And The Dogs Came Running 5.3

“What I am about to tell you will see me shot if you say it to the wrong person,” said Edam as she took a seat, “Or decapitated. I will be tried and killed for this, and so I need your discretion.”

She paused, looking for Varna’s reaction. She stayed stony-faced in spite of her warning.

“I am required to stay celibate,” she said slowly, “Entirely celibate, spiritually, romantically and physically. I am, legally, married to the Church, and the oath I took was my wedding vow.”

“I am aware, yes,” said Varna as she sat opposite to her at the kitchen table, “Well, not about the wedding vow, but do continue.”

“And I may have… erred in that vow. Compromised myself. With… with Ana. The woman who was at the party, who was my partner. And I couldn’t bring myself to execute her then, and she’s the one other bearer of that secret besides my diary.”

“I see,” said Varna quietly, “So you had sex with her.”

Edam paled.

“No!” She said aloud, “No, no, no. I kissed her, with premeditation and desire, and I also once slept with her.”

Varna went quiet for a moment.

“I thought you said you didn’t have sex with her.”

“I did.”

“Then why did you say you slept with her?”

“It – it wasn’t like that. Agh, Kolet is so annoying. I forgot that double meaning.”

Varna smiled as she realized the mistake, unfazed by the threat on Edam’s head. 

“Ah, my apologies. So you simply slept in the same bed.”


Varna’s smile faded as the true severity of things seemed to settle in. She seemed befuddled.

“And they’ll kill you for this? That seems like an overreaction.”

“Not so,” said Edam, “The law is clear. The dispensation of Memra II states that worldly relations are not for the Inquisition – and Ahain I expanded on that, making it clear that homosexual relations are doubly barred because they are not of strictly virtuous nature, whereas a heterosexual one brings new life into the world and is hence of piety. Both would receive the death penalty in severe cases, but there’s less leniency for me.” 

Varna took a seat herself, and slowly leaned back.

“So now you’re in a dilemma. You’ve been tasked with hunting her down, but if you succeed she could give up your secret and see you executed alongside her. She’d have nothing to lose but her dignity in telling that secret. But surely that alone wouldn’t be enough for a court.”

Edam sighed. 

“It would prompt investigation, at the very least. And when they find the diary-”

Varna put a hand to her face.

“Wait. Hold on. The diary?”

“Yes. I keep a diary. It has more… incriminating evidence. Essentially a confession. It would be enough to see me dead.”

“You wrote down a confession to a crime punishable by death sentence without any prompting?” Asked Varna, “Are you an idiot?”

Edam looked at her feet. She didn’t have any excuses for that.

“I didn’t have anyone else to tell,” she said quietly.

She heard Varna shift, not quite able to meet her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “I take it you don’t get many friends in your line of work.”

“I don’t get many friends, period,” said Edam, “You’re the closest I’ve had in a long while.”

As she looked up, Varna nodded.

“I don’t think you’re close, to be honest. I would consider you a friend. I mean, it’s only been a few weeks¸ but you’ve been nothing but accommodating to me as a guest in this foreign nation, and I enjoy the way you speak.”

She paused, as if there was something else she wished to add, before shifting the subject.

“So you want my aid in finding this Ana. And then, I assume you want me to arrange things to kill her,” said Varna.

“No, Ma-” Said Edam. She cut herself off, adjusting to the new name. “Varna. I don’t want her dead. At the very least, I don’t want you to be the one to kill her. I want to bring her in, even if it might condemn me to death.”

It was a heavy thought, but it was one that she was willing to accept. She didn’t think Ana would sell her out, or that she would even come with that much struggle in the end. Then again, she ran this far. There was nothing that would prevent her from putting up a fight and making this difficult besides her conscience, her sense of duty, and her loyalty to Edam. Her sense of duty was already shorn away in large part. Her loyalty and conscience were what Edam had to rely on.

She didn’t want to do it, but it was the only way. If she stayed on this case, she could collect more information on her cousin. More evidence. The more she had of that, the more she could offer to Danza when the right time came. That would satisfy her – to see just a little consequence for what he did to those under him. 

Was it worth Ana’s life, though? Her safety? She didn’t chase her back at the party, and that was a call she felt confident in then because there were greater things at stake with the vampires. Now, there was nothing left but to go after her unless she started fabricating for the investigation. 

She shook herself from that line of thought. Varna was examining her closely. 

“So what do you want from me?”

“Help,” said Edam quietly, “Discreet help. They’ll have questions for you now, you know. If you help take her in, they’ll interview at some point to make sure that all the paperwork is in order. They’re fastidious with this kind of thing in the Order of Tattered Skin.” 

“How are they going to do that?”

“They know this apartment’s address, Varna. I told them.”

Varna took a faux-shocked face.

“Edam? How could you give me up like that? I thought you were better than that sort of thing.”

Edam didn’t laugh. 

“Alright,” admitted Varna, “I did expect that. I’ll comply with them, I know roughly what the law here wants out of me. I presume you need me to keep the story straight. Say that I know that she’s not trustable, that she’s probably going to make false accusations. To make you seem more credible by comparison.”

Edam sighed. It was a lie. A damnable, contemptible lie made all the dirtier by the fact that Ana had lied to her about her witchcraft by omission.

“Yes,” she said, “If it comes to that.” 

It was quiet for a moment. Wind gently blew in from the window. It was a pretty day for such heavy discussions. 

“Friend,” Varna asked, “You say you had no one else to tell, and that was why you put it in a diary. Perhaps – if I may offer – you could tell me more, and rid yourself of the diary.”

Friend, thought Edam, She put such weight on it. She really seems to mean it.  

She thought about it for a moment and breathed in. The bloodletting a few weeks back did nothing for her. It was to be a purgation of that lust and she still felt it bubbling within her. She breathed out. 

Perhaps a good talk is what I need after all.

“She was beautiful,” said Edam quietly, “Just- not in the ways I expected. I mean, when I first met her, I didn’t know what to think of her. The way she spoke was strange to me, the way she was so straightforward and brusque. I even thought she was a little rude, and I guess she was.”

She paused, waiting for Varna’s reaction. There was no judgment on her face, just a placid smile and an encouraging nod. 

“I take it she grew on you?”

Edam nodded.

“Once I understood her a little better. She had a rough childhood, so I took it. I mean, she didn’t like to speak about it really, but I could feel it whenever I brushed up on it. She was poor, grew up without real parents, and she came up from it. I had to respect that. I was born to merchants and landlords. I never had to struggle for my bread, never had to steal food, though I did sometimes. She came from that life, and devoted herself to justice and doing right by people and running head-first into danger even when I knew she was terribly, terribly afraid in some respects.” 

Ana always had her tells. She’d speak harshly and sternly, her speech getting clipped as fear reached her. Or else she’d go silent, and start keeping her eyes on the exits. It was something Edam had noticed. She wasn’t even sure that Ana noticed it herself wholly, but she never got snippy with Edam. She appreciated that, that she wouldn’t usually raise her voice even when she was frustrated. 

“And she was better than me. I thought she was, at least. I was born with people all around me teaching me the ways of piety and religion, she came to it, she chose virtue over sin. I chose between one path of virtue and another, everyone guiding me down the straight and narrow.”

Varna nodded. 

“For what it’s worth – I think you’ve chosen as well as you could. You seem well suited to the job, and comparison is the mother of misery.”

Edam shrugged.

“I suppose. But I can’t help but feel that she was more honorable than I was. I was the one who started this mess after all. I mean – where do I even start in describing her? The way she stood, the way she moved. It was graceful and powerful and careful all at once. And her eyes, soft doe eyes. Her nose. I think the priest once said that she had an ugly nose and I wanted to hit him. She was gorgeous.”

Another pause. Another moment to collect herself.

“And I lusted after her. Wanted her to myself. I thought it was purely physical.”

That was a half-lie. The idea that it was only purely physical the whole time was something told herself. Once she got past the initial shock of the way she spoke, she found herself growing fonder and fonder of Ana emotionally. There was a point where she softened to Edam’s speech, and they accommodated each other in conversation. Even when she peeked to see her practice at her fencing and her sparring, the physical part was only one component. It was a wondrous component, certainly, but it was only one. There was something there in between – the flitting, sublime space where her body met her spirit in movement; where her persona became her body. Her care, her kindness, the whole of her virtues all shone through her lips and her hands. That was what Edam saw then – what she felt even more certain of now. 

“Many things start that way.”

“And then-”

She nearly choked. Her eyes watered, and she held back tears.

“Then I felt safe around her.”

She hid her face behind her hand in shame. The managed to keep her dignity and avoid crying before speaking again. 

“I felt like I could trust her. I felt that she wouldn’t lie to me. And when I kissed her, when she held me through the night because I felt afraid of what my cousin was there for, I felt like I could love her. And I still feel like I could.”

“Do you not feel like you’re safe often?” Asked Varna.


“Do you feel that way often? It’s fine if you do. There was time where I felt like that for a long time. It’s hard to get over.”

“Just… at times,” said Edam quietly, “Sometimes it’s like I’m one of those trapeze artists on the high line, people putting weights on my balancing pole. Sooner or later I’ll fall. I just don’t know when. Like right now. There are too many things to juggle, too many things to manage. And the earth is going to come up to meet me eventually.”

“For me, it’s more like eyes. That feeling that you get on the back of your neck when you’re being watched. I’ve felt it often, even when it makes no sense.”


“Like, for instance, when I was on a whaling ship, I once took out on the main deck at night alone. It was very clear, and I felt like I could see out for miles without laying eyes on a human soul. And still, I felt certain that somewhere out there, there was something. A vampire – some inhuman predator – that would come for me like they came for my family. Even though it was totally nonsensical.”

Edam nodded. She felt the same – she just didn’t quite have the words for it.

“Though, then again, it could just have been a whale,” said Varna, smiling. Edam managed to pull a smile back and chuckled at the joke before coming back to the heavy subject.

Nonsense. Yes, I’ve been there. I just… I don’t even know what’s coming, and I still feel afraid of it.”

“Maybe that’s why you’re afraid of it. And Ana gave you security in what’s next.”


Varna nodded. 

“I don’t blame you for falling in love with her. I would have done the same in your shoes. If I’m being frank, I think it’d be best if you left well alone. I could plant evidence, say that there’s good evidence that she’s slipped out of the city.”

“I don’t- I wouldn’t ask-”

She stopped herself. She needed a moment to think. 

The wind whistled through the open window. Outside, a windchime bristled and cried out; crowds were walking about outside, talking, enjoying the fine weather; children played in the street. It was peaceful. Edam could imagine Ana, her hair shorn short and scruffy, dressed in some anonymous dock-worker’s clothes, enjoying the sun in some forgotten corner of Blackwood. Her lips were free from the bonds of the Church, now perhaps kissing a bottle of wine. The thought alone felt enticing – to join her in the sweating heat, curl into her lean arms and share a drink and an hour. They could make it like the good old days. Somehow, in her head, it felt like nothing to count back the days since she had left the Church. It would be Edam’s day to make dinner. Then, when that was finished, they could lay in bed together and sleep peacefully. 

Edam felt like she hadn’t had an honest rest in weeks. The nightmares seemed to only get worse by the day, and the waking world offered little better. This investigation would do nothing but bring in violence to a place already touched by it, made by it, ruined by it. She knew the way people looked at her when she walked down the street in uniform. Some with awe, or else reverence, or else deference, or else fear. She would bear that fear in her and bring it all the way to Ana, and all the way back to the executioner’s room. It seemed all too cruel to disturb the peace of the day down in Blackwood just to finish off petty Church business. 

Another excuse, thought Edam, I just need to do it. 

“I’m charged with killing the one woman who has ever made me feel safe in my own skin,” she said, “One way or another. I need it to be done, to have closure on it.”

Varna steepled her fingers. 

“It’s a grim duty to bear alone. I do have leads on her, on her associates. But you know as well as I – the bell can’t be unrung.”

Varna stood and stretched, and grabbed Edam by the hand. She pulled her up until they could look properly eye-to-eye. She smiled.

“You did it,” she said, “You told me. Go, tie up your loose end. Destroy what pages of the diary incriminate you. I’ll carry your secret to my grave. After that, come back to me and make your choice as to whether I am your lead or not.” 

Varna smiled at her – a bright smile that matched the weather. 

“Thank you,” said Edam, “Thank you. I- I’ll do that. I will.”

She felt the mandate that Varna had given fill her up as she repeated it back to herself in her head. The secret had been transferred into a safer holding now. Whether or not she was going to use her as a lead, she had a friend in Manguyaat.

Varna, she corrected herself again.

With that, she could finally rid herself of the diary. It was a load off of her chest. She could put the harder choices off until she returned. 

Edam went back to the door, exhausted, but smiling. She looked back at Varna.

“Thank you again,” she said, “I don’t know if I would have had the strength to do it myself.”

“Good luck. If there’s a good god, I hope they watch over you.”

With that, she slipped back out into the stairwell, and down onto the street. The blue sky brimmed with potential again. Whatever happened with Ana, she had a friend now. Imera may have taken them off of a case that seemed more pressing, and he may have been her superior, but there were little rebellions available here. One potentiality was to create the open channel – to locate Ana, but not capture her immediately. That would make for a convenient valve to keep him distracted if she needed it. She then went through when she would need it. 

That stumped her. Perhaps if she needed to pull him away from Verat for a while? Send him on a wild goose chase? That seemed callous, and not likely to go off without a hitch. And then what would come next? It was a tactic without strategy to guide it.

It was an option, though. She could forestall certain things, and that gave her time. Right now she needed to focus on the diary. There were only a few pages that she would worry about. She could take them out in plainclothes and throw them in a seedier part of the Teper, where they couldn’t be recovered.  

She found herself shortly back at the church where they had been staying. She left her coat at the door before walking down the nave, past the great heptagram that sat at the head of the church, and into the quarters. It was eerily silent as she passed through the door; it slammed behind her as she let it go, and it startled her almost as much as what she saw in front of her. 

It was Verat, Tarnye and Akham. It was an awkward arrangement. They were waiting for something, not eating or talking. Verat looked like she might have been crying again. Tarnye anxiously rolled her hands over each other, as if she was trying to warm herself.

Something was wrong. 

She walked towards them before a strong hand interrupted her. It was Danza, looking deeply disturbed.

“You need to come with me. It’s about your cousin.”

Her thoughts rushed. This was the last straw. There had been another incident with Verat, or another one of the women and Danza had been there to see it. She tried to collect herself, to keep herself from jumping to conclusions, but there was no bringing herself back from the line of thought. She wasn’t ready – not now – not to testify against him in any way. She just needed a little more time to collect herself. 

She looked back at Verat. She seemed desperate, staring at her intently. She had something to say. She needed to hear it from her.

“What? Did he-”

Danza looked at the three women, and then back at Edam, nodding her head to indicate them.  Edam looked up to one of the corners of the room. A baleful clay eye watched them from afar.

“This needs to be private. Let’s head to your room, shall we?”

Edam looked back, before reluctantly following Danza’s command. Danza followed close behind her. Edam opened the door, and saw her cousin standing there. Her heart began to sink.

She knew his body language here. He had taken this exact pose before. His shoulders just a little slumped. That meant he was disappointed. He was dressed in his best, not a button out of place – except for his hat. He was telling her that she was out of order. She did not have herself in order, and so she was not in a position to criticize him. The hat was a critical omission. It left his face and eyes unobscured. His one hand touched his lips, which curled apart in disgust and contempt. His eyes weren’t on her.

They were on her diary, open in his palm. 

He looked up. Blood rushed into her ears.

“I’m disappointed in you,” he said, reiterating what he told her with his mere presence. She felt Danza come up from behind, putting a metal manacle around her wrist. 

Edam went limp. There was no fighting it. She let Danza take her other wrist as well. She patted her down, removing weaponry and foci as she did before the regalia of an Inquisitor went with it. Imera stared her dead in the eye. 

“My name is Inspector I-Merach-Lluar Miaza. By the law of and authority of the Ecclesiastic Court and the Church of the Sepulcher, and the right of the Order of Tattered Skin, I take you prisoner. I do this on fair and strong suspicion of your misconduct and breach of the oath, seconded by Danza Karona. You are granted the right to a lawyer, the right to a fair and reasonable trial, and the right to remain silent in the face of interrogation. May righteousness and justice prevail over your case.”

She could hardly hear his words over the rush of blood in her ears; over the hopelessly quiet limpness of her limbs. He paused, as if there was something more to say to her. She clung to the moment before he sighed, shrugged, and shut the diary, leaving the room. 

“Come, Danza. We’re taking her to the court. Hopefully we get a date within a week.”

Danza drew in close as he walked past.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want this,” she whispered.