Several hours passed before Marie – or rather, the Matron – came to Rebecca’s room. As if to make Rebecca’s situation clear, she entered without knocking. She crossed the room quietly and sat in the other armchair, across from Rebecca.
“Have things changed much since you’ve been gone?”
She must have heard about her walk earlier. “Not really, though you being in charge is different.”
Marie’s face smiled; the effect was unnerving. “I heard you ran into Phillip.”
Was that a threat? Marcus had said Phillip would get in trouble if he was seen with her. “It wasn’t his fault. I ran over to him; he tried to avoid me.”
“It’s alright; I know. He won’t be punished. We want him to stay away from you for your safety. We don’t want him to frighten you again.”
Would it help to explain that she had asked him for help? That her leaving wasn’t his fault? Rebecca decided it didn’t matter. Phillip helped her leave; who instigated it wouldn’t change anything. Did they really think he convinced her to leave, though? Did they really not understand that she had been trying to escape?
Marie said nothing until Rebecca’s attention returned to the room.
“Now that you’ve come back, when should we perform the ritual? I don’t want to rush you, but it wouldn’t do to wait too long.”
“What?” Even though she had expected something like this, it still surprised her.
“The ritual. You and I will join, and Marie can once more fulfill her role as your . . . excuse me, our assistant.” There was no pretense now; it was certainly the Elder’s voice.
“But why? You and Marie are already joined.” Rebecca felt guilty as soon as the words left her mouth. Her friend did not deserve this fate. But neither did she.
“She has been an acceptable substitute, but she isn’t really an ideal host. You and I will be a much more fruitful pairing.”
Rebecca tried to focus on all she had gained, all she had accomplished in the last decade. “I refuse. I do not want this. I will not become your puppet.” It was a resolve she had carefully nurtured for years, something the Elder would not recognize.
It did not take very long for him to recover. “I, I, I… You seem to have forgotten that we are all family. It’s not all about what you want. It’s about what is best for the everyone. You won’t be my puppet. We will guide our family together.
Rebecca had to bite back a humorless laugh. “Still… I am my own person now. I will not simply cave in to your demands.”
He considered her words for a moment. “You have changed. I wonder how much. For instance, do you still care about Marie? Or have you left your feelings for her behind, too?”
A knife appeared in the Elder’s hand . . . Marie’s hand. Slowly, the tip was pressed into Marie’s left forearm and drawn upwards to the elbow. Crimson followed as blood welled up along the cut. It didn’t look very deep, but the scene was horrible.
Immediately, the knife pulled back.
“What are you doing?!”
“A simple demonstration of what will happen if I remain in this girl. And rest assured, you will watch every moment.” Marie’s mouth smiled as the rest of her face was twisted with terror. The Elder was letting enough of her through to drive home his point.
“Why?” It was a plea, but Rebecca already knew it wouldn’t reach the Elder.
“I’ve already told you. You and I will be much better partners. I would prefer not to lose someone who has given so much for our community, but I need you to know what is at stake.”
There were many things Rebecca had prepared herself for in this moment. She had been certain she could resist the Elder. However, she was not ready to watch Marie mutilate or even kill herself.
“Alright. I’ll join with you. Just leave Marie alone.” Her voice was little more than a whisper.
“Good girl. When you see everything we will do together, you’ll be glad you made this decision.”
With those words, any hope she might have had, died.