He had not yet made the connection, it was as if this body recognized her and it led him to want to be near her.
All memory of Maze, would never return who he was for he stands here in the crossroads of life. Maze would run to her and heal her without hesitation. The same Maze who forced the Beast to stop as he almost drank the last drop of her blood.
Are there traces of Maze still in this vessel?
An undead biology in a struggle with a body and mind recognizing the reason Maze died,
for Ara Frost was his wife.
It is true the Beast would not be able to leave the church without an attempt to heal the Bishop witch. As he thinks about the reasons he returned, images from Maze’s past continue to unbend in his mind. He takes off his overcoat and feels around the veins within his wrist.
And although he would rather drain the Bishop witch, on this day it is his blood that would spill.
Without taking his gaze off her, he digs his fangs into his wrist. Tasting the blood on his lips, the hemlock is no longer there.
She would not survive from poisoned blood.
Was it Maze who delayed?
He eases into the bed, by her left side. Images of Ara of the past flow through a Beast mind.
The marks on her face, they were not a part of her then.
He runs his finger along the length of her scar.
It is here the Beast realizes, that although it aches to resist the urge to shred her to pieces, she is no longer a Bishop witch…Ara is the name he heard over and over from the depths of Maze’s mind.
And so the blood of the Beast spills onto the witch. Thoughts of the past compete with the instinct to do as he did with Holly.
Maze pushes, the Beast turns away, restraining what is irreversibly intrinsic.
The last time he looked into her eyes, she had mistaken him for Maze. The Beast listens to her confused thoughts.
In them he finds Ara’s heart, exposed.
Her aversion, gone.
The day she walked into his cage, she maintained a clear and deliberate distance. Later she told him she felt nothing in his presence.
But now, the price she paid for destroying her family tree was to feel for the two of them.
Time was never meant heal…
It was the look on Ara’s face that forced his blood to freeze. Her touch on his forearm was too familiar. Instantly he pushes her hand away and speaks:
You should lay back down.
Maze, is it really you?
Don’t call me that.
Please do not, push me away. Not today. Just stay here next to me, for the only time we have.
Your time isn’t up yet. You’ll heal soon enough.
I know, and so will you. Please stay here a little longer. I do not want any of the games, the Beast plays.
I promise you, it‘s not why I returned.
I want Maze, if only for a few moments. Have you got his memories?
Yes, and those memories don’t belong to you.
I know that too. They are your memories now.
Yes. The marks on your face, they weren’t there in the past.
They happened the day I learned our daughter and you were taken.
And although it would be easy enough for the Beast to see into her mind, he refrains and instead listens to Ara explain the origins of the marks on her face.
There was relief in her expression. The failure in taking her own life, now provided comfort as it allowed her to have this moment in time.
Holding Maze’s memories meant he didn’t need to read Ara’s mind to know she wanted a sign that her husband was still there. The Beast remains close but refuses to touch her.
I did not think I would see you again. After you became this, you believed I would find you…
there was a time I was free to touch your face…but now…this version of Maze…
I can clearly see, he will always be dangerous. There is more Beast, than there is Maze.
As soon as Ara made that last statement “more Beast, than there is Maze ” he pushes her hand away and declares:
Those memories, they don’t belong to you.
You have the power to take them away, then do it.
Is that what you want?
Grasping her wrist tightly so as to keep her from touching him again, he utters:
Is it what you want…Ara?
This would be the first time this version of Maze had spoken her name. Her mind had been confused for several months, did she mistake inflection in his tone…or did the hallucinations continue even after drinking his blood. A memory enters her mind, one of Maze of the past who always found a way to be near her. In this vision, he silently reaches over while resting his hand on hers. Then he begins to stroke gently every crease and curve of her hand. There was never a need for Maze to voice affection, knowing that in a room full of people he would always find his way to her and express this one need, it was the best part of Maze.
He tugs at her wrist again, pulling her back into this moment in time. What she and Maze had, is gone.
You called me by name, not Bishop witch, but by name. Are there pieces of you in there, Maze?
Realizing what he’d said, he steps away from the bed. With his back to her, he reaches for his overcoat and slips it back on. While maintaining a distance he faces her and states:
Your aversion, it’s gone.
It was something I did to avoid feeling.
Stuck in this church, your feelings have grown for him. What good was the aversion then?
Jayden is not you, Maze.
I’m not Maze. You should stop calling me that. You thought giving me his memories would bring him back.
He remained in you after turning.
You haven’t the slightest what it is to tear apart an innocent life. Your Maze wouldn’t dare…I’d do it again, and again.
I do not understand. In these memories, he remained.
Existing in Bishop time changes everything.
The Bishops gave you false memories of being a murdering Beast, yet Maze was still there each time Candace returned.
Your mother was skilled at turning it off and on, but he knew who he was. Now Maze is gone and I fully understand what I am.
But before regaining his memory, you had never taken a life…
It’s why you came to me in the first. You recognized what I’m capable of.
Without memory, a hunger returned…your first kill…it was a few months ago?
I suppose I have you to thank for that.
Now, about those memories that aren’t yours. Do you want me to take them away?
No. They are all I have left, of Maze.
Why did you return, what is it you want?
I don’t, want.
Why did you come back?
To collect on what was promised. You do remember what you agreed to?
Yes. Is it the only reason you returned?
What you saw in my mind, it is what I am. Give or take a few days after I fully feed, the hunger temporarily subsides. So, yes, the only reason I’m here is to collect.
Giving you the ability to roam in daylight, I will see that through.
That’s only a part of our agreement.
What good is it to you, for me to spend the rest of my days with you?
Because you agreed to it. I help you destroy the Bishops, in exchange for what is left of your days.
What about her.
You agreed to help me find her.
I agreed to locate her and I’ve done just that.
For three hundred years, he remained Maze yet it took but an instant to bring out this Beast now in front of her. Realizing the weight of her actions and the agreement she had made. Spending the rest of her days looking into this vacant vessel without any traces of Maze, meant Ara’s heart would have time to repeatedly break.