Blogophilia 49.10 – Jorick Part 1
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:
And we’re starting Jorick this week. I know it’s not the story everyone wanted, but it is the story that the collection needs as it is an event that is pivotal to the Executioners. I also need to work on his origin story for an anthology, but I don’t need that until May, and I’m nothing if not a procrastinator.
On to the story:
Jorick pulled his horse to a stop in front of the small farm house. Though he wasn’t a tracker, he had enough experience hunting fellow vampires that he could parody the skill, especially where Kateesha was concerned. How many years had he known her for? He didn’t want to figure it up, but instinctively knew it was more than two hundred. In that time, he’d grown to understand how she worked, even if he couldn’t read her mind.
He swung down to the ground and paused to straighten his coat, his shirt, the silver medallion that hung around his neck. The mark of the Executioner, this would be the last time he had to wear it, the last time he had to follow Malick’s orders. His master had sworn on his own blood that if he carried this task out, just as he was ordered, than he could finally be free.
It was a pretty word, nay a beautiful word. It meant quiet and peace. It meant warm evenings with his wife. It meant no more fighting, no more worry that he might leave her a widow. No more worried letters.
He touched his pocket absently and thought of the missive inside. Velnya’s hand was erratic; slanting neatly in some paragraphs and then turning almost unreadable in others. She was afraid; the locals called her a witch – a witch of all things! Had such superstitions not died already? How long had it been since he’d heard the whisper of that antiquated word? It was hard to take seriously, even when he saw her fearful writing.
“Perhaps I should go, my love? Would we not be as happy somewhere else – perhaps happier? You say you will return soon, but could you not as well return somewhere else? Nan could help me to pack, and we could leave quite quickly. My sister and her husband would welcome us, though I would hope our stay with them would be a short one. If not them, then perhaps your fledgling? As you say, you will soon be free of your master, and, as such, we can go anywhere we wish. This place holds nothing for either of us, no memory or family. Would it not be better to leave?
I know you say not to fear them, and know also that you are right. They are weak, and feeble. Nan has suggested that we should make an example; show them what we are capable of, but I fear that would only make things worse. To fight back, to reveal our strength, it will only fuel their terror. I remember what it was to be weak, to be afraid of death from every side, knowing that a chill wind, or ill-timed accident, even a misstep in the dark could be the end of me. It is no wonder that, in their fear, they cling to old superstitions. Such things strengthen them, draw them together, and though you are right, and they can do us no permanent harm, still their day-to-day scorn is worrisome. We woke last night to find the window broken by a rock. The missile also caused some damage inside; the sideboard is dented and the vase my sister gave me shattered. It was the pink one with the roses painted on it. Nan tried to purchase glue, but the shopkeeper refused to sell to her. I understand that we do not need things from them; we look to ourselves for our meals, but there is a convenience in being able to make purchases. No doubt once you are home you will be able to smooth this over, to make them see reason, but until then, perhaps Nan and I should visit my sister? Yes, you could call there for us, and together we could go back to Nebraska Territory, if that is your desire?
As I reread my words, I can see the silliness in them and know you must find my ramblings to be foolish. I have acknowledged their weakness, their inability to do me harm, yet press to run away from them. I cannot help it. The conflict is most grievous to my spirit, and the hard looks most depressing. I do not encounter it often- I have followed your instructions and keep mostly to myself – but when I do come across it, it is most disheartening. You must find it silly that I, the wife of such a strong and powerful man would worry for the scorn of petty mortals. Perhaps it is the foolishness of a woman…”
The letter went on, back and forth in the same vein. He’d written her back, told her that a month would see him home again, and an end to everything. It had taken him two weeks to find Kateesha, and two weeks more would see him having made his report and riding into their homestead. He had only to finish this quickly.
With his back straight, he marched to the door and knocked. He could smell Kateesha inside, and Daniel, her partner. Mortal blood was also present, no doubt the remnants of their meal. Who or what it came from mattered not to him. He had only one job to do.
The door opened, revealing Kateesha. Her cocoa skin was a warm contrast against her white chemise and petticoats. Ample breasts threatened to spill out of an unfastened corset, and her full lips were tinted red; red like blood. In her eyes were a thousand promises of pleasure. There was a time he might have taken her up on it, if for no other reason than he could, but not now.
“You know why I’m here.”
“No, Jorick,” she said innocently. “I have no idea.”
“Malick sent me.”
“Did he?” he felt her gaze run over him as she licked her lips. “I thought perhaps you’d come to see me.”
For a moment he was tempted, but the memory of Velnya, of her large violet eyes pushed the thoughts away. “I’m married now.”
Kateesha leaned against the door frame and pouted. “Yes, I know, and to such a plain, timid little thing. Can you truly be happy with her? Oren’s sister would suit you better. Even that little girl in Texas would have been a more suitable choice. Sarita, wasn’t it?”
His nose curled with disdain. “You know I have no love for Spaniards.”
“She wasn’t a Spaniard, but a Mexican and she filled your bed easily enough.”
That she would bring such a thing up now…No. he knew she was trying to irritate him, and he wouldn’t fall for it. “There is a difference between sharing love and a bed.”
“And do you love this new woman, this Velnya? Can you really?” Kateesha was suddenly on him, her hands on his shoulders, her lips brushing his neck. “Can she really give you all the things I can?”
And with that, the last of his temptation disappeared. Kateesha was the same as always, ready to use her body to gain an advantage. There was a time when those tricks worked on him, but not now. “Enough.” He pushed her away harder than he meant and she stumbled, landing on the floor inside in a heap of petticoats.
Kateesha jerked to her feet, tugging her clothing straight. “Don’t do that again!”
“I’ll do it as many times as necessary. Malick ordered me to spare you, so get out of my way!”
He shoved past her and into the house. He only half expected her to come after him, to try to stop him. Daniel was her lover. “She won’t let him be taken easily,” Jamie had advised, but Jorick suspected she would. Empty is the heart of one who cares only for herself.
Seems I was right.
He found Daniel in a back bedroom, half naked and covered in human blood. The dead body of a child lay nearby; the remnant of their earlier meal.
Jorick didn’t bother to introduce himself, he and Daniel were well acquainted. Neither did he explain his presence. Daniel would know. To be sure, Jorick pushed past his panic, into the folds of his mind. His memories parted, and Jorick saw the rogues Kateesha and Daniel had been sent to bring in, heard the rude comments, saw the fight, the chase, the way Kateesha and Daniel had succumbed to blood lust in a frenzy that was half violence and half sex. He saw the mangled bodies of the rogues, Daniel’s terror as they had to go back to The Guild to report, saw Malick’s fury that he had been disobeyed, and the council’s dismissal, telling them to go while their fate was decided.
As if disobeying earned any other fate but death.
But it wasn’t Jorick’s problem. Daniel had made his choice to follow Kateesha, to break the rules for a taste of her, and now he had to pay. Without warning, he charged the half-naked vampire. Daniel grabbed a chair and waved it, but Jorick knocked it aside with a splintering crash. Daniel bounced back, scrambling for a weapon. A ceramic dish flew past Jorick’s head a moment before he caught Daniel by the throat. He slammed his opponent into the wall. Daniel kicked Jorick’s knee, and he fell back in surprise. Free, Daniel bounced towards the pile of his clothes where he no doubt had a blade of some kind.
With a quick pounce, Jorick tackled Daniel to the floor before he could reach his goal. But the vampire was close enough to the fling aside the clothing and grab a long serrated dagger. He swiped it at Jorick, who hopped back to miss the stroke. With a snarl, Daniel pulled to his knees, brandishing the blade.
Jorick didn’t have the patience to deal with a protracted fight. Reaching into his coat, he pulled free his own dagger. Daniel moved to stand, but Jorick shoved him to the floor and in a single swing slammed his blade through the vampire’s chest. Daniel screamed, and Jorick dispassionately ripped it out again, only to stab again and again, to be sure the heart was destroyed.
Daniel fell still, and Jorick swept to his feet. He stopped to wipe blood droplets from his hand and sleeve, then marched for the door. Kateesha was still there, leaning against the doorframe. He hesitated, looking into her eyes for some sign of emotion, some proof that she could actually feel. Instead of sorrow, he saw only lust as she used her petticoat to wipe blood from his face; lust for the man who had just killed her lover.
Jorick jerked away from her. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Don’t you? Velnya will keep for a night.” She caught his hand and tugged him towards her. “I’ve missed you, and I know you’ve missed me. Come, for one night it will be like it was. Do you remember that night under the stars, after we’d defeated the rogues?” She pressed against him again and looped an arm around his waist. “Do you remember the way they tasted? The way I tasted?” Her lips hovered over his throat. “I remember your flavor-”
He did. He remembered it. The thousand pinpoints of stars shining above them, the wild full moon, the way her black hair had tumbled around her, her dark taut nipples painted with the blood of their quarry. The way she’d howled as she ripped them apart, moaning as she ground against him.
Just as she did with Daniel, then allowed him to be killed.
Her hand brushed his pocket, where Velnya’s letter rode. He pictured his wife, waiting at home for him, innocent, kind, trusting; everything that Kateesha was not.
He wrenched free from the temptress. “No!” As though to be sure he didn’t succumb, he stepped farther away and repeated, “No.”
“But, Jorick, I love you.”
She clutched the air, trying to grab him, but he caught her wrists and held her back. “No, Kateesha, you don’t. You love a shadow. I’m not that man anymore and now that Malick has released me, I am free, and I won’t be that man ever again. I don’t want to be.” He dropped her hands and turned for the door. Despite what she was, despite everything she’d done, he felt a moment of pity for her. “If you value your life, I suggest you give the council at least a year to forgive you before you stage a return.”
He stalked out the door before she could reply, before she could try to lure him again. he had one foot on the stirrup when she rushed out the door behind him. “Dammit Jorick! You are who you are! You can’t run from your nature simply because you wish it to be something different! You cannot take shelter in a falsehood!”
His nature? No. “That was never my nature, Kateesha, only yours and Malick’s. It is the falsehood I’m running away from.”
He swung into the saddle and nudged the horse. As he trotted forward, Kateesha shrieked, “You can’t hide, Jorick! You love me, and you know it! I was made to be with you! You belong to me! I will have you! One day you will beg me for mercy on your knees! Do you hear me?”
He didn’t look back, only tossed back a flippant wave before he spurred his horse and thee raced away in the darkness. He could hear her shouting after him, but he left the words behind, just as he eft her behind.
Never again, Kateesha. Never again.
As he put miles between them, he relaxed. It was almost over. He had only to report to Malick and then he was done. Then he would never need to see Malick again, either.
It was that promise that had led him there tonight. When Kateesha and Daniel had slaughtered the rogue vampires, the council had sentenced them to death: both of them. Despite his history with her, the council decided that Jorick was the only one strong enough to defeat the pair, the only one who would not fall for Kateesha’s tricks.
Afterwards, Malick had pulled him aside. “You will ignore the High Council’s orders. What are they to you? Leave Kateesha alive, but destroy her partner. He is weak, expendable, out of control.”
“And risk punishment by the council?” Jorick had snapped back. “I am weary of such games. My freedom-”
“Ah yes, your freedom.” Malick had smiled, slow and knowing. “You wish to leave me to play house with your pretty little wife, yes? A weak child that you can take care of for a time.” He’d studied him silently, and Jorick could feel the ancient master rifling through his mind, picking through his memories, showing him flashes of their time together, like painted daguerreotypes. That Jorick had once felt affection for his master, he could not deny, but that love had long since faded, leaving only a darkness and the desire to be free.
“Then you shall have your freedom,” Malick purred. “Do as I say, my son, this last task, and you will be released to fly to your little song bird.”
And so Jorick had written to Venlya, then ridden away, seeking Kateesha and her partner. Now, it was done.
I have only to make a report and it is all over. I will be home soon, my sweet angel.
The Guild’s citadel lurked in the Iowa darkness. An underground fortress, the building above was little more than a brick shed with a trapdoor. Though Jorick knew Malick had grand plans, clever plans, plans that no longer concerned him.
Jorick left his horse at the stable and passed to the small building. A guard stood at the door, looking stiff and terrified. Jorick could feel the cause of his fear, Malick’s presence. The ancient master was not buried deep in his chambers, as he should be, but close, perhaps just inside.
With a grunt of impatience, Jorick jerked open the door on an empty space, and then down stairs that swept into a lavish entryway, complete with flickering chandelier. The firelight threw rainbows and shadows on the walls, and across the bearded face of Jorick’s master.
Malick stepped forward, arms open in a welcoming gesture. “I sensed you were drawing near, my son. How fared your journey?”
Jorick held his ground at the foot of the stairs. “It is done.”
“Is it?” Malick chuckled. “Ah, but you do not appreciate the humor in my question. Never mind. You have kept your end of the bargain, and so I shall keep mine. Come, rest, and tomorrow evening-”
“No. I will leave now.”
“Is your need so great to be quit of me?” When Jorick didn’t answer, Malick chuckled. “As you wish, my son. Should you desire to return, we shall be here. I will be here.”
Jorick turned back for the stairs. “I doubt that we shall ever cross paths again.”
As he reached the top of the stairs, Malick’s voice whispered in his head, “And what if you are wrong?”
To be continued next week.
And now for guesses:
- phone home 2.alien 3. ET 4. anyone need a light? 5. hot touch 6. the 1980s 7. it’s a classic 8. handy flashlight 9. heck of a muppet 10. red hot 11. I remember when ET was plastered on everything 12. long long ago, in a galaxy far, far away 13. he needs a calling card 14. or a cellphone 15. wonder if he could light a cigarette with that finger? 16. reach out and touch someone 17. let your fingers do the walking 18. I don’t know. 19. I wish “I don’t know” would one day be the secret phrase. I’d get one right then. 20. extra terrestrial