We make our way to New-Orleans without incident. I remove a silver bullet from Metis’ flank though she did not appear to be bothered, after which she trots off while munching on an arm. Jimena informs me that only a Nightmare and vampire with a true bond could call on each other like that, and that I must have been an exceptionally talented and domineering owner for her to be so subservient. When I inform my sister that Metis is anything but subservient and that the haughty, overgrown pony has a tendency to wander off when she feels like it, I am faced with a complicated expression.
“Somehow, I am not surprised,” she declares after a while.
Whatever that means.
We take shelter for the day inside of the building that had hosted my fateful duel against Jimena. I learn that it acts as a sort of embassy, inn and government office rolled in one for the local vampires and their visitors. There, the Knights relay the situation to a representative of the Roland and Ekon clans who quickly dispatch mercenaries to the location of the fight. When they arrive, both the White Cabal and the Order are long gone. A night later, we take a ship to Boston with Melusine, who is to be interrogated about the whole disaster and her role in it.
We settle in another boat ride which leads to yet another case of boredom. There is only so much coast I can watch before it becomes tedious. I occupy my time by drawing some of the things I saw like Jonathan’s half-smile, the old woman sacrificing her life to save Sola, the albino nurse herself facing me despite her fear but before too much snot drips down her nose etc. Anatole stops harassing me and I get to practice guessing cards with Aisha’s help, something she assures me I am moderately talented at. In addition, I exchange a few words with Melusine on occasion. Our conversations are usually like this.
“Oh, Ariane, I thought it smelled like sweat, mud and sugar cane around here.”
“Is that you Melusine? I thought it was someone important.”
And so on.
I am so beyond ennui that I wouldn’t mind a pirate attack. I would scream the random words that Dalton taught me and have somebody, anybody really, walk the plank afterward. Alas, the days of the dread pirate Ariane have not come yet. I pester a sailor until he informs me that we sail at a speed of seven knots, then pester him further to learn that it is equivalent to eight miles per hour which is apparently really good, for a sailboat. After a week of travel and at sundown, we come in view of Boston harbor.
The sea is covered in ships, warships, steamers and rowboats of all sizes. White sails and dark hulls contrast with the muddy green of the ocean. The flurry of activity does not stop, even at this late hour. We pass a few islands before our destination comes into view. An elevated landmass covered in buildings sits here, surrounded by waterways.
“Water on the other side as well,” an old sailor comments laconically.
Rows upon rows of warehouses and factories start from the shore and continue out of view. The uniform mass of their dark roofs is broken here and there by the spire of a church, or by the white columns of official buildings. Columns of smoke rise into the night air like so many snakes, and the air is charged with the perfume of brine and burnt sugar under the overwhelming stench of raw sewage. I scrunch my nose with distaste.
It doesn’t take us long to moor at a pier where several carriages drawn by lesser Nightmares await us. We disembark and climb in without a word, and mortals soon lead us through the city.
I look out the window as we pass by. I have never been to the original colonies, so this is quite exciting! We pass endless rows of factories, herds of animals led through the street and a few markets smelling of meat, rum, and tobacco. The population here is so… white, compared to New Orleans. And the richer denizens sound weird, with an accent I have never heard before. I drink the sights until finally, we reach the southern part of the city and nature makes a reappearance.
I return my attention to the interior of the ride. Jimena, Anatole and Melusine ride with me. I cross eyes with the red-haired harpy.
She smiles lightly and her lips spell the word “bumpkin.”
Perhaps I should look outside more, it wouldn’t do to slay her while she can still be of use.
Cut stone and painted wood gives way to maple and birch as we ride South. After a few more minutes, we follow deserted trails until we enter a forest of tall pine trees. The scent of their sap and dried needles soothes my increasingly nervous mind, until we leave their cover behind.
The path we follow leaves the forest behind and descends into a small expanse of flatland covered in vegetation. There, hidden from view, greenhouses and patches of greenery alternate with small homes lit by lanterns, with a few larger barns casting darker shadows. On the sides, the land falls abruptly into the sea so that an intimate valley is formed. In front of us and after the flatlands, a large mound of sheer cliff dominates the landscape, with the road dug into its stony flanks. Light shines from its summit and I can already see the edge of a slated roof. The carriages do not stop, and we slowly make our way up, past two security checks whose guards wave us forward. Soon, we reach the top and a manor comes into full view.
We first travel through a last gate and a garden designed to look natural. Rows of trees block the wind and create hidden paths where revelers would have the illusion of intimacy. Behind that, the road ends at the foot of a majestic U-shaped edifice with the main body parallel to the sea. Its walls are of pink sandstone with only light decorations. Three wings, each more than sixty yards long, shelter in their embrace a French style garden centered around a fountain. A straight path leads from the entrance to a monumental set of stairs decorated on each side by columns separating the garden proper from a covered promenade. French windows on the left give me glimpses of a ballroom that could easily fit a hundred, and the entire second floor is adorned by one uninterrupted balcony. I can tell that there is a third floor and attic, and I expect that as in most vampire strongholds, a significant part of the structure will be buried.
The most striking thing is not the architecture, however, but the vampires. A dozen of them cross the garden at a sedate pace and lean from the balconies in small groups of two to three. They affect indifference, but I can feel the weight of their attention on us. Their auras are deployed yet peaceful, and I can tell that most of them are Masters with at least one Lord thrown in.
Jimena exits first and takes my side as I follow. We walk in behind Anatole, and I thank Sinead’s harsh training for without which my aura would have betrayed my stress.
Instead of a standard hall, the entrance leads to a lobby with the opposite windows offering a view of the sea and beyond that, the mainland. Tables and couches set on thick rugs form a harmonious rest area around a hearth in which a fire burns quietly. Light is provided by multiple candles though it remains subdued. On each table, pots filled with dried flowers and herbs perfume the air.
It is not enough to mask the cold spice I associate with vampires. The air is heavy with it, both a welcome and a warning.
A man stands in front of a front desk with his hand folded against his back. He wears an elaborate black suit with a bowtie that would look like a butler uniform were it not for the jacket being slightly too long and suspiciously heavy. Despite his obvious role as the welcome party, I find myself intimidated. His aura is powerful, probably more powerful than Moor’s, and it has a wild quality to it that reminds me of werewolf. His eyes are so dark that I cannot tell the iris from the pupil and he wears his long sandy-colored hair tied in a tail, as well as a short and well-trimmed beard of the same color. His face has a ruddy quality, as if he had been an outdoorsman before being turned. From his expression, I can tell that he is not pleased.
“The Speaker expects you in the courtroom,” he starts with a deep voice, “immediately.”
His tone makes it clear that this wasn’t a suggestion. We turn left into a soberly decorated corridor, and then right into an antechamber. There are no windows here, only an empty desk and a few chairs. A single large door leads further in, and on each side stands a sentinel.
And here the veneer of civilization falls off and the iron fist beneath the velvet glove is revealed. The pair are a battle Lord and Lady without a doubt. They held pole weapons the color of the void and were clad in a twin set of Dvergur-made enchanted armor that would cause Loth to whistle in admiration. I realize that there is enough might in this room to depopulate a small city and repress a shiver. The sheer pressure of so many crushing auras in such an enclosed space strikes me with a claustrophobia that has nothing to do with the lack of exits. Despite their fearful appearance, they open the door in silence and let us through without pause.
This is it.
This is where my fate will soon be decided. Jimena takes my hand for a fraction of a second and releases it, for which I am grateful. I let go of a breath that I had been holding since the garden. I take a second to inspect my surroundings. The room is split in two in its middle with rows of seats on each side. The top rows have unadorned desks with partitions allowing privacy. They lead to an elevated area with a tall desk which I remember is called the bench. I can see three highly decorative seats to the left and a door to the right leading to parts unknown. Large windows set high into the wall only show the night sky.
The room is empty.
Our advance grinds to a stop and I expect the others to be at a loss. I am quickly proven wrong, as Jimena leads me to the left front seat while Anatole and his squad sit on the right. Jimena proudly takes her place by my side and I hear a single click when Anatole’s jaws lock together.
We wait for only one minute before the right door bangs open and a man in a dark magistrate robe steps in.
I don’t know what I expected from Constantine but whatever it was, I am not disappointed. North America’s only Progenitor is very tall, but also quite thin. He has a hooked nose and sensual lips as well as large chestnut-colored eyes. His hair is dark and cut very close. His face’s strange features would be ugly on anybody else, but on him the arrangement is eye-catching and magnetically attractive.
His eyes immediately fall on me and I feel a pressing weight settling on my shoulders for a moment before he turns his attention to Anatole with obvious displeasure. His voice is a soft baritone that would be more fitting in a lecture hall but right now, it is dripping with sarcasm and disappointment.
“So, this is the rabid rogue you spent so much time and resources tracking down, Anatole? The bloodthirsty and barely coherent monster you promised?”
“Please, your excellence, do not let yourself be fooled by-”
My eyes widen in surprise. Seriously? That little, pathetic, ungrateful prick! We fought together!
“-her meek appearance, she-”
Constantine says a single word, and his aura bursts out.
I gasp in surprise and pain, and even Jimena winces before the merciless display. My neck bends forward under the ominous pressure and I fight to remain upright.
This is the power of a Progenitor. And he is the youngest of them? By the Watcher, Semiramis was right. I have never witnessed my Sire take anything seriously.
“Answer my question carefully, Anatole. Is she a rogue?”
The abominable wanker licks his lips with nervousness. How I wish I could KILL HIM for the… the sheer audacity!
“Perhaps not,” he replies, “but I have proof that…”
“This trial is to decide the rogue status of a young and isolated vampire who thoroughly outplayed you, using loopholes in my carefully constructed laws to make a technically correct claim. I think the verdict is clear.”
“But you have another litany of charges to submit against her, wasting countless more hours of my valuable time, yes?”
“Excellence, I assure you that she has shown signs of working for unidentified forces. Those earrings, for example, could never have been made by a savage as she claimed…”
I’ll kill him. I’ll fucking kill him and I will make it slow, shameful and excruciating. I will peel the skin from his back, I’ll…
“I have had enough of you and of this whole farce. Ariane of the Nirari will be thoroughly interrogated to determine if she presents an active danger to the Accords.”
I feel shock overcoming me. Don’t I have a say in that? Jimena mirrors my expression of dismay.
“Yes, Excellence,” answers Anatole with a dangerous glint. Oh no, please no…
“Not by you of course, by Ignace. If declared innocent, she will be cleared of any and all charges from her rebirth until now and her petition for House status will proceed immediately.”
Anatole scowls. Though he wisely decides to remain silent.
“In addition, Anatole, you will be stripped from your position.”
You could hear a pin drop three rooms over.
“You do not have the authority to have me removed,” he slowly enunciates. Instead of exploding, Constantine raises an aristocratic brow.
“Let me clarify. You will be banished from North America on pain of death. If this occurs, the Knights will have little choice but to have you replaced, won’t they?”
Both Jimena and Anatole stand up in protest after he is done but the Speaker’s voice covers them all.
“Enough! It is done. Take her away.”
The two sentinels grab me by the shoulders, and despite my hiss, take me away with ease. I do my best to calm down as they drag me down several steps of stairs until the coziness of the manor gives way to bedrock in dark granite.
It should be alright. I can answer truthfully to any question they have, except perhaps on Semiramis… By the Watcher I hope it will not count against me. It shouldn’t. I have done nothing to harm the Accords. Yes, if anything, I have been quiet and cautious. I think it will be fine. I will be fine.
The pair opens a heavily reinforced door at the end of the corridor and we enter a square room dug directly into the stone.
A chair of dark iron.
Pliers, pincers, a brasero.
A painfully thin man with his chest bare turns as we come in. His face is dour and his dull brown eyes are lifeless.
“Good evening, I am Ignace. Should we begin?”
“Ah, the issue with oaths is an intriguing one. Our minds are still surprisingly human, we are not automatons who consider all possibilities after all, yes? Sometimes, oaths may contradict each other. Take the case of a loyal knight who swore to protect king and country. What happens if he realizes that the king is insane? Would it be better to revolt to protect the country despite the destruction it would cause, or fight to defend the king? An intriguing situation, is it not? In our case, it will cost us, but we will decide or realize which oath is the most important. And so, some people could swear to withhold information before being questioned and thus be shielded from confession. That is why we should proceed this way. In the end, I will break you and learn all there is to know, and then, eventually, you will make a full recovery. Begging is useless. Bargaining is useless. It is but one hurdle to pass, but pass it you will. I am good at what I do.”
“I worked on some of your siblings, you know? They were always too far gone for us to learn anything worthwhile. It is such an unexpected pleasure to cooperate with you.”
“Oh, but this is a cooperation. I shall teach you much while we make our path together. For example, you care too much about your body’s integrity and nudity. You are no longer a mortal, yes? Your body will always recover from harm. It is just a vessel. Losing an arm is a hindrance, not a life sentence. Losing your eyes just means you need to rely on other senses while they regrow. Speaking of which…”
“The most sensitive parts of the human body are the hands, the face and to some extent, the genitals. Vampires are especially sensitive to losing fangs. You can still feed properly even if you are missing some of them. Remember, they will grow back. Now, drink.”
“To grow back selective parts more quickly, you need to focus your essence on the wound. You will know it works when the severed limb turns to ash. Try again. Faster, this time.”
“Tell me of your path up till now. You were a city master, yes? Quite the smart little trickster you are. It will be a pleasure to see you grow.”
The Master learnt that she could see into the future.
“A seer hm? You do not have the contemplative personality to make full use of it, but I am sure the intuition that will result from this practice will be of use to a warrior such as you.”
The Courtier drank the royal blood and became Master. She slew the enforcer from the enemy clan.
“You treat the Fae as a faction? Oh, this is so very precious. You are an interesting one, Ariane of the Nirari. I have not been this pleasantly surprised in a long time. Rest assured that this tale is safe with me. The sun will grow cold before I break the secrecy of the confession, it is, after all, my most precious oath.”
The Courtier followed the beacon.
“I would rather not hear this story. I know of whom you speak and would prefer not to attract her attention.”
The Courtier ruled over Marquette.
“An interesting mix of Mask and Eneru doctrines. You will undoubtedly fit well with either group when the time comes for you to visit our birthplace.”
The Courtier tracked the key and faced the Herald.
“Magnificent. And to lose such an excellent Vassal and carry on. You are a wonder. Those alliances you made will serve you well. Very few of us attract the favor of the Rosenthal, not to mention a major Dwarf clan.”
The Courtier lived and fought alongside Loth and for a time, the human Bingle as well.
“There are forces at work that operate on a different level than us. It is unusual for any of them to be so heavy handed. I wish I could have witnessed it.”
The fledgling ran through the wilderness.
“You did extremely well. Most fleeing fledglings are quickly caught by simply following the trail of bodies. It takes cunning and caution to survive on the run.”
The fledgling served the Lancaster as their ward and their slave.
“It is not unusual for covens to pick up errant Fledglings and Courtiers from other clans. The way you were treated is an anomaly, however. Only the arrogant and foolish sharpen the blade that will be used against them.”
The fledgling struggled to remain herself after waking up.
“A most difficult situation. I understand that most Masters carefully select and nurture those they will sire over a long period of time. It has been so for the past half a millennium.”
“I said, go on.”
Third night. The naïve girl swallows air in big dry gulps between two cracked lips. Her body is but one large sore covered in scabs from which blood slowly seeps. Broken bones and failing organs. She is dying and knows it. She wants the embrace of death, to just make it stop. It will not come. Something dark is eating her from the inside, keeping the reaper at bay. It should not be. Her feverish thoughts are muddied. Demons crawl from the walls and from under the cot she was dumped on to scratch at her mangled flesh, to gnaw on her shattered digits. Please, just let it end. Please.
Heavy footsteps. The monster is coming back. She tries to scream. Only a broken rattle escapes from her tortured throat. He bites her again. He forces her to drink the black thing. It is even more delicious than yesterday and the pain of drinking it, the feeling of violation, is even more. Her heart stops beating. Her lungs give up. Her last vision was that of the amused monster and a corner of dirty ceiling.
Second night. The naïve girl wakes up with a jolt. She fell asleep in the hospital bed. This is not the hospital bed. He took her back. She panics. Then, she calms down a bit, regains control. She is hurt. Soiled. Not broken. Not yet. She slowly sits back up. The claw marks on her stomach make her moan but she endures. She makes herself fall from the bed and gasps in agony. It takes her a minute just to stop shaking. One of her arms is broken. The left one. There is just an ocean of pain between her legs. She is in a cellar, somewhere. The door is open. She sees it by the light of a lantern. It is still day. She doesn’t know how she knows it. She knows she must escape. She crawls forward. Drags herself with one hand. With each movement, the wounds around and in her core reopen. Tears fall down her eyes but she bites down and endures. Little by little, she goes on. She passes the door.
On her left, a man with dark curly hair and a muscular back sits at a desk. She freezes. He finishes writing then turns around with a smile. He says something in a language she does not understand. She screams when he picks her up, when he breaks the fingers of her right hand. He bites her neck. He forces her to drink something. It is intoxicating, the most exquisite thing in the world, but it burns everything on its way down. The pain and violation defy description, but she cannot stop. The pain makes her consciousness shatter.
First night. The naïve girl and her friend Constanza flit from group to group in the prestigious New Orleans venue. The reception room itself is larger than any place they have ever been in, including the church. Smartly dressed waiters circle around richly dressed revelers, offering bubbly flutes and appetizers. The two friends have a lot of fun. They are newcomers, and the novelty of their presence as well as their pleasant appearance made them the center of attention for the young male gentry. They bask in the glow of their attention and enjoy their first outing in the big city thoroughly. The naïve girl is not interested in the men her age. They speak of parties and events and gossip about childish things. She wants someone who speaks of economics and politics, who understands market trends and treats her like more than just a pretty thing. The naïve girl has projects aplenty. She also had two cups of champagne. One man attracts her the most. He is slightly older but not by much. He is mostly silent, as if bored, yet his eyes drift around the room, seeing everything and nothing at once. She is intrigued. She should have asked to be introduced, as is proper, but she is tipsy. Her face is flushed and her heart full of bravery, so she will display a little bit of derring-do.
At first, the man seems cold but after she has talked for a minute or so, he asks questions. She tells him everything. She speaks of producing rum and the infrastructure and funds needed. She speaks of investment, of distribution networks. She speaks of the home she wants for herself and even what kind of husband she wants. She doesn’t stop speaking. He is a good listener. He knows exactly when to needle her on and when to focus her when she loses track. She feels like she has known him forever. She feels like he could be the one. She asks for his name, and if they could meet again. She wants to lick her lips and trail her hand against his broad chest, to feel it against her own.
Constanza comes and bids them to go, as it is quite late. She agrees. She wants to meet the man again, later. The two friends leave. The naïve girl giggles as she speaks of him. Constanza teases the naïve girl. They walk to the inn where they stay and where they left their chaperone deep in his drinks. They pass next to an alley when it happens. A monster grabs the naïve girl. Her friend screams and threatens. The monster smiles. It claws the face of Constanza. The girl falls, cradling her head. Red blood drips from it in great gouts. They scream. The monster takes the naïve girl. He jumps from roof to roof. He lands near a deserted lumber mill. She tries to flee. He snaps her left leg. She falls and sobs. She fights, still.
“… do not need this arm anymore.”
A snapping sound. The naïve girl howls. The monster shreds her dress. The naïve girl fights the pain more than the man. The naïve girl cannot believe this is happening. The naïve girl sees herself as if she were outside of her own body. The monster moves between her legs. The monster defiles her. The monster bites her neck. The monster holds his own arm up. It stops moving. The monster slashes its wrist. It forces thick blood as dark as a winter night between her moaning lips. The naive girl drinks. The blood tastes divine. It ravages her insides. It is an indescribable experience. The monster takes the naïve girl in his arms…
In the now, a door bangs open. A human girl charges in. She is a Servant, with a hawkish nose and sensual lips.
“Ignace, you hijo de puta!”
“Meliton. You may not enter here, I have your Master’s permission for this.”
“Fuck him, and fuck you too. You think me stupid? You already know if she is a threat for sure, it has been three days!” the Servant says in fluent Akkad. Behind her, a vampire with short dark hair and a face more handsome than pretty stares at the naïve girl with guilt.
“Mierda, Ariane…” the vampire whispers.
“I still have much to ask.”
“Bullshit. She was talking to you about her change at the hands of that old beast. You can easily tell if she did anything to harm the Accords. Did she?”
“DID SHE? I swear to fuck Ignace, if you do not answer me right this instant…”
“That’s what you were fucking asked to find out you twisted fuck. Release her, or having you greet the day will become my life’s purpose.”
“… very well, I suppose I know enough.”
The manacles are removed just as the naive girl regenerates digits three and seven. She grabs her own fingers and pulls on them, one by one. They were no longer mangled and out of position anyway, but it feels good to do so. The vampire and the Servant help the naïve girl take out the silver spikes in her body. The naïve girl removes the ones inside her nose first, then from her face and then from the rest of her body. The naïve girl has no more spikes. The female vampire smells good, like family.
“Right, let’s get you dressed. Slowly.”
The female vampire helps the naïve girl into a large tunic that falls to her knees. The fabric is very soft. It feels good. Like when the silver spikes are removed from her teeth.
The two take the naïve girl and guide her. They touch her but it is fine. The vampire is sister. The human is a Servant. Up up up they go. They come across a Lord in a black ensemble. He has sandy hair and a beard.
“I see you found your solution, Jimena,” the Lord says.
“Fuck off,” the Servant says.
She is very angry.
They climb more stairs. Up up up they go. They arrive in front of two large doors, with a battle Lord and a battle Lady on each side. The Servant walks in unopposed. The naïve girl is dragged in too. They are in a pretty office. There are many books and precious things. A man stands behind a massive desk. He is more powerful than a Lord. He, too, has a hawkish nose and large lips. The Servant screams at him in a strange language she never heard before. She is very angry. She is angry for a long time. The man tries to interrupt but she keeps screaming. The man stands up and approaches them.
“Listen Mel, I had to be sure…”
The girl screams some more.
“She will be fine! She is a Master, they always recover. Look she is already…”
The man crashes against the desk then on the ground with a trail of dark blood dripping from his flattened nose.
The naïve girl looks at her fist, still in the air.
Nobody moves, they just stare, astonished.
“Asshole,” she repeats.
“Asshole, asshole, asshole, asshole asshole,” I say. I jump on him. I punch him more.
“Asshole asshole asshole!”
“Calm down, by the Eye, not you too,” the man protests while doing his best to fend me off. I am very fast and still manage to land a blow in his kidneys.
“Oof! Enough of this. Promethean,” Constantine says.
His aura flares, Thick binding chains emerge from his hands and capture me with blinding speed. I call the power of the Herald but I am weak, it is sluggish and does not even manage to crack one link. I fight against the restraints, with no result.
“And you two, are you not my bodyguards?” the Speaker asks.
“We are not to interfere in arguments with your servant. You were quite clear,” the male Lord answers coldly. In vampire terms, this is a scathing rebuke,
The room falls silent, except for me. I am still fighting the bindings.
“I suppose I was hasty.”
“Not the first fucking time either. I told you, brother, if you can’t be arsed to get off your fucking books to rule properly then give the throne to someone who cares.”
“There isn’t anyone I would trust with this responsibility.”
“Then how about biting the bullet and doing your fucking job, since you committed to it? Huh?” the Servant retorts, unamused.
The Progenitor clenches his jaws but does not answer.
“Very well. Since Ignace found nothing so far, I declare you cleared of all wrongdoings, including your… most recent attack on my person. Do not do it again. Appearances must be preserved, and I would be forced to take drastic measures.”
“I heard you the first ten times, Ariane of the Nirari. Mel, find her a room in the left wing and stay away from the right one. The Lancaster delegation is there. The Hearing will begin tomorrow. Now, go.”
The others take me somewhere as I desperately pull on my fingers but no matter how often I do, the phantom pain remains. Come on, cold mind of mine. Do your thing. Push the memories in the background where they lose color and intensity. Make me forget.
“In there,” Jimena whispers, “Lie on the bed, Ariane. It’s over now. I’ll stay with you. Mel, I’m calling Aintza to me, can you get Wilhelm to send up something? Jasmine would help.”
“I’ll go now.”
Jimena caresses my head and I touch my fingers, one after the other. They’re all there. They’re fine. All there. All straight. Fine. Fine fine fine. Yes. Fine. All there.
The door opens once more and Aintza comes in. She looks a bit older now, older than Jimena in any case but not shockingly so. She lies by my side, so I am between them. The covers are comfortable. Aintza is very hot also, so the feeling of her warm body next to mine is strange and rather comfortable too. A few minutes later, Meliton returns and lights a few candles then starts a fire in the hearth. The perfume of jasmine takes over the room. It is nice. Jimena smells good, the room smells good now as a result. And safe. I slow down on touching my fingers but I do not stop. I move my toes, also. Sometimes I move my arms because I can. The pattern of the fire is fascinating. The fire dances and rolls without pause, never twice the same. I watch it. At some point, the room grows darker because they close the shutters.