Blogophilia NOLA style

Though I’ve left my hometown to visit our friendly zombie Jonathan, I’m still determined to get my points my blog for the week.

We went to New Orleans today and the highest compliment I can pay it is that it’s just like TV. Of course We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Or so they say, I’m thinking more likely it IS like TV.

We walked around a lot, pokemoned and ate some fun things. Hubby enjoyed his crawfish gumbo but that was too much for me.

Now a few pics and I’ll see y’all next week with a story. (Since its mobile I cant make a gallery. Sorry. Guesses are after the pics.)

Topic: Colleen

Picture: Stormy

Photo guesses; 1 in the jungle 2 the lion sleeps tonight 3 nap time 4 sleepy 5 aweembo wep 6 bed of reeds 7 lazy afternoon 8 passed out 9 tired 10 cat nap

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Blogophilia 11.5 – Kioko

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts for their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 5.11 Topic – My Fate
BONUSES:** Hard (2 pts) Incorporate a lyric by the group Porcupine Tree – (A Purple Haze crawled on the lawn)
Easy (1 pt) Mention something found in a cemetery

,

I have maybe two people who read this blog, and one of them (Martien) said they liked having the whole story in one go, so, since I’m behind on my shorts anyway,  I worked my fingers to the bone and got all of Kioko done in one shot. Yay!

This story takes place during the fourth novel (Ashes of deceit) and before the Zuri short I posted awhile back.

***

Kioko stood uncomfortably to the side while Ark gave the guards instructions. Two weeks ago she’d been one of them; dressed in black and taking orders. But now she was one of the elite, an Executioner, chosen by Malick, the head of the Guild, himself.

It’s strange, she thought. After more than a hundred years of immortality, two weeks can make all the difference. Just two weeks.

Though her appointment had come at another’s expense, killed in an altercation with Jorick, the legendary Hand of Death. Though Kioko had never met him – he’d been an Executioner and quit long before she ever moved to the citadel – she’d heard the awed whispers. Stories of things he’d done, vampires he’d murdered, superhuman deeds that she doubted any vampire could accomplish.

He has murdered three Executioners in three months, she reminded herself, or at the least been involved in their deaths. Franklin had been killed in October, then Philip and Bren recently. It was the latter that she’d replaced.

The guards saluted and moved away. Ark straightened his coat and glanced over his shoulder, at the small house. “I think we’re done here. We have a few hours until sunrise if you want-” His chiming cell phone cut him off. With an eye roll he tugged it free and answered, “Hello?”

Kioko watched his eyebrows shoot up. His mouth worked, as he tried to get a word in. Finally he snapped, “Both Dismas and Zuri?”

Dismas. The Executioner who’d replaced Franklin, he’d only held the post for three months. Before that, he’d been a greater guard. Kioko had worked with him several times, and had even attended a few of the same social events. They weren’t close, but…

Ark gave an impatient huff of breath. “Where is he now?” He fell silent, nodded a few times, and finally snapped, “We’ll meet you there,” before he hung up.

Kioko waited as he shoved the phone in his pocket and ran a hand through his chestnut hair. “Excuse me, but what about Dismas?”

Ark ground his teeth. “He’s dead.”

“Dead?” She realized the stupidity of her echo, but it was too late. “How did he die?”

“They say it was Jorick. Dismas is dead, and Zuri’s whereabouts are unknown. Truth be told, he’s probably in the grave, as well.”

Not three Executioners then, but five. Jorick had killed five of them in three months. That was almost half of their number.

“They say he and his human have been murdering covens,” Ark added. “He won’t get away with it this time.”

Kioko tried to keep the trepidation from her voice, “What do you mean, sir?”

“We’ve been tasked with bringing him in to stand trial.”

He’s killed five Executioners, but the two of us will bring him in alone? Though it was the obvious question, she kept it to herself. “What about the coven in Manchester?”

“They’ll have to wait. I’ll send the guards ahead to start the proceedings while we find him.”

“Where is he?”

“He was last seen in Kentucky, with another coven. We’ll get the details when we get to the citadel.”

Kioko didn’t like to point out that the citadel was the opposite direction of Kentucky. “We’re going back, sir?”

He checked the time on his phone. “Yes. We’re to report there for supplies. If we hurry, we should make it before sunup.”

Supplies? Did he mean reinforcements?

Instead of asking, she saluted, a habit too ingrained to break yet, then followed him to the cars. He gave the guards their orders, then motioned her into his vehicle.

Sleek and red, it looked as fast as it was. Kioko fastened her seatbelt and watched her guild assigned car drive away, full of guards. It wasn’t her personal car – she and Aine both needed to choose vehicles still – but she was responsible for it. If they wrecked it, or damaged it, the cost would likely come out of her account.

Assuming I survive bringing in the Hand of Death to worry about it.

***

Ark sped all the way to the citadel. Kioko watched the speedometer anxiously. It wasn’t his skill she doubted, but his luck. At the rate they were going, the human police would pull them over and then what? Ark was a dream stealer, but not a whisperer, and she was only a hunter. Neither would be able to persuade the cops to let them go. Of course, The Guild would make everything all right in the end, but in the meantime their journey would be delayed, leaving them little time to get indoors before the sun was up.

Despite her concerns, they arrive at the towering grain elevator just as the sky was blushing pink. Ark parked the car in the building, and they headed through the private entrance into the underground citadel.

Ark checked his phone. “Everyone has retired for the day, already. We might as well do the same.”

She nodded, catching herself from another salute. I’m an equal now, she reminded herself, though it was hard to believe.

As she followed Ark through the citadel, toward their chambers on the second floor, she wondered for the millionth time why she’d been chosen as an Executioner. When an opening came up, all greater guards interested in the post reported to Malick. He’d look them over, skim through their minds, and then choose the most powerful. For some inexplicable reason, this time he’d chosen herself and Aine.

There were better candidates, she thought. Stronger candidates. Aine and I were probably the weakest applicants, and certainly the youngest. Neither of us are over one hundred and fifty. Why would he choose us?

It was almost as if he’d wanted weak Executioners. But what sense did that make?

She dismissed the worry as she let herself into her apartment with instructions to meet Ark first thing the following evening. She nodded her agreement before shutting the door. The apartment looked as it had earlier that evening, left clean and ready for a two week or more absence.

How long will I be gone now? she wondered. Even if they were successful in bringing Jorick in, how much would that delay them? After Manchester, there was a rogue vampire, and coven they were supposed to tend to, then they were to split up and she was supposed to handle two territory disputes before she’d be able to come home again. Thanks to the small number of Executioners and the vast distances, they often had jobs stacked up. Changing even one of them could ruin the whole string.

Maybe he’ll kill us, too, then it won’t matter anymore.

The thought was hardly comforting.

***

Kioko woke the next evening, dressed, and exited to find Ark in the corridor.

“I was on my way to summon you,” he said. “Come, we’re supposed to report to the lower laboratory.”

The name sent a shiver down Kioko’s spine. A semi-secret area in the bowels of the citadel, no one knew what went on there, except Malick and the so-called men of science who ran it. She’d done a stint as a prison guard, just up the hall from the lab. The vampires she’d seen scuttling up and down the corridor, heads bent, soulless eyes darting, had given her the creeps. She couldn’t explain the feeling, except to say that there was an air of evil that hung over them.

It wasn’t just the occasional brush with the scientists that had made her time down there unpleasant. The guards who were regularly assigned to the prison were little better than useless. If there was a prisoner to fetch, she was the one who had to do it. If there was a visitor, she had to deal with them. That they managed to crawl to their posts each day was a miracle, and when she finally demanded a transfer she hadn’t left under the best of circumstances. To say they all hated one another was an understatement.

What a way to start the night.

Kioko and Ark stopped at the café to grab breakfast, then headed to the lowest level. As the elevator descended, she could feel the crushing presence of the high council, hidden in their chambers. Ancients all, with Malick the oldest and most terrifying.

They exited in the shiny black and red corridor, something straight from a nightmare, and walked toward the secret lab. The closer they got, the worse the suffocating presence became. When the locked metal door opened wide, she saw why; Malick waited for them inside.

“Master.” Ark bowed, and she quickly did the same.

Malick beamed a benevolent smile over his long white beard. Hair the color of snow fell past his shoulders, left long today. A black and gold robe dragged the floor, work over a well cut suit, complete with a matching tie.

“Come, come,” he instructed, motioning them over the threshold and into the room. Painted white with a shiny linoleum floor, a bank of computers sat to one side, tended by a vampire in glasses. Two doorways on the back wall led away, while a table to the right was covered in items, including a box of what looked like red grenades.

A vampire in a lab coat stood behind it, his dark hair brushed back. He rubbed his hands excitedly, the end of his long nose twitching. “Yes, yes. Executioner Ark, I believe you’re familiar with the NR canisters?”

NR? Kioko looked sharply to her superior, but he ignored her to nod. “Yes. Most of the Executioners are.”

“I don’t recognize your friend.” The scientist squinted at her. “I assume you’re new?”

Kioko felt herself drawing away from his scrutiny. “Yes.”

He nodded, muttering to himself. “We’ve had some improvements, anyway.” He patted the box of grenades. “Yes, yes, improvements. With this, you can incapacitate any vampire.” He lifted one and hooked his finger through the pin. “Pull, toss, and step back. Yes, yes, the… shall we call it nerve gas for you? It is very potent. A minute at most for the toughest vampire. That’s why you must take these.” He lifted a bottle of pills with a rattle. “We call them PREP. Take one each – don’t swallow, mind, but let it dissolve on your tongue – no more than twenty minutes before you use the NR2.”

“How does it work?” Kioko asked uncertainly.

“It changes your chemistry – temporarily,” the scientist added. “For the twenty minutes after you take the dose, you will not be as you are now. When it wears off, you’ll be back to normal.”

“Does it actually work this time?” Ark asked.

“Yes, yes. It works.” Some of the scientists enthusiasm dimmed, replaced by the edge of a sulk. “And the NR2 will no longer kill humans.”

Malick’s voice rumbled behind them like summer thunder, “How fortunate, as Jorick travels with just such a companion.”

As the scientist bundled up several canisters of NR2, the Executioners turned to Malick.

“If I may, master,” Ark began. “What is going on?”

Malick chuckled. “It seems my son has gotten himself into trouble. Ah, how refreshing to see him doing something besides sulk! Nevertheless, we can’t have him killing indiscriminately, can we? You have perhaps heard of the murders that Verchiel was investigating before his transgression?”

Verchiel. A fellow Executioner, Kioko hadn’t seen him for several days. She’d assumed he was on an assignment but…

Ark murmured acknowledgement, and Malick continued. “To shorten the story, I will say simply that Senya was investigating the latest, accompanied by Zuri and Dismas. Imagine her surprise to discover that Jorick and his human were visiting the nearest den, where another murder allegedly took place, this time before a witness who named the human a killer.”

Kioko could see Ark struggling with the idea. “Excuse me, master, do you mean that Jorick’s human murdered someone?”

“So they say. Without examining her, how can I say for sure?” He spread his hands helplessly, and went on. “For reasons we do not yet understand, Jorick led an attack on the Executioners. Senya reported that Dismas was killed before she managed to escape.”

Ark scowled. “And what o f Zuri?”

“His fate is unknown, but one can assume, knowing Jorick’s renewed thirst for blood…Ah! But it is refreshing to see him back to his old ways! To once again revel in the fight, the blood, the death! Perhaps the human is worth more than I first thought?”

Kioko wasn’t sure if they were supposed to respond, and if so what to say. She looked to Ark, but he was silent, his face unreadable.

“It is no matter, for neither of you children knew him in the days before. Ark, perhaps, caught glimpses of his beautiful fury, but you weren’t there, in the old world, to see him alight with youthful anger, desperate to quench the flame of rage with his enemy’s blood. As to the matter at hand, it would be easiest for you to simply incapacitate him, and bring him to me. But you do not choose the easy path, do you, child? If you wish to make it difficult, you may tell him I only wish to speak to him, though it’s doubtful he’ll believe such a tale. When that fails, you will perhaps wish to employ this wonderful invention?” He motioned to the box of gas canisters.

“And the human?” Ark asked.

“It will be best to bring her along, I believe. Though even Senya has cast doubt on the charge of murder, there is a human involved in the serial murders, so perhaps we were mistaken about her? Though I saw no violent malice in her mind, perchance, hidden in some dark corner, was a patch of homicidal darkness I missed. She must be thoroughly investigated. And of course there is the matter of theft.”

“Theft, master?” Kioko asked.

“Yes.” Malick’s jewel like eyes crinkled with amusement. “He stole Senya’s car. Or at any rate, one of his allies did. I have no doubt that my son will end up with it in the end; a trophy he won’t be able to resist. If not, whoever does will no doubt be in his company, or at the very least know where he has gone.” The ancient vampire snapped his fingers, and the vampire at the computer bank abandoned his post to shuffle towards them, an electronic tablet in his hand.

Malick took the device and handed it to Ark. “Unbeknownst to him, we have recently begun toying with tracking devices on Guild vehicles. How fortunate Senya’s car was one that was outfitted.”

Kioko leaned over to peer at the screen. A map was displayed, with a blinking dot and a set of coordinates.

“He is stationary now,” Malick said. “Though perhaps not for long? I am interested to see where he will go. Will it be to his den? Or to his fledgling? Or perhaps, to find a new victim?”

The delight in Malick’s laughter felt wrong to Kioko. Jorick was murdering his Executioners. He should be furious, not amused.

The scientist shoved a bag into Kioko’s hands. “Remember to take the PREP no more than twenty minutes before, or its effectiveness will be diminished and you’ll risk succumbing as well.”

Kioko nodded. “Will this also incapacitate the human?”

“No. It doesn’t do anything to them, anymore. There’s a hypodermic included for her, and some chloroform if you need it. Getting close enough to use it should be easy for an Executioner.”

Even if she’s a vampire killer.

“You’ll need to be careful,” Malick added, almost as an afterthought. “We wouldn’t want either to be permanently harmed.”

Despite the casual demeanor, the sudden tension in the room said that it was an order. Neither Jorick nor his human were to be hurt, no matter what crime they’d committed.

“You will of course want to get underway?” Malick’s suggestion was yet another order.

Kioko and Ark bowed to the ancient, and she gratefully hurried out the door. Her shoulders didn’t relax until the elevator opened on the top floor of the citadel.

Ark strode ahead of her, leaving her to carry the bag from the lab, without looking back.  She expected him to comment, but there was nothing, even when they were both seat belted into the car.

He handed her the tablet , then started the car. The dot on the screen was still stationary, blinking but not moving. She zoomed out until she could see a town name. Altoona. It meant nothing, so she zoomed out farther to see the name Pennsylvania in large letters.

“Is his den in Pennsylvania?”

“Maine,” Ark answered. “Keep an eye on that and let me know if he starts moving.”

“Yes, sir.” Though they weren’t even sure he was the one in the car.

“As Malick said, whoever has it will know where he is,” Ark replied to her thoughts.

She ignored the intrusion. It was common enough with mind readers, and he was her superior. “Assuming we find him, at least we’ll be able to capture him with the NR2.”

“If it works,” Ark said. He sighed. “I’m loath to use it on him, of all vampires. Jorick…he has great faith in his own strength, and this will only encourage that. It’s as if we’re saying he’s so strong we can’t take him any other way.”

“Can we?”

He shot her a dirty look and laid on the gas. “He’s not a God.”

“Of course not, sir.” Kioko silently cursed herself for deferring. Ark was the leader of the Executioners, but the others didn’t treat him like this. They were his equal. And so am I now. Why can’t I remember that?

“Remember the NR2 won’t work on the human.” Ark broke away to mutter, “A human. How ridiculous.”

“What’s ridiculous about his having a mortal pet? Many vampires do.”

“True, but Jorick isn’t many vampires. I remember a time he swore to destroy every human in the world. That he would forget that already…Though, I suppose it’s been more than a hundred years. Time softens everything they say.”

Something strange flickered across his face, and Kioko had the sense that it wasn’t necessarily true; there were some things time didn’t erase. It was a topic she wasn’t interested in touching, so she changed it. “Do you think Jorick and his human committed the murders Senya accused him of?”

“Senya?” Ark spat the name like a bite of poison apple. “I wouldn’t believe anything she said, especially not concerning Jorick. Even you should know she’s Malick’s pet, second only his children. I imagine Senya would like to see Jorick fall, leaving her as the favorite. I find it very convenient that she was able to escape this great, random attack, while Zuri, by her own admission, was left to suffer an unknown fate.”

Kioko hadn’t paid much attention to the details, but now that Ark mentioned it. “Do you think that she left him on purpose?”

“I think she deserted him,” Ark said bluntly. “Dismas was killed, and without Bren to back her up, Senya ran.”

Bren. The Executioner Kioko had replaced. Even the greater guards knew that the two had been lovers.

“If Zuri is dead, it’s her fault, no one else’s,” Ark added.

Not even his killer’s?

***

The dot eventually started moving. Kioko followed it into New York, mentally calculating where it might be headed. As the night wore on, it moved into Connecticut, then Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Ark was confident it was headed to Maine, and she could hardly argue. If he was right, then so was Malick; it would mean Jorick had taken the car as a trophy.

And he’ll be waiting for us at the end of our journey.

It was near dawn when the dot stopped moving, in Maine. Ark took the tablet to zoom in on the nearest town, then nodded. “That’s him. At least we know he’s likely to stay put now. It will save us chasing him all over the country.”

They stayed the night with a coven whose hospitality was begrudging at best. Kioko and Ark took two of the boxes, leaving the usual occupants to bunk up on the floor. It was a new experience for her; as a guard she’d have been left to sleep on the floor with the displaced vampires while the Executioner took the best.

She lay awake in the dark box, eyes studying the smooth underside of the lid, listening as strange vampires fell asleep around her. It reminded her of that first night in Hekili’s coven. They’d greeted their newest member with mixed emotions, but had given her the use of Ano’s box, since he didn’t need it anymore. Just her luck, he’d returned two months later, and she’d been relegated to the floor until a new box opened up. More than once she’d suggested just building a new box, but no one seemed interested in it. Vampires came and went; new members joined and quit, while visitors drifted through for days or months.

It was that insane lack of structure that led her to The Citadel in search of an ordered, organized existence. She’d tried not to crave it, tried to be casual and fluid, but it was ingrained too deeply in her. She blamed her parents and their obsession with duty, honor, regimentation. Of Japanese origin, they’d immigrated to Hawaii, before the United States had stolen it. She’d been born shortly after they settled in, and grown up surrounded by palm trees and daily visits to the beach. That was the only problem with the citadel. Iowa was a landlocked state awash in corn fields and cows. At first the change had been charming; so different from the island life she’d known for eighty years. But some days…some days it was wearisome.

At least I get to travel as a guard, she told herself, quickly correcting it to Executioner. I’m an executioner now. I need to remember that; need to act like. Especially if I’m going to face the Hand of Death.

***

They fed on wildlife the next evening, while a purple haze crawled on the lawn, then climbed in the car. The dot was in the same location it had been in the night before. Kioko had cross referenced Ark’s assertion with the Guild’s app. It was indeed the listed location of Jorick’s den.

“We should be there in a few hours,” Ark commented, steering around a slower moving vehicle.

Kioko gave a crisp nod. “What’s the plan when we arrive?” She stopped herself from adding, “sir.” The other Executioners didn’t use it. Why should she?

“I’m going to try to talk to him first.”

Kioko swallowed the first objections that popped in her head, settling at last for, “But sire, Malick suggested-”

“I am well aware what he suggested.” Ark waved it away with annoyance. “However, as I’ve already told you, to attack first with no warning only underlines his importance in his own mind. Not to mention it’s cowardly. He deserves to at least know that we’re there. He may come for Malick.”

Kioko didn’t bother to reply, didn’t bother to point out that it was a terrible plan. She didn’t even bother to read him the long list of charges attached to Jorick’s file. Instead, she turned her attention back to the app and the neat details written there. Turned in 1568 by Malick. Whisperer. Dream stealer. Blood debt paid. The file summed him up, listed his years as an Executioner, noted some accomplishments and one disciplinary note, dated 1868. “Let it be known that Jorick, fledgling of Malick, has been found guilty of the murder of seven lesser guards, the assault of eight lesser guards, with intent to kill, and unlawful assault on Executioners Beldren, Bren, Mary, Jamie, and Ark.” There was no trial mentioned, and no sentence, but still there it was in black and white. The famous moment when Jorick had stormed the citadel and tried to kill everyone in his path.

And that’s why Ark wants to take him barehanded, she thought. He wants to prove that this time, he can best the Hand of Death.

Only, she wasn’t sure that he could.

***

As the miles between them and the blinking dot shrank, Kioko mentally practiced her speech:

“Jorick, fledgling of Malick, you and your human are wanted for questioning concerning the murders of nine vampires, as well as the possible deaths of two Executioners and the theft of Guild property.”

It sounded tough, official, and most of all succinct and to the point. In her imagined scenario, Jorick stood by as she quoted it, a faceless shadow who stood well over six feet tall with broad shoulders and bulging arms. As the last words dropped, he lunged for her and she threw the gas canister just in time. As colored smoke billowed around them, he dropped to the floor and lay as if dead.

“Good work,” Ark said.

And that’s when the scene evaporated. Ark wouldn’t say that. Instead he’d be angry that she’d taken him down, that he hadn’t done it himself.

And that stubborn anger is going to get me killed.

Though the conversation was an uncomfortable one, she took herself in hand. It must be my fate to do things the difficult way, but better difficult than dead.

“Excuse me, sir? I know you’re against using the NR2, but-”

Ark made a low aggravated noise. “Yes, I’m against it, but I’m not stupid. If it comes to it, we’ll do what needs to be done to complete the assignment. However, we’re going to try it without the chemical first.”

With nothing more to say, she turned her attention to the passing scenery. They hugged the coast, and the smell of the nearby sea seeped through Kioko’s window. She closed her eyes and, for a moment, it smelled like home, like childhood, like Hekili; her brown skin, thick dark hair, sweet laughter. In her memory she could taste Hekili’s kisses, see the way she’d looked at her with love sparkling in her dark eyes, until the day that love faded, leaving only a sort of dull affection, an obligation.

An obligation I wanted no part of.

She’d told her that, seen the relief in her once-lover’s eyes. She’d stayed with the coven for a while afterwards, but without Hekili to distract her, that was when the pure insanity of the arrangement got to her; the complete lack of logic or regiment.

Or maybe it was just a broken heart.

Whatever it was, it was the past, and nothing to dwell on. Not now. The sea pounding the shore was the wrong ocean. The sand was the wrong color, and there were no gracefully curving palm trees, lifting their fronds to the heavens like open arms.

It’s nothing like Kaua’i.

She straightened in the seat, tugging at her coat, as if physically organizing herself could do the same for the thoughts in her head.

Ark glanced to her, then pointed to a house in the distance, ringed in trees, a ling driveway leading to the road. “I think that’s it.”

Kioko checked the tablet. Sure enough, they were almost on top of the blinking dot.

They parked at the mouth of the driveway, and Ark signaled her to climb out quietly.  She reached into the backseat and grabbed a couple of the canisters and the bottle of PREP. Ark frowned at the pills, but when she offered them to him, he snapped the top and popped one in his mouth. She did the same, holding it on her tongue. It fizzed as it dissolved, and burned, like tiny sparks.

As the sensation faded, a bang came from the front of the house; the sound of a door slamming.

“He knows we’re here.” Ark tugged his coat straight and squared his shoulders. “Come.”

She followed, forcing her spine straight and her face hard. She could do this. She would do this. By any means necessary.

They reached the end of the driveway, and paused to peer inside the shiny black sports car that was parked there. Though Kioko had gotten lucky and never been assigned to Senya, Ark nodded as if to say he recognized the vehicle.

They continued on, picking their way through the weedy front lawn to the small porch. Kioko could hear movement inside, and hushed conversation. She could smell a vampire and a human inside, no doubt Jorick and his pet.

She tensed as they reached the door, waiting for Ark to knock it in. Instead, he knocked. A moment passed, movement sounded from inside, and then the door opened a crack to reveal a slice of pale face framed in black hair. Dark eyes peered out from under heavy brows, and full lips were drawn in a tight angry line. “Yes?”

Though not a mind reader, Kioko could feel his anger, vibrating the air around them.  She could only imagine what it would be like full blast.

Ark was unfazed. “Hello, Jorick. You know why we’re here.”

Kioko held herself immobile in the face of Jorick’s sarcasm. “No, Ark. I can’t possibly guess.”

Her rehearsed speech tumbled out, just as she’d practiced it. “You and your human are wanted for questioning concerning the murders of nine vampires, as well as the possible deaths of two Executioners and the theft of Guild property.”

Ark shot her a look that said he had it under control. “Thank you, Kioko.” He turned back to the man in the doorway. “This doesn’t have to be hard, Jorick.”

“You’re right.” And Jorick slammed the door.

Ark growled and threw the door open again. Jorick stood not two feet away, eyes narrowed, and Ark marched inside toward him. Though his shoulders were stiff, his voice was forced patience. “That isn’t what I meant. Malick only wants to speak to you.”

Just as Malick suspected, the line didn’t work.

“We’ve done that already!” Jorick snapped, holding his ground, his hands balled into fists.

“I know,” Ark said, an edge of menace to his voice. “However, I have my orders, and I will carry them out.”

“Really?” Jorick gave a cold, challenging laugh. “I’d like to see that.”

And there it was. The threat before the storm, the moment when he challenged, then charged. The two men stood, eyes boring into one another. As dream stealers, Kioko wondered if they were waging some furious mental battle, or if it was simply macho bravado.

A second passed, then another. The tension in the room thickened, multiplied, until Kioko felt uncomfortable under the weight of it. She could feel Jorick’s presence, his power, like a dark cloud that threatened to knock her to the floor. Ark’s was nearly the same but not quite as strong; not quite as angry.

Not enough to overcome him.

Finally Ark broke the silence. “Is this really what you want Jorick?” He looked away, met Kioko’s eyes. Before he spoke she saw the message on his face. He was okaying the use of the NR2.

“All right Kioko.”

She reached into the inner pocket of her coat and tugged out one of the round red canisters. She pulled the pin and tossed it, just as Jorick shouted, “You!”

The gas hissed, disappointingly invisible. Kioko suddenly wondered if it really would work. If it doesn’t…

Her fears evaporated as Jorick’s knees buckled. He landed on all fours, snarling like a cornered animal.

Ark watched impassively. “I’m sorry, Jorick. I didn’t want to resort to this.”

“No, I’m sure you didn’t.” The dark vampire growled and tried to stand. His weak limbs failed and he fell back to the floor.

A human woman bounded through the doorway, blonde hair flying around her as she dropped to her knees next to the fallen vampire. “Jorick! What’s wrong?”

“Jorick.” Not “Master.” This was no mortal pet, used for food and slavery, but…

“Gas,” He choked out. “They have gas-” he broke off and clutched at the woman. “I swear, if you hurt her…”

No. No pet, but a lover? Jorick, the Hand of Death had a human lover?

Kioko flicked her gaze over the creature, taking in large, horrified blue eyes, slender shoulders, small breasts, pale skin. Though not beautiful, she was pretty, and would be even prettier with the touch of immortality. “The human will remain unharmed, as per our orders.”

Jorick snarled and swayed. For a moment Kioko thought he might make it back to his feet. “I can’t believe…you’ve turned into a coward…Ark.”

“I’m sorry, but there wasn’t any other way.” He stepped forward, his hand out to the woman. “Come.”

The human ignored him, arms wrapped around Jorick as she tried to prop him up. Kioko watched with silent fascination as he clutched her coat and opened his mouth, then fell still and insensible.

It actually worked.

“Jorick!” The woman shrieked and shook him. “Jorick!”

Ark rolled his eyes, but his voice stayed neutral. “He’ll be fine in a few hours. Now come with us.”

The human glared back. “What have you done to him?”

When Ark didn’t reply, Kioko filled in. “It’s a kind of nerve gas. It specifically targets vampires.”

“Then why aren’t you affected?”

With an impatient huff, Ark grabbed for the woman, but she jerked away shouting,  “Answer me! Why aren’t you affected?”

Though Ark had said they had a few hours until Jorick woke, Kioko wasn’t sure how much time they had left before the PREP wore off, or how long it took the invisible NR2 to dissipate. She didn’t want to fall victim to it herself.

“Your questions are unimportant, human. We will leave now.”

“Like hell!” The woman stood, hovering over Jorick’s fallen figure like a protective guard dog.

“You can do neither,” Ark said suddenly. The surprise on the human’s face said he must have been reading her mind. Kioko could only guess that she’s been trying to decide between fighting and fleeing.

“I suggest you cooperate,” Ark added. It will make things easier.”

“Can’t you just knock me out, too?” the human demanded sarcastically.

Kioko thought of the chloroform, still in the backseat. “If you wish.” She waited a heartbeat, but when Ark didn’t move she swooped in. The human tried to twist away, but her mortal strength was no match for Kioko’s immortal abilities. She swept the woman up over her shoulder and headed outside, away from the cloud of NR2.

She headed around the house and down the driveway while the human kicked and writhed. Kioko only clamped down harder and glanced back to Ark who shadowed her, carrying Jorick’s limp body.

This was easier. Why don’t we use the NR2 more often?

She stopped next to Ark’s car and waited as he stuffed Jorick in the backseat, coming back out again with the chloroform rag.

“We should render her immobile,” Kioko suggested. “It will make the trip easier.”

Ark prepped the rag as he spoke. “You may be right. He’s at least found someone as difficult as he is.”

He stepped forward and clamped the rag over the struggling woman’s face. She choked and fought, but Kioko held her fast.

When it seemed to be stretching out too long, Kioko asked, “How long does this take?”

“Usually not this long. She’s obviously had plenty of vampire blood.”

“That seems logical, since they’re obviously lovers.”

“Odd, isn’t it?” Ark asked as the woman finally fell still. He held the rag a moment longer, to be sure, then hefted her dead weight from Kioko’s shoulder and stuffed her in the backseat with her vampire master. “I’ll call The Guild and see where we should go from here. I’m loath to try to drive two days back with both of them.”

Kioko couldn’t agree more. Unless they planned a steady diet of PREP pills, they wouldn’t be able to use the NR2 to keep him subdued, and when he woke up…she didn’t want to be in a vehicle with him when it happened.

Ark’s conversation lasted only a moment. When it was over, he stashed his phone and turned to her.  “There’s an airport not far from here. The Guild will rent us a plane to take him back to Iowa. After the prisoners are delivered, we’ll fly back here to pick up the car, then go on to Manchester.”

It seemed it would be smarter to just fly to Manchester and let guards come fetch the car, but she imagined he wouldn’t like that. It was his car, and leaving it in someone else’s care…No. He’d never agree to that.

Though if it was me, I doubt he’d give me a choice.

***

With an extended trip looming, Ark administered the hypodermic to the sleeping human.

“What is it?” Kioko asked as she watched him push the liquid into her arm.

“I have no idea. It usually knocks them out for several hours. Normally I’d say she’d be back to the citadel before she wakes, but as resistant as she is, she may wake sooner. Hopefully not on the flight. The last thing we need is a hysterical human.”

The airfield wasn’t very far. They met the pilot on the tarmac, a wiry man who didn’t seem interested in asking questions, though there were plenty he could have asked. Like, “Why do you have two unconscious people?”

Kioko could only assume The Guild was paying him enough money to quench his curiosity.

The plane itself was small and cramped. It rattled when they lifted off, and made horrible creaking noises once they were airborne. Though not normally afraid of flying, Kioko spent the trip tense, waiting for the plane to rattle itself apart midair.

Hopefully that human does stay asleep. If she wakes up in this…

Luckily when they touched down, the airplane was in one piece, and the human still unconscious. Kioko slipped out the hatch quickly, grateful for the tarmac under her feet. A chill winter wind blew, though it’s bite didn’t bother them. Mist bloated the airports lights into glowing blobs, and gave the place an air of loneliness peculiar to the wintertime.

“Kioko!”

Her attention snapped back to the plane, where Ark hung half out, holding the human. “Are you planning to take her, or would you rather carry Jorick.”

She silently cursed her inattentiveness as she scrambled to take the woman from him. “I’m sorry, sir.”

Ark rolled his eyes and disappeared back inside, reappearing with Jorick. “I called, but they said someone is already on the way.”

They’d taken a few steps away from the plane when Kioko felt the woman stir. Or did she? A second movement confirmed it.

“She’s waking up.”

Ark fumbled for the chloroform in his pocket, but a nearby car motor gave him pause. They both waited as an SUV came into view; one of the Guild’s fleet of “work” vehicles.

It stopped nearby, and Jamie and Greneth climbed out.

“You got him?” Jamie asked.

“That was the assignment,” Ark replied.

“But no one thought you’d actually pull it off.” Greneth’s mouth twisted into his usual smug smirk, an expression Kioko had wanted to wipe off his face many times over the years. But, she was always just a lowly guard while he was her superior. Now…

“If they wanted failure, they’d have sent you,” she quipped.

Greneth’s amusement melted into a scowl. “I could have gotten him just as easily as you did, especially if I had the NR2! How hard is that? You pull the pin and wait. A monkey could do it.”

“Then they should have sent you,” Ark said. “Come on. We have to take these two back to the Guild and then Kioko and I still have to fly back to Maine.”

Jamie surveyed the plane. “Good luck.”

They loaded Jorick and Ark into the back of the SUV, while Kioko took the middle with her prisoner. The human was awake, though like a drunkard, she didn’t resist. It wasn’t until they were moving that she seemed to really understand what was going on.

Jamie turned around in the front seat, and after shooting Kioko a look that said, “I’ll handle it,” he met the mortal’s eyes. A moment later, the woman’s body relaxed back into the seat and her eyes slipped half closed, on the edge of sleep.

“It would be easier if you just knocked her out,” Greneth suggested. “Or killed her.”

“We have strict orders to keep her alive,” Ark replied. “And unharmed.”

Greneth’s eyes were visible in the rearview for a moment, looking back at them. “I wonder what Malick has planned for them.”

“A trial,” Jamie said.

Kioko looked at the still and silent woman, checking to see that her chest was still rising and falling with her breaths. “Would it not be easier for Malick to simply read their minds and-”

“Of course it would,” Jamie said before she could finish. “But where’s the spectacle in that? Truthfully, Ark or I could read the human easily enough, and have all the answers we need.”

Not being a mind reader, she hadn’t thought of that.

“I already have,” Ark said hesitantly, his attention focused on the back of Greneth’s head, as if unsure whether to speak in front of him. “We both know they’re not the murderers, but her thoughts confirmed it.”

“And Dismas and Zuri?”

“Zuri is alive, or was. He’s being held prisoner. She saw him there. As for Dismas…she doesn’t know what happened. I haven’t had a chance to try Jorick’s mind yet.”

“You won’t get far,” Jamie said. “He’ll block you from seeing anything he doesn’t want you to.”

“Probably,” Ark agreed.

They fell silent, leaving Kioko to watch the countryside slip past. What kind of spectacle did Malick want to create? And why?

The vice that whispered through her mins sounded like her own thoughts, but she knew it wasn’t. Those answers are above your paygrade.

She glanced sharply to Jamie, but he pretended not to notice.  She wanted to be angry, but he was right. She’d been an Executioner for two weeks. Better to keep her head down and leave such things to those who’d been there forever.

***

AT the citadel’s complex, Jamie parked in front of the small building marked office. Kioko climbed out and hefted the human over her shoulder. Jamie’s influence would fade soon, and then she was likely to be argumentative.

Greneth’s right. Killing her would have been easier.

Ark came around the vehicle, carrying Jorick. “Jamie said to take them to the detention center. They’re to be seen to tomorrow.”

Great. The detention center. Her favorite place.

The SUV pulled away as Kioko carried her burden into the office. Behind the counter sat a wrinkled farmer wearing a seed company hat. He nodded, and pressed the button to let them into the back room where, past shelves of seeds and binders, a space-age silver door led down to the citadel.

Kioko and Ark headed through it and down the stairs. Through the reception room, and into the corridor. As they waited for the elevator, Kioko tensed, ready for the woman to fight, to try to flee. Instead she hung compliantly over her shoulder, her breathing tight with terror.

Maybe she’s too scared to resist?

They took the elevator down, past the lowest level, to the subbasement; the home of the High Council, the secret laboratory, and the detention center.

I hope Paul isn’t working there anymore.

As if fate was determined to give her the most miserable week it could, Paul was not only still there, but one of two guards that greeted them. He gave her a cold once over and sneered, “We have a detention cell ready for them, if you’d follow me?”

As if she needed to follow him! She knew where the cells were!

Instead of saying that, she replied coldly, “It’s nice to see you doing your job for a change.”

Paul and his partner gave her dirty looks, but led them down the shiny black cell block. Silver padlocked doors set at intervals, some with prisoners behind them. Thanks to her stint as a detention guard, she knew what condition they were in; starved, withered, hungry, desperate. And the longer they’d been there, the worse they were.  Kioko was glad at moments like this that she wasn’t a mind read after all.

Paul motioned to an open door. Ark dropped Jorick off first, and Kioko followed with the human. She stepped back quickly, barley getting out of the way before Paul slammed the door.

“Wouldn’t want her to escape,” he said, though Kioko knew better.

She gave the guard a withering look and marched past him, back to the central detention room and on to the corridor. She was already in the elevator when Ark joined her, looking curious. “What was that?”

“What was what?” She almost added sir, but didn’t bother.

“The guards. True, they’re usually hostile to Executioners, jealous I suppose, but that was more than that.”

“I was assigned to the detention center at one time.”

When she didn’t finish, Ark pressed. “And?”

“And I wasn’t a good fit.” She felt Ark’s eyes on her, and knew that in a moment he’d probe her mind, push through her memories, seeking what had happened to cause such a problem.

“Paul was… romantically interested in me. I was not interested in him. When he found out, he made the workplace intolerable.”

“Not your type?” Ark asked, his tone disinterested.

“No,” she murmured uncomfortably.

“If you’re picky you’d do well to avoid Verchiel as well. He likes to-” Ark broke off and looked at her, interest in his eyes. “Ah, I see. Never mind.”

Kioko closed her eyes, trying to fight her own humiliation. She told herself for the millionth time that it was nothing to be ashamed of, that it was okay.

Ark cleared his throat loudly. “There’s nothing wrong with…It’s more acceptable among vampires than humans most of the time. Though I believe it’s in vogue again among them.”

In vogue. Like it was a fashion statement. But it wasn’t. It had nothing to do with what was accepted, or what was popular it was just…

“It’s just who you’re attracted to,” Ark finished the thought for her. “It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with your job. The only one petty enough to want revenge for rejection would be Greneth, and he’s infatuated with Griselda and Senya, who may or may not be having an affair of their own. If you’re worried, I can promise not to tell anyone, though most can pluck it from your thoughts as easily as I did, if they cared to bother.”

Kioko didn’t answer. What was there to say?

The elevator doors opened. She stepped forward, but Ark caught her arm and pulled her back.

He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You’re doing well, by the way. I especially like the way you handled Greneth earlier.”

She tried to hide her surprise. “Thank you, sir.”

He let her go to stride out into the hallway. “And quit calling me sir. You’re one of us now. You need to remember that.”

Right. One of them.

****

Now for guesses:

topic: Christopher

photo: Colleen

  1. hand of God 2. reach for the stars 3. reach for the sky. 4. he’s got the whole world in his hand 5. full moon 6. moonglow 7. reaching for a dream 8. outer space 9. for the taking 10. looks like a Dr. Who episode.

Finally it’s here.

Three Hoodies Save the World

Along with a suitably tawdry cover Sods Law is finally finished and on Amazon.

It took umpteen edits but finally I believe it to be error free. Amazon picked up fifty speeling mistakes but thankfully they were just our version of English versus that spoken on the other side of the Atlantic. I did consider using American English as I did in my Old Geezers series. But they were set in America and the characters were American. Sods law is set in England so I decided to leave it be.

It concerns Arnold Pratt’s painful reinsertion to life. After twenty years of sitting and watching television, suddenly being pursued by three police forces, and the Security Service for crimes he didn’t commit, the bodies begin to mount up. Pretty soon he’s going to have to make a decision. That’s if Petunia doesn’t do for him first.

Here’s a couple of excerpts to whet, and hopefully…

View original post 295 more words

Blogohilia 3.11 – Krill vs 2

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 3.11 Topic – Our Lips Are Sealed
BONUSES:**
Hard (2 pts) Include a quote from Walt Whitman (Nothing can happen more beautiful than death)
Easy (1 pt) Incorporate a Dragon (Come not between the dragon and his wrath)

.

I started Krill a couple week’s ago, but decided to move things around a little, so here is the full story in one blog. Yeah, it makes it kinda long, so I’ll be surprised if anyone reads it all, but it is what it is.

***

Krill waited as the last of the clock’s chimes died away, then pushed away from the wall. His shift as a guard was over for the evening, just in time to grab a quick bath and get to bed.

He nodded to his replacement, one of a skeleton crew who would defend the important places of the Citadel during the daylight hours. He felt sorry for them. A vampire’s instincts were to be hidden – and sleeping – once the sun took the sky. To stay awake and active during the day, even safe underground – took a lot of willpower, not to mention extra blood.

I do not envy the bill for their meals.

He made his way through the Citadel, to his own floor. Half finished, this would one day be the second story from the bottom, but for now it was the bottom most and housed living quarters for the guards, the Executioners, and even the high council members. Krill could feel their presence, the heaviness of their years and power, and happily turned the other direction. He wound down corridors, some not yet wallpapered, to his own door.  Inside was a single room with a box, a desk, and a wardrobe.  He bypassed those to grab his pajamas from the chair, then hurried back to the corridor to the shared bathroom. The indoor plumbing was relatively new. Collection tanks sat above ground, disguised as part of the grain elevators’ many outbuildings. Water ran down the pipes, pulled by gravity. It was a fascinating system, but it meant there was only so much water to be had.

The shared bathroom was six doors down and had a sink, tub, and stool inside. He quickly locked the door and turned the water on, watching as it flowed out. Though the tub was large, there was a painted line only a few inches from the bottom that marked the maximum water level they were allowed. Though there was no one to enforce it, there was always the threat that guards might be posted if the rules were disobeyed and, being surrounded by mind readers, someone would know if you did.

He slipped off his wool uniform, carefully folding it, before he climbed in. The water was chill, though thanks to his vampire body not horrifically so. For a moment he was taken back to his human years, and the cold bath he often had to take. Shivering in the early morning, in and out as quickly as he could do it. Hot water would have been great, but how did one heat a flowing creek?

A freckled face flashed before his eyes. He pushed it away just as quickly, before his last view of her could surface.

So much blood.

He turned his mind to the practical. He soaped up, scrubbed, and then reluctantly drained the few inches of water. His well-worn pajamas were like a comfortable hug, and he left the shared bathroom feeling better.

In the corridor, he passed Hugh. His fellow guard nodded, and snickered. “You and your pajamas.”

“Why not? It’s more comfortable than sleeping fully clothed.”

Hugh stopped to shake his head. “But if you sleep in your uniform you’re ready for action. You can just jump up and go.”

“Sure, but I’m second shift, so I don’t need to jump and go. I have half a night to get dressed before I have to report.”

Hugh chuckled as usual and they split up. That was when he noticed his bedroom door was ajar.

“Were you in there?” he called to his retreating friend.

“In where?” Hugh stopped again to look back on him.

Krill motioned to his room and Hugh chuckled again. “Hardly. You must have left it open yourself.”

With a wave, Hugh turned the corner and disappeared for his own room. Krill pushed aside the open the door and surveyed the room suspiciously. Everything looked to be in order. No trespassers were visible. Unless… he lunged at his sleeping box, but there was no one inside. Only a folded piece of paper.

He opened it to find beautiful, slanting writing that said only:

Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death, and death will have his day. Be wary.

Krill blinked at the missive. He recognized the first line. Wasn’t it from a Shakespeare play? The one about the Ides of March and the Roman? No. Not that one, but it was from one of the plays. He was sure of that much. What he wasn’t sure of, was why someone had written it to him. Was it a threat? From who? And most importantly, why?

Hugh? Not unless he’d had someone else write it. His penmanship was a disaster.

Still, it was likely, so Krill tossed the note aside and climbed into his box. He’d corner the other vampire tomorrow and find out what he was up to.

***

Krill had breakfast the following morning – a draught of blood from what was basically a restaurant – then went in search of Hugh. He found him guarding the entrance to the dungeon, looking as excited to be there as the prisoners.

“Good evening,” Krill surveyed him, looking for a crack his veneer; something to give him away.

“If you can call it good. You won’t believe this, but Clethius resigned! They’ve given me his post ‘for the foreseeable future’. Can you imagine? Why would he quit?”

“Perhaps he plans to leave? Go back to his coven, or make a new one. Who knows.”

Hugh continued to grumble and Krill surrendered. Obviously he wasn’t going to incriminate himself.

“What I’d like to know more than Clethius’ plans for the future, is why you left this.” He produced the note with a flourish and waved it under Hugh’s nose.

The vampire flinched back and grabbed at the waving paper. “What is it? I didn’t leave anything.”

“Of course you’d cry your innocence.” Krill smirked and snapped it open. “Shakespeare? Really? Who did you get to write it for you?”

Hugh snatched it away, He stumbled over the words, his lips moving as he sounded them out. When he’d finished, he frowned and peered closer at the writing. “Where did you get this?”

“You left it in my room, in my box.”

“I’m sorry, but I know nothing of it.” Hugh handed it back. “It sounds like a threat.”

“Of course it does, because you thought it would be humorous.”

Hugh made a show of crossing his heart. “I swear, give you my word, whatever you want me to do, that I had nothing to do with this. I’ve never seen it before, and I have no idea who wrote it.”

Krill’s joviality stretched until it was nearly broken. “Of course you’d say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

Though not a mind reader, Krill could see the honesty in his eyes, and what little bit of amusement he had snapped, leaving him shaken. “That means that this…this…is real.”

“Aye, would seem so.”

“But…but who?”

Hugh shrugged. “I don’t know. If I were you I’d go to the commons and ask around there. Maybe someone saw something.”

It was better than any idea he had, so he left his friend to his duty. The commons area was a large empty area ringed in shops, like a city square. Vampires lounged on benches, exchanging the latest news and gossip.

Krill looked over the area, seeking a friendly face. Instead he found the dark visage of Kateesha as she swept from one of the shops, a parcel pressed to her ample breasts. Though not a cupid, the hypnotic sway of her hips drew the eyes of many men as she made her way through the room. Not all of them looked at her with admiration. Many looked at her with terror.

Krill was one of those.

Kateesha was older than he was, by a hundred years or more. One of Malick’s fledglings, she’d long ago been handed the Executioner title and rendered untouchable. Twenty-five years ago she’d left The Guild, with a death sentence hanging over her head. After hiding out for two years, avoiding Executioners, she’d returned. Krill had been guarding the audience chamber that day, when she threw open the double doors and sauntered down the red carpet, towards the High Council’s thrones. Celandine, one of the council, stood, her pale face taut with fury. She raised a hand and opened her mouth, no doubt to order Kateesha’s arrest and murder. Before the words could find her lips, Malick also stood, his arms outstretched.

“So you return, my daughter! And what contrite words do you bring with you?”

Kateesha dropped at his feet, her head bowed. “I beg your forgiveness father. I disobeyed your orders with my overindulgence and have seen the error of my ways.” She turned long lashed eyes up to him. “The last two years have been lonely and dark, cast from your presence. The world has been inside out, and I wish to make it right, to return to you; to serve you as I used to.”

Celandine shook with rage, but Malick only chuckled. “You have been practicing that speech, haven’t you, my child? Yes, I can see that you have. As for your contrition, I sense that, too, though not for the reason you name. Perhaps if I told you that your brother Jorick is no longer one of us, your penance would dissolve?”

Kateesha didn’t flinch. “I have heard he’s gone into hiding after the death of his wife.”

“So he has,” Malick agreed. “Do you still wish to rejoin us?”

Celandine cut in, her hands balled into fists. “I cannot condone this! Kateesha was given a sentence of death for repeatedly disobeying orders! That she is alive is a tragedy and to allow her to return to her position would be a catastrophe!”

“And should we hand out death, even to the contrite? She has seen the error of her ways, dear Celandine.  If we are not willing to forgive, how can we expect to last the weary ages of immortality? Will not the burden of our bitterness overwhelm and destroy us? No, forgiveness is necessary for all, and even more so for us.  As the head of the council, I extend that forgiveness to this child who has lost her way. Perhaps without the distraction of her brother, she will better be able to contain herself this time.”

After that she was given a full pardon. Malick even took the position of head Executioner away from Ark and awarded it to her. Though Krill wasn’t in the upper circles, he could just imagine how Ark felt about that – and had continued to feel about it the last twenty-three years.

But it wasn’t his problem. He had more pressing matters – like who had left that threatening note in his room.

With Kateesha gone, he scanned the room again and found a pair of sisters he recognized. All blessed with dark chestnut hair and deep eyes, there were four of them total, though where the other two were was anyone’s guess.

He slipped through the crowd to stop next to their bench. He nodded and swept aside his cap. “Good evening ladies. How are you this evening?”

“Good, and you?” Abigale, the eldest and prettiest of the women, replied.

“I’m seeking information, actually.” He explained about the letter and the mysterious message.

When he’d finished, Elizabeth, a little younger and not quite as good looking, frowned. “You don’t think we did this?”

“No, no,” he said quickly. “But perhaps you heard something, or will hear something?” He gave them his best hopeful look.

“If we hear anything,” Abigale said dismissively, though I doubt we will.”

“Can we see the missive?” Elizabeth asked, despite her sister’s attitude.

Krill handed it over, not the he expected much. The young woman unfolded it. Her eyes went wide and her lips parted, but she quickly mashed them together and shoved it at her sister. Abigale’s reaction was similar, though she refolded the note and handed it back. “I wish you good luck. Come, Lizzie, we have things to do.”

They swept to their feet, and Krill moved to block their escape. “Did you recognize the hand? You did, didn’t you?”

Abigail tried to didge around him, but he shifted t plant himself firmly in her path. “You did, didn’t you?”

“Perhaps,” Elizabeth said.

Abigail sent her a withering look. “I’m sorry, but we have nothing more to say. It will do you no good to follow us. Our lips are sealed. Good day.”

He watched the ladies hurry away, clutching the paper in his fist. He’d never wished to be a mind reader more than at that moment.

“Problem?”

Krill looked over to see Migina studying him through narrowed eyes. A fellow guard, she wore her dark hair in a long braid, her hands on her hips.

“No. Well…Yes.” He joined her, holding the paper out. “Someone left me this.”

Migina took the paper warily, but her suspicion faded as she looked it over. “That sounds like a threat. What do they have to do with it?”

“Nothing. Or I didn’t think they did. I was just asking if they’d heard anything suspicious, or seen anything, but then they recognized the writing and…Oh, never mind.” He took the letter back and jammed it in his pocket. “Unless you know something.”

“About your note? No. As to other things…” she trailed off. “You’ve heard the rumors?”

“What rumors?”

Migina looked ready to reply, then shook her head. “They can’t mean anything. Not with Malick in charge. He’d see the truth in it and stop it.”

Maybe I should ask him to look into my letter, Krill thought with a smirk. At least he’d get to the bottom of it, assuming he didn’t scare me to death first.

***

Hugh listened to the story and rolled his eyes. “You should have used your cupid abilities on them.”

Krill leaned back against the wall and sighed. “If they were strangers, perhaps, but they’re not. It would complicate things later.”

“Why? The attraction wears off once they’re out of range.”

“Yes, but they’d remember it, and see the trick. How would they trust me afterwards, knowing I manipulated them?”

“Of course, better to be murdered in your box then upset some ladies.” Hugh rolled his eyes.

Krill couldn’t explain it, but…”I think, perhaps, they went to deal with it, to speak to the author of the letter and dissuade them from their dark plans.”

“Hopefully for you they can.” Hugh shook his head. “Do you want me to bunk with you for awhile? If I sleep on the floor they’ll have to trip over me first to get to you.”

“Or kill you first,” Krill said, his positivity slipping away for a moment. He pulled it back. “No, no, I have faith that they’re doing something about it.”

I just hope they succeed.

***

When Krill’s shift was over, he headed back to his room. The door was firmly closed, but not locked. He patted his pockets, checking for the key. He’d locked it, hadn’t he? He couldn’t remember; he’d been distracted with his plans to confront Hugh. Maybe he’d forgotten?

He pushed the door open and stuck his head inside. Like last night, everything was just where he’d left it. He eased inside, drawing his weapon, and crept towards the box. Carefully, he knocked the lid aside, but there was no one hiding inside. Only a folded piece of paper.

Another note.

He snatched the letter up and scanned the contents. In the same, slanting handwriting it said:

Come not between the dragon and his wrath, lest you be trampled. Be wary and stay clear.

His throat tightened as he reread the words. Trampled. Be wary. Stay clear. But stay clear of what? Who was the dragon? The only thing that made any sense was the consequences: he could figure out what getting trampled by a beast entailed.

So much for Abigail’s help.

***

Krill woke the next evening. He dressed, and shoved the wardrobe away from the door and back to its normal home against the wall. Whether because of the furniture, or something else, no invisible assassins had struck during the day.

At least not yet.

He hurried to the restaurant where he found Hugh, enjoying his day off.

“You were right,” he muttered as he shoved the newest note at him. “Abigail didn’t stop them.”

Hugh read it over, then handed it back. “Since you’ve admitted it, I won’t indulge in smugness. I will ask what you plan to do.”

“The sister knew the handwriting, I’m sure of that. Though Abigail and Elizabeth weren’t helpful, one of the other two might be. I thought we’d visit them.”

“We?” Hugh raised an eyebrow. “How did I become an accessory to your struggle?”

“You were conscripted. Come on.”

Though Hugh grumbled, he followed. Their first stop was the higher floors, where they visited the guest office. The vampiress behind the counter was reluctant to let them see the ledger of names and room assignments. Hugh nudged him and, reluctantly, Krill focused his cupid powers. Though it was an ability akin to a whisperer – being able to manipulate their perceptions by implanting thoughts or feelings – it was different. A whisperer could impart anything. One would be able to just say “You want us to look at the ledger,” and if her mind was weak enough, or the whisperer strong enough, she’d hand it right over. Cupids, however, could only make them think, or feel, one thing.

“You’re sure?” he asked, offering a smooth smile. He noticed as her cheeks tinted, as her eyes – suddenly brighter than they’d been – shied away. “It would only take a moment.”

The last words fell like a whisper, and he felt them reverberate inside her mind, shifting like silk to impart different meanings; darker, warmer meanings. She drew a tight breath and held it, as if fighting for control, so he sent another thought, one that involved hot lips against cool skin.

“I-I suppose there’s no…no harm. Here.” She shoved the book at them and stepped back, fanning herself, eyes everywhere but them.

Krill flipped pages, scanning until he found their names: Mistresses Abigail, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Molly. Guest lodgings #122.

He thanked the receptionist then hurried away before she could call him back, try to set up a meeting later in the evening. He’d made the mistake before, and it never worked. By the time they met up again, the attraction had faded, leaving the woman confused, angry, and cold. It wasn’t hard for most to figure out he’d somehow inspired those emptions to get what he wanted, that he’d used them.

It isn’t as if I use it to actually take advantage of them.

He and Hugh stopped before door 122. After exchanging uncertain looks, Krill knocked. He listened to the soft sound of movement inside, waiting as footsteps approached the door.

“Krill?” Hannah peered around the edge of the door without opening it all the way. “Can I help you?”

“I hope so.” He held the note out. “I spoke with Abigail and Elizabeth yesterday. I believe they recognized the handwriting.”

“I wouldn’t know if they did,” Hannah said evasively. “They’re not here just at the moment. I can tell them you inquired after them.”

Hugh jostled to the front. “Actually we were hoping you’d take a look at it and see if you recognize it.”

Hannah bit her slightly-too-large bottom lip. “I-I suppose.”

She opened the door wider, took the paper, and glanced at it. Krill saw her wince, and then she shoved the paper back. “Sorry. No.”

He didn’t need to be a dream stealer to know she was lying.

“I apologize for not being able to help you.”

She tried to slam the door, but Krill caught it and wedged himself partially inside. “Perhaps Molly could take a look?”

“Molly isn’t available,” Hannah pushed harder, her voice strained with her effort.

“She’s not here?” Krill asked, pushing back.

“No, she’s-”

Before Hannah could finish, Krill had shoved far enough past the door that he could see over her shoulder, where Molly stood. The youngest and least attractive of the four, Molly had the same dark hair and eyes, but her face was rounder, her ears a little bigger, her nose a little shorter, and her face scattered in freckles.

Like Katherine’s.

Krill didn’t have time to dwell on the past, not with a potential killer lurking. He waved the letter over Hannah’s head and called, “Hullo, Molly! How are you? I’d hoped you could help me.”

With a sigh, Hannah relented, backing away so he could come inside. He offered her a polite nod as he moved past, holding the note out and explaining it to the youngest sister.

Molly, cheeks pink and eyes down, didn’t move to take the paper, only murmured, “I’m sure I couldn’t say.”

“Perhaps if you took a look?” Hugh suggested from the doorway.

“Yes, I…I suppose I could.” She reached for the paper, fingertips brushing Krill’s. The tint of her cheeks deepened, and her gaze danced urgently to her shoes, as though she expected to see her feet engulfed in flame.

“It’s not a long note,” Krill said encouragingly. “It’s rather short and ambiguous.”

Molly cleared her throat as she opened the paper and glanced over it. “It’s Shakespeare. I mean, I think it is. Part of it is, at least.”

“The first one was as well.” Krill chewed his lip thoughtfully. “I suppose that means whoever left it must be a fan.”

“Yes…I…I would guess that.” She quickly folded the paper and handed it back. “Perhaps you should head their warning.”

Krill looked back to her, catching her gaze before she could turn away. “Did you recognize the penmanship?”

“No. No. I…I’m sorry.”

She turned bodily away, leaving Krill to retreat for the door. He stopped just shy of reaching it. “Abigail and Elizabeth said they knew who sent it, but they refused to say who.” Neither Hannah or Molly replied, so he added, “Perhaps I should try inquiring with them again?”

“I wouldn’t,” Hannah said quickly. “Besides, as you can plainly see, they are not at home.”

“When will they be back?”

The sisters exchanged quick looks and Molly murmured, “The meeting shouldn’t last more than an hour.”

“Meeting?” Hugh asked.

Hannah gripped the door harder. “I’m sorry, but it’s none of your business. You’ve asked Molly, now if you would please take your leave.”

Hugh opened his mouth,  probably to object, but Krill motioned him to silence. “Of course. I appreciate that you are busy ladies. Until next we meet.” He bobbed his head, and then dragged his friend deeper into the corridor.

“What are you doing?” Hugh demanded. “They obviously know-”

Krill shushed him, then crept back to the closed door. He could hear Hannah whisper-yelling inside, “-mention that? Do you want to alert everyone?”

“I’m sorry, but-”

“No buts! I will tell Abigail about this when she returns.”

Molly made a soft sound, but no more conversation came. Krill waited, hopefully, until a door farther down the hall opened. Reluctantly, he abandoned his post to nod at the newcomer, then headed down the corridor, Hugh on his heels.

“That was a waste of time,” Hugh said finally.

“Yes and no. It’s someone the sisters are acquainted with; someone Abigail wants to protect. Perhaps even the very person she and Elizabeth are meeting with this very moment.”

“We could search the citadel for them?”

Krill stuffed the note in his pocket. “It’s as good a plan as any.”

***

They roamed corridors, sniffing and reaching out with their senses for the sisters. After two hours with no success, they retreated to the restaurant to have a drink and examine their plan.

“We’ve probably missed them.” Krill took a defeated drink from his glass. “I imagine they’re barricaded in their room by now. We won’t get inside again.”

“True enough. Maybe we can solve it without them. I’ll be back.”

He disappeared towards the counter, leaving Krill to toy with his glass morosely. It was bad enough that Abigail wouldn’t tell him, but Molly…He’d always liked Molly the best of the four. Hugh had joked about his taste, but it had nothing to do with her appearance. Or maybe it did. Maybe it was because she reminded him of Katherine.

That would explain the lack or romantic feeling that went with it, how could he feel that way about someone that reminded him of his sister?

He propped his chin on his hand and let his mind wander back; back to that tiny house, to the flickering hurricane lamp, the blood splattered on the wall, the broken door. His memory spun in circles, taking it all in; noting the broken rifle on the floor, the shattered dishes, the trampled bible. His father lay slumped before the fireplace, throat torn, and eyes the glassy color of death. Outside in the yard was his mother. But where was-

“Kathy!” he bellowed as he spun in circles. “Kathy!”

The blood was still wet, and his parents still warm. He’d missed the attack by minutes, which meant they couldn’t have gone far.

“I’m coming, Kathy!”

And he’d gone. He’d followed a trail of bent vegetation and bloody footprints, until he came across the monsters. Two beasts disguised as men, clothes torn and dirty, hair and eyes wild. Katherine lay broken and bleeding in the grass. Her dress hung in tatters from her twelve year-old frame and her pale skin was rent in long bloody gouges that wept crimson in the moonlight.

He’d gone crazy then. The memories were a red-tinted blur with a backdrop of screams. When it was over the monsters were dead and he on his way to meet his maker. He’d crawled to his dead sister, cradling her still body against him as he’d vented his grief and guilt.

That was when Wapi and Sula came. Vampires who were hunting rogues, they’d been on the trail of the monsters. They helped him to clean up, to bury his sister, and Sula even tended his wound. Near morning, they’d had a whispered discussion; if they left him human he’d eventually be killed by Executioners because unowned humans were not allowed to know. But if they made him as they were…

And that was what Sula had done, passing on her abilities both as a cupid and a paralyzer. Some days, Krill wished Wapi had done the deed instead, then he’d be a whisperer and a dream stealer, like he was.

And then I’d know who was threatening me.

As the memories of the past drifted away, a voice at a nearby table caught his attention. “-all she said was, ‘Nothing can happen more beautiful than death,” as if that was some sort of reassurance.”

Krill perked up and tried to glance at the speakers without their notice. It was a fellow guard, Noris. Across from him was a ginger haired vampire who hadn’t been there very long, and whose name Krill couldn’t think of.

“I’m out,” the unnamed vampire said. “It’s too risky.”

“You can’t make great strides without risk,” Noris pointed out.

Before the other could reply, Hugh was back, looking unhappy. “I asked if Abigail had been seen meeting with anyone recently, this or the commons would be the only place she could meet a man properly, and she seems the type for propriety.”

“And?” Krill asked.

“And, no. She’s only been seen in the company of her sisters, but he’s willing to ask around.”

“Assuming they don’t kill me in the meantime.” Krill finished his glass and then paused, considering. “How do you know it’s a man?”

Hugh shrugged. “Only love could keep her lips so tightly closed.”

***

Krill finished his shift and put off returning to his room until he could feel the sun rising outside. Too tired to keep pushing himself, he abandoned the empty commons area and slinked slowly into his room. As before, everything seemed fine, until he opened his box. There, folded neatly on his pillow, was another note.

O war! thou son of Hell! For war is coming, when least expected. Both war and death. Do not fall prey, but stay clear of such things, of the cries and strange noises in the night. This is no threat, but a warning, a wish to spare you pain. Would that I could say more.

Krill stared at the slanted writing, the precisely dotted i’s and crossed t’s. No threat, but a warning. A warning about what?

With a shake of his head, he pulled on his pajamas. Despite the letter’s assurances, he propped the wardrobe before the door before climbing into his box and pulling the lid closed.

Better safe than sorry.

***

In Krill’s dreams he saw his sister, sitting in the grass, working on her cross-stitch, her brows furrowed in concentration. At the sound of the horse she looked up, smiling. “I’m almost done! When you return tonight, it will be finished.”

The sunlight faded and he saw the ruined house, the scattered objects, the cross-stich, still its hoop, half covered in a bloody footprint.

The tapping sound was soft, but grew in volume, until he jerked awake. It took him a second to realize that the sound wasn’t part of the dream, rather from the waking world. Someone knocking on the door.

He could feel the sun outside. His instincts said there was more than an hour until it would sink. Who in the world could be knocking at his door that early?

The knocking came again; faster, more insistent. Curiosity warred with prudence, but the former won, and he quickly hefted the wardrobe aside and unlocked the door. Holding it with his body, he eased it open a crack and peered out. “Yes?”

Molly’s familiar scent came to him a moment before she pressed her face to the opening. “Please, Krill. Let me in and be quick! There is no time.”

He moved back, his brain scrambling to make sense of it. Why would she…was she there to reveal who was leaving the notes, against her sister’s wishes? Was that why she needed to come at such an ungodly hour?

“Yes and no,” she said as she shut the door behind her. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to read your mind, but there’s little time. It will start in a moment and we’re leaving with them.”

Krill blinked. “Leaving with who?”

Molly bit her lip and whispered, “Kateesha. And the others. Abigail and Elizabeth…it doesn’t matter now. Know that I don’t want you caught up in this.” She surged forward and caught his hands in hers. “I tried to warn you, but my notes were too subtle. Yet how could I explain myself? If you were to understand you’d have to turn it in, turn us in. And could I blame you? You are honorable that way, Krill. Honorable and good, and that’s why I know you’d never join us, even if I begged.”

“Join what?” Krill struggled to understand what was going on. His mind was thick with lack of sleep and the sun outside. “Molly?”

“I’m sorry.” She squeezed his hands and then leaned close to press a kiss to his cheek. “Perhaps later, we will meet again.” She let go and darted for the door, stopping at the threshold to look back, her dark eyes pleading. “Until then, stay clear of the coming storm. Stay safe.”

And then she was gone.

Krill ran a hand through his hair and shook away shreds of confusion. She said she’d written the notes? No wonder the sisters had recognized the hand. But a warning about what? A coming storm? Did the weather really affect them this deep underground?”

The screaming clang of the alarm bell killed his thoughts. He stared at the door, as if it would tell him what was going on outside, but it remained silent.

The bell continued, joined by another and another. And then the door flew open and Hugh stuck his head inside to cry, “Grab your weapons! We’re under attack! Hurry!”

Attack.

Krill’s body acted on its own. He grabbed his sword and a set of daggers, strapping the belt hurriedly over his pajamas. He tugged his boots on, and dashed out the door, into a corridor of rushing guards, most out of uniform. Together, they swarmed for the stairs and up, climbing higher and higher, to finally spill out on the next to last floor.

Krill drew up, as he tried to make sense of the violence. Fighting had already started; weapons clanging, vampires snarling. He saw guards fighting back against the attackers, many still in pajamas as he was. But who were the invaders? Who would dare-

And then he saw Hugh, clashing against a vampire clad in gray. A fellow guard. His eyes spun away from them, on to the others, to see Noris, and others he recognized. Dismas, a guard he’d worked with before. And there, in the back, swinging long knives, her eyes gleaming with delight, was Kateesha.

There were no invaders, no foreign enemy. This wasn’t an attack, but a revolt.

With the horrifying realization, Krill jumped into the fray, knocking Noris aside. The vampire snarled and snapped, then bounded on down the corridor, seeking a new opponent.

“What in the hell is this?” Krill cried over the shriek of the alarm bells.

“Apparently the rumors were true,” Hugh shouted back. When Krill only looked clueless, he yelled, “You haven’t heard them? Nothing?”

“Obviously not!” They broke to fend off a surly vampire neither recognized. When their enemy lay dead, they fell back against the wall, wiping blood from their swords.

“There have been rumors for months that Kateesha was organizing this, that she wanted to overthrow the Guild. But it couldn’t be real. How could such a plot take place surrounded by so many mind readers? Malick is the greatest of them all, that he couldn’t know about it would be impossible. Because of that, I dismissed the whispers, just like everyone else did.”

A pair of snarling vampires broke the conversation up. Krill fought his enemy towards the stairs, attention focused on the fight. A slash, a dodge, a blow, and finally his opponent lay dead.

He turned back towards Hugh, just in time to see Kateesha sail past, her knives flashing. He froze as the blade caught Hugh across the throat with enough force to send him spinning. Time slowed as he landed on the floor, as his attacker pounced, ramming a heavy bladed weapon through his back, right where his heart was.

The cry sounded wrong, but it was too loud to come from anyone but himself. Time slapped into itself, sped up, and suddenly Kateesha was breezing past, knocking the nearest vampire out of her way with a delighted laugh as she started up the stairs.

Krill started after her, then tore away and ran for his fallen friend. He knelt among the carnage, rolling Hugh over onto his back. He didn’t need to see the hole, or the gleaming gore to know it was too late. Hugh was dead.

With a roar, Krill jerked to his feet, grabbing Hugh’s weapon with his free hand, and charged back in.

***

The alarm bells that had screamed for so long clanged to a stop, dropping the citadel into silence. Krill wiped the blood from his eyes and surveyed the damage. Dead and injured were scattered up and down the corridor.

A voice came behind him. “You’re still alive.”

Krill turned to see Migina wipe a gory blade on her pants before she jammed it into its sheath. Her dark hair was pulled back in a long braid, but a few wisps escaped, flecked in the blood of her enemies. Or maybe her allies.

Krill nodded, too weary to find words. What was there to say after such a fight as this; after a revolt.

Revolt.

The word felt wrong; impossible. That his fellows could do such a thing…

“Did you see her?” Migina asked.

The emphasis she put on the word could only mean Kateesha.

“Yes.” His voice turned brittle, cold. “Last I saw she was going upstairs, where the Executioners are stationed. I imagine one of them killed her.” If only it had been him, if only he’d slit her throat, the way she’d slit Hugh’s.

“They didn’t. She, and many of her followers, escaped.” Migina glared at nothing, as if Kateesha could feel her fury through the miles.

Her words sapped what little energy he had left. “How did they get away?” Had she killed everyone?

“I don’t know. I didn’t see it, only heard that was why the fight ended.” She motioned to a group of guards gathering further down the hall, at the foot of the stairs. “Those who were on the upper level may know more.”

Krill nodded and made his way to the group. Their conversation was agitated, angry, excited. “…Malick let them go,” one of the guards said. “I swear! I saw it.”

“But why would he?” Another asked. They fell to talking over one another, but Krill knew the answer: because it was Kateesha, and Kateesha was Malick’s favorite. Apparently so much so that butchering her own kind wasn’t enough for her to fall from favor.

He didn’t stay for the conversation, instead headed upstairs in search of an Executioner. The upper corridor was similar to the one below; scattered bodies, damaged furniture. In the entryway the chandelier had been knocked to the floor and lay in field of shattered crystals and broken candles.

One of the Executioners, a blond named Beldren, stood next to the mess, poking it with the toe of his boot.

“Excuse me, sir.” Krill saluted as Beldren looked up. “What are our orders?”

“Hell if I know.” The Executioner sent a crystal bouncing across the floor, where it landed in a puddle of congealing blood. He sighed then snapped straight. “Do you have anything to report?”

“Report?” Krill hesitated uncertainly. “I don’t…”

“During the battle,” Beldren snapped. “Did you see or hear anything unusual?”

Krill’s mouth went dry. Did he mean Molly and her warning? Was Beldren a dream stealer? Could he see?

Beldren stared at him, and he forced words out. “Excuse me, sir, but the incident itself was unusual. Kateesha and her followers attacked-”

“I’m well aware of that. What I meant was…never mind. I doubt Malick will want to pursue them, anyway. You can go.”

“Yes, sir.” Krill saluted and hurried away before Beldren could change his mind. This was surely the “coming storm” Molly had mentioned, that she’s told him to avoid. That she and her sisters were with Kateesha…That they had willingly participated in this…

But why?

On the lower floor, Krill looked for Migina, but didn’t see her. Let her find out her orders on her own. He needed a drink, to change and bathe, and try to make sense of the carnage he’d witnessed.

The restaurant was just opening for the evening. The vampire at the counter took one look at him and balked. “What’s going on? I heard the alarms.”

Krill didn’t feel like explaining it, instead he ordered an early lunch, drank it in two gulps, then headed for his room. Inside it was just as he’d left it, the wardrobe shoved to one side, last night’s note still on the desk.  He picked it up and ran over the words again, no longer so mysterious.

O war! thou son of Hell! For war is coming, when least expected. Both war and death. Do not fall prey, but stay clear of such things, of the cries and strange noises in the night. This is no threat, but a warning, a wish to spare you pain. Would that I could say more.

Now that he knew, that it had happened, he understood the warning. But without that information, without some hint, or some sign…Hugh had mentioned rumors, and if he thought back on it, Migina had said something the other day. Rumors that were impossible with mind readers all over the place. Unless the mind readers knew about the impending revolt; unless Malick had known and let it continue.

Perhaps he hadn’t thought she’d really go through with it.

Or perhaps he knew she would. That idea was the worst. That he would sacrifice them willingly…it was a chilling thought.

He dropped Molly’s note back to the desk and reached for his uniform. He had a few hours until he was supposed to be on duty, but given the circumstances…No. They’d want everyone as quickly as possible. They’d need them to help collect the dead, haul bodies, build a funeral pyre.

A funeral pyre for Hugh.

Krill glanced down at his pajamas, torn and splattered in crimson. The laundry department would never get them clean again. They had a no guarantee policy on blood, which meant you were lucky if they’d dip them in water before refolding and sending them back with a bill.

“…if you sleep in your uniform you’re ready for action. You can just jump up and go.”

Krill squeezed back the tears. “Guess you were on to something, Hugh. You were right. Ready for action. Jump and go.”

And if I ever see Kateesha, or her traitors, again, I guarantee I’ll be ready for action.

***

And now for guesses

Topic: Stormy

picture: Lisa

  1. melting 2. running out of time 3. the persistence of memory 4. or is it the persistence of time? 5. lost time 6. Soft watch 7. Time and relativity 8. droopy 9. time slipping away 10. dripping

Yeah, I’m not getting any extra points this week.

Blogophilia Anniversary Week 2

It’s time again for Blogophilia. This week has a lot of prompts:

Ecrits Blogophilia TOPIC for Week 2: “11th HOUR!!” (get it??? It’s our 11th year!!)
BONUSES: Choose from below the bonus suggestions you have NOT used already last week.
  1. Repost one of your favorite Blogophilia posts (please provide the link to the old favorite blog) 
  2. Incorporate a line from Paul Coelho’s book “Eleven Minutes” – (Life moves very fast. It rushes from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds.)
  3. Mention Mars and include a Looney Tune – (porky pig)
  4. Name something you would give as an 11th anniversary gift – (steel rose)
  5. Name something that you might do with a friend at 11 PM – (get drunk)

Yeah, it’s a long list, but I’ll do anything for points, and have been since at least 2009. Back then I did a lor of odd things for Blogophilia, including flash fiction just because I needed those points baby! Don’t believe me? Check this one out – ramblingsfromthedarkness.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/hair-of-the-dog-a-blogophilia-re-post/ – it’s a repost, of course, because the original was on MySpace.

Ah, MySpace. I stayed there until the eleventh hour, when they forced the final 3.0 update that made blogs impossible to use. It was the kind of thing that made you want to get drunk and fling steel roses at the heads of the geniuses who thought of it. Life moves very fast. It rushes from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds. But then it also rushes back again. We all (mostly) recovered, though I’ve been thinking lately of people who disappeared when MySPace folded, people I never found again. Kind of sad, huh?

You may be wondering where this week’s continuation of Krill is at. Well, it’s nowhere, thanks to alien invaders from Mars… okay, no, it is thanks to y spending two and a half days fixing my laptop’s issue (long story but suffice to say I disabled windows updates and deleted the updates folder finally, and voila, the 100% disk usage is fixed.)

Anyway, I used the other prompts last week, did my meet n greet then, and so I have all the points, baby! And, as Porky Pig would say, “Thabba-Thhe-Thubba-Thhee-That’s all folks!”

Guesses:

Pic: Jonathan

  1. bad egg 2. eggs-elent selection 3. not me 4. imminent danger 5. good egg 6. hand of fate 7. cracked 8. stay quiet 9. choices 10. eleven eggs sitting in a carton…

 

Hair of the Dog – a Blogophilia Re-post

For Blogophilia’s Eleventh anniversary they’re asking us to repost our favorite blogophilia post. I don’t know what y favorite post is, but this was a fun one.

 

December 18, 2009 – Friday 6:39 AM

Flash Fiction – Blogophilia 42.2
Current mood:  sleepy
Category: Writing and Poetry
It’s time once again for Blogophilia. I am very late, for various reasons. But, I am throwing this up at the last second. Because of that it will not be anything spectacular.

Blogophilia 42.2 Topic: “Hair of the Dog that Bit Me”

Bonus points
(hard, 2 pts): mention a former diplomat of the USA (NOT someone stationed here for another country)
(easy, 1 pt): include a speaking penguin

“…Peter Galbraith stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi oil money by cashing in on his links to the Kurdish regional leadership in Iraq…”

I flipped the channel before the newscaster could continue. My leg throbbed and, quite frankly, I just didn’t care.

Penguins suddenly filled the screen. They were familiar penguins; penguins from Madagascar, no less.

“Rico, are we missing any passengers?”

“Just two, Skipper.”

“That’s a number I can live with. Good job!”

Oh. I’d seen that before. It was cute, but not what I wanted. It was far too fantastical, after all. Talking penguins? Give me a break. Next they’d have give the tooth fairy her own show. Aggravated with life in general, I clicked the button again. And again. And again and-

“It’s almost done,” my Aunty Marie trilled from the kitchen. “Just have to add the last ingredient!”

“You mean a hair from the dog that bit me?” I asked, looking very unenthusiastic.

“Yes dear, now to let it simmer!”

I muttered something inappropriate and smashed the button repeatedly, but there was nothing worth watching. There was never anything worth watching. You’d think with the price of satellite television there would be something! But, noooooo!

It didn’t really matter because my Aunt Marie came tripping out, a steaming bowl in her hands, and a delighted look on her face. She handed me the bowl with a delighted look on her face. “Now drink up dear.”

I did as she said, and it tasted as awful as it smelled. Aunt Marie’s concoctions always tasted bad – but they worked. You had to give credit where it was due.

I handed her back the empty bowl, a grimace on my face.

“No need to look so sour, ducky,” she clucked. “Just give it a minute and your leg will be all better and that nasty, nasty dog will have what’s coming to it, hmmmm?”

She disappeared back to the kitchen and I went back to my television. As she predicted, no less than ten minutes later my leg was fine. You couldn’t even tell the bastard had bit me. It took twenty before I heard the neighbor girl shrieking that her doggy was dead.

Ha! It was handy sometimes having a witch for an Aunt.

*************

Personally I love the Penguins. They’re awesome.

Song playing at the moment – “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time” – Band Aid

Blogophilia 1.11 – Krill Part 1

It’s time again for Blogophilia. This week (and next’s) will be a little different, with more prompts than usual. First of all, we get a point for meet and greet, so:

Greetings! My name is Joleene (though really, I go by Jo most of the time. I like it better. Joleene sounds very stiff and formal. Jo sounds a bit tougher and good natured.)  What to say about me? I live in Iowa…um…I’m married…um…yeah that’s all pretty boring. This makes me think of Babylon 5 when the Vorlons ask “Who are you?” Everyone answers with the mundane things like that, but that’s not what they’re looking for. I don’t think they ever make it clear what they ARE looking for in an answer. But summing one’s self up is hard. If I have to do it in one sentence it would be: I’ll say I’m an artist who writes because I’m too lazy to draw.

Wasn’t that fun?

Ecrits Blogophilia TOPIC for Week 1: “OCEAN’S ELEVEN!!” (get it??? It’s our 11th year!!) 
BONUSES:
  1. Name something you do at 11 AM – ordered an early lunch
  2. Name something used in planning a casino heist – secret meetings
  3. Integrate a line from the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” – Been practicing that speech, haven’t you
  4. Incorporate a song title from the group Eleventyseven – inside out
  5. Use a quote from The Bard’s 11th Play – Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death, and death will have his day
  6. Incorporate the “Ides of March” in your blog

.

I had to google which play was Shakespeare’s 11th, and a list said it was Richard II, so hopefully that’s right.
Anyway, we’re ready for a new story this week. It’s Krill’s turn! This story takes place right before Dismas’. It’s right after Kateesha’s revolt in 1893. As in minutes after it.
***

Krill wiped the blood from his eyes and surveyed the damage. Dead and injured were scattered up and down the corridor. The alarm bells, that had screamed for so long, clanged to a stop, dropping the citadel into silence.

“You’re still alive.”

Krill turned to see Migina wipe a gory blade on her pants before she jammed it into its sheath. Her dark hair was pulled back in a long braid, but a few wisps escaped, flecked in the blood of her enemies. Or maybe her allies.

“I see you survived as well,” Krill replied grimly. Though he was glad to see she was all right, the bodies sapped his would-be joy. Among the dead were friends and acquaintances who’d been on both sides of the revolt.

Revolt.

The word felt wrong; impossible. That his fellows could do such a thing…

“Did you see her?” Migina asked.

The emphasis she put on the word could mean only one vampiress: Kateesha. She was the one who’d led the revolt, who had manipulated fellow guards into fighting against The Guild. Krill had heard the whispers for weeks, rumors that something was coming, that Kateesha had big plans, but he hadn’t believed them. If they were true, then Malick would know. As the oldest vampire in the citadel, the head of the High Council, and the most powerful, he would sense such a revolt and stop it before it could begin. Malick could never be taken by surprise.

Or so Krill had thought. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

He nodded his head. “I watched her kill Douglas. Hopefully someone got her.”

“They didn’t. She, and many of her followers, escaped.” Migina glared at nothing, as if Kateesha could feel her fury through the miles.

Krill wiped his bloody hands on his trousers, then regretted it immediately. The stain would be impossible to get out. The attack had come before dawn. There hadn’t been time to change into his uniform, so it was his personal clothing he’d just ruined. “How did they get away?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see it, only heard that that was why it ended.” She motioned to a group of guards gathering further down the hall, at the foot of the stairs. “Those who were on the upper level may know more.”

He nodded and made his way to the group. Their conversation was agitated, angry, excited, so many emotions mixed together. Krill was momentarily glad that his dream stealer abilities were limited in favor of other talents. He couldn’t imagine being forced to rifle through so much at once.

“…Malick let them go,” one of the guards said. “I swear! I saw it.”

“But why would he?” Another asked. They fell to taking over one another, but Krill knew the answer: because it was Kateesha, and Kateesha was Malick’s favorite. Apparently so much so that butchering her own kind wasn’t enough for her to fall from favor.

He didn’t stay for the conversation, instead headed upstairs in search of an Executioner. The upper corridor was similar to the one below; scattered bodies, damaged furniture. In the entryway the chandelier had been knocked to the floor and lay in field of shattered crystals and broken candles.

Beldren stood next to the mess, poking it with the toe of his boot. The medallion around his neck was the badge of his station; one of the vampires Krill was looking for.

“Excuse me, sir.” Krill saluted as Beldren looked up. “What are our orders?”

“Hell if I know.” The Executioner sent a crystal bouncing across the floor where it landed in a puddle of congealing blood. He sighed then snapped straight. “Do you have anything to report?”

“Report?” Krill hesitated uncertainly. “I don’t…”

“During the battle,” Beldren snapped. “Did you see or hear anything unusual?”

“Excuse me, sir, but the incident itself was unusual. Kateesha and her followers attacked-”

“I’m well aware of that. What I meant was…never mind. I doubt Malick will want to pursue them, anyway. You can go.”

“Yes, sir.” Krill saluted and hurried away before Beldren could change his mind. He wasn’t sure what the Executioner had been fishing for, maybe some hint about where Kateesha and her rebels had gone, or perhaps some clue as to their motives. If it was the latter, that was easy to guess. Everyone knew about Kateesha’s ambition, her desire to be queen of the chaos.

Krill looked for Migina on the lower floor, but didn’t see her. Let her find out her orders on her own. He needed a drink, to change and bathe, and try to make sense of the carnage he’d witnessed.

The battle had started before sundown, but now night had spread outside, and vampires were moving in the lower levels, starting their day despite the ruckus. He stopped off at the next to bottom floor where the vampire’s equivalent of a restaurant was just opening.  The waiter took one look at him and balked. “What’s going on? I heard the alarms.”

Krill didn’t feel like explaining it, instead he ordered an early lunch, drank it in two gulps, and left for his own floor. Half finished, this would one day be the second story from the bottom, but for now it was the bottom most and housed living quarters for the guards, the Executioners, and even the high council members. Krill could feel their presence, the heaviness of their years and power, and happily turned the other direction. He wound down corridors, some not yet wallpapered, to his own door.  Inside was a single room with a box, a desk, and a wardrobe.  He bypassed those to grab his uniform from the chair, and then hurried back to the corridor to the shared bathroom. The indoor plumbing was relatively new. Collection tanks sat above ground, disguised as part of the grain elevators many outbuildings, and water ran down the pipes, pulled by gravity. It was a fascinating system, but it meant there was only so much water to be had, and he intended to make sure he got some of it.

The shared bathroom was only six doors down and had a sink, tub, and stool inside. He quickly locked the door and turned the water on, watching as it flowed out. Though the tub was large, there was a painted line only a few inches from the bottom that marked the maximum water level they were allowed. Though there was no one to enforce it, there was always the threat that guards might be posted if the rules were disobeyed, and being surrounded by mind readers, someone would know if you did.

The water reached the line. Krill shut it off, then stripped, looking sadly at the crimson stains. He’d turn it over to the laundry, but they had a no guarantee policy when it came to blood. Of course, even if the stain didn’t come out, they’d still expect to be paid.

He climbed into the tub and leaned back against the cold porcelain. Behind closed eyelids, he saw the battle again, saw Kateesha storm down the corridor, blades swinging, dark eyes wild with excitement as they peered out from her crimson splattered face.  He could almost feel her joy as she zinged past, and then she was gone, moving deeper into the fray, shouting commands to her followers.

He’d heard the rumors rumbling under the surface for some time, whispers of secret meetings, of nefarious plots. He’d ignored the stories. In a citadel rife with mind readers, how could it be true? Unless the mind readers were allowing those not-so-secret meetings to take place. Unless Malick, the head of the Guild and the most powerful of all had known and let it continue.

He did let them go, Krill thought uncomfortably. At the end of the fight, Malick had appeared, his white hair gleaming, and ordered a stop to it all. But instead of demanding the rebel’s capture, he let them go, his laughter rolling down the hallway like an ocean’s eleven waves. Perhaps Malick had known. Perhaps he hadn’t thought she’d really go through with it.

Or perhaps he knew she would.

The last thought was the worst. That he would sacrifice them willingly, and for what? Amusement? It was a chilling thought.

It wasn’t as if Kateesha’s predilections weren’t well known.  She’d left The Guild once, twenty-five years ago, wasn’t it? Yes, the figures seemed correct. She’d stayed gone for only two years, with a death sentence hanging over her head, then returned. Krill had been guarding the audience chamber that day. Kateesha had thrown open the double doors and sauntered down the red carpet towards the High Council’s thrones. Celandine, one of the council, had stood, her pale face taut with fury. She raised a hand and opened her mouth, no doubt to order Kateesha’s arrest and murder. Before the words could find her lips, Malick had also stood, his arms outstretched.

“So you return, my daughter! And what contrite words do you bring with you?”

Kateesha had dropped at his feet, her head bowed. “I beg your forgiveness father. I disobeyed your orders with my overindulgence and have seen the error of my ways.” She turned long lashed eyes up to him. “The last two years have been lonely and dark, cast from your presence. The world has been inside out, and I wish to make it right, to return to you; to serve you as I used to.”

Celandine shook with rage, but Malick only chuckled. “You have been practicing that speech, haven’t you, my child? Yes, I can see that you have. As for your contrition, I sense that, too, though not for the reason you name. Perhaps if I told you that your brother Jorick is no longer one of us, your penance would dissolve?”

Kateesha didn’t so much as flinch. “I have heard he’s gone into hiding after the death of his wife.”

“SO he has,” Malick agreed. “Do you still wish to rejoin us?”

Celandine had cut in, her hands balled into fists. “I cannot condone this! Kateesha was given a sentence of death for repeatedly disobeying orders! That she is alive is an impending disaster. To allow her to return to her position would be a catastrophe!”

“And should we hand out death, even to the contrite? She has seen the error of her ways, dear Celandine.  If we are not willing to forgive, how can we expect to last the weary ages of immortality? Will not the burden of our bitterness overwhelm and destroy us? No, forgiveness is necessary for all, and even more so for us.  As the head of the council, I extend that forgiveness to this child who has lost her way. Perhaps without the distraction of her brother, she will better be able to contain herself this time.”

Contain. A million and one things had proven that assumption wrong, none more powerfully than tonight’s rebellion.

Pounding at the bathroom door forced Krill away from memories. Reluctantly, he finished scrubbing, then dried and dressed. He let himself out past the que at the door  and headed back to his room to drop off his clothes. Oddly, the door was ajar. He entered cautiously, but there was no one there. Unless… he lunged at his sleeping box, but there was no one inside. Only a folded piece of paper.

He opened it to find beautiful, slanting writing that said only:

Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death, and death will have his day. Be wary always.

Krill blinked at the missive. He recognized the first line. Wasn’t it from a Shakespeare play? The one about the Ides of March and the Roman? No. Not that one, but it was from one of the plays. He was sure of that much. What he wasn’t sure of, was why someone had written it to him. Was it a threat? From who? And most importantly, why?

***

  1. waves (in blog) 2. stormy seas 3. adventure 4. high seas 5. Ocean voyage 6. impending disaster (in blog) 7. on the rocks 8. crashing waves 9. storm tossed 10. shipwreck

Picture contributor: Linda

 

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