Archive for the Fiction Category

DJB: Letting the Fur Fly

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , on September 6, 2021 by vampirony

She was whispering to him again but the sound couldn’t be heard above the tinkling of the fountain.

“Do you have another message?” she asked excitedly.

He laughed heartily, “Just once, I would like to know that you look forward to seeing me and not just because I carry a message from the Sultan.”

He could only imagine the smile that crept across her face, hidden behind her veil.  She dropped her eyes and left him wondering at her thoughts. So much was still unspoken between them, out of caution, out of duty. She was a treasure to the Sultan, a truly learned man who hungered to find and possess knowledge. She spoke innumerable languages and could translate any with time including ones from far to the east in lands along other oceans. She authenticated manuscripts, could even repair them if the Sultan desired it. She advised him on promising acquisitions and had once been his most trusted appropriator, traveling throughout Europe, until that catastrophic event.

Just one more book, this one purportedly harboring the most prized secret of science and mysticism.  Behind enemy lines, a simple wagon, no observable guard to draw attention, disguised as a young lad.  She’d done it many times before, procuring Aeschylus’s seventh play discovered in Baliabadra before it fell back to the Venetians. Then there was the cache of astronomical writings from Ibn Al-Haytham uncovered in Cairo, right under the nose of the Mamluks.

But luck was not with her this last time and she had been uncovered, by an unnatural creature, in the service of the Moldavians. It had caught her scent and directed a general on loan from the Hungarian Black Army to pursue a prize worthy of ransom.  She couldn’t have known the great lengths men at war would go, the landscape transformed into Hell on Earth to prevent the Ottoman advance. With the Ottoman defeat, she had been trapped with no way out, save one very ardent wild man and his pack.  

The ramifications of that event had encircled them in this golden cage: she was safe and well cared for but within the embrace of the Harem. As such, she had to follow its rules or lose the Sultan’s protection. So started the ruse. She was ugly, as many of the other girls declared, guaranteeing the Sultan would never call her to his bed. Which also served her as accidents sometimes befell the beautiful of the harem. It was best not to stand out. Unlike most of the others, she never dropped her veil, perpetuating the myth.

She’d been burned…or carved up….(or was it branded?) by the general during her brief capture. Raped, made lame, had all her hair pulled out….he forgot how many tales had been spun about her, many of them through her own manipulations. Only one woman in the harem had ever seen her uncovered: the Kahiye-Kadin, the eldest lady of the harem. And for reasons that were the Kahiye-Kadin’s alone, she had kept the truth to herself.

For his part, he did what he had to stay near her, to be of value to the Sultan. Once the beast had been tamed from fever and word of his deformity had spread, he had enjoyed a small measure of goodwill for heroism and sacrifice saving the Sultan’s “treasure.” He earned the title “eunuch” and took up a role guarding the Sultan on outings, the lie of his Janissary status turning into truth. After a time, the Sultan found him pleasing to look at and assigned him to the Enderun, where he now couriered messages and work to her.

The legend of her rescue and his maiming meant he could drift carefully between worlds, but he feared that their time would run out before the length of her servitude. Seven years, two already spent since her father’s death had transferred her into the Sultan’s keeping. Desperate to find other ways to give favor to the Sultan, he had asked her to teach him letters, words, languages, so that perhaps he too could serve as translator, that the Sultan would once again let them pursue mythical texts and manuscripts. To break them out of the cage, where they could be together. Where he wouldn’t have to fear spilt tea and other dropped items and the reprisals that followed from disobedience.

Again, the sound of the fountain caught his attention.

“I wouldn’t want you to think that,” she softly spoke, barely audible as if she hadn’t meant to speak out loud at all. Her eyes lifted and held…my gaze…just as in the hotel, remember, let this caress speak, it is only the beginning…and felt whatever liquid ran through my body thud, my chest contracting, my heart glowing.  

I needed to keep her safe. And as I pulled my mind from distant memories to the current moment, I found myself sprawled out on some dank, cobbled floor, watering dripping along the subterranean wall somewhere nearby.  I realized it was the first time memories that I had left open to roam after first touching the Book had merged back with me. My own memories, my voice, my heart…when we had once existed in the same world, but she had not yet become my Helene.

“Gaat het goed met je?”

I raised my head at sound. A short, brown-skinned woman with what seemed to be brilliant multi-colored feathers for hair leaned over me, hand on my shoulder. Was I not in the Prague Redoubt? Had I misdialed? I tried to push myself up but as I tried to stand, I felt tethered. My head swam as I looked back towards my right leg to find the phone handset on the floor and my ankle disappearing into it.

A wave of nausea hit me as I realized I hadn’t come all the way through. No, I needed to protect her. This can’t be happening, not again. The woman spoke, but I collapsed to the cobbles, exhausted. I tried to think myself through, tried to envision my right ankle, connected to my right foot but the sensation of my body itself was fading. The room turned all the way to black just as I saw her reach for the handset and put it back in place.

“I think he’s coming around. Fetch Lord Valerian.”

I shook awake and tried to throw off the hands that held me against the bed.

“Damn it, hold him down!”

My eyes wouldn’t focus; I just saw shapes but felt pairs of hands bear down. I struggled and felt the panic of needing to be free burning in my belly. Not restrained again. Not so soon.

“Ay!”  Muffled sounds and thumps as the hands suddenly lifted as I continued to blink, a sudden whiff of burned fur.

“Jesper, calm down!”

The voice sounded so familiar that I stopped my thrashing. My eyes cleared gradually as I tried to control my breathing and soon revealed Aubry, holding his hands up with open palms. It was him but inexplicably furrier, his palms singed for some reason I struggled to grasp.

We stared at each other, as I realized I was in the Redoubt. I lay in a tall four poster bed, still naked. I felt feverish. Aubry stood to my left, his ears cocked strangely. A glance to my right showed the woman from before and one of the men from the South American tribe. Alejandro, maybe? He nodded and smiled uneasily as I looked at him.

They all held their hands up as if ready to restrain me again. That was when I felt my toes on my right foot wiggling. It was a relief to see me back in one piece.

“Sema, get some tea,“ Aubry commanded calmly, his shoulders relaxing.

“And maybe some ice, no?” Alejandro added, amused.

Aubry clenched and unclenched his fists while Sema, the woman, was suddenly there with a porcelain cup, holding it up to my mouth. I was quite thirsty and as I stared into her eyes, they held me in place and I smelled the jungle, felt the weight of humidity in the air, but tasted pine.

I flinched to sitting but only after I drank the whole cup. She stood back, a strange smile on her face. But as the liquid moved through me, I heard the roar of fire and I sprung up, looking for the pitcher. I bounded around Aubry who stopped Sema from following, from interfering, while I picked up the carafe and drank the whole thing down, rivulets of liquid escaping the corners of my mouth and traveling down my body.

As I put it down, Aubry folded his arms as if he’d seen this show but before I could ask him anything, my awareness breezed through cool pine tree forest, morning fog high on the mountain, running with the wolves at my side, solid dark soil beneath my feet. I pushed the sensation away; I need to be here in the present to protect her.

I looked back over to Aubry who’s notoriously implacable face was stunned, as if all the hairs stood up on his now very furry neck. I breathed a sigh of relief; the burning sensation had subsided. I had little time to unravel the effect of sunlight on me let alone Valerian’s pine needle tea. I needed to call for an assembly.

I stepped towards Aubry to do just that when a roar of another sort ripped through the door and I was thrown to the bed, Valerian’s hand clamped around my throat, his blood red eyes and fully fanged face just above mine.

“What the Hell are you doing here?!” he shouted, the whole room reverberating with his angry Vox. Sema and Alejandro were knocked to the floor, with Aubry gripping the bedpost to stay standing.

“You’re supposed to be protecting her!”

As his grip tightened, I felt the rush of a folded memory, of a time when Valerian and I had been adversaries. The memory wouldn’t unfurl but, for a moment, I saw all his emotions in his normally taciturn face. He’d loved and lost her too. He hated that he’d had to send me to save her. He wanted to claim her for his own.  Here. Now.  And I realized it was useless to fight against their past even as my gut twisted at wanting to know and tear out any history they had together.

“I’m here to bear witness, “ I choked out, my hands wrapped around his arm but only giving the slightest resistance.  “To Conclave. As her….” His grip steadily tightened as if he feared the words. Sema and Alejandro struggled to get to their feet, the force of Valerian’s will holding them in place.

I might be preternaturally long-lived and a broken neck might require months of recuperation. But a severed head or one otherwise forcibly separated from my neck, that was another matter. I shut my eyes, trying to calm myself, gathering my wiles to find a way to convince him.

The growl started low, hyphenated by the merest whine. But it built quickly, a series of warning yips that turned guttural, like an engine revving and the bed started to shake. Then the barks intermixed with an almost rabid growling that finally broke through Valerian’s awareness. I opened my eyes just as his grip slipped a millimeter as he turned, his right arm swinging to defend just as a maw full of glistening teeth clamped down.

I stared in disbelief as Aubry transformed from the slightly furry version of his dignified self into a full were form. No, not just were. Wiklas. As he tore at Valerian, Valerian turned to him in shock but centuries of training wouldn’t loosen his grip completely and I was yanked from the bed. I shielded my fall with my left hand and as Aubry continued to thrash his clench over Valerian’s arm, Valerian finally relented.

“Aubry!” Valerian shouted, still stunned as his oldest ally, his friend, some wondered if more, had a death grip over his forearm and was shredding it. Valerian froze, his stance turning to stone but his face barely registered the creature before him. As I finally stumbled to my feet, leaning heavily against the bed, his eyes clouded as if pulled back into memory, an emotion I had never ascribed to him: fear. But it was a flash and the betrayal and anger that replaced it heralded his powerful strike. In Wiklas form, Aubry had nearly doubled in size, towering over Valerian with all his limbs elongated and muscled, now more wolf shaped than man, having ripped through his exceptionally tailored ochre tweed suit with matching vest and purple pocket square.

Valerian flicked his wrist and while he must have broken a bone or two to do it, I heard a sharp crack as several of Aubry’s teeth that had locked into Valerian’s flesh snapped and he sailed across the room, ricocheting off the far stone wall.

I couldn’t help but let out a sigh but my relief was short-lived as Valerian turned back toward me. It was obvious Aubry’s attack was just a distraction; he was still bent on aggressive interrogation. He made only a step in my direction before the growling stopped him in his tracks.

He spun back to see Aubry’s Wiklas form crouching to make another attack. This time, he wasn’t emotionally prepared and the hurt bit into his brow. Aubrey’s wolf mouth foamed with blood but the growling grew more fevered.

“Aubry! What is this?”

Just as Aubry looked ready to strike again, I stepped up to Valerian, left arm around his back and right hand straight out toward Aubry.

“Enough, Jovan!” I shouted, in Vox.

The room was suddenly awash in light as if the shout I’d used against Sophie’s half-vampire goth girl had instead been broadcast throughout the room. As the light faded, I saw Aubry hunker down, his sanity returned and his wolfen face full of regret. He panted, obviously in pain, and he bounded out of the room as Alejandro sped to follow, with a singular glance back at us. Sema had backed against a wall; she clearly wanted no part of this.

“Sema? Please help Alejandro take care of Aubry,” still using Vox but much more subtle. I wasn’t sure how I was doing it nor whether it would be used against me later given the prohibition of using our powers against our own kind. But given the circumstances, I needed everyone out of the room as Valerian and I worked through this….whatever this was.

I turned to him, my jaw tightened with resolve to find him staring wide-eyed at me, lightly holding his right forearm together.

“Who are you, Scribe? What have you become?” Valerian insisted.

I gave his left shoulder an easy shake. “I was trying to say her advocate but you didn’t let me finish.”

His eyes tightened as he demanded, “What power do you newly possess to command my ever-faithful servant to first attack me and then be warned off like a pet?”

“You think I did this?” I commented, bemused, glancing down at his arm, as it already knitted back together. I dropped my arm and went to sit back on the bed, suddenly exhausted with my whole head hurting. As I raised my hand to my head, I noticed it shook.

“Your glowing eyes would seem to say so,” he accused. When he realized that maybe I couldn’t explain it, his mind whipped back to his earlier anger. “Whatever your abilities, you were meant to stay with her, to protect her, not run back here and leave her unguarded.”

“You’re wasting time. You must call Conclave to assemble. I must be allowed to report everything that has happened. Immediately!”

Valerian looked suddenly wary. “Why is that so important?”

“Because we killed a vampire and the Conclave must not perceive her as a threat or the area of Seattle will become a war zone.”

A vampire? Well, turns out you are woefully uninformed. Where have you been hiding the past week, under a rock?” He was still angry, his eyes still red, his fangs still extended, but my fervor seemed to be winning him over.

I noticed his emphasis on the “a” as in singular. “What are you talking about?”

Valerian, still holding his arm, walked over to the table with the empty carafe and peered in, then gave me a dubious look. He huffed and turned toward me. “What you killed was a revenant, borne from the Taint, the last unaccounted bottle of it. Who knew that one born like that would have the strength to reproduce?”

“There was another?” I replied, shocked.

Valerian’s arm must have finally felt on its way to healing as he pitched it on his hip.  “Yes, and was dealt with by your…associate through some formidable fighting that also bears some scrutiny.” He eyed me critically. “If I hadn’t known you for the last hundred years give or take a few decades, I would be concerned you might be reproducing.”

I bent my head. “You know I can’t, Valerian.” I tried to think. Morena must’ve broken the skin. But it would’ve been so little of my blood. It didn’t make any sense. But none of what I was becoming made any sense. “You say she fought another revenant?”

“She had some sort of help; it’s unclear the whole story.” Then he huffed, “I was expecting to hear it when you brought her to testify on her own behalf.”

“Bring her here? Are you insane?”

At that jibe, Valerian snorted,” That remains to be seen as I have a bookish vampire who seems intent on doing the exact opposite of what I need him to.” Then, with a tang of humility, “Well, except saving her.”

It wasn’t true, not really. She’d really saved herself. The Kukri, her wards, their strange band of irregulars that had boxed me up and taken me to the hotel. Valerian needed to not know about her vampire wards, or her assistant Nick, and I was already regretting that Morena was on his radar. It had been safer for all when he knew nothing about my life in Seattle or the company I kept. But it was obvious that I was not his sole surveillance in the area. And I had been trapped in rigor dormitus for too long to control the breaking of this story. But perhaps there was still a chance to color the commentary.

“Revenants, you say? Not other Carpathian spawn?”

“Definitively. We’d been tracking the male for some time.”

I nodded, “Then even more reason to call Conclave to assemble. I can stand witness to how she tried to diagnose him, tried to help him, not knowing it was futile.” I stood.

Valerian just stared at me skeptically. “That’s all I’m going to get from you? A proposal to stand up for her…when you’ve so obviously been….influenced by her?”

“What do you mean?”

He shook his head. “Can you actually say you are the same Jesper that I sent to contact her?”

He wasn’t wrong. In such a short period of time, the veil that I myself had pulled over the world to mute it from a history so painful I had tried to write it out of existence…it had been burned to cinders. And while I knew I myself could be the very evidence anyone in Conclave could need to show how she meant no harm, how she only sought to help, to heal, something deep within told me now was not the time for that.

“I will talk to Conclave, if I have to summon them myself.” I needed to make her safe, safe from the very interference that Valerian and I represented. She apparently could take care of the rest. She always had….except….

I strode past him, towards the open door, not able to stomach further delay. I’d obviously come across the line during the day but with Valerian up, it meant at least half a day had past. She might be sleeping now. I hoped she’d heard my message. Hoped she knew I was doing this for her.

“You might want to put on some clothes if you’re going to do that.”

I looked back at Valerian.

His eyes had faded back to brilliant blue but the line of his mouth was grim. He shrugged. “You may not feel up to sharing your own story, but it’s written all over your body. So unless you want to explain how you’ve suddenly become able to share boons with humans, turn men into werewolves, and summon light from your Vox, let me fetch you something to cover you up. You’re practically glowing.”

He moved towards an inner door, likely to his dressing room, and disappeared. He returned with a similar cloak to the one he wore to cover himself when he was back from a journey, a collar that could be turned up. I donned it quickly, but felt something just inside the pocket. I pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses.

“I’d recommend those too,” he said bluntly.

“What about Aubry?”

He sighed, his face a mask again hiding his feelings. And his recollections. Aubry’s actions had loosened something in Valerian and he was just as wiling to face it now as I was tying Aubry’s unexpected transformation to my past with the Wiklas.

“I’ll give him some time to settle.” He met my questioning gaze. “There may be more than one testimony to witness here tonight.”

…Nothing like the Sun

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , on August 8, 2021 by vampirony

“Wow, did you decide to hibernate in here?”

It was early evening and going into a fourth very lonely night. I didn’t need any reminder of beings in stasis, but Nick hadn’t seemed to understand the inappropriateness of his joke.  Sometimes, I really wondered why I continued to employ a rather mouthy millennial who insisted on checking in on me.

After Maurice’s healing, my body had been fully restored but my mood had become dour indeed. Leaving the hotel room when I was literally counting the minutes that Jesper had “slept” was an impossibility so room service with the drapes drawn tight and a single lamp turned to its lowest setting had become the extent of my existence. That and pouring over my tomes and the Internet trying to figure out why Jesper still slept.

“Why, come on in, Nick,” I answered as he stepped past me carrying two grocery bags and his satchel. He made his way to a table I’d pulled over next to the crate. Before I could warn him, Thunk!

“Owww!”

He slipped the bags onto the table, his satchel to a chair, and stooped down to see what he had run into.

I grimaced. I wasn’t going to like this. When I didn’t hear a snarky comment or exclamation, I wandered over to stand behind him just as he stood, holding his foot’s assailant. He turned the crowbar over in his hand.

“Um, aren’t we supposed to leave the boytoy in his hermetically sealed box?” He turned to me but his face was in shadow. “For his protection?”

I sighed heavily. I couldn’t help it. First I’d removed one board on Jesper’s crate so I could reach in and touch the marble that was his current form. But it hadn’t been enough; every time I laid down to sleep, it was like I felt him screaming to get out. So board after board got removed. It wasn’t in any sort of meaningful order so it looked like the crate was splitting open from the inside.

“You’re going to lose your Ritterreiter warranty with this.”

I sharply inhaled but Nick reached out and patted my arm. It was a joke. He stared down at me for a few moment’s more before he shook his head and turned to the crate.

“You want this side opened up? You’re not planning on watching the sunset, are you?”

Hmmm, how about right in front for all to see?

My head pulsed suddenly, like the twang of dizziness you can get when you stand too fast. For all to see… the courtisane…

“Eh?” As Nick started on another board, he looked back at me. It cleared my head.

“No it’s ok, that side will be fine, thank you.” I nodded emphatically.

My head was a mumble; lack of sleep, confidence, overload of worry, even the medication perhaps, had set the thoughts not free exactly, but the tethers were…loosening.

To lighten the mood, I asked, “What did you bring me?”

“Some healthier snacks, stuff I used to eat when working on an all-nighter. Some water too. It’s gonna be hot hot hot this week.”

“Ugh,” I moved over to peek into the bags, “Isn’t Seattle supposed to have temperate summers? Mmm, more gyoza. Pocky! Is that healthy?”

The nails squeaked in protest as he worked them loose. “Naw, they just looked fun.”

I felt my fatigue and looked back in the bag for any caffeine. I brought out a bottled coffee drink and smiled in delight.

Meanwhile, Nick silently worked to bring order to the chaos I created. And in that moment, I knew exactly why I still employed this millennial renaissance man.

As I snapped open the bottled drink, I felt him staring at me. “Go ahead and ask, Nick.”

“Rather more a statement than a question: This isn’t working. You’ve been looking through books and the Internet for days. I’ve been scouring the Memento. I think we need a new approach. Can’t we just ask Luce?”

I opened a package of matcha Pocky and snapped it into segments one by one into my mouth. There should’ve been righteous indignation at his suggestion, but he was not wrong. “Oh, it’s Luce, now, eh? Well, considering neither she nor her brother have been around other full vampires that much, I’m not sure how much help she could be.” Even if Jesper resembled any other vampire.

The courtisane…just like any other monstre masculin.

“You sure you know all that those two have been up to in the last few centuries?”

Ignoring the murmuring, Nick’s question made me think of Maurice, how he’d healed me, how I couldn’t really remember how, and how I was supposed to be immune to vampire abilities. Unless it was something else.

Quite so, you should remember your own.

That stodgy arrogant voice from the northern climes in my head sounded louder than usual. Who let her out? Shush!

At any rate, I didn’t answer which he took as a No.                                                                                            

I deflected. “Where’s Morena?”

“Ah,” he seemed glad I brought her up. He paused, standing back up to look at me. “She’s convinced that she’s persona non grata because she blood-doped your boy.”

…votre monstre masculin…

I shook my head, tapped my ears.

“Hey, if she hadn’t, we’d both be dead. As well as our disappeared deli friends…”

The murmur grew more voices, some arguing with each other in all manner of languages.

Nick continued, his voice just barely making it through the chatter, “Who seemed to have vanished in thin air. Which might later present a problem with ownership of the deli. Especially as we continue to work on the repairs and upgrades…are you listening?”

“Hmm,” I stood up and made my way to the window. “I understand.”

He finished with the last board and made a neat pile behind the chair where no one’s toes would be at risk from loose boards or a crowbar. He approached me, “Do you?”

“Morena is….one of our own.”

“Our own?”

“One of us. I mean,” I fought with words, phrases from different conversations, different timelines, different versions of me. “Morena is welcome here. While I know we don’t see eye to eye on all things, I know she wants to look out for Jesper and more importantly for you.”

I looked up at him and the voices silenced as he blushed and grinned haphazardly, nervously brushing his hand through his hair. I smiled, which felt like an odd thing painted on my face, and stepped away from him, to lift the curtain back a smidge the opposite direction of the crate. It was early evening, but the sun was still high, seemingly bending around the northwest side of the building. So much for a sun-free room.

He cleared his throat, pointing back towards the corner, “Now that crowbar stays put. I don’t want to lose our deposit if you decide to expand the closet.” I simply nodded and he continued, “Morena will be glad to hear you’re cool…since she’s actually on her way over. She wanted to see how you are and….if anything had changed.”

We cannot change the past…we are doomed to repeat it if we do not let go.

That voice was new or at least not one I remembered hearing as clearly. I suddenly smelled flowers and thought of my daughter. Who was safe. Away from me.

He moved to the chair where he left his satchel. “So if we can’t try the terror twins, I’m pretty sure my other option you will like even less.” He fished something out then held it up. The Memento.

Bâtard!

“You don’t think I know every single page…by heart…have thought through everything written in it…for an answer?” I flicked at the curtain and watched Nick’s eyes bug out.

He strode over, pulled the curtain closed tight, and gestured with the tome. “I’m not proposing we read it.”

I stepped away and pulled another section of curtain open. He followed and snapped it back. “What are you doing? You want to give your boytoy a suntan?”

I grabbed my arms around me. I didn’t know what I was doing. My thoughts and my body were interacting in ways I didn’t feel entirely in control of. In the midst of that, Nick was trying to get me to look at the book and some growing, angry, festering part of me wanted nothing to do with it. That part wasn’t speaking anymore but I felt her crouched in the corner, chuckling, as if she knew she had the upper hand.

She was ready for her moment…

And then the door swung open and Morena strode in.  

Her moment of vindication….

“Hey, how’s our statue doing?” Then Morena seemed to notice the crate. “What the hell happened there?”

Her moment of revenge….

“He has a name!” I gritted through my teeth. And I grabbed hold of the curtains and pulled them all the way open as my mind exploded in a shroud of emerald green and the smell of fetid, burning flesh.

The whole world froze for me; inside my mind, a rustle of fabrics jostled into each other, the voices shouting at once.

What in Yama’s name have I done?

Well, that’s just splendid. She’s gone off her rocker!

 Liberté!

“What the Fuck!”

Morena jumped for the bed, grabbing at the comforter as Nick and I both seemed to notice all the sunlight bouncing off of the buildings into our eyes. Nick became desperate, fighting to try and pull my hands away at the same time he tried to shut the curtains. “Sophie! Let go! What are you doing?”

But underneath it all, one voice remained silent and a calm settled in, one I’d known only once or twice in my life even though I always felt her, just out of my reach. It was with her will in which I trusted most deeply that my hands pulled with the might of all my lifetimes, most of them compelled to my will, and one who smiled with delicious avarice at the expected consequences, as I tore the curtains.

As the whole section of curtain rod came away from the wall, Nick tripped over the Memento he’d dropped and landed in a thud as Morena faced the fact that A) I hadn’t slept in that bed for four days and B) the housekeeping staff were serious professionals so had instituted hospital corners to discourage my bed dismantling. She tugged and tugged but the comforter wouldn’t come free fast enough.

So we all watched as the light from the sun, held aloft high in the summer northern sky, seemed to bend and reflect off the modern prism that Bellevue had become, travelling its course through the windows, aiming right for the now fully revealed hunk of frozen marble in the corner.

At first, the statue strangely seemed to refract the light back out into a million tiny rainbows, like a disco ball, mineral flecks in the stone perhaps aiding the effect. But just as Morena wrenched the comforter free and Nick struggled to his feet, it began to glow and hum, as if from the inside. Then the hum became a rattling, the remaining crate boards fighting against each other to get free. Morena jumped over the couch and when she was almost there, just a few more steps, the surface of the stone started to crack and splinter.

“Morena!” I think Nick and I both called out at the same time.

Luckily, she sensed the danger and used the comforter as a shield as the glow turned hot white, the sound roared to crescendo, and she and Nick dove for cover. But I couldn’t look away as the light seared my eyes, the vibration deafened me…and suddenly abated.

I wasn’t sure if my ears had ruptured but as my tearing eyes blinked, the room returned and the veined, red and mottled brown hue of the rock had melded to a more neutral almost peach fleshy tone, like a newborn.

And then with a thump, Jesper fell back naked into the crate.

“Are we dead yet? Why aren’t we dead yet?” Nick asked, arms protecting his head. I gently pulled at his shoulder to which he first resisted and then finally relent and raised up, eyes still closed tight.

I rubbed his shoulder gently which drew his gaze to me but when he saw my face, he turned back to the corner. His eyes looked ready to pop out of his head. All he could see was Jesper’s legs, the whole rest of his body lay in the shadow of the couch.

“Morena!” Nick called.

“Can I look? Is it ok to look?” She too remained under cover, as if Sodom and Gomorrah lay out before her.

“Morena, bring me the comforter,” I called, peacefully, all the other voices held in awe.

I could see his chest rising and falling, and that he was taking a moment.

“No way, you crazy fucking bitch, you’re the one that did….” Her head popped up and she saw Jesper laying there. “This.”

Jesper moaned as he began to move, trying to sit up, light flashing in his face causing him to turn his head away as his eyes smoked. Morena jumped to her feet, lifting her arms up and spreading the comforter out to shade him. But she wouldn’t go any closer and seemed almost frightened to approach.

She blocked my view so I started to stand, Nick helping me to my feet. Jesper still lay there, blinking his eyes. His skin looked freshly sunburnt, as if even a few seconds more and he would’ve turned to cinders. But he was breathing and blinking and alive. He moaned a bit more as he rolled to his side and pushed his way up to a seat.

As he took his time, I noticed that not all the vibrations in the room had ceased. There was one, faint, low, just over the hum of the mini-fridge. It felt familiar and old and yet wholly new. The room’s AC suddenly kicked in as it sensed the temperature in the room had spiked.

Jesper took in a deep, long breath, the cooling air seeming to revive him. Then he stood up. Only to bump into the chair nearby and have to use it to steady himself. Half-standing against the chair, he finally looked up and saw us by the window.

Saw me. And smiled. And started gingerly, awkwardly moving toward me, as if his legs were shorter than he remembered.

I smiled back my most idiotic, addlepated, completely relieved smile. I think I even blushed and tried to brush the hair away from my face. I mean, he was naked. Nick clung to the Memento he’d picked up off the floor as if it would shield him from the strange events. Then he hazarded a look at my face, did a doubletake, and then his face chagrined when he also noticed Jesper in the altogether.

Altogether. In one piece. The calm presence that had stood up within me receded and I was now just as muddled and confused as the moment he’d turned to stone.

Morena moved with him, never getting closer than a few feet, all of us lucky her height and long arms probably made her an excellent point guard as well as sunshade. Jesper watched her too, a tentative smile as I could now see her shock as she backed towards us. Jesper had to crouch a bit and give her a moment to get around the end table, but she finally arrived at my side, and Nick reached behind me to grab an end and hoist the comforter behind us.

Jesper finally stood before me, straightened to his full height and took in a deep breath. And I must’ve stepped forward, although I didn’t remember doing it, as if a hand in a red sari had guided me.

Gone was the sometime auburn, ash, strawberry, or even white blond, in its place was a hue that could only be described as golden. I put my hand up to touch it, hours spent wondering if I’d ever have the chance. He let out a long sigh as if he knew my thoughts and shared them. He didn’t make a move to touch me, just let my fingers work through his hair until they finally, inevitably landed on his cheek. I couldn’t help brushing my thumb across a freshly shaved chin to which he let out a quick breath.

His eyes caressed every part of my face. There was only one color to describe them. And you wouldn’t find it on a color chart.

Nick, never one to suffer a quiet moment, decided to remind us we were not actually alone. “Oh hey, man, happy to finally see you.” Then a shift in his weight and his mood changed, “Ok well, maybe we don’t need to be that happy to see each other.”

“Nick!” Morena complained.

“What? I mean, he’s the one naked and all that.”

“As if we need to talk about that at a time like this.”

Jesper looked at Morena and Nick, each one with a long thankful gaze and then back at me and nodded. He then made up his mind, reached out finally to gently slip his hand around my head, fingers caressing the nape of my neck, much as I had done on my second examination of him, and said, “I’m sorry. I must be going now.”

The room then spun upside down and inside out and when it stilled, Jesper was suddenly at the desk, its position against the wall just out of the sun’s reach, the phone handset to his ear. I exhaled suddenly, as if I’d been holding my breath underwater. And just as I grabbed all the pieces of my awareness back together and the shouting of my voices shushed themselves to pay attention, he waved a hand, two fingers in a way I’d never forget. Then suddenly his whole being seemed to be sucked through the earpiece of the headset and was gone.

“Oh, you gotta be shitting me!”

Huh, I thought, for the first time ever, Morena and Nick are on the exact same page.

I then proceeded to fall to the floor in another stunning example of my well-honed ability to tackle a crisis.

Some keys open all doors

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2021 by vampirony

“Somehow you strayed and lost your way, and now there’ll be no time to play, no time for joy, no time for friends – not even time to make amends.”

— The Chesire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Roshni had thought she’d reached the very last key so many times now that she’d lost track of time. But every time she’d grabbed at it and tried it unsuccessfully, there seemed to appear yet another key on the key ring. Which was even more strange as she was the mistress of keys here, in this house, if maybe not so much on the grounds where lemon trees and tea parties had now taken root.

She had been in a rush to free her charge but now she had to pause a moment. Why was she doing this at all when clearly the force of the house itself did not want to raise awareness? She thought of the lemon tree, so fresh and new, but still small and delicate. It reminded her of the new tea plants on the farm back home. It would take almost 3 years and diligent care for them to grow to flower.

Something slammed into the door. “Salut, Rosie!” Hands came through to grab the bars and the figure started to swing from them. “Quand allez-vous me laisser sortir?”

“I’m working on it,” Roshni said but just stared at the last key. “You should practice your English so you’re ready when you get out.”

“Oh Renie is ready, mon amie. Hee hee!”

Roshni felt a pang and knew the trouble with the keys was her own doubt. She felt just as sure that this needed to happen, for the sake of the one they all followed, for the sake of the ones taking tea, for the sake of the lemon tree growing in the garden. For the tree to flourish, the past must be made right. The soul must be washed clean.

“Are you sure, Renie? Are you sure you are ready? What we discussed? Only what we discussed? You promise?”

“Yes yes,” the figure suddenly stopped swinging, and one hand released its grip on the bars. “Hand on heart.”

Roshni nodded. She didn’t always trust herself to know what was best and she trusted Renie even less to keep her word. But these keys, like this door, at the end of this hallway, on this floor had only revealed itself in this lifetime to her. She had heard this lost soul banging around for many many years, even before the Mad Hatter up there had poured her first cup. But it had only been this one’s lifetime that had given her the means to find Renie, speak to her, understand her.

And while it still seemed strange how the shadows moved and secrets still lurked in almost every corner of the house, this path, this moment here seemed destined. Hand on heart. If she had just one more moment with her heart, she would’ve let him know she’d forgiven him. After all, everyone deserved a chance at forgiveness. Especially the ones we cherish most.

And with that, the key ring in her hennaed hand turned into a single brass key.  She lifted her arm and fitted it perfectly into the lock of the asylum door. She turned the key, sprung the lock, and stepped back from the door.

The laugh started low, almost breathy, then grew in volume and pitch and force as the slight figure in a ruined gown and a half-buckled straitjacket pushed open the door.  

“Merci. Merci. Liberté, égalité…Justice.”

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.  

“Shit.”

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.  

Defiance…Ohio

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.

“Haiseb!”

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.

“Yes?”

“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.

“See?”

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…..