Archive for the Fiction Category

In Discord and Rhyme

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2021 by vampirony

Volta found himself panting open-mouthed before he caught himself, remembering that, in human form, that was generally unacceptable. He cast a quick look around him as he sat at an outside table of some coffee shop. No one seemed to notice, hurrying either through to the parking structure or onwards to the epicenter of this society’s cultural hub. Something called Bell Square. He hadn’t noticed any bells but took a deep sip from the beverage he’d purchased to try and fit in and brave the outside heat, something called a “frappuccino” which, frankly, little resembled any Italian drink he’d ever seen.

Like you’re some man of the world, he chided himself. First airplane rides during which he nearly threw up twice and now he was considering himself a man of the times for trying a frozen drink that was so sweet at first taste, he nearly gagged. He switched back to the bottled water, even that not quite tasting real. “Fresh from the Spring.” He doubted it.

He shook his head. This world really wasn’t for him. Noisy, stifling, noxious. A blend of antiseptic sprayed over the stench of piles and piles of waste and decay. But it was a newer decay here, rather than in the cities of Europe that had been building over and over and over the top of themselves for centuries. Here it seemed that the second generation of city rebuilding was underway, with some casualties.

Further down the block, a larger skyscraper under construction was roped off, blocking off part of the street along its base with yellow tape, orange striped barrels and sawhorses. He’d overheard some passersby discussing some collapse of scaffolding, a cement mixer, and some sort of fire in the newly constructed shop. Something called a wine bar, which seemed a paradox to him.

If he hadn’t known that Vega had only just arrived in her slick black automobile, he might’ve suspected her paw in that mayhem. Tracking her from LA had been surprisingly easy as she had taken many stops along the route, more than once instructing the driver to continue while she went for a run. He’d had to exercise extreme caution at that point not to be so close she could pick up his scent. He recognized her complacency in this modern world and she’d never been the best tracker in the pack, relying on underlings to set the trap so she could use her tactics and brute strength to capture the kill.

She also seemed quite oblivious to anything beyond her purpose. It was in the set of her ears. Something had her on edge, almost nervous, but determined. Strength and prey assessment may have been her assets, but stealth and maneuverability were his. He calculated the pattern of her jaunts and managed to get ahead of her by hitching a ride. Being likable and friendly always served best while traveling.

Not that he’d done much traveling once he’d taken up residence at the monastery-turned-mosque-turned-museum-turned back to-monastery. Ages spent roaming the grounds, befriending the residents, living among them, protecting them and that sacred patch of forest. Then, at the time that felt most advantageous, disappearing back into the forest to let a generation pass only to be rediscovered, and once again become the protector of the forest.

The story had turned to legend until it was just now an expectation: There is always a wolf roaming the forests of Rila, protecting the faithful, punishing the wicked.  Well, there hadn’t been much need for punishment in a while and now he had more to fear from tourist traffic and littering than from bandits.

His life had become sedate. And while this whole hunt filled him with dread, he couldn’t deny the thrill he’d felt in his bones as his ancient friend Imperius had once more called upon his help.  If this was finally the end, perhaps he could make it a glorious end. What purpose had the gifts he’d been bequeathed served if not to make an end in glorious righteous flame.

 But Vega wasn’t about righteousness. Nor glory. She suffered. She stank of bitterness and avarice, a hopelessness of a life long-lived and yet still wasted. And underneath all of that, the stench of death and horns. Antlers to be exact. He believed his transmutation had been a natural evolution of his kinship with a sacred being. The individual pulling Vega’s fur had relations at the other end of the spectrum.

In LA, he had smelled more than the paparazzi surrounding that starlet’s mansion. The place reeked with a signature bloodletting that only his kind could mete out. His kind. He’d too left them behind and now looked at Elba and Vega as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of their line.

He still remembered the Night of Cinders, when all their worlds had collided and the chaos of man’s war had stripped them of their benefactor for good. The blood, the screams, the devastation as the two forces had crashed into each other like opposing pyroclastic waves caused the hair all along his back to raise in memory. The Golden One, he’d gone to salvage the innocent; he’d been felled by a demon’s spawn. Or so Elba and Vega had thought.

He had heard the girl’s call, tracked her carriage from the monastery to the battle, his panic rising to protect her as he passed through ruined, burnt forests, ground spoiled with blood and bone, and the wolves, they had followed. After the clash at the carriage, both combatants lay bleeding on the ground. Elba and Vega had tried to pull the Golden One away but with his last bit of strength, he lunged for the carriage, falling at the girl’s feet.

Inexplicably, Elba and Vega, after a brief pause, fled the battle, likely planning to return later to feast on the remaining corpses. Only Volta had stayed behind. He could help. The fire closing in on the scene meant nothing to him. The screams he could close his ears against. Only then had he seen the truth of it.

As the Golden One’s blood flowed out of his ruined torso all over the floor of the carriage, sopped up by dusty tomes and freshly prepared vellum, there was still life in both him and the instrument of his rending. The Black Knight clutched desperately at his throat, trying to hold together what Vega had torn open after Elba had brought down his draft horse in similar fashion.

Volta had paused as he reached the carriage. His yellow eyes took in the girl who had pulled a strap from around a great book and tried to fit it around the Golden One’s body, desperately trying to hold the chasm of his flesh together. Her odd boyish clothes were drenched, her face splattered with red, but her face never wavered. Her determination, her belief was complete even as Volta’s faltered as the face of his benefactor turned ashen.

Volta raised a paw to move to her, to help her but he paused, turned back to the knight, who clanked and seized in his heavy black armor, gurgling sounds and gasps meant the end was near. His armor would become his tomb, that and his bastard sword no match for Vega’s ferocity and precision. He almost pitied him:  whatever his goal in attacking what appeared to be a royal carriage full of books and a simple librarian, he never stood a chance in his quest.

A feeling of a great unnaturalness caught on the wind, coming from the trees. He spun and crouched, ready to protect the girl and the Golden One but the creature that emerged paid him no heed. A vagabond, in tatters even worse than the poorest peasant in this godforsaken land, made its way to the knight and bent beside him.

All his hackles raised at this creature but his priority was getting the girl and the Golden One to safety. He had to be quick. He sprung into the carriage to the shock of the girl. They had a moment of recognition, both bound to this body bleeding out. She leaned out of his way as he took the thick leather strap fastened low around the Golden One’s hips and used it to haul him fully into the carriage. The girl, working with him, managed to pull what was left of his ruined lower extremities in through the door while he jumped back out.

The sounds of the knight had ceased. Only the soft words that must have come from the creature could be heard, its robes completely concealing them. Volta sniffed as another scent approached. The captain from earlier who had critically failed in his duty, leaving the knight’s flank unprotected so Vega easily slipped through. He, still mounted, postured and shouted at the vagabond, but not drawing his sword nor hailing his comrades to the fallen knight.

Volta knew this was their moment and he came around the front of the carriage where the lead horse had been swallowed in the mud as he flailed his last. Volta snapped through his harness and took it in his teeth. It would take all his strength to wretch the carriage out of the mud but just as he began to find purchase, he smelled cavalry coming this way. He quickly crouched under the carriage, readying for a fight.

Volta glanced quickly back towards the knight. He and the vagabond had vanished, leaving the captain behind on his mount just inside the tree line. His face showed his shock and then rage as he looked to the sky and then galloped away from the oncoming force, as if it mattered little which side they were on.  

The clothes of men arriving looked much like the girl’s and on their banner, Volta made out a crescent shape. These were her people. But as they approached, they shouted and raised their long spears towards the Golden One who had ceased to move. But before Volta could pounce, the girl covered the Golden One’s body, shouting at the men. With one hand she pointed into the distance where neither the captain nor the vagabond had come from, the other she waved Volta away. Whatever the fate of the Golden One, this girl would now carry the burden.

Volta didn’t pause; he slipped quietly away into the forest, avoiding both armies but not the indiscriminate devastation that had been done. Cautiously, he trekked for days, back into the high mountains, to the monastery that he discovered had been burned out. The soldiers had left none of them alive, save one.

“You gonna finish that?”

Volta squinted up as his awareness returned back to this time, this city that purported a “pretty view,” to the figure that now shadowed him. As his vision adjusted, he noticed the umbrella hanging from the crook of the bearded old man’s arm.

The bearded man pointed to the Frappuccino Volta had abandoned.

“No, help yourself.”

Imperius smiled and settled himself down in the other seat at the table, picking up the drink and taking a long sip noisily through the green straw. Then he tossed his head casually towards the hotel.

“So, when do you think our huntress will make her move?”

Volta sat back, shaded by the green umbrella over the table. “As soon as she spots her quarry and an opportunity, she’ll strike.”

“She won’t wait for the other?”

Volta shook his head.

Imperius nodded. “Then, we have a little time.”  He rested the crook of the umbrella on the top of the table, unbuttoned the top of his shirt, and fanned himself with a clutch of napkins. “Maybe a little shopping, perhaps? You could use some khaki chinos, I think. But first I want another one of these glorious concoctions. I think I saw that they had a strawberry one?”

Taxinomia Obscurus

Posted in Vampirony on June 6, 2021 by vampirony

The nails in the board screeched in complaint as they were pried from the crate. She’d had to chip into the board to get enough clearance for the crowbar’s edge. Once she freed one end, she went to work on the other. It was slow work undertaken in the dark of her hotel room in her dubious mental state. With each board removed, she flung it aside and peeled back some of the protective canvas covering to reach the cloth underneath. A small flexible flashlight clipped to her shirt, she pushed up the cloth to reveal the surface underneath. A muscled calf.

“Not marble, “ she shook her head. Her fingers wandered up the lower part of leg only halting when she hit the limit of another board.

She picked up the crowbar again and worked on the next board, mumbling, “Not granite. Maybe if I can reach…”

Another fifteen minutes and a knee was visible. But she needed something to cut the pant leg away. She rummaged and found an utility knife in her trunk. She returned, carefully slashing at the fabric to free the leg.

She tilted the flashlight slightly away, the light indirectly shining off the deep red hued stone. Brick red. Some splotchiness in color with some grey, brown, and black hues. She took in a breath and tapped the metal blade against the leg. Nothing happened. She sighed, “Hardness, maybe a 7? So not howlite.” She stood and went back to her laptop, tapping furiously for a few minutes. She looked back to the crate and then returned, carrying the laptop. Kneeling again, she set the laptop aside, adjusted the flashlight again, and flicked the light over the leg. “Not translucent so not carnelian.”  

She tapped a few more keystrokes into her search engine to broader her results. Red stone.

She expelled a breath and sat back on her heels. She turned back to the crate. “It can’t be.” She took a few measured breaths. “Can it?”

As her eyes began to water, the resulting page seemed to mock her idiocy with a spectacular sense of the metaphysical:

Brecciated Jasper is known as a detoxifying stone because it can get rid of unhealthy energies or vibrations in your body, heart, mind, and spirit. It can support your body in recovering from a traumatic experience, and it can boost your sagging spirits so that you will feel optimistic again about life. And then: Brecciated Jasper is form of Jasper, which the multi-colored layers are enclosed together with a grey substance. It is a form of Jasper that consists of Haematite. Haematite is a grounding stone, which makes this stone an excellent gemstone for assisting you to make your feet on the ground and for endorsing feelings of stillness and wholeness, as well. Also, it has a stirring, revitalize energy that is said to support mental simplicity and profound happiness. It is also believed to take up off-putting energy, which allows you to expand a positive outlook on your life.

“Naw, just a scratch…or two. Oh, see. Already on the mend.” The memory crawled back into her head, as if she could reach out and brush her fingers against the stubbled chin.

She brushed the top of her hand against her eyes to expel the moisture and the vision. Tapped a few more keys to prove the hypothesis incorrect, met with immovable fact:

Jasper is a variety of quartz that may contain up to 20 percent foreign materials or inclusions, including organic material and mineral oxides, which determine the color, pattern and appearance of the stone. Brecciated jasper contains hematite, an iron compound, which gives it both its red tones and the dark bands. It is primarily deep red–veined or patterned with brown, black and beige–and sometimes has clear crystal inclusions.

She put her head in her hands. A stone specifically formulated of impurities. She had thought if she might identify an injury, a place where a foreign material like the glass of the cabling used to tie him up had been embedded, she might find an answer to his continued Rigor Dormitus. And might have a chance to fix it, to free him. The form was meant to help heal when she’d been allowed to see it.

But as it was, she had no idea if this was normal for him; she doubted he’d ever shown it to anyone.  She hadn’t known he could fly; had even challenged him when he’d reacted to the assertion that it was a myth.  The limits of her knowledge about his ability had multiplied tenfold last night and still left her stupefied as to who or what he was. It just showed in dry empiric relief that he was a stranger to her.  


After a long stretch of time when all the logic of trying to puzzle a way for him to be freed had evaporated, she did the only thing that would give her any ease. She picked up the crowbar and worked another board free, fished under the canvas until she found it. His hand. She had piled up her pillows and a blanket and she laid back down, ignoring the odd angle of her shoulder and the splinters digging into her skin so she might squeeze his hand of brecciated jasper and hope against all hope that he’d find his own way back to her.

When sleep finally came, it was with the roar of a gaseous magnitude, a celestial glowing that set fire to all things and turned her hopes to ash and cinders that only a deluge of emerald fabric could salvage.

Catching an Empty Jar of Marmalade

Posted in Vampirony on April 18, 2021 by vampirony

The text told Aubrey all he needed to know to keep his dim sense of hope alight. Emmerick had made contact and the hunter was now engaged. He stuffed his cellphone into his inside vest pocket knowing how much his master hated all manner of electronics. With the other hand carrying a tray of pine needle tea, he pushed open the door to Valerian’s chamber only to lean hard against the door and put a protective arm around the tray to avoid the intemperate figure in shiny black leather and silver chains blocking him on her way out.

“Galscythe, please, the histrionics do not suit you.”

The taunting words caused the imposing figure to pause at the threshold and flick her mane of midnight hair crowned with a helmet of curved bullhorns to toss an enraged look back towards what Aubrey couldn’t see.

To her unspoken response which only Valerian would’ve been able to sense, he replied, “I never lied to you. You just choose to ignore the truth.”

Aubrey saw her black kohl rimmed eyes widen and her head flick to the very expansive velvet mahogany chair just beside the fireplace. With a single silent exhale, the chair shot to the rear of the room and exploded into shards. She rocked forward as if she would follow her blast but then pivoted on her toe and crashed through the door, leaving Aubrey to juggle his ceramic wares until the air in the room settled.

As he sighed and fully entered the room, letting the door click close behind him, he was surprised that Valerian stood tied to the bedpost stark naked except for the steel chains that held him there and a barely contained smirk on his face. A cat o’ nine tails lay on the stone floor, likely where Galscythe had dropped it from some offence.

In the hundreds of years that Aubrey had served Lord Valerian, this wasn’t the most surprising scene he’d ever interrupted so he proceeded to set the tray on the side table which had served the now destroyed antique chair and turned back to the bed, producing a lockpick from somewhere within his vest pocket.

Just as he was stepping forward to free his master, Valerian flicked his wrists as easily as he blinked and the steel manacles popped open. Aubrey hadn’t been completely surprised that Valerian was returning to full strength as his body healed from carrying the burden of one hundred and twenty-three silver disks as his negotiated peace with Emmerick, the man that Aubrey had now embroiled himself with. But the speed and vigor with which Valerian’s powers returned as well as the, a-hum, appetite required to maintain the healing process was astounding.

“Perhaps not the smartest idea to burn through all of your alliances in these uncertain times.” Just yesterday, Xi had yet again been seen storming out from the council room after inquiring after efforts to locate Bellecroix.

Valerian dismissed the advice with a hand as he bent to retrieve the whip. As he straightened, he tossed the whip like a baby rattle, “Bah, Galyscythe knows her place. But some things needed closure before company arrives.”

“And what company might that be?” Aubrey asked.

Valerian shot an astounded look at his faithful servant. “Darcie, of course.” He gave a single laugh to punctuate the absurdity of Aubrey’s question then strode over to the tray and poured himself a tall goblet of liquid from the carafe. The smell of spruce filled the room.

“You mean Sophie.” The comment was half question.

Aubrey watched with a new sense of unease as Valerian drank the goblet down seemingly in one gulp and then, after considering a refill, lifted the carafe itself to his mouth and drank the whole thing down greedily without spilling a drop.

The effect was immediate as tremors moved all over his body, percolating under his pale skin, leaving him to grip the table for a moment, arcing his back and bending his head back as his fangs fully extended, his blue eyes lit up like neon. He let out a low roar until the effect subsided, leaving him somewhat diminished in appearance and bearing.

Panting for a few moments, he lifted his gaze up to Aubrey, a much calmer and contemplative mood settling upon him. “Is there any more?”

Aubrey nodded, stirring himself to retrieve the tray. He began to head for the door without further comment but was halted by Valerian’s words.

“If you could find a way to produce more, a lot more,” his voice trailed off, suddenly contrite.

Aubrey turned back to him but said nothing, recognizing this Valerian as the one that would never mistake the woman that he had lost all those years ago with this new woman they had conspired to protect and gently introduce to her lifetimes of selves as she had wished.

“I must look my best, be my best when she arrives.”

He then busied himself with dressing for dinner without asking for any assistance.

“Is there some plan to bring her here that I can assist with?”

Valerian shrugged, a stillness overtaking him. “The scribe will bring her.”

Aubrey felt fortunate that Valerian had his head bent, seeing to his pants so as not to see the shock on his own face. With all of the plans in motion, some of which he had carefully concealed from his lord, Aubrey had certainty in only one thing: Jesper would never bring his precious Sophie to this den of monsters. Whether this regenerated Valerian, who seemed to be teetering between euphoria and melancholy, was able to reconcile the last three years of meticulous planning to find her and save her with his sudden desire to bring her into the very heart of danger, Aubrey couldn’t tell.

“Forgive me, my lord, but is that the wisest path, all things considered?”

For over a hundred years, Valerian had been the balance point of many different worlds, many different factions, equilibrium maintained through his own pain and toil. He had rebuilt his line and ensured they had a safe and effective home and hunting grounds. He’d toured the world to address blood toxins and diseases of all types to lessen the impact on their food source. He negotiated with Southern and Eastern horrors, establishing cardinal rules that effectively led to their Conclave, the first global government any immortals had ever had. And he’d sought to recover the ill-conceived efforts to expand vampire ranks by recapturing the Taint. Well, most of it. He held together an empire through intelligence, tact, and above all, patience.

His answer to why a simple human woman who continued to repeat her past would be a prize worth risking all that struck more fear into Aubrey than anything he’d seen yet.

“I need her, Aubrey.”

“My lord,” Aubrey stated his understanding but in his own mind, he wondered at his master’s sudden frailty and what it might mean for his own longevity if all things fell apart all over again. He’d come to finally accept that Sophie Quinn nee Darcie Sherbourne would always be an instrument of influence on his lord, had even learned to find the benefits in old recipes of her tinctures and skillfully manipulated his lord with a mere whisper of her memory. But this Valerian, he realized finally, was failing. The penance gone, the threat to her lessened, at least in his mind, had sucked him dry of purpose except his one last folly.

Aubrey whispered a silent pray.

You had better hold onto her with both hands this time, Scribe. Or I’m afraid none of us will survive this lord’s fall.  


Posted in Vampirony on March 21, 2021 by vampirony

Standing in Penn Station, Emmerick found himself relatively underwhelmed by the stocky figure that stood politely waiting his turn at the Amtrak ticket office. He knew he shouldn’t judge; near-immortals came in every color, creed, height, weight, and disposition. He’d once been waylaid in Tokyo by what could be best described as a nymph. 4’8” and barely weighing seventy pounds soaking wet, he’d finally dragged her out of the bay like the night’s catch many hours after he’d begun his endeavor, with many scars to mark the encounter.

But this guy, this Elba, purported to be the original of the Wilklas, was 5’8” with his work boots, and while he had the build of a laborer and could probably handle his own in a bar fight, Emmerick had envisioned more boogey man than everyman when Aubry had described his quarry.

Emmerick rubbed his arm where his tattoo should be, sighing to himself. He wasn’t up for this and he knew it. His thoughts kept tumbling over the years he’d wasted holding a flame for a petulant child, years killing vampire spawn whenever and wherever he found them for what amounted to an insane mommy-daddy issue, years tracking and hunting based on a lie that he’d too easily believed.

He was ashamed and tired, so very tired. Not physically; whatever Aubry had shared with him had supercharged him like a battery to the point where his fingertips felt like they would spark. But without the glory of righteous purpose, the years of homelessness, the pressure of unremembered lifetimes, and the very weight of this modern world felt like a vice of iron around his chest constricting him slowly. He wasn’t blind to struggles of modern humanity. He just didn’t give a shit. What did it matter when a tide of undead could rise up like the Black Death and swallow society whole. He’d stood in the middle of it several times and fought it back, most recently following a bottle of wine in Seville.

But it never ended, always there was a struggle, a battle, and around him these sleeping humans who knew nothing, wanted to know nothing. Why should he continue to fight for them, the very same that banished him from his village for speaking his truth? He could recall the dead, lives long lost, stories from old, past down from their fathers and when they still didn’t believe, he showed them what remained below the surface: the well, the horde, and the bodies.  He had brought the shaman down, the holy man, for lying to his people, for trading their ancestral wealth for money in his pocket.  And they had then turned on him, blaming his witchery for leading to the shaman’s downfall.  

They had given him a choice at least: leave or they would stone his sisters and mother. He grimaced in memorial; there was never a choice at all. In a tribe that valued the spirits of the land, communicated with the spirits of the dead to know the way forward, he had still become a pariah. They didn’t want to hear the true voice of their elders: they wanted to speak in their name.

He shook his head and refocused on the Wiklas, as he stepped up to the ticket window. From his current vantage, he had a clear line of sight to lipread what the agent said and this particular one always repeated the destination and the time on the ticket she was issuing.

But he doubted what he read as the destination and had to do a search on his cell phone. The first word made no sense so he expected the search to work phonetically but the location came right up. It was in the middle of nowhere. Well, a helluva a long way short of Seattle. He glanced up at one of the route maps mounted on the wall beside him and had to suppress an urge to shake his head.

The Wiklas thanked the agent and turned just as Emmerick dropped his head into his book. While A Tale of Two Cities was a good read, it was the sketched notes from the thumb drive that interested Emmerick. The abridged life and times of one Sophie Quinn. He let the Wiklas continue to his gate while he scanned, knowing he would catch up before the train departed in 20 minutes.

Something about “Ohio” caught his attention. What he read set him to his feet, clamoring after the wolf and nearly knocking over a young Namibian woman in her long voluminous dress and headdress. He had to use his considerable agility to keep both of them on their feet, his hand on her upper arm steading them both.

She at first twisted away from him, a baby in her arms and two small children holding onto her dress. He was about to apologize when she looked up into his face. Her eyes widened and she reached out to him.


Then she began to plead with him in a language he hadn’t heard in a very very long time. Her bus had been delayed, she and her children had missed their connection, and the agent would not refund her money to buy new tickets. Worse, she had very little English and no way to contact her husband. All the forces that had conspired to move her family halfway across the world for the hope of a better future had seemed to desert her.  They were causing quite the scene and even the Wiklas paused and turned an ear towards the drama.

Emmerick found himself answering her pleas, praising her strength and telling her all would be well. “My name is Baka. I will help you.”

He found himself leading her to the agent’s window, her clutching his arm where the flesh throbbed as if his tattoo had been awakened. He saw out of a corner of his eye the Wiklas shrug and continue towards his gate.

The black agent looked suspiciously from him to the traditionally dressed woman clutching his arm. He patted her hand, inquired about her destination, and told her it would all be alright before turning back to the ticket agent.

She let him talk for a minute before she called him out. “Sir, in English?”

He blinked. He hadn’t even realized he’d speaking another language. He cleared his throat. “Uh, sorry, yes.” Struggled to settle on an American accent, closer to this region. He proceeded to get the family tickets to Columbus where her husband had previously been studying before finding a way to get the whole family transplanted.

He waited with them, watching the time tick by on a large wall clock for an hour until it was time to board their train, even finding a traveling pastor that would keep an eye out for them once they got to Columbus.  The mother didn’t repeat her title for him but he saw it in her face and it fired something in his long-dead heart. She had seen right through him, to the man he was and the place he had come from. He wished them well and watched with a pang as the youngest daughter waved goodbye.

The Wiklas was long gone, his train departing half an hour before, as Emmerick strode out of the station, hand over his arm feeling the long-gone tattoo pulsing just below the white of his skin. He would rent a car and get there twice as fast. The last hour of his life had given him a jolt of the past familiar, a taste of a home he’d lost, and a resolution for what he now knew he raced to protection.

According to Aubrey’s intel, Ohio was where Sophie Quinn had grown up, married the quarterback of her high school’s football team, and started a family.  Sophie had apparently been attacked by unknown vampire assailants a year ago after miscarrying a child. Aubrey suspected at the time but now was certain that it had been Bellecroix taking her revenge. And now Bellecroix was sending the Wiklas to finish the job of ending Sophie’s human family, which consisted of an ex-husband and a little girl living on a farm, likely oblivious to the danger coming to end them.

As Emmerick finally cleared the city, setting his rental SUV at top legal speed, he tried to set aside the dread and focus on his quarry. But all he could manage to visualize was the face of the little African girl, waving goodbye, and her mother’s face as she gripped his arm and called to the ancient spirit within him. It was as if the mother feared in that moment not for herself or her family, but for another further away that needed his help even more.

A twelve-year-old daughter named Jasmine living in a town called Defiance. And Emmerick, with a resurgent sense of familial outrage and rediscovered purpose, couldn’t get there fast enough.

Blood and Light and Magic and Truth

Posted in Vampirony on August 2, 2020 by vampirony

“You heard her crying all night?” 

It was more statement than question, echoed in still of their dark hermetic chamber. It had been a very long time since they had both lain here, side by side, her hand in his.

“I did.” He admitted it. He knew she wanted him to.

She didn’t bother to turn her head towards him when she knew his face was impassive. She was still surprised that he had come here this day after he had seen Sophie. She could tell he had fed, in no way was physically diminished, had not spoken of anything, had simply done that they used to do: strip down to his underclothes and climbed onto the comfortable queen mattress, hand taking hers as he settled, as if it hadn’t been decades since the last time. Outwardly, he was calm, days of his heightened anger and command completely given way to an impeccable peace.

He had kept the emotional link between them shut for as many years as he had avoided their shared resting space. But the subtle tension that told her of the effort was also absent, as if she could reach out and have access to the Maurice of old.

He had been with Sophie. He’d been perfumed with her scent, like he bathed in the essence. When he breathed, he exhaled the infinitesimal bouquet of her sweat, her saliva. He had been with Sophie and come back to her. Come back to her with resolve.  With calm. Perhaps whatever battle he had convinced himself to wage had worked itself out with their success over the vampire.

Ba, not really a vampire after all. A dangerous pretender, yes. But her irregulars had had little effort taking him out. In fact, Ritterreiter declared them ready for the next phase of their training. That is, in between swearing about their lack of discipline and general complaints about the youth these days.

She blinked hard. She was distracting herself. He’d been with Sophie.

“I did not lay with her.”

She turned her head towards him.

“I did kiss her. She needed healing.” He paused, searching for words. “I had to know.”

“And?” her concern was growing. She rolled to her side facing him.

The silence echoed. The words wouldn’t tumble out of his mouth. He clenched his eyes. He wanted to spare her but knew she would discover the truth on her own. She just didn’t know the question to ask.

She lay back flat again, frustrated.

He sighed. This was it. The last night like this. The last night it could just be the two of them, together, against the world. After years of rejecting it, fighting to find others, wanting someone for himself that could be more than a sister, all he wanted now was her. Her love, her trust, her eternal hand in his, together for all time.

But their paths diverged here. After he shared with his sister what he suspected when he first smelled this age’s Sophie Quinn as she revealed herself at the comic book shop. A truth that they had never sought and yet, she carried it with her completely unaware of the enormity of it.

He knew Lucy had always suspected he’d fancied Tante. Felt it was the reason for Caroline, an older companion to mirror the mother figure they’d both lost when their Tante had died. And maybe when he was a naïve youth, the comfort of her care, her love especially as he’d matured and etched into his youthful desires.

But no, that wasn’t why he’d kissed Sophie. While it was easier to heal her that way, he could’ve chosen any other number of forms and fashions to seep his essence deep into her wounds. Some even without touching her at all. Some that took nothing more than a breath. He’d perfected them over the years with the Irregulars that his sister insisted on taking on and trying to support them.

There was no way to spare her the shock and she hadn’t trusted his words for quite some time. And lately he’d been a brute to her and hadn’t known why, hadn’t been aware until his senses knitted together the puzzle that Sophie presented. But once he suspected, he had to disprove it. How could it possibly be so?

“Lucy, my heart, my beloved sister, I had to kiss this Sophie because….because she carries an essence with her, within her, one that, one that I had to understand.”

Lucy frowned but felt the blocked bond between them burst wide open and her eyes shot open.

“I don’t know how else for you to know that it is true.” He paused as he dispelled the wall between them so she could feel all the emotions underneath his calm. It wasn’t resolve at all. It was awareness. It was epiphany.

“The essence I first smelled on Sophie wasn’t this ange of hers frozen in marble. I met him and he….he is something entirely unlike Vampire.” He sighed, letting himself feel the incredulity of it all.

“Gods, you are horrible at confessions! What?” she demanded.

Blood and light and magic. That’s how you described it.”

“That was Morena!”

“The light, yes. Her ange.”

“You keep calling him that–.”

“He is not the point! Blood and magic. That’s what you said.”

She felt a prick of foreboding. His emotions were so deep and unfamiliar to her after all this time; she could barely discern where they ended and her own began. It was as if all this time, he’d never really been separated from her. He’d kept her intact in his own being even as he blocked their active connection.


“Lucy, the essence Sophie carries. It’s what saved her from that evil liquid the pretender made her drink. That essence,” It was his turn to shift towards her, holder her hand up to his chest. “It’s our Father.”

Not-So-Idle Hands

Posted in Vampirony on July 19, 2020 by vampirony

The strangest sensation of all for him was knowing that while he remained aware, knew he was in the hotel room, witnessed the comings and goings, wondered at them, it was unclear how he sensed these things. It was not a sound or smell and surely not sight; he simply felt these things, had been feeling them since the moment his body seized up and turned to stone.

He felt being moved, felt the small gang and all their debate on whether they should risk disobeying orders and jackhammering him into dust. The impression of a strong will with attributes much like his own taking over the debate, influence under it all, caught at him and he was at leisure to mull it over for what felt a few moments to him but realized had been hours. Interspersed were memories unfolding that dragged him away to different times and places like waves pulling him under.

When he’d surfaced again, he learned that Morena and Nick were safe, and she was there. If he’d had a beating heart, it would have thudded in relief that Sophie had survived as well. Instead, the stone warmed and glimmered within its box with no one to witness and wonder, least of all the object of its affections. Towards the beginning, he’d seen Sophie stumble in, injured. He’d struggled then, tried to force his body to change, only to be met with stinging sensations from all over. Then Morena and Nick had come in, voices had raised in discord and Nick had gone. Morena had fallen asleep and he’d spent time sensing her slowed heartbeat and the accelerated growth of her red blood cells.

Something was wrong with the transformation. As he inventoried his facts, he surmised it had now been several days and nights that his body refused to convert. Comfortable in the knowledge that Sophie was safe and that his incidental contact with Morena had ensured both her and Nick’s survival as well, he resigned himself to listening, to filling in the gaps and waiting to transfigure back. He learned from Sophie’s interrogation of Morena that there were some truths Morena would hold back. Nothing, however, had muted the anger Sophie felt from learning he’d shared blood with another human. Or his approach to confronting the tainted mistake.

It hurt him to not be able to explain. He worked out what he might say. And just as he found clarity, the story being told in the room expanded, revealing much about the other immortal hands at work in Bellevue that night. As he turned over all he knew, it made sense that if Sophie had a prior relationship with one vampire that still counted her as friend and mentor, there might be others. The sister and her brother.

There was nothing that Jesper could do when the brother came and called to her but still he’d fought again to transfigure, the stone heating in frustration. Sophie had said she was immune to vampire abilities and yet he witnessed her bidden by the power of Vox, causing even his stony form to vibrate. But his struggles had been in vain, for the better. She’d returned to Morena and Nick’s shock completely healed but adverse to conversation. She’d crawled back into bed, devoid of sleep, and silently wept.

This marble had become his prison and he struggled again, wanting to be with her, to shield her from this world of death and violence she so hated. But his body was not pure; it was the only thing that made sense. Chips of wood, glass fibers, maybe a cut from that accursed kukri, some debris had seeped in deep and prevented his return to her. It frustrated him, made him want to scream. As Morena moved to the adjoining room and Nick slinked off to secretive chores redoing the office, he bristled under the stony silence and tried to reach out to her. When he couldn’t sense anything but her presence, he tried to discern the impediment, walked through his injuries and tried to catalog what might have corrupted his slumber. With no way of removing it, he might be in here forever, like the true gargoyles of old myth, held fast to a silent penance. It made him burn from the inside, angry, afraid, desperate to get free and soar, to get to Conclave and tell them all she had risked and how she had saved them all.

Tension rippled through the stone. He couldn’t help it; he was screaming. With no mouth, no throat, no belly for breath, he seethed and spewed his mind forth, clenching his awareness until the stress threatened to fracture the marble.

Then, a sound, a lightness within the black, a scratching and then the shrill complaint of nails being displaced. A soft thump, a freshness, and then a silence. He felt her. She was close. Please, let me out. His anxiousness almost caused the crate to move.

Then her hand, soft, unsure, reached through the small gap in the wood planks she’d created with a crowbar. Her hand cupped his shoulder and she sighed. Relief moved through him, her touch warming him.

“I don’t know that you can hear me.” Her voice was breathy, tired.

I can.

“But I’d rather like to think you can.” Her voice tensing up with sobs. “I thought we’d have more time to talk. And I really really need to.”

Then talk to me. I’m in here. And I’m not going anywhere.

She took in a shuddery breath. “I never meant any of this to happen. But as I look around, all I see are my faults and failures. I thought I’d saved Maurice from this burden, enabled him to escape the violence that had taken his life. But I didn’t. I just kept it at bay. And now. Now he has become what he was meant to be. A vampire. Even though he no longer takes blood, he has the powers, all of them from whatever father spawned him.”

She sniffed in a sob. “And maybe that’s my fault too. I meddle where I shouldn’t. I had this vain thought that I could, through my teachings, hold back the tide. That I could save him. But that’s just it. He saved me. My injuries were…vast. And because we wanted to avoid too much scrutiny, I didn’t let the doctors help me. But Maurice, with his abilities, sensed it from so far away and came to make it better. Not my poor little Mo anymore.”

Her fingers moved across the stone, gently sliding down through the space where she’d removed the plank. He couldn’t reach out to her, but his emotions warmed the surface.

You need to sleep. You’re exhausted.

She pulled the blanket with her to the floor, laying on her side, resting her head on the arm that still stretched to touch him through the gap, now at his ankle. He felt her eyelids slow their blinking and sag.

“I wish I knew how to help you. But my help doesn’t seem to be worth anything.”

Things come around, as they do for you. Things come back for you. Like me. Just sleep.

Her eyelids closed and he felt her breathing soften.

I will be here when you wake.

“I was right. Jasmine is better off without me.”

Her touch, her breath, the sound of her heart, the name evoked a memory that his fear had pushed away. Maybe if he succumbed to the memory, she might remember too.

When he’d come out of the coma, he’d been wracked with pain, bandages oozing, septic. Wild for days, he’d shunned the light, growled at his captors from the darkest corner of the room, nearly killed a guard trying to bring him water. At the height of it were the blood curdling howls he let loose deep in the night, trying to call his wolves to him for help.

Confused, he knew such pain, like his bones were breaking in on themselves. But it was the rest of his senses that were on fire. He could smell everything, hear everything and the cacophony paralyzed his thinking. Once in a while, a voice spoke a familiar word or piece of a word and he found he could push all the rest away but then the remainder was unintelligible garble and the frustration pent up again until the rage took over.

He barricaded himself in the darkest corner, his breath ragged as he hadn’t let anyone tend to him since he’d awoken. The only reason he’d remained in the room at all was the light beyond suddenly terrified him. When he’d first jumped out of his bed, startled by some commotion in the hallway, women’s voices arguing, he’d stepped into a ray of light from the window which burnt his skin.

Ever since then, he shook with fear of the sun. The fear, coupled with the pain, drove his rage-filled panic. But nothing spurred the rage more than the awareness that below his waist where most of the pain emanated from, he felt much of what should have been there was missing. His gnarled hands with their jagged nails tried to rip at his bandages, only causing more cuts and his festering wounds to ooze dark fluids.

He crouched in the corner, unable to process his surroundings, his humanity buckling under the weight of sensory onslaught without a ground. He felt paralyzed and an old helplessness threatened to consume him. He’d been imprisoned before, a feast for dark creatures, and it had only been the kindness of a fellow prisoner that had saved his sanity.

It was slipping again. His mind. The doubt was debilitating and the fear crippled anything he might do. He whimpered in the corner, panting like the wild wounded creature he’d become. He waited for someone to release him from this misery. He could not endure it again.

For a day and a night, he heard the scuffles of people, light-footed woman, guards with clinking weapons, others indiscernible. He didn’t sleep. His body seemed to be destroying itself and he retched black mucus as he now shook with fever. And everywhere, he began to smell it. Thick, rich, metallic tinged, and pumping, all around, like the walls were filled with it. He knew it was what he needed now to survive. Against every care and caution, against gentle words spoken through rusty dungeon bars, he wanted it.

Blood. The thought of it became the only thing he could manage. It was helping him focus through the barrage of senses. He could hear a heart pounding as a terrified guard took over the night watch, smell his sweat and judged the guard’s weight and height from the sound of it coursing through his veins. Thinking of it brought him a measure of peace, uneasy, ruthless, painful but peace. And he latched on to it as he would any other savior put before him.

As day broke and he shuddered watching the light grow in the room, he vowed, this next night, he would break through the door, he would get what he required, and he would leave, embracing whatever hellish existence this was. He would not whimper in the corner and beg for death as he once had.

But the morning brought its own promises. He sensed her before he smelled her, before he heard her voice, sharp, angry, rapid. She flowed into his consciousness, washing aside his thirst as if a flood of pristine water. The guards, two of them now, tensed at her recriminations only to graduate to abject panic as another female approached.

She’d been here before, older, heavier but taller, with a slow rolling gait of one that had given birth, or at least been with child often.  The two females argued loudly, and it was if he felt the older woman grab the young one by the arm, he sensed her heart thud, blood vessels breaking in her fleshy arm as a bruise started.

Before he realized what he was doing, he flew across the room and slammed into the heavy wooden door, sending a shockwave through the entire wall. The wood was oak and he recognized the natural deterrent for what it was. He stopped only long enough to listen to the symphony of beating hearts out in the hallway and the continued pressure over the young woman’s arm. He beat his body against the door again, drawing shouts and clattering of weapons in the hallway. Again and again and again until he sensed his shoulder joint cracking, skin shredded and splintered but felt the door giving way. A few more assaults and he’d be through.

In the meantime, the arm was suddenly flush with blood as if snatched away and he heard the young woman’s voice, now plaintive. There was a longish pause before the older woman snapped orders and he sensed the guards move away from the door. He stepped back, unsure of himself. He was panting terribly and his natural inclination as the door slowly creaked open was to huddle backward into the corner.

Through the door she came, encased in yards of glittering green fabric but it was the jewels adorning her headdress refracting the light that he put his hand up to ward against, speeding his retreat to the far wall. He growled menacingly, turning his head away. But he heard the extra footfalls following behind her and he bellowed in rage as he launched himself at the door, slamming it back shut behind her. A warbled scream came from the hallway, bones crunched by the force.

In the flurry of action, he’d gotten too close to the light and it burned his skin again, his shoulder which he’d also torn against the wood of the door. He howled and leaped over the bed to his dank burrow in the corner, his labored breathing echoing off the tile walls. He wailed, bent over, the smell of burnt offal permeating the room.

She held her breath. Her heart pounded. Perhaps she would be merciful and slit his throat, an angel of mercy. He waited for it. He wanted it.

Her tiny feet made the softest sound as she approached him. It was the sound of blood pouring through her that he fixated on now. This was his chance to get out, wasn’t it? She would offer little resistance really. He turned his head to her just as she kneeled down to him, her hand brushing at his shoulder. He bared his teeth and prepared to strike when she gasped.

Her voice came out in a wonder of familiar words, “The sun has healed you.”

He paused as much from understanding her words as recognition that she was right. She drew his tattered sleeve away from this skin.


As her fingers smoothed over the grimy skin, he saw that what had been gashed from his assault on the door had knitted and was perfectly smooth, unmarred with anything but the griminess of his existence. It took him only a moment for his fangs to ease away as she used a bit of her clothing to brush aside the filth. Then she ripped the sleeve completely apart and he yelped, jumping back, cowering, sniffing at his shoulder.

“Oh golden one, I would never hurt you. But what have you done to yourself?” 

He tossed her an angry glare. As if this were his fault.

“So you do understand me.” She stood. “Good. Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself and cower in corners.” She walked to the shuttered window and called out loudly in another tongue he did not understand. There was a scuffling sound and then a creaking sound as light suddenly exploded into the room, dancing in colors refracted from the intricate stained glass.

He shuddered and raised his arm to shield himself. After a moment, he raised his head to see that she had turned and backed herself in front of the window, shadowing him from the light. He lowered his arm slowly, eyes stinging from the light still all around him.

She beckoned him forward with her dainty hands. “Come to me, golden one. You have nothing to fear.”

His instincts caused him to shuffle back on his heels. But he felt her allure, felt the promise of her words, felt bonded to her in ways he couldn’t comprehend. The light around her was blinding but it drew him. He looked at his shoulder which no longer hurt as well as looked perfectly healed.

“Please, golden one, you must trust me. You do not deserve to wallow in the dank shadows, a victim of fear. You belong in the sun, master of earth and light.”

If her words didn’t inspire him, the kaleidoscope around her intrigued him. And there was sense in her words; he was done cowering, tired of being the victim. He wanted his own release, whatever that may be.

He stretched out his arm and she spread her arms to her sides and approached, making sure no light reached him from around her. She took his hand in hers as he stayed crouched, his head even with her chest, his body protected by her broad shadow. It was then he recognized her kind green eyes, though the rest of her face was hidden behind a diaphanous veil. He scowled trying to look at her mouth. His hand reached out and pulled the fabric down along her cheek.

Her cheeks dimpled and tilted her head away from his pawing. “Ah yes, I forgot. You would not have seen me with my veil. Allow me.” Her hand pulled the fabric aside and suddenly her whole face, radiant in its own right, was there for him to see. And he did recognize her. And somewhere, something pulsed in his chest that had been dead.

It thudded hard and he put a hand to his chest, looking down. What was this now?

Her hand had followed him. When he looked back up at her with a questioning look, he was pressing her hand to his chest.

Her cheeks turned pink. “Why, yes, I feel it. It is your heart and it longs to feel the sun.”

He stared at her, discerning that her words were at odds with her own emotions. He was certain it beat because she was near. But he was aware enough to know it was no lie she told him; just a truth that she did not know, one he had not shared. If she could end his pain, he promised silently he would share all he was with her.

She began to draw him forward and the panic reared again but while he shut his eyes against it, he let her pull his crouched form forward until they were just inside the window. He was panting by then, the effort to keep trusting her warring with instincts honed from necessity.

She used one hand under his arm to pull him up and as he stood, his head cleared her height and prismatic light covered his face. He gasped, teeth bared, kept his eyes clenched shut but couldn’t help the reflex that brought his hands up to his face. She stared up in awe as the skin across his face, even his hair began to steam, even smoke. He clenched his fists, willing himself to stillness. If he was meant to burn, then he would burn. If this was the end she was to bring him to, then he was ready to accept it but there was no need for her to follow him to the end.

He opened his eyes to slits only and pushed her aside, toward the fountain in the corner. She stumbled and landed in a heap of green sparkling silk on the floor. He regretted having to be so brusque but he could feel the roar building and as soon as she was clear, he took a breath and his entire head caught fire. He heard her gasp but he gritted his teeth and tore at the remnants of his ruined clothing. If skin brought fire, then he would let it consume him all, every cursed morsel that had been food for wolves, revenge upon thieves, and a shield for the woman who lay frozen at his feet.

“No, it is too much, too soon!”

He barely heard her words through scorched ears as she scrambled away from him. He stepped back, stretched to full height, held his arms out, and embraced the light as his entire body went up in flame. So beyond caring and fear was he that he no longer felt tension of the pain, just the release of every nerve, every fiber, even bone, melting into liquid fuel, reshaping, reforming much like from the earth of the forest. He finally understood what he was and why he’d carried so much fear around with him and he would’ve released it all if not for her being so close.

He could not, would not cause her harm. But the strain of keeping the fire contained within was beginning to crackle and pop and ooze out of him. Fingers clenched in his fists became like cinders and he imagined them falling to the floor like ash, the rest of him soon to follow.

But suddenly there were shouts and a great deluge showered him, steam exploded around him, forcing him to the floor. His head ricocheted off the floor and through the fog that followed, he felt her cold, wet fingers as he was suddenly covered in an emerald sea, blotting out the light until it remained only as a dull ache behind his eyelids.

In the deepest recesses of the house with the lemon tree in the garden, hands panted in elaborated henna designs slipped yet another key in the padlock hanging from the cell. When it didn’t fit, she methodically moved to the next one on the huge iron ring with keys that ranged from elaborate ivory handled ones to ones that resembled handcuff keys.

A shudder rang through the house and the girl with henna painted hands dropped her veil looking down the hallway, frozen in place. The house creaked more now that the sun was creeping into darker, older spaces in the house causing rooms that had once been shut to come to life.

She looked back at the lock, picking the next key to try. As she did, a voice sang in a thick Parisian accent.

“Au clair de la lune,
L’aimable Lubin;
Frappe chez la brune,
Elle répond soudain :
–Qui frappe de la sorte ?
Il dit à son tour :
–Ouvrez votre porte,
Pour le Dieu d’Amour. »

By the light of the moon
Likeable Lubin
Knocks on the brunette’s door.
She suddenly responds:
– Who’s knocking like that?
He then replies:
– Open your door
for the God of Love!

Special Announcement from the Author…

Posted in Vampirony on July 19, 2020 by vampirony

Coming soon….new stories…a new universe of characters….a sister site…..

The Shellfish, the Bumbershoot, and the Prodigal Son

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on August 19, 2013 by vampirony

“You do not want to go up there.”

Nick turned his head as he entered the Wintergarden of the Bellevue Hyatt to see Morena at the front desk. Per usual, he had his moment of sheer awe caused by her now-proven deadly combination of beauty and brains. This evening it had been poured into a particularly tight pair of jeans just barely covered up with a low cut black silky tank. He stopped for a moment and blinked. Twice. Then with what he hoped was casual nonchalance, he strode over.

The delay was perceived but credited to their tiff. Morena attempted a meager smile but by the time he’d stopped in front of her, it had slide off. Instead of speaking, he just stood and looked at her, waiting for her to explain.

Her comment was so much easier to explain than her feelings so she stated, “She’s in a real mood. Jesper hasn’t roused yet.”

Nick threw a look behind her at the man at desk she’d obviously been chatting with and tilted a nod. ”Gabe.”

“Nick,” Gabe, a much broader shouldered fellow in a security uniform, gave him a curt nod back before letting his eyes float back to Morena. When Nick didn’t return his attention to her, Morena tossed a look back, then with a dismissive glare, stepped forward to take Nick’s arm and led him away, both of them stepping down into the atrium.

The moment they were out of earshot, Morena dropped his arm and he took several more steps away than was needed. It wasn’t lost on her. In fact, all her senses were tuned on him, awash in relief he’d returned and concerned at the state he was in. Despite his casual appearance in just a T-shirt and relaxed fit black denim, he had a stillness that hinted he was still angry. His face looked haggard and blank with no trace of the easy grin she desperately wanted to see.

“You look tired. Did you get any sleep?”

“Morena, your text said we needed to talk.”

Not at all the attitude she wanted. All business. She’d been determined to give him space to make the choice of whether to come back into crazy vamp land. But she’d been unable to let it be and when by half past midnight Jesper hadn’t snapped out of rigor dormitus and Nick hadn’t given a peep, she’d taken action. Sophie had been pelting her with questions ever since the emotional ire had taken the place of the physical pain and the more details Morena had related about fighting the revenant, the angrier Sophie had become.

“Yeah,” was all Morena could think to start with. “We do.” She shrugged her hands into her pockets. Then, she began to plunge headlong into it because she couldn’t handle it if he walked out the door on her again and here, in the atrium, he hadn’t quite walked back in yet. “When you didn’t text back…”

“Look, I know I said I’d be back soon to check on Sophie, but there were so many things to do. When you texted me, I’d finally wrapped up what I could and was actually sleeping. I figured I could waste time texting you back or just get on my bike and get over here.”

Morena couldn’t hide the puzzlement on her face. This was not the conversation she’d practiced in her head for the last three hours. The one where she did all the talking and Nick stood there brooding over her with disapproval. “Things? What things?”

Nick flashed a smile that was an attempt at the Cheshire cat which came off more like Snarf from Thundercats. “Well, the deli was a mess and the office trashed so I got my bro to get me the name of a contractor so then I had to whip up some specs for modifications like dark rooms, a decent kitchen, a bedroom, and a lot of plumbing rework to allow for a Fire Box. Greg and I figured out—“

Morena folded her arms to cover her surprise. This was the old Nick. Like nothing had even happened. Like they hadn’t even argued. It was pissing her off. She wanted to explain. She needed to apologize. “Who’s Greg?” she asked, sounding rather shrill.

“Oh. Reiterritter.” When Morena still didn’t acknowledge, Nick tried, “The guy that helped us out? Army jacket? Police uniform?”

Morena rolled her eyes. Nick took it as a sign to continue and as he walked her through the finer details of the fire box, the fireproof room that they’d be putting in the basement, she took his arm again and led him towards the elevator. Between Sophie rolling through all the scientific purposes for rigor dormitus and explaining her concern away with all the rationale for why Jesper wasn’t up yet and Nick yammering about this essentially oversized BBQ box, she figured her apology was unwarranted and unnecessary. She stuffed Nick into the elevator and stepped back hard against the wall, her arms folded up to her chin.

He’d been over at the comic book store, which apparently was like the Bat Cave for the Gypsy Twin Irregulars, all day hatching through his fourteen point plan to reconstruct the deli building into their very own VP HQ (Vampire Psychologist Headquarters, he explained), until Lucy showed up and forced him to go home ASAP. But not before assuring him that she would check in on Sophie to make sure everything was OK.

“So have you seen her?”

Morena, stewing in her emotions, lifted her head, “Sophie? Of course I have.”

The elevator dinged at their floor and they both stepped outside. “No, silly, Lucy,” Nick replied.

It was all she could stand. “Silly? You know what’s silly? Me feeling bad and worrying all evening, thinking I needed to apologize to you so you’d come back, that I might have pushed you away just like every other guy in my life. That’s what’s silly.”

It took her a few breathes to notice she’d backed him up against the wall and now, at eye level and pressed up against him, she couldn’t really remember what had made her lose her cool. The sheepish look on Nick’s face didn’t help and she was absolutely sure that wasn’t a pencil in his pocket. Rather, more like a compact umbrella.

No, what was really silly was how she didn’t step away immediately, how there was this wild jangle of sparks all the way through her as she stayed there, realizing the only one being intimidated by physical proximity was her. She eased away from him a little, but not enough to miss his ragged breathing.

“I mean…” She didn’t want to retreat, didn’t know how.

“You were worried I wouldn’t come back?”

It was his incredulous tone that lifted her gaze back to his. The corner of his mouth dimpled into a half smile and for a second it almost looked like he might…lean…forward.

She half-shrugged, taking a step back. One hand pulled the opposite elbow as her shoulders crept up and curled forward as if to hide her face and her embarrassment.

“Uni, I said I’d be back. I meant it.”

She nodded once, because there was no way words could be forced through the clamped garble that passed for her throat. Not when he was still giving her that look, some mix between adoration and affirmation, like he knew he had something on her. That she cared. Fuck, she did care. She was waiting for him to throw that in her face like a well-placed stun grenade.

As if sensing the moment was becoming too much for her, he peeled himself off the wall, breaking enough of the spell so she stepped further back and turned away. When he didn’t make more of the revelation, she relaxed. Even tossed her head back over her shoulder at him to ask a question.


The sheepishness bleated into his cheeks. “Yeah,” he nervously rubbed at his neck. “It was the best I could think up while you were, uh, right there.”

She recognized it for what it was. He’d just given her a nickname. “What does it mean?”

Bashful, but brutally honest Nick was back. “Uni is a word; it means a sea urchin.”

Her face showed her puzzlement, was creeping towards offense.

“I just meant you can be hard and prickly on the outside, but, uh, soft on the inside.”

She absorbed the comment and considered that if it had given by anyone other than the slightly awkward guy who she’d just moments ago backed against a wall and been incidentally acquainted with his not-so-soft parts, she’d likely have been offended. The smile was a reflex, maybe from when she was fifteen, before the world had landed responsibility on her shoulders and let her just be a girl.

She pivoted on her heel. “Well, I guess I’m not the only one that can be hard on the outside.” Before her courage left her, she began to walk away, her cheeks flaming at her own boldness.

She heard him swear to himself, “Shit, you noticed that.”

She spun around, grinning now, “Oh yeah, I noticed.” But had turned back around and was heading back down the hall before her teasing could catch up with her. By the time Nick met her at the open doorway, he’d wrestled with his own discomfiture and had thought up an appropriate comeback intended to pierce a little deeper into the soft spot he’d just uncovered. Something about Uni being quite tasty.

But when Morena turned her head back to him, hand on the handle of the open door and raised a finger to her lips for silence, the flirtatiousness was long gone, replaced by the warrior on high alert. He took hold of the door so she could step in and quickly survey the room. After the quick tour, she returned to the doorway to his questioning face.

“What is it?” Nick asked, not noticing anything out of place in the quiet room.

“It’s Sophie,” Morena answered. “She’s gone.”


I’d been in the middle of rereading my inventory of Jesper’s injuries for maybe the twentieth time, trying to cross-reference it against known lethal vampiric allergies when I realized something. The longer Jesper didn’t break out of rigor dormitus, the more angry with him I got. In recollection, it was obvious that while he seemed to shrug off silver, something in the cabling that Skovajsa had used to tie him to the scaffolding had made him unable to tear through them. After a few dismal attempts to identify it, I felt fairly certain it was optical cabling and therefore likely filled with silica. Glass.

Could Jesper be allergic to something as pervasive as glass? It was terrifying. I’d heard on the news how someone had smashed through a window at the penthouse floor restaurant in the wee hours of the morning. A singe shard of that stuff might kill him? Then why the hell was he fighting a Carpathian pretender!?

Without him here to rail against, it was exasperating. What if some of the slivers of glass had gotten embedded into his skin before he converted to rigor dormitus? Would that make him unable to transform back out? If I could remember exactly where he was cut by the cabling, perhaps we could drill the glass fragments out. So back to my inventory and I sketched out a body, drawing in the injuries I remembered.

Forcing away the memory of his chin, I stuffed my face in one of my older notebooks. Without the Memento which I’d given over to Nick, I couldn’t complete much in the way of full identification. Although I tried hard not to question why Nick was still AWOL, especially since the moment I’d even prodded at her about it, Morena had stormed from the room. Too much drama there but I was trying to deal with my own shit. And having a 3000 pound marble-frozen vampire constituted a significant amount of shit.

Tante. Tante, come to me.”

“Maurice?” My head perked up and when I looked around the room, I realized I was suddenly on my feet. The blood rushed to my head and I swooned against the desk.

“I need you to come to me.”

Before I could even wallow in the pain it caused, I was up again and walking toward the door. The pain meds were not strictly speaking meant to cover all that I had to do to follow his call but I did it and several minutes later, I was outside, limping across the roof towards his shadowy figure.

“Maurice?” I couldn’t stop the panic in my voice. I hadn’t had any contact from the twins, just their surrogate Mr. Reitterritter and he had also gone dark. If anything more had happened to the twins, I couldn’t deal with it. I hobbled toward him only to stop up short as, in an inky burst, he appeared right in front of me.

I grabbed his arms, “Are you ok?”

He smiled in a pained way. “Fine. It is you who are unwell.”

I was gasping for air, whatever motivation had seen me to this point, adrenaline mixed with the last of my pain meds fled me completely and I doubled over to breath, clutching at him. “You said…you said you…needed me.”

This sense of warmth and welcome emanated from him as he wrapped arms around me to support my weight. It lessened the pain a little but I could at least look up and him and open my eyes as he raised my chin to look up at him.

“I needed you to come to me. Of your own free will,” he spoke distinctly, so I might understand.

But I didn’t understand. “But why?”

He shook his head gently at my confusion. He brushed strands of hair that clung to my sweaty face away with his thumb and forefinger, tucking the hair behind my ears. “Because, Sophie, you have become a danger to yourself and I need to keep you safe.”

As my ire was about to rise at his impertinence and I was about to ask him what he meant, his gentleness won me over, his fingers felt soft and cool against my fevered cheek, his arms reliable, strong, his whole frame contracting around me to hold me close. Somewhere deep in my brain, doubtless in a prim British accent, I shook my head, knowing that such influence on me was impossible. But not so. One other vampire had held me in sway…

“Maurice, I don’t…” I suddenly exhaled from the sheer weight of doubting him.

“Relax and trust in me. I will do you no harm.” His words lulled me, freed me from all the responsibilities throughout all of time and I blinked into sudden awareness, as he tilted my head back, his thumb gently brushing the corner of my mouth as he bent his head and kissed me.

I thankfully don’t remember much after that, although for some reason, he felt it necessary to keep that moment, the one in which he’d bent to his will, in my memory. And as much as I tried, as much as I heard the distinct snap of a rule against a desk and the rustle of skirts, I couldn’t find anything distasteful in that memory. It wasn’t the best kiss I’d ever had. But it wasn’t the worst either.

Awareness came back as I realized I sat, my legs to my side, on the rooftop. Maurice sat there next to me, not touching me but not shrinking away either. I realized that he’d made this decision himself as I couldn’t sense Lucy anywhere nearby. This was between him and me. And there was no regret in his shoulders nor did he seem pleased with himself. It had simply been his will. The force of his will.

“Please, do not be angry with me.”

But he was still my Maurice.

When I found my throat was free of constriction to speak, I came into complete awareness that I no longer felt pain anywhere. I was certain all cuts, bruises, strains, sprains, all of it would be gone now. And while that made some sort of sense to me, I needed to know his reasoning, needed to understand what this new Maurice had done and why. This new, more powerful, more controlled Maurice.

“No. I’m not. You made sure of that. I’m not sure how but you have. But it would help, for later, to know why you did it.”

He turned his head to me and I saw him for the first time, not a boy clutching at the awkwardness of his manhood, but a man, firmly in control of his abilities and committed to his beliefs. Whatever gentle feelings he still held for me were there but he was no longer at the mercy of them. He decided where it all fit and it all fit rather nicely.

“Sophie, you were damaged beyond what your doctors knew. For your own safety, you needed to be healed. And after last time, I needed to insure you allowed me to help you.”

I noted his new usage of this lifetime’s name. I would never again be his Tante. I nodded my head in acceptance. He smiled and let me see for a brief moment that somewhere in him, my acceptance denoted approval, which he did still want. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea that he would’ve done it whether I approved or not.

“Some lives are drawn together forever.”

My brows drew down. Something in how he said it sent a flutter through my consciousness and I distinctly heard a tea pot clatter. A memory threatened but I slapped it away.

I felt his hand again on my arm. “Sophie?” I nodded and he helped me to my feet.

“I’m alright.”

He nodded as he looked down at me. Then, he opened his mouth to ask something but paused. There was a question there but his eyes showed compassion, maybe pity, I’d never seen directed at me before. But then he closed his lips and gave me a meek smile. He reminded me so much of that whisper, a presence so recently felt, one that had saved me from the Taint, the kind of presence that was creeping from the shadows back into the light. But the recollection wouldn’t come and he stood there apart from it, his own self, a man molded out of his uniqueness and his duality.

“What is it?” I asked him.

He looked out over the night. “A storm is coming.”

“What kind of storm?”

He didn’t look at me when he said, “The legendary kind.”

We didn’t talk more. I went back downstairs and dodged the inevitable questions from Morena and Nick and noticed as I swept by the desk, that Nick had returned the Memento and it flipped furiously to that page that I dreaded as if to warn me that yes, some lives are drawn together. Forever.

And the little bottle said Drink Me

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on August 11, 2013 by vampirony

The café was buzzing in the late morning fog, cups clattering and patrons chattering on the quaint little terrace. It was humid but still cooler than other places that Emmerick had been of late. Like Spain. He sipped his espresso from the small white cup and glanced at the paper some previous patron had left behind. Sport scores. He couldn’t remember the last time he cared about such trivial things. Maybe when he was twelve. Before the memories had flooded in. But that had been long ago.

He’d been up all night but that wasn’t unusual for him. What was unusual was the arrangement that had him sitting here. Getting the call, who it had been from, and the fact that he had accepted the invite to meet, all things out of the ordinary for him. Strangers in a stranger land, they all were. Anyone and anything at this point could set it all ablaze. Again.

As if to accentuate the point, a police siren wailed in the distance and his head turned only to recognize the nattily dressed older gentleman walking toward the café, the crook of an umbrella over his arm. Though it was summer, he wore a full suit that looked like worsted brown wool. Ah, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Although the older man didn’t hurry, he walked with an elegance and sense of purpose that made Emmerick sit more at attention as one who knows his prey. Then, he thought better about it and by the time the man approached, he had resumed his practiced apathetic slouch.

“Good of you to be punctual, Roland.”


Emmerick waited while Aubrey settled himself in the little folding chair, picking up the sports page and setting it on a nearby table. The fellow there gave Aubrey a momentary of disapproval look and then thanked him for his thoughtfulness.

“I see you haven’t lost any of your charm,” Emmerick stated, suddenly on edge though he’d never show it. Best to get this over with and quickly. He’d already chanced fate breaking into Valerian’s lair just a night ago; the Fates weren’t known for their generosity.

His erect posture in complete contrast with his words, Aubrey spoke, “You can relax, Roland. You know very well I mean you no harm.”

Emmerick folded his arms and sat back.

“Did you do as I asked?” Aubrey queried.

“I followed her,” Emmerick shrugged. “She got on a plane shortly after I left her.” He paused a moment, remembering their last conversation. “She was not happy with how things turned out.”

“She’s not a child to be coddled, Roland, and she never was. She came to us from a dubious connection that even Valerian does not recall that clearly.” Aubrey pursed his lips. “She’s up to something. Now more than ever.”

Emmerick felt a pang somewhere where his heart should’ve been. He quickly squelched it. “Well, I could tell you where she was heading, if that—.”

Aubrey became impatient. “Don’t you think I already know that? She flew to Los Angeles, using the assumed name of Mercedes Blanco. She had two bodyguards with her and the arrangements had been made a week before.”

Emmerick’s mouth twitched. “That long?”

“Using a private jet requires reservations. She was cautious but not completely.” Not something a Bruno Bonne couldn’t uncover with his vast online network.

Emmerick grimaced, “Right. If he keeps her on such a tight lease, what’s the worry?”

“Oh, he has nothing to do with this. He’s as blind as he ever was to what she is.”

Emmerick leaned forward, hackles raised. “And what is that?”

Aubrey shot him a disapproving eye. “Like I have to tell you. She’s dangerous and unscrupulous and won’t give up until she gets what she wants, like so many of the female kind.”

“Which is what, exactly?”

Aubrey went stock still and quietly spoke, “I’m not sure yet.”

The corner of Emmerick’s mouth tugged into a wry smile. “You know more about this than you’re telling me. This all goes way back. She won’t let go of the past. She wants him to pay for what he did. She didn’t think I went far enough. But as it stands, I’m done.”

Aubrey shook his head, fishing a small object out of his jacket pocket and setting it down like a gauntlet on the little table. It was an antique glass vanity bottle, perfume maybe, or some other tonic with a glass stopper and an etched silver label. “You can’t sit there idly claiming not to know who was really responsible. After all this time.”

Emmerick stared at the bottle. “Where did you get that?”

“From her room. The little bitch kept it. I had it tested years ago. What do you suppose I found?”

Emmerick forced himself to pick it up. He turned the label until he could read the engraving. My Darling Darcie. He didn’t need to hear it; he’d suspected for years. Instead of the hurt mellowing with age, it had only increased, a sickness not borne of loneliness or loss, but of guilt. The guilt of having done such wrong the only due course was to wipe it out through revenge.

Aubrey gave Emmerick a moment. He knew it couldn’t be easy on his old friend. They had all been thick as thieves, members of the Ghost Club, investigating their own strange natures when the true beast had walked into their midst. And she had been drawn to him like they all had been. And she had ultimately torn them apart, torn their entire world apart. And now, she was drawing them all back together, across centuries that even Emmerick couldn’t understand. Perhaps it was time for him to get back into the game he’d thought he’d left.

Right before Aubrey could speak, Emmerick set the bottle down and asked, “What do you need me to do?”

“First, I need you to tell me why you’ll help. It is too important to us all to risk…misunderstanding.”

Emmerick pondered a moment before replying, simply, “I saw what a devastating impact on others the horror had when it destabilized. Valerian is the only thing holding that community together with some semblance of structure. Whatever she ultimately wants threatens that and the human world with it.” He couldn’t look away. Darcie. He supposed he knew what Aubrey had found in the bottle. Valerian’s blood. Put there by an overeager adolescent desperate for a family. Desperate for a mother just like her.

“Good, we are on the same page then. I don’t know her end game but I know she’s started a hunt with ancient creatures she has no clue about.”

Emmerick finally raised his eyes from the bottle. “What creatures? Weres?”

“No, not those simpering creatures that run our transport lines. No, the ancient breed. The original line.” Aubrey paused, suddenly timid to share what he had never spoken of even in the heady early days in the Ghost Club. “The one I belong to.”

When Mr. Baka “Roland” Emmerick had first met Mr. Aubrey Rochester at the dock’s one foggy October night in Portsmouth, Emmerick was doing the sort of work a poor, overly-built African refugee could do in those days. He had been unloading crates. Crates earmarked for one Rochester Imports. He may have been formidably built, but manual labor had not been his forte where he’d been from and the memories that had compelled him to move about often gave him headaches so he bungled one of the crates. He was saved from dropping the heavy thing only because the proprietor himself had hoisted the box up almost singlehandedly, while still clutching his walking stick.

Expecting a lash or a squat with a stick for his clumsiness, Emmerick watched Aubrey set the crate down with inhuman ease and poked the end of his stick at a tattoo showing on his dark bicep. A symbol resembling two letter S’s, one turned toward the other to form a heart. “Something tells me this isn’t your usual form of work, old man.”

While Aubrey had always been quick to assess others, he had given little of himself away over the years except what Emmerick could guess. That he had many years, unusual strength, and a fair number of languages to his credit. He also knew people and had convinced the African immigrant to put on airs, own up to his uniqueness and his magnetism, and display some of the special arts that had forced him to leave his home. It was the age of spiritualism and for the right price, a powerful lord or lady would pay anything to be spellbound by stories from kingdoms afar and things that go bump in the night. And so they had partnered up with some others Aubrey had found to form the Ghost Club.

Ghosts were something that Emmerick knew well, at least his own. He had suffered them for years, being branded “wicked” and worse “possessed” by his own tribe. With the Ghost Club, they met others who claimed special abilities. Most of them had been full of crap but a few hadn’t been and through their work, Emmerick had brought his own demons to heel, even finding within them the strength to battle all sorts of monsters.

As for Aubrey, Emmerick always suspected werewolf, however he had never seen him turn. As the years rolled by and Emmerick learned just how diverse the world of the immortals was, he thought maybe a vampire of the South American persuasion. They were mostly impervious to the sun and often could take animal form.

Standing on the precipice of some revelation into Aubrey’s existence only filled Emmerick with dread. Through all the good and evil times the two had seen, even times when Emmerick’s life had made the human transition and he’d had to relearn himself all over again, with Aubrey’s help, the mystery had been maintained. There would be no joy or ease in this telling. He scratched his arm where his tattoo had been, in a former life, a nervous habit he’d developed.

“What line would that be, Aubrey?”

Instead of looking like he was relieved to be telling the truth after all this time, Aubrey clenched in some barely controlled emotion. “The Wilklas. The original three and their immediate pack. The ones turned by the Shining One in the Białowieża.”

Emmerick tried to contain his incredulity. The story of the Wilklas was more fable than legend, in some versions aligned with Russian folklore like Baba Yaga and the Firebird. Sometimes, a fairy tale was just fiction, no basis in fact, and in their studies, they had found nothing to substantiate the tales of the immortal wolf pack that ran through the Polish forest.

However, wolves at somehow cursed men or the other way around in Europe and given rise to the Weres. As difficult as it was to pinpoint the Vampire origins because of the breadth of their population, with the Weres, it was their general lack of awareness during their turn that limited uncovering their origin. But he knew little of them, having had so few dealings with them at the Club, leaving that mostly to….


“So…it’s no myth.”

“Not all of it.”

“And what is this Shining One?”

Aubrey licked his lips anxiously. “He’s not of concern. No, it’s the original three. They do not follow any Were pack code and were never assimilated into modern society, even though the rest of their original pack came to take on major roles in forming up Were society and striking the accord that led to Were-Vamp peace. No, the original three would only have no allegiance to each other, if prodded.”

“And Belle has them hunting someone. Who?”

Aubrey was about to speak when a smell caught him and he turned his head sharply. As Emmerick followed his gaze, he saw a rather portly monk in Benedictine robes. The monk seemed to smile back at Aubrey but he was suddenly more at ease, as if a final decision made. Lord help him, Emmerick thought, if we get the Catholics into this.

“Belle met with the female several weeks ago and then again this night in Los Angeles. I have one of our South American brothers enlisted as her bodyguard to keep watch. The younger male has been out of the picture for a while, showing no interest to leave the forest but the elder, Elba, he’s the leader. He’s the one you must find.”

Emmerick took a long breath to try and wrap his mind around just what Aubrey was asking him to do.

“Yes, Roland, I’m asking you to hunt only this time, I want you to hunt a wolf. If you thought just because your silly penance with Valerian is over that you could walk away from this world, you were mistaken. Things have never been more perilous.”

“And why is that, old man?”

“Because I’ve been searching for years for a way to end these wolves, and beyond some witchcraft that would likely end all lives, not just theirs, I haven’t found anything. And the one thing uniting them is the abandonment they feel from their creator and the revenge they have wanted against the one they blame for it. If their leader is made to hunt again, they will all unite and they will not stop until they have killed what they have been set upon.”

Emmerick shook his head, “How does this have anything to do with me?”

“You’ve finally chosen your side, Roland. For years, you tried to avenge Darcie and yet held out hope that Bellecroix was not responsible for her death. Even when you finally knew the truth. But now, you’ve turned against Bellecroix, see what she really is and I can trust you again.”

“Why? Because you think I’m on Valerian’s side now?”

“No, because the side you’ve chosen is the one we should’ve all been on. Darcie’s. I’ve done what I can for her in this lifetime, am doing what I can short of triggering another Were-Vamp war. Valerian would never allow that and so my hands are effectively tied.”

Emmerick nodded. Instead of sending his own horror to protect Darcie’s current incarnation, Valerian had sent a bookish vampire scholar who had somehow managed the feat. It sounded very possible that this new threat would be much worse. The morrow in his bones felt frozen remembering his last conversation with Belle. She’d wanted him to kill Valerian and as much as he’d once wanted to do just that, he now realized she’d been playing him even then. And he understood her like never before.

“Quinn. She’s going after Sophie Quinn.”

“And she’s trying to use these wolves to do her dirty work. But she doesn’t understand them, doesn’t know them and the danger they represent. If Bellecroix has convinced them that Sophie is the one that took their creator away, they will kill her and everyone around her in a storm of revenge that will turn the rain in Seattle red.”

Emmerick felt the old rage building again, these creatures, all of them, just as manipulative and greedy as always. He and Aubrey had been friends once but after Darcie’s death, they had chosen different roads. Emmerick had first saved Belle and then went after Valerian. Aubrey had helped Valerian clean his house out of London and escape to the continent. Could a reincarnation of the very human that had caused such evil to descend upon the world do anything less again?

The doubt showed on Emmerick’s face as Aubrey leaned forward and took him by the arm, jostling the table. “It is the same kind woman we all fell for in our own way, who wanted nothing more than to save all of us from ourselves. Who mothered a strange, young girl with a wandering eye and sharp teeth and taught her how to be a lady. Who taught a black man that an English gentlewoman could see past the color of his skin and forge friendship of the heart. Who melted the hardened heart of an arrogant, angry nightwalker who had no care for his own kind.”

“You chose your side and he doesn’t sit outside for tea.”

“But he does take tea, pine needle, with a little honey. Just like she used to make for him. You’ve seen him. You know. Being on his side is being on hers. And right now, she is being targeted by a lunatic orphan who couldn’t care less about anything but revenge.”

Emmerick looked down at the arm Aubrey held, the one that used to bear a symbol of faith, a symbol of continuity, of remembering the past to forge the future. Where was that sentiment more apt than now?

“She needs the hunter, Roland. She needs him to find the leader Elba before he can find her.”

Emmerick picked up the bottle with his other hand, holding it there for a moment. He sighed. She’d called it once. He could find anyone. Anyone anywhere. It was his lot in this life and the one before and the one before that. And he would be the hunter again. And all over a little bottle she’d drank from.

Aubrey released his shoulder as Emmerick spoke, still looking at the bottle, “Tell me what I need to know. And I will do this thing.”

Aubrey gave him a thumb drive and he pocketed it, standing abruptly, still looking at the bottle. He stuffed it into his bandoleer pouch and was just about to stride away when Aubrey stopped him with a hand again on his wrist. This time, he felt oddly overcome with patience and strength, like he’d found the new purpose he was hoping for and unlike his pursuit of penance, this was a loftier goal that would give him salvation.

When he recognized what Aubrey was doing, he felt suddenly sick to his stomach.

“Roland, be wary. Your renowned abilities may not work as well against…these immortals.” Aubrey looked up at him with eyes almost yellow in color and his normally clean shaven face sudden sprouted with greyed whiskers. “Please accept this gift, to help you along your way.”

Aubrey broke skin contact just as suddenly and Emmerick, nauseated and sweating, stumbled away. No one in the street noticed the exchange and none of the other patrons would remember the strange visitors nor their conversation.

As the monk approached, Aubrey was stroking a newly grown beard with his thumb and forefinger, musing. The monk sat down and ordered an espresso as he had been up all night as well, talking in Spanish to his friends in LA.

“You were right about him after all,” the monk said into the lengthening silence. “And you gave him a boone?”

“He’s not well, Imperius. His abilities are eating away at his life expectancy. This may be the last time he can hold it all together.”

Imperius read the guilt and sadness in the old butler’s face and felt truth would be kinder than comfort.

“So you’ve sent him to his death, very likely.” Imperius shrugged. “An honorable one to be sure. We could all hope for nothing more than that.”

Aubrey threw the old monk a nasty glare. “No more honorable man exists in this world or may ever have than that one. When he has found his ease, this world will be a poorer place.”

Imperius scratched at his own beard while studying Valerian’s long-time companion and once fully-fledged member of the Wilklas. He wasn’t sure how much he trusted the Runt. When he’d left Wilklas land for the last time, he’d carried an awfully large chip on his shoulder. He’d been pushed around a lot in the years before the Three had remerged for good with the pack and with them, his litter mate brother Volta. But when Volta has retreated to the mountains while the others had chosen to modernize, the Runt had lost his place.

He always wanted the power but never had it himself. He became the power behind the thrown, over the years enabling princes and kings to dabble in the darker arts. It had given him plenty over many a gentleman but when he’d met Valerian, he could see a higher power to inspire awe, much like that which had bullied him for years in the pack. Imperius wasn’t sure exactly how much of the tale of the bottle was true but he sensed, like all stories, there were some final threads yet to be revealed in this one.

What mattered to him most was where his current loyalty lay and to his word, it was with Lord Valerian. He would fight to keep him in power and in control of the Conclave as his own survival depended on it. Imperius knew why Aubrey never changed; he was taking Valerian’s blood. Small amounts to be sure, but enough to hold some measure of the wolf at bay. It might’ve been where the girl had gotten the idea in the first place.

Imperius had other loyalties to fulfill and at this point, their purposes joined. Vega was on the move, Elba was still missing, and treachery was in play in Valerian’s house. Imperius wondered what Aubrey might do if he knew his brother Volta had also gone forth, tracking Vega. For now, he’d keep that bit to himself as he knew the modern day Volta better than anyone, having spent many long days at the monastery showing him the ropes.

“Good men are always hard to come by, my dear Aubrey, and always pass too soon from this world.”

Aubrey’s ire cooled. “How very monastical of you to say.” He was scratching again at the beard. “I’ll have to shave twice to rid myself of this.”

“I think it makes you look rather scholarly, much like your faculty picture at Lucern.”

Aubrey shook his head. “And your arrangements?”

“I’ve postponed for the time being.”

“What? Why?”

Imperius smiled. “You seem to think you’re the only chess player in this house, my dear Czeslaw,” Imperius paused to enjoy the hackles he raised and the whiskers that further sprouted at his saying Aubrey’s older name. “But for all you know I could have invented the game. No, you may have convinced yourself that this is about Sophie but I’d wager that fine ivory umbrella of yours that the real ringer in this story, one bookish vampire, will be coming back to Conclave within the fortnight.”

Aubrey stared, mouth agape. “And why would he come back here when she’s over there and he’s just saved her?”

As the waitress dropped off his espresso, Imperius sat back and enjoyed the forced pause in their conversation. Aubrey felt he had the cards and rightly, Imperius had given him a lot. Telling him part of the story that explained why the Three never bonded with humans again, removed themselves from that world. How a woman had come between them and their master. But he’d never told Aubrey the whole story and who all had been there that terrible night when the wolves had ended one human’s life and been separated forever from the Shining One.

He picked up his cup and drank deeply. And just when Aubrey had given up that he could get an answer, Imperius spoke.

“Because, my dear boy, sometimes what honor demands is more word than deed.” He put the cup down. “And it’s such a nice umbrella. I think I’ll be needing it a lot where I’m headed next.”

Favors in Fur

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on August 4, 2013 by vampirony

As the Lufthansa flight from Munich made its descent into LAX, the passenger in 41A pulled his scarf down from over his nose and was thankful the moon was only in first quarter. The smell from the dinner cart had set his innards quivering and it was only through sheer force of will and a rather tight weave of fabric that he hadn’t bolted from his seat.

His second flight on an airplane followed his first one this morning when he’d booked a last minute flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Los Angeles, following a rumor. It couldn’t be true. He hoped to Hell it wasn’t true. He straightened in his immovable seat, the worst on the plane, the ticket agent told him. He barely noticed, pulling the newspaper out of his jacket pocket. It was rumpled and turned to a back page of the Entertainment section. Amongst the theories of why a certain sitcom starlet hadn’t been seen for weeks, believed to be hidden away in rehab, or some cosmetic procedure, or eloped to Mexico with her producer boyfriend was a picture of the starlet’s home, accosted by the paparazzi and the police who had been called in due to a scuffle.

While the photog who’d snapped the shot probably never intended it, the camera found her walking along the wrought iron fence line bordering the house, the collar of her short mink coat pulled up around her face, hiding most every significant detail that would call her out. She was just another leggy blonde in sky high heels in LA, albeit with a horrible sense of fashion in the middle of summer. The lack of bling on her fingers as she clenched the collar around her face, trying to blend as an innocent bystander, only made the tattoo above her ring finger that more prominent against the white fur.

From the distance the shot was taken, it almost looked like a smudge on the lens from the print but he knew it. Knew it as well as the one on his own hand, hiding under his fingerless mitten. A tree, an oak to be exact, branches and roots forming a circle. His had the leaves intact, still in full green and rippling in some unforeseen breeze. The skin itched under the mitten and he rubbed at it.

It was part and parcel of the overall sense of unwell he’d come under the moment he stepped on the plane and the further from ground the plane had risen, the worse he’d felt. Still, nothing compared to the pit in his stomach as he thought of what it could mean to have her here, at the house of the famous starlet. Especially with that starlet missing, at least from the glare of the media’s watchful eye.

He peered out into the lights of city in wonderment. He anyone slept with all this artificial light, he couldn’t fathom. But he had always been a simpleton, not needing for much, not demanding much, not happy but content to stay in the mountains, show a few tourists around the forest surrounding the old monastery, continue to help the monks with the grounds.

The plane hit the tarmac hard and he yelped, the sound muffled by the scarf and the rush of the air helping to break the steel bird. The bile rose in this throat, threatening to break loose, but he clenched his eyes shut and stuffed the fingers of his left hand under the mitten on his right, brushing across the oak tattoo. With that, a sense of calm came over him and he heard birds, smelled the musty forest, and could imagine the earth beneath his feet.

Only a little while longer and he would stretch his legs. He collapsed back into the seat back and looked down at the paper in his lap. He could still be wrong but with the calm of the tattoo came the sensation that she was close, closer than he’d felt for a while. He removed his left hand from the glove, mindful she might sense him too and he was not willing to announce his presence before he understood the rationale.

To the best of his knowledge, she had last been in Cairo, exploring the vast archeological heritage and seeking answers of her own for what they all had become. Before Cairo, it had been Vilnius, Warsaw, and Vienna. The last postcard after Vienna was her complaint that she could no longer stand the cold and she would be moving south through Venice. But she hated water. Well, the ocean. She feared large bodies of water after years living in the woods. She’d left a message for him that she had panicked and jumped a freighter for Egypt. There, she hoped to find answers.

So what was she doing in LA? It couldn’t be good. After all, all of them knew the cause of their state and the reason for their abandonment. It was the same type of creature that the media now scrambled for photos of from just outside a starlet’s palatial fortress in the Hollywood Hills. Vampire. And if he knew anything about his fur-enshrouded sister, she wasn’t in the neighborhood for the view.

“Sir, you can disembark now.”

The flight attendant brought him back to the present and he collected the small satchel from the overhead bin and a small leather book. It felt good to hold it again, especially when his thoughts were full of such dread. He would need it on his journey as he feared he would never make it back to the monastery again.

When his feet finally touched pavement, he breathed a sigh of relief. The city was hot, stuffy, loud, smoggy; everything he hated. But he was on the ground. He moved quickly through the endless parking lot, stuffing the book into the satchel and over-tightening the strap over his shoulder until the bag dug into his chest. When he reached the fence that marked the edge of the airport property, he took a look around and sniffed. At this edge of the parking lot, there were lots of shadows and few cars. And it was deserted.

He rolled his neck and sprinted toward the fence which he took in one easy leap as the man that had been sitting in 41A traded flesh for fur and sprinted out into the hot Los Angeles night, satchel bouncing along with him.


“Did you get them?”

The blonde woman in the fur coat stared past the hooded figure smoking at the railing, transfixed and simultaneously terrified by the view. She took an involuntary step back, clutching her coat closed, the branches of her own oak tattoo devoid of leaves.

Rolling her eyes, Bellecroix stubbed her cigarette out and approached. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, it’s just salt water.” She stood in front of the blond and gave her a once over, her lips pursing in distaste. “I expected more from a born hunter.”

“I got you what you wanted.” The blonde handed over a CD.

“Good,” a syrupy smile crossing her features, Bellecroix took the CD, turning it in her hand. “And you left no trace?”

“None that a human could tell.”

“What about an inhuman?”

The blonde bristled. She still didn’t like how little she knew of this creature’s game but the promise had been given and so far, she had delivered. The Shining One lived and she knew where. For the prize of dispatching one of the undead and planting a few items, she would reveal just where he dwelled.

“By the time they get to the scene, it should be cleared.”

Bellecroix raised her eyebrows but nodded wistfully.

“Seems such a great favor you’ve done me. Are you sure you don’t want more? I could throw in a few more…treats you might like. Good for hunting.”

The blonde growled low. “I only want one thing from you. And if you break your word, the only trace they’ll find of you is a mess of blood on that white carpet.”

“Tut tut tut, unlike others of my kind, I keep my promises.” Bellecroix passed the blonde a packet. When she opened it, the blonde found a plane ticket for the next morning to someplace called Seattle. She raised her eyes to the vampiress to find her gloating. “I assume that this meets with your approval?”

“If he’s there, yes. We’re done.”

The blonde turned on her heel and walked out, bypassing the two armed heavies at the door that she could’ve ripped to shreds in seconds flat. As she passed them, one opened the door for her and offered to call her a cab. She politely declined, noticing the thick Latin accent and skin tone much darker than his other brethren. She hadn’t been aware they bred them south of the equator.

After the door had closed behind her, Bellecroix smiled widely, like the canary that had outsmarted the cat. But as quickly as the smile appeared, it faded. “Oh, no, sweetie, I’m not finished with you quite yet. But you’ll know when I am.”

She pulled her hood down and stared at the glass of the sliding door until her image materialized. The antlers were growing in nicely. She strummed her pearls and thought that a creamy silver wolf coat would make a lovely addition to her wardrobe.