Blogophilia 42.10 – Zuri Part 2
It’s time again for blogophilia, the cool blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blogs. This week’s prompts are:
I missed last week. I had actually started it, and technically could have posted what I had, but I got greedy and wanted to wrote more and… and with limited computer time I wasn’t able to, nor was I then able to post what I already had, so you get it this week instead. I’d hoped to finish the story, but I rewirked the beginning, (which y’all won;t see until it’s published later this month or whatever), and that took forever.
Anyway, Zuri is in the bar, talking to the bartender, wishing vampires could get drunk to distract him from his forced “leave of absence” from the Executioners.
Zuri reached to tug on his necklace, a nervous habit, but stopped when his fingers found nothing. They’d ripped away the Executioner amulet when he was taken prisoner, and laughed about it. He’d expected to get a new one, but since he was still on leave…
“You lose something?”
Zuri looked sharply to the bartender, but saw no malice in his eyes. No, he had no way of knowing. The comment had probably been an innocent one.
Footsteps came down the corridor, then a pair of vampires swept aside the filmy black curtain and ducked inside. The bartender moved away to serve them, and Zuri took his cue to leave. Though his apartment was the last place he wanted to go, he hated the thought of a crowd even more.
It could be worse, he told himself. I could still be with them.
“What am I?” Zuri stared through new eyes, looking at his extended palms, stained in blood, then on to Logan.
The man smiled; revealing those strange elongated teeth, like the smile of a fox. “You are as I am, made stronger with my blood.”
Blood. There was a lot of it. It was on Zuri’s hands, splashed on his chest, staining his shirt, pooling on the floor around the savaged body of a young girl. He squinted and recognized her as the inn’s serving girl who’d shown him to his room earlier. That she was…had he…
And then the pain came, ripping through him like a hot knife, and he fell to the floor next to her. He writhed, eyes squeezed closed, as if to blot out everything, including the sick memory of what he’d done, of the way her flesh had rent, the way her blood had tasted so delicious…
Zuri jerked awake and the memory-turned-dream faded. Logan. How long had it been since he’d last seen his master? 1779, wasn’t it, when Logan had announced he was bored.
“I have more than taught you what you need to know; nature herself could have shown you the way. Perhaps it was my vanity that held us close, or my curiosity. Regardless both have run their course and the time has come for us to part ways.”
Zuri had stared at him for a moment, and then shrugged. What else was there to do? It wasn’t as if he had the words to describe the complicated mess he felt; a mess better kept to himself, anyway.
And that was it. Logan had tipped his hat and walked away into the night, his boots clacking on cobblestones. Zuri had watched him for a moment, then turned back for the inn and their rented room. After that he’d followed the same life style – rented rooms, nightly meals, money taken from victim’s pouches – until he’d become a guard for The Guild. From there he’d moved on to greater guard, and finally became an Executioner when Kateesha left the first time.
Ancient history, he told himself. More than two hundred years ago. Does any of it even matter anymore?
He had no answer, only a gnawing thirst that told him the sun was gone it was time to rise.
He climbed out of bed, showered, and dressed, stopping again when it came time to slide the missing necklace over his head. For a moment he saw the twisted face of his captor – a sniveling, dark haired vampire with deep eyes and a sneer of contempt. Fabian, the brother-in-law of Oren. Fabian had ripped the necklace free and thrown it on the floor.
“You’re nothing now, Executioner. This – this is a symbol of what you were, and now it’s gone and you’re nothing!”
The world had faded in and out, blurred and cleared in time for him to see the raised dagger in Fabian’s hand, in time for him to realize he was going to die, just as Dismas had died.
But another had stepped in. Muscles stacked like building blocks gleamed under his ebony skin. A voice like molasses murmured, “There’s been enough death.”
Fabian jerked away. “Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?”
Jorick had stepped in then. “You can fight over his bones later. We need to catch up to the others.”
Fabian looked ready to argue, but Oren shushed him with a motion. “Jorick’s right. Pack him up and we’ll head back to the den.”
Zuri couldn’t move his arms. Was he tied? He tried to push against the bonds – as a titan he was stronger than other vampires, and stronger than any rope they could find – but for some reason he couldn’t fight this, he couldn’t…
A loud knocking pulled Zuri back to the present. He tugged his shirt smooth and moved to open the door. In the corridor stood Beldren, tall and slender with a blonde ponytail and his own flashing silver medallion.
Zuri nodded a greeting. Beldren didn’t bother to disguise peering over his shoulder, eyes raking over the tidy apartment.
“I have to go back out in a couple of hours, but I wanted to see how you were doing.”
Zuri shrugged and stepped to the side to let Beldren pass. The vampire moved to his accustomed chair and smoothly folded himself into it. “Jorick is leaving tonight for Munich.”
Jorick had left Oren’s war coven the day after the fight. Even as a prisoner, Zuri had figured that much out, and oddly in Zuri’s blurry memories it was Jorick who’d returned twelve days later, to drag Zuri back to the citadel. A penance for the crime of leaving him there, perhaps? But if so…
Something didn’t seem right.
“Leaving? He’s still here?”
“Of course. He hasn’t been let go yet.” A muscle in Beldren’s jaw twitched. “After you were…imprisoned, Jorick and his human were apprehended for those murders, which they didn’t do. But during the trial he was found culpable of Dismas’ death and your predicament. As punishment, Malick reinstated him as an Executioner.”
Zuri stiffened. Punishment? He was punished by being given an Executioner post – the same post Zuri would give his eye teeth to have back?
“Eileifr was against it, and in hindsight everyone thinks Malick did it because he was hoping Jorick would join him in the revolt, so he wanted to make sure Jorick was available. As you know, he didn’t. Anyway, you won’t have to worry about running into him. He’s heading out for Munich tonight.”
Zuri shut the door and paused, an eyebrow arched. “Munich?”
Beldren nodded. “Someone has to report to the True Council about what happened here. You know how old ones are. They have to have someone in person so they can pluck it from their brains. Anyway, I believe Eileifr is planning to send Verchiel and one of the new Executioners with him.”
Beldren went on, as if he already guessed the question. “There are three new ones, to replace the defectors. There’s Cyprus, I think his name is. He was a guard here. You might have seen him. A mane of long red hair nearly to his waist.” He motioned the appearance, then waved it away. “Then, there’s a woman – Lisiantha I think her name is. Dark hair. We’ve worked with her a few times. And…who was the third? Oh yes, Fallon. He’s been a greater guard for some time. I remember him from clear back in the fifties. Or maybe the sixties. He’s blonde, curly hair, looks young. Anyway, Apparently Cyprus used to be a guard for Munich, so he’s going with Jorick as a kind of liaison. Why Verchiel is going is anyone’s guess. Probably because Eileifr wants rid of him as much as we do.”
Zuri took the opposite chair and folded his hands in his lap while Beldren added, “I assume you know everything else that happened? Oren and Traven’s covens attacked, Malick revolted and took off, Eileifr’s taken over the council-”
“I know that.” Bitterness made Zuri’s words brittle. “He’s the one who insisted on this ‘recovery time’.”
“Is that what he’s calling it?” Beldren asked. “Not that you couldn’t use some time off. We all could. I’d fancy a vacation, too-”
“A vacation,” Zuri cut in. “But this isn’t a vacation. This is little better than being Traven and Fabian’s prisoner!”
Beldren picked invisible lint from his coat. “You can’t really mean that. I’ve heard about your…imprisonment.”
Anger bubbled to Zuri’s lips, but he swallowed it back to say instead, “How long until I’m reinstated?”
“Good grief, I have no idea. It’s certainly not my decision. If you want, I can put in a word with Eileifr, say that you seem to be…altogether, or whatever. Not that I think it will make any difference. He’s a demon eye, and can see the outcome before he makes the decision. I assume he’s keeping you on hold because he’s seen something.”
Zuri cocked an incredulous eyebrow. There was a good chance this so called “recuperation” was to make sure he didn’t cause waves with Jorick. Malick might be gone, but he doubted the favoritism was.
“Anyway,” Beldren rubbed his hands together. “You’ve stewed in here enough I imagine. A drink, perhaps? My treat.”
Zuri shrugged. It wasn’t like he had anything else to do.
Zuri saw Beldren and his company of guards off, then slumped back for the elevator. He reached for the second floor button, but on a whim hit the first floor. Though he’d fed with Beldren, a cinnamon and sugar mix sounded good.
The nightclub was empty except for the bartender, who was whipping tables. Today he wore a shirt that proclaimed “My Name is John” in a scrawl similar to a handwritten name tag.
Zuri took a stool and nodded to the garment. “Is it?”
The bartender looked up from his task. “Is what?” he followed Zuri’s gaze and grinned. “As a matter of fact, it is. Pleased to meet you. Again,” he added with a laugh.
Zuri grunted a reply and turned his eyes to the glasses behind the bar. Shiny rows waiting for the late evening rush.
“Do you really get that many customers?”
John finished his task and joined the Executioner. “Sometimes. Business is down a little, though not as much as you’d expect. There may have been a lot of casualties, but the looky-loos have started showing up, wanting to gawk at the ruins. Enough about me. What can I get you?”
Zuri muttered his order – the same as last night’s – and soon had a glass in hand. He sipped the contents and waited for the bartender to start the chitchat. Just like he did last night.
When nothing came, Zuri decided he might as well do it himself. Save the guy the trouble.
“So you live with your mother?” When John blinked, Zuri added, “She’s your master?”
“Oh well, true enough there.” He smiled affably. “But no, she’s in Oklahoma still. How about you?”
Zuri shrugged. “My mother is long dead, and my master is long gone.”
Zuri shrugged again. “It is what it is. Not like the memory is my kryptonite.” He took another sip. “She died of smallpox when I was a child. As did my sisters. I survived.” Though he didn’t pull up his shirt, he knew the familiar patchwork of scars that covered his trunk, smoothed by immortality, the pits were still barely visible, the mark of the disease.
Though not a mind reader, he could sense John’s discomfort and added, “It was a long time ago. I barely remember them. Or it.”
“I guess that’s the good thing about time,” John said vaguely.
Zuri scoffed. “That it hides all wounds in a fog, like some kind of chrysalis that entombs our misery? We forget no chrysalis is permanent. Just as the butterfly bursts forth in the spring, so do the memories.”
“But surely they’ve been changed, just as the caterpillar turned into the butterfly?” John countered. “Dulled by time?”
“Or twisted into something darker.” Zuri drained his glass and set it on the bar. One look at John’s uncomfortable face left him backtracking. “I’m sorry. Just ignore me.”
“No, it’s okay. You’re obviously in a pretty dark place right now.”
“I’m nowhere right now. Trapped here until Eileifr decides I’m ‘well’, whatever that means.”
“Eileifr…That name’s familiar.”
“He’s in charge of the High Council now that Malick’s gone – and in charge of the Executioners. He thinks I need time off to ‘recuperate from the trauma’. As if all of vampiredom – and being an Executioner – isn’t traumatic. Do they think that killing illegally created vampire children, or burning bodies, or destroying unmarked humans isn’t traumatizing? Malick knew it was, but he believed trauma made us stronger. Eileifr on the other hand…Eileifr…I don’t know what he believes.”
“You’re an Executioner, then?” John asked. Zuri’s reply was a grunt, so he went on. “I imagine your vampire experience has been pretty…bloody. But I have to say mine hasn’t been traumatic. It’s actually been pretty nice.”
“It would be, being turned by your mother, I imagine. No loss, no old life left behind. That’s not how they used to do things.” He stopped before he sounded like an old man complaining about how the kids did things “these days”. “You haven’t been immortal long, have you?”
“Ten years now. I guess that’s nothing compared to you and everything you’ve seen.”
topic – Christopher
pic – Sallon
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