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Blogophilia 46.10 – Jamie Vs 2 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:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 46.10 Topic – Long Ago
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Include a lyric or line from singer/poet Jewel (beneath the darkened sky)
Easy (1 pt) Mention a lamp

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On a side note I have my laptop and data all working now. Still some sorting to do, but I’m almost done and back to where I was before the meltdown. wOOt!

As you might know, I’ve been working, agonizingly slowly, on Jamie’s tale, but it hasn’t been flowing. Told back and forth between his “current” situation (aka 1668 when he leaves Scotland for the colonies) and his past, it was just boring, so I have started over and am doing the past story as the current event rather than in flashbacks.

Anyway, here we go. Let’s see if it’s better.

***

There was thirst. Hot, burning, like a flame in Jamie’s throat. He swallowed, but it only made it worse.

He adjusted to it, to the ache, and reached beyond, finding himself, his surroundings. He lay on his back, warm, not uncomfortable. No immediate pain, past his dry throat.

He opened his eyes slowly. The bright room flickered in and out of focus, and then sharpened into a scene too clear to be real. Was he dreaming?

The room looked real; and just as he remembered. The large bed, the fireplace, the pitcher near the bed, the familiar lamp, his wife’s cloak draped over a low stool. It was his bedroom at home, in the family castle, but…but how had he come to be there? And why was everything so bright?

He closed his eyes against it and the memories came back, edged in red, and distorted as if they were from long ago. Things had gone badly at Dunbar. They’d have been fine if they’d just waited, but the officers…no, they hadn’t been happy to sit. They’d ordered the attack. After two days, thousands lay dead, and many times that number were captured by Cromwell’s army.

Jamie’s hand moved unconsciously to his side, where he’d been wounded. Phantom pain stabbed through him as he pictured the ragged, maggot edged wound.  Was that last night? Earlier today? He remembered that he’d cowered in a ditch and tried to redress the mess with a torn tunic, stolen from a washing line. Too sick to go further, he spent the night there, shivering with fever. Every sound became an imagined pursuer, an enemy sent to sweep up the last of the rebels. No. The sun had risen. He remembered the warmth on his fingertips, the song of the birds as he forced himself to climb out, to follow the winding road towards his father’s lands. He was so close to home…so close to Margaret.

Her image moved to the forefront of his thoughts, looking as she’d been when he last saw her. Long red hair curled around her shoulders, green eyes looked up at him, filled half with love, and half with sadness.

She’d pressed a lock of hair into his hand, tied with a soft ribbon. “Ya will return, my love. Walk unafraid on yer journey and know my heart goes with ye.”

“Aye, I will, and ya will be waitin’ to greet me when I do.”

She’d smiled, even as a tear slipped down her cheek. “Aye, that I will. A greeting you won’t soon forget.”

Jamie opened his eyes on the over bright room again. Though he didn’t remember the arrival, he’d returned, just as she said he would, just as he’d promised her. What came next, he didn’t know. He’d planned to try again to start a family, to settle down victorious, but with the loss of the battle…he might need to go back again.

She’ll understand.

He just needed to see her, try to explain it. He sat up slowly, hand still at his side, body tensed for pain. None came. His quizzical eyes moved to his side as he pulled back the blanket. On his side he found no bandage or wrapping, only a crooked scar.

A scar? How long had he been abed? For it to have healed fully it must have been weeks. And from the look of the scar, the smoothness, perhaps months. Months abed? How could such a thing be?

No wonder I’m so thirsty.

He grabbed the beside pitcher, ready to drink whatever was inside, but it was empty. Aggravated, he set it back  with too much force. Shards dropped around the night table, just as the door opened.

“I didn’t mean-” he broke off at the sight of Rechert, his father’s servant. The man’s wide eyes moved from the broken pieces of pitcher, to Jamie’s face, and then to the floor.

“You are awake, sir.”

“Aye, that I am. And thirsty.” Jamie rubbed his throat. “What must a man do to get a drink here?” Though it was meant as a joke, he saw Rechert tense. “What is it? Is something amiss?”

The man didn’t look up, only murmured, “Nay.”

His demeanor didn’t match his answer, and Jamie was instantly on guard.  Was it because he’d obviously been abed so long? “What day is it?”

“’tis the twelfth of September, sir.”

“The twelfth?” How could that be? He’d been wounded only twelve days ago? Unless…”What is the year?”

“1650, sir.”

Jamie ran a hand through his hair, fighting confusion. It was the same year, the same month, so how could he have healed so quickly? He looked again to Rechert, but sensed there’d be no answers there. “Fetch Margaret.” She’d be able to explain things, to soothe the strange, unsettled feeling slowly settling over him. “And a drink. My throat burns.”

The man didn’t move, and Jamie snapped with more anger than he meant, “I said to fetch my wife, and a drink, man! Are ye deaf?”

When Rechert flinched, Jamie felt instant regret.  “I’m sorry. I don’t mean ter’ be so cross. I just-I don’t understand. And this blasted thirst…I just need to see Margaret and get a drink before I’m consumed.” He coughed, like gargling sand. “A drink,” he muttered, tossing the blanket aside, ready to stand and find his own liquid. Any liquid.

“She’s dead, sir.”

Jamie froze, one foot on the floor. “What do ya say? Who is dead?”

Rechert flinched again. “Your wife, sir. Margaret.”

The too-bright, over-sharp world contracted, pressing in on him with a suffocating pressure that stole his breath. Dead. Margaret. Dead. But…But…

“What do ya say?”

He heard his own voice, a half-wild shout, but felt no connection to it. Rechert backed toward the door. “I’ll fetch her ladyship.”

And then he was gone. Jamie stared at the blank space he’d been in, conscious only of the burning in his throat, and the tearing agony in his chest. Rechert must be mistaken. The man was old, addled.

He conjured her again in his memory, a thousand moments pressed together, like flipping through the pages of a prayer book. He saw her laughing in the sunlight, laying on the bed on their wedding night, her fiery hair spread around her flushed face.  Saw her holding their daughter, hair damp from the sweat of childbirth, then again months later, eyes wet with the tears of a mother burying her child. He saw her riding her horse, bundled in her cloak, as snowflakes drifted beneath the darkened sky.

There, in the frozen moments, her could smell her, hear her voice playing through his memory. “Ya know I love, thee, Jamie, as the songbirds love the dawn.”

Aye, as I love you.

The door opened, and Jamie was pulled back to his over-bright room to see his sister. Her dark tresses were pulled back and her face was pallid, leaving her deep brown eyes like two deep pools – deep pools that shone with her pity.

Pity for him. Pity for his loss. Pity for the wife who was no more.

“Jamie,” she whispered as she drew near the bed. “She had a fever-”

The roar sounded foreign to his ears, even as Caitrin leapt back from his fury. Without thought he grabbed the night table and flung it against the wall. Followed by the lamp, the jewelry box, and then even the sideboard. He raged as he grabbed everything in reach, dashing it against the cold stone walls as he screamed.  Then among the wreckage he saw the glint of gold.

Her locket.

With a moan he dropped to the floor, clutching the piece of jewelry. He squeezed his eyes closed, battling the tears, the black agony that threatened to swallow him, fighting that ever present, still screaming thirst.

“Jamie.” Caitrin’s voice was soft, and the touch on his shoulder gentle. “Peace, Jamie. She rests, safe in the bosom of the lord. She-”

He refused to look, refused to see that pity again. “How?” he croaked, his voice heavy with thirst and grief. “How did it come to pass?”

“A fever, Jamie. She seemed better, and then, in the night, she just slipped away. She called for you. She…”

Jamie tensed and squeezed his eyes tighter, as if he could blot reality away if he only he couldn’t see it.

“…She didn’t blame ya, Jamie, fer not bein’ here. When she was lucid, she…she said as much, said she knew how important the cause was to ya, to…to all of us, that she knew yer were fighting’ fer your future, fer your bairn’s future. She didn’t…She tried to hold on fer ya, but the fever…we thought she was better, thought she was safe…”

Jamie held up a hand to silence her. He couldn’t hear any more, not now. Not ever. Ever. To face a world, a life without her in it…

He buried his face in his hands and bit back a cry. As he’d crawled home, bleeding, sick, desperate, his only prayer had been to let him make it home, let him see Margaret again, to hold her, to bury his face in her hair and…

…and drink….

No, not drink, not…

…not…

The thought flitted away as a voice said, “My lady-”

Jamie looked up through teary eyes to see Rechert returned. His vision throbbed, and the scent of dinner rolled through the room; roast suckling, apples, pork pie, and a thousand other delights. His body moved on its own, knocking the servant to the wall, pinning him, despite his struggles, and then biting, sharp, quick. The feel of flesh between his teeth, the rush of blood, the relief as the thirst was quenched, as the fire dissipated.

But it does nothing for the pain.

***

Yeah. Better.

And now for guesses:

topic: Dahlia

pic: Christine

  1. a rose for a rose 2. true love 3. Romeo and Juliet 4. on the balcony 5. reaching 6. Would not a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? 7. among the clouds 8 walking on sunshine 9. high on love 10. airship 11. up, up, and away 12. a token 13. his ship is pretty low, or else her house is very tall 14. hope a strong wind doesn’t come along. 15. I’ve really got no more ideas. 16. I’m not good at these. 17. it’s well done, though. 18. I wish I could paint 19. a fair wind blows 20. I got nothing.
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Blogophilia 45.10 – Jamie 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 promts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 45.10 Topic – “Walk Unafraid”
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Mention any nickname you have been called (Joey)
Easy (1 pt) Include a New Year’s Resolution (forgiving people)

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A quick note – I got my data back today! It is currently being copied to a new raid system (aka a hard drive that automatically duplicates its content onto a second hard drive so there is always a back up). I have no idea how much longer its going to take (it’s been at it for hours now) but either way, I have it all. wOOt!

And now on with Jamie. Not as long as I wanted, so either there will be more than 3 parts to this, or part 3 is gonna be huge. Also decided I am going to write the Jorick story where he quits the Executioners. I know the six readers who replied to the street team question wanted something else, (they didn’t actually agree) but I think for the sake of the stories going together that is the piece that needs told.

***

Though he’d expected her to follow, it was Eagan he’d met as he readied the horse. The vampire gave him an affable smile. “You should not be so hard on yer sister, lad. The heart can forgive much when there is love in it.”

Jamie scoffed as he swung onto his horse. “Then she should be able to forgive me for never seeing her again. Travel well.”

And he’d ridden away into the night with no clear destination in mind, only the driving need to escape the memories and the guilt.

Had I but been there, such things would never have happened.  I’d have slipped a blade between Androu’s ribs as he slept and all would have been well.

Or so he told himself.

Eagen had said more than once that such thoughts were a childish fantasy, that Androu had no choice. “They knew ya were a rebel, lad. Had you not tried to put Charles on the throne…but ya did, and they knew it, lad. They came to the castle, lookin’ fer you, fer your allies. Had Androu not admitted yer father’s involvement, they would have killed him as well, taken the land and given it an English Laird they could trust.  Then what would ye have returned to? You know as well as I that I speak the truth, and that yer sister and her pretty babes would have died with ‘em.”

Though Jamie didn’t wish the bairns ill, maybe that still would have been better. Had Caitrin died, instead of becoming some immortal creature, she could never have passed the burden on to him – to live for eternity to dwell on his bitterness.

Without Margaret.

He closed his eyes and saw her behind them. Her flyaway hair, soft green eyes, and smooth skin. He could almost smell her, almost feel the memory of her lips.

Memory.

That was all that was left of her now. Eagan swore she’d died of fever, but if that was so why had she not been similarly transformed, made immortal, as Androu and Caitrin had? The timelines were muddled, and spoken in mumbles that purposefully confused. Had Eagan been there when she died? Had he been there when his father was hung? Why had he done nothing?

He’d asked Caitrin those questions, asked Androu, even asked Eagan, and their answers had been just as worthless as their other explanations. He’d known there was more to it – knew even now. Perhaps, freed from his debt, he should have slaughtered them all.

And been left with a pair of mortal bairns to raise.

Jamie pictured his nephews’ chubby cheeks and bright eyes, left human to grow to the proper age before they would be made into monsters. He and Margaret’s only babe had not lived to take her first steps. Though they’d planned to try again, her death had robbed them of that chance, while the immortal curse had made him barren and sealed his fate. Never to be a father, as Androu was, not to pass on his father’s legacy, or continue his family line, not to see his descendants stretch on, except through his sister.

And what traitorous creatures will they be with her influence?

Though he knew she was just a woman, and could execute little control of the situation – what could she have done except deny the charges? – still he couldn’t forgive her. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Aye, though Father would say I should.

Every January, at Hogmanay, his father would make a toast and resolve to forgive those who had wronged him that year. “Ye have ta start with a clean slate, lad.”

If only he could.

Jamie shifted again in the confined space of the box, and sniffed. He could feel the sun sinking, enough that he might be safe. He listened to be sure there was no one beyond to see him rise, then slowly lifted the lid, pausing twice to be sure. If one of the crew or passengers were to discover him in the box…he might be immortal, but he knew he could still be murdered.

With the coast clear, he climbed out and straightened his clothes. Gone were his traditional garb, replaced with unfamiliar clothes he’d purchased at the docks. He was starting over, wiping away his old life for a new one, and that meant everything had to go. Everything except the lock of her hair.

His hand went unwittingly to his pocket, as if he could feel the pouch, and the coiled tresses within, through the fabric. She’d given it to him before he’d left the last time. Her green eyes had gazed at his face, half full of love, and half sadness at his leaving.

“Ya will return, my love,” she promised as she pressed the locks into his hand. “Walk unafraid on yer journey and know my heart goes with ye.”

And he had returned. He’d crawled back half dead, bleeding and battered, it was only his memory of her that kept him moving, running, clawing his way back, dodging pursuit and praying to make it. And what had greeted him when he returned? When he woke in the cold hall of his family, restored and whole?  Not even his sister had been there, only Joey, the old manservant. It was he who’d told him of Margaret’s passing, while his eyes looked everywhere but Jamie’s face, Jamie’s mouth, Jamie’s fangs.

And do I blame him? Surely I looked monstrous, begging for drink and a dead wife.

***

And now for guesses:

Topic: Diane

Pic: Irene

  1. Candy land 2. stripes 3. Santa’s helper 4. Candy magic 5. candy cane forest 6. hypnotic 7. I don’t know. 8. If that was the right guess I’d have tons of points. 9. poodle hair. 10, cotton candy hair 11. sweet treats 12. I want candy 13. incense and peppermints 14. Peppermint Twist 15. I’m just naming songs now 16. You have to wonder why the photographer took this 17. Candy cane Children. 18. Okay, I never heard that one. 19. I wasn’t a huge white stripes fan. 20. Oh. White stripes is a good guess. 

Blogophilia 44.10 – Jamie 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:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 44.10 Topic – Never Say Never
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Incorporate Bell’s Brewery or one of their Beers (Cherry Stout)
Easy (1 pt) Include a style of Hat (Blue Bonnet)
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Before we delve into the new story, I have to share the newest computer/hard drive data news – they were able to repair/recover everything! Yes! So now I just have to sit back and wait for it to arrive in the mail, which should be within the week since the data only has a one week warranty on it…fingers crossed!

And now, on to Jamie:

Jamie opened his eyes in the dark. The soft creak of the ship filtered through the box he sheltered in. he concentrated, and soon could hear the slap of the ocean waves, the murmur of other passengers, even the scurry of the rats. If he tried, he knew he could smell their blood, but he didn’t want to. Not yet. Though he couldn’t see it, he could feel the sun’s presence outside – a sun that would burn him if the light touched his skin.

He shifted in the box and stretched his legs. Though vampires didn’t wake stiff or sore, even from cramped sleeping quarters, it didn’t mean they weren’t uncomfortable. For the millionth time he asked himself if the sea voyage was necessary. Couldn’t he have stayed where he was?

But he knew the answer: No. Not without killing Androu in his sleep. That his scheming, lying, back stabbing brother-in-law was still alive was a testament to his self-control. However, self-control only lasted so long, and his had run out with his blood debt.

It had been a surprise when Eagen had announced their freedom. They’d sat around the table, before the fire, an imitation of their mortal days when they’d eaten great meals and drank cherry stout by the mugful. Jamie’s eyes had wandered to Androu, seated at the head of the table, in the chair his father had so long occupied. Each time he saw him, he felt the anger rise, and murderous thoughts played through his mind. It was in the middle of one such fantasy that Eagan had stood up.

“Though in some ways I hate ter say it, ’tis been a long enough haul for ye, and yer debt has been paid now. Ya can stay or go as ya please. For myself, I plan to head further afield. I have enjoyed my time here, and though I know yer might be willin’ ter shelter me indefinitely, I feel the call of my ancestral home and plan ter spend some time there afore venturing out again.”

Caitrin and Androu had done the polite thing and asked Eagan to stay, but he’d declined. When the pleasantries were over, Jamie had stood, hand on his dirk. “And with the end of our blood debt is the end of my patience, Androu. I have tolerated your taking father’s place because, as the slave of another, I had no choice. With that yoke lifted, I am free to hate you as I choose.”

Caitrin had stood, eyes wide, mouth open to interject, but he’d waved her to silence.

“For the sake of my sister I will go and leave you alive. You can keep the lands, and the titles, all the things you wanted enough to stain yourself with my family’s blood. But know that should I ever lay eyes on you again, my sister will be left to mourn while hell opens its gates to welcome you.”

Androu hadn’t flinched, only looked back with those cold, steely eyes. “Aye, do as you see fit, Jamie. As our master said, yer welcome to go or stay as ya please.”

“Brother-“ Caitrin started, but Jamie didn’t wait for her to finish. He’d turned and stormed away, footsteps echoing over the cold stone floors towards his chambers.  His bag was nearly packed when Caitlin appeared in the doorway, hands fluttering nervously.

“Jamie, you can’t mean ta leave us.”

“I can, and do.”

She stepped closer to lay her hand on his arm. “Truly? You are the only family I have left.”

He’d pulled away. “Whose fault is that? Speak to your husband, not me. I wasn’t the one who betrayed him to the cursed English, who watched him hang, who-” He broke off at the look of horror in her eyes. “I know you could do naught to stop him, or them, Caitrin, and so I hold no blame for you, but I will never forgive Androu, neither in this life or the next.”

“Forever is a long time, my brother. Never say never.”

“I say it, and mean it. No matter. I will be gone with the morrow and may I never see this place, or the faces that haunt it again.”

He saw the hurt in her eyes but did nothing to soften it. That she could remain Androu’s wife – nay even continue to love him – after what he’d done…what did that say of her?

He’d closed his bag, slapped his blue bonnet on his head, grabbed his traveling gear and left for the stables. Though he’d expected her to follow, it was Eagan he’d met as he readied the horse. The vampire gave him an affable smile. “You should not be so hard on yer sister, lad. The heart can forgive much when there is love in it.”

Jamie scoffed as he sung onto his horse. “Then she should be able to forgive me for never seeing her again. Travel well.”

And he’d ridden away into the night with no clear destination in mind, only the driving need to escape the memories and the guilt.

Had I but been there, such things would never have happened.  I’d have slipped a blade between Androu’s ribs as he slept and all would have been well.

Or so he told himself.

***

Guess time! Though I never get them right…

topic: Jessica

pic: Carol 

  1. photobomb 2. hello! 3. trying to hang out with the cool kids 4. look at me! 5. don’t look at him. 6. Hello (is it me you’re looking for?) 7. Here I am! 8. One of these things is not like the other one… 9.odd man out 10. He’s adopted 11. I don’t know…I’m not good at these. 12. I need to borrow Jonathan’s voodoo set up. 13. oo ee oo aa aa, ting tang, walla walla bing bang 14. I guess that’s a witch doctor not voodoo. 15. Surprise! 16. Just posing in front of this penguin buffet! 17 look at all those snacks! 18. bet I can’t eat just one. 19. seals do eat penguins, right? 20. I’m too lazy to google.

Blogophilia 43.10 – Zuri Part 3

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:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 43.10 Topic – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas ….
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Mention a turtle
Easy (1 pt) use the words “Soul Searching”
 .

And this week we have the conclusion to Zuri, which aside from needing some punchy phrasing I was happy with. In other news, the data restoration/PC place thinks they can fix/recover 100% of my data for… drum roll… $1100. No, that is not a typo. Luckily, my father has volunteered to make a gift of it (via his credit card) as a stand in for the next several birthday presents. As my data is worth never getting a birthday present again, I can only say thank you a billion times. So now I just wait for it to be done and all sent back to me.

When that happens it will be like Christmas, which gives new meaning to ‘Twas the night before Christmas. Or not. I couldn’t work the prompt in any other way.

Anyway, got my 20 year old cat back from the vet. Have to give her fluid treatments every day and limit her physical activity. That should be interesting.

And now the conclusion of Zuri:

****

“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.”

“Sometimes I think I’ve seen too much.” Zuri finished the drink and sat the glass on the bar. “Eh, ignore me. It’s just this sitting around that’s getting to me.”

“So you said.” John gave him a good humored wink, as if to say, “Sure.”

“It is,” Zuri insisted. “I’m not used to the inaction. There’s only twelve of us for the whole damn country. Did you know that? Twelve. So we’re always gone. An Executioner is lucky to spend a day sleeping in their own bed, let alone five. It’s just not normal.”

“I could see that, if you’re not used to it.”

“I’m not.”

John shrugged as he refilled the glass. “Still, it has to be a little bit nice, not having to do all that stuff you said.”

“What stuff?”

“The killing children and all that. It seems kinda wearisome.”

Wearisome. It was an interesting word choice. Was it wearisome? He knew some of the Executioners found it all exhilarating – or ex-Executioners, he should say. They’d pretty much left with Malick, hadn’t they? The ones that remained…how did they feel about it? How did he feel?

I don’t know.

The answer was an uncomfortable one, the kind that should lead one to soul searching. But Zuri didn’t feel like searching his soul – if he even had one anymore. Many vampires believed that they shed that with their mortality.

“Still, maybe it’s better than whatever trauma they think you suffered.”

“You’re right about that, though I don’t want to talk about it.”

John chuckled. “I figured that. Can’t say I blame you. Hey, you know what you should do? Now that you have some time off, you should take up a hobby.”

Zuri paused, the glass halfway to his mouth. “A hobby? Like what?”

“I don’t know. There must be something you’re interested in.”

“I’ve probably quit more hobbies than you ever dreamed of starting,” Zuri murmured.

“Just a suggestion.”

Zuri downed the drink and John turned to some task – why would he want to do that? Why spend immortality serving vampires? Washing glasses, wiping tables, mixing blood and spices? Why not coast on the good life? Put his feet up, relax, have some fun?

Right, like I do. I can’t even stand five days without an assignment.

It was another soul searching moment he didn’t care for, so he finished his drink, paid his bill, and headed back to his apartment. Maybe there would be something worth watching on TV.

Yeah, right.

***

Zuri dug through the closet. Boxes held remnants from his past; things he’d once been interested in and then gotten bored with. A chunk of wood was at the bottom of one, half carved into a turtle. He’d done a lot of woodcarving once upon a time, when things had been quieter. Then the world sped up. They started driving automobiles instead of taking the train or riding a horse. Things happened faster, with less time to just sit and wait, and the hobby had fallen by the wayside.

Zuri set the partial turtle aside and dug out the old wood carving set. The blades were rusty, which meant he’d have to make a trip to the shopping area. Was it worth all that?

Though he wasn’t sure, he had nothing better to do, and he had money to burn.

At least being an Executioner paid well.

***

Bed time found Zuri with a new set of tools, but no will to actually do the work. It was late, anyway, so he changed into a pair of pajama pants and climbed into bed. The blankets were soft, and the pillow fluffy, but when he closed his eyes he saw the dark room in Oren’s war den, heard the distant murmuring of the occupants, and felt the phantom ache in his arms.

It’s over, he told himself. It’s over, it’s done with, and it doesn’t matter. You’re too old for this. Too strong for this. You’re not a wimp, not like one of these young vampires.

Despite the pep talk, sleep remained hard to find, and when he did, his dreams were more memory than fiction.

“Is he awake?”

Zuri blinked against the blurriness that sucked him down. He was so tired, so…so…thirsty. His throat burned so bad. If he could just have a drink…just one drink…

“I think he’s out still,” another voice said. It sounded like Fabian.

“Good. It will make it easier for you to put his arms back.”

Put my arms back? My arms? My…my…

Right. They were gone. He’d seen that the last time he’d woken up. Or maybe the time before that. It was all a confusing smear punctuated with burning thirst. He just needed a drink…

“Me? You’re the one who wants to put them back! I say leave them off.”

Zuri forced his eyes to focus and saw his dark haired captor and another vampire; one who looked like a fairytale prince, complete with ruffled shirt.

“Idiot.” The prince sneered. “How can we bargain with him if he’s ruined? They need to be reattached for a few hours, at least.”

Fabian scoffed. “You’re just saying that because Jorick and his monkeys want them back on.”

“I hardly care what Jorick wants, though to my knowledge he doesn’t care either way.”

“Right. That’s why Loren and Micah have been chattering about putting them back? They’re Jorick’s mouthpieces, just like you!”

With a snarl, the prince-like vampire grabbed Fabian by the front of his shirt and slammed him into the wall. “Say such things again and I will cut out your tongue. I swore an oath to Oren, not to you.” He flung Fabian aside and straightened his shirt. “Now replace his arms. Tomorrow you can remove them again, if it suits you, but they can’t remain unattached for more than a day or two at a time, or they’ll wither. Malick will not bargain for a ruined Executioner. Remember that.”

He strode out the door, leaving Fabian to snarl after him, “One of these days, Traven, I’m going to kill you.”

Zuri moaned softly as Fabian jerked open a nearby box. The scent of old blood wafted out; and though Zuri knew it was his own blood, the smell drove his hunger. He needed a drink. Oh God, he needed a drink…

Fabian snarled and jerked a dagger from his pocket. He grabbed the left stump of Zuri’s arm, just a few inches below the shoulder. Though he hadn’t fed, sleep had healed him, and the skin had grown over the severed bones and muscles, leaving a perfectly smooth nub.

“Fucking Traven wants this done, next time he can do it himself.”

Zuri saw the flash of the blade, and then the pain came as Fabian cut the skin away. Zuri tried to fight, tried to kick and struggle loose, but he was too weak. His fight came to barley more than a flinch, and his cries to a dry gurgle in his throat.  They’d drained him of blood and left him that way to keep him weak, to stop him from escaping, from defending himself.

Fabian peeled the skin away to leave exposed bones and muscle. Zuri’s rattles turned into dry screams. The scent of his own blood left his heart pounding, and the pain from his arms burned like fire. He knew his reaction only fueled Fabian and made him feel more in control. He needed to hold it in, to stoically accept, to-

The logic died as Fabian cut into the other arm, slicing skin. Zuri squeezed his eyes shut and howled, though the sound was more like the wind through a tin can. Fabian ignored it as he fetched the withered arms. With another snarl, he lashed them in place, lining up bones and gory meat. Zuri tried to move, though he knew it was futile. It would take blood or sleep for the skin and muscles to grow again, knitting back together as they did. Blood they weren’t likely to give him.

“Don’t get used to them,” Fabian snapped. “They’re coming off again.”

Zuri didn’t bother to try to reply. With a scoff, Fabian kicked him in the ribs, then stormed out.

The world swam, wavered, then faded to black. It came back studded with pain, and he opened his eyes to see Fabian there again, cutting through his arm with a hacksaw.

“Is that really necessary?” a teenage vampire asked.

“Have you forgotten who this is? What this is? This is an Executioner! A demon from hell! It was his kind that killed my sister! I will not rest until he suffers – until they all suffer and die, screaming, like she died!”

His sister. Oren’s wife. Right. Zuri had been there. He’d been there but he wasn’t the one that killed her, the one who had to kill her, because she’d made those illegal children, hadn’t she? There was even a baby, an immortal baby, trapped forever. That was a sin, that was…that was…

He lost touch with his thoughts, lost touch with the world. There was only the pain as they cut his arms free, the sound as they slammed them back in that box, the snicker as Fabian promised they might never go back again.

But they did. The skin was peeled away from the stubs and the arms reattached, only to be cut free again. He didn’t know how many times it had happened, only that the last time was there, at the citadel, in the medical facility.

And that time he’d had enough blood in him to scream.

He jerked awake with a start. His heart pounded and the familiar agony burned through his arms. He rubbed them, as if that would chase away the remembered pain, the remembered fear…

As if anything could ever take that away.

Zuri felt instinctively that the sun was down. Thirst burned his throat. Though not as violent as in his memories, it was enough to get him dressed and out the door. He stopped in at a café, ordered a large decanter, and took off, dodging the casual attention of the other patrons. He didn’t want their stares – or their company.

He retreated to his apartment and his half-carved turtle. A hobby, John had suggested. Sure. Why not? He took a seat and selected the tools, now foreign in his unpracticed hands. His cuts were clumsy, and rather than making him feel better, the work made him feel worse. When the chisel bit into his thumb, he swore and threw it all across the room.

“Fuck this.”

Sucking the cut, he stomped over woodchips and out the door. His feet led him to the elevator, and finally to the empty club. John was in his usual place, sorting through a rack of spices and syrups.

“Welcome back! If you stick around tonight you can see Lua’s performance.”

Zuri snorted his opinion and took the glass John set in front of him. He wasn’t really thirsty now; he’d downed the whole decanter earlier, but he sipped at it anyway.

John went back to his work,  humming, while Zuri waited for him to strike up a conversation. It was just a matter of time.  Any minute now…

When the seconds stretched, Zuri decided it was better to do it himself than to wait. Right. Better to just get it over with. Sure. Not like I want someone to talk to.

“You’re too cheerful.”

John chuckled. “I have a lot to be happy about, I guess. You do too, I’m sure.”

Zuri scoffed, “Like what?”

“You’re here, in the best club in the citadel, huh?” John laughed and then turned serious. “But you are here. Alive. If not family, you have friends.”

“Sure. You see them all sitting here.” Zuri motioned to the empty space.

“Do you see mine?” John asked. “They may not be here, but that they’re here.” He touched his heart. “You’re feeling miserable now, but it will end. You just have to have the patience to fight through to the other side. There’s always light just beyond the horizon.”

“Yeah? Where was my light when I was held prisoner for twelve days? Starved, tortured, left by my so-called ally? Huh?”

John blinked away his surprise quickly. “You got away, didn’t you? I mean, you’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.” He tapped the side of his head.

Zuri growled low. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Take it however you want.” The bartender rubbed his hands together. “Sure you don’t want to see Lua?”

He grunted his opinion, and, with a shrug John grabbed a rag and moved to wipe tables.

Zuri gulped his drink and focused on the shiny glasses behind the bar, then on that neatly stacked rack of flavorings. When had vampires started adding flavor to blood? How long did the thrill of the hunt, of the kill last, before it became something you just did to survive, like eating had once been? Just a chore you needed to do in order to keep chugging on.

Like everything else.

John returned to rinse his rag, and Zuri paid his bill. He wasn’t in the mood for the cheerfulness, or the clever quips. Light beyond the horizon… only a prisoner in his head…Pfft. As if.

He stomped back to his apartment and snatched the half-carved turtle from the floor. It looked at him with accusing eyes – eyes that screamed, “You were a prisoner for twelve days, but you’ve left me one for how many decades? Trapped, half-formed, unrealized.”

“And what should I do, huh? Look at this.” He jabbed the newest cut with a finger. “It looks like crap.”

But the wooden eyes didn’t care. With a snarl – maybe anger at the turtle, or anger at himself – he dropped into the chair and grabbed his tools. The cuts were clumsy, chunky, obvious from the older, smoother work. Still, he kept at it, dropping wood chips around his feet. The minutes slipped past, then the hours. Zuri paused to survey the nearly complete turtle. He supposed he should thank John for the hobby suggestion, not that he felt like thanking him for anything just then. Tonight’s comments had irritated him in an almost irrational way.

He turned back to the work, running over the conversation in his head. Friends. Light beyond the horizon. Sure, he was alive, but so what? Sure, he wasn’t a prisoner of the war coven anymore, but he was still a prisoner – a real prisoner – stuck in the damn citadel, forced to look at the same rooms night after night, reliving the same agonizing memories-

In my head.

That was where the reoccurring memories were, where the cycle kept repeating, where he was really trapped.

“You’re not a prisoner now. Except in here.”

John was right.

With that thought, the last of the wood fell away, and he cradled the turtle in his large hand. Though imperfect, the wooden creature was free of the block, of his prison. The time he’d spent stuck in limbo showed, from the difference in the quality, to the subtle colors of old and new cut wood. He was forever marked by the years he’d been trapped.

Just as I am. Though he wanted to pretend it hadn’t affected him, those days of imprisonment had left their mark; not just the nightmares, and the memories, but a secret, burning fear in the pit of his brain, a fear that it would all happen again. The kind of fear that made you kill first and ask questions later, the same kind of fear that had driven other Executioners over the years. Executioners like Senya, who would run, terrified tail between her legs, rather than try to help a colleague.

The kind of fear Eileifr didn’t want making decisions anymore.

And that was why he was on recuperation leave. Not as a punishment, but a precaution. It wasn’t something he should hate, or fear, but something he should embrace. Just as he needed time to hone his skills and make that turtle smooth again, so he needed time to heal inside, to make himself smooth again.

But in the meantime, he needed to remember one thing; the most important thing. No matter how it had happened, or what it had left behind, now, just like the turtle, he was free.

***

And now for guesses:

Picture 1: Colleen

1. a lot of bottles 2. Oh Christmas tree. 3. O Tannenbaum 4. bright light 5. see how is sparkles 6. this tree is makin’ me thirsty 7. the day after the christmas party 8. I wouldn’t want that hangover. 9. how lovely are your bottles 10. they must not have bottle deposits.

photo 2: Myke

  1. dashing through the snow. 2. here comes santa claus 3. jingle bells. 4. one moose open sleigh 5. or is that a reindeer? do they get that big? 6. They have reindeer herders in Finland. 7. where’s rudolf? 8. Is this comet or cupid? 9. Prancer or vixen? 10. Maybe Blitzen or Dasher? Isn’t there a dancer? And Donner is rudolf’s dad…

 

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:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 42.10 Topic – Kryptonite
**BONUSES: Hard (2 pts) Incorporate a lyric by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (something didn’t seem right)
Easy (1 pt) Use the word “chrysalis”

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.”

New Executioners?

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.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

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

  1. fish tales 2. it was this big 3. roar. 4. lunchtime 5. the sky is falling 6. the meteor is coming! 7. are you a lizard or a dinosaur? 8. how about a hug? 9. free hugs 10. monsters. 11. they’re kinda cute. 12. If i was good I could tell you what game/show/whatever they are from. 13. I think it’s a game. 14. Not little big planet, though. 15. I want a candy bar thiiiis big. 16. boo! 17. Ah! A lizard! 18. rain dance 19. jumping jacks! 20. time for dance lessons.

Blogophilia 38.10 – Griselda Part 3

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blogs. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 38.10 Topic – The Art on my Wall
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Include a line from Bette Midler (Quotes or song lyrics accepted)
Easy (1 pt) Use the words “argle-bargle”
.

I’ve finally finished the Griselda story, only putting me two weeks behind schedule. My own fault, but I admit the Pronoun mess threw me for a loop. I’ve recovered now, and am back to it – Smashwords and it’s partners were good enough before, and they’re good enough now.

Anyway, when we left off, Griselda had ordered a new human guard dog from Harry because her current human, Sergei, had been fraternizing with the enemy …

****

Griselda was barely inside when the phone rang. Sergei made a point to ignore it, and with a hard look at him she snatched it up. “Hello?”

“Um…Executioner, Griselda?”

“That is who you called, isn’t it?” she snapped. Who did they expect? Cinderella?

“Um…Hello. This is Brantley, in the Executioner office. The, uh, the council has requested more information regarding your request for a new vehicle. If you could come and fill out-”

“Are you serious?”

It took him a moment to find his track again. “Um…Yes? Sorry, I’m just following orders.”

She muttered a curse word under her breath. “Fine. I’m on my way.” Then she hung up before he could reply.

She stormed out in a swish of red satin, and made her way to the Executioner office. She drew up short inside, eyes flicking over the occupants. Beldren and Zuri stood at the desk, handing over paperwork.

“No, uh, trouble, then?” the guard asked them.

Zuri, stocky with a shock of black hair that stood at odd angles, grunted a reply, but Beldren, tall with a blonde ponytail and features that some women might call lovely, replied coldly, “Everything is in the report. We have better things to do than stand here.”

The blonde turned on his heel, then spied her. He slowed his pace as he passed her, but headed to the hallway, Zuri behind him.

Alone with the guard, Griselda stomped to the desk and grabbed the paper he offered.  “What do they want to know?”

“They, uh…” The guard rifled through a pile of papers and stopped at a pink one covered in handwritten notes. “They want an itemized list of everything wrong with the vehicle that warrants it being replaced.”

“Why don’t they ask the mechanic?”

“They, uh, they did, and he said that it just needed a minor repair.”

“The idiot!” She smacked the desk and the guard jumped. “Never mind. I’ll go talk to him myself. When do they need this returned?”

“Um…I’d guess as soon as you can. They won’t look at it again until tomorrow, though.”

She didn’t bother to reply, only huffed out of the office to find Beldren and Zuri loitering in the corridor. Seeing her, Beldren straightened and tugged at his coat. His green eyes showed an appreciation that his carefully masked face hid.

An appreciation she wasn’t looking for.

“Do you want something?”

Beldren hesitated, and finally turned on a smooth smile. “I heard you’ve been harassing our resident annoyance.”

“You mean Verchiel?” When he nodded, she narrowed her eyes. “And where did you hear that? I understood you’d just returned.”

“We got back an hour ago, had to do the paperwork,” he added with an eye roll.

“That still doesn’t explain who told you.” It was Bren, wasn’t it? Damn. She should have known it was only Senya that held him in line.

“The pest himself.” Beldren fought a smile. “They sent him out again while we were working on our reports, and he made a point to call his little guard dog and tell her specifically not to rile you up ‘any more’. I can only assume the story behind that conversation is amusing.”

“Not so much amusing as annoying.” She eyed Zuri, who hulked to the side, conspicuously silent. He’s always silent. Like he’s processing everything, cataloging it, and privately plotting.

Plotting to get all of us.

When nothing more came, Beldren pressed, “I imagine his little mongrel has done the same thing to your guard dog as the last one did to Bren’s?”

Bren had mentioned having to punish his for fraternizing. “Perhaps.”

“It was a shame,” Beldren added. “That he had to go to such lengths to keep them apart.”

Such lengths? Bren had made it sound like a onetime incident. With some Executioners she’d do better to pretend she knew what he meant, but not with Beldren. “Oh?” she asked innocently.

As she expected, his green eyes lit with the joy of passing on information. “Oh yes. They had quite an affair, I hear. So much so that she turned up pregnant. That’s when Verchiel quietly disposed of her and got this newest one. Bren’s dog wanted to follow, even tried to escape to find her. I have an… acquaintance who was in the hospital wing with her human when Bren brought his dog in. She said he’d beaten the human nearly to death, and demanded the healers do something. Not that there was much for them to do except set the bones and wrap him in gauze.”

Griselda kept her surprise to herself. How had she missed this?

“Of course, the guard dog made a full recovery, as you’ve noticed, no doubt with  healthy dose of vampire blood to speed things along – humans do heal so slow – and now he’s happily lurking at his master’s feet, where he belongs. Have you tried that?”

Griselda blinked. “Tried what? Beating him to death?”

“Well, that could work, too, but I meant giving him blood. Forging a loyalty bond. I did with my newest and haven’t had the slightest trouble.”

Zuri coughed loudly, and Beldren arched a golden eyebrow. “Care to share what you’re choking on?”

To Griselda’s surprise, Zuri seemed to be fighting a smile. “Is it the loyalty bond, or that he prefers a more masculine partner?”

Beldren sniffed. “Even if he did, Verchiel would try to seduce him, himself. No. It’s the loyalty bond.”

“If you say so,” Zuri muttered, his dark eyes still dancing.

“Anyway,” Beldren said crisply. “That’s my advice. Of course, you’re welcome to ignore it. Everyone else does, usually to their detriment.” The look he gave Zuri said his friend was guilty of this. “If I were you, though, I’d destroy that one, and forge the bond with the replacement right away. Verchiel and his mongrel aren’t the only ones to watch out for. Migina has that little piece, and have you seen Ark’s newest? No doubt trained to seduce.”

Hmmmm. “I didn’t know he had a new one.”

“Oh yes. Just last week. I think you were out at the time. I don’t know what prompted the replacement, except he’s taking a page from Verchiel’s book.”

“Luckily, it won’t do any good where your guard dog is concerned,” Zuri muttered.

Beldren rolled his eyes. “You’d do better to worry about your own, Zuri.”

“He’s fine. And loyal,” Zuri added with a touch too much emphasis, his eyes on Griselda.

He’s making sure I know he’s protected – just when he’s found out I may not be. It was an unallowable situation, one that made the decision for her. Sergei would have to be replaced, if nothing else because the others had lost faith in him. A human guard dog was like a padlock; it only worked if the would-be thief believed it worked. A lock only kept out people  who thought, “This is locked, so it’s impossible to get through.” Once a thief knew he could just cut through it, the lock did no good. Just as a disloyal guard dog did no good.

Even if he’s only perceived to be disloyal.

“For our sake, I hope you’re right,” Griselda said breezily. “You never know what lurks underneath, in the murky corners of their mortal minds. Unless you’re Ark or Jamie, of course.  But then whisperers don’t just know, they can control them.”

Beldren looked around the corridor, as if checking for eavesdroppers. “Yes. I’ve thought of that. What stops Jamie from tampering with them? Surely not a sense of honor. At least Ark can’t control them, he’s only a dream stealer.”

“True, but that’s dangerous enough. Still, I’m sure you’re both fine, with such loyal dogs.” She hoped her smile held the touch of sinister she intended. “If you’ll excuse me? It seems I have a meeting with a mechanic.”

Beldren gave a little bow, and sent her off with a wink and the words, “Of course. And should you find yourself available this evening, I have an open schedule.”

I bet you do.

***

The mechanic wasn’t excited to see her, but when she pushed him against the wall and threatened to rip his heart out, he finally gave her a list of “potential problems” with the roadster. “I have it running,” he snapped, pulling his shirt straight. “And I stand by my original statement: it doesn’t need replacing.”

Griselda scoffed. “Yes it does, and it’s not the only thing.” She glared the warning. “It would be a shame if our lead mechanic’s heart ended up skewered by some bizarre shop accident.”

“Isn’t it lucky I’m careful?” he asked, though she saw concern crinkle the corners of his eyes.

Good.

She dropped her list off at the office, and headed back to her apartment. Sergei was closeted in his room, probably taking nap. At least he’d be well rested in case Zuri or Beldren decided to try anything.

I hope Harry finds that replacement quickly.

***

The council didn’t bother to make a ruling the next day, so when Griselda was called to the office for an assignment she refused. “I don’t have an automobile.”

The guard behind the desk fidgeted nervously. “The, uh, the report said that your vehicle was functioning.”

“I’m not driving that…that lemon!” She was pretty sure that was the modern term. Or was it orange? Without waiting for correction, she pushed on, “You can tell the council I will leave the citadel only when I have a reliable automobile, and not before.”

The guard groaned and checked a clipboard. “It looks like Migina is in.”

“Beldren and Zuri are,” Griselda added.

“Yes, but they want a, erm, a woman.” He gave a nervous sort of grimace and dialed the phone. “Hello? Executioner Migina?”

Griselda left before she could catch the rest of the conversation. Not used to being in the citadel for more than a day at a time, she wasn’t sure what to do. They were putting in a cinema in the public area, but she didn’t think it was open yet.  She’d already fed. She wasn’t interested in shopping. It was too late for television; the human’s programming ended while the night was still young.

A book seemed a good option, so she headed to the citadel’s library to emerge some time later, three novels tucked under her arm.

Near the executioner block she saw a familiar figure. Migina moved with the grace of a predator, her long black braid thrown over her shoulder. Dressed in men’s pants and boots, she was nearly as tall as Griselda, and probably a hundred years older.

The Executioner drew up and eyed Griselda disdainfully. “I suppose I should thank you for dumping your assignment on me.”

“Talk to the lesser council. They have yet to approve my request for a new vehicle.”

“Then drive the old one,” Migina snapped back. “Never mind. I don’t have time for your argle-bargle. I have an assignment to go on. I was home for a whole two hours. Wouldn’t want to get too cozy.”

Migina swept off down the corridor, leaving Griselda to glare after her. What the hell was argle-bargle? Was it an Indian word – or from whatever race Migina was supposed to be?

It’s probably some kind of insult.

“I’m sure your guard dog will be happy to keep Franklin warm for you,” she shouted after the retreating vampiress. When Migina spun, fury in her eyes, Griselda amended with a smirk, “I mean keep your den warm for you.”

Migina’s mouth worked, but then she scoffed, and stormed away without rebuttal.

That’s what I thought.

Griselda found Sergei vacuuming. She walked past him without comment, and shut herself in the bedroom. It really was a shame that she needed to replace him already. He’d just finally learned how to keep a clean house.

***

The next evening, Griselda stopped in at the café for breakfast. The waiter half forced a couple out of their table in his rush to seat her. She took the seat, still warm from the previous occupant, and ordered a glass with cinnamon.

She waited, hands folded in her lap, and blue eyes watching the other patrons. Vampires hunched in little cliques, drinking and talking. She was suddenly hyper-aware of the empty chair across from her, of the way other guests’ eyes would move toward her and then dance away, as if they were afraid to make contact.

Well they should be. I’m an Executioner for God’s sake. I could kill them with a thought.

And as an agonizer, she could, too, or at the very least make them wish they were dead. If only she’d gotten the mind reading abilities that usually came with such a gift…

“Not all gifts are the same, child,” Malick had once told her. “Though you do not read minds, your ability to cause pain is one of the most focused I’ve seen in an Agonizer. With time, and luck, perhaps you will find yourself in the next evolution.”

But still an evolution without mind reading, she reminded herself glumly.

“-with your friend.”

Griselda’s attention snapped up and she saw the waiter standing next to her table, motioning a vampire to the empty chair. And not just any vampire. It was-

“Philip.” A fellow Executioner, he’d been promoted from greater guard the same time as she had, when the Hand of Death and the Tormentor left. But that did not make him her friend.

No matter how good looking he is.

And he was good looking, with black hair and intense chocolate colored eyes; the kind of eyes that seemed to stare right through you – or right into your future. To a well-developed demon eye, they were the same thing.

Philip gave her a heartbreaker’s smile and took the empty chair with a flourish. He rattled off an order, and the waiter hurried away, as if hounds were chasing him.

“You look unhappy, Zelda, dear,” Philip said as he leaned back in his seat, long fingers drumming lightly on the tabletop.

“I didn’t invite you to join me,” she replied stiffly.

“No, but our dear waiter is under the impression that wearing matching necklaces makes us friends.  Remember when we used to be friends?”

The innuendo in his voice sent warm shivers down her back. She remembered a time when they’d been…something. Perhaps not friends, but bedfellows. When his hot hands had slid over her naked shoulders and down to-

She pushed the memories away and forced her face neutral. “Vaguely.”

“I could refresh your memory, if you’d like? You could come back to me den, admire the art on my wall. I have a new print of Picasso’s La Douceur we could imitate. I have a couple of hours before I have to leave for Cincinnati to deal with a rogue. That should be plenty of time.”

She’d seen his art collection, and though she didn’t recognize the name pf the painting he mentioned, she could guess it would be something erotic, just like the others. “No thank you. I have my day planned out.”

“Really? I heard you were stuck here until the council approved a new car? And since your guard dog’s gone off the rails-”

She ground her teeth together. “Just who told you that?”

“Beldren might have mentioned it when I talked to him earlier. He warned me to keep a tight rein on my own, that Verchiel and Ark’s humans were on a seduction crusade. Ark’s I believe, but Verchiel’s is too…too child-like for most men to find attractive. Like a doll. A real man doesn’t want a child’s play thing in his bed. Migina’s guard dog on the other hand, have you seen her? She’s exquisite. And she tastes delicious.”

He broke into laughter as the waiter appeared with their glasses. He dropped them off and hurried away, leaving Philip chuckling.

“I suppose you’ve had her,” Griselda commented with no interest.

“All three of them, though Verchiel’s is too cumbersome to make for a repeat visit.” He studied her frown. “You can’t tell me you haven’t sampled at least one of the guard dogs? Not even your own?”

Griselda took a long draw from her glass before answering, “Not in a sexual way, no.”

“You’re missing out. Seriously while Migina is gone you should pay a visit to her den. I know you prefer men, but once the blood starts flowing, they all taste the same, and she has a repertoire of talents you can’t imagine.”

“And I’d rather continue not imagining them, if you don’t mind. I have my standards. They’re low, but I have them.

“Too good for a human lover?” Philip smirked. “They have their place, you know. You can break them without repercussion, if the mood strikes. And you may like to pretend now, Zelda, darling, but I know the mood does strike you.”

Griselda drained her glass in a single long gulp, and stood. “The only thing I feel like striking now is you. Have a lovely trip. Good luck to the rogue. May he take your heart.”

She stormed through the café and out, hands fists at her sides. Philip always did that to her; left her confused, angry, fumbling for a decent comeback. Whether it was their brief history, or just his smoldering presence, she didn’t know, but she didn’t trust him as far as she could throw him.

As if to make her night complete, she ran into Verchiel just inside the Executioner block.

“Good evening!” He said cheerfully.

“I thought you were gone,” Griselda snapped.  After Philip, she didn’t have the patience for this.

“I’m back now. I hope Valerie didn’t cause you any undo stress in my absence.” He batted his eyes innocently.

“If you mean your stupid human, then no, she’s been too busy in someone else’s bed to bother Sergei. Probably Philip’s.”

A frown flickered over Verchiel’s face, to be quickly replaced by his usual clown-ish smile. “So she’s moving up to seducing Executioners now? Good for her.”

Griselda scoffed. “If you believe a word Philip says. He’s as full of lies as everyone else.”

“That’s not very nice,” Verchiel said. “And especially about your fellow Executioners! We’re like a family-”

“A family that’s waiting to stab one another in the dark, you mean?”

“A royal family then,” Verchiel said cheerfully. “The things they do to get the throne…it makes us look angelic.” He turned suddenly serious. “Though in all honesty, what has anyone really done? It isn’t as if you’ve bene attacked in your sleep.”

“Not yet, but I expect to be, thanks to you and your whore.” Verchiel looked ready to argue, so she added, “Everyone knows Sergei has been compromised by your bitch in heat. It’s only a matter of time until someone realizes this is their chance and takes it.”

Verchiel cocked his head to one side. “Do you really think Philip, or Migina, or Zuri, or Senya would sneak into your room and cut your heart out. Really?” He paused. “Okay, maybe Senya, but the others…”

Griselda scoffed. “Of all of you, Senya’s the one I suspect the least. Bren calls her blunt and tactless, but I call her honest. At least you know where you stand with her, unlike the others, who speak with honey one moment and venom the next.  Especially you. Your smile doesn’t fool anyone. The broader it is, the more devious the thoughts behind it.”

“I will say you have a point about Senya, but as for the rest…If that’s how you want to view the world, I guess that’s your choice. If you don’t mind, I have an appointment with the lesser council to pick out a new vehicle.”

He started past, but Griselda grabbed his arm and dragged him back. “A new vehicle? Are you serious? I put in for one days ago and am still waiting for approval! How did you get it?”

He tugged loose and shot her a wink. “If you want a new one, the best thing to do is total the old one. Preferably mid-assignment. They’ll approve the new one as fast as they can, so you can get back out there and get things finished up.” He tapped the side of his head. “Just a little bit of deviousness, there. Ciao!”

He headed through the door, leaving her to stomp back to her apartment. It was ridiculous that he’d be approved that way! Surely the council could see through him – see the trick – and refuse him.

Except they didn’t.

***

Griselda woke the next evening, wrapped in a gray cloud. She dressed and ordered in breakfast. Unfortunately, she’d finished all three library books, so when the television went off air for the night, it left her with nothing to do but stare at the carpet and try to ignore Sergei’s sulking presence.

“If I could go to the sixth floor,” he began, but she cut him off.

“And fraternize with God knows who? No. You’ve done enough. I’m surprised Beldren or one of the others hasn’t barged in and killed us both already.”

“Because I’m in love with Valerie? That doesn’t make any sense!”

“I said shut up!” Griselda shouted, even though she knew she hadn’t said it.  “You’re driving me insane,” she muttered. “Being stuck here is driving me insane. I need an automobile and an assignment!”

She stormed out, leaving him with a scowl.

In the Executioners’ office, the guard cringed behind the desk, his eyes everywhere but her. “I-I’m sorry, but the council denied your request. You have the right to appeal.”

Griselda slammed her fist into the desk. “Why did they deny it?”

“I-I don’t know. They, uh, they didn’t say, only that it was denied. I’ll, uh, get you the appeal paperwork.”

“Yes, do that,” she bit off angrily. How the hell had Verchiel been approved – and so quickly – when she’d been denied yet again?

Probably because he’s a low level whisperer. Or because he’s a man.

Either one was possible.

With the paperwork in hand, she stopped at the library for a new book.  Among the rows she recognized a familiar dark head, long hair pulled back in a sloppy bun. She didn’t need to see his face – or the medallion around his neck – to know it was Jamie, a fellow Executioner.

Though she avoided him, he ended up in line behind her at the checkout desk.

“Griselda,” he said with a polite nod.

“Jamie,” she returned.

“I hear you’re having trouble with your vehicle.”

Yes. Because everyone hears everything. “I’m planning to appeal their decision.”

“Good luck.”

She doubted that he meant it, but made a noise that sounded like “thank you”.

“If you want to win your appeal, the best way is to appear cooperative,” he added.

“Yes. I’ll get right on that.”

He shrugged. “Not that you want advice, but refusing to accept an assignment-”

“I’m not refusing to take assignments, only refusing to ride in that…that death trap of a roadster! What happens when it breaks down – again – and this time leaves me stranded hours from civilization and shelter? Shall I just burn up in the sun, waiting for help?”

Jamie kept his tone even, “I doubt that would happen. There are very few stretches of land that uninhabited anymore.”

She rolled her eyes as she handed her book to the librarian. “Then risk your life in it and I’ll take your vehicle.” He only blinked at her and she sneered. “That’s what I thought. Have a good day.”

Then she swished out, the book clutched to her chest like a shield against stupidity.

She marched back to her apartment and locked herself in her bedroom; the only safe place from the others. She wasn’t sure how many more days she could take of this – of running into every Executioner, or their advice and comments.

I need a goddamn automobile before I kill someone!

***

It was later that evening when Sergei knocked on Griselda’s bedroom door. “You have a call from someone named Harry.”

Griselda stuck the bookmark in and laid the novel aside. Had harry procured someone so quickly? He’d acted like it might take weeks.

“He usually comes through faster than he says he will.”

Apparently Bren was right. That made for a change.

She lifted the receiver form the cradle on her nightstand. “Griselda here.”

“Executioner?” Harry’s voice came back. “I have the package you ordered. If you’d care to come pick it up and make payment?”

It felt a little like prostitution, but she reminded herself it was more like buying a pet – such as a dog. Yes. Just purchasing a soulless animal. “Where do I meet you?”

“On the sixth floor…let’s say the recreation room, shall we? In twenty minutes?”

Griselda agreed and hung up.  Though it was ridiculous, she thought Sergei looked suspicious as she walked past him.  There was no way he could know that she was replacing him, no way he’d know what his fate was to be.

It’s your own fault. If you’d just kept to yourself.

In the corridor she found Verchiel , like a bad penny intent on ruining her day.

“Just who I was looking for!” he said cheerfully.

She tried to dodge around him. “I don’t have time to mess with you. I have an appointment.”

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Verchiel said. “You’re planning to replace your human?”

She stopped and turned back to face him. “And how do you know-” she broke off when he tapped the side of his head. Of course. Though not accomplished, he was a dream stealer of sorts. “What does it matter to you?”

“Well, it seems if you’re replacing – Sergei, isn’t it? – then you won’t need him anymore.”

“Obviously,” she snapped. “I really am in a hurry. If you could cut to the chase?”

“How would you like to sell him?”

She choked on the suggestion. “Excuse me? Sell him? To who? You? Hardly! He knows things I’m sure you’d find useful.”

Verchiel shook his head. “Anything he knows I can find out. From you.” He tapped the side of his head again.

“Then what do you want him for?”

“Let’s say breeding purposes. He and Valerie make a fine pair, don’t you think?” She scoffed and he added, “I’m willing to trade for him.”

Griselda scoffed. “Trade what?”

The redhead jingled a set of car keys. “I mentioned that I got approved for a new car? Give me Sergei, and it’s all yours.”

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Just what kind of vehicle is it?”

“A Hudson Hornet, painted black. Brand new.” He jingled the keys again. “It’s not really my kind of car, you see.”

“And just what will you drive if I take it?”

“I’ll manage. I have enough in the bank I can buy my own outright. Maybe a racecar, for fun. Anyway, what do you say?”

She tried to calculate various scenarios in her head. What could Verchiel really be up to? Why would he really want Sergei? The breeding excuse was thin at best…but the automobile would end her stalemate with the council and get her out of there before she went insane.

“Fine. He’s yours.”

She snatched at the keys, but Verchiel pulled them away. “Not so fast. Once I have him, you’ll get these.” He jingled them again. “Not that I don’t trust you, but…”

“Fine,” she snarled. “Go get him and his belongings, and leave those.” She leaned down, so that her fangs flashed close to his face. “And if you cross me…”

“You’ll send your new guard dog to kill me in my sleep?” Verchiel suggested. “How scary.” Before she could react, he grabbed her hand, pumped it up and down, and then disappeared in a blur of speed, tossing back, “It’s great doing business with you!”

Griselda shook her head. “Idiot.”

***

Not well versed with the sixth floor, it took Griselda a couple of tries to find the meeting place. Stuffed with couches, a pool table, and a television, she understood the name recreation room. What she didn’t understand was why they were meeting there.

Still, Harry seemed at home, wearing a new suit and a fanged smile. On the couch next to him sat a young woman of maybe twenty-two. Mousy brown hair hung limp, and giant eyes shimmered with unshed tears. Her hands were pulled behind her back, probably tied at the wrists. She wore a torn dress, dirt knees peeking out from under the full skirt.

Harry swept to his feet, the fanged smile growing wider as he bowed. “Executioner Griselda. I believe this will fit your requirements?”

She looked over the trembling human. “I wanted a guard dog, not a trembling puppy!”

“Ah, but the fiercest guard dog was once a pup, was it not?” Harry smiled. “I believe she has potential.”

Griselda rolled her eyes, but moved past him to examine the girl. She lifted her chin, forcing the teary eyes to meet her own. “You! What’s your name?”

“L-Linda.”

“Stand up, Linda.”

The girl tried, but without her hands, she fell back. Griselda caught her shoulder and pulled her up. Shorter than she was, she was of medium build, not too thin, but not fat. Meaty, her grandmother would have said, with child bearing hips but very little to feed the babes with.

“Do you know why you’re here?” Griselda demanded.

“I…” She looked to Harry, and her face crumpled as her eyes shifted back. “No. I really don’t. I don’t understand-”

“Would you rather go home?” Griselda pressed.

“I…Not home but…I…my husband…I have nowhere to go.” The tears dripped down her cheeks, growing torrential as she sobbed. “They’ll put me in prison.”

“prison?” Griselda gave Harry a sharp look. “Who will put you in prison?”

“The…the police.  But he deserved it. He…he deserved it.”

At another sharp look, harry finally relented. “Our dear girl murdered her husband in cold blood; shot him in the heart.”

“He deserved it!” Linda sobbed. “They all deserve it!”

“Who?” Griselda asked.

“Men!” Linda choked on her tears and snuffled her nose with a disgusting liquid sound. “They’re all the same. They’re full of sugar lies and cotton candy dreams, but then they have too much to drink, and they want to show you who’s boss, and maybe you can take a little of that, until you catch them with their secretary, and then…and then…”

“And then a bullet to the heart,” Griselda finished. She reached behind the girl and pulled the rope free. “Thank you, Harry. I believe she’ll do just fine.”

“There is a little matter of payment. Two hundred dollars should do it.”

Griselda stiffened at the price. Two hundred dollars, for a human? They were running around out here for free; thousands of them! She could wait and…and…and she’d already traded Sergei off to Verchiel. If she refused to pay, it would leave her defenseless – leave Verchiel with an opening to sneak in and cut her heart out.

And if he knows I’m defenseless, the rest will too. Nothing stays a secret here.

“Fine. I assume you prefer cash?”

***

With the transaction complete, Griselda led Linda down to the Executioner block. The woman seemed caught between terror and perverse excitement at the prospect of serving vampires. It was a fascinating mixture.

“This is my den,” Griselda announced as she unlocked the door.

She led Linda inside. Sergei’s absence stood out like a missing tooth, and she left her new acquisition alone to check the bedroom. Sure enough, it was cleaned out, with no sign that the human had ever been there.

She spun for the doorway when the glint of something metallic caught her eye on the dresser. She snatched up the car keys like a prize. Verchiel was many things, but at least he’d kept his word.

This time.

Clutching the keys, she headed back to her new guard dog. Hopefully by this time tomorrow she’d be on the road, and Linda would be settled in, ready to defend against both man, woman, and vampire, even if that meant putting a bullet through their heart, just like she had her husband.

As she said, they’re all alike, and they all deserve it. The secret it to get them before they get me.

****

Guesses:

Topic: Doris

Picture: Gerard

  1. Kinda looks like Axle Rose. 2. three faced 3. triplicate 4. trio 5. kind a looks like a Duran, Duran album cover, too. 6. Impressionist or whatever 7. I don’t know all the fancy art terms because I don’t like most of the movements. 8. I know cubism, but this ain’t it. 9. Kinda looks like Picasso (also in blog). 10. in gray scale. 11. shades of gray. 12. though I don’t think there’s fifty shades of gray there. 13. See what I did there? 14. sisters 15. triplets 16. There are weird noises here. 17. I swear someone just shouted “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie!” but no one is awake except me. 18. I bet it’s some of Jonathan’s voodoo 19. Makes as much sense as my guesses this week. 20. It’s just to abstract for me, I guess.

 

Blogophilia 37.10

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where martien gives us prompts to use in our weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 37.10 Topic – Lost in a Maze
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Include a quote from your favorite movie from the 80’s
Easy (1 pt) Mention something you love to cook
.

I should have finished the Griselda story, but I am in a short story funk – lost in a maze with no way out, so to speak. Publishing a story on Amazon and setting the price for free was pretty much impossible – to get the price “matched” (the only way to make it free without going exclusive to Amazon and earning one week of free promo days), you had to upload the book to other retailers, set it to free there, send the proof of this to Amazon, along with some cookies, and hope they’d match it. Okay, you don’t really have to send cookies, but without them you get a nasty reminder that price is up to them to set.

Anyway, enter Pronoun, a publishing platform that distributed to Amazon and allowed you to make your book/story free. It’s thanks to pronoun that I’ve been able to put those short stories on Amazon for free – well yesterday they announced they’re closing. Books can no longer be published through them, and in January any books through them will be gone – so I will have to republish through Amazon, meaning I’ll lose my free status because Amazon will want me to charge at least $.99 for them.

So, no more stories on Amazon. But, enough of my complaining, time to move on to the photos! To quote The Pirate Movie:

Away to the ship and hoist up that chain doodad!

Anchor, sir?

No, Sam. Just disappointment.

Disappointment in Pronoun aside, I posted the trip to the train last week, so here are some photos from the train ride. What fun!

 

And now for guesses!

topic: Dahlia

picture: Stormy

  1. everything but the kitchen sink  2. home away from home 3. all the comforts of home 4. there’s no place like home 5. over packing 6. I kinda want one but I could never deface a vintage suitcase like that 7. I’d buy one someone else made, though 8. vacation home 9. beats a motor home 10. hideaway 11. tiny house 12. dollhouse 13. perfect for pixies 14. welcome 15. come for the tour 16. open house 17. why is there no kitchen? that’s the best part of a doll house 18. living out of a suitcase 19. home is in the heart – or the suitcase 20. I’m out
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