Blogophilia 23.11 – Senya

I think I’m too late for Blogophilia, but we’re gonna try it anyway. This week is writer’s choice, so:

Good Times, and Bad Times

Easy: Use a Russian word: Kiska

Hard: Use Lyrics from American Pie by Don McLean (a long, long time ago)

It’s Senya’s turn for a story. This takes place during Heart of the Raven

***

Senya  moved silently through the cold Russian night. Long ago, the temperatures would have left her shivering under layers of clothing, but not now. Immortal, such things didn’t bother her.

Like the dark.

The night that had once been her enemy was her friend, a haven from the damaging sunlight. She moved through shadows, hidden from the eyes of her prey, just as her enemies had once been hidden from her.

That was a long, long time ago.

The past was something she’d let go, moved on from, and yet here, in this place, with this particular hunt, she could feel it pressing close, like a photo without glass in the frame. She had only to lift her hand, reach out, and there it would be, there she would be, hungry dirty, still grieving for her dead brother, even as she took his place in the fight.

A familiar scent caught her and she stopped in her tracks. With that smell came a thousand memories, the smell of blood, fear, and later more blood, more fear, though of a different kind. Through it all, he’d been there, with his deep belly laugh and optimistic outlook, always promising that things would get better.

Did they, Boris?

She hadn’t seen his face – or smelled his scent – since 1660. How long ago was that? More than three hundred years, at least. Almost four. In that time she’d written him off as dead and forgotten him and yet here he was, crashing back, bringing those memories with him.

Memories she didn’t have time for.

“I assumed you were dead by now,” she told the darkness. “How have you managed to stay hidden alone for so long?”

The night gave no answer, so she picked her way slowly towards the small house.  The single light in the window stayed steady, no shadows moved, and no sound came from inside. Did he know she was there? Did he smell her? Would he recognize her if he did?

She stopped at the door and wavered. Should she knock as a friend, or kick it in as an enemy? Which was she? Which was he?

Time to find out.

She rapped on the door with her knuckles, three sharp little sounds. She heard a soft shuffle inside and tensed, waiting for the fight that often answered her knocks. The door click, then opened slowly, to reveal a mustached vampire. The round face matched his belly, and dark thick hair teased his heavy brows. His eyes, a deep brown, looked her over, snapping with a thousand thoughts.

When he didn’t speak, she snapped, “Hello, Boris.”

“So you come.” He stepped back , holding the door wide, and motioned her inside.

Senya stepped over the threshold cautiously, eyes taking in everything, looking for traps, accomplices, danger. What she found was a snake of cables running to a cobbled together pile of computer parts. A camera and tripod pointed to a blue screen, while a collection of buckets held various amounts of rain water, runoff from the water spotted ceiling. The only doorway was covered by a thin blanket, and though she couldn’t see past it, neither could she smell anyone else.

“You’re alone?” she demanded, her hand near her dagger, ready to grab it, to stab, to cut. Where is she?

“Do you see anyone, Fetiniia?”

The old name was like a slap, a memory she’d forgotten. “It’s Senya.”

“Yes, yes, I remember, but do you? Do you remember why you took his name?”

Senya fell back a step, fingers itching for the handle of her weapon. “I remember well enough.”

Boris chuckled. “Of course you do.” He turned and moved for the heap of computers, his back to her. If she planned to take the shot, this was it. This was the best chance. If it came to hand to hand combat…

“I’m glad to see your friends delivered the message,” he added, switching to their native Russian. “Would you care to sit?”

Though he tugged the chair free, she ignored it to demand, “Friends? What friends?” He didn’t mean…?

“Ah, but I have forgotten their names.” He tapped the side of his nose and winked. “I’m paid to forget such things, yes? You know them, though. They travel with a human.”

So he did. “Jorick and his entourage are not my friends.” Far from it. If anything they were her enemies. No, not my enemies, but Malick’s. Yet, now that they’d left The Guild, weren’t Malick’s enemies her enemies now?

How many days had it been since the battle? Malick had known an attack was coming to The Guild, but when Eileifr, the demon eye on the high council, mentioned seeing it, Malick always swished it away. “You see only his intentions,” Malick said. “They will not come to fruition.”

And they shouldn’t have. There was no way that Jorick’s fledgling and his ragtag band of vampires should have been able to breech the security and cause any damage. The moment they hit the parking lot above the underground citadel, the cameras should have seen them, and a small group of the highly trained Executioners should have been dispatched to take them out.

Except the cameras weren’t working that night. On Malick’s orders, she and Griselda had seen to that, leaving the vampire’s fortress blind. Then, when the attack came, Malick had ordered the Executioners below, to him, rather than sending the into the fight. Those that disobeyed and marched to the fray anyway were scattered and disorganized, as were the lesser guards Malick had ordered to the front lines.

Is it any wonder the casualties were so high?

But that was his plan, wasn’t it? Not that Senya could see into his heart, or really knew his motivation. Still, if Malick’s ramblings meant anything, then he’d let it unfold as a way to wipe out the weak vampires who populated the citadel. That was why his initial orders seemed so bizarre.

She’d stood in his chambers with the others, surrounded by plants, listening for the sounds of battle that would soon begin. He’d asked first for their loyalty, told any who were unsure to leave now, and then ordered them to pack everything.

Griselda had blinked blue eyes. “Master?”

Malick spun on her, so that his long silver hair flew round his face. “You question me, child?”

“No, master. Of course not.” Though Senya could guess her fear, Griselda held her shoulders straight, gaze unwavering.

“Good.” Malick smiled sweetly. “Then do as I say. Everything must go. And quickly. A truck waits outside, and from there we will take a plane.”

“We’re leaving?” Greneth asked. “But, master, I thought the point of this was to take The Guild back! To get rid of the high council and-”

Malick laughed, a sound like sunshine and ocean waves. “Child, if I wished to destroy the high council I could do so myself, at any moment. They are children to me.” His tone turned stern. “Now do as you are ordered!”

The collection of guards and Executioners hurried to their strange task, packing and hauling everything upstairs via and an old forgotten entrance. Seya vaguely recalled that they’d sealed it off sixty years ago, when some of the above ground buildings moved, but she’d forgotten it existed, and certainly hadn’t expected to see it open at the top.

But of course, he’d have it ready to go.

Despite their secret exit, Malick had chosen to leave in style. When his chambers were emptied, and the invaders had made as much headway as he felt they could, he and his three faithful Executioners sealed his chamber doors, then marched into the atrium. They’d faced Eileifr, then the guards above detonated the pre-timed explosives, turning the fake skylight into a real opening. While the glass fell, Griselda had used the grappling gun – as Malick called the bizarre weapon – to fire a bolt into the ceiling. Hanging together, the fur of them had left, winched up through the ceiling by a device they’d never tested before. As the floor fell away, Senya had wondered what would happen if they fell.

“Then we will make a different exit,” was Malick’s silent reply.

But they hadn’t fallen. They’d climbed out at the top, hopped in the waiting SUV and sped for the airfield. A crew of faithful had taken the truck to another airport, where a cargo lane waited, but here was a passenger plane, carefully cleaned of all tracking devices, and ready to go.

And go it did.

That was how they got to Namibia, where Malick had been secretly setting up a new base of operations.  He’d hired local villagers to build the complex, and furnish it. Once the cargo arrived with the last of his belongings from the citadel, he’d sent a death squad to handle the villagers. A fire later, and the world believed terrorists had destroyed it, or so Senya had seen in a newspaper later.

That was one blood bath I missed.

She’d been busy, handling other things, but Greneth had been happy to tell her about it. His eyes had glowed with the memories of the mortal’s screams.

Though Senya had a reputation for reveling in such things, too, she didn’t. To be fair, she didn’t hate them, either, she just didn’t care. An assignment was an assignment. One did their job and then moved to the next, no matter what that job might be. If it was kidnapping fellow vampires to hand over to humans, killing entire villages, or just luring the hand of death somewhere, it didn’t matter. Each job was as important as the one before, with orders that needed to be followed.

If that’s true, then why in the hell am I here?

She glanced to Boris, wearing his familiar friendly expression. It was that same kindness that had soothed her when her brother was killed so long ago, and when their master made them into what they were, when he started to demand that they follow his orders, complete his assignments…

“You are lost in thought, hmm? Memories, perhaps?”

Senya looked away. “You’re not a mind reader, don’t pretend to be.”

“No, no, but I recognize the look on your face. It is the same I wore when I last saw Basille. Was it…forty years ago, perhaps? Maybe more.”

Basille. Their master, the vampire who had given his blood and made them, and the others, what they were. His own private army. And yet with his diminutive figure, and cheerful expression, he didn’t seem the type to need such a force.

How wrong that assessment was.

“Where did you see him?” Senya asked.

“Here, in the old country. He was passing through. He asked after you, though I had no news to give him. I have often wondered how you are doing, whether you were still alive, or shared the same fate as our brothers.”

Senya bit back a million nasty retorts. If he cared so much, she was easy to find. As an Executioner, many of the vampires in North America knew her name, or at least her description. “I’m not hard to find.”

“No, perhaps not for one who travels, but me? Eh, I stay where I am. I move from den to den, yes, but Russia is my home, no matter what name they want to call it. I fought too hard for it once, remember?”

“That was a long time ago, when we were still…” she couldn’t say the word, as if having been human somehow made them lesser. “It doesn’t matter.”

“No, I suppose nothing matters.” Boris offered the chair again, then shrugged and took it himself. “Though it is good to see your face after so long, I have to ask, why did you come? To reconcile, I thought at first, but maybe not? Maybe you are here to finish our old argument?”

Senya stiffened. The old argument. A disagreement that had separated them all those years ago.  They’d had thirty years of freedom from Bassile and, in that time, the few who’d remained of their coven had peeled away, leaving just the two of them. Their partnership was not romantic, nor was it perfect, but they got along much like a father and daughter.

Until she came.

Eva was plump, but pretty. With a tiny mouth and curling hair, her expression was usually pleasant. At first. The closer she and Boris got, the harder that sweet face turned. Not in front of Boris, of course, but only to Senya. Her jealousy was a bitter, almost palpable thing that led her to first exaggerate, and finally lie about things Senya had done or said.

“I understand it is hard to accept new company,” Boris said to her one night. “But Eva is nice. You must learn, kiska.”

Senya had laughed. “I must learn? Or what? You’ll play the father and punish me? Eva’s words are lies.”

“Kiska…”

And with his gentle sadness, Senya realized he would forever believe Eva over her. Se and Boris were not lovers, were not related even except for the blood from their master. There was no reason for her to stay.

And yet she had stayed another month, or was it two? The days peeled away like apple skin, revealing a rotten fruit beneath. Boris’ gentle reprimands turned stern, then angry, and finally furious.

“You are like spoiled child, kiska, who cannot share! Before you were the only woman, but now there are two and you cannot abide it.”

“My hatred of the harpy has nothing to do with her sex! I would gladly welcome twenty women, so long as they were not the lying, manipulative-”

“Enough! No more name calling. No more accusations! If you are so unhappy, leave!”

And she did. Not immediately. First they shouted cruel words that devolved into a violent brawl. Eva stood at the fringes, hands clasped saying, “Oh Boris, don’t fight over me!” But Senya knew the words for what they were. She saw the gleaming blood lust in Eva’s eyes.

When Senya finally stormed out, covered in blood, she swore that the next time they met she would kill them both. And she’d meant to. But, as the years flew past, the old wounds felt different, until now she looked back not with hatred for Boris, but pity; pity that he could so easily be manipulated.

“Where is she?” Senya finally asked.

“You mean, Eva, yes? Ah, but she is gone. Long, long gone. We were happy, for a time, but such things end and then there is only dust and memories. Neither are strong enough to hold a person, are they?”

“And then what?” Senya demanded. “When she left what did you do?”

“Ah, you wish to catch up? To hear my whole history? But we do not have time for that, not when the sun will come soon. I will say that until now I have had good times, and bad times, and some times I cared for neither one way or the other. I made two fledglings, though both have gone on to their own lives now.  For the last fifty years I have been alone, working, learning, finding way in between the cracks to seek the information, because that is where the power and the profit are, kiska. In knowledge, and so much of it is now available with the click of a key.”

Senya wasn’t sure what he meant, but it wasn’t important. He was right about the morning. She could feel it approaching. She wasn’t sure she had time to make it somewhere else.

Boris stood and yawned. “If you wish to kill me, you should do it now. Otherwise it is time to seek my bed, and perhaps to find one for you, yes?”

The righteous anger was still there in a tiny ball, the desire to beat him to a bloody pulp and make him apologize, make him admit that she was right, that Eva was the monster that-

That none of it matters.

“You are right. It is late.”

He nodded and relaxed, as though her words had answered some deeper question. “Come, I will show you where I sleep. It is not luxurious, but it is safe.”

She followed him to a root cellar and accepted the box he offered. “You are guest, yes? Boris will take the floor tonight.”

She didn’t argue, and was soon bedded down, the lid secured above her. She lay awake until the sound of Boris’ breathing dissipated – a sign he’d fallen asleep – then checked to make sure the lid moved; that he hadn’t locked her inside. It lifted easily, and she peeked out to check on him. He lay asleep on the floor, eyes closed, one hand under his head, the other at his side, no weapons in sight.

Not that I don’t trust him.

Secure in her safety, Senya laid back down and slid the lid back in place. Tomorrow she’d find out what he wanted from her.

And what I want from him.

***

The next evening Senya rose to find Boris awake, but not yet up. “Good evening.” He smiled as he pulled into a sitting position. “You slept well, yes?”

“Well enough. What do you feed on?”

He laughed and climbed to his feet. “Always so direct, yes? Ah, but I feed on what I can. We are near a town, but not so near that there is no wildlife. You can take your choice of human or animal.”

“Human always tastes better, however, I assume you have a system to avoid too many disappearances?”

He chuckled and motioned her up, out of the cellar. “My system is simply not to kill too many. If you stay long, you will find that humans come to me, in secret, just as your friends did. No one knows they are here, so if they disappear…ah, it is no big thing.”

Friends? The word jolted, but again Senya realized who he meant. “What did Jorick and…” she couldn’t remember any of the other’s names. “…And the others want with you?”

“The same thing everyone wants, yes? Fake papers. Fake IDs. To hide themselves in plain sight, to have official documents that look real and yet maybe aren’t. Ah, but I can make them real, can’t I? It is so easy now, everything is computers and databases. You go in, you enter the information, you edit the files, and your little manipulations are now reality.”

Though not computer savvy, Senya understood what he meant. They had a department at The Guild to handle such things, to move money and identification around, to keep vampire’s immortal natures secret. Of course, they didn’t do it for free, and those who opted for such services paid The Guild a hefty fee.

“How else do you expect the citadel to pay the electric bill?” Malick had asked jokingly.

Senya followed Boris outside, pondering why Jorick would want fake papers. As a whisperer he could get by easily enough, no matter where he was headed. Logic said it was to Japan, to retrieve the item Malick sought, but…

But is it really there?

Malick said it was; said he saw it in Jorick’s mind while they were in the stronghold in Munich – now there was another example of Malick’s mysterious plans.  They’d moved into the complex in Namibia, taken out the village nearby with its many witnesses, and just settled in when Malick’s spies in the citadel sent word that Jorick was on his way to see the True Council in Munich, Germany.  They didn’t need the rest of the message to know why: The Guild had lodged an official complaint with the higher ups about Malick’s revolt, and Jorick had been sent to give testimony about it. The True Council would then hand down a judgement, but short of hunting Malick down, there was no way to enforce it. The whole proceedings were a joke. As Malick said, the True Council – or any council – had only the power that others allowed them to have.

Despite the farce, Malick was infinitely interested. Not because he feared the True Council, but because Jorick was involved. His son in blood, it had hurt him that Jorick hadn’t joined them. Senya knew the vampire never would – he was too pompous, too full of his own sense of justice to ever bend his so-called morals – but Malick saw things differently. He believed that Jorick would “awaken” to his “true nature” and “come back”.

With that goal, they’d traveled to Munich. Not two hours on the ground and they’d found a familiar face: Traven, one of the vampires who’d led the attack on The Guild. Though Senya wanted to kill him – there was something weasely about him she found offensive – Malick stopped her.

“I believe he will be useful to us, as one of Jorick’s former allies.”

“Not Jorick’s,” Traven said coldly. “I was allied with Oren, Jorick’s fledgling, but not Jorick. I’ve known him too many years for that.”

“How familiarity breeds contempt,” Malick said with a smile. “Such things may make you even more useful. Release him, Senya.”

With a snarl she’d done as she was told, though it made little sense. Traven was old, yes, but useless. His history with Jorick was useless.

“Can you see the future?” Malick’s voice had asked in her head. “Those who seem useless now may become the key to everything.”

It was only after Traven was gone that Malick revealed the scroll to them. “He knows not what it says, except that it contains details on the Heart of the Raven. He foolishly hopes it holds the location- though such will do him no good because Jorick alone knows where he has hidden it. However, he also believes it will reveal the secret to unlocking its power. If such a thing is true, we must possess it.”

“Where is it, master?” Greneth asked.

“Traven has been asking the same question, but we are smarter than he is, and I believe we will find out first. Come, the hour grows late. We will handle such things tomorrow.”

And they did. First Malick swept through the vampire underground, and when he had his information they stormed the stronghold, not that it was hard for them to get in. Rather than recruiting Jorick, as Senya understood the plan was, they had a brief face to face with him and one of the members of the True Council, then left.

As Griselda whipped their SUV out into traffic, swerving like a madwoman around cars and busses, Senya couldn’t stop from asking, “What was the point?”

“The point of what?” Malick asked from the back seat, where he rode like a rich king.

“I thought-”

“And therein lies your problem, child. You should not think, only do as you are commanded. We have what we came for. I now know where the heart is. Greneth! Make arrangements immediately for us to travel to Japan.”

Japan?

Greneth cleared his throat. “We’ll need to get new pilots, master. We killed the pair that brought us here from Africa.”

Malick motioned it away. “Not pilots. I believe the sea is a better choice. Jorick will be slow to get there considering the number he travels with, and we do not want to arrive too early. No, we will get there about the same time he does and follow. Let him lead us to his hiding place.” The ancient chucked. “I had not considered that he left it with her. How fascinating that he can still surprise me.”

“With who, master?” Greneth asked.

“His fledgling, of course. Oh, he assumed I didn’t know about her, and to be honest I had forgotten. I kept tabs on her for the first hundred years, but when he had no contact with her, I assumed she was unimportant.” He leaned forward to touch Senya on the shoulder. “And that, child, is why you should never be quick to judge another as useless.”

Griselda turned the wheel sharply, avoiding a large truck. “So Jorick really did steal the Heart of the raven from you when he left and hid it a so-called secret fledgling?”

Malick laughed. As it rolled through the car, the amusement turned cold and he snapped, “Do you really believe he would dare to steal from me? That he could get away with such a deed? No. I gave it to him for safe keeping, and he had it hidden in his den. When he left us, he still had it squirreled away. I assumed it was still in the United States, perhaps in his house in Maine. Ah, but this…this will be far more amusing.”

Amusing. Malick was always looking for amusement, as if it was the elixir of youth. And perhaps it was. He was two thousand years old, or older, and had managed not to turn into a cold creature, like the rest of the ancients.

Hell, I’m colder than he is.

***

Though Senya preferred humans, she followed Boris and fed on wildlife. When they’d finished, they headed back to his shabby house. As Senya ducked inside, she wondered why vampires preferred to live in squalid conditions, but decided it probably had little to do with choice. Days, weeks, years passed differently for them, and the ten years in between new house paint would pass in the blink of an eye, let alone the weekly necessity of mowing or weeding. Then there was the problem of sunlight. It wasn’t as if there was a lot of time in the summer for them to be awake, and who wanted to spend what little there was on house maintenance. No, it was more likely a lack of concern, so that one day you woke up in what had been a nice house and discovered it was a hovel.

That’s why I preferred The Guild. None of that to worry about.

Not that there would be any o fit to worry about at Malick’s complex, at least not for her. They’d brought a small army of guards and lackeys to handle the lesser tasks. Already a group of former guards was out recruiting more, while a team of servants was at the complex unpacking crates and rearranging rooms.

Not that they’d call themselves servants, she mused. Followers, perhaps, of the ancient master, but not servants.

Yet that’s what they are. What we all are.

She didn’t like the label, but there it was. Such things happened when you allied yourself with an ancient; one strong enough to crush you using the mere power of their mind. She’d seen Malick do that only a few days ago.

And what will he do to me when he finds out I’m here and not on the ferry, following Jorick and his human?

***

And now for guesses:

Pic: stormy

  1. gandalf 2. man in the water 3.old man 4. guardian 5. swamp man 6. watching 7. I hope this river stays low 8. in the river
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About Joleene Naylor

An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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