Man Friday

Defending Sovereign, Church, and Country from the Forces of Darkness

The origin story of Sir Differel Van Helsing did not end with the previous story, "Life of Duty". Not only does it continue beyond the funeral for Mr. Mistoffelees, there is also a break between the time she spends recovering from her ordeal in the infirmary and the funeral itself. This break lasted almost a week, and was not uneventful. This story describes what happened in that time.

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What does not kill me, makes me stronger.
— Friedrich Nietzsche [paraphrased] 1888

Differel awoke. Her tiny portion of the convalescence ward was dimly lit by a single fluorescent lamp above and behind her head. One of the nurses stood beside the IV holding an empty syringe. She must have just injected me with something. That was probably what woke her up.

She tried to turn her head to ask for a drink of water, and discovered that she couldn't move. Her heart raced as she realized her body was completely paralyzed except for her eyes. She couldn't cry out; she was helpless.

"Ah, you're awake."

That voice; I know it from somewhere.

The nurse stepped into her field of vision, and her gut clenched when she recognized her as the nurse Mandy hired to look after her stricken father. The same nurse who tried to infect her with the embryonic Fomorian!

"I hadn't anticipated that, but perhaps it's fortuitous. You should know what's going to happen to you. It will make your demise all the more devastating."

She moved off to one side out of her field of vision. "I've injected you with a paralytic. Not enough to stop your breathing, just to keep you quiet." She reappeared by the IV and held out another syringe for her to see, this one filled with an amber fluid. "This will stop your heart, but leave no trace. Even after an autopsy, the only conclusion a doctor could reach will be that your heart gave out due to your injury. Your staff may suspect foul play, but they will have no proof. In any event, once you're dead, the Vampire will be released, and without him there'll be no need for the Caerleon Order. If it'll give you comfort, consider this: you will never have to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, for your hour upon this stage will have come to its end."

She grasped the IV line and poised the needle against the injection port, in preparation of pushing it in.

Dear God, I've got to do something! Vlad! Where are you?!

Even as she inserted the needle, a burst of shadow appeared behind her. A red-gloved hand grabbed the syringe hand and forced her to let it go before she could depress the plunger. Vlad then dragged her away from the IV as he secured her arms behind her back.

"Let me go! Help! The Vampire's trying to kill me!"

The curtain that closed her bed off from the rest of the ward was pulled aside and LCpl. Holt looked in. When he saw the nurse in Vlad's grip he pulled his pistol and aimed for his head.

"Let her go!"

"No," he replied in his deep, resonate, bass voice, "she wishes to kill Sir Differel."

"That's a lie! I'm trying to save her life! If she doesn't receive that injection in the next few minutes she'll die!"

Differel could see that Holt was uncertain, but she figured he would believe a Human over a Vampire.

"Ma'am, is this true?"

Bloody hell, I can't respond!

"She's unconscious. Please, there isn't much time left!"

"She gave her a drug to induce paralysis. Sir Differel is very much awake, but unable to speak."

"That's another lie!"

"Listen, I understand you were locked away for thirty years, but medicine has advanced considerably in that time. A syringe doesn't mean it's lethal."

"You fool. I heard her gloat of her intentions. She said the injection would stop her heart."

"What?! No, I said no such thing; I didn't say anything!"

Holt shook his head in frustrated confusion. "How could you hear her? The last report I had five minutes ago was that you were in the library."

"Sir Differel heard her, and I heard her thoughts."

Differel's mind skipped a track. He can read my mind!?

Holt looked shocked. "You can read minds?"

<Naturally, My Master.>

"Only Sir Differel's, but whatever she thinks or experiences, I know, but I cannot read her memories, unless she plays them for me before her mind's eye."

"That's impossible!" But he didn't sound very certain.

Vlad, tell him to test me!

"Sir Differel commands me to have you test her."

"Don't listen to him! He's lying! For God's sake, make him let me go before it's too late!"

Holt licked his lips and sweated as his eyes darted from Differel to Vlad and back. She realized he didn't know what to do, and it agonized him. What if he takes her side!?

"What's going on here?" Aelfraed appeared behind Holt. He sidestepped away from the opening so that her butler could enter, but his gun never once wavered. Aelfraed rarely displayed his emotions, but she could tell from his tense body, stern look, and terse voice that he wasn't pleased.

"I'm not sure," Holt replied. "The Vampire claims the nurse is trying kill Dame Differel, but she says that Madam will die unless given that injection."

"It's true! I must give her the drug immediately or she won't make it!"

Aelfraed glanced at the syringe. "Why does he accuse her?"

"He told me he read it in Dame Differel's mind."

Aelfraed raised an eyebrow. "Can he prove that?"

"He said she wants me to test her."

He nodded. "Then do it."

"No! There's no time!"

"My Dear, I cannot allow you to intervene if there is even the slightest chance Vlad may be right."

"You idiot! If she dies, it'll be on your head!"

"Then I accept the responsibility, and the consequences."

Her heart skipped a beat with surprise. She had never seen him so determined or resolute! It made her wonder what else he hid under that stiff shirt.

"Carry on, Mr. Holt."

He lowered the pistol and looked towards the bed. "When you and I first met, I was on guard duty. You tried to distract me by singing a song. What was it?"

Oh, bloody damn good, old man! Vlad, I didn't sing, I tap danced, and he knows I can't carry a tune in a bucket.

"She said that she performed some soft-shoe, and her singing could wake the dead."

She felt her temper flare. Don't embellish!

<Never, My Master.>

Holt looked surprised. "He's right."

But Aelfraed didn't look impressed. "That's no secret."

Bloody cheek!

"She replied, 'bloody cheek'."

That floored him as he visibly started. "Try another, Mr. Holt."

"Of course. At our first tea party, your other guests were Winnie the Poo, Mrs. Snuggle-Bunny, and who else?"

Sooty. She recalled a memory of what it looked like.

"A puppet bear named Sooty."

"Correct again."

"But everyone knows those were her favorite soft toys." Still, Aelfraed didn't look quite so certain.

"Then how about this: shortly after your father assigned me to be your companion and bodyguard, there was an incident. You swore me to secrecy, but unbeknownst to you I informed Aelfraed and your father, and they both agreed to keep the secret with me. That was the reason I was promoted to lance corporal. What was the incident?"

Oh, bloody hell! Aelfraed raised an eyebrow, but he didn't object.

"I do not believe she wishes to answer."

"There," the nurse crowed, "you see? He's making it all up!"

Aelfraed looked grave, but his tone was as resolute as before. "I'm afraid I must agree, unless you can provide the answer."

<Master, tell me, it is their only hope.>

I beg your pardon?

<I will not allow anyone to harm you. I will kill anyone who tries, even them.>

I order you not to!

<I cannot obey that order, if it places you at peril. I am the only other person present, and I will whisper it to them so no one else hears.>

I...I can't, it's too...embarrassing.

<Master, please. You should not be ashamed of anything. You are stronger than that, and the opinion of others should not matter a particle to you.>

Despite what was at stake, she couldn't do it.

"Well?"

"She said it was too embarrassing to reveal."

Aelfraed raised an eyebrow again, but he didn't look convinced. "That's true, but you could have guessed that from Mr. Holt's description. If you cannot provide an answer, I'm afraid I will have to allow the nurse to give her the injection."

Vlad grinned in a wolfish manner. "I will not release her."

"Very well. Then I will give it myself." He stepped towards the IV.

"Touch it, and you die."

Holt raised the pistol as Aelfraed paused and glanced at the Vampire. "Do your worst, sir." And he reached out for the syringe.

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We Hold the Line, and This Line Shall Not Be Crossed!