It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog post. This week’s prompts are:
Last week we started Franklin, whose story begins during the novel Shades of Gray (If you’ve read the book you’ll know where this is going. if not, you’ll be surprised.) Franklin and four other Executioners are being sent to deal with a complaint that involves Jorick – the so-called Hand of Death. A former Executioner, Jorick is the fledgling of the Guild’s leader, and a bit of a legend.
Now on to part 2!
Franklin climbed inside a vehicle and tried to relax as it thumped over gravel roads to a rural airport. A large rural airport, whose runways had been expanded to handle The Guild’s private jets. Though how all of them were going to fit in one of the jets was a mystery. Franklin was pretty sure that their maximum capacity was twelve.
They disembarked, and Senya answered the question. “The guards will take a plane to Virginia and wait for us. We– ” she motioned to the executioners and her four favorites, “ –will stop in New York first. I’d like to speak to Claudius myself.”
They boarded the planes. Overstuffed seats, small tables, a kitchen and sofa made it look more like a meeting room than a vehicle. Franklin inhaled the scent of leather upholstery and took a seat near a shuttered window. Greneth dropped next to him, the red book open again, pencil between his lips.
Franklin leaned over to see the poem in progress. The mention of an Eskimo had done nothing to help the prose, and Franklin bit back a snicker as he settled in for a quick flight.
By the time they landed at a New York airport, Franklin was thoroughly sick of Greneth, his poem, and his artsy airs. The only amusement had been seeing the blonde shoot dagger looks at Bren’s back. Every time Senya leaned close to whisper into Bren’s ear, Greneth’s narrowed eyes got tighter, and a little muscle ticked in his jaw.
Maybe Migina’s right about them?
Franklin made a mental note to mention it when he called her later, and exited the plane. The airport was on the outskirts of a small town whose lights twinkled in the darkness. The facilities lights blazed; runway lights, pole lights, even the windows of the buildings were bright, but there was no other sign of life. No people – or cars – waiting for them.
Senya made an impatient noise and motioned to her guards. As though they were psychic – and maybe they were, Franklin didn’t know their names or their talents – one quickly snapped their phone on and in less than a minute was threatening someone on the other end.
“We expect transportation to arrive immediately,” the guard snapped. “Your coven requested our presence, the least you can do is contribute what is asked of you.”
A few murmured sounds told Franklin that the vampire on the other end had capitulated. The guard hung up and announced, “They’ll be here post haste.”
“They’d better.” Bren crossed his arms. “Claudius may be an old vampire, but he doesn’t have as much political power as he thinks – certainly not enough to make us wait.”
Senya broke into angry agreement, while Franklin nudged Zuri. “This Claudius…Is he the one I think he is?”
“The one who’s been complaining for years?” Zuri asked.
Franklin nodded. “He has a large coven?”
Zuri tugged out his cellphone and opened the Executioner app. A few clicks and a swipe, then he held the phone out for Franklin to see. He skimmed the information:
“Fledgling of Francoise (deceased)… turned in the 1500s in France…immigrated…coven fifty plus…multiple dens… mate, Arowenia…fledglings: Arowenia, Kale…quite a list there. Known associates…known antagonists…Oh wow. Now that’s really a list…Though I don’t see Jorick’s name.”
“He’s new.” Zuri flipped the phone back around. “See this Oren mentioned here? He’s Jorick’s fledgling. They’ve been at it since the 80s, so I’d guess Jorick finally got involved. If he really is involved, that is.”
Franklin nodded as Zuri slipped his phone back in his pocket. He also doubted that the Hand of Death had suddenly come out of retirement for a minor skirmish. But then, stranger things had happened. Maybe he was bored after more than a hundred years lying low?
I would be.
Two vans arrived, one driven by a redhead and the other by a stocky bald guy. Franklin could sense the alpha attitude from the later, and slipped into the backseat just behind Bren. This was likely to be interesting.
“It took you long enough,” Bren snapped as he got comfortable. “Next time I assume you’ll be on time – as ordered.
The driver scoffed. “Ordered by who, huh? Claudius is my master, and he didn’t say shit to me about picking you up. He probably assumed that with all The Guild’s resources you could handle driving yourselves.”
Bren snarled. “What’s your name?”
The driver chortled. “Troy, fledgling of O’Cuinn.”
“You said Claudius was your master!”
“He’s the coven master. Don’t you guys do your research, or do you just fly in blind?”
“Watch your tone, Troy, fledgling of O’Cuinn, or I may find you an interference.”
Troy fired the van up. “You go right ahead and do that. Then you can drive yourselves.”
They took off, spraying gravel. Franklin glanced to the guard at his elbow, but the vampire didn’t seem amused. He missed Migina. She’d have found the display hilarious.
Bren made a show of removing his gloves in short, choppy motions, then called The Guild to loudly report that they were “-finally en route to the den. Make a note that Claudius did not even provide adequate transportation, despite being ordered to. Also make a note of Troy, fledgling of O’Cuinn as potentially needing dealt with.”
There was more, but Franklin tuned it out to watch silent countryside pass by outside; dark hillsides kissed by moonlight. He’d seen thousands of similar landscapes, had ridden through them, walked through them, gazed out the window at them. He had dim memories of looking through wavy glass on such a scene, the sound of dogs baying in the background. His mother’s hand rested briefly on his back and she whispered for him to go to bed. There was nothing out there in the darkness. Everything was safe.
How could she know what was really there, hiding in the dark?
The hounds had known – or had at least sensed the monsters. Their howls had fallen away one by one, and then the footsteps came. Franklin had been in bed by then, the rough blanket pulled up over his head. His mother had shushed his trembling, and told him to hide under the bed, her voice shaking with fear. Not that he could remember the sound of her voice anymore, or even what she looked like, only that she’d had the same eyes he did, and the same pointed chin.
The rest of his memories were just as vague. There was the dusty smell under the bed, the sound of his father’s gun firing. His mother’s scream. Then, more footsteps. Finally, a pair of dirty boots had stopped next to the bed. The toes were scuffed. Slowly, knees had bent, and then a hand shot underneath and dragged him out into the open. He’d probably screamed – or maybe he’d been too scared to move. It was hard to say. But that was when he first saw Kelly, the vampire who would become a sort of surrogate father and later go on to give him immortality.
A very twisted surrogate father.
Franklin dismissed the memories as the den came into view. A small, single story brick building squatted in a gravel parking lot, lit by a pole light and surrounded by cars. After skimming Claudius’ description, it wasn’t the kind of den he’d anticipated. A mansion would have been more fitting.
It just shows you can never tell.
They parked and climbed out. Franklin hung back near Zuri while Senya gave them another once over; checking that everyone had made it.
She pivoted towards Troy, her tin lips twisted in a sneer. “And does Claudius have accommodations prepared for us?”
Troy scoffed. “I doubt it.”
“He was ordered to be ready,” Bren barked, earning a hard look from Senya.
“As my…companion stated, Claudius was informed,” she bit out. “I suggest you run and get to him before we do. Make sure he has things ready before we reach him.”
Troy eyed her up and down. “I don’t run for anyone, especially not The Guild.”
Bren snapped angry fangs, but Senya pulled him back. “Later. We have an interview to conduct now.”
She tugged him toward the building, and the others followed. Though Troy sauntered just ahead of them, the redheaded driver hurried inside. Franklin imagined he was warning his master.
Despite the warning, there was no welcome committee inside, just a narrow hallway with a door halfway down its length, and a set of stairs at the opposite end. Franklin could smell the immortality below; the group of vampires waiting in a cluster. He concentrated and could hear the pitter pat of the redhead’s voice, explaining that the Executioners were there and in “a bad mood.”
Senya stopped at the head of the stairs and called down, “Any foul mood on our part is your fault.” She strolled down, her long black coat sweeping behind her like an evil villainess’ cape. “I assume you have an appropriate excuse?”
Franklin followed Bren down the stairs behind her. A chandelier, bizarrely out of place, threw patterned light over a large concrete basement. Several vampires, including the redhead were clustered around a high backed wicker chair. The only piece of furniture in the room, it sat directly under the light, like a makeshift throne. In it sat a vampire who looked no more than nineteen. Blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and green eyes were hooded by thoughtful lids. They were the kind of eyes that were either calculating your strengths, or else wanted you to think they were.
“Claudius, I presume?” Senya asked, as the last of them reached the floor to stand in front of the young man.
Claudius drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair for a moment, before finally sweeping to his feet. “What are you doing here? I requested you go to Virginia!”
Senya gave an incredulous snort. “Bren, arrest him for wasting our time. The rest of you, back to the airfield.”
Franklin hung back, confused, as Bren closed in on their host and Senya pivoted for the stairs. The young man hopped back a step, face twisted in fury.
“Don’t touch me!”
Senya paused and looked back. “I assume you have an appropriate excuse for why our transportation was not where it was supposed to be?”
The young man tugged at the lace on his sleeves, and sniffed disdainfully. “I’ve never needed to provide transportation before.”
Senya brandished a manila folder. “That’s because you’ve been dealing with an imbecile. They’ve sent the real Executioners this time, and I can assure you that I’m not as forgiving of slights as he is.”
Claudius gave another sniff, then dropped back into the chair. “The question remains: why are you here and not in Virginia? That’s where they’ve taken Arowenia!”
“So you said.” Senya flipped the folder open and pulled out a sheet of paper. “You contacted The Guild the night of the twenty-second, regarding your mate’s kidnapping? It seems she was lost and found?”
“Yes!” Claudius smacked the arm of the chair impatiently. “She is being held at Oren’s den in Virginia! Do I need to raise a party and retrieve her myself? Isn’t that what you’re for?”
Senya dismissed his tirade with an eye roll. “Verchiel has been previously assigned to this case, correct?”
Claudius groaned and leaned back in the chair. “Yes! For all the good the idiot has done! I’ve been stuck with him for years.” He straightened and eyed them. “I’d started to think he was the only Executioner left.”
“It’s safe to say you’ve been unhappy with his performance.”
Though Senya obviously meant it a statement, Claudius took the opportunity to smack the chair again and shout, “Yes! That’s why I refused to speak to him the day before yesterday!”
Senya gave a crisp nod and tugged out another piece of paper. “Regarding your mate-”
Claudius gave a low groan. “Should I start at the beginning? Since you seem determined to waste time by going over every moment of the story? My mate was taken – kidnapped – by Oren, Jorick, and Kateesha, as part of an old disagreement. She’s being kept at Oren’s den, in Virginia, and has been there since June! That’s four months! If you can’t do something in that time-”
“If she was taken in June, why did you wait until July to report it?”
Claudius faltered for a moment and Troy stepped forward, arms crossed. “Not that it’s any of your damn business, but he wanted to give the perpetrators time to bring her back on their own. Claudius is magnanimous like that.”
Claudius cleared his throat and tugged at the ruffle at his neck. “Yes. Of course. Considering one of our own was involved, I thought it best to handle it myself.”
Senya rifled through the papers again and paused to read. “Michael, fledgling of Elsa, and a human slave, Patrick, joined your enemy?”
“If you want to call Oren that,” Claudius said dismissively.
“However you said on the twenty-second that Michael had returned? We’d like to speak to him.”
Troy chortled. “That’s a problem, honey, unless you’re planning a séance. After he confessed, we made sure justice was served. Sniveling little shit.”
“Enough,” Claudius snapped, then looked back to Senya. “Michael was found in Jorick’s company, and taken prisoner by my coven. He confessed to helping kidnap my mate, and named Oren’s den as her prison. He also implicated Oren, Jorick, and Kateesha.” Claudius’ face hardened at the final name. “Why she’s involved is beyond me, except that she and Jorick are on-again off-again lovers.”
“And after Michael told you all of this, you killed him, right? I assume you burned the body and disposed of it properly?”
“Yes!” Claudius cried. “Are you here to find wrongdoing on my part, or to retrieve Arowenia?”
“Both, or perhaps neither,” Senya said coldly. “I’d like to interview any of your coven that was present for– ” she checked the paper again. “For Michael’s interrogation.”
“Or you could leave and retrieve Arowenia while she’s still alive!” Claudius bellowed.
Senya snarled, and Bren stepped forward, a hand up. His smile looked fake, even to Franklin, but Claudius let the Executioner draw close. “We understand that you’re agitated, and concerned for your mate’s wellbeing. However…” Bren suddenly grabbed Claudius by the lace at his throat. “If you want The Guild involved, you do things our way, got it?”
Claudius’ eyes bulged in fury. His followers shifted uncomfortably, some with fists at their sides, others looking more scared than angry, but none knowing what to do.
Bren released Claudius with enough force to send him back into his chair. “Now. Summon the vampires that need to be interviewed.”
Now on to guesses:
Topic: Kim Herndon
- Don’t fence me in 2. robbery 3. up the airy mountain, down the rushing glen 4. we dare not go a hunting, for fear of little men… 5. Nobody ever goes in 6.and nobody ever comes out. 7. escape 8. break in 9. dark skies 10. outside looking in 11. banished 12. the village 13. those are ugly boots. 14. sneaking in 15. I bet Jonathan uses voodoo to get this one 16. the grass is always greener 17. on the other side. 18 greetings from the other side. 19. highwayman – or woman 20. up and over