It’s time again for Blogophilia. This week has a lot of prompts:
- Repost one of your favorite Blogophilia posts (please provide the link to the old favorite blog)
- Incorporate a line from Paul Coelho’s book “Eleven Minutes” – (Life moves very fast. It rushes from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds.)
- Mention Mars and include a Looney Tune – (porky pig)
- Name something you would give as an 11th anniversary gift – (steel rose)
- Name something that you might do with a friend at 11 PM – (get drunk)
Yeah, it’s a long list, but I’ll do anything for points, and have been since at least 2009. Back then I did a lor of odd things for Blogophilia, including flash fiction just because I needed those points baby! Don’t believe me? Check this one out – – ramblingsfromthedarkness.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/hair-of-the-dog-a-blogophilia-re-post/ – it’s a repost, of course, because the original was on MySpace.
Ah, MySpace. I stayed there until the eleventh hour, when they forced the final 3.0 update that made blogs impossible to use. It was the kind of thing that made you want to get drunk and fling steel roses at the heads of the geniuses who thought of it. Life moves very fast. It rushes from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds. But then it also rushes back again. We all (mostly) recovered, though I’ve been thinking lately of people who disappeared when MySPace folded, people I never found again. Kind of sad, huh?
You may be wondering where this week’s continuation of Krill is at. Well, it’s nowhere, thanks to alien invaders from Mars… okay, no, it is thanks to y spending two and a half days fixing my laptop’s issue (long story but suffice to say I disabled windows updates and deleted the updates folder finally, and voila, the 100% disk usage is fixed.)
Anyway, I used the other prompts last week, did my meet n greet then, and so I have all the points, baby! And, as Porky Pig would say, “Thabba-Thhe-Thubba-Thhee-That’s all folks!”
- bad egg 2. eggs-elent selection 3. not me 4. imminent danger 5. good egg 6. hand of fate 7. cracked 8. stay quiet 9. choices 10. eleven eggs sitting in a carton…
For Blogophilia’s Eleventh anniversary they’re asking us to repost our favorite blogophilia post. I don’t know what y favorite post is, but this was a fun one.
December 18, 2009 – Friday 6:39 AM
|Flash Fiction – Blogophilia 42.2
Current mood: sleepy
Category: Writing and Poetry
It’s time once again for Blogophilia. I am very late, for various reasons. But, I am throwing this up at the last second. Because of that it will not be anything spectacular.
Blogophilia 42.2 Topic: “Hair of the Dog that Bit Me”
“…Peter Galbraith stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi oil money by cashing in on his links to the Kurdish regional leadership in Iraq…”
I flipped the channel before the newscaster could continue. My leg throbbed and, quite frankly, I just didn’t care.
Penguins suddenly filled the screen. They were familiar penguins; penguins from Madagascar, no less.
“Rico, are we missing any passengers?”
“Just two, Skipper.”
“That’s a number I can live with. Good job!”
Oh. I’d seen that before. It was cute, but not what I wanted. It was far too fantastical, after all. Talking penguins? Give me a break. Next they’d have give the tooth fairy her own show. Aggravated with life in general, I clicked the button again. And again. And again and-
“It’s almost done,” my Aunty Marie trilled from the kitchen. “Just have to add the last ingredient!”
“You mean a hair from the dog that bit me?” I asked, looking very unenthusiastic.
“Yes dear, now to let it simmer!”
I muttered something inappropriate and smashed the button repeatedly, but there was nothing worth watching. There was never anything worth watching. You’d think with the price of satellite television there would be something! But, noooooo!
It didn’t really matter because my Aunt Marie came tripping out, a steaming bowl in her hands, and a delighted look on her face. She handed me the bowl with a delighted look on her face. “Now drink up dear.”
I did as she said, and it tasted as awful as it smelled. Aunt Marie’s concoctions always tasted bad – but they worked. You had to give credit where it was due.
I handed her back the empty bowl, a grimace on my face.
“No need to look so sour, ducky,” she clucked. “Just give it a minute and your leg will be all better and that nasty, nasty dog will have what’s coming to it, hmmmm?”
She disappeared back to the kitchen and I went back to my television. As she predicted, no less than ten minutes later my leg was fine. You couldn’t even tell the bastard had bit me. It took twenty before I heard the neighbor girl shrieking that her doggy was dead.
Ha! It was handy sometimes having a witch for an Aunt.
Personally I love the Penguins. They’re awesome.
Song playing at the moment – “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time” – Band Aid
It’s time again for Blogophilia. This week (and next’s) will be a little different, with more prompts than usual. First of all, we get a point for meet and greet, so:
Greetings! My name is Joleene (though really, I go by Jo most of the time. I like it better. Joleene sounds very stiff and formal. Jo sounds a bit tougher and good natured.) What to say about me? I live in Iowa…um…I’m married…um…yeah that’s all pretty boring. This makes me think of Babylon 5 when the Vorlons ask “Who are you?” Everyone answers with the mundane things like that, but that’s not what they’re looking for. I don’t think they ever make it clear what they ARE looking for in an answer. But summing one’s self up is hard. If I have to do it in one sentence it would be: I’ll say I’m an artist who writes because I’m too lazy to draw.
Wasn’t that fun?
- Name something you do at 11 AM – ordered an early lunch
- Name something used in planning a casino heist – secret meetings
- Integrate a line from the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” – Been practicing that speech, haven’t you
- Incorporate a song title from the group Eleventyseven – inside out
- Use a quote from The Bard’s 11th Play – Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death, and death will have his day
- Incorporate the “Ides of March” in your blog
Krill wiped the blood from his eyes and surveyed the damage. Dead and injured were scattered up and down the corridor. The alarm bells, that had screamed for so long, clanged to a stop, dropping the citadel into silence.
“You’re still alive.”
Krill turned to see Migina wipe a gory blade on her pants before she jammed it into its sheath. Her dark hair was pulled back in a long braid, but a few wisps escaped, flecked in the blood of her enemies. Or maybe her allies.
“I see you survived as well,” Krill replied grimly. Though he was glad to see she was all right, the bodies sapped his would-be joy. Among the dead were friends and acquaintances who’d been on both sides of the revolt.
The word felt wrong; impossible. That his fellows could do such a thing…
“Did you see her?” Migina asked.
The emphasis she put on the word could mean only one vampiress: Kateesha. She was the one who’d led the revolt, who had manipulated fellow guards into fighting against The Guild. Krill had heard the whispers for weeks, rumors that something was coming, that Kateesha had big plans, but he hadn’t believed them. If they were true, then Malick would know. As the oldest vampire in the citadel, the head of the High Council, and the most powerful, he would sense such a revolt and stop it before it could begin. Malick could never be taken by surprise.
Or so Krill had thought. Now, he wasn’t so sure.
He nodded his head. “I watched her kill Douglas. Hopefully someone got her.”
“They didn’t. She, and many of her followers, escaped.” Migina glared at nothing, as if Kateesha could feel her fury through the miles.
Krill wiped his bloody hands on his trousers, then regretted it immediately. The stain would be impossible to get out. The attack had come before dawn. There hadn’t been time to change into his uniform, so it was his personal clothing he’d just ruined. “How did they get away?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it, only heard that that was why it ended.” She motioned to a group of guards gathering further down the hall, at the foot of the stairs. “Those who were on the upper level may know more.”
He nodded and made his way to the group. Their conversation was agitated, angry, excited, so many emotions mixed together. Krill was momentarily glad that his dream stealer abilities were limited in favor of other talents. He couldn’t imagine being forced to rifle through so much at once.
“…Malick let them go,” one of the guards said. “I swear! I saw it.”
“But why would he?” Another asked. They fell to taking over one another, but Krill knew the answer: because it was Kateesha, and Kateesha was Malick’s favorite. Apparently so much so that butchering her own kind wasn’t enough for her to fall from favor.
He didn’t stay for the conversation, instead headed upstairs in search of an Executioner. The upper corridor was similar to the one below; scattered bodies, damaged furniture. In the entryway the chandelier had been knocked to the floor and lay in field of shattered crystals and broken candles.
Beldren stood next to the mess, poking it with the toe of his boot. The medallion around his neck was the badge of his station; one of the vampires Krill was looking for.
“Excuse me, sir.” Krill saluted as Beldren looked up. “What are our orders?”
“Hell if I know.” The Executioner sent a crystal bouncing across the floor where it landed in a puddle of congealing blood. He sighed then snapped straight. “Do you have anything to report?”
“Report?” Krill hesitated uncertainly. “I don’t…”
“During the battle,” Beldren snapped. “Did you see or hear anything unusual?”
“Excuse me, sir, but the incident itself was unusual. Kateesha and her followers attacked-”
“I’m well aware of that. What I meant was…never mind. I doubt Malick will want to pursue them, anyway. You can go.”
“Yes, sir.” Krill saluted and hurried away before Beldren could change his mind. He wasn’t sure what the Executioner had been fishing for, maybe some hint about where Kateesha and her rebels had gone, or perhaps some clue as to their motives. If it was the latter, that was easy to guess. Everyone knew about Kateesha’s ambition, her desire to be queen of the chaos.
Krill looked for Migina on the lower floor, but didn’t see her. Let her find out her orders on her own. He needed a drink, to change and bathe, and try to make sense of the carnage he’d witnessed.
The battle had started before sundown, but now night had spread outside, and vampires were moving in the lower levels, starting their day despite the ruckus. He stopped off at the next to bottom floor where the vampire’s equivalent of a restaurant was just opening. The waiter took one look at him and balked. “What’s going on? I heard the alarms.”
Krill didn’t feel like explaining it, instead he ordered an early lunch, drank it in two gulps, and left for his own floor. Half finished, this would one day be the second story from the bottom, but for now it was the bottom most and housed living quarters for the guards, the Executioners, and even the high council members. Krill could feel their presence, the heaviness of their years and power, and happily turned the other direction. He wound down corridors, some not yet wallpapered, to his own door. Inside was a single room with a box, a desk, and a wardrobe. He bypassed those to grab his uniform from the chair, and then hurried back to the corridor to the shared bathroom. The indoor plumbing was relatively new. Collection tanks sat above ground, disguised as part of the grain elevators many outbuildings, and water ran down the pipes, pulled by gravity. It was a fascinating system, but it meant there was only so much water to be had, and he intended to make sure he got some of it.
The shared bathroom was only six doors down and had a sink, tub, and stool inside. He quickly locked the door and turned the water on, watching as it flowed out. Though the tub was large, there was a painted line only a few inches from the bottom that marked the maximum water level they were allowed. Though there was no one to enforce it, there was always the threat that guards might be posted if the rules were disobeyed, and being surrounded by mind readers, someone would know if you did.
The water reached the line. Krill shut it off, then stripped, looking sadly at the crimson stains. He’d turn it over to the laundry, but they had a no guarantee policy when it came to blood. Of course, even if the stain didn’t come out, they’d still expect to be paid.
He climbed into the tub and leaned back against the cold porcelain. Behind closed eyelids, he saw the battle again, saw Kateesha storm down the corridor, blades swinging, dark eyes wild with excitement as they peered out from her crimson splattered face. He could almost feel her joy as she zinged past, and then she was gone, moving deeper into the fray, shouting commands to her followers.
He’d heard the rumors rumbling under the surface for some time, whispers of secret meetings, of nefarious plots. He’d ignored the stories. In a citadel rife with mind readers, how could it be true? Unless the mind readers were allowing those not-so-secret meetings to take place. Unless Malick, the head of the Guild and the most powerful of all had known and let it continue.
He did let them go, Krill thought uncomfortably. At the end of the fight, Malick had appeared, his white hair gleaming, and ordered a stop to it all. But instead of demanding the rebel’s capture, he let them go, his laughter rolling down the hallway like an ocean’s eleven waves. Perhaps Malick had known. Perhaps he hadn’t thought she’d really go through with it.
Or perhaps he knew she would.
The last thought was the worst. That he would sacrifice them willingly, and for what? Amusement? It was a chilling thought.
It wasn’t as if Kateesha’s predilections weren’t well known. She’d left The Guild once, twenty-five years ago, wasn’t it? Yes, the figures seemed correct. She’d stayed gone for only two years, with a death sentence hanging over her head, then returned. Krill had been guarding the audience chamber that day. Kateesha had thrown open the double doors and sauntered down the red carpet towards the High Council’s thrones. Celandine, one of the council, had stood, her pale face taut with fury. She raised a hand and opened her mouth, no doubt to order Kateesha’s arrest and murder. Before the words could find her lips, Malick had also stood, his arms outstretched.
“So you return, my daughter! And what contrite words do you bring with you?”
Kateesha had dropped at his feet, her head bowed. “I beg your forgiveness father. I disobeyed your orders with my overindulgence and have seen the error of my ways.” She turned long lashed eyes up to him. “The last two years have been lonely and dark, cast from your presence. The world has been inside out, and I wish to make it right, to return to you; to serve you as I used to.”
Celandine shook with rage, but Malick only chuckled. “You have been practicing that speech, haven’t you, my child? Yes, I can see that you have. As for your contrition, I sense that, too, though not for the reason you name. Perhaps if I told you that your brother Jorick is no longer one of us, your penance would dissolve?”
Kateesha didn’t so much as flinch. “I have heard he’s gone into hiding after the death of his wife.”
“SO he has,” Malick agreed. “Do you still wish to rejoin us?”
Celandine had cut in, her hands balled into fists. “I cannot condone this! Kateesha was given a sentence of death for repeatedly disobeying orders! That she is alive is an impending disaster. To allow her to return to her position would be a catastrophe!”
“And should we hand out death, even to the contrite? She has seen the error of her ways, dear Celandine. If we are not willing to forgive, how can we expect to last the weary ages of immortality? Will not the burden of our bitterness overwhelm and destroy us? No, forgiveness is necessary for all, and even more so for us. As the head of the council, I extend that forgiveness to this child who has lost her way. Perhaps without the distraction of her brother, she will better be able to contain herself this time.”
Contain. A million and one things had proven that assumption wrong, none more powerfully than tonight’s rebellion.
Pounding at the bathroom door forced Krill away from memories. Reluctantly, he finished scrubbing, then dried and dressed. He let himself out past the que at the door and headed back to his room to drop off his clothes. Oddly, the door was ajar. He entered cautiously, but there was no one there. Unless… he lunged at his sleeping box, but there was no one inside. Only a folded piece of paper.
He opened it to find beautiful, slanting writing that said only:
Woe, destruction, ruin, and decay; the worst is death, and death will have his day. Be wary always.
Krill blinked at the missive. He recognized the first line. Wasn’t it from a Shakespeare play? The one about the Ides of March and the Roman? No. Not that one, but it was from one of the plays. He was sure of that much. What he wasn’t sure of, was why someone had written it to him. Was it a threat? From who? And most importantly, why?
- waves (in blog) 2. stormy seas 3. adventure 4. high seas 5. Ocean voyage 6. impending disaster (in blog) 7. on the rocks 8. crashing waves 9. storm tossed 10. shipwreck
Picture contributor: Linda
Last July I visited my sister-in-law for a week in Bolivar. While there we visited the Shady Grove cemetery where my mother-in-law and father-in-law are buried. Of course that means I had to take some photos. Yeah, I know it’s taken me a long time to share these, but what can I say, I’m slow.
Wasn’t that fun? If I ever get these new book covers finished (I have four out of ten done!) then I’m hoping to get back to photo editing.
Have a cemetery sunset kinda day!
It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien normally gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week we get to make our own up, so I used http://writingexercises.co.uk to come up with the first two and the band I was listening to at the time for the third.
Topic: (His voice had never sounded) so cold
Bonus (easy)- use the word burial
Bonus (hard) use lyrics from Cinema Bizarre – walking in the shadows
Jorick found clean clothes among the mess, changed, and fed. Though he didn’t want to, he was drawn to the tree by some macabre sense of self torture. What had been left of Velnya was now gone, purified and destroyed by the sunlight. Even the breeze had blown away the ashes, leaving only the charred tree and blackened chains.
Jorick closed his eyes and leaned against the tree, palm pressing into the rough bark, as if he could soak up some kind of absolution. As if being near to her death could save him.
But it couldn’t.
After a moment, he straightened. Nan still lay at the back of the house, decomposing. Let the humans give her a proper burial. They were the ones who’d killed her. Let them look in the face of their crime.
Not that they’ll care.
Remorseless, useless, good only for food. If it wasn’t for the latter, he’d happily see all of them struck from the earth. They deserved to suffer, to die in the blazing glory of flames while they choked and screamed. Perhaps he’d put his life to the task. But first, first he must deal with Malick. Then, if I survive the attempt, I’ll concern myself to what comes next.
Jorick rode his horse hard, the hooves falling like thunder across the prairie land. When the beast was too tired, Jorick stopped at a farm and found another, setting his own steed free. He hated to leave the animal behind, but it couldn’t be helped. As he rode away, he told himself it was for the better.
If Malick kills me, there’s no telling what they might do to the beast. Better to set him free then let them drain him from some sense of spite.
He had to trade horses a second time, but as dawn approached he saw the above ground buildings of the citadel, silhouetted against a blushing sky.
He stopped at the stable, but didn’t bother to unsaddle the horse or take a number. As he strode to the citadel’s entrance, he absently patted himself down, checking for his weapons. Twin daggers rode in pockets, and a sword, unused for many years, hung from his belt. In his boot was a knife, and two more were fastened opposite the sword. Though he used his hands more than the steel in recent years, it didn’t hurt to have them. Especially not when facing a vampire as old as Malick.
With each footstep, Jorick counted up Malick’s years and came away with over two thousand. Yes, the master was ancient, and powerful, but with that power had come an overinflated sense of security. He fancied himself invulnerable, and that might be the weakness Jorick could exploit.
The guard who stood before the small shed was human – with the coming day no vampire could withstand the light. He looked quickly from the medallion that still hung around Jorick’s neck, to the ground. Jorick could feel the mortal’s fear, his terror of the vampires, and of the Executioners most of all.
Good. Fear me, you pathetic creature, and perhaps you’ll live.
Jorick banged the doors open and pounded down the stairs. At the foot, in the lavish entrance hall, stood a lone vampire guard. He glanced at Jorick then away, unconcerned. It wasn’t unusual for Executioners to return at the last minute, back from some task, and apparently he didn’t know that Jorick had relinquished the title and the job that went with it.
Just as well. The fewer I must kill first, the more energy I’ll have for Malick.
Through the entrance hall and down the sweeping staircase, he moved deeper into the underground fortress. Partially finished floors passed, as he headed to the lower level where the master’s slumbered. He could feel Malick’s presence growing stronger and then – receding?
He stopped on the stairs, confusion momentarily replacing his fury. The ancient master was not below in his chamber, but somewhere else. Somewhere higher.
It matters little where he is.
With a snarl, Jorick pulled his sword free and headed back upstairs, and then down the corridor. He stopped before the double doors of the audience chamber. Malick had grand plans that involved pillar and souring alcoves, but for now the room inside was long and low, paneled in wood and hung with an ancient tapestry. Beneath it were five chairs, that served as the High Council’s thrones. There they sat when they made their decisions, such as the decree to have Kateesha and her partner killed, the assignment that had cost Jorick too much time.
It seems fitting he’ll die here.
He sensed the others a second before he pushed the doors open, but it was too late. Masked by Malick’s overwhelming presence, or lost beneath the boiling rivers of Jorick’s rage, he hadn’t felt the other Executioners. They stood on either side of a long red carpet, wary eyes on him and the weapon in his hand. Mary and Bren were in the front, Beldren and Jamie behind them, with Ark as the last. Beyond him, in the center throne, sat Malick. His long robes were flecked in gold embroidery, and his face was serene with the hint of amusement.
“Ah, my son, and so you have come back.”
Ark stepped forward, brandishing a sword whose notched blade spoke of old battles. “Jorick. Leave now.”
Jorick felt the Executioner in his head, seeking his plans, and turned it back on him, pressing into Ark’s memories. Malick had already heard what happened in Nebraska and guessed rightly where Jorick’s wrath would lead him. Only two hours Ark had arrived, after receiving a call to the citadel and orders to stand guard between Malick and Jorick.
“He will come here,” Malick had explained to Ark’s surprise. “Crazed-”
“Crazed with grief,” Malick said aloud in time to Ark’s memory, pulling Jorick back to the present. “Come now, my son. Can we not all understand your reaction? The murders in Nebraska are being dealt with even now by Senya. A plague perhaps? She is creative enough to think of an excuse. And though she’s not a whisperer, she can silence witnesses a different way. Yet another victim to whatever malady took so many of the local population. How sad for them.”
Senya. One of the Executioners who was conspicuously absent, sent by Malick to “tidy up” after him. To cover up the true horror, to keep vampires secret from the human population.
Except Jorick no longer cared if they were secret or not.
“To hell with them and their plague. Let them know a monster tore through their ranks, a judgement for their crimes! But where is your judgement master? Where is your punishment?”
“Mine?” Malick asked innocently, while the assembled Executioners tightened their hold on their weapons and looked uncertainly from one to another.
“Jorick,” Jamie said, his voice purposefully calm. “As master said, we understand your pain, but even you cannot blame him for the actions of the mortals?”
A soothing sensation drifted over Jorick; cool water trying to quench the fire. Like Jorick, Jamie was a whisperer, able to control and influence others’ thoughts and emotions. It was a useful talent, but one Jorick had no intention of succumbing to.
He threw Jamie’s influence away with a snarl. “Stand down.”
“No,” Ark said coldly. “You stand down.”
“You would protect him?” Jorick scoffed. “Even while he holds you here away from your own families? Your own wives.” He looked pointedly to Ark, but the Executioner only glared back with narrowed eyes. “What will you do when the humans come for those who belong to you?”
“Nothing,” Malick said. “Because they will no longer have family or dens outside the citadel. From this day forward Executioners will have chambers here, as the high council does. Any family they possess will shelter here, safe from such occurrences.”
“Safe?” Jorick snapped. “You mean rather under your control? Do not take me for a fool, master. I cannot see your thoughts, but after the centuries I know your heart. You care nothing for them, for their covens, or for me! We are your pets, to amuse you, to worship you, to obey your orders. But no more!”
He charged forward, past Mary and Bren, to clash with Jamie’s raised sword.
“Jorick, if ever you considered me a friend, do not make me fight you.”
“Friend? You are only a puppet to a dark master and his cruel machinations! Move aside or taste the same punishment he will receive!”
Bren spoke from behind him. His voice had never sounded so cold. “As though we would be so weak. You are a legend in your own mind, hand of death, but in reality you are not so much stronger than we are.”
Jorick ducked, unhooking his blade from Jamie’s, and spun back, swinging. The blunt edge caught Bren in the hip, knocking him back. He stumbled and Mary leapt to take his place, her bright red hair dancing around her pale face like a flame. She wielded a mace in each hand, slamming one into the floor next to him, the other arching over, racing to strike.
He dodged, taking her leg out as he rolled past. She fell to one knee, the second mace splintering the parquet floor.
Beldren took the opening, slamming into Jorick hard enough to knock him onto his back. For a moment the room wavered, shimmered, like heat on a hot summer day. Behind it was something else, some dark place that smelled of dirt and damp.
Jorick tore free from it in time to miss the brunt of Beldren’s attack. His blade caught Jorick’s elbow, but blunt like his own, there was pain without blood.
Jorick jerked one of the knives from his coat and jabbed as he pulled to his feet. The blade bit into Beldren’s face, burying itself a hairsbreadth from his eye. The Executioner fell back with a cry, hand instinctively scrabbling to remove the danger.
While he pulled the dagger from his face, Jorick slammed Mary in the back, and threw the knife’s twin at Bren. He deflected the blade, but couldn’t stop Jorick from grabbing him by the throat. He slammed the Executioner into the floor with a sick crunch, then ripped him up again and flung him across the room, like a broken doll.
Momentarily free, Jorick lunged towards his chuckling master. Jamie blocked him, his face hard.
“Do not force my hand.”
“You force mine!” Jorick roared. “Her death is as much his fault as it is theirs! Had he released me when he should-”
“It is not our place to name the time of our release” Jamie replied. “I stayed longer than I wished with Eagan and you-”
“Not three hundred years longer!” Jorick shouted. “No blood debt lasts that long! And now, because of him, and his refusal to release me-”
“Can you expect him to see the future? He is no demon eye, Jorick. How could he have known anymore than you that such a thing would happen? Who could have predicted-”
“She did!” Jorick roared, pushing until Jamie began to slide backward. “She wrote me letter after letter, begging me to come home, to protect her, and I failed! I failed because I was bound to duties that should never have been mine!”
Before Jamie could finish, Jorick turned to find the Executioner charging, one of Mary’s maces raised. Blood ran down his face from the gaping wound and the skin under his eye flapped. Jorick raised his arm a second too late, and the mace slammed into his shoulder. He felt the bones shatter, and agony shot through him, sharp enough to buckle his knees.
Beldren raised the mace again, but Jorick recovered in time to avoid another blow. His left arm hung useless. Rather than subduing him, the pain fueled him, and the world blurred. With a savage cry, he jerked to his feet, grabbing Beldren by his ponytail. He swung the Executioner away, then spun back and went for Jamie. Moments disappeared under a wave of blackness, punctuated by split seconds of clarity. His friend battled, but Jorick wrestled the sword away from him. He threw the weapon, and slammed his fist into the Executioner’s face again, and again. He was aware of the blood on his hands, and of Mary attacking him from behind.
He swatted her away, then banged her head into the splintered floor. Crimson ran in a river away from her ruined face, as bright as her hair. A moment later he was aware of breaking Bren’s good arm, of kicking him away, his ribs shattering at the impact.
The next thing he knew, Beldren lay in a heap, and he wrestled with Ark. The Executioner snarled, but Jorick spun him around with a snap the broke his neck.
He threw the incapacitated vampire to the floor. Stepping over the bodies, he advanced on Malick. The white haired master sat on his throne, chuckling. With an incline of his head, he lifted his hands to clap with exaggerated slowness.
“Such wrath, my son! How long has it been since I have seen that fire in your eyes? Since you have maimed and fought, relishing the brutality, the feel of broken bones and rent flesh? Ah, what a sight!”
Jorick’s reply was a strangled cry of fury as he lunged at Malick. He swung, hand inches from his master, when his body seized up. He hung, frozen, snarling and roaring over the screaming buzz in his head. The sound grew louder, and louder, bringing with it an agony that threatened to split his skull.
Malick released him, and he fell back, sagging on himself, hands to his ears as if he could shut out the horrible sound. The pitch rose, and Jorick’s legs gave out, dropping him to all fours.
“Kneel my son!” Malick cried. “Kneel and know your place!” He broke into laughter that echoed over the keening sound, a mixture straight from a nightmare.
Jorick roared as he tried to fight the noise, fight the helplessness. He struggled to free the knife from his boot. It shook in his hand, but her forced his arm to lift, forced his fingers to hold, his hand to aim…even if it was just the master’s leg…anything to break his concentration…
“Tut, tut,” Malick sing-songed. “It seems I underestimated your strength? More pressure, perhaps?”
The horrible sound increased. A scream ripped from Jorick and the knife fell from his hand. Involuntarily, his muscles tightened, rolling his body into a ball as his instincts fought to protect him, to stop this before his brain exploded.
He squeezed his eyes shut and pictured Velnya as he’d last seen her, wisps of black hair falling around her face, violet eyes dancing with sadness as he explained why he had to leave. Her lips drew tight and she glanced away, the turn of her cheek, the flash of her pale throat as she drew an unnecessary breath. The image faded, replaced with the men’s memories. Her face was twisted, her mouth open as she screamed. Her black hair tumbled around her shoulders and flames wreathed her like a martyr’s crown. The flames blotted her out with the brightness of the sun, fading to leave a pile of black ashes and a burned skull.
I’ll join you soon, Velnya. In whatever hell our kind go to when we die.
And then the horrible screaming stopped.
Jorick sagged to the floor, his muscles too weak to hold him up. Seconds passed as he gathered his strength and finally raised up enough to glare at Malick. Still seated, the ancient master smiled down on him. “Do you think I would destroy you so easily? My favorite creation? No, my son. You will live, live to let your anger ferment, your sorrow, and your guilt, until it has built to a beautiful crescendo that explodes with real violence, a fury even I have not seen for a millennia.” He stood, to lean over Jorick, like a vulture surveying prey. “That or your misery whimpers away into nothing, and you discover your love for the woman was never true passion, only a desperate plea to regain your lost humanity.” He smiled brightly. “How interesting it will be to see which comes to pass.”
He stepped over the moaning or unconscious bodies of his fallen Executioners to stop at the door and look back. “When you have recovered you may stay or go as you please. I look forward to our next meeting.”
His laughter followed him out the door.
Jorick warred with darkness. He slipped in and out, and it was only after some sleep that he woke with enough strength to stand. The others were gone. A blood trail said they’d been dragged away, no doubt taken to be healed with blood.
The need for it consumed him, even as he tried to push it away. Rest had healed some of his wounds, and stopped the bleeding of others, but he was still weak. He needed to feed, to find Malick, to try again.
No. Not now. Malick would be on guard, and the Executioners would be fully restored. He’d beaten them once, but could he do it again? And if he did, what of Malick? That final attack, it was not the work of an imparter, as Malick was classified, but of a destroyer. A lesser one, yes, but one just the same. As a mere whisperer, how could Jorick fight such power?
No. He would leave. He would skulk away, but not with his tail between his legs as Malick imagined. Instead he’d go, he’d practice, he’d plan, and he would return. When he did, Malick would suffer.
The brick mansion came into view, and Jorick slowed his horse. Or rather the horse, taken from a farm earlier that evening. He’d left a trail of such beasts behind him, all the way from Iowa where he’d escaped the citadel unchallenged.
He drew closer to the house, passing heavy trees and unused buildings. Old slave quarters left empty with the end of the war, a house for drying tobacco, and other structures peculiar to a plantation.
The house ahead was three stories, with a grand porch and large windows. Light blazed from a few, hinting at the occupants. Already he could sense their immortal lives, catch the edge of their familiar scents.
A young human met him, took his horse away and called to another to guide him to the house. He declined the assistance, and knocked on the heavy door himself. A moment passed as footsteps hurried to open it. A mortal peered out, her neck heavily bandaged; the mark of a vampire’s servant. Jorick pushed past the nuisance and into a foyer. Painted portraits stared at him, too real for comfort.
“Jorick!” A vampire entered from the nearest doorway. Tawny hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail, while amber eyes gave him a slightly wild appearance that his carefully held face and perfectly starched clothes belied.
“Oren.” Jorick looked from him to the portraits. “Interesting decor.”
“Jesslynn’s newest hobby. She’s quite good.”
“As you say.”
Oren sighed. “I did as you asked in your letter. What remained of your belongings are here.”
“And the bed?”
The corner of Oren’s mouth twitched. “As I said, your belongings are here, including the bed.”
For a wild moment Jorick thought of destroying it, chopping it with a hatchet for failing to protect Velnya, but even in his mourning he was too practical for that. He’d owned that bed for three hundred years, hauling it from place to place, a heavy inconvenient burden he couldn’t let go of, not even for her.
“Did you burn the house?”
Oren made a soft noise of aggravation. “Yes. Your instructions were followed.” A moment of silence passed and he added, “I am sorry, for your loss.”
“For my loss?” Jorick scoffed. “How neat and concise that sounds. My loss, as if the full impact can be wrapped in such a tiny phrase.”
Oren held up his hand. “I meant no offense. I only wished-”
“You only wished to show your sympathy, of course. But it is not sympathy I crave. What good can such a thing bring? Can it drag her soul back from hell?”
Oren coughed lightly. “As you say. How did you fare with Malick? Your letter said you were heading there directly, and when no news followed I assumed the fight went ill.”
“Ill!” Jorick stopped from shouting. “Ill is one way of describing it.”
The soft steps of a woman whispered over hardwood floors, and a moment later Jesslynn appeared. Raven hair accented the paleness of her skin. Haughty eyebrows arched over deep eyes and thin lips showed displeasure. “Jorick. You survived after all. Our guests will be pleased to hear.”
As if summoned, Jeda floated in behind her. Every inch the winter queen Jorick remembered, Velnya’s older sister stepped around their hostess to survey her brother-in-law. “So it’s true?”
Jorick ripped his eyes away from her steady gaze. “Yes.”
Jeda let out a shuddering sigh. “I knew Nebraska territory would bring only tragedy! Why? Why did you take her to such a forsaken place? Why did you leave her alone?”
“Now, now,” a voice came from the doorway, silky and smooth, followed by Traven. “You know why, my darling. He took her there to be farther from the reach of The Guild, and his grasping master. And as for leaving her, my dear, he had his duties to consider.”
“What good are duties?” Jeda cried. “She is dead! Dead! Lost in some wild land, slain by barbarians!”
Traven caught his wife by the arms and gently pulled her back. “Enough. I imagine Jorick has been through enough. Between the loss of his wife and his Executioner responsibilities-”
“I am no longer one of them,” Jorick spat. “If you wish to blame someone, blame Malick for keeping me away from home, for forcing a oaths on me, and know that he will pay, his blood for hers.”
Traven’s face twitched. “I see. Of course, of course. That explains what Oren meant when he said you’d gone to face your master. I wondered.”
Jesslynn sailed past them and planted herself before Jorick, completely ignoring the conversation they’d been having. “Traven and Jeda arrived yesterday, looking for you. Apparently you sent them a letter with instructions to come here to collect your late wife’s things?”
Jorick murmured his agreement. “Where are they?”
“The belongings?” Oren asked. “In the barn for now.” At Jorick’s scowl he added, “They are quite safe. Come, I’ll show you.”
Jorick followed him through the house and outside. The heavy stars twinkled in time to the rickets chirps and Jorick imagined each as a heartbeat – the heartbeat of the universe.
And what a cruel universe it is.
Inside the barn was a small pile of things, some furniture and baskets of items. “Much as broken,” Oren explained as Jorick moved toward it. “I saved what seemed prudent and left what was ruined.”
He continued, explaining that he’d divided up those things he knew belonged to Jorick and set them aside. “Even if you had been killed, I didn’t see that Jeda needed to pick through your personal property, only that of her sister. She’s already taken everything that she wanted, but I imagine – now that you’re alive – she’d be willing to let you look through it. I apologize for letting her take her choice already, but Jesslynn insisted she and Traven leave as quickly as possible. The children, you understand. We’ve hidden them in the old slave quarters with their nanny, but how long before Traven or Jeda sense them?”
He kept talking, but Jorick stopped listening. He rifled through things, stopping when he came to the blackened cross. Her mother’s cross. Jeda certainly had a right to it and yet…and yet Oren had chosen to sort it as one of his belongings. Why shouldn’t he keep it then?
He turned away from the jumble. To interrupt Oren. “Thank you.”
His fledgling hesitated, tugged his vest, and finally muttered, “Yes, of course. I can never forget our…relationship.”
Relationship. Master and fledgling. As Malick had been his master for so long.
“Would that you did,” Jorick said bitterly. “I free you now from your blood debt. No one will be chained as I have been these long years.”
Oren took an involuntary step backward. “Freed? But it has not even been…You’re not in your right mind. Later, when you’ve had time to come to terms and absolved yourself of guilt-”
“Come to terms?” Jorick cried. “How does one come to terms with this? It is my fault she’s dead – mine! Is it not fitting I spend eternity walking in the shadows of that guilt? Jeda spoke the truth: I left her alone in the wilds with only a human for protection – a human! What good did I think Nan would be? How conceited was I to believe that nothing could touch us – touch her – because she was mine, as if I am blessed by some lucky star! There are no blessings here, Oren. Take that to heart. There is only darkness, an eternal darkness that ends in the fires of hell!”
Oren shifted uncomfortably. “You are in mourning. Come. After your journey no doubt you’d like some rest.”
Jorick stopped from exploding. Oren meant well. How could he, surrounded by his wife, his children, his home? What loss had he ever suffered? What life had been stolen from him? What vengeance did he need to exact?
But Jorick had a debt to collect, a debt of blood, and he would make damn sure Malick paid.
Even if it kills us all.
picture #1: Trevor
- relaxing 2. taking a break 3. open road 4. nap time 5. waiting 6. tennis shoes 7. in the saddle 8. recliner 9. resting 10. lazy afternoon
Picture #2 Colleen
- best friends 2. sisters 3. pretty in pink 4. I wish I could fly 5. wind beneath my wings 6. soaring 7. over the tree tops 8. reach for the stars 9 grasping for the clouds 10. into the great wide open
Picture #3 Tyler
- olympics 2. skiing 3. jump! 4. flying high 5. into the blue 6. winter sports 7 winter fun 8. snow bunnies 9. Red Bull gives you wings 10. sky high
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:
I missed last week, sadly, so I’m now a week behind. Dang it! I’m blaming Jonathan just because he blames me for stuff. What are evil twin brothers for?
When we left off, Jorick had just been released from the Executioners and was on his way home to his nervous wife, whose neighbors have been recently calling her a witch…
Jorick traveled all the next night, and most of the third. As he drew closer he imagined Velnya waiting for him. In his mind she sat behind the large window, moonlight kissing her raven hair and tracing her delicate features; her oval face, her dainty nose, her full red lips. He conjured an image of her deep violet eyes, fringed in heavy lashes, demurely looking down as a flush stole across her porcelain cheeks. She was so easy to fluster, to embarrass.
The opposite of her sister.
He wasn’t sure why Velnya’s family came to mind suddenly. Her sister, Jeda, looked similar to her sister, but harder, haughtier, stronger and colder. Both her bearing and coloring called to mind a winter queen, expecting obedience, beholden only to her king. And what a choice she’d made. Traven was…Snake like. Though his appearance was pleasing, with long, shimmering chestnut hair and fine features, there was something sneaky about him, something cowardly despite his boasts of bravado. Jorick had never been able to lay his finger on the exact cause. Though he was a mind reader, Traven and Jeda were both hard to read. He could push it, of course, and force their minds open like walnut shells, but they’d know it – they’d feel it – and that was hardly acceptable to do to your wife’s family.
Velnya, on the other hand, was easy to read. Her thoughts were loud and clear, like crystal. Logic said that since she was of the same blood as the other two, she should be able to block him, to keep her secrets to herself, but either she couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Jorick had contemplated working with her, teaching her to do what Traven and Jeda did, but it was a double edged sword. Yes, it would protect her from others, and not just her, but his own secrets as well. However, it would also protect her thoughts from him. It wasn’t that he had to know her every thought but…
But it makes it easier.
Oren’s wife had lectured him on it once. “No woman wants her thoughts invaded! If she is your wife – your equal partner – then you should afford her the same respect you would offer to any man.”
Jorick bit back a smirk. Oren. His fledgling, made because…because he’d asked for it. He still remembered the night Oren had strode through the door, demanding to be “given whatever curse you bear.”
Curse had been an interesting choice of words, but being superstitious and overtly devoted to his religion, Oren had believed the devil or a demon was involved. And maybe it is. God, if he existed at all, surely didn’t bless, nor love creatures who broke his commandments on a nightly basis, draining mortals for their sustenance.
Not that it’s so far removed from mortals slaughtering an animal for their meal.
That had been Malick’s reasoning. Just as Mortals were above animals, so they were now above mortals. “It is only natural that we should have dominion over the weaker creatures of this world. We are stronger, faster, longer-lived. We are humanity perfected. Should not the perfect have their way with the defective?”
It was an interesting notion, one Jorick had bounced back and forth with. Sometimes he believed it, and other times he wasn’t entirely sure. The doubt was strongest when he was away from Malick, away from the citadel and his brethren. When he was surrounded by mortals, privy to their thoughts, or when he was with Velnya.
He remembered the first time he’d taken her to feed. She’d followed him, hands twisting nervously, wild thoughts fluttering. “I don’t know how to hunt.”
“You must learn,” he’d explained gently. “It’s a lesson Traven should have taught you long ago.”
“There have always been servants,” she murmured. “They handled such things. Or gave of themselves.”
He saw a mesh of moments in her mind, as she and her family drank their meals from goblets and decanters.
“Such is fine for genteel company, but we will no longer be in such a world. Nebraska Territory will be-”
“Wild,” Velnya said softly. A thousand fears screamed at him from her mind; dirt, Indians, miles and miles of empty space, peppered with bizarre and terrifying creatures.
He stopped to take her hands and chuckled. “It is not so bad as that, darling. I would not take you to a place such as the one you imagine. You will have a servant, but only one, and she may not have time to find your meal for you. Or, if something happens and she is sick, or lame. You need to be able to feed yourself.”
Her eyes had dropped to the ground and her cheeks flushed. “You must find me so useless.”
“Not useless, only untrained. Come, let us find our meal.”
He’d led her through the dark streets of Springfield, Massachusetts, seeking the perfect human. He eventually found a man who was drunk and alone. Jorick lured him to an alleyway and readied to strike, when Velnya grabbed his arm.
“Jorick! Surely you do not mean to drink from this man, here, in the street?”
“Would you rather I take him home?”
The reply was in jest, but she’d taken it seriously. “Of course not! But when you sad to hunt, I imagined animals, like the rats on the ocean voyage.”
Jorick saw a glimpse of her memories, of herself and Jeda disdainfully holding rats by the tails as Traven instructed them to drink.
“You can feed from animals, of course,” Jorick explained patiently. “But humans taste better.”
“You would murder them because they please your palette more?” she demanded. “They are weaker than we, it is our job to steward them, not to prey upon them. It is akin to stealing from frightened children.”
Jorick had struggled for a coherent argument. For every quote of Malick’s, she had a rebuttal. For every logical point, she had a counter. At last he gave up, let the man go, and took her home. While she drank from her goblet, he looked for Nan, the servant who would accompany them to Nebraska. A woman in her forties with the beginning of gray hair, her plump figure gave her an air of stoutness and reliability. Her dark, no-nonsense eyes said she wasn’t one for beating around the bush, so Jorick went right to the point.
“Can you hunt? For blood.”
“For the mistress, sir?” Nan asked. “Of course.”
“You’ve done it before?”
Nan shrewdly looked him up and down, something few human servants would dare to do. “I have not needed to, sir, but I am intelligent enough to figure out such a task should it be required. However, I assumed we would have our own livestock to bleed? Is that not a more suitable situation?”
“It would mean more work.” He said bluntly. “You would have the house, Velnya, and then the addition of livestock to care for.”
She huffed it away. “A flock of chickens would be easy enough, sir, and perhaps a couple of goats, or a cow, all things that will be expected of us to have. As for the mistress, she is not much work.”
Jorick knew that was a lie, but he let it go. The woman seemed equal to the task and, besides, he was already bargaining with Malick for his freedom. He’d be home soon and then he could handle hunting for her.
Jorick shook his head. That had been thirteen years ago. Thirteen. In that time the Guild had moved from Springfield to Iowa, and he’d spilled gallons of blood in Malick’s order. But that was behind him now. Daniel was the last victim of his master’s whims, the last vampire he would ever punish under Guild orders. He was finally finished.
The familiar terrain came into view. He passed through the town, following the river, and then continued on for twenty minutes. In the distance he could see the brick house. Small, with only five rooms, it boasted a large glass window in the front parlor. Velnya had insisted on it, saying it was to keep up appearances to their mortal neighbors. Though she hadn’t spoken the rest aloud, Jorick knew it was because the window meant civilization to her, a sign of refinement, of the kind of house she was used to. And how could he begrudge her that? He had, however, refused to allow one in their bedroom.
Not having to cover over dangerous windows is one of the reasons to build your own den.
Behind the cheerful brick home was a chicken coop, a little barn that housed the horses, goats and the cow, a rabbit hutch, and Nan’s outhouse. Few trees were scattered around, but one large one stood not far from the back of the house, its heavy branches shading the yard where the fowl sometimes clucked through the grass. In the summer it would be ringed in flowers, as would the beds before the house. Their sweet scent would linger in the air, and lend a soft quality to evenings spent on the porch.
He smiled to himself as he contemplated the coming summer. It would be the first that he would spend completely at home, lingering, enjoying his wife and the peace, asking himself “is time irrelevant?” No midnight summons, no messengers with assignments, not letters with commands. No-
His thoughts broke away when he noticed there was no smoke from the chimney. Though light was not necessary for their eyes, it was for Nan’s, and the fire was needed to cook the woman’s food and do how many other tasks. That she would let the hearth go cold seemed wrong. But then, she was not a young woman anymore. Nearly sixty, perhaps she had fallen ill, leaving the care of the place to Velnya? Jorick wasn’t sure his wife knew how to keep a fire. No matter. He’d handle it when he got there.
Still, he spurred the horse to go faster. The closer they drew, the more unsettled he became. The front window was boarded over, no doubt repaired after the assault, so he could not see inside, but he should have been able to sense them; sense her and the mortal Nan. Sense –
As he came around, he saw the door, gaping wide, the inside of the house dark. Something was scattered across the lawn, bits of white that reflected the moonlight. He dug in his heels until the horse ran full tilt, and barley let it slow before he jumped off, skidding to a halt in the grass. He ran towards the house, his eyes jumping from object to object. The litter in the yard was their belongings; a smashed pitcher, broken plates, bits of clothing. The air was heavy with the smell of blood.
Jorick ran over the broken items and through the open door. Inside the house he found chaos. The sideboard was cleared off, and a stand overturned. The bookcase was broken and a pile of books had been trampled and ruined. Dried blood soaked into the rug – the absurd rug Velnya had called “genteel”.
Jorick knelt quickly, sniffing the carnage, but it was human. Nan’s, perhaps. More blood was splattered on the wall, and hole in the plaster told him a bullet was to blame. That blood was not Nan’s, but a man’s.
“Velnya!” Jorick jerked to his feet and spun in a circle. “Velnya!”
Only silence answered.
He raced through the house, each room worse than the last, until he reached their bedroom. The door had been broken, and inside the wardrobe stood open, clothes and possessions scattered. Velnya’s jewelry box, a lone shoe, a packet of letters tied with a ribbon. The bedclothes were tossed and the bed pulled away from the wall at an angle. Only the red velvet curtains remained unharmed.
He forced himself to stop, to calm. To think. A man had been here, one that had been shot – no doubt Nan’s doing. Either his wound was not life threatening, or he’d had an accomplice who’d helped him escape, because he was gone now. As are Nan and Velnya. No doubt they’d run after shooting the man, using the confusion as a distraction. But where had they gone? Into town? No, Velnya had said that the shopkeeper would not even sell to them. They would get no shelter there. The neighbors perhaps, though he doubted they would be any friendlier. Perhaps, the pair were still on the property.
He drew a deep breath and concentrated, reaching out with his senses. He could feel the chickens outside, wandering around in the early morning hours instead of bedded down in their coop. And then he felt the human life.
He hurried out the door and around to the back of the house. As he rounded the corner the scent of her blood hit him hard, coupled with something burnt. He ignored the latter and hurried to where she sat slumped against the house, a hand pressed to a bleeding wound, and the crimson smeared rifle at her side.
“Sir,” she croaked as he knelt next to her. “Oh, sir.”
Tear tracks ran through the soot on her face, leaving tell-tale rivers of misery. But even as she addressed him, she gazed beyond, at something else. Something…
His chest tightened as he turned to follow her gaze. Her eyes were pinned to the large tree, where wisps of smoke curled up into the darkness. The smell seemed to grow stronger as he acknowledged it; burnt wood, burnt grass, scorched earth, burnt flesh.
He knew that scent, had smelled it hundreds of times, perhaps thousands. The smell of death, of a burned body, of a vampire who’d been set on fire.
No. God, no.
“I…I tried,” Nan croaked. Other words followed, words that didn’t filter through the roaring in Jorick’s ears. The world narrowed, constricted, until there was only him and the smoking tree; the blackened chain wrapped around it, the pile of ashes heaped between the roots. His feet moved on their own, closer and closer, until he stood over it. The tree’s trunk was concave, a portion of it burned out, so that a good wind might topple it onto the chicken coop. The chain was loose, as if something had once been inside it, strapped against the bark, and the ashes…the ashes shifted in the breeze, revealing the smooth, charred dome of a skull.
The moments disappeared. One moment he was hovering there, uncomprehending, the next he was on his knees, hands covered in soot as he dug, desperate to prove it wasn’t her. The metal glinted among the mess and he fished it out. Still hot from the fire, the blackened cross burned his palm as he tightened his fist around it and fell back on his haunches.
Her cross. It was her cross.
He roared his fry to the darkness, breaking off only when he felt the accusing stare. His eyes dropped to a pair of empty eye sockets, pools of ash-crusted darkness that demanded answers. Why wasn’t he here sooner? Why hadn’t he stopped this? How could he let this happen?
He backed away slowly on hands and knees, trying to escape her death stare, her accusations, trying to escape the guilt splitting him into screaming pieces. How could this happen? How?
He roared the word and spun on Nan. He grabbed the front of her dress and shouted into her face. “How?”
“Men,” she murmured. “Came. Dragged us out.”
Her eyes closed. Her head lulled. He roared and shook her again. “Who? Who?”
“Ben. McGinty. And the Millers. Others.” She broke off, fading again. With a snarl he grabbed her head and dove into her mind, fighting through gray phantoms to the flash of her most recent memories. He saw seven men, mostly their neighbors, farmers. He saw them pushing through the house, fighting Nan, saw the destruction of the parlor as she fought them, throwing one into the bookcase and knocking another into the stand. Saw as she shot Ben McGinty in the stomach. Watched him crumple to the floor. Watched as they knocked Nan to the floor a final time, gutting her with a knife, then stormed down the hallway-
The memories stuttered to a stop. There was only blackness. Jorick pulled away. Nan was dead, and her mind, and thoughts, were lost to him.
Just like Velnya.
The moments drained away again, tinted red with his fury. Before he knew it, he was on his horse, galloping towards the McGinty’s house. Then he was charging across their yard, kicking through their door.
Mrs. McGinty screamed, but he threw her aside and lunged for the man on the couch. He grabbed ben McGinty by the throat, only to fling him away again with a curse. The man was already dead, his shirt soaked with blood.
The doctor hunched back against the wall, terrified eyes wide. Jorick had seen others in Nan’s mind; others who would die. He stormed out of the house and back to the horse, on to the Miller’s farm. They were in bed, but he pulled the oldest son out by the throat. The young man screamed as Jorick shoved into his mind. He saw past his terror as the boy mounted his horse, following his father through the twilight evening. They met a group – the same group he’d seen in Nan’s memories – then finished the short trip to the house. The boy hung back, watching as the men shouted in the yard, waving fists and throwing threats.
“Send out the witch!”
“We only want to speak with her!”
“Tell her to lift the curse or else!”
“Send out the witch!”
“Where is the witch?”
“Give us the witch!”
Nan stuck her head out the door, told them to go to hell. Before she could pull back inside they were there, pulling the door open, shoving inside, knocking her back. The boy still hesitated, and when he went in the fight was already underway, just as it had been in Nan’s memories. Ben was shot, and they left it to the boy to take care of him.
“Get him home, then get a doctor! Go!” His father roared.
And the boy obeyed.
Jorick jerked away from the memories and threw the boy aside. The young man fell in a sweaty heap, clutching his head and sobbing. He felt the father in the doorway, smelled the mortal blood, and the gunpowder. He had the weapon pointed at Jorick’s back. With a roar, Jorick spun, knocking the gun aside and grabbing the mad by the head. He slammed him into the wall and dove in, ignoring the shrieks.
The boy left. Mr. Miller and the others stormed through Jorick’s house, shouting for the witch, tearing open cupboards in their search. The bedroom door was bolted, and together they knocked it in. One of them ripped open the wardrobe, yanking out clothes and possessions, but Velnya wasn’t there.
“Under the bed!” Someone shouted. Together, the men grabbed the massive piece of furniture and ripped it away from the wall. Velnya squealed as one of them pulled her out by arms.
“Please,” she begged. “Please stop this. I am no witch.”
“Don’t lie, bride of Satan!” Miller shouted. “We know what you are, know how you walk only in darkness, how you’ve killed the herds.”
“And the Jones’ daughter!” another shrieked. “You made her drown in the creek.”
“Of course not! Why would I? Please! Stop! Please!” She continued to call to them as they dragged her through the house.
“Nan!” she cried as they shoved her out the door, her view obscured by the wall of men. “Where is Nan?”
“Do you worry over the servants of the devil?’ Miller demanded. “Lift the curse witch! Now!”
“There is no curse!” Velnya cried as they dragged her around the house. “Please. I’m not a witch.”
Miller’s view disappeared for a moment as they rounded the corner. When it came back, one of the men held Velnya against the house, shouting in her face. “You claim you are no witch, but look at your teeth! You have the fangs of a demon!”
“No,” Velnya begged, tears running down her cheeks. “Please. Please, I’m not a witch.”
They dragged her to the tree, demanding she lift the curse, that she be punished for what she’d done, for the murder of the cows, the death of the girl, the blight on the fields, the fire in the Miller’s barn. She stayed calm, her voice shaking with emotion, tears sparkling in her violet eyes, telling them again and again that it was a mistake, that she was not a witch. “Please. Listen.”
And then they pinned her to the tree. One of them jerked the necklace from her neck, the cross. “You defile this sacred object!”
“No!” Velnya cried. “That was my mother’s! Please!”
She struggled to reach for it and two of the men lifted the chain. It clinked, and finally her civility fled. With a snarl she lunged, breaking free long enough to pin Miller to the ground. Fangs flashed inches from his face before she was ripped away. She lashed out, biting another, and knocked a third down before they reined her in.
Writhing and screaming, she was chained to the tree.
“Lift the curse!” a man screamed in her face. “Lift the curse!”
She snarled back in French, cursing them all to hell and death for their ignorance, their stupidity.
“Pathetic mortals!” She shrieked in English again. “Worthless weaklings who cower in fear!”
“If she won’t lift the curse we must burn it away!” A man shouted. “Only fire can purify the evil!”
Miller looked away, and didn’t see who lit the fire, but when he looked back, flames licked the hem of her dress. She screamed, falling back into her native French.
“She speaks in tongues!” one of them shouted. “You heard it! You heard it!”
“I think it’s French.”
No one listened to Miller as the flames climbed higher, and Velnya shrieked. When she was engulfed, the man flung the cross into the fire at her feet. “Only the flames can purify!”
The smoke rose in great billows, blotting out the stars, and the men fell back. Jorick dropped out of Miller’s mind. The man went slack, sweaty and sobbing like his son. With a snap, Jorick broke his neck before he dropped him to the floor.
Mrs. Miller was there, screaming, crying, and in his rage he dropped her too, leaving her in a heap of nightdress to ride to the next house. They’d killed her. She hadn’t even fought back until the end, hadn’t tried to stop them and yet they’d murdered her.
They will all die.
The sun had risen by the time Jorick returned to the house. Burned, battered, covered in the blood of the men and their families, he shut himself inside and collapsed into a sleep he hoped he never woke from.
Despite his desire, he woke the next evening to the soft chirp of a lone cricket. He’d half expected the remaining neighbors to storm the house as he slept, burn it to the ground, leaving him as scattered ashes.
He rolled over and stared at the dirty floor. After the memories he’d seen, he couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bedroom. Not now, not ever. No square inch of this house, this land, this territory would ever be habitable to him again. It was cursed land, and it all deserved to burn.
And Nebraska wasn’t the only thing he wanted to destroy. The humans had done this, and they’d paid, but they weren’t the only ones to blame. The guilt sucked at his feet like quicksand. He should have been there – would have been but for a few hours difference. Had he only ridden harder, found Kateesha sooner, not stopped to report to Malick.
Malick. For thirteen years Jorick had asked for his freedom with increasing frequency, asked to be let go so that he could be with Velnya. It was like a tragedy, like a dark comedy, that his master had released him just in time to find her dead. He was home. He was free of Malick, free to devote his life to her, and she was gone.
And it was Malick’s fault. Had he released him weeks ago, months, years, centuries even, as an honorable master would have…Had he been free, able to stay home with his wife, none of this would have happened. Determined to keep Jorick at his side, like a pet, Malick’s selfishness had cost Jorick the one thing he loved.
One way or another, master, we will both atone for our sins.
And now for guesses I never get right!
- drift away 2. like smoke 3. leap 4. a leap of faith 5. disintegrate 6. digital scatter 7. it’s all fun and games 8. might as well jump 9. falling apart 10. shattered 11 pieces (in blog) 12. blown away 13. sure is windy 14. flying 15. scattered (in blog) 16. dust in the wind 17. I’m out 18 Really 19 I’m just stubborn and want all twenty. 20 Look, I made it.
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts. This week’s are:
I had planned to work on Jorick, part 2, but then I wrote a special Valentine story to send to my newsletter subscribers on the 14th. Apparently 9,000 words are all I have in me this week. They say without music, life would be a mistake, but without Blogophilia the week would be a mistake, so, even though you don’t get a story, I’m throwing something at you for points. No, not points you can do anything with, like Wheel of Fortune, but points I can use to try to get my hands on the fictional jacket. Being bad at guesses, I doubt I’m going to catch up to it. Maybe I should pour a glass of merlot and forget it?
Ah, what the heck. Let’s guess anyway.
1) leaning tower of Pizza. 2. Model home 3. home for giraffes 4. Alpine inspired 5. golden hour 6. are those skulls stuck on the building? 7. Is this a real place or a model? I can’t tell. 8. follow the yellow brick road. 9. Is the wizard inside? 10. It’s no emerald city. 11. It makes me think of fish for some reason. 12. in the jungle, the mighty jungle 13. the lion is sleeping in silk sheets tonight. 14. I’m not going to get this one. 15. tall house 16. it’s “peaked” my interest. 17. Ha ha ha ha! 18. It also looks kind of swiss. 19. Heidi’s vacation home. 20. I give up.