Archive for adinkra

And the little bottle said Drink Me

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

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

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

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

“Good of you to be punctual, Roland.”

“Aubrey.”

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

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

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

Emmerick folded his arms and sat back.

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

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

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

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

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

Emmerick’s mouth twitched. “That long?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Which is what, exactly?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What line would that be, Aubrey?”

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

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

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

Aubrey.

“So…it’s no myth.”

“Not all of it.”

“And what is this Shining One?”

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

“And Belle has them hunting someone. Who?”

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

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

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

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

“And why is that, old man?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubrey shook his head. “And your arrangements?”

“I’ve postponed for the time being.”

“What? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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