Archive for the Vampirony Category

A Few Words About Heroes

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on March 26, 2012 by vampirony

It wasn’t the news of the second vampire attack, the complete shock of seeing the office/deli building trashed, or even the retroactive worry over Nick and Morena taking on what could only be classified as some sort of vampire revenant on their own that thrust me into the first stages of manic depression. It wasn’t even the hours spent in the hospital yet again trying to dodge domestic abuse questions and blood draws. And strangely it wasn’t even the after-effects of the powerful drugs used to keep me sedated and the new drugs fighting the pain and borderline panic.

Nope, it was the memory of a perfect moment being held in perfect calm and feeling the warmth of a perfect smile that was sending me running into the arms of what modern psychiatrists call “denial.” There was a hint of promise in sentiment of last night’s rescue and I couldn’t afford to let these things spin out of control. Every feeling back into its appropriate compartment, I always say. But I was having trouble lining up all the unruly children, making sure they washed their hands, got in line boy girl, and didn’t pull the pigtails of the little girl next to them in line.

But I found myself still checking my watch, counting the hours until dusk, and hating myself for it. And while I hated coming out of the romantic fog to find foundations of the very occupation I had committed years to slipping away, at least I was again focusing on the right things instead of pining away for…what, I didn’t even really know.

This morning, I had let Lucy and Maurice’s mysterious but capable henchman Ritterreitter clean things up, showing more expertise at moving a vampire in rigor dormitus than I felt comfortable with (especially since it was my vampire. Ugh, no no no.) With the help of three workers from Starving Students, he had deftly overseen draping my sleeping marbleized vampire client in heavy tarpaulin and boxing him up in one of the crates from the building site.

Then problem one arose. Morena and I couldn’t agree on what to do with him. Over the phone, she assured me that the Office wouldn’t suffice. (This was, of course, before I had ventured over there to see the devastation for myself.) She proposed shipping him to his condo. Which I was absolutely not going to do with strange henchmen, even if working for my half vampire gypsy twins. Especially since they were half vampire.

So there was only one thing to do. I shipped him to my hotel room. At the time, my heart was all in a flutter with how he’d wake up in what approximated to my bedroom. And I hate myself now for that sentimentality too. I think I was blushing when I signed the shipping papers. Ritterreiter seemed to find it amusing and for a moment, I thought he was going to ask me if he could deliver anything else, with a mighty leer.

And then he did.

“Shall I have an appropriate meal delivered around dusk for you? Perhaps a rare Kobe steak with broccolini and a hearty Pinot Noir? Your, um, cargo is likely to need a good feeding.”

My eyes bugged out. The presumption was there and the red in my cheeks deepened for wholly different reasons. I snapped out a response as I handed him his clipboard.

“That won’t be necessary. He’s not a pet.”

Then the leer turned to genuine surprise. “Oh, my apologies. After the damage he sustained, I just assumed he served you. All quite unnecessary as we had things well in hand.” Before my brain could keep up and ask all the important questions about who he thought he was and how exactly did he fit into all this, he spoke, “Not to worry. We will handle him with kid gloves and have him happily situated in your room at the Hyatt.” Then he turned on his heel and waved to the three helpers, all wearing similar khaki pants and tank tops, “Handle with Care, Crow.” Then they carted the crate over to a furniture truck with a lift. As much as my senses already on overload would allow, they looked rather sullen about the task.

As I watched them load the crate, I felt all energy begin to sap out of me and nausea begin to well up. I covered my mouth with my hand and made a few horrific hacks, part cough part dry heave. I tried to take in a shaky breath. I needed to pull myself together. I needed to get over to the office/deli. The phone call with Morena did nothing but alarm me, even with her assurances otherwise.

“Some ginger ale perhaps, Miss Quinn?”

I blinked but was so far gone as to not be capable of any more surprise so just took the proffered bottle and began to take small sips.

“Banana?”

I blinked my response again and watched as this mysterious henchman peeled the banana down for me with the precision of one acquainted with the finest food service standards. Then, he handed the half peeled banana to me, “Miss.”

“What are you? Alfred Pennyworth?”

He laughed. “Just a faithful servant to the Gypsy Twins. And now, miss, I think we should get you to the nearest ER. Likely more conspicuous than we’d like at this hour but haste is probably in order.”

I paused for a moment.

“No, I need to go with the crate.”

“You have my word it will be delivered with care.” Just then, the furniture truck slowly ambled across the street and into the back alley of Hyatt.

I paused for another moment. “Then I need to go to my office. To look after my friends.”

“They are being picked up as we speak and transported to the hospital, although I hear their injuries are minor. Everything has been arranged. Please let me help settle the rest of your affairs for just now. You need medical attention.” Then he smiled.

I would’ve slapped that smug look off his face if I’d known that he was part of the reason I needed medical assistance. But true to his word, as he was helping me through the ER doors after having changed into a police officer uniform, I spotted Nick striding out towards me.

“Holy shit! What happened to you?” Nick asked, with his usual charming turn of phrase. I ignored it and gave him a big hug.

He didn’t know what to do. “Uh…”

“Just forget I’m your boss for the moment, ok?” I rasped.

He grabbed my arms as he pushed me back to look me over. “Whoa, you sound like Lucy’s Smoking Voice from How I Met Your Mother.” His face had a few brushes but nothing too bad. I smiled. Then I started crying. His voice mail message made it sound like the end of the world had arrived and somehow, he and Morena had made it through. Relief was loosening all the shock from me and tears just fell as Nick led me over to the check-in desk.

As Nick did the talking with the desk nurse, I did manage to see one last glimpse of Ritterreitter as he handed a doctor in a lab coat a small bottle, having a very calm conversation as the doctor’s face showed surprise. RR slapped the doctor on the shoulder as the doctor looked over to me, holding the bottle.

Then I was caught up with checking in, trying to remember insurance information, and having the doctor hurry over with a couple of blue smocked orderlies who stuffed me in a wheelchair and tossed an insurance card to the desk nurse.

Yes, Ritterreiter had thought of everything. And I was happy to pass in and out of awareness as the doctor ran blood work, checked my vitals, and then scampered off to consult. During which Nick was able to relate what happened in a very clever manner. He told me about a really bad slasher film he’d seen.

Apparently, the story to the hospital was that I had been the victim of an attempted date rape drugging during a house party. Nick and a friend had interceded when the two culprits had tried to remove me from the apartment. Witnesses had been procured, the police had filled out a report, and now all that was left was to check me out and get me to ID my assailants, who had fled the alleyway once they’d been beaten.

When I’d tried to ask Nick where Morena was, he told me she’d had to clean up and then go chat with the officers doing the investigating before they would need to talk with me. Which they did. As the doctor had given me an IV, I was feeling marginally better just in time to get really pissed. Morena had taken blood. It was obvious when she strode into my private room. She glowed in that preternatural way.

Yes, the romance was dying face first in the dust that was settling. And I was getting a headache by the summation Nick was hitting me with. Trying to fit all the pieces together was going to have to wait until after sleep…like a week’s worth.

Luckily, my throat was only bruised, a few stitches closed the wound in my neck and shoulder, which had already begun to knit closed, and my face, well, purple and green were going to be my colors for a while. Morena waited to harass me about her boyfriend. Nick actually seemed to be high on life, just happy to have made it through their ordeal. I took my pills for nausea, pain, inflammation, and didn’t hesitate to pop the sleeping pill. I was gritting my teeth, feeling arms around me that weren’t mine. I felt stuck in the nightmare of post romantic stress disorder and I needed out…now…before I said something I regretted.

By the time the cops and doctors had finished with me, all the pills had put me in the most wonderful numbness. I pushed past Nick and Morena when the cab drove up and got in without a word. I couldn’t handle words. Words meant feelings. And I couldn’t afford them right now. I just needed to get somewhere to sleep. Yes. Sleep away all these tatters of deeper feelings than I could ever remember having, even for Dan.

I was vaguely aware of the hotel staff helping me out of the cab and something about a message waiting at the front desk. I waved it away and let someone helping up to my room. I barely registered it was Nick, who had somehow managed to get into the cab before leaving the hospital. I didn’t want to see anyone from this place or time. This whole trip had been an awful mistake and when I’d had a proper night’s rest, I was going to pack up and head back to Ohio. Substitute teaching didn’t seem like such a bad gig after all.

The porter helped Nick get me up to my room, which seemed to be on a different floor now. I’m certain Nick didn’t think I was still wily enough to slip through the door and lock it behind me, not letting him in but there it was. These drugs were great. Just what I needed to be numb but just aware enough to get away from everyone and everything. I would’ve snickered if I could.

I stumbled across the huge space. What, they had put me in a suite? Whatever for? I was struggling to get to the bed. All my stuff had been moved, including this huge crate I didn’t remember having and my trunk on which I stubbed my toe in the darkness. I made straight for the alcove that held the bed. Luckily, all the windows had double thick drapes that had been pulled shut. Perfect!

I crawled onto the bed and was just about to succumb to blissful oblivion when I heard a racket back in the main room. The bedroom alcove was only semi-private and so I tossed my head to listen but it was too late. Drugs settled it and for the second time in twenty four hours, I let the wonders of modern pharmacology put me under. My heroes had always been chemists.

Prologue – Through the Wilds

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , on February 12, 2012 by vampirony

He awoke with a start. He lay on the floor of a leaf-strewn forest, the pine boughs thick above him, nearly blocking out the stars. His body was naked and cold, almost numb and yet burning. He sat up. Looking over himself, his skin was littered with fresh scars that itched. He rubbed at the puckered skin over his wrist only to see it smooth out, lose its discoloration, the scar vanishing before his eyes.

Flexing his right hand, it seemed not of his own body, like some alien, new thing that didn’t quite fit at the end of his arm. Taking a moment, he realized there were parts all over his body that felt out of sorts with other parts of him, as if these bits and pieces had not always been one.

A breeze rustled the rust colored leaves around him. Autumn. Had he been running for so long? All he could remember was the running away. Not where he’d come from nor where he was going to. Not his name or age or family. No personal thing about himself could he recall. He was trapped in a living nightmare of pain, terror, and endless repetition.

His eyes darted around the forest, trying to discern anything from his surroundings that could answer what his addled memory could not. The woods were thick but the trees did not entirely blot out the sky. Just above him, pieces of a full moon reflected white light into his widening eyes. For a moment, he was mesmerized, the light suddenly washing clean all the corners of his mind, all the dread, the doubt, the anger, the fear.

He let his lids fall shut, hoping to hold in the white light, letting it build in his mind until it churned from a pure white into a glowing pale yellow, harkening back to its source, warming him from the inside. But before he could let the light complete its orbit, taking him back to day, back to a place and time he felt safe and he understood just who and what he was, a single howl split the night open again.

They were back and with that single sound, the previous night’s events ambushed him. Teeth and snapping jaws, drool, hot breath, and blood. So much blood. As the memories of his nightly ritual returned, more joined in the call for the hunt and he remembered what came next. They would surround him, trip him with their extended claws, and he would roll into a ball on the ground. Their collective jaws would snap at him as he fought them off, kicking, punching, screaming, biting and clawing in his own right. He had managed to break a leg or two, wrestle one to the ground, poke out an eye of another, but there was always another to take that one’s place.

And always, the wolves would bite at his flesh, slashing open his back, his side, blooding gushing out of his wounds. He would shriek in pain but finally, they would clamp their jaws around an ankle, an elbow, a wrist. Then shaking their mighty heads, the wolves would tear him literally limb from limb, eating him bit by bit until he lost consciousness. Only to awake whole again. But it always started with the running.

He jumped to his feet, putting the sounds of howling and barking at his back, ready to begin again what was written as the skein of his fate. He took a single step forward but something stayed his other foot. The foot felt odd, like all of his other discombobulated parts, but underneath it, he felt a connection into the earth. Something under his very feet reached up into him, keeping him rooted there. The ground seemed warmer than before, like he’d been running south toward some more temperate land. There was a scent to these trees that roused some wisp of a recognition that sped away with a heavy breeze.

The barking and yipping drew closer and still he could step no further. He lifted his foot up to see what lay underneath, what was impeding his flight, what familiar thing was fighting back his fear. Under the white light of the moon, he saw flecks of mica in the sand that dusted his sole.

Behind him, growls heralded that the wolves had caught up to him. He set his foot back down, twisting the ball of it into the cold sand, feeling its energy feeding him strength. Then, with great deliberation, he turned toward the wolves.

This night, on this ground, he would take one of them with him and have his own feast.

Season 3: What Ends in Fire

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , on February 12, 2012 by vampirony

The Grey Wolf tore the fledgling into pieces. He sprinkled the pieces with the water of death and they instantly grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life and the fledgling shook itself and flew away with the she-crow, safe and sound. The Grey Wolf then sprinkled the pieces of the body of Tsarevich Ivan with the water of death and they grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life, and Tsarevich Ivan stood up, stretched himself and said: “How Long I must have slept!

“Yes, Tsarevich Ivan,” The Grey Wolf said, “and thou wouldst have slept forever had it not been for me…”

– Russian Fairy Tale

Author’s Note: Editing Hiatus

Posted in Author's Notes, Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , on October 16, 2011 by vampirony

Hello! Hope you’ve been enjoying Vampirony, the fictional tale of the Vampire Psychologist. The blog experiment that started 2 years ago to get me writing has morphed into enough content to now bind together in a more official capacity: a book!

I’ll be working for the next little well shoring up the different formats between Season One and Season Two so my lovely editor can focus on getting the story all neat and tidy for its first print edition.

In the meantime, for anyone wanting to get caught up or looking to start from the beginning, I’ve collected together all the blog postings in chronological order in low fidelity format pdfs for download.

Get them HERE!

I’ve also been keeping an inspiration board on the cool site Pinterest. Check out some ideas I have on casting, locales, and some spoilers for the next season on The Memento board. For some historical spoilers and imagery more specific to Darcie Sherbourne’s life, check out the Vampirony :1886 board.

And for a few spoilers. make sure to check out the recent Epilogue posting, available only online. Needless to say, things aren’t going to get any easier for our Vampire Psychologist. And keeping an eye out right here for updates!

Thanks so much!

Stacie Benton
October 2011

Epilogue

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on September 29, 2011 by vampirony

Prague – The Next Night

Valerian awoke out of rigor dormitus, hands still frozen into claws around the bed posts. He had struggled against the dark for the first time in decades and the resulting form had left him half on and half off the bed. It took his body a whole ten minutes to completely convert back to flesh, during which he had the urge to gnaw his own hands off to get free of his granite limbs.

Which was patently ridiculous, he told himself. It would be so much easier to just tear bone and sinew, ripping his arms away from his frozen hands. He came close to screaming in rage to be freed but he forced himself to relax, realizing that having to explain why he was regenerating his hands would create doubt in Conclave that he could ill afford. On top of the fact that it was painful. And would do little to help what had already come to pass.

He closed his eyes and leaned his dark head against the post, waiting, trying not to think the worst. After becoming completely flesh and releasing his hands, he shoved the breath out of his lungs. It kept him from screaming. Instead he drew himself up to full height and drew his robe closed before shuffling towards his writing desk.

The pain all over his body was excruciating, unlike it had been in decades. He could imagine he heard the silver sizzling into his skin. He had to stop halfway to his desk at the arm chair arranged before the fireplace of his bedchamber. It took him a few moments before he realized he was panting with effort, his shoulders drawn down, his hands clenching the damask upholstery. His brow furrowed, not understanding why this night was so different than any other night.

And in the silence and darkness of his bedchamber, he began to imagine his worst fears. That he had not done enough. That Jesper had failed. That this lifetime’s Darcie was dead and it was this absence that made his penance ignite into a hundred and twenty three hot silver flames. He shook his head slowly and lowered it to the chair back. He couldn’t endure another lifetime waiting. He tried to adjust his robe but every movement seemed to chafe the pain to intolerable levels.

It was the only explanation for why his awareness had not picked up the intruder and left him so vulnerable.

“I’d expect you’d be toasting in celebration rather than striking such a mournful pose, Valerian.”

Valerian exhaled, raising his head carefully. It was his just due after certain failure that the executor of his penance would return on this night to bring it all to an end. But he would not meet his end without dignity. He stood up tall, straightened his robes with just a tightening of his lips in complaint, and turned to face his enemy just as the heavy door to his chamber was pushed shut.

“And why would you, Emmerick, after all these years not allow me a moment to mourn the loss of our most dearest and special lady? Or do you still deny how much I care for her?”

The man known as Emmerick, the feared vampire hunter, didn’t look like much to be feared in his current form. A round face etched with lines, sandy blond hair receding back from his brow, wiry to the point of skinny at an advanced age of nearing fifty, he wore desert fatigues, a weathered brown leather armor-plated vest covered with various short knives, and combat boots. He leaned against the wall, one thumb hooked in an empty slot on his bandoleer, the other hand casually leaning a sawed-off shotgun against his shoulder. But his eyes, deep-set and suspicious, were what caught Valerian’s attention. The vampire hunter’s brows rose up in surprise.

“You don’t know, do you?” Emmerick spoke, just a hint of his British accent coming through.

Valerian fought for his regal bearing and refused to be caught unawares in conversation. But he couldn’t keep his shoulders from slumping for the barest moment. The image rose suddenly in his mind, as it always did whenever he and Emmerick met. Darcie’s lifeless, headless form across his lap, her head rolling across the wooden floorboards.

He blinked away the tears, summoning the death, the preternatural state that would isolate him from all feeling. It only worked on him for moments but perhaps long enough to see him through this.

Emmerick smirked, shifting uncomfortably before pushing himself away from the wall to approach Valerian. The vampire let him amble about him, wondering whether he should suffer this indignity. But why not, he wondered. I’ve lost her, again. What else matters?

“Dear God, it’s touching really. You still love her.”

The accusation shattered the calm completely and he snarled fully fanged. “I will not be mocked by you! Nor let you mock her memory, at this dark hour.”

“Relax, Vampire Lord,” the sardonic words fell out of Emmerick’s mouth. “Your golden boy did his job. She’s still alive.”

All Valerian could manage was to blink. Emmerick stepped to one of the damask chairs in front of the fireplace and draped himself in it, leg over the arm, shotgun grazing the floor. Valerian bent his eyes to the floor, stunned. But centuries of being hunted, tortured by the hunter did battle with his deepest desire and sparked his angry mistrust.

He was on Emmerick in a breath, clawed hand wrapped around his neck, choking him in the chair.

“Do NOT mock me…with your…lies!”

Instead of the battle Valerian expected in retaliation, Emmerick held up his hands, letting the shotgun fall to the floor. It caused him to loosen his grip but not move his hand.

“She’s alive and well, mate. And rid you of one of your own wastrel spawn. Not without quite a mess to clean up.” When Valerian’s hand loosened enough, Emmerick brushed it aside.

The relief in his voice went unchecked, “She lives.”

Emmerick nodded. “She had a lot of help. A motley lot of it, in fact.” Valerian showed no sign of listening as he walked over to the facing chair and sat, hands gripping the armrests. His face, still fanged, grimaced as the hiss and smell of burning flesh accosted him.

“Still, the simple fact of it is, she has the most to thank from your lackey, your scribe.” Emmerick considered his words carefully, watching keenly as his accounting seemed to make the Vampire Lord more troubled than happy. “So I suppose in a very indirect but not so insignificant way, you saved her.”

Valerian recovered his calm. The image of Darcie’s head on the floor receded to be replaced with the oddest vision, a mimosa glass. He could almost taste the orange.

“You understand what that means?” Emmerick asked, almost accusing.

Valerian’s head remained titled to the floor as he settled ice blue eyes on his foe, “That you cannot blame me for her death again?”

Emmerick laughed, frustrated. “You’re serious.” Then he roused himself out of the chair, sweeping his leg back over the leg and leaning forward. “Your penance. It’s over.”

Valerian cocked his head to the side, fangs growing.

“God, you are daft. What, you think the talismans just started to hurt tonight for no specific reason?” Emmerick stood up, whipping one of the short knives from his vest with his right hand. Valerian stood as well, claws out ready to fight. “I’m not here to fight you, dammit! Drop the robe and see for yourself.”

Valerian took a moment, his brows drawing low over his radiant eyes. But he unfastened the robe and let it fall away. His chest and back were covered in sizzling sores, silver pieces that looked like wheels that seemed to be pushing out from under his skin, some of them had already made it to the surface and fell from him as the robe fell away.

In a moment, all the silver wheels were falling to the rug, clattering over the stone floor. Emmerick stared in awe as in just a few moments, the hundred and twenty three silver wheels that he had personally buried under Valerian’s skin as penance for the murder of his friend, one for every year he’d had to visit, had fallen away and the remaining sores smoked quietly.

Hands still outstretched, Valerian marveled at the results. The pain was gone. He felt years younger. It might take him time to regenerate but he would heal from the damage eventually. He could hardly believe that Emmerick would honor their ages old arrangement. His cynical eye challenged the vampire hunter.

“What? You think I’m going to try and kill you now after your greatest hour?” Emmerick shook his head. “Pathetic, really.” He stuffed his knife back into his vest. “Guess I won’t be needing to dig them out. Shame, really. I was kinda looking forward to that.”

Valerian dropped his arms to his side, assessing the man that he had once called friend. “I guess I have that to be thankful for that as well. Would be a pity if your knife had slipped.”

Emmerick shrugged and flipped his foot, sending the shotgun up and into his hand without having to lose eye contact with Valerian. “Yeah, pity. The life you saved today just might have been your own.”

With that, Emmerick headed to the door without once seeming to blink or take his eyes off Valerian. He listened for a moment at the door before opening it.

“Emmerick.”

His brows rose in response.

“Thank you. Thank you for watching over her.”

“It’s the least any of us can do. Not that she’s ever made it easy.”

Valerian nodded once in acknowledgement and let Emmerick, friend turned foe, who had killed more vampire kind than anything else had throughout all his lives, leave without issue. He was still reflecting on what this ending might mean to his horror, the bargain struck long ago protecting all his kind in retribution so long as he agreed to take his penance. He was still wondering if the silent war was over when a throng of his people, led by Aubry and Xi, stormed the room, looking for the intruder.

symbol_infinity-color

He knew he wouldn’t have long to wait for her after he left Valerian’s stronghold and she didn’t disappoint him. After all these years, while he’d endured various incarnations, deaths and rebirths, she had remained timeless, ethereal, beautiful …and deadly. He’d long ago lost the last of his illusions that she was anything but the most savage of their kind.

And yet, he still remembered back when he’d found her crouched behind the desk in the office, tremulous half-smile with large doe eyes. She’d been hiding from her father, wanting so much to be with him, to be part of all his business, to understand him, and yet deathly afraid of him.

She’d been vampire made young, a product of an isolated and naïve youth. An orphan, desperate for a family, a victim of a wayward kindness. Technically, it wasn’t Valerian who had made her but Valerian’s spawn, a sloppy and unkind poet who thought more in concepts than in real people. He’d chafed under Valerian’s leadership and eventually parted from the horror. His death had been a kindness to her as Valerian had sought her out, found her, rescued her from desolate abandonment, and brought her up as one of his own.

It was one of things that had stayed Emmerick’s hand back when things had gone bad; Valerian’s now predictable kindness, loyalty, and stewardship of his own. He may not have begun that way but he had gathered as many of them as he could find and brought them under his roof and his protection.

The figure, cloaked and hooded, stepped quietly along the cobblestones of the Charles Bridge. The summer sky was clear, the white electric lights along the bridge casting a bright blue hue to the roofs of the towers above. At least she’d done him the decency of not using her powers to appear out of nowhere, giving him ample time to quit his musings and adjust his thoughts.

He’d chosen the place carefully. He wanted to know where he stood now that one bitter story had folded to a peaceable end. This lifetime’s body was a head shorter than the first time they’d met, the top of her hooded head about even with his chin. Even with the cloak, she cut a diminutive figure, the oval opening of her hood showing her perfectly heart-shaped lips above a sharp chin.

Her lips partly slowly, fangs peaking out, distracting him as she spoke.

“You left in quite the hurry.” Her French accent was still intact.

He dreaded this. Had been dreading it for at least the last two years, when her true feelings had become increasingly clear. It was about the same time as he realized she’d been using him, that she thought of him only as a tool for exacting her own revenge. He didn’t like to disappoint her. Things had just worked out that way.

“It’s over. He paid his debt. He saved her.” He shrugged. There really wasn’t anything else to say. He didn’t even feel a shred of anger anymore. He hadn’t for a long time. And he hadn’t felt anything since he realized what he meant to her. He’d have to find another salve for the emptiness of his own immortality.

Her head lifted enough so that the evening light grazed the bottom of her eyes, making the green of her eyes unnaturally bright in comparison. “But he has to be punished.”

He turned to her, struggling not to reach out, instead stuffing his hands in his pockets. “But he has, Croix. You didn’t see him tonight. I think he actually is jealous of his boy, the one that saved her. He can never go back and change the past. He knows that. But he regrets it.”

She snarled, turning her head away. “They should be made to suffer for what they did.”

“Croix, luv, you told me yourself, she didn’t want it and he overreacted. He was her guinea pig what with all those tonics; it’s perfectly reasonable to think that played into it. But whatever. He’s endured hundreds of years of torture by my own hands and borne it without a word, without a whimper.”

Her head slowly swung back. He had a sense she wasn’t listening.

“He did it for you.”

She snorted, sarcastically. “He’s never done anything but for himself.”

“No, he struck our deal so that I wouldn’t kill him and all the rest of his horror.” He stared down at her, watching, waiting for a sign that she understood. “That includes you.”

She tilted her head up to look at him. Her green eyes caught him off-guard, soft, glistening. “Even me? You wouldn’t hurt me, Baka.” She gripped his arm, beseeching. “I know you would never hurt me. You are good and true. You’ve always done right by me.”

The man he had been, the one who had trusted those green eyes before, would’ve done…had done everything he could for her. But none of it had satisfied her. And now he wondered, with Valerian’s reaction clear in his mind, if he hadn’t indeed let her lead him in the wrong.

“Baka. Listen to me. He is a monster. He will continue to commit crimes. You cannot let that pass. You must do something!”

He shook his head. When he said nothing, she dropped her head and he could almost hear the tears falling. Soft tears trailing down ivory cheeks. He took in a quick breath, resisting her influence, and turned his head up to the statue above him. She could be subtle but he still didn’t want to think she’d been twisting him on purpose. Not when she was so obviously upset.

“Do you know this effigy?” he asked her.

She raised her head, looking straight into his face. She was disappointed and it turned her heart-shaped mouth into a fierce line. He was completely immune now to her gaze, mostly immune to her voice. She thought that was all there had ever been between them, her vampiric powers as influence. As he waited patiently, he wondered how he in his male weakness had feed the creature she had become.

Her eyes narrowed. “Should I be?”

“St. Adalbart. You want to know what makes him so significant?”

Her hand slide away and she stepped back from him. “No, but I’m sure you are about to enlighten me.”

“He was the Bishop of Prague before circumstances forced him to flee. He then went on to become a missionary in Prussia where, as the story goes, he ran afoul of the pagan locals and was executed. He was canonized several years later.” She shrugged, uninterested, so he continued. “Adalbart had reportedly offended the Prussians because it was tradition for missionaries to cut down trees, the very trees that the people held sacred. Oak trees.”

“So?” her delicate shoulders shrugged but the tension there did not relent.

“He was participating in Iconoclasm. Like the Muslims scratching the eyes out of drawings in the rock churches of Gorem or the Reformation riots in the Seventeen Provinces burning other effigies in 1566. Ideological destruction of faith. But here’s the really interesting part of the story, the part not revealed in dogma. Those forests were sacred, alright. For werewolves.”

He stepped to her. “So you see, the Prussians were doing Adalbart a favor after they discovered that in his iconoclastic furor, he’d wound up being bitten by beasts he sought to deny and threatened to be turned into one himself, one so wholly contrary to everything he had been or done in his life.”

She pursed her lips. “You’re not going to kill him, are you?”

Emmerick sighed. “No.” And he began to walk away. But as an afterthought, he threw her one more thought. “Better the Devil you know.”

She cursed him under her breath. When she’d finally made up her mind to kill him, he’d vanished from all her senses. It was uncanny how he as a man, merely a human man, could do that. But it didn’t matter. Things had already been set into motion. It really would’ve been better if Emmerick would’ve deigned to be the instrument of Valerian’s death.

But she already had a workable back-up plan. She stared up at St. Adalbart. She had no idea if the story Emmerick had told her was true. Or even if it meant that he had finally deduced what had happened underneath the warehouse all those one hundred and twenty four years ago.

Darcie had left and Valerian had gone dead inside without her. And now they must both pay for the love that they both had let die. And for the daughter they had both denied.

“I will punish you, Sophie Quinn. And no South American vamp boy toy will save you this time.”

Getting the Hang of Things

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 19, 2011 by vampirony

“Now, you wanna talk right now?”

We were swinging from the cabling that Jesper had managed to wrap his injured arm around. His left held me tight against him as we dangled about six floors up from the bottom of the shaft. I was certain that the high powered UV lights were still glaring on the first floor and now that the sun had come up, I had no idea how vulnerable Jesper was.

“Well, do you have somewhere else to be at present?” He asked as the tendons in his shoulder tore audibly. “And it is important.” He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was bleeding, burnt, and hanging floors above UV lights that could seriously damage him. Not to mention that, with Skovajsa’s chamber damaged, I didn’t know of any place out of sight to stash him for the day. Or when his Rigor Dormitus would set in.

But I also noticed, with his face so close, the faint hairs that sprouted from his chin, red-gold whiskers that grew before my eyes. And his eyes had shifted color yet again, from the jasper red to a more familiar hazel that was very pleasing. His hair too, a strawberry blond. I must’ve gripped his arm around me because he gently tightened his grip.

“But you’re so injured,” I protested.

“Who, me? Naw, just a scratch…or two.” Suddenly, the skin over his shoulder seemed to percolate and then his arm popped back into his shoulder socket, raising us up a few inches. “Oh, see. Already on the mend.”

My hand went to his chest. “But…it’s full sun up. We have to get you inside.”

His smile warmed me like a sunbeam. “But we are inside.”

I didn’t really have anything to say to that and finding words at the moment, looking up at him like this, words just weren’t forming. At least, not ones that made any possible sense. What had happened with that other vampire, I didn’t need to think about right now. What I’d drank didn’t matter, the injuries didn’t hurt, even the voices of my past personas were blissfully silent, except for a few whispers that made me appreciate his lips curved in that smile.

Those lips straightened suddenly as I watched and he became serious.

“Now, Miss Quinn,” he began, getting my attention with his formality. “In light of much conversation this evening, I’ve given it due thought and have decided I no longer wish to employ you…well, you’re fired.”

My head shook. “What? What?!” I stammered, unable to draw together my thoughts. “Whatever for?”

“You are obviously a dedicated professional with high moral and ethical standards.”

Uh-oh. I didn’t like where this was going at all.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want that to get in the way of getting to know you in a more personal way.”

“Huh?”

His shoulder snapped, the socket cracking under the strain. He was becoming heavier, his cells converting as its daily defense mechanism. As the flesh started to tear, I pointed. “Jesper!”

“Oh bother.” He looked at his shoulder and then back down at me. “Can you put your arms around my other shoulder? I am going to lower us down but I must ask if I can drop you some feet down. I’m not sure what that blinding light down there will do to my fair complexion.”

“Yes, oh, please hurry, Jesper.” I laced my hands around his other shoulder and he used the other arm to repel down the rope and jerked us to a stop a floor up. He wrapped his bad arm around the cable again and looked at me.

“This will hold us for a bit. Now, you’re sure you can handle the drop?”

I didn’t know, didn’t care. I didn’t want body parts to start ripping off of him, especially if he went into rigor. I nodded vigorously.

“Ok, grab a hold of my wrist and I’ll lower you down. Roll when you land.”

He was true to his word and after some movements that looked a lot like Cirque du Soliel, the drop was only about eight feet. I did as he asked, rolled and was running to shut off the lights as quickly as I could. I was back in a moment but he had already jumped down.

"See, I’m perfectly fine." Then he collapsed against the wall. He looked up at me meekly. "Ok, so maybe I’m not a morning person."

He then went into full blown Rigor Dormitus before I could utter a word of thanks for saving me, a word of annoyance at his firing of me, before I could hug him for everything he had done for me. As his body composition hardened, he took on the form of a beautiful red marble, the most incredibly sturdy, but heavy, form of Dormitus I’d seen.

“Aww, shit!”

“Good morning, ma’am. Looks like you could us some assistance. May I present you with my card?”

The short man was dressed in a security uniform and brandishing a flashlight. But the card he handed me was that black and white of the Gypsy Twin Irregulars, this one some German name that translated to Knight Rider. Lucy and Maurice’s group. I would have to get them to tell me everything about this evening but only after we got Jesper back home. Something told me that this man knew exactly how to do that.

“And by the way, you dropped this,” he held up the Kukri.

Jesper sat in a very pensive way but his eyes had been looking at me. I kneeled to him, caressing his marble cheek. “Getting to know me in a more personal way? Well, maybe I’ll let you fire me after all.”

I noticed that Jesper’s phone was buzzing in his jacket pocket so I fished it out. One message from Morena. I pressed a button and listened to the message but it wasn’t Morena, it was Nick.

“Uh, yeah, Jesper. This is Nick. We’re all going to die now. Hope you and Sophie survived. Nice knowing ya.”

A Little Birdie in Your Back Pocket

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2011 by vampirony

Skovajsa crashed through several levels of temporary flooring and then through the ceiling of his just finished wine bar. He landed in the main room, crashed onto a table and chairs and busting them to pieces. He couldn’t see anything as his eyes had burned away but because no other skin burned and the windows of the bar were obstructed from the horizon by other buildings, he guessed that no sunlight could get him presently.

But he went immediately on alert. He smelled something, something wild and musty, like the woods. Then he heard it, the merest sounds of footfalls, of dust scrapping floor, flapping of wings. He leapt up, crouching for an attack, fangs bared.

Stay away from me!” He warned in full Vox.

As Skovajsa swiped at the air in front of him, Ritterreiter smiled and folded his arms. This was a much better way to end things than just defiling the creature’s resting place. Especially when the dumbass vampire had surrounded himself with enough oak furniture to build his own coffin, a lot of which had splintered around him during the fall.

“Crow, Fox, Dog,” he called. “Time to wrap this up.”

Three figures in all black tank tops and loose fitting khakis walked into the wine bar. One short man with bushy red hair, one taller woman with long braided black hair with a single feather meshed in, and one stockier woman with short pageboy white hair. They spread out in front of Skovajsa, taking positions.

He growled, “Do you know who I am? I am Vampire!”

Dog, the stocky woman, transformed into a massive Anatolian Shepherd, stepped out of her clothes, and began to growl on her own.

“Lucky for us,” said Crow. “We’re the Gypsy Twin Irregulars and we kill vampires.” She jumped up and back, transforming into a larger than average crow and flew circles around Skovajsa’s head, distracting him as he clawed the air in a panic.

Fox, keeping his human form, silently snuck behind Skovajsa, grabbing some wood from the floor. He cued Dog who lunged at Skovajsa, pushing him backwards, impaling him on the oak chair leg that Fox held. Skovajsa screamed but his whole body went immediately gray, the color of ash. Fox let the body crumple to the ground and Dog sat down on her haunches, panting slightly, smiling.

Crow dropped to the floor, transforming again, this time naked. She picked up another broken stake of oak and plunged it into his chest. Fox then produced a wide-bladed tomahawk from his side sheath and slashed at Skovajsa’s throat, decapitating him in one strong stroke. There was no blood, just ash filled the room as the entire body went Poof!

Dog woofed.

“You said it, Dog. Just a damn baby vamp,” Fox said.

Crow lifted her gaze up to Ritterreiter. “Really? You called us out of class for this?”

He shook his head with a polite smile. Kids these days. They weren’t even aware of just how much more training exercise this was than an actual threat. The hard work had been finding the lair. Then planning to disrupt and distract the vampire while they dismantled it. Then putting all the pieces in play in an order and timing to make it work as best as it could without putting anyone in harm’s one. The hardest part of that was the Vampire Psychologist herself, who they’d had to drug to keep out of the way.

But he was pleased nonetheless. Everyone had played their role perfectly without really knowing of the others existence. All except Mordecai who’d suddenly abandoned his post for some strange reason. He’d have to follow up on that. Maybe at the next game night, if he could get a private word. Miss Gypsy would want a full retelling, he was sure, but he suspected she would already know the result. She always did.

“Relax. You’ll get your chance again soon enough, Irregulars. Consider this just practice.”

Why Vampires Should Wear Sunglasses

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , on July 19, 2011 by vampirony

I never said I was Nolan Ryan. But the Kukri sung through the air at the same moment that the sun broke through the morning clouds, falling on both vampires. Skovajsa caught the ancient weapon up high and, as I had a split second of Awww, shucks, the sunlight reflected from its blade directly into his eyes, searing them. He shrieked as his retinas exploded in flame.

In Jesper’s case, flames seemed to erupt from him as he wrenched forward, taking the whole scaffolding with him, the cement mixer falling through the plywood floor, which cracked and split.

As I watched the entire temporary floor crash away, I first saw Skovajsa fall through into the void, then Jesper, freed from the wiring, seemed to levitate and then flew at me like some comic book hero, his jacket on fire, his hair too, grabbing me around the waist with his left arm, and broke for the elevator shaft. He turned so that he was the one who slammed into the wall, but as we fell, the flames had been smothered.

And as pleasant as it normally might have been to be in his arms again, I didn’t enjoy the falling part and when he finally threw his bad arm around the cable and caught us, we jerked suddenly, and his grip tightened around me.

“Uff!” I exclaimed. Jesper made more of a yelp but then went strangely silent. Inside the shaft, we were protected from the sun, at least, for the moment.

Then, Jesper spoke, his voice strained, “Are you unharmed?”

I nodded, not sure I could speak. I was looking out across the floor at where I had been standing and there was only air there now and some steel beams. The fall would’ve been about an eight floor drop.

“Sophie?” he asked, more strongly.

I looked up and his face was right there, just above mine. And my chest constricted in a way that I wasn’t ready to deal with just yet. But I felt glad, very very very very glad, to be here with him.

“You can answer me?” He pushed, a little anxious.

“Yes,” my voice came out raspy. “Yes, I am unharmed.”

“Good,” he smiled, relieved. “Because we really should talk.”

How Not to BBQ

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The smell from the oven was so god-awful, that Nick, Morena, and Irina decided to drag the rest of the body outside before the people started milling about and burn it in the dumpster. The sun was just starting to threaten to break through the clouds.

“You know, I read in the Memento that the best way to get rid of a vampire is with sunshine,” Nick said, walking backwards dragging the arms.

Morena gave him an exasperated look, holding up the feet. “Shouldn’t we not be in close contact to the body if it’s going to incinerate like that?” Her arms had already healed but all the rest of her amped up abilities had gone and she was left feeling like she’d done an obstacle course…in Pakistan…in June.

They both dropped the body in the middle of the back parking lot.

“Uh…”

The sun broke through and a hissing noise issued from the body. Irina stepped back immediately.

“Nick?” Morena spoke, alarmed.

Then she jumped him, taking him a few feet from the body and to the ground as the body exploded into ash. As Morena rolled off of him and he sat back up to see the smoking remnants that looked more like asphalt in a cul-de-sac after Fourth of July, he smiled.

“See! I told you so.”

And Finally, Diagnosis

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The knapsack with the Kukri had slipped from my hands as we landed just in front of the empty elevator shaft on the top-most floor. If you could call it a floor with its mostly bare beams covered in sheets of plywood as a makeshift floor, with scaffolds on either side, filled with tied stacks of rebar, one of them with a cement mixer that looked way too heavy to be positioned there. I looked down into the shaft and apart from wire cable running its length, there weren’t any pieces of the elevator there yet.

It made perfect sense for Skovajsa to own a building in progress; he could oversee the construction and insert anything into the specs that would help him as a safe house. It would be his fortress in the making, maybe even his bachelor pad to lure back unsuspecting victims. With or without my interference, he and Jesper would find each other; two vampires in such close proximity could not play nice.

If dawn was coming, there was only one logic place that Skovajsa was going. He jumped us down and when we hit the ground floor, he let me go, causing me to I collapse to the dusty ground. I cried as I landed on my hip, scrapping up my leg.

Well, I guess there goes the last shred of manners.

I was about to try and push Darcie out of my head when Skovajsa snatched my arm, and began to drag me to another room. This construction site was the great shell of a condo complex and I’d noticed that the front of the first floor facing the street had already been completed. A wine shop. Likely another front business of Skovajsa’s. He’d turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, rat bastard.

We moved to a back room with a strangely covered floor. Skovajsa’s head darted around the room, sniffing. Something was wrong. The floor looked a tractor trailer had just groomed it.

“What…is…THIS?!” His voice was near panic as his shoe brushed aside the layer of wood chips. If I hadn’t been in such pain and unable to feel half of my face through the bruising, I would’ve smiled. Not just any wood chips. Cedar. One of the most ancient and deadly woods for Old World vamps. Especially the youngsters.

If he was angry at the changes to the floor, there was only one word for his reaction to the opening to the floor cellar with its doors broken off their hinges: Livid. He actually threw me towards the entrance as some sort of release of his rage. Needless to say, I was prepared and landed with my arms out in front of me to break my fall. But I stayed on the floor. My head peered over the threshold down the cellar steps as he flew down into the darkness.

My eyes adjusted and I saw it was only about ten steps down, not very deep, not a tall enough chamber that he could even stand but inside, there was nothing but rubble. The broken remnants of a rather large, thick, cement structure. It looked like a jackhammer had been at it and quite recently for the amount of dust still hanging in the air.

“No! NO!” Skovajsa bellowed and as if on cue, strong lights from the ceiling of the chamber switched on, blinding him.

That was when I saw it, right at the top of the stairs, glinting under the power of the UV lights. My infinity amulet, wrapped in a single black ribbon. Lucy. I looked around the chamber that had been Skovajsa’s coffin and realized that they had destroyed and booby trapped it. He would never be able to seek sanctuary here again.

Ma petit ange. The short, stout old aunt I had been clucked in my head.

This time, despite the pain, my mouth curved in a smile as I picked up the amulet a split second before Skovajsa sped out of the blinding room, grabbing my arm with one hand, the other arm shielding his eyes. Each successive room we entered in his retreat lit up like a spotlight with those same UV lights and he shrieked in cold fury the entire way.

At the bottom of the shaft, he made a power leap and flew up from the strength of it, past the other empty floors until reaching the top, where he was snatched out of the air. One moment, I was flying up with him, the next I was watching him smack into a concrete pillar across the floor from the safety of someone’s arms.

As stunned as I was to see Skovajsa go flying, I was even more stunned as I turned my face up to see Jesper holding me, his hair flaming auburn and windswept, his eyes the color of jasper. I blinked and felt that dark presence of Valerian, the one that had protected me from the Taint, take weary steps down into the recesses of my mind as all twelve previous versions of me thrilled to see this new savior.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.

My mouth moved but no sound came out. We both heard a menacing growl to which he gently set me down, stooping quickly and handing me the knapsack.

“You dropped this,” he announced before his fangs dropped, not the elegant thin ones but an entire mouthful of short, sharp teeth, like a snake.

Jesper raced across the plywood floor and charged full force into Skovajsa preempting an attack. He grabbed a hold of the Carpathian and slammed him back against the same pillar, which cracked. Jesper took a hold of the rebar behind Skovajsa and began to bend it around him as he struggled. Skovajsa laid him completely out with a right handed slap and then proceeded to simply rip the rebar right out of the concrete to free himself.

Jesper got up again only to have Skovajsa attack him first, driving the piece of rebar right through his shoulder. Jesper screamed. Skovajsa had been aiming for the heart but Jesper had turned just in time. He grabbed Skovajsa by the collar of his expensive suit and stabbed him in the abdomen with the end of rebar sticking out. The speed surprised Skovajsa who backed up a step as Jesper had to take a breath to recover. He took a few short, deep breaths before he yanked the rebar out and threw it aside.

Blood was now pouring out of both Jesper’s shoulder and Skovajsa’s belly but the latter only smiled. His hands had grown into gnarled claws and he swiped at Jesper, who whirled away but a little too slow. Skovajsa swiped at the back of his neck and again at his back, tearing deep into his flesh. Jesper arched his back away then spun around, grabbing Skovajsa in a tight grip. As he grappled him, he squeezed and Skovajsa snapped his mouth full of fangs at him.

Jesper jerked his head away, which relaxed his hold enough to let Skovajsa get an arm free. With that hand, he grabbed Jesper’s injured shoulder and wrenched it. Jesper screamed and his arms fell away. Skovajsa kept hold of the arm and twisted, the sound of bones cracking so terrifying that I wanted to cover my ears. Jesper fell to his knees, but Skovajsa still had his arm.

I dug out the Kukri and felt the metal come alive in my hand. My Indian past life roared up, whispering some ancient incantation that I had no idea how related to this weapon that seemed to know me. I was beyond caring about that. Jesper was in trouble. My fingers tightened and I stepped forward to do I know not what.

Skovajsa raised his other claw to swipe at Jesper’s throat when Jesper swung his head around to look up at him. His hair to seem to catch fire for an instant and I knew what was coming.

Neilza!” Searing rays burst from Jesper’s eyes, sending a burning Skovajsa staggering back into a pile of plywood. The plywood scattered, some dropping over the edge and down into the construction site below. The scaffolding just behind the pile also tottered precariously. Skovajsa slapped at himself as his expensive silk clothes burst into flames.

“Sophie,” Jesper called, pain and fatigue etched into his voice. “Get out of here!” He struggled to his feet.

The sky was getting lighter and another real fear hit me. I needed to get Jesper to shelter and right now, but there was nowhere to go. Dangerous vampire, rising sun…this was not good.

Skovajsa grabbed Jesper from behind and crushed him, bones creaking and popping, causing my eyes to tear up from the punishment Jesper was taking. It was obvious he couldn’t defeat Skovajsa who’d lost all semblance of humanity from his face. He was all vampire now.

He tossed Jesper aside like a ragdoll and laughed, his clothes still smoking. He was indeed burned, flesh crisped all over him but it did not impede him. He approached Jesper slowly, now seemingly at a point where he felt Jesper was no match for him.

Copil. What wonderful powers you possess! But you cannot think you can defeat me.”

He picked Jesper up, slamming him up against the scaffolding, slashing at his throat, blood beginning to pump out of him. Then, in a blur of speed, Skovajsa tied Jesper up in electrical cabling then grabbed Jesper’s chin in his clawed hand.

“You cannot heal when you cannot feed,” Skovajsa spat.

Jesper was bleeding from back, neck, head, shoulder, chest, his right arm hung nearly disconnected from his shoulder, a large gaping wound right above his heart. But they all oozed rather than bleed as uch as they should. It had all seemed to take place in slow motion but the entire fight had lasted nothing more than a minute, before I had finished taking a full step forward.

The movement drew Skovajsa’s attention. “This? This is what you would have over me?”

“Sophie, Sophie, get out of here,” Jesper panted, still struggling against the wiring, his left arm flexed and pulling. I couldn’t figure it out, why he couldn’t break free. Perhaps he was too weak.

Skovajsa punched him full in the face before walking calmly toward me. He clasped his hands together, like a schoolmaster or a priest before disciplining a child. “Now you have disappointed me enough, Sophie. You will submit. All of your knowledge, I will have it. After I make a snack of this rather mundane specimen. I’d had such high hopes for him but I obviously overestimated his specialness.” He stopped in the middle of the floor, spreading his arms wide like some player on a grand stage. “You will make me the most powerful vampire that ever lived!”

“Stupid little man, vampires aren’t alive. And that, that would be very bad for my business, betraying my clients. Not to mention bad karma.” I gripped the Kukri behind me. The sun was creeping up. I could feel it. The birds were chattering away sensing it too.

He dropped his arms. Suddenly, he’d rushed over to me, gripped me by my hair, forcing my head to look up. “As if you have a choice.”

That was when I saw it. The cement mixer. It jostled a bit as Jesper struggled to get free. Skovajsa twisted my head the other direction, taking in his bite handiwork from earlier.

“You still deny me? Have it your way. Such a nuisance that your blood is undrinkable. I so hate to waste a meal.”

The twist to my vision revealed something else. The other scaffolding. It seemed to be damaged by the impact. If a little more force was applied, oh, say like from some rolls of safety netting that were stacked just behind it, maybe it would teeter over.

He thrust his face into mine. “It’s so much easier for you to die in complete futility.”

Crazy thoughts, that some Rube Goldberg machinery would work its way to topple both scaffolds, manage to free Jesper, and allow him to get free while crushing Skovajsa. Futility indeed. Much easier to try and cut Jesper loose.

I looked Skovajsa dead in the eye. “Vasa Skoda, there are no refunds on treatment.”

He growled at me, striking me, sending me to the floor.

“You ruin it, the pleasure of killing you. You do not fear death.” He tossed a look back at Jesper. “But perhaps you just need the right incentive.” He walked a few steps, pausing to take in the sky. “I tire of this. If this one tried to save you, perhaps you would bargain for him.” Skovajsa strode over towards Jesper.

“Sophie, the Kukri. Do it now!” Jesper cried.

When I got my senses back, I caught Jesper’s gaze. His arms were burned red from fighting at the cabling but as we held that look, he started to speed up his breathing, shoring up his strength. He tilted his head back, started a primal groan that seemed to reach back through the ages.

“Skovajsa, the sunrise!” I called.

He paused but then turned, a little too nonchalantly saying, “You really think a few week rays of light would wound me?” He rushed over to Jesper, turning his head, exposing his neck. “Will you forfeit his life as you would your own just to keep your secrets?”

I stared open-mouthed. The truth was I hesitated. Maybe I would.

Skovajsa shrugged, “Very well. I’ll end him and gain his power, however meager it might be.” He then leaned into him for a bite. That one moment, everything cleared within my troubled soul. Yes, it was wrong to kill. It was wrong to take violence in hand and veer from the path. But it was also wrong not to fight for the weak, the poor, the impoverished… the injured. They deserved our stewardship, our protection, and…our love.

“Wait!”

Skovajsa turned his head as if he fully expected my interruption.

“You have a better offer?”

“More a diagnosis.”

Skovajsa looked curious, at least. Jesper had stored up his energies and was about to release it.

“You were made from the Taint, a wine infused with vampire blood. And you’re sun-starved, like many vampires before you, including the one whose blood tainted you.”

He shook his head, fully dismissive of my expertise. “And treatment?”

I gripped the Kukri hard in my hand as I stood. “Well, you’re also a fucking prick and unfortunately, there is no cure for that.” I drew back my arm and pitched the Kukri at him, willing it to take whatever course it might to save our friend.