Nodding, Hamelin took out a vial from his pouch and handed it to her. “This is a special concoction I prepared for you. Once you drink it, you will immediately feel like vomiting it back out again; under no circumstances must you give in to that urge. Force yourself to keep it down, and try to focus your mind on the sensation. The darkness will follow your will, and attempt to consume the foreign matter.”
Nodding, lady Mina put the vial to her mouth and swallowed it in one gulp. Hamelin observed her closely, as her expression paled, and her hand went to her mouth.
“Do not throw up,” he repeated, keeping his voice as hard as iron. She looked at him with eyes full of fear, but then forcefully shut them and swallowed, keeping her composure. As her breath steadied, Hamelin guided her through the process.
“Good. Keep your mind trained on your stomach. As soon as the darkness has a hold, let it run wild for a bit, then forcefully hold it back. Give it a taste, then force discipline upon it, like training a dog.”
He could see her concentration, visible in the wrinkles of her forehead, as she followed his command. What he had fed her was a sample of the mutagen he had used to compose his primary strain, and without body conditioned to disease, she should have died within seconds from the exposure.
Though potent, it cost Hamelin progress in his withermancy to extract samples of the mutagen. If this experiment failed, he would have been set back months, if not years, for nothing.
However, so far, his gamble had payed off. She was still alive, and he could sense how her control increased with every second. Soon, she would have the reaction under control.
“Good,” he said, when he thought the time was right, “Now, you cannot let the darkness eat it all. Imagine building a furnace in your stomach, and placing the concoction inside. The darkness will follow your will as long as you feed it, and this way you won’t use your body directly.”
Following his voice, she stabilized the reaction, controlling it to the point where she kept balance. It took another hour before she could finally open her eyes and smile. “I did it,” she said, standing up and taking a look at herself.
She must have felt an immediate change, as she marveled at her hands and body — as if she had never seen the like.
Hamelin gave a satisfied nod, but otherwise kept silent and closed his eyes. While he was satisfied with the result, the process had confirmed another suspicion of his.
It’s not her, he thought, thinking of the girl with golden hair and eyes, the lady Silvein, who had given him the gift in his previous life. The power that he had sensed within lady Mina was certainly impressive for a bloodline, but nothing compared to the encompassing light which lady Silvein had possessed.
It was to the degree that it was no longer a bloodline, but a matter of her soul. If she had crossed over, just like himself, there was no doubt in Hamelin’s mind that he would recognize that power when he came into contact with it.
“You look disappointed,” lady Mina said. Hamelin opened his eyes to find her huge doe-eyes right before him. She was kneeling before him, face so close their noses almost touched. “Am I not satisfactory, Master?”
Sighing, Hamelin pushed her away and stood up. “No, you did well, Minara. For now, you must focus on maintaining that delicate balance you have established, before you attempt to fully control you powers—”
“Who is she?”
“What?” He turned around to face, unable to wipe off the surprise on his face.
“The one you thought I was… The one who made you want to help me; who is she?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Hamelin said, turning away to hide his all-too-revealing expression.
“Don’t play coy, Master. You hide it well, but you have been providing me with far greater benefits than was ever strictly necessary. You have done more for me than you offered either Arden and Heron, which means it is about something more than business.”
“It could be that I simply acknowledge your potential,” Hamelin said, keeping his back to her, even though he understood how dangerous it was.
“Even so, my intuition tells me there is more to it, and you should never underestimate the intuition of woman.”
Seeing her being so unrelenting, Hamelin sighed and turned back to say, “Fine, it might be better this way. There is indeed a woman I am looking for, and it is partly for that reason that I want you to focus on information.”
“You want me to find her?”
“Indeed. She is like you, or like how you used to be… only much, much more powerful.”
“That much?” She said and smiled, “She must be very impressive. What’s her name?”
“I don’t know,” he said, scowling in frustration.
“I don’t know her name, her age, where she might be found, or whether she is even alive,” he explained, listing the many difficulties with the task, “I only know she will be like yourself, possessing a bloodline of light, and that she might be alive.”
“That’s not much to go on,” lady Mina said, shaking her head, “I’m not sure where even to begin.”
“Don’t waste you time on it now,” he said, “It’s more important to build up your information network and capabilities. The task will have to wait until that is ready.”
“Very well… I must say I am intrigued that such a woman exists. Is it because of her that you have no interest in my advances?”
“I have no interest in you, Minera, because you will turn everything into an advantage. I’m certain you will use the information I just gave you against me at some time in the future, and even so I am willing to risk it.”
“She means that much, huh?” Despite his harsh words, she was smiling, “There must be something else you can tell me? Something that might help find her?”
Biting his lip, Hamelin decided it was better to reveal some of his cards now, rather than have her miss an important piece of information later. “I cannot be certain,” he began, speaking slowly, “But there is a chance that she was born around five years ago.”
“Born? You know when she was born, but not where she is?”
“I told you, there is a lot that is uncertain, and I have no way to confirm whether she indeed was born five years ago, but it is my best lead.”
Lady Mina did not seem convinced, but in the end she shrugged and said, “Very well. Once I have built up the network you want, I will look for her. Is that all you want?”
“No… I have one more request before I go,” he said, having suddenly got an idea from watching lady Mina’s interaction with his mutagen.
“I am here to serve, Master.”
He looked at her carefully, finding no traces of deceit in her face. She was either growing at least superficially loyal, or she was hiding her deceit very well. “I need you to find me some children.”
“Children? What for?”
“None of your concern. I’m not asking you to kidnap children from their homes, nor steal them from their parents; I am looking for abandoned children, the ones who will be unable to survive if left on their own. They should also be young, preferably young enough that they have yet to develop an ego, or no older than three years of age.”
“That’s… rather specific,” she said, raising an eyebrow, “Though not unheard of, such cases are rare… I suppose we could look in surrounding towns and cities, but there won’t be that many, regardless.”
“The amount does not matter,” Hamelin said, dismissing the worry with a wave, “The ones you find will suffice. To be clear: I want only those who will die if left alone. Anything else will draw undue suspicion, which would be disastrous. Can you do it?”
“I’m not sure if you are trying to be a devil or a saint, Master,” lady Mina said, shaking her head, “But I will see that it is done.”
“Good. Contact Asten once you have news. I will be in touch.” With those words, Hamelin walked to the nearby window and disappeared outside.
Left behind, lady Mina smiled softly, looking after her new master with both trepidation and excitement. She feared what she would have to do to stay alive beneath the wings of such a cruel creature, and yet the satisfying control she now possessed over the darkness within her made her want to dance with delight.
While conflicted, one thing was clear to her. Darkness had fallen on Tremon, if not upon the entire kingdom.