Blogophilia 23.10 – Dismas Part 3
I haven;t been blogging lately for no good reason except laziness. I’ve had some exciting pokemon adventures, Mom went to ER, Dad has his exploratory surgery tomorrow, and I haven’t bothered to write about any of it. I need to get back in the groove.
In the interim, it is time for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly post. this week’s prompts are:
A rough voice cut into his thoughts. “Do you want in?”
He blinked at the offered game and shook his head. The vampires shrugged and started the next match. As they did, Noris nudged his foot. He ignored it, but a second and third followed. At last he looked to see the vampire’s hand pressed to the table, a curl of something white barely visible at the edge of his palm.
It took Dismas a moment to realize that it was a note that Noris was trying to pass him. He’d taken it and read the words, “Meet just after sunup in the ruins of the shed. Shade should be enough.”
Though he tried to catch Noris’ eyes with questions, the vampire made a sow of standing and stretching before he wandered away. Dismas looked to the message again. Would the shade be enough to shield them from the sun’s rays? And even if it was, what was the meeting about?
But he knew. He’d expressed his concerns to Noris once, and knew the vampire felt the same. It would be a meeting about escape.
Dismas wadded the note and chanced a glance at Kateesha, seated on the bench, a book in her hand. Though dotted with mildew, its pages curled and the words on the spine indecipherable, she poured over it as though she was a goddess reading the very words of Zeus himself.
She looked up suddenly and smiled, as if to say, “You can meet all you want, but you belong to me.”
The thought made him shiver, even now, surrounded by heavy trees and dewy underbrush.
They’d had their meeting; Asher, Noris, Waio, and himself. The shade had been adequate, but more importantly, they’d come to an understanding: they needed to leave. Asher wanted to return to The Guild, to beg forgiveness, though Noris cautioned against it. Malick would not forgive them. The vampires had bickered, until Dismas interrupted.
“The destination is not as important as the escape. Let us effect that first, then worry about the rest.”
Dismas and Waio crept back to the cottage, leaving the pair to bicker in the shrinking shadows. Dismas had cast a glance at his companion. He knew very little about him. He’d been at the citadel, but not a guard. Though his skin was darker than Dismas’, his heritage was less straight forward. Born to a dark mother, with a white slave owner for a father, Waio had had a rough life and when vampirism found him, he’d been ready to turn some of that roughness back on a world that had failed him.
But that was the limit of Dismas’ knowledge. How Waio had landed at the citadel, or come to be recruited by Kateesha, he didn’t know. That tiny bit of information had been gleaned one night around a fire as they waited for Kateesha’s orders.
Silently, they pushed the cottage door open and crept toward their sleeping places, when a shape stepped from the shadows. A smile curved over full lips, and dark eyes danced.
“I hope your secret meeting went well, my pets.”
Dismas drew back, and Waio cursed. In an instant Kateesha closed the space between them and snatched up the younger vampire. Waio swung, but she snapped his neck and left him hanging limply from her grip.
“What should we do with one who would break his oaths?” Kateesha asked with false sweetness. “What punishment would fit?”
Dismas heart pounded and his throat tightened. Could he make it to the door before she got to him? Could he get outside? Then what? Where could he go? Already the sun was creeping higher, chasing away the saving darkness with rays that would burn him to dust.
“Now, now, pet. You would leave before you have answered my question? That’s not very polite, is it?” She stepped closer, lugging Waio’s limp form as though he weighed nothing. “I asked what we should do with one who betrays those who trust him; those who believe in him?”
Dismas’ tongue wouldn’t work, and she laughed at his terror.
“Since he wanted to escape, what do you say we let him?” When Dismas didn’t reply, she snapped, “He wanted to be free so badly, let us free him.”
She marched to the door and threw it open. Outside, the sun was already creeping across the yard, moving closer to the house.
Kateesha heaped Waio’s limp body before the house just as Asher and Noris came around the corner. Dismas didn’t look at them, though he could almost feel their horror.
“And so the rest of the conspirators return,” Kateesha purred. “Hurry inside, my ducklings, before the light of day catches you.”
As they came inside, Asher shot Dismas a look that was half terror, half confusion.
Kateesha left Waio in the yard and came back inside, wiping her hands together as if dusting off from some arduous task. “I am disappointed my pets, though I know the idea wasn;t yours, was it?”
No one spoke, and Kateesha’s face hardened. “It was your friend’s idea, was it not? To break your oaths – to break my heart!”
Was it? Dismas looked to Noris, who looked to Asher. The blonde swallowed and finally murmured, “He-he did suggest…”
Kateesha patted his head. “As I thought, my ducklings. You have been led astray. But you may come back to the fold. Kneel before me and say you’re sorry.”
No one moved and she snapped, “On your knees, children!”
Dismas dropped to the floor against his will, his head bowed in terror. He chanced a glance to see the other two in the same position.
Kateesha stood before them, her toes peeking out beneath the hem of her dress. “Now say you’re sorry for the trouble that you caused. Say it!”
Dismas managed to mumble, “I’m sorry.”
She jerked his head up by a handful of curly hair. “Say it again!”
Kateesha pushed him away. “You are forgiven. This time. Do not betray me again.”
As she started to walk away, Noris raised his head. “What about Waio? Should we not bring him in before the sun-”
“Leave him,” Kateesha snapped. “Let his skin blister, burn, and peel. Let him die in agony, leaving only ashes, for such is what happens to those who disobey. It’s a lesson you and your friends will do well to remember, lest I must teach it again.”
It was a lesson that had made them even more determined to run.
When the sun sank, all that was left of Waio were ashes and a few chunks of burned bone. His remains were unceremoniously kicked aside as vampires hurried out to feed, some perhaps not even aware of them. Dismas looked from a charred remnant to Noris. If they were going to go, they’d better do it fast.
After feeding, he was given the first guard duty, side by side with one of Kateesha’s faithful. Though Dismas had sworn away God, he secretly felt the deity was with them that night. There was no other way to explain how Noris had been able to sneak behind the vampire and draw the knife across his throat, severing his vocal cords.
Dismas had helped to lower the gagging thrashing vampire to the ground. “I am sorry, friend, but as you know the wound will not prove fatal, only inconvenient. When you are filled with blood again, it will be healed and you will be whole.”
Noris crouched down to whisper, “Know that we could have killed you, but chose not to. Remember always that we spared you.”
He stood quickly, wiping the knife on his pants. “Asher is standing by with the horses. Come quickly.”
Dismas made to dash, but Noris took his arm. “Walk. Don’t run. To do so might draw unwanted attention. You must act natural.”
“Natural?” Dismas whispered back. “She knows! She killed Waio last night, and she’ll kill us!”
“She has to catch us,” Noris replied. “Come.”
And so he’d come. They’d met Asher, climbed in the saddles, and ran through the night as though the hounds of hell were on their heels. And maybe they were.
That first morning, as they’d taken shelter in a barn, Archer had brought up their destination again.
“The Guild will kill us,” Noris snapped.
“As will Kateesha,” Asher bit back. “At least within the citadel we will be safe from her and her anger, or do you wish to end as Waio?”
Noris cursed, but finally agreed. With two for, that made Dismas’ opinion inconsequential. Not that he knew what his opinion was. Both paths led to death. It just depended how they wanted to die. At least the other Executioners would probably make it quick, not drag it out like Kateesha would.
“Blister, burn, and peel.”
They rode through the darkness, ever sure of pursuit, even as they drew closer and closer to the citadel without incident. Each day Dismas’ sleep was shrouded in red lipped phantoms demanding his blood, while his nights were a blur of traveling through heavy trees, and across moon drenched fields, always looking over his shoulder.
At last, the citadel loomed in the distance. What power Malick held outside of the world of vampires was unknown, but somehow he had managed not only to have train tracks cut across their land, but a grain elevator built right above. Though the presence of busy mortals seemed like a bad idea, it worked in their favor. The humans were unsuspecting guards during daylight hours and were long gone by nightfall. That vampires came and went at night, many by rail, was barely noticed and chalked up to farm business or some other nonsense. Unwilling to acknowledge anything that was really out of the realm of ordinary, humans were easy to roll over.
Dismas’ stomach clenched as they slowed the horses. Inside Malick was waiting to cast judgement and pronounce fate. He glanced nervously to his companions, but neither met his gaze, as if looking into another’s fear filled eyes might compound their own terror.
Among the collection of buildings stood a stable and a guard. The vampire gave them long once overs, but said nothing as they dismounted. Noris clicked his tongue and nodded toward the building, signaling the need for the stable boy. The guard gave a grunt and then called the youth, a slinking human who was barely more than fifteen. With bent shoulders and down cast eyes, he hurried out to take the reins beasts’ reins.
The guard ripped claim tickets from a roll and handed them over, so they could collect the horses later. Or that was the idea. Dismas was fairly certain they’d never see the animals – or the star strewn sky – again.
Still he followed Asher inside the small building marked Office in hand painted letters. The vampire that sat at the desk looked more farmer than fearsome, and an old dog lay sleeping near a cold potbelly stove. Though Dismas didn’t touch it, he knew the creature was as immortal as its owner.
Their receptionist motioned them to a door in the back, where stairs led down. Dismas’ heart sank with each step, and his unease grew.
- Two’s company 2. Three’s a crowd. 3. reflecting 4. reflections 5. blue skies. 6. eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. 7. walking on sunshine 8. walking on air 9. If Jonathan gets this right this week I will know he is using voodoo. 10. Just saying. 11. One is the loneliest number 12. All by myself. 13. Hello, is it me you’re looking for. 14. Now I’m using cheesy song titles. 15. cloudy with a side of meatballs 16. in the clouds 17. heavenly 18. I’m already there. 19. in heaven 20. where are the harps?