Blogophilia BYE Week – Jorick Part 3 (end)
It’s time again for blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien normally gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week we get to make our own up, so I used http://writingexercises.co.uk to come up with the first two and the band I was listening to at the time for the third.
Topic: (His voice had never sounded) so cold
Bonus (easy)- use the word burial
Bonus (hard) use lyrics from Cinema Bizarre – walking in the shadows
Jorick found clean clothes among the mess, changed, and fed. Though he didn’t want to, he was drawn to the tree by some macabre sense of self torture. What had been left of Velnya was now gone, purified and destroyed by the sunlight. Even the breeze had blown away the ashes, leaving only the charred tree and blackened chains.
Jorick closed his eyes and leaned against the tree, palm pressing into the rough bark, as if he could soak up some kind of absolution. As if being near to her death could save him.
But it couldn’t.
After a moment, he straightened. Nan still lay at the back of the house, decomposing. Let the humans give her a proper burial. They were the ones who’d killed her. Let them look in the face of their crime.
Not that they’ll care.
Remorseless, useless, good only for food. If it wasn’t for the latter, he’d happily see all of them struck from the earth. They deserved to suffer, to die in the blazing glory of flames while they choked and screamed. Perhaps he’d put his life to the task. But first, first he must deal with Malick. Then, if I survive the attempt, I’ll concern myself to what comes next.
Jorick rode his horse hard, the hooves falling like thunder across the prairie land. When the beast was too tired, Jorick stopped at a farm and found another, setting his own steed free. He hated to leave the animal behind, but it couldn’t be helped. As he rode away, he told himself it was for the better.
If Malick kills me, there’s no telling what they might do to the beast. Better to set him free then let them drain him from some sense of spite.
He had to trade horses a second time, but as dawn approached he saw the above ground buildings of the citadel, silhouetted against a blushing sky.
He stopped at the stable, but didn’t bother to unsaddle the horse or take a number. As he strode to the citadel’s entrance, he absently patted himself down, checking for his weapons. Twin daggers rode in pockets, and a sword, unused for many years, hung from his belt. In his boot was a knife, and two more were fastened opposite the sword. Though he used his hands more than the steel in recent years, it didn’t hurt to have them. Especially not when facing a vampire as old as Malick.
With each footstep, Jorick counted up Malick’s years and came away with over two thousand. Yes, the master was ancient, and powerful, but with that power had come an overinflated sense of security. He fancied himself invulnerable, and that might be the weakness Jorick could exploit.
The guard who stood before the small shed was human – with the coming day no vampire could withstand the light. He looked quickly from the medallion that still hung around Jorick’s neck, to the ground. Jorick could feel the mortal’s fear, his terror of the vampires, and of the Executioners most of all.
Good. Fear me, you pathetic creature, and perhaps you’ll live.
Jorick banged the doors open and pounded down the stairs. At the foot, in the lavish entrance hall, stood a lone vampire guard. He glanced at Jorick then away, unconcerned. It wasn’t unusual for Executioners to return at the last minute, back from some task, and apparently he didn’t know that Jorick had relinquished the title and the job that went with it.
Just as well. The fewer I must kill first, the more energy I’ll have for Malick.
Through the entrance hall and down the sweeping staircase, he moved deeper into the underground fortress. Partially finished floors passed, as he headed to the lower level where the master’s slumbered. He could feel Malick’s presence growing stronger and then – receding?
He stopped on the stairs, confusion momentarily replacing his fury. The ancient master was not below in his chamber, but somewhere else. Somewhere higher.
It matters little where he is.
With a snarl, Jorick pulled his sword free and headed back upstairs, and then down the corridor. He stopped before the double doors of the audience chamber. Malick had grand plans that involved pillar and souring alcoves, but for now the room inside was long and low, paneled in wood and hung with an ancient tapestry. Beneath it were five chairs, that served as the High Council’s thrones. There they sat when they made their decisions, such as the decree to have Kateesha and her partner killed, the assignment that had cost Jorick too much time.
It seems fitting he’ll die here.
He sensed the others a second before he pushed the doors open, but it was too late. Masked by Malick’s overwhelming presence, or lost beneath the boiling rivers of Jorick’s rage, he hadn’t felt the other Executioners. They stood on either side of a long red carpet, wary eyes on him and the weapon in his hand. Mary and Bren were in the front, Beldren and Jamie behind them, with Ark as the last. Beyond him, in the center throne, sat Malick. His long robes were flecked in gold embroidery, and his face was serene with the hint of amusement.
“Ah, my son, and so you have come back.”
Ark stepped forward, brandishing a sword whose notched blade spoke of old battles. “Jorick. Leave now.”
Jorick felt the Executioner in his head, seeking his plans, and turned it back on him, pressing into Ark’s memories. Malick had already heard what happened in Nebraska and guessed rightly where Jorick’s wrath would lead him. Only two hours Ark had arrived, after receiving a call to the citadel and orders to stand guard between Malick and Jorick.
“He will come here,” Malick had explained to Ark’s surprise. “Crazed-”
“Crazed with grief,” Malick said aloud in time to Ark’s memory, pulling Jorick back to the present. “Come now, my son. Can we not all understand your reaction? The murders in Nebraska are being dealt with even now by Senya. A plague perhaps? She is creative enough to think of an excuse. And though she’s not a whisperer, she can silence witnesses a different way. Yet another victim to whatever malady took so many of the local population. How sad for them.”
Senya. One of the Executioners who was conspicuously absent, sent by Malick to “tidy up” after him. To cover up the true horror, to keep vampires secret from the human population.
Except Jorick no longer cared if they were secret or not.
“To hell with them and their plague. Let them know a monster tore through their ranks, a judgement for their crimes! But where is your judgement master? Where is your punishment?”
“Mine?” Malick asked innocently, while the assembled Executioners tightened their hold on their weapons and looked uncertainly from one to another.
“Jorick,” Jamie said, his voice purposefully calm. “As master said, we understand your pain, but even you cannot blame him for the actions of the mortals?”
A soothing sensation drifted over Jorick; cool water trying to quench the fire. Like Jorick, Jamie was a whisperer, able to control and influence others’ thoughts and emotions. It was a useful talent, but one Jorick had no intention of succumbing to.
He threw Jamie’s influence away with a snarl. “Stand down.”
“No,” Ark said coldly. “You stand down.”
“You would protect him?” Jorick scoffed. “Even while he holds you here away from your own families? Your own wives.” He looked pointedly to Ark, but the Executioner only glared back with narrowed eyes. “What will you do when the humans come for those who belong to you?”
“Nothing,” Malick said. “Because they will no longer have family or dens outside the citadel. From this day forward Executioners will have chambers here, as the high council does. Any family they possess will shelter here, safe from such occurrences.”
“Safe?” Jorick snapped. “You mean rather under your control? Do not take me for a fool, master. I cannot see your thoughts, but after the centuries I know your heart. You care nothing for them, for their covens, or for me! We are your pets, to amuse you, to worship you, to obey your orders. But no more!”
He charged forward, past Mary and Bren, to clash with Jamie’s raised sword.
“Jorick, if ever you considered me a friend, do not make me fight you.”
“Friend? You are only a puppet to a dark master and his cruel machinations! Move aside or taste the same punishment he will receive!”
Bren spoke from behind him. His voice had never sounded so cold. “As though we would be so weak. You are a legend in your own mind, hand of death, but in reality you are not so much stronger than we are.”
Jorick ducked, unhooking his blade from Jamie’s, and spun back, swinging. The blunt edge caught Bren in the hip, knocking him back. He stumbled and Mary leapt to take his place, her bright red hair dancing around her pale face like a flame. She wielded a mace in each hand, slamming one into the floor next to him, the other arching over, racing to strike.
He dodged, taking her leg out as he rolled past. She fell to one knee, the second mace splintering the parquet floor.
Beldren took the opening, slamming into Jorick hard enough to knock him onto his back. For a moment the room wavered, shimmered, like heat on a hot summer day. Behind it was something else, some dark place that smelled of dirt and damp.
Jorick tore free from it in time to miss the brunt of Beldren’s attack. His blade caught Jorick’s elbow, but blunt like his own, there was pain without blood.
Jorick jerked one of the knives from his coat and jabbed as he pulled to his feet. The blade bit into Beldren’s face, burying itself a hairsbreadth from his eye. The Executioner fell back with a cry, hand instinctively scrabbling to remove the danger.
While he pulled the dagger from his face, Jorick slammed Mary in the back, and threw the knife’s twin at Bren. He deflected the blade, but couldn’t stop Jorick from grabbing him by the throat. He slammed the Executioner into the floor with a sick crunch, then ripped him up again and flung him across the room, like a broken doll.
Momentarily free, Jorick lunged towards his chuckling master. Jamie blocked him, his face hard.
“Do not force my hand.”
“You force mine!” Jorick roared. “Her death is as much his fault as it is theirs! Had he released me when he should-”
“It is not our place to name the time of our release” Jamie replied. “I stayed longer than I wished with Eagan and you-”
“Not three hundred years longer!” Jorick shouted. “No blood debt lasts that long! And now, because of him, and his refusal to release me-”
“Can you expect him to see the future? He is no demon eye, Jorick. How could he have known anymore than you that such a thing would happen? Who could have predicted-”
“She did!” Jorick roared, pushing until Jamie began to slide backward. “She wrote me letter after letter, begging me to come home, to protect her, and I failed! I failed because I was bound to duties that should never have been mine!”
Before Jamie could finish, Jorick turned to find the Executioner charging, one of Mary’s maces raised. Blood ran down his face from the gaping wound and the skin under his eye flapped. Jorick raised his arm a second too late, and the mace slammed into his shoulder. He felt the bones shatter, and agony shot through him, sharp enough to buckle his knees.
Beldren raised the mace again, but Jorick recovered in time to avoid another blow. His left arm hung useless. Rather than subduing him, the pain fueled him, and the world blurred. With a savage cry, he jerked to his feet, grabbing Beldren by his ponytail. He swung the Executioner away, then spun back and went for Jamie. Moments disappeared under a wave of blackness, punctuated by split seconds of clarity. His friend battled, but Jorick wrestled the sword away from him. He threw the weapon, and slammed his fist into the Executioner’s face again, and again. He was aware of the blood on his hands, and of Mary attacking him from behind.
He swatted her away, then banged her head into the splintered floor. Crimson ran in a river away from her ruined face, as bright as her hair. A moment later he was aware of breaking Bren’s good arm, of kicking him away, his ribs shattering at the impact.
The next thing he knew, Beldren lay in a heap, and he wrestled with Ark. The Executioner snarled, but Jorick spun him around with a snap the broke his neck.
He threw the incapacitated vampire to the floor. Stepping over the bodies, he advanced on Malick. The white haired master sat on his throne, chuckling. With an incline of his head, he lifted his hands to clap with exaggerated slowness.
“Such wrath, my son! How long has it been since I have seen that fire in your eyes? Since you have maimed and fought, relishing the brutality, the feel of broken bones and rent flesh? Ah, what a sight!”
Jorick’s reply was a strangled cry of fury as he lunged at Malick. He swung, hand inches from his master, when his body seized up. He hung, frozen, snarling and roaring over the screaming buzz in his head. The sound grew louder, and louder, bringing with it an agony that threatened to split his skull.
Malick released him, and he fell back, sagging on himself, hands to his ears as if he could shut out the horrible sound. The pitch rose, and Jorick’s legs gave out, dropping him to all fours.
“Kneel my son!” Malick cried. “Kneel and know your place!” He broke into laughter that echoed over the keening sound, a mixture straight from a nightmare.
Jorick roared as he tried to fight the noise, fight the helplessness. He struggled to free the knife from his boot. It shook in his hand, but her forced his arm to lift, forced his fingers to hold, his hand to aim…even if it was just the master’s leg…anything to break his concentration…
“Tut, tut,” Malick sing-songed. “It seems I underestimated your strength? More pressure, perhaps?”
The horrible sound increased. A scream ripped from Jorick and the knife fell from his hand. Involuntarily, his muscles tightened, rolling his body into a ball as his instincts fought to protect him, to stop this before his brain exploded.
He squeezed his eyes shut and pictured Velnya as he’d last seen her, wisps of black hair falling around her face, violet eyes dancing with sadness as he explained why he had to leave. Her lips drew tight and she glanced away, the turn of her cheek, the flash of her pale throat as she drew an unnecessary breath. The image faded, replaced with the men’s memories. Her face was twisted, her mouth open as she screamed. Her black hair tumbled around her shoulders and flames wreathed her like a martyr’s crown. The flames blotted her out with the brightness of the sun, fading to leave a pile of black ashes and a burned skull.
I’ll join you soon, Velnya. In whatever hell our kind go to when we die.
And then the horrible screaming stopped.
Jorick sagged to the floor, his muscles too weak to hold him up. Seconds passed as he gathered his strength and finally raised up enough to glare at Malick. Still seated, the ancient master smiled down on him. “Do you think I would destroy you so easily? My favorite creation? No, my son. You will live, live to let your anger ferment, your sorrow, and your guilt, until it has built to a beautiful crescendo that explodes with real violence, a fury even I have not seen for a millennia.” He stood, to lean over Jorick, like a vulture surveying prey. “That or your misery whimpers away into nothing, and you discover your love for the woman was never true passion, only a desperate plea to regain your lost humanity.” He smiled brightly. “How interesting it will be to see which comes to pass.”
He stepped over the moaning or unconscious bodies of his fallen Executioners to stop at the door and look back. “When you have recovered you may stay or go as you please. I look forward to our next meeting.”
His laughter followed him out the door.
Jorick warred with darkness. He slipped in and out, and it was only after some sleep that he woke with enough strength to stand. The others were gone. A blood trail said they’d been dragged away, no doubt taken to be healed with blood.
The need for it consumed him, even as he tried to push it away. Rest had healed some of his wounds, and stopped the bleeding of others, but he was still weak. He needed to feed, to find Malick, to try again.
No. Not now. Malick would be on guard, and the Executioners would be fully restored. He’d beaten them once, but could he do it again? And if he did, what of Malick? That final attack, it was not the work of an imparter, as Malick was classified, but of a destroyer. A lesser one, yes, but one just the same. As a mere whisperer, how could Jorick fight such power?
No. He would leave. He would skulk away, but not with his tail between his legs as Malick imagined. Instead he’d go, he’d practice, he’d plan, and he would return. When he did, Malick would suffer.
The brick mansion came into view, and Jorick slowed his horse. Or rather the horse, taken from a farm earlier that evening. He’d left a trail of such beasts behind him, all the way from Iowa where he’d escaped the citadel unchallenged.
He drew closer to the house, passing heavy trees and unused buildings. Old slave quarters left empty with the end of the war, a house for drying tobacco, and other structures peculiar to a plantation.
The house ahead was three stories, with a grand porch and large windows. Light blazed from a few, hinting at the occupants. Already he could sense their immortal lives, catch the edge of their familiar scents.
A young human met him, took his horse away and called to another to guide him to the house. He declined the assistance, and knocked on the heavy door himself. A moment passed as footsteps hurried to open it. A mortal peered out, her neck heavily bandaged; the mark of a vampire’s servant. Jorick pushed past the nuisance and into a foyer. Painted portraits stared at him, too real for comfort.
“Jorick!” A vampire entered from the nearest doorway. Tawny hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail, while amber eyes gave him a slightly wild appearance that his carefully held face and perfectly starched clothes belied.
“Oren.” Jorick looked from him to the portraits. “Interesting decor.”
“Jesslynn’s newest hobby. She’s quite good.”
“As you say.”
Oren sighed. “I did as you asked in your letter. What remained of your belongings are here.”
“And the bed?”
The corner of Oren’s mouth twitched. “As I said, your belongings are here, including the bed.”
For a wild moment Jorick thought of destroying it, chopping it with a hatchet for failing to protect Velnya, but even in his mourning he was too practical for that. He’d owned that bed for three hundred years, hauling it from place to place, a heavy inconvenient burden he couldn’t let go of, not even for her.
“Did you burn the house?”
Oren made a soft noise of aggravation. “Yes. Your instructions were followed.” A moment of silence passed and he added, “I am sorry, for your loss.”
“For my loss?” Jorick scoffed. “How neat and concise that sounds. My loss, as if the full impact can be wrapped in such a tiny phrase.”
Oren held up his hand. “I meant no offense. I only wished-”
“You only wished to show your sympathy, of course. But it is not sympathy I crave. What good can such a thing bring? Can it drag her soul back from hell?”
Oren coughed lightly. “As you say. How did you fare with Malick? Your letter said you were heading there directly, and when no news followed I assumed the fight went ill.”
“Ill!” Jorick stopped from shouting. “Ill is one way of describing it.”
The soft steps of a woman whispered over hardwood floors, and a moment later Jesslynn appeared. Raven hair accented the paleness of her skin. Haughty eyebrows arched over deep eyes and thin lips showed displeasure. “Jorick. You survived after all. Our guests will be pleased to hear.”
As if summoned, Jeda floated in behind her. Every inch the winter queen Jorick remembered, Velnya’s older sister stepped around their hostess to survey her brother-in-law. “So it’s true?”
Jorick ripped his eyes away from her steady gaze. “Yes.”
Jeda let out a shuddering sigh. “I knew Nebraska territory would bring only tragedy! Why? Why did you take her to such a forsaken place? Why did you leave her alone?”
“Now, now,” a voice came from the doorway, silky and smooth, followed by Traven. “You know why, my darling. He took her there to be farther from the reach of The Guild, and his grasping master. And as for leaving her, my dear, he had his duties to consider.”
“What good are duties?” Jeda cried. “She is dead! Dead! Lost in some wild land, slain by barbarians!”
Traven caught his wife by the arms and gently pulled her back. “Enough. I imagine Jorick has been through enough. Between the loss of his wife and his Executioner responsibilities-”
“I am no longer one of them,” Jorick spat. “If you wish to blame someone, blame Malick for keeping me away from home, for forcing a oaths on me, and know that he will pay, his blood for hers.”
Traven’s face twitched. “I see. Of course, of course. That explains what Oren meant when he said you’d gone to face your master. I wondered.”
Jesslynn sailed past them and planted herself before Jorick, completely ignoring the conversation they’d been having. “Traven and Jeda arrived yesterday, looking for you. Apparently you sent them a letter with instructions to come here to collect your late wife’s things?”
Jorick murmured his agreement. “Where are they?”
“The belongings?” Oren asked. “In the barn for now.” At Jorick’s scowl he added, “They are quite safe. Come, I’ll show you.”
Jorick followed him through the house and outside. The heavy stars twinkled in time to the rickets chirps and Jorick imagined each as a heartbeat – the heartbeat of the universe.
And what a cruel universe it is.
Inside the barn was a small pile of things, some furniture and baskets of items. “Much as broken,” Oren explained as Jorick moved toward it. “I saved what seemed prudent and left what was ruined.”
He continued, explaining that he’d divided up those things he knew belonged to Jorick and set them aside. “Even if you had been killed, I didn’t see that Jeda needed to pick through your personal property, only that of her sister. She’s already taken everything that she wanted, but I imagine – now that you’re alive – she’d be willing to let you look through it. I apologize for letting her take her choice already, but Jesslynn insisted she and Traven leave as quickly as possible. The children, you understand. We’ve hidden them in the old slave quarters with their nanny, but how long before Traven or Jeda sense them?”
He kept talking, but Jorick stopped listening. He rifled through things, stopping when he came to the blackened cross. Her mother’s cross. Jeda certainly had a right to it and yet…and yet Oren had chosen to sort it as one of his belongings. Why shouldn’t he keep it then?
He turned away from the jumble. To interrupt Oren. “Thank you.”
His fledgling hesitated, tugged his vest, and finally muttered, “Yes, of course. I can never forget our…relationship.”
Relationship. Master and fledgling. As Malick had been his master for so long.
“Would that you did,” Jorick said bitterly. “I free you now from your blood debt. No one will be chained as I have been these long years.”
Oren took an involuntary step backward. “Freed? But it has not even been…You’re not in your right mind. Later, when you’ve had time to come to terms and absolved yourself of guilt-”
“Come to terms?” Jorick cried. “How does one come to terms with this? It is my fault she’s dead – mine! Is it not fitting I spend eternity walking in the shadows of that guilt? Jeda spoke the truth: I left her alone in the wilds with only a human for protection – a human! What good did I think Nan would be? How conceited was I to believe that nothing could touch us – touch her – because she was mine, as if I am blessed by some lucky star! There are no blessings here, Oren. Take that to heart. There is only darkness, an eternal darkness that ends in the fires of hell!”
Oren shifted uncomfortably. “You are in mourning. Come. After your journey no doubt you’d like some rest.”
Jorick stopped from exploding. Oren meant well. How could he, surrounded by his wife, his children, his home? What loss had he ever suffered? What life had been stolen from him? What vengeance did he need to exact?
But Jorick had a debt to collect, a debt of blood, and he would make damn sure Malick paid.
Even if it kills us all.
picture #1: Trevor
- relaxing 2. taking a break 3. open road 4. nap time 5. waiting 6. tennis shoes 7. in the saddle 8. recliner 9. resting 10. lazy afternoon
Picture #2 Colleen
- best friends 2. sisters 3. pretty in pink 4. I wish I could fly 5. wind beneath my wings 6. soaring 7. over the tree tops 8. reach for the stars 9 grasping for the clouds 10. into the great wide open
Picture #3 Tyler
- olympics 2. skiing 3. jump! 4. flying high 5. into the blue 6. winter sports 7 winter fun 8. snow bunnies 9. Red Bull gives you wings 10. sky high