Laelia Somnus/ "Midnight Orchid"
Induced Sleep: superior (rank 2)
Verne sips the tea. It’s taste was unusual, a unique blend. He looks up to the hostess.
“What is in this? I’ve been from Morocco to Tibet and I’ve never had anything quite like it before.”
“Do you like it?” Delilah asks, “It is a very special blend. Regular tea leaves and a hint of lemon, mixed with a blooming orchid that grows in this valley. Father once said it’s the only place on earth it grows wild. He tried to experiment on it of all things; me, I just love the smell and the sight of it. I suppose I never had his scientific mind of course…”
“That must be what makes this place so special,” Kitenge adds, “the villagers around you seem to believe you built your home on sacred ground. That the spirit of the jungle had ‘devoured’ you.”
“Oh please Mr. Kitenge,” Delilah retorts, “I can understand why they might believe such a silly notion, but you seem to be more of an educated man. Anytime the empire tries to expand into undeveloped territory, the natives then decide that the land is sacred. My father built this house over a decade ago, and I can assure you the only danger we’ve ever faced has been from them, not some backwoods voodoo they worship.”
Verne puts his cup down and looks up to change the subject.
“Miss. Delilah, the Grey boy’s last letter said he was staying with you and your sister, yet I have seen nothing of either of them?”
Delilah's eyes dim with sadness at the question.
“Oh, that is due to a very unfortunate circumstance Mr. Verne.”
Delilah pulls a small bell from the side pocket of her dress. She places it between her fingers and rings it daintily. Celia emerges from a hallway some seconds later.
“Celia, be a dear and clear away the tea for now.”
“Yes, Miss. Delilah.”
Celia begins to move the tea kettle and cups back onto a carrying tray. Delilah turns back to Verne with a silent glance. Her eyes seem to water up.
“You see Mr. Verne, both Mr. Grey and my sister have been gone for some time. After he sent the letter to his father, Mr. Grey and my dear sister both befell a great tragedy. There was nothing anyone could do, it nearly broke me up inside… With father and mother already gone, I was left all alone, all except Celia that is. Thank you dear.”
Celia lifts the tea tray off the table and heads into the back-room where she came. Verne looks back at his hostess, his eyebrows raised.
“But Miss Morgan, what tragedy was that? You must tell me.”
“Oh you shouldn’t concern yourself with the details Mr. Verne. Its all too horrid. I can inform you tomorrow, but it’s getting late, I think you gentlemen may need to sleep here tonight.”
“If Mr. Grey is dead, then it is my responsibility to return to my ship and inform his father at once.”
Delilah lets out a coquettish laugh.
“Oh Mr. Verne, I would not worry about your airship. You won’t be returning to it, you must stay here. I’m surprised you lasted this long, but the tea will take its effect on you quite soon, much as it did for Mr. Kitenge and Mr. Grey before him…”
Verne looks to Kitenge. His body is limp and his eyes shut. Verne feels his head bob forward, his eyelids are like lead. She smiles once more at him as he falls loosely onto the floor.
Pueraria Lobata/ "Creeping Vine"
Binding: superior (rank 2)
- Area Affect
- Target Seeker
The flight crew had stayed behind while Verne went ahead. He and Kitembe had only been gone nine hours, no reason to worry yet. The engine mechanics were playing cards below deck of the landed airship. Henry looks at his cards. The hull groans deeply.
“Did you mates hear that?”
“No,” says a crewmate, “Stop wasting time, raise, check, or fold.”
The hull moans louder. All the mechanics can hear it now. It is the sound of steel and wood bending. The men rush up the stairs. They come topside and find their airship devoured in vines.
On the deck of the ship the vines wrap around their fallen comrades. The airmen who were on deck when it happened lay motionless, asleep, and are tugged off silently into the jungle. Henry turns to run, he steps over the vines and heads for the edge of the ship. A green leathery rope stretches out from nowhere and grabs him by the ankle. His crewmates scatter down the way they came, sentient vines creep and follow behind them.
Henry tries to rip the vine off his body; it simply creeps further and further around him without limit. More vines seem to expand from nothingness until they wrap across his body like a python. Small purple buds on the vines’ surfaces begin to bloom, they unfurl into beautiful violet orchids. A cloud of pollen escapes from the flowers. Henry breathes it in. His head feels heavy, the world spins in vertigo. It only takes a moment; as he drifts off he can feel his body being dragged off into the jungle.
Pueraria Delialium/ "Delilah Hybrid"
Bio Vampire: standard (rank 1)
Verne awakes. His body is numb, vision blurred. He can barely make out the outlines of the others held in the vine trellises. He had seen his shipmates deteriorate over the days of their capture.
He could only stay awake a few hours a day now. The first night he awoke he thrashed for hours on end. Then less so the next day. And even less the day after that. The vines holding him helpless entered his veins like roots into soil. He could only remain conscious long enough to see her walking through the manicured garden towards him. She smiled girlishly and snapped her fingers. A cloud of pollen fell from above and Verne descended back into sleep.
Communication: standard (rank 1)
Delilah sat in her garden chair and looked over her shrubberies. They didn’t struggle much anymore; she wondered what she would make of them once they were ready.
Young Mr. Grey made an excellent topiary. She glanced up at him, locked in the vines of the tree above her, his eyes blank and body seemingly lifeless, his arms and legs spread apart making the foliage a nice parasol from the African sun. She felt empowered and a little self-righteous; all these useless men would soon find the same kind of utilitarian purpose as Mr. Grey.
She removes the small bell from her side dress pocket and rings it. The vines move with haste. They drag a ragged lump through the underbrush, then cut across the neat lawn and lay the quivering form in front of Delilah’s feet.
“Good Morning Celia, you’ll never guess what I heard through the grapevine today.”
Celia is too weak to speak. She only cowers on the ground. Delilah begins fanning her self.
“I heard through from grapevine, who was chatting with the rose trellis, who had been told by the jungle vines, that you were trying to escape last night. I just couldn’t believe my ears, but here you are… You were such a bright girl Celia, why would you do something so stupid, especially when you know we will always catch you?”
Celia begins to cry, she wipes the tears away.
“I don’t know…”
“That’s not a good answer Celia dear” Delilah looks down and tuts at her disapprovingly, “We take care of you. We saved you from their world, and keep you here to protect you from it. You’re not strong or smart enough to live on your own anymore. You need us. Belle Flora takes care of you, and you try to leave her in the dead of the night? That’s not what family does Celia.”
“Please sister,” Celia yells, “I just want to go home. Please! I just want to go home!”
Delilah coos, and pats her sister’s head tenderly. She descends to her level and cradles her in her arms. At the places where Delilah’s gloved hand touches her face, tiny black roots begin to crawl under Celia’s skin like spider webs. Celia’s crying turns to panic, she feebly shakes in her sister’s arms.
“Please sister, don’t do it again… just let me go home…”
Delilah smiles. She cradles her weak, terror stricken sister in her arms. The roots spreading across Celia’s skin explore deeper into her body. All Celia’s movement begins to die off. Delilah whispers in her sister’s ear,
“But darling, you are home…”
Mistress of the Manor
Psychic Vampire: standard (rank 1)
Celia merely sits there, still as a statue with tears running down its cheeks. The dark crisscrossing lines emanating from Delilah’s hand at her temple traverse Celia’s face in a jagged grid. The circles under Celia’s eyes darken, her skin wanes to become even paler. What little remaining vibrant energy in her eyes is drained off, leaving nothing but an empty stare.
Delilah smiles, her face even younger and more beautiful then before.
“I’m sorry dear girl. I don’t want to have to do this. I couldn’t stand to see you tangled in the vines, a little marionette in my garden, I love you too much for that… but I can’t have you running off either. It simply won’t do. It was my fault; I should have taken more from you last time. I left you with too much of your mind and you couldn’t help yourself…Poor girl.”
Delilah clutches her sister’s head to her bosom, Celia falls into her arms like a ragdoll.
“I now see that the only way you’ll stay here willingly…is if you have no will.”
Delilah slowly lets go. She knew how much her little Celia could take in one sitting without expiring. It would be awhile before they’d need to have this talk again. Celia rises off the ground, moving rigidly without uttering a single noise. Her voice is lifeless monotone.
“Thank you Miss. Delilah.”
“You’re very much welcome dear. Now get along, you have a lot to do today. I want you to trim the hedges, water the roses, prune the azaleas, and check my new garden fixtures to ensure we won’t have any more unruly guests.
“Yes, Miss Delilah.”
The maid curtseys deeply then slowly turns towards the manor and shuffles off without a thought. Delilah sits back down in her garden chair, basking in the shade provided by the Topiary of Grey overhead.
“Oh, Celia,” Delilah calls out.
Celia stops and turns back, patiently waiting for instruction. Delilah smiles, delighted at her pet’s response,
“This recent increase of growth has got me thinking,” she says, “I think it’s time you write a letter to your old sweetheart Mr. Talbot in London. Beg him to come and take you out of the jungle; imply that you might marry him. That would make you happy, wouldn’t it Celia?”
“Yes, Miss Delilah.”
“Excellent darling, I was hoping it would. When you come back, I’ll be having tea in the garden this afternoon. The special blend if you would.”
“Yes, Miss Delilah.”
Celia curtseys once more then enters the house. The jungle is silent, not a moan or cry for freedom can be heard. All is right with nature.