Archive for vampire

You are What You Eat

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on November 25, 2012 by vampirony

It had happened slowly, over time, over many, many nights. But finally, one night, seasons later, a grizzled black-grey wolf he’d later name Elba, one that had tormented him the most, eaten the most, gorged night after night in his blood, had raised its head over his prone body, pale yellow eyes glowing and had snapped viciously at the others. Not in a fight for food as other nights it had done, but something different.

There was a tussle then with the second most aggressive, a silver and cream coated female he’d later name Vega.  Elba stood over his chest and after much growling and snapping of jaws, Elba had stepped away from what was now a corpse. It sat on its haunches and watched the rest of the pack devour the body until they couldn’t eat any more. Each night, they could eat less and less. It was as if their bellies were still full from prior feasts but still they chased him, fought over him. After the frenzy, the other wolves moved away, sated, their stomachs looking lean but feeling so full to bursting. But one wolf, the female, Vega, stayed behind and rolled in the carnage, flopping down and kicking her legs up in the air. She did it over and over again, until the fur over her back glinted dark red. Then she had run off after the others.

Elba panted for a few minutes, watching the earth soak up the rest of the blood. Then he lay down, licking his muzzle and then his foreleg in long, practiced strokes until not a drop of blood still stained his black coat. Then the other legs. Afterward, he laid his head down between his forelegs and watched the ground, waiting.

It was just dawn when he saw the miraculous. A beam of light somehow made it through the dark canopy and shone over the sandy ground. Then the ground pushed up softly, quietly, in the form of a man as if he was pushed up through the earth. Elba lifted his head in surprise, ears twitching at this sight. The form remained inert, like a sand statue made by loving, artistic hands, every detailed of the slain man reproduced from the ground, still colored brown and rust in paces with dried blood.

Then as the sun finally broke over the horizon, earth turned flesh and with a gasp, the man breathed again. Elba jumped up, whined, paced nervously but watched alertly as the man began to move again, stretching out his limbs. The man turned his head covered now in golden brown hair toward the sound of Elba’s discomfort.

Elba froze, his pale yellow, almost white eyes locked with the man’s hazel ones. He wanted to leave, to find his pack, but something in this man’s gaze calmed him, spoke to him from deep inside.

Then the man spoke.

“Stay.”

The spell broken, Elba sprinted away, leaving the man to ponder more about his new acquaintance then about how he came to be in the forest in the first place.

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The Proper Recollection of Tea

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on April 22, 2012 by vampirony

He watched with amusement as she gracefully turned the tea pot around with both of her dainty gloved hands, then took it up by the handle now facing her, and began to pour into his empty cup. When he lifted his eyes to her face, her normally smooth brow was furrowed in concentration. It teased the corner of his mouth into a smile. When she was finished pouring and her mind free to move on to other things, he watched an imperious eyebrow shoot up.

“It’s not just all the damnable coffee. They don’t even sit for high tea here let alone offer it with milk! Barbaric!” The tea pot absorbed her mood when she set it down with a thunk.

The smile fully flourished.

“Now, now, don’t be fussy,” he told her in a voice that held more admiration than reproach.

Her bottom lip pouted as she then poured the favored white liquid from a cow shaped vessel into her cup, leaving his plain. He wasn’t sure why she still insisted on pouring tea for him when he never drank it but there were manners, he supposed, so ingrained as to be habit. And he liked this habit of theirs although it had changed all of a sudden.

Most times they took tea in a dark corner of the cold and antiquated library. She never mentioned minding although there was an aloofness there that would eventually give rise to the same old discussion. The library itself had brightened several years back, as if someone had just returned to a summer house and was going through the process of uncovering the rooms and airing them out, with the library being the last to tackle.

The way the light in the hallway just beyond the door would grow, sometimes by feet, sometimes by inches, was often a topic of conversation. He could tell that she was nervous after all these years waiting. “What if she doesn’t like me?” she’d asked one particularly cold morning when a storm beat against the leaded library windows. “Maybe that’s why she never comes in here.” He’d assured her that it would happen and who wouldn’t adore her as he did. She’d worry her bottom lip, like she was doing right now, before changing topic. She’d wondered why it was rainy that day. And cold, so very cold.

But this morning, they had arrived here as if in a dream and it was bright and sunny. And definitely not the library. Their table and chairs sat on a cobbled patio just outside the house, the table an old round mahogany three legged number covered in a bright white lace cloth. The service was white bone china with traditional blue design; the pattern of most particular interest was a fire breathing dragon of Chinese variety.  Overall, the entire setting was stylish and economized, food set out but only just enough for one.

Above them, the expanse of an oak’s canopy shielded then from the indeterminate light and nearby a grand horse chestnut tree delicately bloomed in white and pink glory. All along the side of the house, the garden was in bloom and flowers buzzed with insects where the light bathed them. He could even smell the moss in between the cobblestones and the gentle perfume from a lilac bush somewhere.

That all would have been remarkable enough if somehow this little oasis was not situated just stone’s throw from a large tightly bound wooden crate. The edges of their tea garden reality didn’t reach to the crate; it stood in solemn stark white silence with one notable oddity. It sat under a tree laden with large yellow fruit.
She picked up her saucer and stirred her tea, that eyebrow still perilously arced above her critical eye as she turned her head slightly toward the crate just opposite them.

“I don’t really understand what she sees in him.”

His smile faded.  He knew they were bound to get to that but he had been hoping they could enjoy their surroundings a bit more. He was rather enjoying it himself. It had been a very long time indeed. And never in a garden such as this.

“Dear,” he let whatever passed for Vox in this place sweeten his words, “it is for her to decide. You know that.”

She set the saucer back down, the china clinking loudly. “Well, I don’t see why he gets to rearrange the furniture." She then swooped in with steely utensils for a scone with clotted cream, slapping the cream onto her plate. “And what’s our lemon tree doing there outside instead of in the greenhouse? Traitorous fruit!”

He leaned forward and covered her hand clutching the knife as she struggled to control the emotions all over her face. It had been a long time that she had been bottled up inside and she, of course, wanted to run about freely across the whole of the estate. But knowing her, she would try running things as soon as any measure of freedom was realized.

That was why he had long ago taken her to the basement, to the darkest corner of that forbidding place and shown her who dwelled there.  When she had recovered from the shock and asked him how it had happened, he had had to explain the danger of too many memories kept too close to the surface without rules. It would drive her mad.

As was often the case, his tenderness toward her made her more vulnerable and gave rise to glistening eyes. “It’s not fair. I haven’t had any time with her. I want to speak with her. I have so much to tell her.”

He reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a handkerchief. But as she looked up at him, he moved closer and brushed the tears from her cheek with his thumb, cupping her face. She smiled meekly and covered his hand with her own.

Then he watched her eyes turn calculating and steeled himself against the barbed comment that was to come.

“Dan never got to rearrange the furniture. He never even got into the house.”

He pulled his hand away and sat back with a shake of his head. She was just starting on this topic, if history was to prove. “Darcie…”

She picked up a napkin and dabbed at her eyes. “Dan never even recognized our existence. Ridiculous soulless man! To think he’s raising our daughter without supervision. Poor child probably doesn’t even know what real tea is!” She snapped the napkin as punctuation.

“Exactly my point, love. She is living her life. We must let her do that. It is her lifetime. We must stand at the ready and be prepared when she needs us.” The words were direct but necessary. Darcie knew the dangers, had seen the results, and completely agreed with the compromise. She just needed reminding from time to time.

“I know my duty. I am prepared.” Darcie shot him a steely look. “Do you think I comb through every article we’ve ever read and have written whole books full of hypotheses just to pass the time?” Her face softened in a way he loved to watch. She smiled sheepishly. “Well, I suppose I do. Mostly.” The sheep turned to wolf.

“We’ve found other ways to pass the time here. Can we not enjoy this brilliant day as well as our tea?” he asked fervently. Then, with a bit of a sulk, he added. “I’m beginning to think you grow tired of me, old decrepit thing that I am.”

She could arc an eyebrow just as well as he. “I’ll not let you derail my thoughts to that particular…bend.” Her eyes gainsaid her words.

The growing light hadn’t yet reached through the canopy of leaves above them but a few dapples of it fell upon his face, warming his cheek. They exchanged a smile knowing there was no hurry here; other dalliances could wait until after tea. He leaned his head back, hopeful. 

“We do enjoy our time together here, don’t we?” he asked her.

“Oh yes, Val, I’ll never disparage that.” She went back to her tea, sipping at it.

Confident in her admission, he pressed on. “Things are in motion. Great change is coming. She will need both of us again very soon, I feel. This puzzle he presents will require our full facilities.”

She stopped mid-sip, pulling the tea cup from her lips. “A puzzle indeed. But first some things need to be set aright.”

Valerian tilted his head at Darcie, wondering what she was on about now with that wicked smart schoolmarm look on her face. “Whatever do you mean?”

“Leave it to you to forget that the foundations of scientific inquiry are based on fact. I’ll put it down to your romantic sensibilities.” He laughed at that. She set down her tea and began straightening the silverware. He admired how her hands had to absentmindedly fiddle as she worked out a problem.

When she continued, the jilted scientist was back. “In fundamental ways, she has constructed her own memories despite us. It’s easy for you to say to wait patiently when I’m the one who has to dodge her constructed simulacra of me floating around the halls like forgetful ghosts, mute about the truth of things. You don’t even appear to her at all here, just a shadow that falls in corners and down hallways that she avoids, a page in that book that terrifies her. It’s all fine for us to try and ignore her altogether until I stumble into her direct thinking and have to stand by helplessly while you jump into the nearest cupboard to avoid being seen. What help can we provide her when she disremembers so much? No, we must air out these halls before she can access the library or all her theories will be based on error.”

Jilted was right. But adored as well. Protective to the last. Of him. He sat in awe of it, how this other self could be readying to wage a campaign of clarification on his behalf. He even saw her nostrils flare as she grabbed hold of a knife and struck at the heart of the scone as if to emphasize. It made him worry a little over what she might do, what ripples of recollection might break through to the surface.

“You have forgotten, dearest, she has come to believe you murdered me!” Darcie continued with zeal. “And that cannot stand!”

A Few Words About Heroes, Pt 2

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony with tags , , , on April 8, 2012 by vampirony

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“I don’t care if you think it’s a bad idea. We’re sticking together. I’m not losing anyone else today.”

Morena strode into the room determined. It was one thing to be ignored at the hospital, ignored in the cab, but she would not be denied, treated like she didn’t just put her life on the line. Or her blood, rather.

“Oh, there you are.”

Sophie was out hard on the bed. Even when Morena went to shake her awake, she just snored. Morena stifled a curse. There had been a look on Sophie’s face when she’d first walked in with the detectives. Blank, jealous shock.

She gave Nick a nod and then pointed to the sofa. “You take that one. I’m sure it pulls out.”

“Look, I get it. It looks like Irina and her Grandmother split town and you want to keep an eye out. But I want to sleep in my own bed after taking a horrendously long soak in a tub. And clean clothes. And mom’s dumplings.” Morena seemed to be eyeing the furniture and how best to move it. The thought was confirmed when she started pushing at the back of the couch. “Hey, can you just relax for a second?”

In between grunts to move the huge upholstered beast, she spoke, “What would help me to relax is if you help me move this and then check all the doors again.”

“No.”

The simple rejection of her request got her attention and she stood and faced him. Where was the scared kid from just hours ago who looked like he was pissing his pants? Replaced by this guy who’s face was split by a smile he tried to contain but ended up with an even more goofy look. She put her hands on her hips, stuck one hip out.

“What?”

Nick gave one incredulously laugh. “Just stop for a second. We just killed the bad guys. Both of them. Without even knowing there were two of them. I’ve never been so terrified in my life and now, man, now, I just wanna get out in the sun, go hug my parents, and eat like it was the end of the world…and we stopped it. We won!”

She shook her mane once.

Nick gestured to her. “And you look like you’re ready for an assault from zombie hordes of Resident Evil. You know, that couch would work better as a barricade.”

She tossed her head to look. Hmmm, not a bad idea.

Nick laughed, “I can’t believe you just considered that.” He took a few steps over. “Do you ever bring it down a notch? I mean, you kicked the shit outta a vampire. And we offed her. We survived. We’re alive and practically unscathed. Can’t you just enjoy that for a few?”

But what happens next? What else is out there? What are the ramifications of their actions? They need to report back to Sophie, needed to assess who these people were that helped move Jesper, needed to fortify their position and plan for the next assault.

“Jesus, can’t you just relax for a few measly minutes? You’re getting me all nervy again.”

No, she didn’t do relaxed. She didn’t even have a weapon to clean, which often took her mind off things. Her face remained blank. What was left to do?

Nick sighed heavily and took a few steps over. “Look, I appreciate this.” He meant to gesture to the soldier of badassness that she was but it looked more like a wave. “I mean, you saved my life back there. But right now, I don’t want to think about anymore death, or vampires, or any of that. I’m fucking ecstatic to be standing here and I want some unagi. And probably a beer. Maybe a shot.”

She just kept staring at him. She had been in this with him but right now, the utmost thought in her mind spilled out of her tongue from the dissonance in their reactions.

“You’re just young.”

He shook his head, his eyes getting big for a second, and then he responded, “Wow. Yeah, throw that one out. I’m young alright. Young enough to still want to savor the fact that in the course of twenty four hours I saw my life flash before me AND get to tell the tale. I’ve got a family to go home and hug. I suggest you go do the same.”

When he couldn’t think of anything more to say, he waved his hand again and walked toward the door. She spun to watch him go.

“We can’t just leave her.”

Nick paused with his hand on the doorknob. When he looked back at Morena, he wasn’t sure if his fatigued mind that was so high on life at this moment was tricking him into thinking she was talking more about herself than Sophie.

“She’s not going anywhere. Doc said she’d be out for hours. Plug in her phone and go home. I’ll check in on her later. Oh, and plug your phone in too.”

When Nick walked out and shut the door firmly, Morena got the sense that he meant much much later. If he came back at all. He had a family to think about. Maybe after seeing what he had to lose, he would decide that a young man didn’t need this in his life.

Morena felt very sad by that thought and couldn’t grapple with why. She looked back down at the couch she’d been trying to move. Did she really think a fully fledged vamp couldn’t just throw this about the room like a Lego block?

She came around the front of the couch and sat down, feeling very rigid and ill at ease with the angle and depth of the sofa back. She wasn’t sure what she should do next but going home seemed irrelevant. There were no hugs to be found there. The only hugs she’d had lately were from the creature in the crate straight in front of her. Jesper. She wondered what he looked like in there but as it was sun up, she wasn’t about to open the crate to find out, even in the darkened room.

With her long legs, she felt like the couch was going to swallow her up, butt first. So she swung her legs up onto it, twisting and laying back, her head on the armrest. Then, she shifted a pillow under her head instead to be more comfortable.

What to do now? Well, there were so many questions. So many things to still clean up. But the reality was Morena couldn’t leave Sophie to wake up by herself and think poorly of Morena. That look on her face at the hospital when she’d walked in. She knew that look. She’d been staring at it in the mirror for weeks.

But something had changed last night and now that she had the time to think on it, she realized that she wasn’t jealous any more. She sincerely doubted that Jesper had been aware of the other threat and yet, she remembered his words. She would never forget them.

Nick. You need to make sure he’s safe. Watch over him.

Maybe Jesper had had an inkling that things could go sideways. Sounded like the text message he’d sent on decapitating a vampire was more instructions on the inevitable instead of a back-up plan. He’d sent her, vamped up, to protect Nick. He trusted her that much. It had been a long time since Morena had allowed herself to be close enough to anyone to be trusted like that.

And in hindsight, she’d delivered. The edge of her mouth ticked with urge to smile. Jesper had trusted her with protecting Nick and she had done just that, even though he hadn’t known it would mean facing another vampire. After he had apparently defeated his opponent. But she had managed it anyway. She’d fought the bitch and, with a little help, she’d won.

Now the smile was spreading over her lips. Maybe Nick was on to something about this strange euphoria after a brush with Hell. In the past, when she’d been in combat, or on protection detail, there was always some jackhole superior to report to, and paperwork, God she had hated the paperwork. There was always someone questioning her tactics, her approach, her execution, did she need to spend so many rounds, just how many perps had she engaged with, why had she pursued, why had she not pursued?

What gave her the right to disobey direct orders? So many friggin’ questions every time. So she was always too busy to just be grateful, to just thank her preparation, her discipline, her lucky stars even that this was not the last time, not her swan song.

Sure, she’d had some questions to ask and answer at the hospital. But the carefully constructed story around the truth of their injuries was easy and all too plausible. It gave her a moment’s pause and froze the smile on her lips. She hated calling in a favor. Favors tended to bite you on the ass when you weren’t prepared. She’d been burned by a favor that had been called in and called in badly.

But she realized she hadn’t really had to bend things all that much. Sophie was a friend visiting from out of town. While at the hotel, she’d met a guy. He wasn’t a good guy. He took her to a party. A bad party. She’d wanted to leave. He wouldn’t let her. He made her drink something. Nick, a good guy serving at the bad party, figured out how bad things were and he and a friend tried to get her out of there.

She really hadn’t spun things too falsely and as the detectives had begun to nod their heads affirmatively, she suspected this was a pattern they’d seen. The story had been Nick’s idea. She’d have to find out where he’d gotten it from. But from there, the two detectives, one an old friend of her uncle’s back in the day, and the other, a guy she’d dated briefly before leaving Seattle to join the diplomatic service, hadn’t needed much more evidence or more prodding. They bought in that a bad thing had happened to a good person and they went to do the right thing. They were the good guys trying to do right by a good person.

Sophie was a good person. The way she’d started crying after hugging Nick at the hospital kept replaying in Morena’s head. And then there was the look. It was more of a cascade, that look in her eyes when Sophie had looked up to see Morena striding in, not a blemish on her face. At first, there was shock. Nick was standing there just finishing up the ending of the slasher film “Bad Russian BarBQ.” Then, as Sophie’s eyes moved and took in how Morena moved without a hint of injury, there was the revelation. Her eyes widened. Then they narrowed and she’d looked away.

Morena needed to explain. She felt certain if she did, Sophie would get it. Why it mattered so much, she didn’t know.

Shit if she didn’t. Even though they’d been in different parts of the city, they had all fought the worst kinds of creatures last night. They were comrades now, compatriots. That kind of experience forged a bond. Sophie’s vampire class, her honesty, and her tutelage had saved Morena’s life and allowed Morena to save others. To be the hero again. It had been a long, long time since she’d felt like a hero. And maybe this time, she’d truly deserve it. She’d work harder this time, she wouldn’t lose focus, and she’d always, always remember who had her back.

She was rubbing her aching leg as she dozed off, the marrow deep in her bone pulsing, working overtime to repair the damage done when she’d kicked the door. That moment when she felt useful, needed, determined, and able, that feeling and the joy of being alive eased her into dreamless sleep.

A Few Words About Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he did.

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

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

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

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

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

“Some ginger ale perhaps, Miss Quinn?”

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

“Banana?”

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

“What are you? Alfred Pennyworth?”

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

I paused for a moment.

“No, I need to go with the crate.”

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t know what to do. “Uh…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

Prague – The Next Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do NOT mock me…with your…lies!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerian cocked his head to the side, fangs growing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Emmerick.”

His brows rose in response.

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

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

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

symbol_infinity-color

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did it for you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes narrowed. “Should I be?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the Hang of Things

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

“Now, you wanna talk right now?”

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

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

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

“But you’re so injured,” I protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aww, shit!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Vampires Should Wear Sunglasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sophie?” he asked, more strongly.

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

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

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

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