Darkness pressed behind his eyes. It engulfed him – for a moment, perhaps an era – like a wave of warm seawater. He spluttered as some if it dripped down his throat.
‘Stay awake and just swallow,’ De Laval commanded. ‘I have never done this before, but if you’re right, it may save your life.’
His body felt weightless, as if he were still floating on the water. He licked his wet lips. They stung and tasted of copper. More droplets seeped into his mouth and onto his tongue.
‘It would be faster if you drank from the cut,’ he heard De Laval say, ‘but I think the priests would take offense.’
‘How could they not?’ wheezed Charteris somewhere to the side. ‘No, keep your phial and its vile contents. I prefer to place my faith in God.’
‘Christians have no qualm about drinking the blood of Christ.’
‘Symbolically,’ Charteris said with spite. ‘And you…You are not Him.’
‘I never made a claim to the contrary…but if my blood can make a difference, be it only for the two of you, perhaps… perhaps my existence serves a purpose yet.’
Grasping at straws of reality, Leo reached for the safety of the cross hovering nearby. His fingers caught in the soft, white purity of the symbol, just as the blackness that surrounded it extended to take him in.