by Joseph Anderson

Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters belong to the author. No copyright infringement is intended with this fanfiction which may not be sold, may be copied for personal use only, and must contain all notices of copyright.

Sequel to In the Line of Duty. This story contains sexual situations and some violence. There is also a romantic relationship between two women.

Cambridge, Massachussettes 1953

When my sisters and I awoke we sought Master as we always do, fearful for his safety. Elvira reached him first as she often does, Fotena and I close behind. Master was hurt and there were nine in his great presence, six slain and three wounded.

"My girls!" the lord said painfully. "Clea, look at my poor William there!" He was speaking of his mortal protector who was among the slain. As Elvira examined our Master's wounds, a gash in a limb and a blow to his head, I went to the dead protector and prayed to Mighty Bacchus to intervene for him with his uncle Hades if needed. Good William had given his life protecting Master.

Fotena, fair mad with rage, snatched up two of the wounded, holding one aloft in each hand. They squirmed, looking vainly for their coward's weapons. I likewise held up the one remaining. All three had bullet or knife wounds inflicted by brave William, but none fatal, which pleased my sister and I. The fiends were dressed in long dark cloaks, with small clocks in their vests on golden chains. Their top hats were scattered about. Elvira laughed and Fotena and I, still holding the evildoers, looked at her as she bandaged our lord. Then we laughed too as did Master. There were wooden stakes and garlic, a crucifix and rosary beads, and even holy water. Perhaps the time the fools wasted with those was what allowed William to save our kind lord.

Janice Covington finished reading aloud and looked at the person sitting across from her. "What do you think?"

The big blue-eyed woman took her owlish glasses off and rubbed her eyes. "Where was this found, Janice?"

"In an antique shop in London, from a collection acquired in an estate sale in 1905. A handwritten volume was discovered mixed in with all the Dickens and Thackery. I saw it described as a fragment of a novel but the description made me want to get ahold of it."

"It's in English?" Melinda Pappas asked.

The smaller woman answered, "Yep, in English. Makes sense, Mel. He was speaking to 'em in English when we saw him. Since they're multilingual, why not? Ancient Greek wouldn't even have words for a lot of stuff."

"Is Prince Samuel named per se?" Mel asked.

"I don't know yet...haven't read far. Seems to be a lot missing. The way it just starts up like that makes me think there must've been more before it. Whole volumes possibly."

"If it isn't simply a novel someone was writing."

Janice smiled at her friend. "Elvira. Fotena. What are the chances of that? This is Clealisthia's first hand account of being a vampire--or whatever---in London in the 19th century and serving Prince Samuel. Pretty damn swell, you ask me!"

"Bacchae. They're bacchae, Janice. After our little adventure I did some reading on the subject. They are vampires but different. Older maybe or just another variety." She was dejected. In their encounter with Prince Samuel in Rumania during the war they had seen him at his best: a brave leader fighting the Germans. He was even captured and tortured for information. His bacchae, the blood drinking, and his ruthlessness were made acceptable by the fact he was fighting against their shared enemy. But there didn't seem to be any war here. The men Clealisthia called fiends were probably the brave heroes this time around, trying to rid the world of an ancient evil: Good Prince Samuel.

Covington made a those-are-the-breaks face and resumed reading.

I was hungry, very hungry and he paled as I let him see my teeth. Master approached and addressed the evildoer.

"Why did you seek to kill me?"

The vile one cried out, "Monster! You killed my wife!"

I kept looking at Master, wishing he would let me drink this one, but Master said, "I did? What was her name? You have to be more specific."

"Devil! Satan! Gwendolyne Frobisher was her name...a sweet woman, a saint, murdered by you! Monster!"

I would have torn his terrible tongue out but the lord stayed my hand and said, "Gwendolyne came to me of her own free will, seeking me out, offering herself to me. I gave her what she wanted. Why should I deny her?"

"Why! Why! You hellish beast! You killed my wife!"

My sister Elvira spoke in rage, "Better a moment with the prince than a lifetime with you! Look at yourself!" My sister then was too cruel. "Your wife was a virgin. You told her lying together was a sin. Pathetic cultist! Not only did she lay with Master, but with my sisters and I, and all of us together. Aye, and William too. We laughed speaking of you, naked together in Master's bed. Remember that as you die!"

"Ellie...that's too much," the lord said and looked at her. My sister gnashed her teeth and even glared at Master. Fotena and I prepared to slay her but the lord held a hand up. "All right, Frobisher. What about these others?"

The fiend did not answer so I squeezed his wounded leg and he moaned. He said, "One is my brother and the others are hired men."

Master looked at them and back at the sweating dog I still held aloft. "You nearly killed me. Amazing. A few simple men came closer than Tamurlane, that...well, he was what he was. Was it your plan?"

Frobisher answered in a dead voice, he knew he would die and no longer cared, "My brother Thomas earned a Victoria Cross in the Crimea. He led us."

"Which one is he?"

"Dead there."

Our lord stumbled only slightly and Elvira caught him as he walked over to the dead man indicated and looked at him, his body of medium height beside William's tall one, and the protector's knife still in his heart. Master removed it, setting it beside William. "A poor death for a good soldier. Better far he had served me. That'd protected your sluttish wife" he said. Master's voice became cruel and Elvira smiled. Speaking to Frobisher Master said, "I sent away your young sister, Emily, who came here with your sweet virginal Gwendolyne. I told her to return when she was older if she still wants to lose her maidenhead and die in my embrace."

The little archaeologist set the volume down again. "Oh brother!" she said and got up to get a beer from the icebox. Melinda Pappas walked over to examine the pages.

"I believe I recognize the handwriting, Janice. It's quite distinctive. There's an early copy of Petrarch in Berlin that has been annotated in Italian. Clea had a literary bent apparently."

"Whoa, really? God, this is great!"

"Well, except we can't tell anyone about them."

Janice shook her head. "Even so. Exploring the prince and his bacchae might explain other things. What else did Clealisthia write? And what about Fotena and Elvira. Did they have other interests too? Someday we might be able to talk about Prince Samuel, anyway. We should learn what we can."

Mel just frowned and turned the page. "This next part is illegible, Janice."

"Is it? Dammit!" the little blonde walked over and looked at the obscured writing. "Looks like red wine or something." Then she paused and frowned.

The dark woman carefully set the volume down and shuddered. "Oh my," she said softly. Covington picked it up and began turning pages.

"Okay, you can read it again a little further on. There might be some way to decipher the other too. We ought to show it to a museum restorer. Here's where it picks up again:

....satiated. My sisters and I were as one, our faces wet with life! The blood is the life! Master joked, "Look at your gowns. They were just cleaned and now look at them!" We looked down and indeed we were unfit for his great presence. Master then smiling approached Elvira who looked him too boldly in the eyes, I thought, and turned around getting on her hands and knees beside the empty carcasses. The lord pushed her gown up over her hips and Elvira tore it off quickly. Now bare too, Fotena knelt and unbuttoned the lord's trousers and brought forth his member which she kissed and then guided into our sister Elvira. I too removed my bloody gown, and after kissing Master slid beneath Elvira. Before becoming one with my master and sisters, I showed my teeth again to the remaining fiend still bound and weeping in his cowardice.

Janice picked her hat up and began fanning herself. She looked at Mel whose face was bright red. The archaeologist looked back at the page and over at her friend. She turned one page and then another, pursed her lips and whistled at something, fanned herself again, turned another page and then resumed.

The evildoer was begging for mercy. Master approached the hanging knave and commanded, "Cut him down, Clea."

I did as instructed, still bare because of my stained garment. I was most tired from feeding and then servicing the lord with my sisters. Master studied the villain and said, "You are nothing but a hired murderer. Frobisher and his brother were defending their family"s honor. They were misguided fanatics but nevertheless had honorable motives. How much did they pay you to help assassinate me?"

"Fifty pounds, your worship," the dog replied cringing .

Master was reproachful. "You would take a life for fifty pounds? Terrible! Terrible! Have you no shame?" The lord looked at me. "We shall not feed on him; it would surely poison us. Impale him." Kind Master looked at me closely. "Go with her, Fotena. Your good sister is fatigued with blood and sport."

Mel was making notes. She said, "We can research Frobisher and his family. Scotland Yard might even have something. I think..." the phone rang interrupting and her friend answered it.

"Covington," she said, then listened and frowned. "Nah, I'm keeping it. ...Yes, I'm sure. what's this about, Reggie, the truth?" Janice listened more and suddenly tensed. "Why was that? ...Yeah, sure... no it's okay...really it's okay... you too, Reggie." After hanging the phone up, she looked at Mel who had been watching her.

"Another buyer turned up looking for the volume...saw it in the same catalog as me apparently. Reggie wanted to buy it back. Money was no object."

Melinda Pappas asked quietly, "Anything more about this new buyer?"

Janice answered tersely, "A rich foreigner but Reggie couldn't say where from. Young guy...accidentally broke some pieces. Clumsiest person he ever saw, Reggie says."

"Oh my," Mel said softly.

Janice looked at her friend and at the manuscript. She took a cigar out and cut the end off of it, then lit it. After a few moments she continued, "Reggie said the young guy asked who the buyer had been. He never tells something like that but he said he just couldn't seem to refuse; didn't understand why. Reggie hoped I wasn't gonna kick his ass." After another pause she added, "Y'know, it is hers. If I misplaced my journal and it turned up, I'd want it back. Really, we shouldn't even read any more."

Mel smiled nervously. "I'm pleased to hear you say that. You are usually so territorial about finds, no matter where you get them."

"I am? I guess, probably. But the original owners aren't generally around," Janice said ironically. "But as for reading it, I said we shouldn't read it; not that I wouldn't. it's too rare and important. Well, I'm waiting, Mel. Get on my case."

Melinda Pappas got up and went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. She didn't offer her friend any since it was too good to waste on someone who couldn't appreciate it. Sipping the rare vintage the bigger woman said, "I agree with you, Janice. I'm sorry to dissappoint you. I know how much you enjoy my disapproval." She glanced at the windows. "But it shall be dark soon, Janice. Speed might be wise."

The archaeologist began reading again:

We disposed of the evildoer by impaling him upon a spire atop a church. Master might disapprove when he learned but Fotena and I could not resist the joke.

"Girls, girls, girls..." Janice said shaking her head, then continued.

We were both still bare when we returned. Master was waiting with Elvira who was dressed now in a new gown and the lord smiled and handed two similiar beautiful garments to us. Then Master retired to sleep, awaking at dawn just as my sisters and I prepared to rest. Elvira continued to speak to our lord in a way Fotena and I felt ill at ease with.

"Brave William is dead, Lord. You must obtain a new protector."

Both Fotena and I chastised her for daring to command our lord, but with our minds so Master could not hear. Elvira replied in like manner but in terms which I blush to repeat.

Good Master replied to her, "Well, do I know it, sweet Elvira. I shall send immediately for Francois in Calais but he likely will not arrive for a week."

Elvira then said, "We shall keep you safe until then and you shall reside with us. Bring whatever you need, for we shall not allow you in harm"s way."

Master merely said, "Fotena, Clealisthsia, take your sister to bed. Have a good rest, girls."

Our sister tried to avoid us but we soon had her cursing twisting form and we carried her off as we have had to do so many other times over these many centuries. At our resting place deep in the lord's London home we released her and she sulked as we knew she would before sinking into her daily death with Fotena and I.

Nothing untoward happened for the next several days, as Master simply carried out his business by courier, ruling his remaining lands in such wise. My sisters and I despaired to think of his fallen state. We had accompanied our kind lord from being prince in a small Greek city, the mere younger brother of its terrible queen, to being master of the world. (And other worlds though we are forbidden to speak of that.) And now, through no failing of his or disaffection of his subjects, the gods had reduced him to this! He wished to die but even that was kept from our kind master by the awful unfeeling gods (they may blast me for writing the truth!). My sisters and I (even Elvira though you may scoff) often wept for our Good Prince Samuel!

Janice stopped reading and sipped her beer. "There it is, Mel. He's named with no ifs, ands or buts. I wonder what that "other worlds" bit referred to."

"Poor Samuel," Melinda said sadly.

Janice looked at her ironically. "I dunno if I'd go that far, Mel. He's still a wealthy ruler, has women throwing themselves at him, and literally gets away with murder. He's only come down in the world comparatively."

Mel shook her head. "Read Shakespeare. Comparatively is all we have, Janice. Poor Samuel."

Janice just said, "Whatever," and picked the volume up again.

When we awoke one evening we knew to dress inconspicuously. We came to our lord and several people were present. Among them to our relief, Francois, the new protector arrived from Calais. Surprisingly small, we knew from experience that meant nothing as to his ability. At our appearance he crossed himself but did not speak. My sisters and I enjoyed his discomfort. William had been the same at first but learned to appreciate our company.

Master spoke, "Ah, here are my cousins now. Girls, we shall be going to a soiree at Lady Chellinger's in three evenings. You need new ball gowns for this. This is Mrs. Coombs, who will make them for you."

"Sir," a well dressed woman said, "You did not say anything about it being so soon. I need more time." Fotena and I each took one of Elvira's hands, knowing our sister's temper. Master merely smiled and looked in her eyes and the woman said, "But for you, sir, I can do it." We released Elvira.

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Coombs. I knew I could depend on you." Master said. "Oh, in addition to the gowns for tommow evening. My cousins need entire wardrobes. Please arrange for it. I shall pay triple your normal rates. Nothing is too good for my girls!"

The soiree at Lady Chellinger's was as elegant as these small times could produce. My sisters and I looked at each other when we saw how impressed the participants were. We had but to remember Versailles and the Sun King, Florence under the magnificent Lorenzo, not to mention Peking, Baghdad, Byzantium, Edo, and Hadrian's Rome, and this was a pitiful affair indeed. Our master sensed our thoughts and looked disapprovingly at us, and we blushed at being justly reprimanded for being such poor guests.

The achaeologist stopped and said, "There's your Petrarch, Mel. Clea puts herself in Renaissance Florence."

"Well, it's not ironclad evidence but it is tantalizing," Mel replied.

Janice resumed:

Beneath the shimmering chandieliers and enveloped by the music we watched as our lord charmed all around him as he always did. First a young officer asked me to dance which I accepted and soon I and my sisters were all dancing a waltz by the elder Strauss. Our master insisted we not merely guard him, and not only because it would look odd if we did not dance. He was adamant I continue to write, as well as that Fotena continue her botanical studies. Elvira had no consuming passion such as that, but nevertheless remained most knowledgable and astute regarding foreign affairs and finance. Fotena and I knew Master sometimes used Elvira as an advisor but tried to keep that from us for fear our jealously would embitter us toward our sister. And although we all serviced the lord occasionally, if he saw one of us alone it was most often Elvira. Fotena and I were not jealous but happy for our sister and our master if they could find some companionship with each other. My sister, Fotena, and I were fortunate to find that in one another after a time. The centuries, the millenia, stretched far behind us like a road beginning as a dirt path, which became a great paved Roman road, and then traversed the seas and continents, to our present modern gaslit London streets. In all likelihood it would continue far ahead as well, perhaps until the road would no longer even be recognizable as such; and Master will doubtless be there and we with him..

Mel came over to her friend and leaned over her shoulder to study the volume, her hand resting familiarly on the smaller woman's shoulder. "Janice, I just don't know what to think of this. When we saw them during the war I had no idea they were so close."

Janice looked up at her lover's beautiful face. "They were together almost three thousand years, Mel. Everyone else came and went. I can see how they could get pretty close. That groveling stuff could'a been an act for the krauts, or even an in-joke. Clea was a writer and scholar, Fotena a botanist apparently, and God knows what you'd classify Elvira as."

"Girl Friday possibly; and it was no performance or joke. There is no shame in showing our loyalty to Master. It only demonstrates how debased this time is that you would think that."

Mel and Janice looked up at the low, slightly accented, beautiful voice. Janice looked at a window and realized it was open and the sun had set. The woman looking at them wore a tight grey skirt and jacket over a red silk blouse, high heels with sheer stockings, and her dark hair was up like Claire Trevor. Her smooth skin was pale and her lips red. She wore dark glasses which she reached up to remove, revealing yellow glowing irises.

Mel closed the volume and stood up.

Janice knew where her loaded revolver hung in the closet, just in case, even though it wouldn't be much use she suspected. "Hello, Elvira. Not a maid anymore, I guess."

"Yes, though if the labor pool dries up again..." she shrugged. Janice saw the long canines which she wasn't bothering to hide anymore than she was hiding her glowing eyes. Somehow they could make themselves appear human when they wished to.

Mel said, "You've come for Clea's memoirs." She held it out toward Elvira. The bacchae however looked at Janice.

"Are you returning it to us? It was you who purchased it, not the exalted forebearer."

Mel blinked her eyes at that description of herself. Janice sipped her beer. "Yeah, I'm returning it. I wanted to read it first though. You can probably understand, if what I've been reading is true."

The elegant creature looked at her then smiled slightly and took a seat. "Naturally. Pray continue. We have all night and I'm curious myself."

Janice and Mel glanced at each other. Janice asked, "Where is Prince Samuel? And why did you come for it and not Clealisthsia?"

Elvira took a silver flask from a pocket and took a drink, leaving her lips a different shade of red for a moment. Mel was kneading her hands nervously as Elvira replaced the flask and answered. "Clea is chagrined at misplacing it originally. I was told to use my judgment in retrieving it. Having our side of things known even if secretly is not all bad, in my judgment."

"Do Fotena or Clea ever get to make decisions like that?" Janice asked. The bacchae just shrugged noncommitally.

"Do you love Prince Samuel? Does he love you?" the small woman then said bluntly.

Mel looked at her and said quickly, "They all love him, Janice; and he loves them."

"That's not how I meant it, Mel. Ellie knows what I meant." Janice really wanted to understand their relationship, distasteful as her prying was. Prince Samuel had been hugely influential in human history even if almost no one knew it. Everything about him was important. What role had the hot tempered bacchae played? She was more than just a bodyguard but how much more?

Elvira looked at her a moment and the archaeologist wondered if she had just made the last mistake of her life. Killed for being rude; she could almost hear Mel saying I told you so. Finally the creature merely said, "Don't call me Ellie."

Janice remembered the brutal, arrogant, redheaded woman who had come to save the prince in Rumania. The archaelogist said, "You love him. I can tell. He cares for you, probably a lot, but not like he cares about Captain Angela. How do you feel about that?"

"How do you think?" Elvira hissed at the smaller woman as she grabbed her by her throat with one hand and held her aloft. The forebearer struck her but Elvira merely pushed her away, careful not to injure her. Covington was kicking her with her heavy boots but the bacchae barely felt it. Elvira released the small blonde, letting her fall choking to the floor. She resumed her seat. "You remind me of myself before I was chosen to serve Master. I always dressed better as well as having better manners, though. Continue reading Clea's journal if you wish. If you are too frightened I will take it and be on my way."

She took her flask out again, as she watched Gabrielle's descendant helped to her feet by the forebearer.

"Take it and go!" Melinda said. The archaeologist, however, vehemently shook her head and Mel looked at her with surprise.

Janice Covington was rubbing her throat. She wasn't angry, knowing she'd asked for it. And she had learned what she wanted. Mel was furious with her, she could tell, both for nearly getting herself killed and for behaving so badly. Janice cleared her throat and resumed reading.

We were enjoying the soiree. Since the new protector was with him, our lord had enjoined us to seek only pleasure. We cannot help but be careful of Master but frolicked as much as our natures permitted. Fotena and I both enjoyed harmless assignations in the gardens, the innocence of which moved us deeply. Francois remained at our lord's side and no one questioned his presence. There were many powerful men there and Francois not the only protector.

A very beautiful woman was present, one Margaret, the sister of an earl, richly attired and with long yellow hair. A quick intelligence shown from her green eyes. Master approached her and we knew we would have to again share him...perhaps for several years. This was no moment's diversion for Master such as Gwendolyne had been. When Frobisher's sister Emily returned she would be turned away. Fotena and I sent a sharp warning to Elvira. Once at a festivity in the court of Henri II, a woman our lord was charmed by was mysteriously slain. We could see how saddened our lord was. He never asked Fotena or I about it and I know not if he spoke to Elvira. What's done was done, and he surely knew that Fotena and I would never allow such a thing to happen again. We would slay our sister first.

Janice paused in her reading again. She looked up at Elvira who met her gaze. The archaeologist thought better of what she was going to say and continued with the narrative.

After a dashing German colonel had led me a fine gallop, I saw an unpleasant appearing old man with white side whiskers speaking with Master, and I sensed my sister, Elvira, being summoned. I too worked my way near them.

"The Southern states have much to recommend them from our perspective, Prince. First and foremost, naturally, their cotton production. There has been unemployment throughout our textile industry since this affair began. And as their benefactor, they would be a card for us to play internationally. Russia is becoming most bothersome again." So the unpleasant old man said.

Master replied, "Even so, Prime Minister Gladstone, I believe it would be a grave mistake for your government to recognize the Confederate States of America. For one thing you would be rewarding rebellion."

I smiled inside as I saw the old man stiffen. Master knew where to prick him, certainly!

The old man said, "Prince, this is no real nation such as you and I know. This so-called Union is nothing but a collection of ruffians who gained their treasonous independence with the assistance of France. I confess that playing the part of France ourselves appeals to long, of course, as it coincides with real objectives of policy."

"What about slavery?"

I caught my sister Fotena's eye, hardly able to believe Elvira's affront.

"Prime Minister, let me introduce my cousin, Elvira. Forgive me, sir, but she has very strong opinions on the matter. Many others in England and the Continent also do, I believe."

"Young lady," the hateful old man said frigidly.

Master said, "As long as she has broached the subject, though. What about slavery, Prime Minister?"

Our sister now remained silent and we understood she had interrupted as she had with our lord's approval. Perhaps this discussion was the reason for our attendance.

Queen Victoria's Prime Minister looked with disapproval at Elvira who now wore an innocent expression, then he looked back at our lord. "Slavery most certainly is a terrible sin, Prince; an abomination to all decent Christians. We are not Jews, after all. However, Prince, this conflict is not about slavery. That is but one factor and far from the most important. President Lincoln has made it abundantly clear that he is seeking to maintain the Union, and if that means maintaining the foul institution of slavery he will accept it."

"That's not what the Confederacy thi.." Elvira began to say but stopped at Master's hand touching her shoulder and a fierce frown from him. Our sister blushed and left the men alone. The Prime Minister looked with approval at Master, we could see. Elvira, Fotena and I all laughed inside at how smoothly the farce played out. Master and the hateful old man continued their discussion as my sisters and I found new dance partners for yet another waltz.

The archaeologist stopped reading and looked admiringly at the attractive, apparently young, woman before her.

"You disapprove?" Elvira said with a hint of mockery.

Janice was confused then realized the bacchae wasn't speaking to her but to Mel. She turned her face and saw a cold look she'd never seen before on her friend's face.

"What's done is done," Mel replied. Janice was acutely aware of the deep Southern accent. She'd come to barely hear it anymore but it sounded exaggerated now. Janice was stunned.

Elvira said, "Perhaps if you had ever seen slavery you would not be so nostalgic. Perhaps if you had experienced it, as I have, you would feel differently."

"The war was about state's rights, not slavery. They had every right to secede. Read the Constitution."

Elvira smiled. "Those lies are gone with the wind."

Mel was pale and didn't respond. Janice said, "I thought you and your sisters loved serving Prince Samuel."

Elvira looked back at her. "We came to truly love him eventually. But our feelings originally were beyond our control. Lord Bacchus placed us to protect and serve him and that remains our obsession. Our master is but a slave himself to the cruel gods, and that lets us see beyond what Bacchus did to our minds. He has always been kind to us; however, if he had been cruel we would have served him the same. We had no choice." She turned back to look at Mel, "No more choice than the female slaves of your grandfather or his own children which he sold."

"That's a lie!" Mel leaped up, quivering with rage. Janice stood up. She had never seen her like this. She put a hand on her arm but was shaken off.

"Is it? Your own father despised slavery, knowing what it meant. He and your grandfather didn't speak for 30 years. It never even occurred to him that you wouldn't feel the same. He was amused by nostalgia for Tara, Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. He didn't realize you believed it."

"I won't hear my family slandered by a..."

"Dirty slave," Elvira filled in for her. Then she added, "Look at me. I'm property of your family. And deep down you feel you own me, don't you? that's why what I'm saying angers you so much. How dare I? Sam must have spoiled me, ruined me. Your grandfather would know how to deal with me, though. that's what you feel isn't it?"

Mel turned on her heel and disappeared into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. The archaeologist looked after her then at the ageless creature before her. Despite her outward calm, Janice somehow knew she was anything but that.

"Mel is one of the most ethical and kindest people I've ever met. You don't know her," Janice said.

Elvira looked at the smaller woman and said, "I'm sure she is. As a slave owner she would be conscientious and try to do what was best for her property just as Prince Samuel does. That is what she would do if she were suddenly transported in time to her grandfather's parlor. She would even have terrible arguments with her grandfather very likely. You would immediately free any slaves even if it meant your own ruin. That's the difference between you."

"I'm sorry, Elvira," the small woman said, not knowing what else to offer.

The bacchae looked at her and replaced her dark glasses and smoothed her hair. She said, "I'll take Clealisthia's journal and be going." She reached a long-nailed hand out but Janice pulled it away. The dark glasses turned to look at her.

"I want to read more."

Elvira was motionless, then nodded and resumed her seat, taking another drink from her flask of blood and again removing her glasses.

Sitting on her bed seething, Mel expected Janice to tell her momentarily that Elvira had departed. However that did not come. Instead, she heard a muffled voice with a regular cadence which she recognized as Janice reading. The big woman angrily stood up, feeling betrayed by her friend, but was unsure what to do. In her fury she had momentarily forgotten what the creature in the other room was. She recalled Rumania and hundreds of German soldiers impaled on fence rails and whatever else could be pressed into service.

Mel tried to set aside her anger and consider what Elvira had said. In the world in which Elvira was enslaved there wasn't even a pretence slaves were inferior such as the South had maintained about negroes. Anyone could become a slave depending upon the fortunes of war. Might makes right and the weak were enslaved. If asked Mel would say she certainly didn't condone slavery; but she did have a romantic view of the antebellum South that she had never felt any particular need to examine...and she was an aristocrat. That offended the bacchae apparently because she knew firsthand what that marvelous lifestyle was built upon. Nostalgia for the Old South implied nostalgia for slavery, and when Elvira accused her of feeling she owned her, it enraged her because she knew it was true. She had found the bacchae's bondage perfectly natural.

Janice was reading Clea's description of a production of Macbeth starring Junius and Edwin Booth, which she and her sisters attended along with Prince Samuel and Margaret, when Mel emerged from the bedroom after a half an hour. The archaeologist stopped reading and she and the bacchae both looked at her.

Janice said, "You missed a good part where Francois saved the prince from Portugese assassins. Didn't even kill anybody." She was trying to relieve the tension.

Mel looked at the bacchae. "Elvira, I can only be what I am and do the best I can," the tall dark woman said. She removed her owlish glasses and cleaned them nervously on her blouse. "I hope you do not hate me for whatever you have suffered because of my family...if my family is somehow responsible for you losing your freedom, I am truly sorry."

The bacchae looked at the woman with her glowing yellow eyes. "The prince did not enslave me. As I said, he is a slave himself. I do not hate you."

Mel and Janice waited to see if there would be more but the creature replaced her dark glasses and standing said, "Master and my sisters approach."

Janice and Mel heard the crunching sound of wheels turning into a gravel driveway a moment later. They stood and when a knock came on the door Janice went to answer it, taking a deep breath first. Opening the door initially she saw the beautiful white silk suit. Then she looked up into the handsome face that except for the long mustache resembled Mel so much. She tried to be ready but when she met those blue eyes she was caught again like a butterfly on a pin.

"Janice, it's wonderful to see you...and Mel, I am so happy that circumstances have reunited us." As he spoke he took the small blonde's hand warmly.

"I'm glad to see you too, Prince," Janice managed to say, when he broke eye contact. "Hello Clea. Hello Fotena."

Elvira's sisters didn't speak but entered the apartment behind the tall elegant man. They were dressed much like Elvira though Janice noted there were slight differences that seemed to indicate personal taste: a scarf, the cut of a jacket, jewelry. Clea's eyes fastened on the volume still in the archaelolgist's hand with a finger marking a place, and she removed her dark glasses, revealing another set of glowing yellow eyes.

The archaeologist held the volume out and the bacchae took it, looking a moment at Janice but then turning to stare at Elvira. Janice felt something like a premonition before an earthquake. Fotena stepped closer to if she were prepared to restrain her.

The tall handsome prince, his hair considerably shorter than previously, though still much longer than common for the time, approached Elvira. "Ellie...I hardly expected this."

The bacchae looked down to stare at the floor. Then she got on her knees and took his hand to kiss.

"Stop it!" Mel said vehemently. In an instant Fotena was beside her. Clea was standing near Janice.

Prince Samuel glanced at Mel and smiled softly. He looked in her eyes and she caught her breath. "Please. Don't interfere in something you can't understand."

"I understand evil well enough! I understand slavery when I see it!" Mel somehow managed to say in a strangled voice even though he had willed her to be quiet. Fotena made a hissing sound but stopped at a gesture from Prince Samuel.

He approached Mel. Janice began to say something but stopped at another look from the prince. She tried to take a step and found Clea holding her arm with a grip that felt like a pair of shackles. Elvira hadn't moved, remaining on her knees and staring at the floor. Prince Samuel smiled showing his white teeth and said, "Slavery! Where did you get such an outlandish notion? Really, Elvira, what have you been saying here? Wait out in the car." The bacchae rose and hurridly left, keeping her face down.

The prince glanced at Janice and Mel and they felt able to speak again. Fotena and Clea stepped away from them. He said, "This is unfortunate. I had hoped to have a nice visit with you but I can see that is impossible now. Things are not always what they seem. Perhaps what you suspect has some merit but there is also another side. What about my Clea's rights? Elvira was sent to retrieve her journal but instead shares it...intentionally twisting the intent of my instructions. What you see as slavery I would characterize more as a family argument."

He took a billfold out and counted out ten thousand dollars in thousand dollar bills and tossed the money on Janice"s battered coffee table. "For what you paid for the volume and your trouble."

Janice said, "I paid eight hundred dollars. I don't want any more than that."

"Then give the rest to charity," he said offhandedly.

Neither Janice or Mel spoke. He looked at them and shook his head sadly. "This is really too bad. Goodby."

The tall long-haired man followed by the two elegant women walked out the door tripping slightly. After a few moments a car could be heard driving away.

Janice looked at Mel whose face was red. She said, "Would you like some more wine that I'm too much of a rube to appreciate?"

"Thank you, Janice."

When she returned with the wineglass, as she handed it to the larger woman she said, "I'm really proud of you, Mel."

The dark woman looked at her, not answering.