Chapter Thirty-One: Nootau
"Ja," Nootau answered with a choked cough.
The man rolled his eyes, nodded, and went back to his work, seemingly satisfied.
But the interaction left Nootau no longer a hundred percent sure he could make his plan work. You can. How was he supposed to make Dario come with him? Speaking English would be a dead give away he wasn't the man they thought he was.
A deep rolling laughter echoed in his mind. Don't worry, walker. We have this covered. You will have blood.
Endorphins flooded Nootau's body, making it sing in anticipation. Yes. Ahanu would be avenged this day.
And rather simply too. No one paid him any attention as he wandered toward the back of the lab.
How often did the castle have emergencies? The lack of concern felt rather odd. Like they found the emergency mundane and bothersome more than worrisome. Or maybe they thought nothing bad could happen.
Dario Fassnacht was about to find out otherwise.
Everyone had their heads down, focused on their computer or some kind of paperwork or reading. No one gave him a second glance. They should be staring. Don't they see the soul stealer in their midst? The fake?
Each stomp of his feet sounded horribly loud to Nootau's ears, his legs dead weight. If he didn't hear the boots as he walked along he would've though he was quiet as a mouse. Except he wasn't.
But not a soul glared at him in annoyance.
Boom. The floor trembled beneath him.
Again no one looked up.
Maybe his legs were shaking, not the floor.
Losing your nerve, walker?
Nootau blinked, looking down. When had he gotten to Dario's desk? The bastard was more handsome in person than his photos showed. Nootau hated him even more. Evil should not be deceptively handsome.
"Uh." All Nootau wanted was to decapitate the asshole on the spot. He couldn't see beyond the rage turning his vision red. The heavy sludge drowning him washed over Nootau making it hard to think straight. The blackness choked him. Voices rose to meet his the empty fields in his minefield.
"Bist du in Ordnung?"
Useless, walker. Let the professionals take it from here. "Ja, Herr Fassnacht. Hast du eine Minute?"
"Ist es Dr. Bellamy wieder?"
Dario sighed, making Nootau wonder what he agreed to, because that was all he understood. He knew it was the body talking, but it didn't feel like his actions. They were not of his spirit. Thought the giddiness he shared inside him couldn't be denied. The eerie experience of having a conversation while watching it happen hardly registered compared to the glee of having Dario within his grasp after all the hard months searching for an answer.
Soon, blood split for blood. And Nootau would revel in the taste of it.
After another hefty sigh, Dario put his computer on standby and stood. "Götter, ich hasse dieses Arschloch."
"Jeder tut es."
Agreeing with a grunt, Dario fell into step with Nootau. No one gave them a second glance as they left the lab. Glee danced inside Nootau, lifting him up. Revenge really was sweet.
* * * * *
Blood covered Edwige's hands. Her love's blood. Aegeus' life-force bleeding out between her fingers. The dark scarlet color a beacon of distress rather than the imagery of love. But his heart still beat. That much she had to remember. A steady thump-thump as the doctors worked to keep his heart pumping.
"Frau Lambros, your hands."
Edwige pulled on the dark spaces, tugging, weaving, using it to help keep Aegeus from coming apart underneath her.
"Please, Edwige, we need to be able to operate on the wound."
Operate caught her attention. Edwige blinked a few times and glanced up, hands firmly in place. Concerned brown eyes met her gaze. The doctor dipped his head.
"Frau Lambros, Aegeus is stable. We need to operate on that gunshot wound."
"Right, of course." But it was hard to draw her hands away.
"We will take good care of him, we promise," the doctor said.
Edwige took a shaky breath and nodded. Slowly she lifted her hands. Small streams of bright red blood weeped from the wound. It took all her strength of will not to press her hands down again. A blue-latex covered hand reached over to prod at the wound.
"Aegeus will recover. We promise."
A nurse moved beside Edwige. "Let's get you washed up."
"Yeah," she replied, allowing the nurse to lead her away.
They shouldered through the swinging doors, the hum of computers reaching Edwige's ears. She looked around, searching. The room had desks and computer stations with equipment—but no Aegeus. A wave rushed over Edwige and she wrapped her arms around her stomach. She squeezed, but it wasn't the same--because it's not Aegeus, or Nootau--which reminded Edwige.
"I need Nootau. To find him," she said, her voice loud in the room.
"That we can do, Frau," said a familiar voice.
Edwige found herself with a face full of tall, glassy pale banshee. The knight who helped Mal get Aegeus down to the operating room.
"But first, maybe you wash your hands?"
Edwige jerked, looking at her hands. All the blood. "Right, uh, sink?"
"Through here, Frau."
Edwige walked through a doorway into the surgical prep room. Several large basin sinks were on one wall. She made a beeline for them, then pressed the foot lever down hard, water immediately creating a waterfall out of the faucet. The cold liquid shocked Edwige when she dropped her arms under it.
She gasped. "Fuck."
Hot tears rolled down her face and joined the blood dripping into the basin. Deep burboun stained the silver, only broken up with splashes of tears. Edwige scrubbed her hands and arms hard, the soap spreading over in thick layers.
The day had gone to shit. This was not how it was supposed to go. Aegeus shouldn't be laid out on an operating table with bullets inside him, and Nootau... Gods Above and Mother Earth Below... The pain he'd wrapped himself in felt unbearable. The darkness surrounding him made her worried.
"Fuck." If he did something he couldn't take back later... "Fuck."
"Frau," the knight reached over to her and gathered up Edwige's hands. "You're clean darlin'. Don't you rub yourself raw."
"Here." The knight pushed a towel into her hands. "Dry up and we'll go get your third."
"I'm Bernard Baqueris, Frau."
"Edwige. You're Akemi's?"
He barked out a laugh, a warm rumbly one. "No, Frau, Akemi is Jariah's."
Edwige nodded. "True, but you're one of her knights?"
"Ja, Frau. Knight of Jupiter at your service." Bernard gave her a snappy salute.
"I need to find Nootau."
"That means going up into the skirmishes, Frau."
His dark eyes burrowed deep into her soul, searching.
"He's not... himself," she said finally. "I don't... I can't..."
Edwige shook her head.
"You think he's gonna cause harm, Frau? He's a walker, ja?"
"You think he's gonna bein' wearin' skin?"
"I do." It cracked her chest in two as she admitted her fears. It was the worst thing she ever had to admit. "We need to stop him before..."
Bernard nodded. "You say he's not of right mind?"
Edwige nodded. "Akemi was trying to find him a Healer, a specialist to help."
"Maybe it be better if I go alone, Frau."
"I can feel him, can you?"
To his credit, Bernard didn't pretend he could. "No, but I don' wan' your Third hurtin' you."
"Nootau would never hurt me," Edwige said assuredly. "In fact, I may be the only one who can stop him."
"All right, Frau. We do it your way." Bernard drew out his sword and a dagger. "But you stay close, ja?"
"Promise," she replied then asked, "Where's my pack? We may need it."