“So, this is where your mistress is at?” I asked, looking up at the massive cathedral in front of us.
Ryan nodded. “These are the coordinates on Mia’s transceiver.”
I rubbed my bottom, the previous sixteen hours of the flight taking a toll on my body. I was completely jetlagged, and my brain reeled over the sudden trip. I hoped the guys wouldn’t be too angry at me for leaving. This seemed like a personal thing Ryan needed to do, and the less present, the better it would be. Plus I still had Victor around if anything bad happened. I trusted him to keep me safe, which gave me a kind of warm feeling inside. I didn’t like the emotion, so I mentally crushed it.
“Are you nervous?” Victor asked.
“Robots do not feel nervous,” Ryan responded with a cool voice.
Victor frowned a bit; I knew he was just trying to be friendly. To be honest, the other guys didn’t take to him like they had to each other. His well-known popularity, flamboyant dressing, and tendency to be out on work-related issues most of the time, he made the others nervous. I suppose I understood it, but Victor was Victor. He was a friend; I’ve literally known him since before I was born.
Fortunately, after his confession to me, he hadn’t made any passes. He always remained respectful of our friendship. He certainly wasn’t like Xavier, trying to take every opportunity to get in my pants. That was part of what I liked about it. He was always so relaxed, kind, and easy-going. He wasn’t as intense as Andrew, and that made him easy to talk to. Being an ultra-rich famous pop idol didn’t hurt either.
Ryan took a few steps forward towards the cathedral. It had a very gothic appearance, gargoyle statues lining the massive stairway leading to a set of massive entrance doors. Massive towers framed stain glass windows that ended in sharp peaks. In some ways, it looked more like a castle than a church. The massive crucifix on either side of the doorway gave the impression of a church.
The building looked a bit out of place in this small Italian village. The second-largest building in this town was a quarter of the size. Victor, who spoke Italian, had asked a few locals about it. They claimed that the place was haunted. It was owned by a mysterious benefactor who never left the place. She did send out her servants, though. Her servants were renowned to their attractive beauty and unapproachability. Many of the local women had made passes at one servant or another, only to be turned down or outright ignored.
Ryan pressed forward up the steps while Victor and I glanced at each other. I shrugged, following after Ryan. This was why we were here, after all. He pushed open the enormous doors, causing a loud wailing sound as the door squealed open. Only a few steps into the massive cathedral’s chapel, a massive form rose out from behind the pulpit and moved towards us. Victor moved in front of me, putting a hand out as if to protect me.
As the form approached us, I realized it looked like a handsome man. He looked as impressive as any of the hawtness, although perhaps a little older. He had a wide, muscular body, dark black eyes, and shaggy uncombed hair. I got a bit of a Hugh Jackman vibe off him.
The man glanced at each of us, disdain on his face. When his eyes reached Ryan’s, they widened a bit.
“Well, well, it looks like the mistress’ Ryan has returned. How long has it been?”
“It has been three years, seven mo-”
“That was rhetorical, you nitwit.” The man growled before turning to Victor and me.
“Well, I see you brought more toys for the mistress. The dark one with the glower might be to her liking, but the mistress hasn’t been into girls since that fling in Madrid. She wouldn’t go for one as plain and uninteresting as what you bring before me.”
“Actually, Marcus, these are my friends. They helped me find mistress and return.”
“Friends,” Marcus’ lips twisted as if the thought disgusted him, “How could a tin can like you have friends?”
Ryan’s face didn’t flinch, adopting the same vacant and cold appearance he always had. I wish I could say the same, but rage boiled in me. These were Ryan’s old friends and family? They were assholes! That was putting it mildly. I was just about to berate the Hugh Jackass when he spoke up again.
“Well, you better not leave her waiting; you know how she hates that.” Marcus waved his hand up, another form of a smaller, yet attractive boy emerged from the pulpit, “Yes, let her know. The only thing she hates more than waiting is surprises.”
Ryan gave a deep, respectful bow as the man moved to the side, allowing us to walk down a long aisle between the long sets of seating. I sniffed as I passed the man, being the best way to show my discontentment on the fly. Marcus gave me a cruel smile in response. The smile slipped when Victor passed by. From the angle, I didn’t see the expression on Victor’s face, but it seemed to unnerve the bigger man.
The three of us moved towards the altar at the head of the church, Ryan leading the way. As we approached, a person stood up that I hadn’t noticed before. He was taller and lankier than Marcus had been but still had far too pretty a face to be on a boy.
“Well, well,” The boy chuckled, “If it isn’t our lost sheep.”
“You look damaged,” another boy said.
I had to blink twice when I turned to him, realizing he looked like the first boy, right down to the same outfit.
“Now, now, brothers,” A third identical boy moved out from a side room, “Be nice, we wouldn’t want to break him before he got to be reunited with Mistress.”
“Hello, Alistair Triplets, it is nice to see you,” Ryan spoke up.
The three boys looked at each other before breaking into a fit of giggles as if they shared a joke the three of us didn’t understand. All three of them might have been pretty boys, but something about the atmosphere of this place put me on edge. It didn’t feel right in here.
“Oh, I suppose we shouldn’t waste your time,” one of them spoke.
“Oh no, we wouldn’t want that,” a second one chimed in.
“Shall we let them through?” The first one said.
“Yes, we shall,” the third grabbed an innocuous-looking candle sitting on a waist-high candle stand.
There was a click, and the altar fell back, the floor rumbling in the process. I fought the urge to gasp at the sight. It was surreal, something you might see in a video game, but not in an actual church. I turned away from the sight. One of the triplets winked at me, and I grimaced. I wasn’t in the mood to bring another boy home with me, let alone three.
When the rumbling stopped, I turned back to the altar to see a giant staircase trailing down into solid darkness. I was starting to become more alarmed by the second. Who was this mistress of Ryan’s? She wouldn’t be a normal person; I was certain of that. She lived in some kind of underground catacomb for Pete’s sake.
“Your mistress isn’t a vampire, is she?” I spoke before I could help myself.
The three triplets burst into laughing, falling on each other as they moved away from the pulpit.
“Vampire, she says,” One of them laughed.
“I’ve known her to suck,” another laughed.
“She gives and receives, our mistress,” the third hooted as the three moved into a backroom, muffling their voices.
“Eh, no,” Victor spoke up once they left our hearing, “I’d expect you to know by now that vampires are not like the stories. However, if she was one, I’d be able to tell. Still, there is something in the air. Just follow my lead, I’ll keep you safe.”
Ryan was already heading into the darkness of the uncovered staircase, and the two of us took a few quick steps to catch up to him. About halfway down, flickering orange light replaced the dwindling light of the church above. We continued to follow Ryan into a massive underground cavern.
I had expected something dank, dark, and musty, but the room permeated the smell of lilacs. The water seemed to flow from a crevice in the wall and flowed across the middle of the room, a fancy decorated bridge spanning it despite the flow being small enough to step over. Beautiful, detailed torches sat on each wall emitting a soft, smokeless flame of light. There were several more boys in this room, some of them appearing as surreal as the setting.
One boy had green hair and green eyes, his clothing replaced with vines and moss that spread across his pale green skin. Another man crossed our path. He had massive horns jutting out of his head and rather than feet, he had hooves, causing him to walk in a crutched way. Ignoring the lower half, he was easily as beautiful as Marcus.
“Is that another demon?” I whispered to Victor, the caverns causing my voice to echo far louder than I intended.
“I believe the more accurate term in satyr,” Victor eyed the half-beast as it turned and gave a grin before trudging on.
“Who is this woman?” I wondered out loud.
“If I had to bet a guess,” Victor shook his head. “I’d say she was a collector.”
“A collector of what?” I glanced around, not really seeing anything worth collecting.
Victor gave a slight smile, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
I frowned but decided not to press him. The whole place was putting both of us on edge. Ryan continued to move forward, unperturbed by the sight in front of him. It might have been because he was a robot and that seemed to be his default expression, or possibly because none of this was unusual to him. I found myself dwelling on who this mistress was once again.
We moved up to another set of doors at the end of the cavern. As we approached, the doors swung open by themselves, as if they were waiting in anticipation. We passed through the doors, emerging into a massive antechamber that was easiest to describe as a throne room. A long, lavish rug rolled down the length of the long room. Each side was lined with massive columns and more of the smokeless torches.
The front of the room possessed a massive throne, raised up a few steps high. Several people were gathered at the front, all seeming to be attractive boys, lying around in leisure. Bowls of fruit, candy, and fondue were strewn across the ground around the throne. In the center of it all, lying across the throne, her feet dangling off the side, was a bored-looking woman.