John Troyden wiped the beads of sweat off his upper lip as he stared at the dark purple scratches on the faded yellow paper spread across his study desk. The dim lamp light held steady as he carefully traced his finger along the various lines that crossed back and forth like kingdom boundaries drawn by an insane king.
John’s finger shook as it moved, fatigue and lack of food wearing on his body. He knew he would have to stop and rest soon, perhaps eat something, but he was close–he could feel it. He had been close to a breakthrough for weeks now and every moment of sleep, every second of eating was a distraction–an obstacle to his work.
Of course, there were other more pressing obstacles at the moment. The process worked perfectly–exactly like he expected–until it reached condensation. The Lychtation Valve was letting the fluid condense far too quickly, for some reason. He was going to have to whip together some sort of Vaporizer that could keep the Vitae hot longer than usual, without decelerating the condensation process afterward.
Vitae was a temperamental element, even John wasn’t entirely sure how it worked, exactly. Whenever one entered too far into the realm of Vitae, science became almost impossible–guesswork and trial and error became commonplace. John’s eyes flickered over his desk like an errant fly, scanning his charts and blueprints for some clue as to how to proceed.
The iron clock on the mantle struck three, and the lines began to blur.
John stood up from his desk and began to pace. He could feel it–time was running out for him. There was only so long he could keep Marta a secret before the Order would hear of it. And then they would come to his door, holy torches gripped in their lily-white gloves, and destroy them both. He didn’t care. This had nothing to do with any damned royal succession–this was his wife.
John’s thin black cat leapt from the floor to the back of his plush chair in a graceful bound, and stared at him. John waved his hands helplessly in the air beneath the yellow-eyed stare.
“I can’t work magic!” he muttered to no-one in particular. “I need to find a process that infuses the Vitae to the bones faster, or keep it hotter, otherwise it will condense too fast. If the process isn’t done slowly and in carefully controlled stages, than there’s no telling what could happen–Anything from a violent exovitaeic reaction to…”
John looked at the cat, as though expecting some answer or solution to his problem. Unwilling to fulfill this role, the cat’s tail twitched as it stared at him, perched like the gargoyle on the Kettleworth church’s steeple. John leaned against the mantelpiece and stared into the fireplace.
It had all gone terribly wrong.