…."Finally, it must have been three hours before morning, I heard noises outside the cell. Something violent;
the guard giving a sharp cry and then falling. The man had been slain. Mekare stirred beside me. I heard the
lock pulled, and the pivots creak. Then it seemed I heard a noise from Mekare, something like unto a moan.
"Someone had come into the cell, and I knew by my old instinctive power that it was Khayman. As he cut the
ropes which bound us, I reached out and clasped his hand. But instantly 1 thought, this is not Khayman! And
then I understood. They have done it to you! They have worked it on you.'
" 'Yes,' he whispered, and his voice was full of wrath and bitterness, and a new sound had crept into it, an
inhuman sound. 'They have done it! To put it to the test, they have done it! To see if you spoke the truth!
They have put this evil into me.' It seemed he was sobbing; a rough dry sound, coming from his chest. And I
could feel the immense strength of his fingers, for though he didn't want to hurt my hand, he was.
" 'Oh, Khayman,' I said, weeping. 'Such treachery from those you've served so well.' "
" 'Listen to me, witches,' he said, his voice guttural and full of rage. 'Do you want to die tomorrow in fire and
smoke before an ignorant populace; or would you fight this evil thing? Would you be its equal and its enemy
upon this earth? For what stays the power of mighty men save that of others of the same strength? What
stops the swordsman but a warrior of the same mettle? Witches, if they could do this to me, can I not do it to
"I shrank back, away from him, but he wouldn't let me go. I didn't know if it was possible. I knew only that I
didn't want it.
" 'Maharet,' he said. They shall make a race of fawning acolytes unless they are beaten, and who can beat
them save ones as powerful as themselves!'
" 'No, I would die first,' I said, yet even as the words left me I thought of the waiting flames. But no, it was
unforgivable. Tomorrow I should go to my mother; I should leave here forever, and nothing could make me
" 'And you, Mekare?' I heard him say. 'Will you reach now for ,, the fulfillment of your own curse? Or die
and leave it to the spirits who have failed you from the start?'
"The wind came up again, howling about the palace; I heard the outside doors rattling; I heard the sand flung
against the walls. Servants ran through distant passages; sleepers rose from their beds. I could hear the
faint, hollow, and unearthly wails of the spirits I most loved.
" 'Be still,' I told them, T will not do it. I will not let this evil in.'
"But as I knelt there, leaning my head against the wall, and reasoning that I must die, and must somehow
find the courage for it, I realized that within the small confines of this cell, the unspeakable magic was being
worked again. As the spirits railed against it, Mekare had made her choice. I reached out and felt these two
forms, man and woman, melded like lovers; and as I struggled to part them, Khayman struck me, knocking
me unconscious on the floor.
"Surely only a few minutes passed. Somewhere in the blackness, the spirits wept. The spirits knew the final
outcome before I did. The winds died away; a hush fell in the blackness; the palace was still.
"My sister's cold hands touched me. I heard a strange sound like laughter; can those who have no tongue
laugh? I made no decision really; I knew only that all our lives we had been the same; twins and mirror
images of each other; two bodies it seemed and one soul. And I was sitting now in the hot close darkness of
this little place, and I was in my sister's arms, and for the first time she was changed and we were not the
same being; and yet we were. And then I felt her mouth against my throat; I felt her hurting me; and
Khayman took his knife and did the work for her; and the swoon began.
"Oh, those divine seconds; those moments when I saw again within my brain the lovely light of the silver sky;
and my sister there before me smiling, her arms uplifted as the rain came down. We were dancing in the rain
together, and all our people were there with us, and our bare feet sank into the wet grass; and when the
thunder broke and the lightning tore the sky, it was as if our souls had released all their pain. Drenched by
the rain we went deep into the cave together; we lighted one small lamp and looked at the old paintings on
the walls-the paintings done by all the witches before us; huddling together, with the sound of the distant rain
we lost ourselves in these paintings of witches dancing; of the moon coming for the first time into the night
"Khayman fed me the magic; then my sister; then Khayman again. You know what befell me, don't you? But
do you know what the Dark Gift is for those who are blind? Tiny sparks flared in the gaseous gloom; then it
seemed a glowing light began to define the shapes of things around me in weak pulses; like the afterimages
of bright things when one closes one's eyes.
"Yes, I could move through this darkness. I reached out to verify what I beheld. The doorway, the wall; then
the corridor before me; a faint map flashed for a second of the path ahead.
"Yet never had the night seemed so silent; nothing inhuman breathed in the darkness. The spirits were
"And never, never again did I ever hear or see the spirits. Never ever again were they to answer my
questions or my call. The ghosts of the dead yes, but the spirits, gone forever.
"But I did not realize this abandonment in those first few moments, or hours, or even in the first few nights.
"So many other things astonished me; so many other things filled me with agony or joy.
"Long before the sunrise, we were hidden, as the King and Queen were hidden, deep within a tomb. It was
to the grave of Khayman's own father that he took us, the grave to which the poor desecrated corpse had
been restored. I had by then drunk my first draught of mortal blood. I had known the ecstasy which made the
King and Queen blush for shame. But I had not dared to steal the eyes of my victim; I had not even thought
such a thing might work.
"It was five nights later that I made such a discovery; and saw as a blood drinker truly sees for the first time.
"By then we had fled the royal city, moving north all night. And in place after place, Khayman had revealed
the magic to various persons declaring that they must rise up against the King and Queen, for the King and
Queen would have them believe they alone had the power, which was only the worst of their many lies.
"Oh, the rage Khayman felt in those early nights. To any who wanted the power he gave it, even when he
was so weakened that he could scarce walk at our side. That the King and the Queen should have worthy
enemies, that was his vow. How many blood drinkers were created in those thoughtless weeks, blood
drinkers who would increase and multiply and create the battles of which Khayman dreamed?
"But we were doomed in this first stage of the venture- doomed in the first rebellion, doomed in our escape.
We were soon to be separated forever-Khayman, Mekare, and I.
"Because the King and Queen, horrified at Khayman's defection, and suspecting that he had given us the
magic, sent their soldiers after us, men who could search by day as well as night. And as we hunted
ravenously to feed our newborn craving, our trail was ever easy to follow along the small villages of-the
river-bank or even to the encampments of the hills.
"And finally not a fortnight after we had fled the royal palace, we were caught by the mobs outside the gates
"If only we had reached the sea. If only we had remained together. The world had been born over again to
us in darkness; desperately we loved one another; desperately we had exchanged our secrets by the light of
"But a trap lay waiting for us at
saw that he could not possibly save us, and went deep into the hills to wait his moment, but it never came.
"Mekare and I were surrounded as you remember, as you have seen in your dreams. My eyes were torn
from me again; and we feared the fire now, for surely that could destroy us; and we prayed to all things
invisible for final release.
"But the King and the Queen feared to destroy our bodies. They had believed Mekare's account of the one
great spirit, Amel, who infected all of us, and they feared that whatever pain we might feel would then be felt
by them. Of course this was not so; but who could know it then?
"And so into the stone coffins we were put, as I've told you. One to be taken to the east and one to the west.
The rafts had already been made to set us adrift in the great oceans. I had seen them even in my blindness;
we were being carried away upon them; and I knew from the minds of my captors what they meant to do. I
knew also that Khayman could not follow, for the march would go on by day as it had by night, and surely
this was true.