"What were you... what was it you... what happened?" Johnny inquired finally, unable to contain the question any longer, even though he still feared to ask. Caleb did not even bother to give him a sideways glance.
"Ask a silly question..." he replied, still not feeling the need to explain anything to anyone. Even though he hated himself for it, Johnny felt the need to persist.
"You swallowed a man's heart" he observed quietly.
"That I did kid" Caleb concurred, brushing a few more cobwebs out of his way as the two of them progressed. Most of the tunnels now seemed to be focusing themselves into one specific point, merging together and becoming one. The exit could not be far ahead.
"But why did you do it?" Johnny demanded, even though he really did not feel he could force him to say anything. "And how did you manage to recover after being hit in the head by the zombie?"
"Have you listened to a single word I've said?" Caleb asked, his temper rising. "Do you think I would let a little thing like death stop me?"
"I don't..." Johnny began, but Caleb cut him off.
"I am not supposed to be here. I am supposed to be lying beneath a stone slab at the Morningside Mortuary. I am only kept going by a power that is not my own. The closest thing to life I can wield is that life which I take from others, that which feeds the bloodlust."
"The Bloodlust?" Johnny blurted out despite of himself. His running mouth was going to get him killed.
"To take one's life essence onto yourself is a powerful thing. Once it is done once you can never shake off the hunger, and you would never want to either. It is what gives the Cabal its power, and it is what allows me to stand even the smallest chance against them. It strengthens, it heals, and it replenishes."
"It also makes your eyes glow in the dark" Johnny interjected, remembering the intensity of the flash that consumed the gunslingers face as he did his unholy work.
"That too" Caleb agreed, just as a creak of light started to become visible ahead of them. "That is the mark it leaves you. To do what I have done, you must give something of yourself. When that is gone, the thirst and the rage has nothing to hide behind anymore."
"Rage?" Johnny asked, more fearful than ever. Caleb finally stopped, turning to give his companion a serious look.
"Do you think I enjoy doing what I am doing?" he asked soberly.
"Yes" Johnny answered flatly. More idle tongue.
"You're right" Caleb admitted, a devilish grin appearing on his face. "But I still also hate what I have become. We all do. That is the trade-off. To give of one's self to attain that which can only be acquired from others."
"To give to whom?" Johnny inquired.
"The dreaming god. The sleeping god. The one that binds. The devourer of souls."
"Tchernobog" Johnny said, finally cutting through the spiritualistic red tape.
"You got it kid" Caleb responded, right before coming to a sudden halt. They had now reached the main door that led into the catacombs, a mighty stone slab hanging open just enough to allow a little bit of light through, as well as the tiniest bit of fresh air. Both Caleb and Johnny pushed against the slab, slowly moving it outward, allowing the sunlight to start hitting their faces. It was a feeling Johnny had not felt in a very long time. Caleb almost seemed to recoil from it. Regardless, the two of them wandered out, finding themselves among trees and graves. They were in the same graveyard that they had made their way through earlier.
"I thought as much" Caleb commented, observing a mark on the ground that was placed in front of the door. "They must have known that there was a back way out." Johnny peered down at the symbol. It bore a very strong resemblance to a human skull, in among all of the other elaborate ornamentation. Johnny could guess what it meant. The zombies had not been an accident. Someone had been taking extra measures. He just hoped they were not still here watching the door.
"What now?" he asked, enjoying the feeling of sunlight on his skin.
"First, we get out of this light and rest for awhile" Caleb answered uncomfortably, moving the brim of his hat to better shield his eyes. "Then, we get ready for our mission tonight."
"What are we going to do?" Johnny inquired curiously.
"Read" Caleb answered monosyllabically, heading off down the path in among all the crosses and gravestones. A light breeze cooled the air around them, blowing out the back of their trench coats and playing with the edges of their hats. There were less dignified ways to make your way back into town. Johnny enjoyed every minute of it. He was finally beginning to feel free again.
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Some might recall that I had previously made mention as part of the Blood Wiki's sixth anniversary that I had plans to once again invest some of my time in an area of Blood fandom that I had formerly been quite involved in. To that end I present Scroll, a story I originally began in the summer of 2008 as a kind of retelling of the story behind Cryptic Passage in an attempt to bring it further in line with the main Blood canon. Designed to be published in multiple parts, I shall endeavour to release a new instalment of Scroll every Sunday from March 9th on until the story is complete.