Fandom: Count Cain
Characters: Cain, Neil, Merry, and Riff.
Rating: PG? PG-13?
Warnings: Angst... Uh, excessive quoting of Bible verses?
Summary: Cain tries to solve a mystery and ends up discovering some unpleasant truths.
Disclaimer: Kaori Yuki owns this series; I do not.
A/N: Since I wrote a fic centered around the meaning of Jezebel's name, I thought I ought to do one for Cain too. But since his name has already been pretty thoroughly examined in canon, this goes in a slightly different direction....
There were monsters out there, or so the stories went. You could still hear whispers of them sometimes, especially if you knew how to listen. Mere folk tales– but those tales are much more true than those things that could be proved by science. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is no such thing as evil.
On the way to the old manor house, the carriage moved slowly through the snow, a blanket of white that overlaid everything. Merryweather (Merryweather, who knew nothing of evil) took off her mittens when they got there and held out her hands, fingertips already red with cold, in an effort to catch the snow as it fell.
A scene like that– one could almost even believe it to be idyllic.
Neil was all for keeping up appearances, especially in front of old family friends, and so he had determined to watch his nephew like a hawk, try to see to it that he was polite.
That didn’t last more than fifteen minutes. No matter where he was, it never took Cain long to ferret out whatever mystery had been hidden away in the shadows– and in an old house (a fine old house, of course, like a jeweled box of paintings) with a noble family like this one, there always, always was one. Such was life. (And the truth was that perhaps that was Cain’s real strength: not skill with poison, but rather the ability to see those things that everybody else had turned their eyes away from....)
It was his own foolishness that led him, as he and Merry were looking around the house, to go up those stairs without Riff (who was still unpacking his and Merry’s things) present. He should have known better; he needed Riff there, and Riff would have fixed things.
–Oh, but there seemed nothing terribly sinister about it, just a set of stairs ascending to a twilit attic room. What light there was came in through wide dormer windows, and even if it was exceedingly cluttered, all the furnishings looked clean and well taken care of, almost as if someone were living up here...
It turned out to be a peculiar old man who first threw books at them from the shadows, then in a loud, hoarse voice called, “Who are you? Who dares trespass? Answer!”
The man himself shuffled closer as he spoke, a stack of books still in hand. It was funny: he wore a sumptuous-looking fur coat, but his hair stuck out in every direction and his beard was long and unkempt.
“Answer me!” he repeated. “And show yourself!”
He kept inching closer in a vaguely discomfiting way and stared down at the two of them with bulbous eyes, although he apparently couldn’t make out much in the poor light, because he kept squinting.
“I,” Cain began, “Am Earl– look, wouldn’t it be helpful if you lit a lamp or something?”
“No, no, no!” the man wailed, “You must not light a lamp! For if you do, they will be able to find me!”
Cain raised an eyebrow; this was rather interesting. “The family downstairs?”
“No, no,” he whispered conspiratorially, “Them. Fiery serpents. All in the Abyss now, you know, but if they see where I am...”
“Ah. We are not fiery serpents; I’m Earl Hargreaves, and this is my sister.”
“What? No, surely not... You can’t be,” he muttered, squinting at them again, “Alexis and Augusta? No, Augusta isn’t that short....” (No word about whether Cain resembled his father.)
“We’re– Alexis was our father,” Merry piped up, “I’m Merryweather, and my brother is Cain.”
“Oho!” the man yelled and pointed at Cain. “Let me see if I remember you... Oh yes, of course: ‘And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.’”
–Cain nearly leapt out of his skin, and Merry turned her head in surprise. He tried to smile, which didn’t fool her, of course; her own mouth hardened into a long, thin line.
“‘And now art thou cursed from the earth...’”
(He shook a little still; it couldn’t be helped. And he would have liked to think himself capable! But the truth was that sometimes, mere words were all that was needed to turn one into a trembling child again. –And they hurt, too; his scars stung with memory.)
“‘...Which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand...’”
(Look at those golden eyes of yours, my son–! All who look at them can see it: my little child of sin, you’re not human like the rest of us.)
“‘...When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength...’”
(Really, think of the madness– murdering one’s own brother. What normal man would do something like that? But a thing’s name leaves its mark, and you, I fear, are already doomed...)
“‘...A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.’”
(Little monster that you are.)
“‘And Cain said...’”
–But Cain had no words; it was Merry who quickly called, “We’re going now,” grabbed her brother’s wrist, and ran down the stairs.
He had to press his shirt against the skin of his back and examine it, make sure he wasn’t bleeding. The fabric was as snowy white as the day it was made, and he stared at it blearily until Riff gently pulled it from his hands and gave him a new one.
They dined with the lord, lady, and their grown son. The lady looked at Neil and said kindly, “Your niece is such a beautiful child. Oh, I always wished I could be that beautiful when I was a little girl. And of course,” she nodded in Cain’s direction, “Such a handsome young man.”
But handsome was the last thing in the world he felt.
Cain didn’t sleep that night, and from his gilt frame the angel Gabriel regarded him with a melancholy gaze. (He knew just as well as Alexis had: not everyone was bound for divine mercy.) –But even after he put out the light he could feel those mournful eyes on him and his scars brushed against the sheets. They felt as though they wanted to burst through his skin.
He wouldn’t feel better until he had done what needed to be done; he knew himself well enough to know that much. He rose early, well before the sun did, not having slept, and woke Riff: there was investigating to be done. Had the old man just gone peculiar with age, or was there something else...? (Something else, of course; that was a foregone conclusion. Cain could feel those sorts of things in his bones.)
He poisoned the person who needed to be poisoned (the lord and lady’s son; he was the one who tormented his own grandfather until he fell into madness), and then, yes, he finally did feel relief. (And it was a nasty, cruel poison too; he knew that, but it was appropriate enough for the circumstances. One of the old poisons that had been in the Hargreaves’ collection for decades– but it was a lovely one too, colored a deep and shining gold.)
“I suppose you think you’re very clever, Cain.” That was what Neil had to say about it.
“Clever?” Cain asked, all the while feeling the comforting weight of the tear-shaped bottle that was still in his pocket.
“Do you have any idea why a man who appeared perfectly healthy last night is now seeing things that aren’t there?”
“Must be a sudden fever, mustn’t it?”
Neil sighed and looked down, then in a softer tone, he said, “Well, you know more than I do, of course. Will he come out of it?”
Cain considered this. “Most likely. In a while.” –To which Neil simply sighed once more.
“You know, I believe that that was one of your father’s favorite poisons as well.”
–Well. It seemed that his father’s admonitions weren’t necessary after all, and Cain did not need tales of an ancient evil. He already knew what he was descended from.
Actually, this fic has been on my to-write list since... forever. Probably since I first got into this fandom. Therefore, I am a slowpoke of epic proportions....