Habi Makeover Fun 2

Today I am sharing some of Cucky’s habitats (I shared Quickness’ last night)

(to get habi makeover for yourself and make your own habitats – http://habimakeover.com/downloads/ )

(to join the community on the official website – http://community.habimakeover.com/)

(to join the Just Plain Habitats FB group –  https://www.facebook.com/groups/214571172638649)

Have a cute pet kinda day!

Jo 🙂

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Habi Makeover Fun

It’s been a long time since I posted about Habi Makeover. Yes, I am still decorating my pets with the weekly Just Plain Habitats theme, and thought I might take a moment to share a few of them with you because, why not?

(to get habi makeover for yourself and make your own habitats – http://habimakeover.com/downloads/ )

(to join the community on the official website – http://community.habimakeover.com/)

(to join the Just Plain Habitats FB group –  https://www.facebook.com/groups/214571172638649)

These are my pet Quickness. Tomorrow I’ll post some of Clucky.

Blogophilia 17.11 – Migina Part 3

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 17.11 Topic: “The Woman in the Window”
BONUSES: ** Hard Bonus (2 pts): Incorporate an Elmore Leonard title (the Hunted)
Easy Bonus (1 pt): Mention something getting washed away (the shore)

.

And thus ends Migina’s story, two weeks late. *sigh* I think Philip is supposed to be next, but I may skip to Senya or Obrad because I know what their stories are going to be.

**

An hour later, Migina felt better. She lay back on the bed, watching Franklin smoke a cigarette. The smell was sharp to her immortal nose, and she waved the smoke away.

“You should quit that.”

“This?” He held the cigarette up and grinned. “Why? They’re all the rage.”

“Yes, but I don’t know why.”

This may sound cheesy, but the humans say they’re good for your health. Or they did a few years ago. I can’t imagine that would change.”

Migina rolled her eyes. “You don’t need to worry about your health. It just makes you feel sophisticated and modern.”

“Maybe. And what’s wrong with that?” He laughed. “Come now, Migina, don’t pretend to be an impenetrable ice sculpture. You’re as prone to your little vanities as anyone.” He took a puff, blowing the smoke in a thin stream. “Speaking of little peculiarities, Verchiel is back.”

Migina stiffened. “Is he?”

“He checked in right after I did. Three days late coming back.” Franklin’s eyes twinkled. “He gave no account for his missing time, only said that he got distracted.”

“No one was surprised about that.” Migina eyed the cigarette and the growing ash. Any moment now it would drop off and land in the sheets. Sheets I’ll have to take to the laundry.  “Give me that.”

“Hey!” He tried to snatch it back, but she was already on her feet, toting it to the bathroom sink.

“If you won’t stop smoking, at least do it in your own den.”

Where I won’t have to clean up after you.

**

Migina was dressed again when the knock came. A timid greater guard stammered out her summons before fleeing.

“So much for time together.” Though Franklin was obviously teasing, Migina saw the regret under it as he pulled her to him. “Maybe it will be a short assignment.”

She wrapped her arms around him, laying her cheek on his chest. “Even if it is, you’ll be gone by the time I get back.”

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Maybe not.”

Though they both knew it was wishful thinking, they left it there. Reluctantly, she let him go and made her way to Malick’s chambers. Hidden on the bottom most floor, only two elevators went there, and a special key had to be inserted. It was a pain, but she supposed it made sense. The dungeons were there,  not to mention the research laboratory, both places they didn’t want any old vampire wandering into.

Still, with as many keys as they have to hand out, probably half the population can access it.

Just like the Executioner block. Hidden behind a locked door, greater guards had access keys, and she knew some of the other Executioners had handed out copies to friends and lovers over the years. It was amazing that it kept anyone out.

Migina exited the elevator to an unfinished corridor. Half painted to resemble marble, the work had stopped when Malick he become “inspired to go in a different direction.” Though she had no idea what direction that was, she hoped it wasn’t shag carpeting.

Like I’m going to have. What was I thinking?

She headed down the hall and turned, stopping finally at the double doors that led to Malick’s chamber. She could feel his presence inside; the heavy, over-reaching power of an ancient. She hesitated, and his voice filled her head, like the roar of ocean waves washing away the shore, “Come in, child.”

Migina straightened her spine, and pushed the doors open. Through an anti-chamber painted dark green, she came into his reception room, as he called it. Hung in paintings of gardens, he’d recently started to collect plants, as if hoping to bring the paintings to life in the underground chamber. It was a good idea, except they had to be taken upstairs every day and brought back when the sun sank, otherwise they’d die.

He should get plastic.

Malick was seated on low couch. Among the green, he stood out like a gem, draped in a robe of royal blue. Long white hair hung past his shoulders, and a silver beard was neatly trimmed. Long when he was turned, some days he cut it short, and others he left it to hang to his chest. No matter what changes he made, each night it would regrow as he slept, like hitting the rewind button on a cassette, and the next day he could again do as he pleased.

He smiled at her; the smile of a benevolent master gazing at a child he felt affection for. “Migina! You have come quickly.”

She bowed, holding it until she felt a mental pressure to straighten. “Of course, master.”

“Your lover did not keep you?’ he asked with amusement. She flinched and he chuckled. “No matter. Such things are good in their place – so long as they keep their place. Affection for another should never interfere with one’s duties.”

“No, master.”

“Nor should they cause one to break The Laws. But enough. There is an assignment for you. A rogue in Pennsylvania, or so they say.  The office will have the details.” He waved it away carelessly. “Seeing as he is young and weak, he should pose no problem for you, so I must hope you will return faster than Verchiel did.”

She tried not to flinch at the subtle warning. “Yes, master.”

“You may go.” He motioned toward the door. “Go, pack, bid your lover goodbye. Bring back the rogue’s head, or at the very least his heart.”

Migina bowed stiffly and turned for the door. She forced herself to walk at a reasonable pace, even as her mind screamed at her to flee.  Out the door, down the hall, into the elevator. When it opened, she finally relaxed enough to let her mind her reel. Did he know? His subtle hints said yes, as did the veiled threat, but he hadn’t said he knew. Maybe…

He’s a goddamn mind reader. He knows everything.

Shit.

She pushed her fears aside. She didn’t have time for this. She had to go to the office, had to get the details, had to go back to the Executioner block, pack, see Verchiel…

No. Better to leave it. Better not to ask.

With that resolve, she followed her plan. With a manila folder clutched in her hand, she headed back to her den. Franklin helped her pack, folding her clothes neatly. “Which guards are you taking?”

“None.” She stuffed an extra pair of socks along the side of the suitcase. “Malick said the rogue was young and weak. I should be able to handle it alone.”

Franklin laid the shirt aside to gaze at her, pity in his eyes. “Migina-”

“It isn’t what you think,” she snapped, shoving the abandoned garment in the suitcase. “I’m not taking on some dangerous assignment to deal with…with…”

“With grief?”

“There is no goddamn grief!” She slammed the suitcase and clicked the locks into place. “I have nothing to grieve over!”

Franklin moved behind her, slipping his arms through hers to pull her back against him. “It’s all right to admit, darling. We may be immortal but we aren’t made of stone.” He nipped playfully at her neck. “I could take a few minutes to prove that to you, if you’d like?”

She relaxed against him, easing into his joke. “I wish, but you know when Malick commands.”

“There’s always later, I suppose. The plus side of immortality.” He pressed a kiss to her neck, then released her. “Alright, go. Drive safely, and if you run into trouble call for reinforcements immediately.”

“I’ll be fine. I can handle a single weak rogue on my own.”

They exchanged another round of kisses, and Franklin finally let her go with the promise to lock up when he left.

Sometimes I think we should give up and share a den.

But she knew they never would. She was too set in her ways, as was he. Too used to their own space, their own room.

Though now I need someone to do the cleaning. Maybe I could find a way to put up with it if he’ll dust?

The thought left her smirking, and drove away all thoughts of talking to Verchiel. That is, until the door to the Executioner block closed. As soon as the lock clicked, she wished she’d knocked on his door, that she’d asked…

Asked what? She snapped at herself. Leave it alone.

She forced herself to the elevator.  When it opened on the top floor she thought again of going back, of grabbing him by his shirt and demanding to know…

She had the same thought when she reached the guard room, and again as she climbed the ladder to the garage above.  Each time she chided herself, and resisted.

It will be better when I’m gone, and by the time I get back I’ll be distracted with something new.

That was at least something to look forward to. Maybe the rogue would give her a good workout. Maybe she’d bring his head and his heart in a cooler. Maybe she’d be so elated at the kill, at the hunter becoming the hunted, that she’d forget everything else.

“I doubt that.”

At the foreign voice, she looked up sharply to see a vampire leaning against her car. Bright red hair stuck up at odd angles, at odds with the modern clothes; white bellbottoms skimmed his shoes, and a matching jacket hung open to reveal the wide collared shirt in come blue print that made her think of beaches.

It was Verchiel.

She didn’t have to force her scowl. “What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you.” He ginned, hands in his pockets.

There were a million things she could have said, but she settled for, “Get off of my car.”

“Ouch. That’s no way to say thank you.” When she growled, he straightened, hands held up in mock surrender. “Okay, okay. I’m off the car. See? No harm done.”

“Good.” She unlocked the back door and threw her luggage inside.

“Going on a trip?” he asked innocently.

She fought back her annoyance. This was one reason she hadn’t gone back to speak with him. “An assignment. If you’ll move?”

He shifted away from the driver’s door. “You’re going alone? No guards? How odd. I don’t suppose you’re headed east?”

She stiffened, one hand on the door handle. “What does it matter to you?”

He leaned close, hands behind his back. “Oh, it doesn’t. I was just saying.”

She pulled away. “Then go say it somewhere else. I have to go.”

She swung the door open, but before she could climb inside, he grabbed her hands. Shock froze her for a moment, but it melted quickly and she jerked away from him. “What in the hell?”

He leaned in front of her, his face pressed close to hers, a cheesy grin stretched from ear to ear. “Have a safe trip!” And then he was gone, bounding across the room, bouncing off of cars as he disappeared, so fast he was barely more than a blur.

“Idiot.” She climbed inside, and reached to close the door when she realizes there was something in her hand; a rolled slip of paper. She stared at it, at the potential of its contents, then jammed it in her pocket.

It’s better I not know.

That I never know.

**

As the miles fell away, she repeated the mantra to herself. The Guild had arranged for her to shelter with a coven in Indiana. Though not a mind reader, she could feel their fear when she flashed the silver medallion that hung around her neck. The proof of her station, like a Sherriff’s badge in the wild west movies, it meant she was an Executioner, an emissary of the guild, and an enforcer of the laws.

Whether I want to enforce them or not.

She slept well, and rose the next evening to feed. The coven had a captive pair of humans they willingly shared.  As she drank from the terrified girl, she thought of Philip’s preference for blood straight from the human. Funny, though he said he liked that better, he sure added enough flavorings to it when he was home.

Because he’s full of shit.

Next to her car, she stopped to dig the keys out of her pocket. Something came with them, dropping to the ground. It was only when she bent to retrieve the slip of paper that she remembered Verchiel. She crushed the tiny note in her hand, tried to resist, tried not to look.

Oh, what the hell.

Penciled inside was an address in New York. Though she knew better, once inside the car she pulled her maps out, and soon located the town, not too far from her own destination. If she added maybe an hour one way she could make it and then…

And then what? What purpose could it serve? What was the point?

She asked herself that question again and again as she drove, repeating it for the fiftieth time as she took the turn that led to New York.  It was only an hour’s detour. Why shouldn’t she?

But she knew the answer.

Still, she slowed when she hit the city limits, and started scanning street signs. It took longer than she anticipated, but at last Sprague Avenue appeared.

It’s not too late, she told herself. You don’t have to do this.

Except, she’d already come that far.

The house was blue, with a partial second story and a patio. Migina parked across the street from it, eyes memorizing the details, details she should forget, not just for herself but-

Sabrina.

A silhouette appeared; the woman at the window. Migina thought she recognized the shape of her hair, her shoulders. She sniffed, seeking her familiar scent, but at that distance she couldn’t be sure.  A moment passed, the silhouette disappeared. Migina cursed silently to herself, ready to start the car and go, when the side door opened. A slightly pudgy woman stepped out, not fat, but soft around the middle. Graying hair was artificially dyed, and a housecoat covered a familiar nightdress.

Sabrina shuffled out onto the patio, carrying a bowl of cat food. She left it near the edge, pausing to call for an invisible kitty. When no animal came, she shrugged and turned back for the door, eyes sliding over the car across the street, over Migina.

A knowing look flashed on her features; not fear, but a farewell. She raised a hand, then went back in the house, leaving the night and her old life behind.

When the door shut, Migina let out the breath she’d been holding. So Verchiel had kept his word. Despite what everyone said about him…

Migina checked the time, and then her map. She needed to get moving, needed to get on with her assignment. She’d stay with the coven who’d filed the complaint, and tomorrow she’d hunt down the rogue.

Easy.

Harder would be explaining the two hour delay, except when she got there, they didn’t ask. They were too scared; scared of her, scared of The Guild, scared of the rogue who was terrorizing the humans, making it nearly impossible to hide.

“I’ll handle it,” Migina told them. And she did. It took less than three hours the next evening to find him. It took her longer to buy a cooler and fill it with ice than it did to cut off his head. It was weird of Malick to request the proof of the kill; he rarely did that. But, she supposed he wanted proof of her loyalty, proof that she hadn’t strayed, that she hadn’t detoured to see a human who was supposed to be dead.

He’ll know. The minute he sees me, he’ll read it in my thoughts, and he’ll know and then…

She worked hard to suppress the thoughts, to bury them deep, so that, two days later, when she faced him, she stood stone faced, her only thoughts bent on the rogue and the easy kill.

Malick looked at the rotting head in the cooler and smiled. “Well done, child. Go to your rest. You’ve earned it.”

She bowed stiffly and headed for the safety of her den. Inside, she dropped her suitcase and opened her mouth to call for Sabrina. The name died on her lips because, of course, she wasn’t there.

She’s in New York.

Migina remembered it clearly. It was two weeks ago, after comments from the others, that she’d realized she had to get rid of Sabrina. The Law said that humans who knew about vampires couldn’t rejoin the population. They had to remain slaves, or die. There was no wiggle room, no gray area, and especially not for a human in the citadel, who’d seen not only immortals, but their nerve center.

But thinking about killing Sabrina, or letting someone else kill her, after twenty years of…of service…the thought left a hollow pit where Migina’s stomach belonged.

That was when Verchiel appeared from nowhere, looking sly. “I hear you’re planning to put your human down.”

“Go to hell.”

“Eh, I’ve been there. It wasn’t much to look at.” He’d offered her a smile. “You don’t want to kill her, do you? You’re attached.”

“I said-”

“I can understand that,” he’d gone on, ignoring her interruption. “They grow on you, like kittens. You could turn her, you know.”

Migina scoffed. “Not that it’s any of your business, but she doesn’t want to be turned.” They’d had the conversation more than once in the last few weeks. Sabrina always declined the offer.

“You always said I’d be out of this life one day. Doing that would trap me in it forever.”

But was it really so bad?

“That’s too bad.” His frown was exaggerated. “Of course, there might be another way.”

“You mean to keep her? To be the last Executioner with a human?”

He shrugged. “I suppose you could, though I had something else in mind.” He’d dropped his voice to a whisper, “Something secret.”

That’s when he laid out his ridiculous plan to smuggle his human out of the citadel and set her up in a house. “I have the place purchased and ready to go. She just needs to move in. I don’t see why yours couldn’t go, too.”

Migina had only one answer, “You know The Laws.”

“Of course I do. If we don’t know them, how can we break them.” He’d broken into a grin. “Think about it and let me know, but you need to be quick. I could get sent on an assignment any moment, and if I’m already gone when you decide…”He’d spread his hands helplessly.

Though she knew it was crazy, she’d pressed for more details. How was he going to get away with sneaking them out? What would everyone else think had happened to them?

“I’ll say I killed them, of course. Sure, people might snicker at you for having someone else do your dirty work, but then again you could always pass it off as such an unimportant task it wasn’t worth your effort. However you want to spin it.”

“No,” she’d said, stepping away from the idea. “We’ll get caught. They’ll get caught, and Malick will make us kill them.”

“Suit yourself. But if you change your mind…”

He’d left that offer hanging, an offer that had haunted her. Two days later, she’d called from a payphone to tell him to do it; to take Sabrina and hide her away with his human somewhere far from the Guild and the vampires, far away from the life she’d been forced into it.

And there she is now, Migina thought. Feeding stray cats and living in a normal house in a normal neighborhood, as though she’d never been a servant to a vampire, as if she’d always been just a human.

And that’s all she is, Migina thought with a scoff. Just a human.

**

guesses:

topic: Christopher

picture: Jonathan

  1. unleash the kraken  2. that’s looking like the start to a hentai 3. from the deep 4. tentacles 5. What big eyes you have… the better to eat you with 6. sushi 7. tako 8. I hope she cooks that first 9. mystery of the sea 10. dinner is served

Blogophilia 16.11 – Migina Part 2

It’s time again for blogophilia. The prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 16.11 Topic: It Sounds Kind of Cheesy, But….
BONUSES: ** Hard Bonus (2 pts): Include a creative use of a candle other than light (paperweight)
Easy Bonus (1 pt): Incorporate an ice sculpture
.

And migina rolls on. Sadly still not finished. I need a month of free time.

**

The following evening, Migina woke and showered in her private bathroom. She technically didn’t need to – vampires didn’t produce the sweat and oils that gave humans their distinctive odor – but she enjoyed it. It had nothing to do with Franklin’s impending return, or at least she told herself it didn’t. They’d been together too long to bother trying to impress one another, anymore.

Despite that, she took the time to comb out her wet hair and plait it into her usual long, whip-like braid. Maybe, if he got back after she’d finished with the bathroom, she’d unbraid it and leave it loose. He’d commented before that he liked that.

After a quick call to maintenance to have the water shut off, she checked the min-fridge. There was no blood inside, bottled or bagged. She hadn’t restocked it. Now that Sabrina was gone, it was one more thing she’d have to do herself.

Right.

With no alternative, she left her apartment behind for the café. She found a corner seat and ordered, watching as the waiter scurried away. The sickly yellow walls made her feel nostalgic; she remembered when murals had been in their place, representing an outdoor area. Gone too were all the plants, and the cute sidewalk-style signboard. Instead the air was sleek ultra-modern, like something from a science fiction TV show. The plastic and chrome chairs matched the triangular shaped tables, and pendant lighting hung low enough to be annoying.

Change is rarely good.

She leaned back in her chair, fingers tapping that plastic table top, when a vampire called her name. She cringed inwardly as she recognized the voice, but forced herself to remain aloof on the outside.

Never let them know they have power over you.

Ignoring him only served as encouragement, and a moment later Philip, a fellow Executioner, took the chair across form her. His dark hair fell carelessly in his face, and even darker eyes smoldered with an intensity that had tripped up many a woman.

But not me.

“Migina! How lovely to see you! And where is Franklin?”

“Waiting to cut out your heart.” Instead, she said, “On his way back.”

“The absences make relationships hard.” He gave her a knowing smile that felt smug. “So how are you?”

“Hungry,” she bit back.

Not to be deterred by her short answers, he rubbed his hands together. “As am I. Did you get a pitcher or a single glass?”

“Single glass. You’ll have to order your own.”

He chuckled. “Of course. Nothing to worry about. If I recall, we don’t like the same mix-in, anyway.”

The waiter saved her from having to answer. He dropped off her breakfast and took Philip’s order before he disappeared.

She took a drink, savoring the deep, unadulterated flavor. Unlike the others she wasn’t tired of the flavor and didn’t need to add fancy peppermint or sage or whatever Philip had ordered.

The Executioner across from her chattered as she drank. When her meal was half gone, she cut him off. “Why are you here?”

He laughed, motioning to the counter. “To feed, obviously. Though it would be more appealing if they had live humans to drink from. I miss that when I’m here. Of course in the field-”

“I meant, why are you sitting with me?”

“Ah, and why not? I know you try hard to be unfriendly, but no one can be as sharp as you pretend to be. Your affair with Franklin proves you have soft places.” He gave her a wink. “Besides, is there something wrong with wanting to be friendly with a fellow Executioner?”

She gulped the last of her blood and deposited the empty glass. “Good luck with that.” Then she stood and headed for the door, leaving him alone with his amused laughter.

At least he didn’t come after me.

**

Back in her den, Migina checked that the water was indeed off, then grabbed her sledge hammer. She moved through the empty bedroom, to the equally empty bathroom. She’d never noticed before that the bathtub was starting to look worn. When was the last time it had been replaced? They’d put in the human facilities in the forties. Then they’d updated it…It had to be the sixties. She’d passed on the last round, just two years ago.

Just as well. It would have been a waste of money.

Yes, she was sure it was the sixties. It was just before that night with Sabrina… The memory popped to the surface, bright and clear as when it happened. She’d come home to the sound of sobbing and the scent of blood. A few steps had taken her to the doorway of this bathroom. Inside, Sabrina was rolled into a ball, back pressed against the tile wall, knees to her chin, body shaking with sobs. No matter how many times Migina asked her what was wrong, she couldn’t get an answer. Finally, she stormed into the room and jerked the woman to her feet to find her dress shredded, and her shoulder gaping, blood still running from the wound.

“What in the hell?”

Sabrina pulled away, curled in on herself. “It-it’s nothing. It…”

But they both knew it was a lie. A threat or two later and Sabrina confessed the truth. It was Philip. Always Philip. Sabrina’s first years at the citadel had been spent much like her human life; she’d replaced the drugs with the euphoria of immortal coupling, of having her blood taken by a vampire. But the day came when she didn’t want to anymore, when she weened herself off of the high, when she wanted to stay away and be left alone.

Apparently Philip hadn’t gotten the message.

“I’ll kill him,” Migina had snarled, turning for the door, but Sabrina had grabbed her arm and tried to hold her back.

“No! If-if you do he’ll know I told you, he’ll know…” she let go and dropped back, hand pressed to the wound.  “I’ll just stay away from him, I’ll just-”

“Just what? At the best, you are legally my property, Sabrina! Your job is to guard my den against him, as well as the others! How does it look if he’s savaging you? How can you protect me? And at the worst, what he did was tantamount to-”

“I know!” She’d fallen back a step, body shaking. “I know what it was. What it is. I just don’t want to talk about it, all right! I just.. I just need some blood to heal this and then it will be fine. Everything will be fine.”

Except it wasn’t. How many times had she come home after that to find out something similar had happened; and it was always Philip. Good looking, sex-obsessed Philip. It was the fifth time when she ignored Sabrina’s pleas and stormed to his den. His human guard dog was on the floor, her hands tied behind her back, her mouth gagged. Was it punishment or some game?

Philip, meanwhile, was still laying across the lounge, half naked, a satisfied smirk on his face, a smear of blood on his chin.

Sabrina’s blood.

“Migina, what can I-”

She’d punched him before he could finish his sentence.

“What in the hell?”

“You know damn well what that’s for!”

His human stirred, terrified eyes like saucers, but, restrained, she couldn’t do anything. Not that Migina as sure she wanted to.

Philip wiped the blood from his nose. “Is this over your guard dog? Why are you so worked up? She’s just a human.”

“Yes, but she’s my human, do you understand that, Philip? My property. If you so much as look at her again – let alone touch her- I’ll pull you apart and barbecue the pieces!”

Philip sneered, dark eyes flashing that smugness she hated. “You’ve gotten soft, haven’t you?” He swung to his feet and stood slowly, stretching with the motion. “How long have you had that one? Too long, I think. Better to kill her and get a new one. I cycle mine every year.”

The bound girl on the floor made a soft whimpering sound.

“It’s none of your business how long I keep my property. I mean it, Philip. If you go near her again-”

He leaned close and waved his hands in Migina’s face, “Oooo. What will you do? Report me? As if Ark will care.”

She leaned close, so he could feel her breath on his cheek. “I won’t bother reporting you, Philip. I’ll cut out your heart and give your guard dog a reason to celebrate.”

The girl made another sound, and Migina stormed out, her warning delivered. Though he’d blown it off, he’d evidentially taken it seriously because that was the last time she’d had to find Sabrina bleeding, broken, sobbing.

That son of a bitch.

Rage bubbled and Migina swung the sledgehammer at the worn out tub. Splinters of porcelain shot out like missiles, bouncing off of her arms. With a snarl, she pounded the bathtub again and again, smashing it into bits that crunched under her feet. She swung around for the toilet and did the same, then to the sink, the empty counter where Sabrina’s things used to sit, where her hairbrush was always thrown, and that stupid bracelet holder that looked like a severed hand. Where the hell had that thing even come from?

It was ugly. Sabrina had such horrible taste! Everything she loved was ugly! Like that damn pineapple candle!

Migina swung the hammer again. That ugly candle! She’d been there for three years and suddenly decided to shove a Christmas gift at her master. Migina had stared at the package, and when she’d finally opened it, her reaction was no better.

“What is this?”

“It’s a goddamn candle!” Sabrina snapped, jerking it away so she could point to the wick and wave the wax monstrosity around.  “Of course you hate it! You hate everything!”

Migina wanted to hit her in the head with the grotesque item, but instead she’d gone to pack for her assignment. When she came back in the room, Sabrina was seated in the middle of the floor, using a lighter to melt the candle into a puddle.

“What in the hell are you doing?”

“Why do you care? You didn’t like it anyway!”

Migina had grabbed it away from her; the soft bottom half hardened quickly, so that the pineapple looked like someone had smooshed it against a table. After that, she’d used the ugly thing as a paperweight, even as bits of it fell off over the years.

And if it got too warm, it always left a waxy film on everything.

Stupid, ugly pineapple.

Migina slammed the sledgehammer again and again, only stopping when she realized the sink was little more than dust and palm sized chunks. She staggered back to look over the bathroom; porcelain lay everywhere, most in small pieces. Even the mirror, still stuck to the wall, was shattered.

“Looks like you’re having fun.”

Migina spun, hammer raised, but stopped just in time to avoid slamming Franklin in the face. Torn between hugging him and hitting him, she was left blinking, eyes narrowed.

He made the decision for her as he stepped forward and swept his arms around her. She let the hammer go and pressed close to him, inhaling his familiar scent.

“I wasn’t sure you’d actually make it back today.”

He squeezed her tight, then let go. “I wasn’t either, but things went well. How are you? Did you get rid of-”

“Yes,” she snapped, stepping away. “Sabrina is gone.”

“Ah.” He laid his hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

Migina stepped away from the compassionate touch. “For what? She was only a human. It’s not like I care.”

“Of course not.” But the corner of his mouth quirked in an amused smile.  “How did your last assignment go?”

“Fine. Yours?” But she didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to talk about anything. She just wanted to pin him to the wall and lose herself in his blood. Though he wasn’t a mind reader, he seemed to sense her desire, and cut the conversation off with a deep kiss. She returned it, sliding her tongue past his lips, into the hot recesses of his mouth. He tasted coppery, like blood, a flavor that fueled her desire.

He pulled her tighter, until their bodies meshed. One hand cradled the back of her head, the other in the small of her back, pressing her closer. She ground against him; trying to meld with him, disappear in him. She snaked her hands under his shirt, and ran her palms over his hard chest. Her fingers danced down his stomach, and she pulled back enough to reach his belt buckle.

He caught her hand, and she looked up to see his smirk. “Shall we?”

**

An hour later, Migina felt better. She lay back on the bed, watching Franklin smoke a cigarette. The smell was sharp to her immortal nose, and she waved the smoke away.

“You should quit that.”

“This?” He held the cigarette up and grinned. “Why? They’re all the rage.”

“Yes, but I don’t know why.”

This may sound cheesy, but the humans say they’re good for your health. Or they did a few years ago. I can’t imagine that would change.”

Migina rolled her eyes. “You don’t need to worry about your health. It just makes you feel sophisticated and modern.”

“Maybe. And what’s wrong with that?” He laughed. “Come now, Migina, don’t pretend to be an impenetrable ice sculpture. You’re as prone to your little vanities as anyone.”

Blogophilia 15.11: Migina Part 1

it’s time again for blogophilia. This week’s prompts are:

 

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 15.11 Topic: Trouble Will Find Me
BONUSES: ** Hard Bonus (2 pts): Mention an Audrey Hepburn Movie (Sabrina)
Easy Bonus (1 pt): Use the phrase “High and Dry”

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I was hoping to do this all in one shot but haven’t had the time. *sigh*

It’s 1976 in the citadel in Iowa…

**

Migina let herself into her apartment, dumping her luggage on the floor. Though she didn’t need the electric light to see, she liked it. A quick flick of the switch and the room brightened, like instant sunlight.

Her eyes snapped past the leather couch and chairs to the low coffee table. On top of the magazines was a folded piece of paper with her name scribbled on it.

She peeled off her coat, then took one of the chairs. Feet propped on the coffee table, she leaned back, note in hand. The handwriting was as familiar as her own; she knew every curve, every swirl, every oddly dotted i. She didn’t need to see the F scrawled at the bottom under the words, “I miss you, my wild woman,” to know it was from Franklin.

Wild woman. She chuckled softly at the term of endearment. It was the kind of thing he liked to call her, as if she was really any wilder than the other women in the Citadel. Compared to some, she was pretty tame.

It isn’t like I bathe in blood anymore.

The memories of those days were tucked away; dark skies, gleaming stars, the screams of mortal victims. It was a different time then. Untamed. Wild, even, like Franklin liked to call it. Then The Guild rolled through and put an end to it.

Civilization always wins in the end.

Her eyes strayed from the paper to photos on the wall. Mostly black and white, they were a collection of night photography, the play of light and shadow, of silhouettes in the dark. Though she was proud of them she wondered what she could accomplish with natural light. What interesting shots could she take if the sunlight didn’t burn her?

If only photography had existed before Tainge shared the gift of strength.

Migina pulled herself away from the past to reread the letter. Six days ago, Franklin had been sent on assignment for at least a week, but when he got back he had plans, “and you had best not be busy.”

She chuckled at the pseudo threat. They both knew she’d be available – assuming she wasn’t on assignment herself.  Though since she’d just gotten back, so there was a good chance she’d still be at the citadel.

Assuming he really gets home tomorrow. Otherwise he’ll just be high and dry.

She dropped the letter on the table and leaned back in the chair. Her den – an apartment in the Executioner’s block of the citadel – was quiet. Too quiet. She started to call to her human guard dog, Sabrina, to demand to know why she wasn’t working, cleaning, making herself useful, but then she remembered. Sabrina was gone.

Migina stood and drifted to the door of the small bedroom. Inside was a bed and a dresser, both empty.  A piece of clear tape clung stubbornly to the wall, the corner of a poster forever trapped.

She was just a mortal, Migina reminded herself. It wasn’t as if she mattered.

Still, she was used to Sabrina rattling around the place. The woman had been with her since…when? 1954. Or was it 55? The years ran together, but either way it had been more than twenty years.

Though in the span of immortality, that’s hardly anything, she reminded herself.

Still, it felt like something. She remembered when she’d captured Sabrina; a dark haired wild looking thing with eyes the color of honey. It wasn’t her beauty that had struck Migina, though, but her spirit. She’d clawed and fought, like a remnant of the old world, those strange eyes burning with fire. Most of the other Executioners had preferred meek, weak-willed humans as their servants, but Migina found them tiresome and useless.

Little more than a dishrag.

The humans had first been procured as protection against each other – to keep their fellow Executioners from sneaking into one another’s rooms during the day and killing them in their sleep. Fifty years later, no one seemed to care anymore. Jamie had gotten rid of his first, followed by Ark and her own Franklin. Then Bren relinquished his, and Senya killed hers, and even Griselda decided she didn’t need one. Migina had hung on, nearly the last to have her human, but when Verchiel started talking about sending his away, she knew it was time.

Lest the others think I’ve grown soft and attached.

Because she wasn’t attached. Sabrina was merely a human slave; someone to clean and run errands, and handle things Migina didn’t want to. She was an occasional snack. Nothing more. She was just a human.

And now she’s gone.

Which means that room needs redecorating.

Yes. Some new furnishings, some paint, maybe. She’d get Sabrina to-

Crap.

With a snarl of impatience, Migina flipped her long black braid over her shoulder, then flounced out of her apartment.  She’d go to the shopping area, buy some things, look through some catalogs, make some orders. She’d turn that room into…into…into something. A dark room, maybe. Then she wouldn’t have to pay to use the one in the shopping center.

Except it was too big for a dark room. The human bathroom, however, would be perfect. And it already had water piped to it.

But it’s going to take some renovations.

**

Migina leaned on the shop counter and flipped through the catalog. She’d hired a carpenter to build countertops in the bathroom next week, but she hadn’t decided what to do with the actual bedroom yet.

“We have a very nice suite collection. It’s new,” the salesman suggested, motioning to the glossy pages she flipped past.

“I don’t need bedroom furniture. I already have one. And I have a sitting room,” she added, before he could suggest it.

The vampire behind the counter gave an impatient huff, but kept his tone and expression friendly. “Then may I ask what you’re looking for?”

Migina flipped another page to gaze at shiny oak bookcases. “I don’t know. I have an extra room, but-”

“Ah!” The salesman tugged the catalog away from her and flipped several pages, stopping on a modern grouping. “Might I suggest a lounge? They’re very popular.”

Migina frowned at the orange upholstered furniture, the  pendant lights, and even the fake wood stereo cabinet. “What would I do with a lounge?”

“Relax?” he suggested. “Listen to records.” He pointed to the stereo. “Or 8-tracks. This beauty plays both. Not to mention cassettes and there’s an option for reel to reel.”

Migina frowned at the photo. “The plants. Do they come with it? They’ll die.”

He turned the magazine around and looked over the printed descriptions. “Actually we could order  artificial sun lamps for them… Let me see…Yes, you can order them…And we won’t need the lamps because they’re plastic. They look real, though, don’t they? Isn’t it amazing what they can make now?”

“Synthetic vegetation, fake sunlight, soon no one will ever need to leave their dungeons,” she muttered.

“Hmm?” Though it was a question, his hurry to rush on proved his disinterest. “You can get everything in the photo except the artwork and the carpeting, but we can order some paintings that would look good.” He pulled another catalog out from under the counter. “And as for carpeting, just a moment.” He lugged up a stack of sample books. “We have that covered, too. And wallpaper.”

Though she was still undecided, she let him flip through the binders, pointing out popular choices, including some heavy shag carpeting.

“Do you know your room measurements?” he asked.

She shrugged and he soon had an appointment set up for a workman to measure everything. “In the meantime we can go ahead and get this ordered. It will take about a month to get here, I’d say. Might be sooner, but I like to project on the longer side. When I do, I find that people are more likely to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.”

Though she still wasn’t sold on the lounge idea, she couldn’t think of anything else. Half an hour later she left with a receipt, a photocopy of the catalog page, and a considerably lighter bank account.

She stopped in the corridor to stare at the black and white copy. Franklin’s going to laugh his head off when he gets home and sees this. Normally she didn’t let anyone talk her into things – she knew what she wanted and went for it – but this time…

There isn’t anything I want.

Except the dark room.

**

Migina returned to her apartment toting a sledgehammer. She ran into Verchiel in the hall, but for once the idiotic redhead only eyed the massive tool instead of offering some annoying quip.

Good. I hope he sees I’m not in the mood.

She let herself into the apartment, momentarily shocked to see her luggage and coat still stacked in the front room. “Sab-” she cut herself off. Right. She’d have to put her own things away, now.

Tell me again why we got rid of our servants?

After she’d lugged the stuff to her bedroom, she hauled the sledgehammer to Sarbina’s old bathroom. The tiled countertop looked empty, bare of all Sabrina’s toiletries. She’d been pretty  for a human, and a little vain. Migina remembered more than once waiting on her to do her lipstick or curl her hair. Though she hadn’t bothered as much the last few years. In her mid-forties, she’d joked she was past catching a man, and those she attracted…well, they just wanted her blood. They didn’t care what she looked like.

“Philip told me that once,” she’d said, while squinting into the mirror.

Migina had stood impatiently in the doorway, arms crossed. “I’ve told you that you shouldn’t fraternize with the vampires. You’re not much of a guard dog if you’re in love with one of them.”

Sabrina had laughed, a cold, hollow sound. “You don’t need to worry, mistress. I’d be glad of an excuse to cut his heart out.”

Wouldn’t we all?

Sadly Sabrina had never gotten that chance. No one had broken in during the day, let alone tried to attack them.

And that’s the reason the guard dogs became obsolete.

Migina tightened her old on the sledgehammer and looked the room over again. There was a tub, toilet, and sink. She could make quick work of the porcelain –  though she knew she should shut the water off first – If I don’t, trouble will find me, or something like old faithful, at least…but where was the valve? There was a valve, wasn’t there?

Half an hour later she checked the time and surrendered. The sun would be up soon. Tomorrow she’d have to call maintenance and have them shut the water off.

And then I’m going to gut that goddamn room.

**

guesses:

Topic: Dahlia

Picture: Christopher

1.wishful thinking 2. delusions 3. delusions of grandeur 4. reflection 5. mirror 6. inner tiger

Blogophilia 14.11: Tellith Part 3 END

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 14.11 Topic: June Gloom
BONUSES: Hard Bonus (2 pts): Incorporate a Cyndi Lauper song lyric (the vampires come out at night to play)
Easy Bonus (1 pts): Include your favorite fish (koi fish)

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And now we finish Tellith. If things work out, I’d like to do full stories the next few weeks. I have an idea for two of them and a beginning for a third (though no idea where it’s going). It;s just Philip I don;t know what I’m going to do. Yeah, I know, only four Executioner stories left. Then I can start working on my novel instead. Fun times.

**

Tellith woke as the sun sank the next evening. He blinked for a moment, remembering the silly sing-song Gladys used to say. “To bed now, my darling say goodbye to the day, for the vampires come out at night to play. They eat naughty children, who won’t go to sleep, so hide under your covers, and safe you will keep. ”

Then she’d break into a cackling laugh and sashay toward the powder room.

She was more than a little nuts. Lucky for Bray that she’s still living with him.

He dismissed the familiarity of his old coven for the nightmares of the now. Roger’s panicked phone call, the explosions, the unanswered calls. He didn’t have time to lay there, thinking about his old coven days. He needed to move.

His urgency returned, he leapt from the bed, grabbed his stuff, and headed out without even changing.  His meal was a snack at the side of the road; using his phantom powers to make himself invisible long enough to pounce on deer.

He wanted more blood, but he let the animal break away, and headed back for his car. He should have taken an airplane. That would have been faster. He never thought of planes, though, not right off. Hell, his first instinct was still a horse. Cars and planes hadn’t existed for the first two-thirds of his life. For some reason his brain didn’t want to let go of that.

He was a good piece down the road when he decided to try Roger again. A great idea, but his phone was dead. The charger wasn’t plugged into the port – had he left it at Bray’s? – so he tossed the device in the passenger seat. What did it matter, anyway? It’s not like any of them could answer.

Because they’re dead.

He was sure of that, sure they’d all been slaughtered. Maybe the Hand of Death had swept through, killing them one by one in magnificent sprays of crimson. He imagined the floor wet with the blood of so many dead, and saw the monster-like man wading through the carnage, tearing his enemies apart with his bare hands.

Then he imagined himself arriving, walking through decimated hallways, to find the legendary vampire in the High Council’s audience chamber, seated on a pile of bloody skulls. His voice boomed, echoing off the crimson stained walls, “Who are you?”

In his imagination he fell to his knees and begged for mercy while the Hand of Death sat on his grisly throne and laughed. And laughed. And then, he’d stand and…

And kill me.

Tellith scowled. If he was going to die anyway, he didn’t want to grovel. His imagined scenario changed. The vampire god was still there, still perched on his skulls, his feet bare and stained in blood. But, instead of meekly dropping to his knees, Tellith charged, swinging a battle axe-

“Where the hell am I going to find a battle axe?”

But there was bound to be one laying around somewhere, right? After an epic battle with hundreds dead, there would be weapons everywhere among the carnage. It wasn’t as if the Hand of Death was going to go through and pick them all up. Something like that was too demeaning for a conqueror.

Unless he has followers.

Shit. That was something Tellith hadn’t considered. What if he had a whole army with him? The audience chamber disappeared, gone were the skulls and the vampire king drunk on blood, replaced with a mob of vampire soldiers, armed with shiny spears. They stood not inside, but outside the citadel, surrounding the entrance disguised as an office building. As soon as Tellith pulled into the parking area they pounced, attacking the car. Tellith floored it, but titans lifted the front of the car, leaving the wheels spinning uselessly in midair.

And then they dumped the car over. There was crunching glass, and suddenly hands would reach inside to pull him out and…

He shook away that scenario and tried again. What if he parked down the road? He could sneak up though the cornfield, and then…and then what? If he stepped out they’d get him. Unless they didn’t see him. Maybe he could slide into the garage and-

But there’s no corn this time of year.

He’d been in Florida, enjoying the summer-like warmth, but in Iowa it was January. The fields would be bare stubble and frozen dirt. There was nowhere to hide, no way to sneak past the waiting army.

Shit.

On the other hand, he was a phantom, a vampire who had the ability to become invisible. Not literally invisible, of course, but he could somehow trick other people’s minds so they didn’t see him. The trouble was, it didn’t work on everyone. And there was no way someone as old and legendary as the Hand of Death would be susceptible.

Maybe I’ll get lucky, he told himself. Maybe he’ll be gone already. Maybe he and his army will have moved on.

He imagined the citadel in ruins, corpse laden hallways silent as he picked his way through them. No sign of life, nothing left alive, discarded weapons and limbs scattered. The carpet squished with blood as he walked, and the atrium was a sea of death; bodies heaped among dead foliage-

He broke off. No, the plants wouldn’t be dead. The Atrium’s waterfall would still tumble five stories down to the pool below, and the greenery – potted trees and shrubs – would still be lush and green, growing under the artificial skylight that served as the atrium’s ceiling.

That ceiling, Tellith thought irritably. He’d had to help change the lightbulbs in it more than once. It was his own fault for having a friend in the maintenance department – a friend who’d since been smart enough to quit.

At least she’s still alive, Tellith mused. She wouldn’t have been there when the attack came, she’d have been at her den in Montana. Or was it Michigan? Some state that started with an M, anyway. He got those two mixed up all the time. And then there was Mississippi…No. He’d driven through that on the way to Bray’s, and he knew she didn’t live down south. She’d headed north on the arm of a dark haired vampire who’d promised her the moon.

“As if he can deliver,” Tellith muttered sarcastically.

Tellith had never been in love with June – she was too dark for him, too depressing. June Gloom was her nickname, a play off of her birth name of June Glome. But she was also loyal and when he took her complaints with a grain of salt, they were even amusing sometimes.

He’d met her at the citadel, one of his first new friends. That had been 1937 – wasn’t it? He was pretty sure because it was the same year that Gladys started the war with that coven master who had the wonky eye…

Tellith shook his head as if he could physically get himself back on track. What had he been thinking about? Oh, right, June Gloom.  She was slightly pudgy with red hair that curled unevenly, and one missing tooth. She said a donkey had kicked it out when she was a teenager. Though he’d witnessed their fellows’ rude comments about it, he found the imperfection endearing. It was a change from all the perfection of the upper echelon.

And they are perfect, he thought bitterly. All beautiful and glamorous, like polished stone that’s been sitting there for centuries gaining power. Meanwhile the peons were down at the bottom taking orders and wondering why.

Not that he wondered why. He knew why he took orders – because it was a steady paycheck. Vampirism didn’t negate the need for money. They still needed somewhere to live, a roof to shelter them from the sun. Sure, they could live like the rogues and squat in abandoned houses, but who wanted to do that for very long? No power, no television, no microwaved blood. Sure, he’d survived without those comforts for years, but now that he’d had them, he didn’t want to go back.

That was something he and June agreed on. It was the reason they took jobs at the citadel – she in maintenance, and he as a low level guard. He’d risen through the ranks, and she’d quit. He remembered the night she’d gone off the rails.

It was really Tristan’s fault. He was good looking, if you liked that bad boy type, and not more than forty years turned. Tellith didn’t know much about his past, only that he was dating Kathy, June’s maintenance partner and semi-friend. No, semi-friend was too strong. More like friend-she-hated.

Kathy was okay, not gorgeous, but most people agreed she was better looking than June. Tristan wasn’t most people, and he broke up with Kathy for the chubby redhead. That was what caused the rift that left June changing the lightbulbs in that nightmare ceiling by herself.

Which is why she asked me to help, Tellith thought glumly.

The ceiling of the atrium was made of milky glass. Above it was a crawl space that housed about a million light bulbs so that when they were all turned on it gave the illusion of a skylight. When they’d out it in, he’d marveled at it. Later, after helping June a few times, he’d come to hate the ting. That particular night, they crawled through the small space, swapping out bulbs, knocking away spider webs and the occasional grasshopper. When they finished, they’d climbed out to find Kathy and a gaggle of catty vampiresses. Before Tellith could do more than say, “Can I help you?” they’d pounced.

It was a helluva fight. The kind that sent more than one shrieking female through the wall and into the glowing bank of lightbulbs. He’d never forget the popping, shattering sound as the bulbs broke. When it was over, June’s clothes were torn, he had a scratch down his face, and the attackers lay moaning on the floor. As sharp as you please, the head of maintenance appeared. Oblivious to what had been all out war, his only words were, “I thought I told you to change those burnt out light bulbs, not stand here gossiping with your boyfriend.”

June’s face had wadded in fury, as red as her hair. She grabbed the crate of good bulbs from its safe place against the wall and dumped it over the vampire’s head while screaming, “He’s not my goddamn boyfriend!”

Then she’d stormed away, shouting after her, “I quit.”

Tellith had stood in the hallway, watching the vampire’s confusion melt into fury. He’d shaken the glass from his hair and arms, bellowing, “You! Clean this up!”

“Sorry, not my job.” And he’d also strode away, stepping over Kathy’s unconscious body. He’d heard later that the head of maintenance finally figured out about the fight, but he hadn’t connected June to it, and had even gone so far as to say Kathy was working when she was jumped by the other girls. The report was hilarious, though sadly only the garbage can got to enjoy it when Tellith accidentally dropped it there.

Whoops.

Three weeks later, Tristan talked June into packing up her suitcase and her pet koi fish, and leaving the citadel for that state that started with an M, where he had some family. By family he no doubt meant immortal family, but then as young as he was it was hard to say. He might have living relatives still. Hell, he might have children if they were conceived before he was turned.

Children. Tellith grimaced at the word. Not because he’d never had any, but because he had. One. A son.  That was in the 1700s. Being a vampire was different then, and when you got turned you had to leave everything behind – everyone. To be fair, the boy hadn’t been born yet, he was just a bump in a young girl’s stomach – a young girl he wasn’t excited about marrying. Vampiredom seemed like the perfect escape. He got out of the drudgery of marriage and he got to live forever. Could it be better?

He’d regretted the decision later, but it was too late. He couldn’t go back, couldn’t marry her after all. Hell, he wasn’t even supposed to see her. He had, though. He’d snuck back three years later and peeked through the cold winter window to see her and the child huddled before the fire, her husband in a nearby chair cleaning his rifle.

Tellith told himself that at least he seemed happy, at least the child was well cared for. But, deep down, he knew he should have been the man in the chair, the man providing the meals, the man taking care of them in that wild land.

Nothing I can do about it now.

That was the story of his life. There was never anything he could do about it. Like now.  He could drive and drive, but by the time he got to the citadel there would be nothing he could do.

Nothing except burn the bodies.

The sun was peeking over the horizon by the time he found a motel. He ran to the building to check in, leaving all his luggage locked in the car. He didn’t need it anyway, it at least not as much as he needed to hide from the glowing ball of hate.

His motel room had heavy curtains that he gladly pulled, but to be safe he spent the night in the empty bathtub, the door shut. The do not disturb sign hung on the knob, even so he wondered if they’d obey it, or of some well-meaning maid would waltz in around noon, screaming at the body in the bathtub.

Just the thing I need to interrupt my sleep.

**

Despite Tellith’s fears, he was undisturbed, and woke the next evening thinking of Gladys’ stupid rhyme. If she was here, I’d strangle her. Not that he really would. He’d had the chance while he was at Bray’s for a week, and he hadn’t done it. Even when she sang the worm song, as he called it for lack of a title,  while dusting the parlor.

I don’t have time to worry about Gladys. Or Bray. I need to get back.

And bury the bodies.

He returned the key to the lobby, stopping long enough to check the map pinned to the wall. If there was no construction or detours, he should get to the citadel by two in the morning.

Maybe I should buy a shovel first?

But he didn’t, just fed on the owner’s dog, leaving the canine alive but groggy, and then headed out. He stopped again along the side of the road for more wildlife, but didn’t linger. The sooner he got there, the better.

Right.

He steered down the interstate, his mind wandering back to Bray, Gladys and the others. They weren’t his original coven – that was why they had different abilities than he did. For that matter they weren’t anyone’s original coven, rather a hodge-podge of lone vampires who didn’t really want to be alone, no matter what they said.

That was what he’d been when he and Bray had found them. The only pair to share a master, they were as close to real brothers as it came in the group. But the others had quickly welcomed them, and soon they were a functioning family, if that was what you wanted to call it.

Does that make Gladys our mother, or the crazy sister?

He’d stayed with them for more than fifty years before leaving for the citadel. It had been Gladys’ war that prompted him to finally part ways. Not that he was adverse to fighting if it was necessary, but she just liked to pick fights, and how many should he be expected to fight before he got tired of it. Bray said she’d pouted for months after he left, even refused to fight the war she started.

At least that was something, he told himself.

Though he’d moved, he was still close with them – close enough to take two weeks of vacation days to help Bray paint his house. That was another thing people didn’t think about when it came to vampires. If they had a den, they still had to maintain it. It still needed painted, re-roofed. The yard still had to be mowed, if they were in town, and the trash still had to go out. All those mundane things didn’t disappear with immortality like they did in the movies.

Unless you work for The Guild. Then they take care of all that.

**

It was well after midnight when Tellith crossed into Iowa, and closing in on one when he got close to the citadel. He left the nearest town behind – a rural place with a handful of stoplights and dark businesses. The black highway hummed under the tires, but he forsook it finally for gravel, a path of white rock gleaming in the moonlight.

The way The Hand of Death’s skull throne gleams.

Tellith hands tightened on the steering wheel, and each mile saw them clench tighter. He imaged the citadel above ground; what had been a grain elevator and shining silver bins would be blasted open, the last of the stored corn spread on the ground like intestines.  The other building would be burnt shells, frames of twisted metal, charred wood, the garage peeled back sheet metal with rows of ruined cars whose owners would never see them again. The office building would be a smoldering wreck, the space-age silver door, previously hidden in the back room among sacks of seed, now exposed.

But would there be an army? Had the Hand of Death attacked alone? Was he still there?

Tellith cursed at his lack of information. Better safe than sorry, he pulled over to the side of the road and got out. He could see the hulk of the grain buns in the distance, maybe a half hour walk f he hurried, faster than a mortal could go.

If only I was a wind walker. I could be there and back out before anyone even noticed.

Gladys echoed in his head. “Who wants to be a wind walker? What’s the good of running fast when no one else can? I spend all my time waiting on everyone to catch up. But you – a phantom – you can sneak around, listen in on conversations, find out secrets. And don’t tell me you don’t do that!”

Except he didn’t. It hadn’t occurred to him, and even after she’d suggested it, it felt wrong. He’d eavesdropped enough in his life to know that you never heard anything good that way.

Thank God I’m not a mind reader.

He stopped long enough to dig through his trunk for a weapon – he hadn’t planned on trouble, so all his Guild issued hardware was still in the citadel. With nothing else, he settled for the tire iron, promising himself held grab the first discarded battle axe he could find.

He started out on the road. Moving closer and closer to citadel and the ruined grain elevator that hid it – except as he got closer he didn’t see much destruction. He could smell the smoke, though, heavy and laced with burning flesh. The attack was forty-eight hours ago, so why was it still burning, unless everyone really was dead. But then why hadn’t the humans-

The humans.

He stopped in his tracks and groaned. He hadn’t thought about them. The grain elevator and office was manned by humans in the daytime. Though the vampires liked to pretend that the mortals didn’t know what lurked beneath. He knew for a fact that they did. Maybe not the specifics, but they were aware that someone hid in the deep. How else could anyone explain the garage of expensive sports cars?  What they thought those someones were – whether rich recluses or genuine monsters – Tellith wasn’t sure, but they certainly knew they were there.

So what would happen when those humans had come to work the next morning to find the buildings burning and the towering bins – okay, the bins looked fine, but the buildings were surely destroyed. The vampire army would have had to hide underground by then. Even the Hand of Death couldn’t brave the sun.

Or could he? They said ancient vampires could take surprising amounts of sunlight. How old was he? Tellith knew that Malick was the Hand’s master, and Malick was definitely ancient. A couple thousand years at least. It made sense that the Hand of Death would be at least a thousand, maybe older.  It would explain what made him so strong…

Tellith’s imagination pulled up the ruined buildings, the smoldering ground, bathed in the red light of dawn. Humans stood around, confused. One pulled out a phone, dialed 9-1-1. A low rumble started under their feet, like an earthquake in the bowels of hell. It grew louder and louder, until the Hand of Death blasted through the naked, exposed silver door.

The humans screamed, ran, but the vampire grabbed them, tore through them with his gangs, gorging on their blood. He threw their empty casks aside with a howl of unhuman rage, muscles gleaming in the morning sun, body streaked in crimson…

And then what? When the humans didn’t come home that night, did their family come looking for them? Police? Firemen?  Had the Hand of death killed all of them, or had he left? If so, had those humans found the silver door? Had they crept down the stairs to find the carnage inside?

Tellith’s head swam with the horrible possibilities, with all the laws such a scenario broke.  That humans might discover them, their existence…it went against the edict handed out by Munich, by the ancients who ruled all vampire-kind.  By their command it was the responsibility of every vampire – more-so the Executioners and guards – to cover up the evidence of vampire/human interactions.

But who’s going to cover this up?

And when no one hid the truth, who would the ancient vampires in Munich punish? Tellith swallowed hard. Would they blame him? He was a greater guard, after all, and they’d want a scape goat, someone to blame and make an example of.

Maybe I should just go back to Bray’s.

Except…Except he’d promised Roger he’d come bury their bodies.

Shit.

No longer sire who to fear – the Hand of Death, his army, the humans, or Munich – Tellith tightened his grip on the tire iron and started walking again. He moved towards the edge of the road, and finally moved to the ditch. He could see the looming towers, the rest of the complex surrounded by trees. The yard lights were all blazing like usual, but that didn’t mean much.

Though there was no corn, he navigated to the field and cut across, drawing closer. He sniffed the air, inhaling the heavy smoke. The smell obliterated everything else, and he crept forward blind.  Concentrating, he disappeared, or would have seemed to if anyone was looking, not that he saw anyone.

He broke through the trees, into the complex area. The buildings weren’t the shambles he expected. Rather, they seemed undamaged, despite the horrific destruction that had happened there. The smoke rolled not from the citadel, but from an empty field beyond it.

What in the hell?

Still invisible, he slipped around the buildings, around the grain bins, until he had a full view. A large bonfire blazed, orange flames snapping up into the night like the scene his imagination had played over and over. Silhouetted in the fire were the black shape of vampires with weapons – no, not weapons, but-

Shovels?

Tellith moved closer, the scent of their immortality getting stronger as he mentally pushed away the smoke’s putrid smell.  They were vampires, all right, and not completely unfamiliar. In fact he thought he recognized-

“Roger?”

One of the silhouettes looked up, a hand up to shade their eyes. “Yeah, what?”

Tellith blinked back into existence, now visible to everyone, and hurried toward his friend. He stopped in front of him to grab his shoulders, checking he was solid, real, that his chest wasn’t a gaping hole of gore.

Roger ripped away with a scowl. “What the hell? Tellith? You scared the hell out of me! What do you think you’re doing just popping out of thin air to grab someone?”

“You’re alive!” he cried, ignoring the tirade.

“Of course I’m alive! No thanks to you. Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call you for two days – two days! Do you realize-”

“My phone was dead,” Tellith murmured, still dazed to find his friend all in one piece and in the same mood as always. “I think I left the charger at Bray’s den.”

“Well isn’t that great? I was starting to think you’d been killed in some kind of horrible wreck. It would explain why you called me in the daytime.”

Tellith stepped back, frowning. “I didn’t.”

“Oh yes you did.” Roger dropped his shovel to dig his phone out of his pocket. “It’s right here…” he flicked the screen several times, finally flashing the display with triumph. “See? The day before yesterday you called me at six-thirty in the morning. I didn’t answer because I was asleep, like any sane vampire, but some of the other guys said you called them, too. I figured it must have been an emergency since you were harassing everyone.”

Tellith ran over the events of the day before. He hadn’t – but he had. He’d called them from the motel the first night out, when no one had answered.

Was it really that late when I called? No wonder no one answered.

“You’d think the office would have picked up,” he muttered.

“Shit, we don’t hand landline service. No TV either, and the power is only now getting fixed.”

Tellith looked over his shoulder, to the undamaged buildings. “So there was an attack?”

“Of course there was an attack!” Roger shouted. “I told you – oh for crying out loud. Come on.”

He grabbed Tellith’s arm and started to steer him back to the office, but Tellith dug his feet in. “Wait a minute. Aren’t you on duty?”

“You call burning bodies duty?”

Burning bodies. Tellith looked to the fire, to the wheelbarrow heaped in corpses. “Shit. Who are they?”

“Casualties.  Anyway, you go there just in time. I have an appointment in the audience chamber, so we’ll have to talk and walk.”

Tellith relented and followed his friend. As they walked, Roger said, “I told you we were under attack, right? Well, it was Jorick’s fledgling Oren, and his group.”

Tellith shivered. “So it was the Hand of Death.”

“No,” Roger snapped impatiently. “It was his fledgling, Oren.  And there weren’t that many of them. Sure, enough to cause trouble, but not enough to make this big of a mess.”

“Then what-”

Roger hushed him as they entered the office, nodded to the vampire farmer behind the desk, and headed back to the silver door. Everything looked fine until they reached the bottom of the stairs, and then Tellith saw it. The welcome room was destroyed; walls scorched, furniture burned. Huge cracks in the ceiling were partially plastered, as if someone had started fixing things then got bored.

“What in the hell?”

“They had explosives,” Roger explained.

“So that was how a small army managed to kill so many?” He jerked his thumb in the general direction of the bonfire and the gory wheelbarrow.

“That didn’t hurt, but the main trouble was that none of the security systems were working at the time. None of them. And when the attack started, instead of sending the Executioners upstairs to fight, Malick called them all to the basement.”

“Why would he do that?” Tellith asked, half of his attention focused on the hallway they walked into. There were no dead bodies, no rug squishing with blood, only freshly repaired walls and a pair of vampires on a ladder trying to repair hanging electrical wires.

“Because he had plans!” Roger snapped. “Let me explain it, huh? As I was saying, Malick just sent the lesser guards up to fight, as if those guys could do shit.  And as I said, the attackers had explosives.”

“But the buildings looked alright-”

“Of course they did! What good would it do to blow them up? They blasted their way in here!” Roger pushed the elevator button and the doors swished open, revealing a glass backed carriage. He stepped inside, dragging Tellith with him. Gesturing past the glass walls, the six story atrium beyond. “See that? They blew a hole in the damn ceiling! And not just here but other places, too.”

Roger went on, detailing how they’d split up, blown through the roof, through the dirt and rock above their heads, and had even blasted their way from floor to floor, moving closer to the ground floor.

“We stopped them eventually, of course.” Roger’s chest puffed out as he turned and mashed an elevator button. “Captured them all, but not before Malick pulled his revolt.”

Tellith’s attention jerked away from the atrium; from the roof draped in plastic, and the bent vegetation. “Malick’s what?”

“You heard me. He revolted.”

“But he was in charge of The Guild! In order to revolt, he’d have to revolt against himself!”

Roger rubbed his chin. “I suppose, if you look at it that way. I assumed he was revolting against the rest if the High Council. Anyway, he did this thing that killed pretty much everyone who’d taken shelter in the atrium – made their brains explode in their heads. That was a mess to clean up. Then he took off.”

“What?” Tellith cried, no longer watching the elevator’s descent.

“I told you-” Roger broke off as the elevator stopped and the doors opened. He half dragged Tellith out and down the hallway. “Anyway, the important part, when he left, he took three Executioners with him – Three! Can you imagine? The final selection for replacements is today.”

Roger kept talking, but Tellith suddenly understood. Roger had put in for Executioner duty. Again.

“You know, there’s going to be a lot of competition.”

Roger drew to a stop to glare at him. “Don’t start. This is my time. I can feel it. I received special commendation in that battle, you know.”

“Ah. Well, maybe that will help,” Tellith muttered.

“I hope so. Now if you’ll excuse me?”

Before he could actually move, a pair of Executioners appeared.  Wearing semi-identical  black clothes and silver medallions, they both had long black hair, though one wore it in a bun while the other left his long.

As they strode by, Tellith snapped a salute from habit, but Roger only scowled.

“What the hell are you doing?” Tellith whispered when they were past. “Those were Executioners!”

“I know who they are,” Roger muttered. “And after today I won’t have to salute them anymore.”

“Maybe.” Tellith watched them disappear through the giant door of the audience chamber. “Who was the new guy? Not Jamie, but the other one?”

Roger rolled his eyes. “That was Executioner Jorick.”

Tellith choked on the name. “There’s another Jorick? I thought there was just the one.”

“How should I know? There’s probably a lot of Jorick’s in the world! But that’s the one you’re thinking of. The so-called hand of Death.”

Tellith couldn’t find intelligent words. “What?”

“Malick sentenced him to be an Executioner as punishment for killing so many of them. Can you believe that crap? I’d do it willingly, but he forces that guy to do it? Anyway, I figured he’d leave with Malick, too, you know, since that’s his master, but he didn’t. Not sure if he’s staying here as a spy for Malick or what’s going on. And I don’t care. In an hour I’ll be his equal. Wish me luck!”

With that, Roger dashed away, leaving Tellith standing in the cracked corridor, mouth hanging open.

Of all the things held imagined, that hadn’t been it. That the hand of death would be there, not as a conqueror, but reinstated as an Executioner, and that the death wasn’t caused so much by an invading horde, but by Malick himself…

I guess they say truth is stranger than fiction, and that’s too strange, even for my imagination.

**

And now for guesses

Topic: Christopher

picture: Stormy

1) out to sea 2) waiting 3) in the distance 4) where’s Nessie? 5) “piering” in the distance 6) under the umbrella 7) johnny sailor bold 8) storm brewing 9) rough seas are coming 10) solitude

A Loving Mix

If the amazing Tricia Drammeh is in it, you know it’s good!

Tricia Drammeh

loving mix banner

I’m so excited to be a part of this anthology! Eight stories by eight authors for the pre-order price of only $2.99. Here’s what it’s all about:

In our world, outside forces find reasons to keep us apart. Wealth, religion, and race are dividing factors. All manmade barriers that have nothing to do with the heart of the people involved. Although wealth and religion can be hidden, race cannot.

On June 12th, 1967, the Supreme Court struck down the laws that enforced racial segregation in marriage and Loving Day was created. To celebrate this step to remove this unjust barrier to love, eight Interracial Romance authors have come together to celebrate with stories that challenge the social norms on both sides of the coin.

With contemporary, paranormal and historical settings discover how finding the other half of your soul is worth fighting for.

Beyond Everything by Angela Kay Austin
When…

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