Archive for Fiction

DJB: Letting the Fur Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, the sound of the fountain caught his attention.

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

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

“Gaat het goed met je?”

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

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

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

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

“Damn it, hold him down!”

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

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

“Jesper, calm down!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re supposed to be protecting her!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aubry! What is this?”

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

“Enough, Jovan!” I shouted, in Vox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There was another?” I replied, shocked.

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

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

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

“Bring her here? Are you insane?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

I looked back at Valerian.

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

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

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

“What about Aubry?”

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

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

…Nothing like the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

“Owww!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The courtisane…just like any other monstre masculin.

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

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

Quite so, you should remember your own.

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

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

I deflected. “Where’s Morena?”

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

…votre monstre masculin…

I shook my head, tapped my ears.

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

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

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

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

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

“Morena is….one of our own.”

“Our own?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bâtard!

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

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

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

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

She was ready for her moment…

And then the door swung open and Morena strode in.  

Her moment of vindication….

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

Her moment of revenge….

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

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

What in Yama’s name have I done?

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

 Liberté!

“What the Fuck!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Morena!” Nick called.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nick!” Morena complained.

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

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

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

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

“Oh, you gotta be shitting me!”

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

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

Some keys open all doors

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

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

— The Chesire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Discord and Rhyme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You gonna finish that?”

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

The bearded man pointed to the Frappuccino Volta had abandoned.

“No, help yourself.”

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

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

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

“She won’t wait for the other?”

Volta shook his head.

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

And All Sorts of Messes

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on May 17, 2011 by vampirony

symbol_cleaver-colorWith a vampiric growl, the tea cup sailed across the velvet room like a missile, smashing into dust against the opposite stone wall.

“Something tells me this isn’t going as planned.”

Valerian now sat forward, robes askew, panting with the effort to keep from ripping the room apart. “If I had other choices, Aubry, I would use them.”

Aubry floated silently over to the wall and began to brush the dust into a pan that he pulled out from his robes. He always seemed to be cleaning up messes these days. “You could still send someone else. Or better yet, let me handle this.”

“No. I cannot afford to show more interest. And sending anyone else into that area would alert the Shapeshifters.” Valerian bowed his head, shaking it from side to side. “Jesper is all I have at the moment to work with. And what he lacks in actual vampiric ability, he makes up for in intelligence… and charm.” Valerian chewed over the last word as if it were moldy bread.

“He has altered from his time with her, has he not?” Aubry spoke, still bent about his task, his back to his master. But he did not need to see Lord Valerian’s face to feel the vampire’s displeasure nor wonder at its source.

“You saw his wounds?” Valerian asked softly.

Aubry stood, surprised. “No, I did not.”

“I only noticed because I’ve always felt he was made quite young, never having truly lived and experienced, showing no scars at all.” Valerian sighed heavily. “He’s sporting two recently healed round scars, square on his chest.” His fingers started tapping again.

“Stakes? Is that possible?”

Valerian nodded to himself, his eyes staring off into the distance.

“Perhaps Mr. Jesper is a better guardian than you thought.”

Valerian leveled his eyes upon his servant. “What good does it do me if he won’t obey later? If he wants her for himself?”

Aubry smiled cautiously, “Perhaps we should focus on the immediate need: keeping Sophie alive.”

“If it is the Taint, Aubry, she’ll need more than our bookish vampire to save her. There must be more we can tell her.”

“The last thing she asked about was the Book itself. She never answered back about the photo. She wanted to know about the book’s origins.”

Valerian stood, a glimmer of his weary mind showing in his slow movements. “Never mind about that. That damn book of hers is no longer important. I should have burned it a long time ago instead of allowing you to reunite her with it.”

Valerian made his way to the door while Aubry waited. He could see the wheels turning in the vampire lord’s mind. Hundreds of years of experience and this one human still vexed him sorely.

“No, Bruno has served his purpose for the moment. It would be best if he went dark. We could use him later to draw her back in, if all else fails.”

“And the tainted one, this Skovajsa?”

Valerian steeled an eye on Aubry. “Jesper had better hope his resources are enough to keep her safe. His life won’t be worth much to me if she dies. I can’t afford to wait another hundred and twenty-five years for a reunion.”

Valerian shuffled out of the room, leaving Aubry with nothing but doubt about this course of action and everything but hope about what the future held for his old friend from the Ghost Club.

But Sharing is Caring

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , on January 26, 2011 by vampirony

Looking like a statue frozen and expressionless, Skovajsa waited across the street from the Deli, hidden within the tree line, for some sort of sign. About an hour after he began his vigil, a young blond man of medium height stepped out the door to the office on the top floor of the building.

“There he is,” Oksana, wearing a very expensive version of her previous garish outfit, stepped forward, purring. She focused on Skovajsa, her face enraptured that she had reason to be this close again, sure that her reward would be great with the information she had revealed to him. She reached out newly painted nails of glossy, glittery red to touch his arm.

While Skovajsa turned to look robotically at Oksana, the man in question disappeared in a streak across the sky. Skovajsa’s complete lack of emotional response to Oksana’s touch forced her to let her hand slide from him and Skovajsa returned his gaze to the building. The doorway was now empty.

“Hmm,” was all he uttered and he breathed in deeply, sensing powerful waves of energy emanating from the building.

Oksana felt cheated that he didn’t offer her praise but when she looked back at the building, she noticed the obvious. “Where did he go?”

“Disappeared. Through shadows. Or stealth.”

There was cunning and conniving in his tone that Oksana readily recognized. Maybe this would lead to reward after all. She narrowed her eyes, tilting her head looking up at him. He was tall, handsome, powerful. Everything she wanted in a man. And he owned property, including that shit hole she knew as her family’s Russian deli. When she had first laid eyes on him several months ago when he’d taken over the loans her family owed, he was, by his very presence, intimidating her grandmother.

That alone would’ve inspired her admiration.

She had tried to talk to him then but her grandmother had forbid her. And then the community Orthodox priest had come to minister to her. It meant this stranger, dark and foreboding, had power that her family feared she might be drawn to. And she was. She had obsessed about him, wondering when he might notice her, intrigued that the few times he did visit, he came in a shiny black Escalade and only at night, when the shop had just closed.

But he never noticed her. So she made her own luck. About a month ago, when he was talking to her grandmother, she had gone outside to his car and left him a note inside the car, in the driver’s controls. It was the business card of a nightclub she liked to visit in Pioneer Square where she had written on the back: “I know who you are. Come at midnight.”

She had gone to the club for three straight nights waiting for him to show, dressed in her best. She ignored all the other men who tried to paw at her, not wanting him to arrive and see her with anyone else. Then early one morning, after the clubs had closed, she was about to board the bus back to Bellevue, disappointed when a voice called to her.

“Why don’t I give you a ride?”

Back at his condo, he had told her he’d watched her, wondered what she meant. She told him she knew he was a man, a big man, a powerful man. He proceeded to show her otherwise.

The fact that he was this powerful creature bothered her little. In fact, it made her love her even more. She worshipped everything about him. How insignificant everyone else in the world seemed when he was this beast, this god. He was Vampire! She loved it when he said it, meant it, and then sunk his teeth into her to prove it. She wanted that power all to herself, wanted to become one with him, wanted to do what he did.

So one night in the throes of sex, she had bit him, hard, drawing blood. He’d thrown her across the room. She begged for forgiveness, groveled that she just wanted more of him. Even how he had thrown her thrilled her. Such strength. And it was all hers now. Well, if not now, it would soon be. He would be all hers. It would only take a little while.

He had seemed perplexed by her devotion. But he was like any other man to her. He had invited her back, the next night and the next. The right amount of flattering and seduction convinced him she was his to enjoy and command. Then, after letting him drink from her until she felt dizzy and empty, she had asked if she could bite him again and he seemed eager to let her try.

The biting had led to bleeding, the bleeding had led to this beautiful, dark place where she could hear his heart beat and imagine she could see the years that folded out behind him in his long unnatural life. Her heart collapsed under the weight of unimaginable and horrific ecstasy.

She had started to convulse and ultimately expired.

She didn’t fault him for disposing of her body. He hadn’t expected her to die. He had been surprised, shocked even, when it had happened and shock must’ve driven his actions. He had been equally shocked this evening to have her call his private line, asking him to meet her back at the deli. Confusion had to have been his primary emotion because he had first hung up on her.

“There are others here like you.”

That had grabbed his attention when she had called him back and had to leave a message.

And now he turned his head to look back down at her. Whatever he wanted was what she wanted. And now she knew that others like him were important to him.

He cupped her cheek in a very practiced way.

“You’ve done well, copil. A very powerful and providential find.”

She lowered her eyes, smiling, swaying in sensuous pride. Yes! A reward was due her. She had struggled the last few weeks, finding substance, fighting the itches under her skin. She had managed a few random feedings but they had been horribly messy. But a few credit card purchases later from that businessman or that geek savant and her clothes were getting more to her liking.

She looked up at him through her lashes. His face was expressionless. It must be hard for him, she thought, to open up again after he had thought she’d been lost to him. He dropped his hand and turned back to the deli building. He considered it for a moment before beginning to walk in the opposite direction.

“What will we do next?”

He paused, as if he’d forgotten she was there. He was such a thoughtful man.

“Come with me, copil. We should finish our relation.”

Back at his place, she found out exactly the nature of his thoughts. He valued her find and not really her. He had summed it up nicely for her right before ripping her throat open.

“I am Vampire. I do not share.”

Bastard, she thought as her life expired yet again.

DJB: Memoirs, Volume 3: Housecleaning

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , , on January 14, 2011 by vampirony

Didn’t know what happened to me, my mind was all a jumble. I had to get out of there, head bursting suddenly with places and faces and none of it made sense as to why. I grabbed the lemons. At the time, didn’t know why, just seemed important.

Grabbed the kid’s jacket and out fell the Book. Old, worn, leather, excellent craftsmanship. Fingers brushed it as if familiar. All went quiet in my mind and I remembered one singular memory: My heart in anguish as I wandered the desert alone at night. Something about blood in the sand. But the memory teased me, wouldn’t come back fully formed and the moment my skin broke contact with the book, the torrent of other lives began knocking around in my head again like so many rubber balls.

I stuffed the lemons in the pockets and I fled. Couldn’t remember how I’d wound up in such a desperate state but my impulse was to go to ground, get to the safety of my lair, try to stop the tempest in the teacup that was my skull.

I flew out of there. I never do that, not with such abandon. One moment I was standing at the doorway, the next I was at my balcony. The speed at which I had traveled only served to create more confusion but I had enough current presence of mind to push the door open and get inside.

I made my way directly to my study, pulling all my books off the shelf, aimlessly. I couldn’t focus on what I wanted but I kept searching. There was an annoying chirping coming from my pocket. I took out this cold piece of black, vibrating plastic, held it out in front of me. I closed my eyes for a moment. The memory of it was there, being pummeled by strange and grandiose vistas, snowy mountains stretching high into the sky, buildings clinging to these pillars. I pushed the mountains away, recoiled from the sands, antlers trimmed in fur and lace, dread and more dread, the smell of jasmine in her hair…

Calm returned. I opened my eyes. “Cell phone,” I spoke out loud.

The words on the screen said Morena. My brain remembered what the phone was and vaguely who Morena was but also did not want to currently pursue it. I finger hit a button to silence the machine and I looked back to the shelves of books. It looked much like the reception area mess.

The sense of now was returning to me. I wanted one of my journals which all seemed to stubbornly remain intact on their shelf. Volume One: mostly my human life and as much as I could remember of how I became Vampire. Volume Two: My wanderings throughout Europe and Asia. Volume Three: My life in the New World. My fingers went between Volumes One and Two. There was a gap of time in my recollections between the first two volumes. It could have been caused by folding memories too deeply or some injury which had taken me some time to recover from while I wandered.

But a new explanation dawned as keenly as the memory of anguish felt so deeply upon touching familiar pages of another book that looked exactly like mine. She laid here, between these volumes, the memory of her so fraught with peril that I had sought to wipe it out of existence. I had folded her away without talisman or gesture so that as I aged and folded more memories on top of her, she would be compressed into nothingness, out of my reach. Or so I had thought.

I had never once considered that the gift of a book of mine long ago would have undone centuries of forgetting. That a simple caress would replace the folding gesture that had become reflex and second nature to me. And that’s why I had run. I was not ready for any of this. The first memory to rise up out of the abyss was that of tormented loss. And with it, an insatiable panic.

Vessels within my chest contracted and when I placed a hand there, I found it covered in blood. Glancing down, I remembered the fight with her Halfling. My flight had exacerbated the injuries to full wounds that now needed attention. I stuffed a hand into my pocket, bringing out the lemon. I let my nails grow to pierce the rind and then stretched back my head, squeezing the juice into my open mouth.

Radiant light roared inside my mind before I blinked into darkness.

When I came to later, I was lying on the floor. As I shifted up to my elbows, I noticed my chest had started to heal. In all my vampire life, I could never remember healing from anything other than blood. I repeated the same with the other lemon, went lights out again.

This time, there was a brief smile of a memory there for me right before I awakened. A curve of skin. A dimple. My chest had completely healed and was now itchy with scar tissue. Scars. It felt so odd to have scars. I scratched and instantly drew blood from the purple skin. The panic began to grow. I had closed off this part of my life long ago; the muscles needed to tend to it had atrophied.

The cell phone chirped again. A message.

R u alright. U left ur shirt.

I laid my head back on the floor. She’d liked that shirt. I’d caught her eying it with keen, unprofessional interest. The panic began to ease, if just enough to let me breathe. I focused on my breath and somewhere, underneath layers of memories, I heard her voice, soft in volume but firm in belief: It’s going to be alright. I’m here to help you.

Hours have passed and I’m scribing again, sorting through the memories that have been unsettled. Some of them force me to reread my journal to fold them back but some, I leave open to me, questions suddenly raised all over again. If I cannot trust my own memories, than what does this immortal life amount to?

One thing is certain: her book is no ordinary tome. It was crafted from the best leather, lovingly made by hand with sycamore maple and vellum, the pages imbued with ink in a special process that allowed the scribe to bring the ink to rise up from the page rather than just adding ink on top of it. There was more than a little magic folded into the making of that book, straddling the edge of alchemy and science. It was intended to hold memories.

And as certain as I am that I crafted that book for her, I am unable to remember who she was to me except to know that her memory is a void in my own history. And whatever ancient science enabled the peculiar abilities of these books of mine, it was past to me from her.

She taught me to read. She taught me to write. She taught me to fold my memories. Something as simple as her mere gesture, one that I had repeated ever since in my own folding process, had broken open a torrent of disconnected memories that had been carefully stored away.

My powers were changing, manifesting in strange ways that threatened everything I had known for years. There was no telling how the Conclave would react to these daylight abilities, usually only reserved for our South American relations. There was heightened Vampire activity in the area that needed to be handled. Valerian and his dealings with the Conclave were becoming ever more complicated and tense.

But this woman held more power over me than I ever allowed anyone anymore and that frightened me more than all the rest.

It sent my pulse hammering. And I think I secretly liked it.

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.