Blogophilia 46.10 – Jamie Vs 2 Part 1

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 46.10 Topic – Long Ago
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Include a lyric or line from singer/poet Jewel (beneath the darkened sky)
Easy (1 pt) Mention a lamp

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On a side note I have my laptop and data all working now. Still some sorting to do, but I’m almost done and back to where I was before the meltdown. wOOt!

As you might know, I’ve been working, agonizingly slowly, on Jamie’s tale, but it hasn’t been flowing. Told back and forth between his “current” situation (aka 1668 when he leaves Scotland for the colonies) and his past, it was just boring, so I have started over and am doing the past story as the current event rather than in flashbacks.

Anyway, here we go. Let’s see if it’s better.

***

There was thirst. Hot, burning, like a flame in Jamie’s throat. He swallowed, but it only made it worse.

He adjusted to it, to the ache, and reached beyond, finding himself, his surroundings. He lay on his back, warm, not uncomfortable. No immediate pain, past his dry throat.

He opened his eyes slowly. The bright room flickered in and out of focus, and then sharpened into a scene too clear to be real. Was he dreaming?

The room looked real; and just as he remembered. The large bed, the fireplace, the pitcher near the bed, the familiar lamp, his wife’s cloak draped over a low stool. It was his bedroom at home, in the family castle, but…but how had he come to be there? And why was everything so bright?

He closed his eyes against it and the memories came back, edged in red, and distorted as if they were from long ago. Things had gone badly at Dunbar. They’d have been fine if they’d just waited, but the officers…no, they hadn’t been happy to sit. They’d ordered the attack. After two days, thousands lay dead, and many times that number were captured by Cromwell’s army.

Jamie’s hand moved unconsciously to his side, where he’d been wounded. Phantom pain stabbed through him as he pictured the ragged, maggot edged wound.  Was that last night? Earlier today? He remembered that he’d cowered in a ditch and tried to redress the mess with a torn tunic, stolen from a washing line. Too sick to go further, he spent the night there, shivering with fever. Every sound became an imagined pursuer, an enemy sent to sweep up the last of the rebels. No. The sun had risen. He remembered the warmth on his fingertips, the song of the birds as he forced himself to climb out, to follow the winding road towards his father’s lands. He was so close to home…so close to Margaret.

Her image moved to the forefront of his thoughts, looking as she’d been when he last saw her. Long red hair curled around her shoulders, green eyes looked up at him, filled half with love, and half with sadness.

She’d pressed a lock of hair into his hand, tied with a soft ribbon. “Ya will return, my love. Walk unafraid on yer journey and know my heart goes with ye.”

“Aye, I will, and ya will be waitin’ to greet me when I do.”

She’d smiled, even as a tear slipped down her cheek. “Aye, that I will. A greeting you won’t soon forget.”

Jamie opened his eyes on the over bright room again. Though he didn’t remember the arrival, he’d returned, just as she said he would, just as he’d promised her. What came next, he didn’t know. He’d planned to try again to start a family, to settle down victorious, but with the loss of the battle…he might need to go back again.

She’ll understand.

He just needed to see her, try to explain it. He sat up slowly, hand still at his side, body tensed for pain. None came. His quizzical eyes moved to his side as he pulled back the blanket. On his side he found no bandage or wrapping, only a crooked scar.

A scar? How long had he been abed? For it to have healed fully it must have been weeks. And from the look of the scar, the smoothness, perhaps months. Months abed? How could such a thing be?

No wonder I’m so thirsty.

He grabbed the beside pitcher, ready to drink whatever was inside, but it was empty. Aggravated, he set it back  with too much force. Shards dropped around the night table, just as the door opened.

“I didn’t mean-” he broke off at the sight of Rechert, his father’s servant. The man’s wide eyes moved from the broken pieces of pitcher, to Jamie’s face, and then to the floor.

“You are awake, sir.”

“Aye, that I am. And thirsty.” Jamie rubbed his throat. “What must a man do to get a drink here?” Though it was meant as a joke, he saw Rechert tense. “What is it? Is something amiss?”

The man didn’t look up, only murmured, “Nay.”

His demeanor didn’t match his answer, and Jamie was instantly on guard.  Was it because he’d obviously been abed so long? “What day is it?”

“’tis the twelfth of September, sir.”

“The twelfth?” How could that be? He’d been wounded only twelve days ago? Unless…”What is the year?”

“1650, sir.”

Jamie ran a hand through his hair, fighting confusion. It was the same year, the same month, so how could he have healed so quickly? He looked again to Rechert, but sensed there’d be no answers there. “Fetch Margaret.” She’d be able to explain things, to soothe the strange, unsettled feeling slowly settling over him. “And a drink. My throat burns.”

The man didn’t move, and Jamie snapped with more anger than he meant, “I said to fetch my wife, and a drink, man! Are ye deaf?”

When Rechert flinched, Jamie felt instant regret.  “I’m sorry. I don’t mean ter’ be so cross. I just-I don’t understand. And this blasted thirst…I just need to see Margaret and get a drink before I’m consumed.” He coughed, like gargling sand. “A drink,” he muttered, tossing the blanket aside, ready to stand and find his own liquid. Any liquid.

“She’s dead, sir.”

Jamie froze, one foot on the floor. “What do ya say? Who is dead?”

Rechert flinched again. “Your wife, sir. Margaret.”

The too-bright, over-sharp world contracted, pressing in on him with a suffocating pressure that stole his breath. Dead. Margaret. Dead. But…But…

“What do ya say?”

He heard his own voice, a half-wild shout, but felt no connection to it. Rechert backed toward the door. “I’ll fetch her ladyship.”

And then he was gone. Jamie stared at the blank space he’d been in, conscious only of the burning in his throat, and the tearing agony in his chest. Rechert must be mistaken. The man was old, addled.

He conjured her again in his memory, a thousand moments pressed together, like flipping through the pages of a prayer book. He saw her laughing in the sunlight, laying on the bed on their wedding night, her fiery hair spread around her flushed face.  Saw her holding their daughter, hair damp from the sweat of childbirth, then again months later, eyes wet with the tears of a mother burying her child. He saw her riding her horse, bundled in her cloak, as snowflakes drifted beneath the darkened sky.

There, in the frozen moments, her could smell her, hear her voice playing through his memory. “Ya know I love, thee, Jamie, as the songbirds love the dawn.”

Aye, as I love you.

The door opened, and Jamie was pulled back to his over-bright room to see his sister. Her dark tresses were pulled back and her face was pallid, leaving her deep brown eyes like two deep pools – deep pools that shone with her pity.

Pity for him. Pity for his loss. Pity for the wife who was no more.

“Jamie,” she whispered as she drew near the bed. “She had a fever-”

The roar sounded foreign to his ears, even as Caitrin leapt back from his fury. Without thought he grabbed the night table and flung it against the wall. Followed by the lamp, the jewelry box, and then even the sideboard. He raged as he grabbed everything in reach, dashing it against the cold stone walls as he screamed.  Then among the wreckage he saw the glint of gold.

Her locket.

With a moan he dropped to the floor, clutching the piece of jewelry. He squeezed his eyes closed, battling the tears, the black agony that threatened to swallow him, fighting that ever present, still screaming thirst.

“Jamie.” Caitrin’s voice was soft, and the touch on his shoulder gentle. “Peace, Jamie. She rests, safe in the bosom of the lord. She-”

He refused to look, refused to see that pity again. “How?” he croaked, his voice heavy with thirst and grief. “How did it come to pass?”

“A fever, Jamie. She seemed better, and then, in the night, she just slipped away. She called for you. She…”

Jamie tensed and squeezed his eyes tighter, as if he could blot reality away if he only he couldn’t see it.

“…She didn’t blame ya, Jamie, fer not bein’ here. When she was lucid, she…she said as much, said she knew how important the cause was to ya, to…to all of us, that she knew yer were fighting’ fer your future, fer your bairn’s future. She didn’t…She tried to hold on fer ya, but the fever…we thought she was better, thought she was safe…”

Jamie held up a hand to silence her. He couldn’t hear any more, not now. Not ever. Ever. To face a world, a life without her in it…

He buried his face in his hands and bit back a cry. As he’d crawled home, bleeding, sick, desperate, his only prayer had been to let him make it home, let him see Margaret again, to hold her, to bury his face in her hair and…

…and drink….

No, not drink, not…

…not…

The thought flitted away as a voice said, “My lady-”

Jamie looked up through teary eyes to see Rechert returned. His vision throbbed, and the scent of dinner rolled through the room; roast suckling, apples, pork pie, and a thousand other delights. His body moved on its own, knocking the servant to the wall, pinning him, despite his struggles, and then biting, sharp, quick. The feel of flesh between his teeth, the rush of blood, the relief as the thirst was quenched, as the fire dissipated.

But it does nothing for the pain.

***

Yeah. Better.

And now for guesses:

topic: Dahlia

pic: Christine

  1. a rose for a rose 2. true love 3. Romeo and Juliet 4. on the balcony 5. reaching 6. Would not a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? 7. among the clouds 8 walking on sunshine 9. high on love 10. airship 11. up, up, and away 12. a token 13. his ship is pretty low, or else her house is very tall 14. hope a strong wind doesn’t come along. 15. I’ve really got no more ideas. 16. I’m not good at these. 17. it’s well done, though. 18. I wish I could paint 19. a fair wind blows 20. I got nothing.
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Blogophilia 45.10 – Jamie Part 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 promts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 45.10 Topic – “Walk Unafraid”
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Mention any nickname you have been called (Joey)
Easy (1 pt) Include a New Year’s Resolution (forgiving people)

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A quick note – I got my data back today! It is currently being copied to a new raid system (aka a hard drive that automatically duplicates its content onto a second hard drive so there is always a back up). I have no idea how much longer its going to take (it’s been at it for hours now) but either way, I have it all. wOOt!

And now on with Jamie. Not as long as I wanted, so either there will be more than 3 parts to this, or part 3 is gonna be huge. Also decided I am going to write the Jorick story where he quits the Executioners. I know the six readers who replied to the street team question wanted something else, (they didn’t actually agree) but I think for the sake of the stories going together that is the piece that needs told.

***

Though he’d expected her to follow, it was Eagan he’d met as he readied the horse. The vampire gave him an affable smile. “You should not be so hard on yer sister, lad. The heart can forgive much when there is love in it.”

Jamie scoffed as he swung onto his horse. “Then she should be able to forgive me for never seeing her again. Travel well.”

And he’d ridden away into the night with no clear destination in mind, only the driving need to escape the memories and the guilt.

Had I but been there, such things would never have happened.  I’d have slipped a blade between Androu’s ribs as he slept and all would have been well.

Or so he told himself.

Eagen had said more than once that such thoughts were a childish fantasy, that Androu had no choice. “They knew ya were a rebel, lad. Had you not tried to put Charles on the throne…but ya did, and they knew it, lad. They came to the castle, lookin’ fer you, fer your allies. Had Androu not admitted yer father’s involvement, they would have killed him as well, taken the land and given it an English Laird they could trust.  Then what would ye have returned to? You know as well as I that I speak the truth, and that yer sister and her pretty babes would have died with ‘em.”

Though Jamie didn’t wish the bairns ill, maybe that still would have been better. Had Caitrin died, instead of becoming some immortal creature, she could never have passed the burden on to him – to live for eternity to dwell on his bitterness.

Without Margaret.

He closed his eyes and saw her behind them. Her flyaway hair, soft green eyes, and smooth skin. He could almost smell her, almost feel the memory of her lips.

Memory.

That was all that was left of her now. Eagan swore she’d died of fever, but if that was so why had she not been similarly transformed, made immortal, as Androu and Caitrin had? The timelines were muddled, and spoken in mumbles that purposefully confused. Had Eagan been there when she died? Had he been there when his father was hung? Why had he done nothing?

He’d asked Caitrin those questions, asked Androu, even asked Eagan, and their answers had been just as worthless as their other explanations. He’d known there was more to it – knew even now. Perhaps, freed from his debt, he should have slaughtered them all.

And been left with a pair of mortal bairns to raise.

Jamie pictured his nephews’ chubby cheeks and bright eyes, left human to grow to the proper age before they would be made into monsters. He and Margaret’s only babe had not lived to take her first steps. Though they’d planned to try again, her death had robbed them of that chance, while the immortal curse had made him barren and sealed his fate. Never to be a father, as Androu was, not to pass on his father’s legacy, or continue his family line, not to see his descendants stretch on, except through his sister.

And what traitorous creatures will they be with her influence?

Though he knew she was just a woman, and could execute little control of the situation – what could she have done except deny the charges? – still he couldn’t forgive her. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Aye, though Father would say I should.

Every January, at Hogmanay, his father would make a toast and resolve to forgive those who had wronged him that year. “Ye have ta start with a clean slate, lad.”

If only he could.

Jamie shifted again in the confined space of the box, and sniffed. He could feel the sun sinking, enough that he might be safe. He listened to be sure there was no one beyond to see him rise, then slowly lifted the lid, pausing twice to be sure. If one of the crew or passengers were to discover him in the box…he might be immortal, but he knew he could still be murdered.

With the coast clear, he climbed out and straightened his clothes. Gone were his traditional garb, replaced with unfamiliar clothes he’d purchased at the docks. He was starting over, wiping away his old life for a new one, and that meant everything had to go. Everything except the lock of her hair.

His hand went unwittingly to his pocket, as if he could feel the pouch, and the coiled tresses within, through the fabric. She’d given it to him before he’d left the last time. Her green eyes had gazed at his face, half full of love, and half sadness at his leaving.

“Ya will return, my love,” she promised as she pressed the locks into his hand. “Walk unafraid on yer journey and know my heart goes with ye.”

And he had returned. He’d crawled back half dead, bleeding and battered, it was only his memory of her that kept him moving, running, clawing his way back, dodging pursuit and praying to make it. And what had greeted him when he returned? When he woke in the cold hall of his family, restored and whole?  Not even his sister had been there, only Joey, the old manservant. It was he who’d told him of Margaret’s passing, while his eyes looked everywhere but Jamie’s face, Jamie’s mouth, Jamie’s fangs.

And do I blame him? Surely I looked monstrous, begging for drink and a dead wife.

***

And now for guesses:

Topic: Diane

Pic: Irene

  1. Candy land 2. stripes 3. Santa’s helper 4. Candy magic 5. candy cane forest 6. hypnotic 7. I don’t know. 8. If that was the right guess I’d have tons of points. 9. poodle hair. 10, cotton candy hair 11. sweet treats 12. I want candy 13. incense and peppermints 14. Peppermint Twist 15. I’m just naming songs now 16. You have to wonder why the photographer took this 17. Candy cane Children. 18. Okay, I never heard that one. 19. I wasn’t a huge white stripes fan. 20. Oh. White stripes is a good guess. 

Blogophilia 44.10 – Jamie Part 1

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 44.10 Topic – Never Say Never
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Incorporate Bell’s Brewery or one of their Beers (Cherry Stout)
Easy (1 pt) Include a style of Hat (Blue Bonnet)
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Before we delve into the new story, I have to share the newest computer/hard drive data news – they were able to repair/recover everything! Yes! So now I just have to sit back and wait for it to arrive in the mail, which should be within the week since the data only has a one week warranty on it…fingers crossed!

And now, on to Jamie:

Jamie opened his eyes in the dark. The soft creak of the ship filtered through the box he sheltered in. he concentrated, and soon could hear the slap of the ocean waves, the murmur of other passengers, even the scurry of the rats. If he tried, he knew he could smell their blood, but he didn’t want to. Not yet. Though he couldn’t see it, he could feel the sun’s presence outside – a sun that would burn him if the light touched his skin.

He shifted in the box and stretched his legs. Though vampires didn’t wake stiff or sore, even from cramped sleeping quarters, it didn’t mean they weren’t uncomfortable. For the millionth time he asked himself if the sea voyage was necessary. Couldn’t he have stayed where he was?

But he knew the answer: No. Not without killing Androu in his sleep. That his scheming, lying, back stabbing brother-in-law was still alive was a testament to his self-control. However, self-control only lasted so long, and his had run out with his blood debt.

It had been a surprise when Eagen had announced their freedom. They’d sat around the table, before the fire, an imitation of their mortal days when they’d eaten great meals and drank cherry stout by the mugful. Jamie’s eyes had wandered to Androu, seated at the head of the table, in the chair his father had so long occupied. Each time he saw him, he felt the anger rise, and murderous thoughts played through his mind. It was in the middle of one such fantasy that Eagan had stood up.

“Though in some ways I hate ter say it, ’tis been a long enough haul for ye, and yer debt has been paid now. Ya can stay or go as ya please. For myself, I plan to head further afield. I have enjoyed my time here, and though I know yer might be willin’ ter shelter me indefinitely, I feel the call of my ancestral home and plan ter spend some time there afore venturing out again.”

Caitrin and Androu had done the polite thing and asked Eagan to stay, but he’d declined. When the pleasantries were over, Jamie had stood, hand on his dirk. “And with the end of our blood debt is the end of my patience, Androu. I have tolerated your taking father’s place because, as the slave of another, I had no choice. With that yoke lifted, I am free to hate you as I choose.”

Caitrin had stood, eyes wide, mouth open to interject, but he’d waved her to silence.

“For the sake of my sister I will go and leave you alive. You can keep the lands, and the titles, all the things you wanted enough to stain yourself with my family’s blood. But know that should I ever lay eyes on you again, my sister will be left to mourn while hell opens its gates to welcome you.”

Androu hadn’t flinched, only looked back with those cold, steely eyes. “Aye, do as you see fit, Jamie. As our master said, yer welcome to go or stay as ya please.”

“Brother-“ Caitrin started, but Jamie didn’t wait for her to finish. He’d turned and stormed away, footsteps echoing over the cold stone floors towards his chambers.  His bag was nearly packed when Caitlin appeared in the doorway, hands fluttering nervously.

“Jamie, you can’t mean ta leave us.”

“I can, and do.”

She stepped closer to lay her hand on his arm. “Truly? You are the only family I have left.”

He’d pulled away. “Whose fault is that? Speak to your husband, not me. I wasn’t the one who betrayed him to the cursed English, who watched him hang, who-” He broke off at the look of horror in her eyes. “I know you could do naught to stop him, or them, Caitrin, and so I hold no blame for you, but I will never forgive Androu, neither in this life or the next.”

“Forever is a long time, my brother. Never say never.”

“I say it, and mean it. No matter. I will be gone with the morrow and may I never see this place, or the faces that haunt it again.”

He saw the hurt in her eyes but did nothing to soften it. That she could remain Androu’s wife – nay even continue to love him – after what he’d done…what did that say of her?

He’d closed his bag, slapped his blue bonnet on his head, grabbed his traveling gear and left for the stables. Though he’d expected her to follow, it was Eagan he’d met as he readied the horse. The vampire gave him an affable smile. “You should not be so hard on yer sister, lad. The heart can forgive much when there is love in it.”

Jamie scoffed as he sung onto his horse. “Then she should be able to forgive me for never seeing her again. Travel well.”

And he’d ridden away into the night with no clear destination in mind, only the driving need to escape the memories and the guilt.

Had I but been there, such things would never have happened.  I’d have slipped a blade between Androu’s ribs as he slept and all would have been well.

Or so he told himself.

***

Guess time! Though I never get them right…

topic: Jessica

pic: Carol 

  1. photobomb 2. hello! 3. trying to hang out with the cool kids 4. look at me! 5. don’t look at him. 6. Hello (is it me you’re looking for?) 7. Here I am! 8. One of these things is not like the other one… 9.odd man out 10. He’s adopted 11. I don’t know…I’m not good at these. 12. I need to borrow Jonathan’s voodoo set up. 13. oo ee oo aa aa, ting tang, walla walla bing bang 14. I guess that’s a witch doctor not voodoo. 15. Surprise! 16. Just posing in front of this penguin buffet! 17 look at all those snacks! 18. bet I can’t eat just one. 19. seals do eat penguins, right? 20. I’m too lazy to google.

Blogophilia 43.10 – Zuri Part 3

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 43.10 Topic – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas ….
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Mention a turtle
Easy (1 pt) use the words “Soul Searching”
 .

And this week we have the conclusion to Zuri, which aside from needing some punchy phrasing I was happy with. In other news, the data restoration/PC place thinks they can fix/recover 100% of my data for… drum roll… $1100. No, that is not a typo. Luckily, my father has volunteered to make a gift of it (via his credit card) as a stand in for the next several birthday presents. As my data is worth never getting a birthday present again, I can only say thank you a billion times. So now I just wait for it to be done and all sent back to me.

When that happens it will be like Christmas, which gives new meaning to ‘Twas the night before Christmas. Or not. I couldn’t work the prompt in any other way.

Anyway, got my 20 year old cat back from the vet. Have to give her fluid treatments every day and limit her physical activity. That should be interesting.

And now the conclusion of Zuri:

****

“You’re an Executioner, then?” John asked. Zuri’s reply was a grunt, so he went on. “I imagine your vampire experience has been pretty…bloody. But I have to say mine hasn’t been traumatic. It’s actually been pretty nice.”

“It would be, being turned by your mother, I imagine. No loss, no old life left behind. That’s not how they used to do things.” He stopped before he sounded like an old man complaining about how the kids did things “these days”.  “You haven’t been immortal long, have you?”

 

“Ten years now. I guess that’s nothing compared to you and everything you’ve seen.”

“Sometimes I think I’ve seen too much.” Zuri finished the drink and sat the glass on the bar. “Eh, ignore me. It’s just this sitting around that’s getting to me.”

“So you said.” John gave him a good humored wink, as if to say, “Sure.”

“It is,” Zuri insisted. “I’m not used to the inaction. There’s only twelve of us for the whole damn country. Did you know that? Twelve. So we’re always gone. An Executioner is lucky to spend a day sleeping in their own bed, let alone five. It’s just not normal.”

“I could see that, if you’re not used to it.”

“I’m not.”

John shrugged as he refilled the glass. “Still, it has to be a little bit nice, not having to do all that stuff you said.”

“What stuff?”

“The killing children and all that. It seems kinda wearisome.”

Wearisome. It was an interesting word choice. Was it wearisome? He knew some of the Executioners found it all exhilarating – or ex-Executioners, he should say. They’d pretty much left with Malick, hadn’t they? The ones that remained…how did they feel about it? How did he feel?

I don’t know.

The answer was an uncomfortable one, the kind that should lead one to soul searching. But Zuri didn’t feel like searching his soul – if he even had one anymore. Many vampires believed that they shed that with their mortality.

“Still, maybe it’s better than whatever trauma they think you suffered.”

“You’re right about that, though I don’t want to talk about it.”

John chuckled. “I figured that. Can’t say I blame you. Hey, you know what you should do? Now that you have some time off, you should take up a hobby.”

Zuri paused, the glass halfway to his mouth. “A hobby? Like what?”

“I don’t know. There must be something you’re interested in.”

“I’ve probably quit more hobbies than you ever dreamed of starting,” Zuri murmured.

“Just a suggestion.”

Zuri downed the drink and John turned to some task – why would he want to do that? Why spend immortality serving vampires? Washing glasses, wiping tables, mixing blood and spices? Why not coast on the good life? Put his feet up, relax, have some fun?

Right, like I do. I can’t even stand five days without an assignment.

It was another soul searching moment he didn’t care for, so he finished his drink, paid his bill, and headed back to his apartment. Maybe there would be something worth watching on TV.

Yeah, right.

***

Zuri dug through the closet. Boxes held remnants from his past; things he’d once been interested in and then gotten bored with. A chunk of wood was at the bottom of one, half carved into a turtle. He’d done a lot of woodcarving once upon a time, when things had been quieter. Then the world sped up. They started driving automobiles instead of taking the train or riding a horse. Things happened faster, with less time to just sit and wait, and the hobby had fallen by the wayside.

Zuri set the partial turtle aside and dug out the old wood carving set. The blades were rusty, which meant he’d have to make a trip to the shopping area. Was it worth all that?

Though he wasn’t sure, he had nothing better to do, and he had money to burn.

At least being an Executioner paid well.

***

Bed time found Zuri with a new set of tools, but no will to actually do the work. It was late, anyway, so he changed into a pair of pajama pants and climbed into bed. The blankets were soft, and the pillow fluffy, but when he closed his eyes he saw the dark room in Oren’s war den, heard the distant murmuring of the occupants, and felt the phantom ache in his arms.

It’s over, he told himself. It’s over, it’s done with, and it doesn’t matter. You’re too old for this. Too strong for this. You’re not a wimp, not like one of these young vampires.

Despite the pep talk, sleep remained hard to find, and when he did, his dreams were more memory than fiction.

“Is he awake?”

Zuri blinked against the blurriness that sucked him down. He was so tired, so…so…thirsty. His throat burned so bad. If he could just have a drink…just one drink…

“I think he’s out still,” another voice said. It sounded like Fabian.

“Good. It will make it easier for you to put his arms back.”

Put my arms back? My arms? My…my…

Right. They were gone. He’d seen that the last time he’d woken up. Or maybe the time before that. It was all a confusing smear punctuated with burning thirst. He just needed a drink…

“Me? You’re the one who wants to put them back! I say leave them off.”

Zuri forced his eyes to focus and saw his dark haired captor and another vampire; one who looked like a fairytale prince, complete with ruffled shirt.

“Idiot.” The prince sneered. “How can we bargain with him if he’s ruined? They need to be reattached for a few hours, at least.”

Fabian scoffed. “You’re just saying that because Jorick and his monkeys want them back on.”

“I hardly care what Jorick wants, though to my knowledge he doesn’t care either way.”

“Right. That’s why Loren and Micah have been chattering about putting them back? They’re Jorick’s mouthpieces, just like you!”

With a snarl, the prince-like vampire grabbed Fabian by the front of his shirt and slammed him into the wall. “Say such things again and I will cut out your tongue. I swore an oath to Oren, not to you.” He flung Fabian aside and straightened his shirt. “Now replace his arms. Tomorrow you can remove them again, if it suits you, but they can’t remain unattached for more than a day or two at a time, or they’ll wither. Malick will not bargain for a ruined Executioner. Remember that.”

He strode out the door, leaving Fabian to snarl after him, “One of these days, Traven, I’m going to kill you.”

Zuri moaned softly as Fabian jerked open a nearby box. The scent of old blood wafted out; and though Zuri knew it was his own blood, the smell drove his hunger. He needed a drink. Oh God, he needed a drink…

Fabian snarled and jerked a dagger from his pocket. He grabbed the left stump of Zuri’s arm, just a few inches below the shoulder. Though he hadn’t fed, sleep had healed him, and the skin had grown over the severed bones and muscles, leaving a perfectly smooth nub.

“Fucking Traven wants this done, next time he can do it himself.”

Zuri saw the flash of the blade, and then the pain came as Fabian cut the skin away. Zuri tried to fight, tried to kick and struggle loose, but he was too weak. His fight came to barley more than a flinch, and his cries to a dry gurgle in his throat.  They’d drained him of blood and left him that way to keep him weak, to stop him from escaping, from defending himself.

Fabian peeled the skin away to leave exposed bones and muscle. Zuri’s rattles turned into dry screams. The scent of his own blood left his heart pounding, and the pain from his arms burned like fire. He knew his reaction only fueled Fabian and made him feel more in control. He needed to hold it in, to stoically accept, to-

The logic died as Fabian cut into the other arm, slicing skin. Zuri squeezed his eyes shut and howled, though the sound was more like the wind through a tin can. Fabian ignored it as he fetched the withered arms. With another snarl, he lashed them in place, lining up bones and gory meat. Zuri tried to move, though he knew it was futile. It would take blood or sleep for the skin and muscles to grow again, knitting back together as they did. Blood they weren’t likely to give him.

“Don’t get used to them,” Fabian snapped. “They’re coming off again.”

Zuri didn’t bother to try to reply. With a scoff, Fabian kicked him in the ribs, then stormed out.

The world swam, wavered, then faded to black. It came back studded with pain, and he opened his eyes to see Fabian there again, cutting through his arm with a hacksaw.

“Is that really necessary?” a teenage vampire asked.

“Have you forgotten who this is? What this is? This is an Executioner! A demon from hell! It was his kind that killed my sister! I will not rest until he suffers – until they all suffer and die, screaming, like she died!”

His sister. Oren’s wife. Right. Zuri had been there. He’d been there but he wasn’t the one that killed her, the one who had to kill her, because she’d made those illegal children, hadn’t she? There was even a baby, an immortal baby, trapped forever. That was a sin, that was…that was…

He lost touch with his thoughts, lost touch with the world. There was only the pain as they cut his arms free, the sound as they slammed them back in that box, the snicker as Fabian promised they might never go back again.

But they did. The skin was peeled away from the stubs and the arms reattached, only to be cut free again. He didn’t know how many times it had happened, only that the last time was there, at the citadel, in the medical facility.

And that time he’d had enough blood in him to scream.

He jerked awake with a start. His heart pounded and the familiar agony burned through his arms. He rubbed them, as if that would chase away the remembered pain, the remembered fear…

As if anything could ever take that away.

Zuri felt instinctively that the sun was down. Thirst burned his throat. Though not as violent as in his memories, it was enough to get him dressed and out the door. He stopped in at a café, ordered a large decanter, and took off, dodging the casual attention of the other patrons. He didn’t want their stares – or their company.

He retreated to his apartment and his half-carved turtle. A hobby, John had suggested. Sure. Why not? He took a seat and selected the tools, now foreign in his unpracticed hands. His cuts were clumsy, and rather than making him feel better, the work made him feel worse. When the chisel bit into his thumb, he swore and threw it all across the room.

“Fuck this.”

Sucking the cut, he stomped over woodchips and out the door. His feet led him to the elevator, and finally to the empty club. John was in his usual place, sorting through a rack of spices and syrups.

“Welcome back! If you stick around tonight you can see Lua’s performance.”

Zuri snorted his opinion and took the glass John set in front of him. He wasn’t really thirsty now; he’d downed the whole decanter earlier, but he sipped at it anyway.

John went back to his work,  humming, while Zuri waited for him to strike up a conversation. It was just a matter of time.  Any minute now…

When the seconds stretched, Zuri decided it was better to do it himself than to wait. Right. Better to just get it over with. Sure. Not like I want someone to talk to.

“You’re too cheerful.”

John chuckled. “I have a lot to be happy about, I guess. You do too, I’m sure.”

Zuri scoffed, “Like what?”

“You’re here, in the best club in the citadel, huh?” John laughed and then turned serious. “But you are here. Alive. If not family, you have friends.”

“Sure. You see them all sitting here.” Zuri motioned to the empty space.

“Do you see mine?” John asked. “They may not be here, but that they’re here.” He touched his heart. “You’re feeling miserable now, but it will end. You just have to have the patience to fight through to the other side. There’s always light just beyond the horizon.”

“Yeah? Where was my light when I was held prisoner for twelve days? Starved, tortured, left by my so-called ally? Huh?”

John blinked away his surprise quickly. “You got away, didn’t you? I mean, you’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.” He tapped the side of his head.

Zuri growled low. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Take it however you want.” The bartender rubbed his hands together. “Sure you don’t want to see Lua?”

He grunted his opinion, and, with a shrug John grabbed a rag and moved to wipe tables.

Zuri gulped his drink and focused on the shiny glasses behind the bar, then on that neatly stacked rack of flavorings. When had vampires started adding flavor to blood? How long did the thrill of the hunt, of the kill last, before it became something you just did to survive, like eating had once been? Just a chore you needed to do in order to keep chugging on.

Like everything else.

John returned to rinse his rag, and Zuri paid his bill. He wasn’t in the mood for the cheerfulness, or the clever quips. Light beyond the horizon… only a prisoner in his head…Pfft. As if.

He stomped back to his apartment and snatched the half-carved turtle from the floor. It looked at him with accusing eyes – eyes that screamed, “You were a prisoner for twelve days, but you’ve left me one for how many decades? Trapped, half-formed, unrealized.”

“And what should I do, huh? Look at this.” He jabbed the newest cut with a finger. “It looks like crap.”

But the wooden eyes didn’t care. With a snarl – maybe anger at the turtle, or anger at himself – he dropped into the chair and grabbed his tools. The cuts were clumsy, chunky, obvious from the older, smoother work. Still, he kept at it, dropping wood chips around his feet. The minutes slipped past, then the hours. Zuri paused to survey the nearly complete turtle. He supposed he should thank John for the hobby suggestion, not that he felt like thanking him for anything just then. Tonight’s comments had irritated him in an almost irrational way.

He turned back to the work, running over the conversation in his head. Friends. Light beyond the horizon. Sure, he was alive, but so what? Sure, he wasn’t a prisoner of the war coven anymore, but he was still a prisoner – a real prisoner – stuck in the damn citadel, forced to look at the same rooms night after night, reliving the same agonizing memories-

In my head.

That was where the reoccurring memories were, where the cycle kept repeating, where he was really trapped.

“You’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.”

John was right.

With that thought, the last of the wood fell away, and he cradled the turtle in his large hand. Though imperfect, the wooden creature was free of the block, of his prison. The time he’d spent stuck in limbo showed, from the difference in the quality, to the subtle colors of old and new cut wood. He was forever marked by the years he’d been trapped.

Just as I am. Though he wanted to pretend it hadn’t affected him, those days of imprisonment had left their mark; not just the nightmares, and the memories, but a secret, burning fear in the pit of his brain, a fear that it would all happen again. The kind of fear that made you kill first and ask questions later, the same kind of fear that had driven other Executioners over the years. Executioners like Senya, who would run, terrified tail between her legs, rather than try to help a colleague.

The kind of fear Eileifr didn’t want making decisions anymore.

And that was why he was on recuperation leave. Not as a punishment, but a precaution. It wasn’t something he should hate, or fear, but something he should embrace. Just as he needed time to hone his skills and make that turtle smooth again, so he needed time to heal inside, to make himself smooth again.

But in the meantime, he needed to remember one thing; the most important thing. No matter how it had happened, or what it had left behind, now, just like the turtle, he was free.

***

And now for guesses:

Picture 1: Colleen

1. a lot of bottles 2. Oh Christmas tree. 3. O Tannenbaum 4. bright light 5. see how is sparkles 6. this tree is makin’ me thirsty 7. the day after the christmas party 8. I wouldn’t want that hangover. 9. how lovely are your bottles 10. they must not have bottle deposits.

photo 2: Myke

  1. dashing through the snow. 2. here comes santa claus 3. jingle bells. 4. one moose open sleigh 5. or is that a reindeer? do they get that big? 6. They have reindeer herders in Finland. 7. where’s rudolf? 8. Is this comet or cupid? 9. Prancer or vixen? 10. Maybe Blitzen or Dasher? Isn’t there a dancer? And Donner is rudolf’s dad…

 

Blogophilia 42.10 – Zuri Part 2

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 42.10 Topic – Kryptonite
**BONUSES: Hard (2 pts) Incorporate a lyric by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (something didn’t seem right)
Easy (1 pt) Use the word “chrysalis”

I missed last week. I had actually started it, and technically could have posted what I had, but I got greedy and wanted to wrote more and… and with limited computer time I wasn’t able to, nor was I then able to post what I already had, so you get it this week instead. I’d hoped to finish the story, but I rewirked the beginning, (which y’all won;t see until it’s published later this month or whatever), and that took forever.

Anyway, Zuri is in the bar, talking to the bartender, wishing vampires could get drunk to distract him from his forced “leave of absence” from the Executioners.

***

 

Zuri reached to tug on his necklace, a nervous habit, but stopped when his fingers found nothing. They’d ripped away the Executioner amulet when he was taken prisoner, and laughed about it. He’d expected to get a new one, but since he was still on leave…

“You lose something?”

Zuri looked sharply to the bartender, but saw no malice in his eyes. No, he had no way of knowing. The comment had probably been an innocent one.

Footsteps came down the corridor, then a pair of vampires swept aside the filmy black curtain and ducked inside. The bartender moved away to serve them, and Zuri took his cue to leave. Though his apartment was the last place he wanted to go, he hated the thought of a crowd even more.

It could be worse, he told himself. I could still be with them.

***

“What am I?” Zuri stared through new eyes, looking at his extended palms, stained in blood, then on to Logan.

The man smiled; revealing those strange elongated teeth, like the smile of a fox. “You are as I am, made stronger with my blood.”

Blood. There was a lot of it. It was on Zuri’s hands, splashed on his chest, staining his shirt, pooling on the floor around the savaged body of a young girl. He squinted and recognized her as the inn’s serving girl who’d shown him to his room earlier. That she was…had he…

And then the pain came, ripping through him like a hot knife, and he fell to the floor next to her. He writhed, eyes squeezed closed, as if to blot out everything, including the sick memory of what he’d done, of the way her flesh had rent, the way her blood had tasted so delicious…

Zuri jerked awake and the memory-turned-dream faded.  Logan. How long had it been since he’d last seen his master? 1779, wasn’t it, when Logan had announced he was bored.

“I have more than taught you what you need to know; nature herself could have shown you the way. Perhaps it was my vanity that held us close, or my curiosity. Regardless both have run their course and the time has come for us to part ways.”

Zuri had stared at him for a moment, and then shrugged. What else was there to do? It wasn’t as if he had the words to describe the complicated mess he felt; a mess better kept to himself, anyway.

And that was it. Logan had tipped his hat and walked away into the night, his boots clacking on cobblestones. Zuri had watched him for a moment, then turned back for the inn and their rented room. After that he’d followed the same life style – rented rooms, nightly meals, money taken from victim’s pouches – until he’d become a guard for The Guild. From there he’d moved on to greater guard, and finally became an Executioner when Kateesha left the first time.

Ancient history, he told himself. More than two hundred years ago. Does any of it even matter anymore?

He had no answer, only a gnawing thirst that told him the sun was gone it was time to rise.

He climbed out of bed, showered, and dressed, stopping again when it came time to slide the missing necklace over his head. For a moment he saw the twisted face of his captor – a sniveling, dark haired vampire with deep eyes and a sneer of contempt. Fabian, the brother-in-law of Oren. Fabian had ripped the necklace free and thrown it on the floor.

“You’re nothing now, Executioner. This – this is a symbol of what you were, and now it’s gone and you’re nothing!”

The world had faded in and out, blurred and cleared in time for him to see the raised dagger in Fabian’s hand, in time for him to realize he was going to die, just as Dismas had died.

But another had stepped in. Muscles stacked like building blocks gleamed under his ebony skin. A voice like molasses murmured, “There’s been enough death.”

Fabian jerked away. “Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?”

Jorick had stepped in then. “You can fight over his bones later. We need to catch up to the others.”

Fabian looked ready to argue, but Oren shushed him with a motion. “Jorick’s right. Pack him up and we’ll head back to the den.”

Zuri couldn’t move his arms. Was he tied? He tried to push against the bonds – as a titan he was stronger than other vampires, and stronger than any rope they could find – but for some reason he couldn’t fight this, he couldn’t…

A loud knocking pulled Zuri back to the present. He tugged his shirt smooth and moved to open the door. In the corridor stood Beldren, tall and slender with a blonde ponytail and his own flashing silver medallion.

Zuri nodded a greeting. Beldren didn’t bother to disguise peering over his shoulder, eyes raking over the tidy apartment.

“I have to go back out in a couple of hours, but I wanted to see how you were doing.”

Zuri shrugged and stepped to the side to let Beldren pass. The vampire moved to his accustomed chair and smoothly folded himself into it. “Jorick is leaving tonight for Munich.”

Jorick had left Oren’s war coven the day after the fight. Even as a prisoner, Zuri had figured that much out, and oddly in Zuri’s blurry memories it was Jorick who’d returned twelve days later, to drag Zuri back to the citadel. A penance for the crime of leaving him there, perhaps? But if so…

Something didn’t seem right.

“Leaving? He’s still here?”

“Of course. He hasn’t been let go yet.” A muscle in Beldren’s jaw twitched. “After you were…imprisoned, Jorick and his human were apprehended for those murders, which they didn’t do. But during the trial he was found culpable of Dismas’ death and your predicament. As punishment, Malick reinstated him as an Executioner.”

Zuri stiffened. Punishment? He was punished by being given an Executioner post – the same post Zuri would give his eye teeth to have back?

“Eileifr was against it, and in hindsight everyone thinks Malick did it because he was hoping Jorick would join him in the revolt, so he wanted to make sure Jorick was available. As you know, he didn’t. Anyway, you won’t have to worry about running into him. He’s heading out for Munich tonight.”

Zuri shut the door and paused, an eyebrow arched. “Munich?”

Beldren nodded. “Someone has to report to the True Council about what happened here. You know how old ones are. They have to have someone in person so they can pluck it from their brains. Anyway, I believe Eileifr is planning to send Verchiel and one of the new Executioners with him.”

New Executioners?

Beldren went on, as if he already guessed the question. “There are three new ones, to replace the defectors. There’s Cyprus, I think his name is. He was a guard here. You might have seen him. A mane of long red hair nearly to his waist.” He motioned the appearance, then waved it away. “Then, there’s a woman – Lisiantha I think her name is. Dark hair. We’ve worked with her a few times. And…who was the third? Oh yes, Fallon. He’s been a greater guard for some time. I remember him from clear back in the fifties. Or maybe the sixties. He’s blonde, curly hair, looks young. Anyway, Apparently Cyprus used to be a guard for Munich, so he’s going with Jorick as a kind of liaison. Why Verchiel is going is anyone’s guess. Probably because Eileifr wants rid of him as much as we do.”

Zuri took the opposite chair and folded his hands in his lap while Beldren added, “I assume you know everything else that happened? Oren and Traven’s covens attacked, Malick revolted and took off, Eileifr’s taken over the council-”

“I know that.” Bitterness made Zuri’s words brittle. “He’s the one who insisted on this ‘recovery time’.”

“Is that what he’s calling it?” Beldren asked. “Not that you couldn’t use some time off. We all could. I’d fancy a vacation, too-”

“A vacation,” Zuri cut in. “But this isn’t a vacation. This is little better than being Traven and Fabian’s prisoner!”

Beldren picked invisible lint from his coat. “You can’t really mean that. I’ve heard about your…imprisonment.”

Anger bubbled to Zuri’s lips, but he swallowed it back to say instead, “How long until I’m reinstated?”

“Good grief, I have no idea. It’s certainly not my decision. If you want, I can put in a word with Eileifr, say that you seem to be…altogether, or whatever. Not that I think it will make any difference. He’s a demon eye, and can see the outcome before he makes the decision. I assume he’s keeping you on hold because he’s seen something.”

Zuri cocked an incredulous eyebrow. There was a good chance this so called “recuperation” was to make sure he didn’t cause waves with Jorick. Malick might be gone, but he doubted the favoritism was.

“Anyway,” Beldren rubbed his hands together. “You’ve stewed in here enough I imagine. A drink, perhaps? My treat.”

Zuri shrugged. It wasn’t like he had anything else to do.

***

Zuri saw Beldren and his company of guards off, then slumped back for the elevator. He reached for the second floor button, but on a whim hit the first floor. Though he’d fed with Beldren, a cinnamon and sugar mix sounded good.

The nightclub was empty except for the bartender, who was whipping tables. Today he wore a shirt that proclaimed “My Name is John” in a scrawl similar to a handwritten name tag.

Zuri took a stool and nodded to the garment. “Is it?”

The bartender looked up from his task. “Is what?” he followed Zuri’s gaze and grinned. “As a matter of fact, it is. Pleased to meet you. Again,” he added with a laugh.

Zuri grunted a reply and turned his eyes to the glasses behind the bar. Shiny rows waiting for the late evening rush.

“Do you really get that many customers?”

John finished his task and joined the Executioner. “Sometimes. Business is down a little, though not as much as you’d expect. There may have been a lot of casualties, but the looky-loos have started showing up, wanting to gawk at the ruins. Enough about me. What can I get you?”

Zuri muttered his order – the same as last night’s – and soon had a glass in hand. He sipped the contents and waited for the bartender to start the chitchat. Just like he did last night.

When nothing came, Zuri decided he might as well do it himself. Save the guy the trouble.

“So you live with your mother?” When John blinked, Zuri added, “She’s your master?”

“Oh well, true enough there.” He smiled affably. “But no, she’s in Oklahoma still. How about you?”

Zuri shrugged. “My mother is long dead, and my master is long gone.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Zuri shrugged again. “It is what it is. Not like the memory is my kryptonite.” He took another sip. “She died of smallpox when I was a child. As did my sisters. I survived.” Though he didn’t pull up his shirt, he knew the familiar patchwork of scars that covered his trunk, smoothed by immortality, the pits were still barely visible, the mark of the disease.

Though not a mind reader, he could sense John’s discomfort and added, “It was a long time ago. I barely remember them. Or it.”

“I guess that’s the good thing about time,” John said vaguely.

Zuri scoffed. “That it hides all wounds in a fog, like some kind of chrysalis that entombs our misery? We forget no chrysalis is permanent. Just as the butterfly bursts forth in the spring, so do the memories.”

“But surely they’ve been changed, just as the caterpillar turned into the butterfly?” John countered. “Dulled by time?”

“Or twisted into something darker.” Zuri drained his glass and set it on the bar. One look at John’s uncomfortable face left him backtracking. “I’m sorry. Just ignore me.”

“No, it’s okay. You’re obviously in a pretty dark place right now.”

“I’m nowhere right now. Trapped here until Eileifr decides I’m ‘well’, whatever that means.”

“Eileifr…That name’s familiar.”

“He’s in charge of the High Council now that Malick’s gone – and in charge of the Executioners. He thinks I need time off to ‘recuperate from the trauma’. As if all of vampiredom – and being an Executioner – isn’t traumatic. Do they think that killing illegally created vampire children, or burning bodies, or destroying unmarked humans isn’t traumatizing? Malick knew it was, but he believed trauma made us stronger. Eileifr on the other hand…Eileifr…I don’t know what he believes.”

“You’re an Executioner, then?” John asked. Zuri’s reply was a grunt, so he went on. “I imagine your vampire experience has been pretty…bloody. But I have to say mine hasn’t been traumatic. It’s actually been pretty nice.”

“It would be, being turned by your mother, I imagine. No loss, no old life left behind. That’s not how they used to do things.” He stopped before he sounded like an old man complaining about how the kids did things “these days”.  “You haven’t been immortal long, have you?”

“Ten years now. I guess that’s nothing compared to you and everything you’ve seen.”

***

topic – Christopher

pic – Sallon

  1. fish tales 2. it was this big 3. roar. 4. lunchtime 5. the sky is falling 6. the meteor is coming! 7. are you a lizard or a dinosaur? 8. how about a hug? 9. free hugs 10. monsters. 11. they’re kinda cute. 12. If i was good I could tell you what game/show/whatever they are from. 13. I think it’s a game. 14. Not little big planet, though. 15. I want a candy bar thiiiis big. 16. boo! 17. Ah! A lizard! 18. rain dance 19. jumping jacks! 20. time for dance lessons.

Blogophilia 40.10 – Zuri part 1

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 40.10 Topic – The Method to the Madness
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Use a song title from the 70’s
Easy (1 pt) Use the word “Bodacious”
.

My hard drive is still unusable – aka it still says it needs to be formatted – which means I can’t get to any of my files. Luckily I’d emailed myself my Amaranthine notes last February, so I was able to get back to the executioner stories. That’s something at least. Now I just need $1700 to pay to get my files recovered from the hard drive. (yikes!)

We’re starting a new story this week.  it takes place during Heart if the Raven (the fifth book in the series). The events he talks about happened at the end of book 4 (Ashes of Deceit).

***

Zuri watched the snowflakes drift from the sky like soft puffs of feathers. From fallen angels, he thought absently, and as quickly dismissed the thought. It was depressing, like so many of the thoughts he’d had lately. Apparently even a walk outdoors wasn’t enough to distract him.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and thumped his way back towards the building marked “Office”. Small and white, it sat in a grain elevator complex, surrounded by towering silver bins, a collection of metal buildings, and several seed company signs.  Train tracks zigged through the back of the property, left from days when grain came by rail car. An unused spur, it now sat under the snow, quietly rusting away, a symbol of different days.

Ugh! Can I get more depressing?

Zuri kicked a clomp of snow, as if it was the cause his problems, then shuffled into the office. A vampire with the heather skin if a famer, and a hat to match, sat behind the desk. With a nod, he pressed the button that would unlock the not-so-secret door to the citadel, home to the country’s vampire government, among other things.

Other things like the Executioners, he thought glumly. Until his last assignment he’d been one of them, an elite soldier who acted as policeman to the vampire population. But then he’d been taken prisoner, had his arms ripped off, and been held captive for twelve days.

Not taken prisoner, abandoned by that bitch, Senya. If she was still here…

The thought fell to nothing because she wasn’t. She’d left with Malick, in a spectacular revolt that Zuri had missed. And even if she had been there, what would he have done? Killed her? Not that she didn’t deserve it, but the punishment for that would be unthinkable.

Worse than twelve days captivity.

Zuri trooped into the back room of the office, where the shiny silver door waited. More sci-fi than rural, it was hardly disguised in a seed shop. That the humans who worked the office didn’t know about the vampires beneath them was impossible. Pure Guild propaganda, designed to make the immortal visitors feel more at ease.

They don’t want them to worry about humans sneaking down during the day and slaying everything in sight.

Through the shiny door was a set of stairs that led to what had once been a welcome room. Now it was a disaster, roped in caution tape and marked by shattered walls and leftover rubble, the aftermath of that missed revolt.  Most of the top two floors were that way, with damage going all the way down to the bottom level. He could only imagine what it had looked like at the time.

At least the elevators are working, he thought as he stumped towards them. Though he had no idea where he was going to go. He couldn’t stand to go back to his den and stare at the wall. When faced with the buttons, he hit the first floor and leaned back against the wall as the car descended. Maybe he could find a distraction in the public areas.

When the doors swished open, he exited and made his way down a corridor. The fighting hadn’t reached the shopping area, and vampires moved through it with bags and smiles, as if nothing had ever happened. Zuri surveyed the shops, and the shoppers, before he rejected them both.

With nowhere else to go, he headed for a nightclub. Though it seemed like the anti-thesis of what he craved, there was a certain method to the madness. He wasn’t interested in the neon light atmosphere, but this early in the night, it should be empty. It would be somewhere different to sit, at least, something different to look at than his own furniture.

It had been years since he’d been there. The blur-lit hallway was certainly new, as was the black gauze curtain over the door. Inside was just as different. Bright neon lights lit an empty stage and shone on a polished bar and empty tables. Just as he thought, the only occupant was the vampire behind the bar, who was busy wiping glasses.

Who will want to talk, Zuri thought bitterly. Bar tenders always wanted to talk, even if they were just slinging flavored blood. Better to take a table. Maybe that would keep chattiness at bay.

But probably not. Hell, he might as well just nip it in the bud and sit at the damn bar.

He took a stool, and the bar tender gave him a nod. Zuri waited, but the other vampire didn’t speak, only hummed to himself as he finished his task.

The glass clean, he deposited it on a tray, and then turned to his customer. “What can I get you?”

“Do you still have cinnamon and sugar mix?”

The vampire flipped dark hair out of his eyes. “We have any flavor you want.”

He busied himself with mixing the blood drink, and Zuri leaned his elbows on the bar. How long would it be before the guy was asking him questions and acting friendly? That’s what they all did, pretended to be your friend. He didn’t need any friends right now.

What I need is to be reinstated.

The bartender deposited a glass on the bar.  “There you go, sir.”

Zuri tugged out the fancy swizzle stick and downed the dink in a gulp. It tasted close to what he remembered. Maybe a little more sugar next time.

“Another?” the bartender asked.

Zuri mumbled but nodded, and soon he had a second drink before him.

If only there was alcohol in this. And if only alcohol still affected me.

The bar tender went back to his glasses while Zuri sipped his drink. He watched the other vampire; watched the sure quick motions of the rag over the glass. How long would it be before the chattering started?

Maybe I should just get it over with.

“You worked here long?”

The bartender paused his work to shrug. “A year.”

“I didn’t think you looked familiar.” Zuri took another drink. “I haven’t been in here in a long time.”

“You should come back when the show’s going.” The bartender nodded towards the stage. “This month we have Lua the bodacious burlesque temptress.”

Zuri cocked an eyebrow. “And is she really a temptress?”

“She’s not bad looking, if that’s what you mean. She has an entertaining routine. Strips down to nothing but you never see a thing. She uses giant fans.” He held his hands out to indicate the sheer size. “Covered in feathers and such. She cleans up in tips.”

Zuri grunted. “I’m surprised you’re having shows.”

“Oh?” He blinked, then seemed to understand. “You mean the attack? Nah, it never reached here.”

“I heard there were a lot of casualties.”

“Now that’s true. It was a shame.” He paused, then added, “You weren’t here for it?”

Zuri glared at nothing. “No.”

“Be glad you missed it. I’ll remember the screaming for the rest of my life.” The bartender turned back to his glasses. “If you want to know about it, though, shouldn’t be hard to hear the stories. Everybody’s talkin’.”

Zuri finished his glass and motioned for a third. When it was delivered, the bar tender grinned. “You must like that.”

“Maybe.” Or maybe I like it better than staring at the same four walls.

“As long as you keep buying.” The bartender laughed. “I have to pay the bills.”

Zuri stirred the drink listlessly. “You own the place?”

“Yep. Bought out the previous owner last year.”

But if he’d only been there a year, that meant he’d come to the citadel and bought the place right off the bat.  Why? What possessed someone to want to serve other people? Unless it was a holdover from his human days. “Did you own a bar before?”

“Nah. I just saw the listing and thought why not? You only live once.”

Zuri shrugged a response.

“That’s what my mom said to me,” he added. “She said I might as well because-”

“Because you only live once,” Zuri muttered. “You have your mother?”

“Have? Um…”

Zuri rolled his eyes. “I mean that she’s with you, in immortality.”

“Oh. Yeah. She’s the one who turned me, actually.”

Zuri made a noncommittal noise and wondered how that worked out. To have your mother- or any blood relative – as a constant companion.  His own master had been a brief blip in his life, a bored vampire who’d turned him for a distraction and then wandered off after two years. Zuri hadn’t seen him since, though he assumed he was still alive somewhere, even more bored than he’d been.

***

And now for guesses:

Topic: Trevor

Pic: Gerard

  1. Hold me, thrill me 2. sumo 3. who needs a hug? 4. Can I cry on your shoulder? 5. Lean on me 6. I think I’m turning Japanese 7. Big in Japan 8. Life in Tokyo 9. Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting 10. ninjas 11. Okay, they’re sumo wrestlers. 12. You won;t see that on WWE. 13. Let’s get ready to rumble! 14. the big squeeze 15. big hug 16. bear hug 17. or bare hug (ha ha) 18. can I have this dance? 19. put your head on my shoulder. 20. nap time.

Blogophilia 39.10

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

I wanted to start a new short story, but have been having computer issues. I don’t know if the stars have just aligned wring, or maybe the lines in the sky are out to get me, but either way I haven’t had time to work on it. I was able to copy the data, so at least I won’t lose anything. Take that starlit night of evilness! Hopefully I’ll be able to get on it this weekend, but you know what they say, Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans – plans like fixing a laptop! And it may need a new hard drive, so even if I get on it, it would then have to wait until I get the cash.

*sigh*

And now for guesses:

Topic: Trevor

Pic: Irene

Secret bonus:

1. Stars in our eyes. 2. Seeing stars

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