Archive for creative writing

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.”

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?”

Vampire Practicum

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by vampirony

I’d like to be able to describe firsthand what a well-trained, well-motivated Carpathian half vampire looked like attacking a 500 plus year-old vampire of questionable origins and mysterious new issues but I didn’t actually see anything.  Best I can figure, Lucy attacked, Jesper stepped to while pushing me back out of the way, and the next thing I saw was Lucy flat on her back on the floor, missing her weapon.

I think I yelled, “Don’t hurt her!  She’s one of mine.”

I finally saw what manner of weapon it was when Jesper turned back towards me.  It was a gleaming silver short spear two feet of which were sticking out of Jesper’s chest.

“One of your what?” he asked, voice clearly elevated but strangely, much less strained than expected.  What with a silver spear sticking out of his chest and the vampire girl that attacked him doing a flip up from prone like I’d seen in many Jet Li films.

Depending on the vamp, wooden stakes may or may not do anything at all but huge holes in one’s chest, that normally slows a guy down, at least for a bit.  Jesper turned as if it were nothing; grabbed it with one hand, ripped it out, and swung it in front of him.  Not at the advancing Lucy, I might add, just in front of him to ward her off.  Then he threw it on the floor.

She kept moving, her face all fanged out, reached behind her back and tumbling for the spear, while Jesper moved to stay in between us.  The movements were just blurs to me most of the time, but time started to slow down, making their actions more distinct.

It wasn’t some special ability I’d been granted; it was the adrenaline pumping through my body, making everything run in slow motion.  Unfortunately, I was in slow motion too.  By the time I got to speak again, Lucy had resumed her attack with spear in right hand, a new strangely bent long bladed and very shiny shorter weapon in her left.  A kukri. 

The sense of profound dread settled over me like a oppressive cloud.  I couldn’t allow that weapon to touch Jesper.  Somehow, I just knew it.  Just at this point, maybe six seconds into things, Morena made her first move, reaching behind her back for her gun.  But I knew by the time she drew it, this might very well be over.  Class turns into Practicum just like that.  SNAP!  Nick, thankfully, had flipped over the back of the settee to hide this one out.  Good kid.  Smart too.  He knows better than to take up a profession without skills.  But he was throwing a look towards Morena, one I’d take no time deciphering later, and was clearly going to head her way.  Crap!

I needed to end this.  Now.

Jesper was, as he should be, one step ahead of me.  In Vox Compulsum, he commanded, “Stand down.”

Nick and Morena froze in that unnatural way when their bodies and minds have been disjointed from action.  They wouldn’t fall over, merely powerless to do anything.  For a moment, I had thought his plan had backfired as Lucy pushed through the Vox as if it were nothing.  Later I would get it: He meant it to be broadband, to catch everyone in the room, even me, especially in the event anyone else, namely human, thought they should get in the middle of two vamps fighting it out.  ‘Cause that would be stupid.  Sign me up.

But for some reason, Lucy was unaffected and I, well, Jesper hadn’t known the Vox didn’t work on me either.

I scrambled across the floor, trying to find my legs and then my feet, all of which was taking too long.  Strangely, Lucy and Jesper dodged and parried like matched sets, he could obviously overpower her at any moment but she was just capable enough to keep him from disarming or grappling her.

And it was frustrating him.  I had to help.

“Lucy!  Stop!  He’s a friend!”

I wasn’t exactly sure of the sentiment but at this moment, Friend might have way more weight than Patient.  Especially given my current client list.  Will all the crazed vampires in the Seattle metropolitan area please stand up and be counted?

Lucy ignored me as if she’d heard not a word.  She feinted and whirled a spin kick at Jesper’s chest, catching him off-guard because of his injury.  She must have seen him favoring just enough.  But I didn’t have time to be impressed.  The one good thing about how good a fight she put up was it forced Jesper back towards me, by which point I could stand.

I felt rather than saw Jesper sense this, this feeling of alarm coursing through him (was it flowing through me too?), dividing his attention just as the spear came in again.  He turned toward me, I think to again get me out of the way, felt the spear puncture his chest again, thought better of pushing me, and focused all his energy on Lucy, slamming her with both palms, keeping the spear from penetrating further.  He hadn’t had the time to pull his punch and Lucy went flying.

She crashed into the bookcase next to Nick’s leaning body, then disappeared in a poof of black smoke.  Jesper’s command would not let Nick get out of the way.  Two entire shelves of books went flying and hit him, dropping him in a heap to the floor. 

I finally was going to get my chance to break this up.  Jesper moved his head for an instant to me and I saw his eyes were glowing with that strange amber light again.  I hesitated.  Something tugged at a memory.  Distant sands, mosaic tiles, strong coffee, call to prayers.  I stepped toward him.

He hesitated too, too long to prepare a more subtle defense against the sudden reappearance of crows solidifying into a two handed swipe with the kukri.  I know what it looked like to see death through decapitation flying on glossy raven wings because I was standing right in front of it.

“Neilza!”

Behind me, I felt rather than saw light, a wave of it, carried almost like Vox Compulsum, crash into me flowing all around me and hitting Lucy wherever I didn’t give her cover.  The force of the strange light smacked me hard into her and instead of my normal fading black circle of consciousness, this time light seemed to burn me up from the outside in.  All the while my neck at the base of my throat was burning.

I closed my eyes with the impact and felt dark, cold sand between my fingers, underneath my nails as I dug.  Then everything went familiarly black.

Class is in Session

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2010 by vampirony

Whatever expectations I had in seeing Jesper the vampire again, he certainly shattered them.  First, he was exactly on time.  To the dot.  Secondly, he was taller than remembered.  Much taller.  And it unnerved me just as much as his charcoal grey knit turtleneck that his physique seemed to be trying to tear itself out of.

Dumbfounded is I think the exact word to describe me standing in the doorway, staring up and up at him.

“Ah, Miss Quinn, uh Sophie.  I hope I’m not late.”

Shook my head mutely.

“Well, I do like to be punctual.”  Nearly rakish smile suddenly muffled into sheepishness as he laughed.

Nod my head slowly.

“Just a little vampire humor.  Break the ice.”

“Uh-huh.”

Still standing in the doorway, he let his eyes peer in through the halfway opened door I still barred him from entering.   “Look, Sophie, I would like to apologize to Morena personally, although how she would ever agree to see me again, I have no….”

Morena opened the door wide behind me.  I just stared.  He was taller, wasn’t he?  And his hair, was it always so golden?  What color were his eyes, blue, green, I couldn’t quite remember?  His voice….aaaarghhhh!!!  Frustrating, this damn attraction.

“Hello, Jesper, good of you to come,” Morena said, without any such distraction.

“Morena,” he said surprised.  “I know I have a lot of explaining to do…”

She kicked the door wider, “Then come explain it to us.”  She then turned on her heel and heading back to the far wall, cross her arms and leaning a shoulder against it, daring him to enter.

He turned back to me.  “Will you invite me in?”

Our gaze met and suddenly he knew that I knew that invitations aside, any vampire could walk into any home unbidden.  And that awareness prompted the corner of his mouth to turn up.  He was testing and teasing me.

“Oh, come on in.”  I managed, now turning surly from wanting to do something so entirely different with him at this moment.

As he glided by me, he dropped his mouth near my ear and whispered, “Is it right to keep that one to ourselves?”

He was right of course and his reminding me of the reason I had gathered all us together at my office worked like throwing ice water with fire sand on me.  Time to get my head back in the game and go to work.

But before I closed the door behind him, my attention was draw for a moment by a cacophony of birds in the sky:  several starlings overhead were badgering a bald eagle.  Yeah, the national symbol bald eagle.  It was the first one I could remember seeing…in any lifetime.  And it seemed to be quite harangued by the inky black birds.  Whether a dispute over territory or food, the eagle seemed to be moving off to fight another day.

I shut the door behind me and looked over this motley crew.  Morena, leaning against the wall and trying very hard not to look at Jesper.  Nick, sitting on the settee with a laptop, ready to take notes.  Jesper the vampire, who took in every corner of the room before leaning back against my desk.

I walked to the whiteboard we’d put up in the front of the room and took up a marker, just to have something to grip.  “First off, vampires do not require your permission to enter a place.”

Nick sagged, “Oh, really?”  He started typing frantically.  “I was kinda hoping that one was true.”  He threw a spurious look at Jesper but said nothing else.

Jesper folded his arms and revealed more well-defined guns than I’d previously noticed.  Biceps were a failing of mine.  I took the cap off and wrote on the board, stabbing it as I did.  Something was different about him like I hadn’t quite met him before.  It was bugging me that I couldn’t figure it out.

I turned toward him with the question in my throat but paused.  Wouldn’t Morena notice too?  I mean, she’d been with him for longer than I.  I mean, been with him.  A-hum.  I felt my face flush.

“Yes?” he asked since I was staring right at him.

“Would you like to say something before we begin?”

“Um, no.  Let’s just see where this leads.”  His face became suddenly impassive and I could tell the guard was going back up.  His arms tightened, his neck muscles twitched in alert.  So strange how he’d gone from totally relaxed to alert mode.  When I looked back at the others, his eyes did another scan of the room, as if he sensed something.  But nothing was there and he settled his eyes on Morena for a brief moment for returning them back to me.

Senses.  Perfect place to start.

“First off, it is true that vampire senses are sharper than almost any other creature.”

Nick typed and then stopped.  “Wait, there are other kinds of creatures?”  There was an edge of panic there.

Jesper shook his head once.  “You have no idea.”

“Nick.  Focus.”

“Sorry.”  He thought for a moment.  “So what, like, hearing, seeing…smelling?”

“You might want to have a little less mirin in your udon,” Jesper suggested.

Nick didn’t blink.  “Yeah, it was too salty too.  I need to talk to Khang about that…Wait, you can tell I had udon?  That was two days ago!  You shitting me?”

“He can smell it in your skin, your blood,” I explained.

Morena and Nick looked ready to bolt.  I needed to bring this back a piece.  Jesper was a particularly old vampire and very special…in many ways.  Using him as a prime example would just not do, in any regard.

“Not all vampires have senses that…sharp…”

“Or discerning…” he added, causing me to throw him a glare.  He was preening over there, like some high school jock showing off his letterman jacket.

“But these are the basics you need to always remember so you don’t ever try to, well, trick a vampire.  He will be able to sense it.”

“Not to mention the fact it’s just rude,” Jesper added for color.

Morena, who had started biting her lip, looked like she wanted to say something.

“Morena?  A question?”

It drew Jesper’s attention.  She tossed her eyes to him then back at me, uncertain.  “What…what about healing?”

Jesper’s head turned back around but showed his displeasure.  He and I had not yet discussed the vampire attacks I’d suffered and as far as he knew, Morena had not been harmed.  I think the simple fact that he hadn’t approached her sniffing like a guard dog showed that the twins were able to mask their smells and auras quite effectively.

I ignored him.  “Vampires are difficult to injure.  But I don’t want to start there.  That’s not the point of this session.  I know of all this may seem unimaginable, overwhelming, and frightening.  And you need to know what you’ are dealing with.  But not to fight back, not to injure, but to keep yourselves out of those situations.  Most vampires are hard to provoke because using their abilities makes them vulnerable to disclosure and they prefer to stay hidden.”

Morena shook her head violently.

“I know it may be hard to believe but if you don’t walk into their lairs, if you avoid them, if you deal straight-forward with them, like you would a bear or a tiger in their element, you can stay safe.  And that’s what I want.  I want you all to know enough to be able to avoid confrontations.”

Jesper looked even more uncomfortable, his eyes shifting around, but his body was completely still.  I should have known this class would’ve had this reaction on him.  Unsettling to hear yourself described like a wild animal.

Morena and Nick looked unconvinced.  “Ok, some basics.  Let’s cover what vampires can’t do.  There’s actually quite a lot that has been ascribed to them that’s false.  Invisibility, turning into a bat, flight…”

Jesper perked up.

“What?” I asked.

“Oh nothing.  Just…interesting…that last bit.”

Then his lips curled in a smile.  I crossed my arms, annoyed.

“If you’ve got something to add, please, go right ahead.”

“I didn’t say a word.”

“Vampires can’t fly.”

“Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear.”  I couldn’t put my finger on Jesper’s behavior.  He seemed bemused by my vamp facts, but every so often, he’d obviously stretch out his senses and go still as a statue, as if picking up a threat.  But right now, there was no threat, not exactly.  His eyes were boring into me.  And they were starting to glow.

“Oh, shit.”

He unfolded his arms, dropped his smile and took a step towards me.  “What?”

He was standing facing away from the others, luckily.  When I began to shake my head, my mouth falling open at his eyes changing color, he suddenly was at my side, his arm reaching out for mine, concern all over his face.  I’m sure he meant to lightly grasp my arm to force me to look at him, nothing intended.  But that’s not what the murder of crows that suddenly descended on him thought he intended.

“Get away from her, you basilisk fuck!” Lucy spat as she materialized in mid-kick, wielding a sharpened spear, aiming it right for Jesper’s heart.

Huddle Up

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , on January 16, 2010 by vampirony

My early life in Ohio exemplified middle America. Girl Scouts, church potlucks, barn dances. I was even a cheerleader. I put on a brave face but I messed up various cheers paying too much attention to Dan getting hammered on a play. I hated to watch but didn’t feel I had a choice. I was his girl, I wore his varsity jacket, I had to make a show of supporting him.

Once, during a cold wintery game, our quarterback got knocked back into last Thursday. Dan, who normally played tight end, filled in as backup quarterback since our school was barely big enough to field a team. He called the team to huddle up. They were down by 14 late in the fourth quarter. It was -29 degrees wind chill with flurries. Winning seemed out of reach. From the sidelines, the crowd watched the weary players crowd around Dan as he took a knee in the midst of them. By the time they yelled “Break!” in unison, infused with courage and determination from somewhere unknown, inspired by Dan’s words, they anxiously lined up for the 4th and 4 play with 4:37 left on the clock.

Dan, looking like a steely general leading his team, hiked the ball, faked a handoff and did a quarterback keeper, running around the end, breaking a tackle, getting an awesome block from his receiver, and went in for a touchdown. Fired up by the score, the team rallied to tie the game and win in OT. As a junior, it solidified Dan as a high school legend and we both rode that legacy through the rest of our school days. We celebrated that night with the most inspired sex we’d ever had (or would ever have).

When I asked Dan years later what it was he said to the team to get everyone to move in such perfect concert to free the line for his run, he shrugged and said, “I just told them the truth. That as individual players, we were outmatched and didn’t have a chance. But for that play, we all knew exactly what we needed to do and for one play, if we acted in concert, with full knowledge and complete commitment, we could have each others’ backs and go down fighting…together…like brothers, like family.”

He hadn’t seem very impressed with it. This was after years of disappointments and family strife had robbed him of much of the steeliness that had made me fall for him in a life that never felt my own. I wanted to be around him because he seemed to have a plan and felt like he’d have my back. When he’d finished telling me about his little speech, he looked up to find me crying. I was holding our baby Jasmine and tears were streaming down my face. He asked me what could possible be a matter.

I didn’t have the nerve to tell him that he’d lost his family, lost his team to have his back, not just because of life’s twists and turns, but mainly because along the way, he’d lost all vision that there could be another way out, that there could be a way to score, that even in going down with a fight, there was something of a victory.

I buzz the nurse and ask her to bring me writing materials. I’m scheduled for release in the morning and I haven’t any time to lose. I need to write down the plan. I have players in the wings unaware of the game they are playing. And I desperately need someone to have my back. The twins, Morena, Nick, maybe even Jesper….all needing me to have the vision and draw up the game plan. Things could spiral out of control if I didn’t do what I do best, assess the situation, pull it all together, draw up the play, and execute. So many lifetimes, ripping pages out of the playbook because I didn’t want to put others in harm’s way, didn’t want the team. But now, whether I like it or not, I can’t do it alone and others are in danger.

This time, it is time to play in concert, everyone will need to do their best, fulfill their role.

And this time, I will be ready.

Vampires 101: Trust

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on January 10, 2010 by vampirony

My concussion rated fairly high in terms of damage done so I thankfully let myself be monitored for forty-eight hours. I fully understand it is more to give the detectives time to try and find some angle I might have on a body disappearing from the morgue than my injuries, no matter how serious. Why they suspect a connection with me, I don’t know. I guess I have that sort of face.

Forty-eight hours in a hospital is a lot of downtime. I think about the detectives, Skovajsa, the blonde Nick has told me about…and Jesper. And Morena. I feel responsible for the attack, even if she may have ran into danger eventually. And one cannot take the knowledge of vampires back. Well, I can’t, at any rate. Offhand, I know three vampires with enough power over the mind to do just that. Boy, it would be useful for her to know that too. And Nick too. Dangerous times for newbies.

It’s time for a class. I start writing up the syllabus. After all, a class is what started me on this path in this lifetime. Dr. Kaga couldn’t have known the connections his course on transcendental meditation would awaken the memories, enabling me to find the book. Which awakened more memories. Most not happy ones.

I text Nick with the cell phone he returned to me, ask him to get some things ready. I also ask him to go see Morena, request she at least talk with me. As I get his affirmative reply, I get another text.

I lied abt u today.

It’s Jesper. I feel him again, this time standing near the window, not so close this time.

Why u do that? <SEND>

Don’t think I know enough abt u yet.

Why did u tell Morena to follow me to protect me? <SEND>

Wanted u safe.

Why? <SEND>

Felt it was important.

Who are u reporting to abt me? <SEND>

Not sure I should tell u that yet.

I can’t help u if u don’t trust me. <SEND>

There are some things a vampire cannot tell.

Means there are some u can. <SEND>
Would u be willing to attend session? Assistant, unfort, has discovered who my clients are, puts him at risk not knowing basics. <SEND>
U don’t have to say anything but I’d like u there to naysay any facts that have changed over my lifetimes.

I…

U know it’s important. <SEND>

Knowing hasn’t kept u out of rm 824 in Overlake Hospital.

No. But it kept me out of morgue. <SEND>

*sigh*
(I can feel him sighing as if it’s through her mind.)

Can we talk after your class?

That’s what I intend yes.
<SEND>

Is there something u need to talk about now? <SEND>

It can wait.

U know, u can contact me anytime. Like to think u felt comfortable doing that. <SEND>

I do. Would never presume to interfere with ur recovery otherwise.

Why have u? <SEND>

It seemed the thing to do, considering.

U’re not to blame for my attacks. <SEND>

A surprised current runs through the room, as if I shocked him by reading his intentions. Then it dissipates, accepted.

I am transparent.

I’ve gotten pretty good reading vampires. <SEND>

Not so good to know I contacted u because I really look forward to seeing u again.

It is my turn to feel flustered and off-center. He laughs lightly.

You’re blushing.

Yes. <SEND>

It seems I too have not lost all of my abilities to read humans.

So u’ll come to the session? <SEND>

Yes. I will audit your class.

I feel his presence leave the room like the time lapse fading of white fragrant flowers and spices, now with a hint of citrus. First order of the syllabus: abilities of a vampire. Because one cannot teach trust.

Ties that Bind

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , on December 27, 2009 by vampirony

After a few hours trying to sleep, I finally call the nurse in about my headache.  She steps out into the hallway for a moment and then opens the door a crack.  She pauses, pursing her lips before speaking.

“You feel up to a phone call?”

“Yes.” 

“I’ll see about something for your headache then.  Be back in a few so you should keep it short.”

The phone at my bedside rings and I pick it up. 

“I was hoping they wouldn’t trouble you.”

“Well, frankly I’m surprised you haven’t taken me off of your emergency contact list.” 

It’s good to hear his voice and I instantly feel the same old wave of guilt for feeling this way.  He deserves better.  But the fact is I can’t take him off the list.  There’s still Jasmine to think about and she, well, she is what forever ties us together.

“You ok?  What happened?”

“I’m fine.  Just a concussion.”  I pause.  “You know I won’t tell you what happened.  It’s better this way.”

“Yeah, you keep saying that.”  I can feel his tension through the phone.  “What should I tell Jazz?  I can’t keep cover for you every time something happens.”

“Put her on the phone.”

“No.  Way.”

“You’re right.  You shouldn’t have to cover for me.  I’ve never asked you to.  But you will not explain things to her as I would.”

“That’s because what you’ll say is all crap and nonsense!”  He catches himself immediately.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean that.”

“Yes you do.”

“But it doesn’t help.  You’re hurt.  And I…”

“It’s alright, Dan.  You do mean it and I would rather you not lie.  But you can’t ask me to lie either.  This is who I am.”

I hear him sigh.  Then, in a faraway voice so I know he is covering the phone, “Jazz?  It’s your…”

“Hi, Sophie!”  Her voice is unmistakable.  She must have picked up the other line.

“Hello, sweetie.  Were you eavesdropping?”

“I got it, Daddy!  You can hang up now.”

I hear a soft click.  No goodbye.  No get better.  I don’t deserve it from him.  I struggle with the guilt but I do not wish that what we were had never happened.  A little girl back in Ohio stands as witness that life is bigger than any of us can know.

She whispers.  “He’s off now.  I checked.”

“How are you doing?”

“I liked the dress.  But you don’t need to send me those gifts.  I love you anyways.”

Nothing keeps the tears from falling.  “I know, sweetheart.  But I still like to think of you growing up like a normal little girl.”

“Like you were?”

I was.  At least, I had thought so.  I had once wanted to be a princess and get carried off by a knight on a gleaming white steed.  I had even thought I’d convinced myself that Dan was that knight and that I could make him happy.  But you can’t make someone happy when they think everything you believe in, everything you are is “crap and nonsense.”

“Ok, ok.  Miss sassy mouth.  You don’t dare say things like that to your father, do you?”

“No.  But he can tell I’m different.  He just ignores it.  For now.”  She is old beyond her years.  But no memories…well, not yet.  Hopefully not for a long long time.  “You ok, Sophie?  Daddy was really worried about you.”

“I’m resting.  I don’t mean to make him worry.”

“You can’t stop him.  He likes to worry about you.  But you sound fine.  Ooh, send me something from Seattle!  Isn’t that where that tower is?”

I laugh.  She loves collecting from my travels.  I’m not sure what is local flavor here but I’ll have to get her something.  “It’s called the Space Needle and I will, honey.”  My throat clenches as waves of loneliness and yearning pour through me, through the phone.  “I miss you, baby.”

“I miss you too.  Nite Nite, Mommy.”

Things Lost Forever

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , , on November 15, 2009 by vampirony

Somewhere between the mention of the secret Christian order and the comment about blood flowing in a frigid stream, I start to cry. I think Lucy is caught up in memories, sifting through what details to tell me and what to omit that she fails to notice. But after she falls silent and the room is plunged into eerie silence, she lifts her sad eyes to me as I sniffle noisily and wipe my face.

“Auntie?”

It’s the concussion. But it’s more than that. I think I’d honestly thought that Maurice and Lucy wouldn’t survive, hoped against all hope they would but in the end of things, thought that they would’ve perished, freed from their monstrous being to start fresh again with cleared souls. But the true is far worse. They’ve survived, scratched and crawled their way through this imperiled existence to be betrayed, to fail, to suffer heartbreak, loss, loneliness, isolation. All the things a guardian never wants for her charges and the knowledge of how they suffered alone feels me with unspeakable sorrow that unhinges me.

But it’s more than that. I feel the walls of purpose tumbling down in the face of the most remote odds that I will ever make a difference. And at what unbelievable cost my small gains? My memory haunts me and I can’t hold back the sorrow any longer.

I’m bawling as Lucy hurries over to me.

“Auntie, what is it?” She pulls me into her arms and I cry. Doubt, fear, regret…all these things have been kicked up like the dust after the first specs of rain.

I can’t speak; I can barely breathe. And how can I even tell her how her story about Maurice has coalesced with the story of my lost child? So many pieces of so many lives ripped from me and I barely feel connected to this one. Kaga warned me of this. Maybe this lifetime should be for prayer and penance, not for the same goals as before. Maybe I’m not ready to step forward in this lifetime. How can I help others if I can’t find a reason within myself to do it?

The emptiness is threatening to swallow me whole.

“There, there, Auntie. We’ve become strong because of you. Because you taught us what was right and how to fight for it.” She strokes my head as I rock back and forth. “I’m sorry I told you that horrible story. Things haven’t all been bad. This thing with Maurice, it’s new. And here you are, back when we need you most. But maybe this time, we can be there for you.”

Her words are kind, meaningful, and supportive. But there’s something lost in all of this that is terrible to behold. It’s the loss of innocence and there’s nothing anyone can do to get that back.

Case #13 – Maurice: The End (As told by sister Lucy)

Posted in Vampirony with tags , , , on November 14, 2009 by vampirony

Maurice’s first attempt to end his mistake left him with a broken jaw that by the time he’d found me still hadn’t finished healing. By his admission, his own flesh had held the jawbone in place. He’d had to wrap his jaw to his head and it had healed too tight. So I had to break it again and wrap it correctly.

Caroline had a bevy of young, capable rail men to aid her and, well, even a vampire can be outnumbered. And Maurice has been foolish in allowing Caroline to marry a rail baron as a means to support them both. Coupled with her intense influence over the older baron, it had given her enough independent financial means that she had attempted to shut Maurice out. But several weeks later, she had crawled back to him all cajoling and seducing; she needed him to keep her young. When he’d refused until she’d left the baron, she slinked back to her mansion.

It hadn’t taken long for the rumors of the beautiful, enchanting railway wife to be superseded by local whispers of young men missing. Her husband ailing, Maurice withholding, she had sought out others to fill her needs. When she’d returned to visit Maurice a month later, looking flush, hearty, and full of vengeance, she had delighted in telling him how surprised she’d been when she realized that when she was with these young men, they gifted their virility to her. She was now one to be worshipped and these men, all of them, treasured her and would give anything for her, including their very lives.

Maurice had underestimated her capacity to comprehend her own abilities and the speed with which she would harness her influence into a veritable army. He tried to threaten her, reason with her, and finally tried to reach her with his heart only to have her rip it asunder. He was horrified, heartbroken, and out of options.

And unfortunately, I didn’t have any answers for him. I’d never heard of such a creature let alone understand how we had made her. I blame myself because we should never have mixed with humans so much. We had fooled ourselves into thinking anything good could come of it. And now, we were both left with the tattered remnants of those illusions.

Inspiration came from the most unlikely of sources. Brother Nathaniel, whom I had been assisting with the natives there, had managed to overhear our discourses. Imagine our surprise as he introduced himself as a member of the Order of the Mysteries, a military order aligned with the Catholic Church but predating it. He told us his mission was to tend to the sick, spread the word of Christ, but also to redeem evil where he could and if not, vanquish it.

He was not alone. To fulfill his mission in the wilds of the West, he had needed to find those willing to assist and after so many years amongst many native peoples, he had found that while they may never come to accept Christ, they fought against evil; tricksters, spirits, and bad people. His two guides, Little Rain and Kokosik, both warriors in the local Blackfoot tribe, were willing to travel with us.

I’ll spare you the horrid details of how we hunted her down. It was not dignified, efficient, or elegant. But between the five of us, we were able to end her unnatural long life in a cold stream at midnight. Which was lucky neither Maurice nor I could smell the blood or do anything about it all draining away in the frigid waters. While we’d hated what we knew we had to do, all the excitement of the hunt taught us we were not immune to our vampire heritage.

But that was the end of Caroline and a new beginning for Maurice and I. It took years to perfect and while we still prefer to flee or hide, we can fight if we have to. We’ve become quite good at it.

I tell you all this, Auntie, so you will hear me and know that I speak from truth and experience. This vampire of yours tonight, he is not to be trusted and not to be saved. He will be the death of you.