Blogophilia 34.10 – Griselda Part 2
It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:
I’d hoped to finish this story this week, since I will be wayward bound next week on a trip to West Virginia (don’t worry, I’ll still blog, but no story writing time) However, I didn’t get this finished because I’m not sure where it’s going.
Last week we met Griselda, whose car broke down, and whose human guard dog has been visiting with another Executioner’s human on a romantic basis. Tsk Tsk.
When she woke the next evening, she found that Sergei had unpacked her bag. A stylish dress lay draped over her vanity chair. Red, with a small waist and long full skirt meant that ended midcalf. Though catalog and store shopping had recently become popular – there was even a new boutique in the citadel’s shopping area – Griselda was rarely able to buy clothes that fit right. Taller than average, pre-made clothes were usually too short for her. Not that she couldn’t make her own – shed been sewing for herself since she was a child. Still, the idea of being able to just pick something up and drop it on was appealing.
And this should fit. The lady who’d worn it had bene tall, too. She’d had dark hair secured with a clip, shiny shoes, and a matching handbag. And she had made an excellent meal the previous night.
Before the damn automobile broke down.
Griselda put on the myriad of support garments expected of a woman – fewer than the last decades had seen! – and slipped into the dress. She had to breath in deeply to zip the back, but otherwise it was a perfect fit.
She turned this way and that in the mirror, and gave an experimental twirl. The silky skirt flared, then fell back into place when she stopped. The small waist was all right for standing, but she suspected sitting might be an issue. Maybe she should pull out one of her old corsets?
She heard movement in the next room, and abandoned her fashion to investigate. Sergei moved between the furniture, pouting and pretending to dust.
“I left the red dress on your vanity,” he said petulantly, eyes on his task. “I wasn’t sure if it needed laundered or not. I imagine they’ll be an extra charge for it since it’s a dry-clean item.” He looked up and stopped. “Oh. You’re wearing it now?”
She glanced down at the garment, then back at him. “And why not?”
“A cocktail dress is an odd choice for the daytime.” He snickered, flicking the feather duster uselessly.
“If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it, human.”
“Excuse me, master.” His bow seemed mocking.
She crossed to him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt before he could react. “Yes, I am your master, and forgiveness is something you’d be well placed to beg for.”
She shoved him away and swished for the door. “Is Verchiel home?”
She could hear the frown in Sergei’s voice. “How should I know?” A hard look from her, and he relented. “He was on an assignment yesterday, but Valerie thinks he’ll be home tonight.”
“Good. I plan to have a chat with him. I’ll be back.”
Wisely, Sergei kept his mouth shut.
Griselda stopped first at Verchiel’s apartment. After several short, angry knocks, his guard dog opened the door. Dressed in some kind of overlarge night dress, one slim shoulder was exposed. Her long dark hair was unbound, and her china doll face wore no makeup, not that she needed any. With milk skin, her dark eyes were a better contrast than lipstick could ever offer.
“Yes?” she asked, with the right amount of reverence and timidity. As if it had been practiced a hundred times.
It probably has.
“Where is your master?”
“Master is on assignment.”
Griselda tapped her foot impatiently but the human only blinked large liquid eyes. “And when will he return?”
“Master should return soon.”
It wasn’t much, but it was enough. “When he gets here, tell him Griselda wants a word. Understand?”
The girl nodded. Griselda turned to find herself confronted with a short vampire. Red hair stuck up at odd angles on top, and fell to brush his shoulders. Violet eyes were just as weird, as was the perpetual grin he wore.
It was Verchiel.
“Zeldy! Are you looking for me?”
Griselda bit back the desire to slam him into the wall. “It’s Griselda, to you.”
He gave a sweeping mock bow. “My apologies, Mighty Griselda. Now what can I do for you?”
“You can keep a tighter leash on your dog.”
Verchiel scratched his head. “Hmmm. A dog? I don’t own a dog. I mean, I could file the paperwork and get one, but they’re kind of inconvenient indoors like this. Where would he pee?”
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He paused to look baffled. “I’m standing in the hallway…just coming back from an assignment…I’m talking to you-”
She cut him off. “Do you think you’re being funny?” He grinned and she snapped, “I don’t need you to be funny. I don’t want to be entertained, I want this situation resolved! If you won’t do something then I’ll go to Ark – or Malick!”
Verchiel sighed, and then suddenly drew up, his face serious. “Go inside, Valerie.”
The human, who’d been hanging in the door, nodded quickly and disappeared inside. As the door shut, Verchiel turned his attention to Griselda. “What are you claiming she’s done?”
“I’m not ‘claiming’ anything. She has done – and you know damn well what it is. I don’t want to see – or hear about – her being near my guard dog, or I will report both of you and demand that she’s destroyed.”
Verchiel’s eyes narrowed and he rubbed his neck. “Why do you care? Are you jealous?”
She gaped at the implication. “Of course not! But he is my property. His job is to guard my den – and me – from the rest of you. How can he do that if he spends all of his time preoccupied with fucking your bitch in heat? I’m not stupid, Verchiel. You have her seducing everyone’s guard dogs so you can use it to your advantage. One day she’ll come to my door while I’m asleep. Sergei will let her in and, the next thing you know, my heart will be on a plate and Greneth will be writing a requiem for my funeral.”
“You really think that’s what’s going on?”
“I know it is. You might be able to fool Beldren or Zuri, but I’m on to you. You want to kill the rest of them in their sleep? You go right ahead, but try anything with me and I’ll cut off your head and nail it to the wall. Are we clear?”
He held up his hands. “Ooooo. Scary!” He dropped them, and his featured hardened. “I’m not afraid of you, Griselda, any more than I am the rest of the Executioners. And I don’t need to use Valerie to infiltrate your dens. If I wanted to kill you, I’d do it in the hallway, not in the middle of the day, but don’t worry, she’ll stay away from your pet.” He cocked his head to one side. “I just wonder if your pet will stay away from her?”
Griselda scoffed. “He doesn’t have a choice.” She leaned down, pressing her face close to Verchiel’s. “See that you keep your end of it, or I will have her put down.”
She turned on her heel and stormed away, the cocktail dress swishing with each angry step. She reached her own door, hand on the knob, when a voice called, “Zelda!”
She looked up to see Bren, hands on his hips as he surveyed her. “I heard you had some automobile trouble?”
“You could call it that.” She stepped away from the door and lowered her voice. “Your guard dog. Has he been fraternizing?”
Bren’s face darkened. “With Verchiel’s mongrel, you mean? Only once. I took the skin off his back, and he’s stayed away since.” His scowl twisted into a grin. “Having trouble with yours?”
She hesitated. She trusted Bren only because Senya controlled him. But how far did her control extend? “Perhaps.”
Bren moved closer. “Take my advice. Remove a few toes, or a finger or two, and he’ll straighten right up.”
“And then he’d be…defected.”
Bren blinked. “I don’t think that’s the word you want. Impacted maybe?”
“Weakened,” she snapped. “What good is an injured guard dog?”
He shrugged. “Do what you want. You could always put him down and get a new one. There are several humans working on the sixth floor. One of them would probably be happy for the promotion. Though I’d be careful which you choose. Rumor is you-know-who frequents a few of them for recreational purposes.”
Griselda wrinkled her nose. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Bren stepped back, and his voice sprang back to normal. “Have you fed yet? I was on my way to the café.”
“Out. A week or two. You know how it is. Ready?”
She wasn’t sure she trusted Bren without Senya’s leash, but what could he do in public? Jam a dagger between her ribs? Even he wouldn’t get away with that.
Ark probably could.
With a nod, she followed Bren out of the Executioner block and into the public area of the citadel. The café was brightly lit and decorated to resemble a sidewalk café, with wicker chairs and crisp white tablecloths. Plants hung from hooks around the wall. Murals were painted like a cityscape, complete with a blue sky overhead.
Bren flashed his necklace at the attendant just inside the door. The vampire rushed to find them an empty table, bobbing his head as he stumbled through a welcome speech.
Bren smirked. “Relax. We’ve been here before.”
The attendant bobbed a final time and hurried away, promising that a waiter would be along any minute.
Griselda looked toward a menu board painted in pink and blue. It listed different glass sizes and add ins.
“I’m thinking…spearmint,” Bren said. “You?”
“That sounds fine.”
“We could get a pitcher then?”
She shrugged it off, and let him order. As the waitress bustled off, Bren leaned back in the chair. “I’ll go up to the sixth floor with you, if you want.”
Griselda toyed with the napkin. “It would mean training a new one.”
“True, the training is a pain, but better to know your dog is loyal than have one who lets the enemy in.”
She flicked her blue eyes to his face. “What an odd way to phrase it. The enemy.”
He shrugged. “If we didn’t have enemies, we wouldn’t need locked doors and guard dogs in the first place.”
“True. I just find it…interesting. We’re supposed to be part of an elite team, working together, and instead we need guard dogs to stop us killing one another in our sleep. It’s like a fractured coven, who’s been together so long they’ve lost any affection and feel only hate.”
“I wouldn’t say I hate everyone,” Bren replied.
She leaned her elbows on the table and surveyed him. “Then tell me who you feel affection for among the Executioners – who you trust with your life.”
He scoffed and waved it away. When she continued to stare, unblinking he muttered, “I-I don’t know.”
“Not even Senya?” Griselda asked with mild surprise.
The waiter appeared before he could answer. He deposited the pitcher, and two tall glasses. With a flourish he filled them, then asked if there was anything else.
Bren dismissed him, and they drank their breakfast in silence. Griselda inhaled the minty scent, and thought of her childhood home, and her grandmother’s herb garden. The memories were blurred by time, and over bright with sunlight, but she could still feel the warmth that had shone in her grandmother’s eyes; a warmth that had bene extinguished far too soon.
“I might trust Senya.”
Griselda looked up sharply. “What?”
Bren set his empty glass on the table and fixed her with an irritated stare. “You asked if I trusted Senya. I said I might.”
She suppressed a smile. “I suppose that’s something.”
They finished their breakfast and, though her mind wasn’t made up, headed upstairs. The sixth floor was a mix of humans and vampires, including human only areas. Though Griselda failed to see the point, the vampire government had human emissaries, and they didn’t like being close to the monsters if they could help it.
She followed Bren to a restaurant. The heavy scent of cooking meat overpowered the smell of the occupants’ blood and made her think of bodies burning – the official approved way to dispose of vampiric corpses.
They stopped just inside the door and he scanned the customers. With a frown, he shook his head and motioned her out and further down the hallway. A recreation room wasn’t what he was looking for, and neither was an exercise room.
Bren made a low noise in his throat. “Where is he?”
“Who?” When Bren didn’t answer, she pressed, “I thought we were looking for a human replacement?”
“Of course, but we’re not going to recruit one ourselves,” Bren snapped back. “Don’t you know how it works?”
She didn’t reply. All of the guard dogs she’d had so far had come from outside, found while she was on assignment. She had no idea how it was done in the citadel.
Bren took her silence as an admission of ignorance. “To procure a human, one sees Harry, as he’s calling himself now. You tell him what you want – male, female, snack, dinner, play toy, sex partner , whether you plan to let them live or kill them – and he finds what you’re looking for.”
Griselda arched a suspicious brow. Was Bren in the habit of procuring humans? For what? The way he’d casually tossed out play toy and sex partner made her wonder.
They checked a few other places, and circled back to the restaurant. Bren stepped inside, and gave a triumphant cry. “You!”
A short man with a mustache looked up from a glass of crimson. Dressed in a light sport coat and button down shirt, his hat was perched on the table near his arm.
“Ah! Sir Executioner!” The man stood quickly and gave a half bow. “And madam, my apologies for not recognizing your office immediately. My mistake. How can I help you tonight?”
Griselda touched the silver medallion that hung around her neck, three circles intertwined. The emblem of the Executioner, and a piece of jewelry that no doubt looked odd with her dress.
Bren surveyed the diminutive figure with a grunt, and dropped into a chair. “Zelda needs a new guard dog.”
“Of course, of course.” The man smiled, showing a set of sharp fangs. “What does the lady have in mind?”
Griselda straightened her full skirt. She had no love for humans, but even so this seemed strange. Like ordering a sofa. “I’d like a female.” She thought of the casual way Bren had mentioned snacks, sex, and play toys. When a human drank vampire blood they created a bond – a bond that would trump their loyalty to her. “One who hasn’t been preyed upon.”
The man gave a small cough. “That is quite a request, my dear. I’ll have to have someone in the field procure a new recruit. That will be expensive.”
Expensive? Did he expect her to pay? The other humans had been free!
“She’s good for it,” Bren said dismissively.
“Of course.” Harry lifted his hat and tugged a notepad out from under it. He unclipped a small pencil form it, licked the tip, and offered her a full smile. “What specifics do you have in mind? Age? Height? Build? Appearance?”
It is like ordering a sofa.
“I don’t care,” she snapped. “So long as she’s young enough to train, but old enough to defend herself.”
“Mid-twenties?” Harry suggested. “Late teens is more popular, but they can be emotionally fragile if you’r eplanning to keep her for a time. You are planning to keep her?”
“Yes!” Griselda cried. “I want her as a guard dog.”
“Right, right. That curious arrangement you Executioners have at the moment.” Harry scribbled on his pad. “I assume virginity isn’t important? It’s extra, you see.”
“Of course it’s not important!”
“Mmhmm. All right, I’ll get the men on it. It might be a day or two, if that’s all right? I can send a message to…” he trailed off meaningfully.
“Griselda,” she said stiffly.
“Good, good. Executioner Griselda.”
Bren rolled a pepper shaker. “How much is it going to cost?”
“I can hardly negotiate the price when I don’t know how much work it will be to procure, now can I?”
Bren snorted. “No, I’m sure you can’t.” He stood and leaned over the table, his face close to Harry’s. “See that it’s reasonable, hmmm?”
Harry smiled serenely. “Of course, of course. I’m always reasonable.”
“Right.” Bren rolled his eyes and motioned Griselda after him. She glanced back to the short man, then followed. They were both quiet until the elevator doors had shut.
“He usually comes through faster than he says he will.”
Griselda tugged at her skirt. “You’ve used him before?”
“Of course. Where do you think my guard dogs come from?”
“I assumed you caught them yourself.”
Bren chuckled. “I don’t have time to mess with that. Let Harry handle it.”
The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and the doors swished open. A harried guard rushed inside. At seeing them, his face lit up. “Sir, Master Malick requires you.”
“See what I mean?” Bren asked with a smirk. “Who has time to hunt?”
The elevator stopped at the third floor. Griselda thanked Bren for his help, and disembarked, leaving him and the guard to see what the ancient master in the basement wanted.
She paused at the door to her apartment and sniffed. She could smell Sergei inside. Alone for a change.
No doubt Verchiel’s mongrel is busy tending to her master.
No story next week, but you’ll get the end of this the week after I hope.
And now for guesses:
- vintage 2. retro 3. shiny 4. back in the day 5. antique 6. classic 7. red racer 8. race 9. drag race 10. chrome 11. happy days 12. cruisin’ USA 13. on the strip 14. roadster 15. gas hog 16. need for speed 17. rebel without a cause 18. ready to rumble 19. low rider 20. little red corvette