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Blogophilia 28.10 – Franklin 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 28.10 is a MARVIN Topic – “Tell Us About Your Summer!”
  • **BONUSES:

 

Bonus: Hard (2 pts) Writer’s Choice (use Altar Bridge lyrics)

Easy (1 pt) Writer’s Choice (use the phrase Blood Bath)

Tell us about your summer, you say? Well, I spent most of mine miserable. In June I had swollen lymph nodes. A trip to the new nurse practitioner in town netted some antibiotics, whose name was similar to one I am allergic to (Cephdanir – I’m allergic to cephalexin). however, after reminding her of my allergy, she still said nothing to indicate there would be any issues… Yeah. One week later I was covered head to toe in a horribly itchy rash. A rash that has still not completely faded from some areas (I have really pale, “delicate” skin and any little mark takes weeks to disappear. Often a scratch still shows up as a purple line a month later), though it is gone from my arms and face (yay!). The itching is also gone, and finally the fatigue and malaise are fading, so now I’m trying to run around and get everything done I neglected all summer, including yard work, painting the porches, etc. I still wouldn’t say my summer sucked, though, as there were good moments, like Pokemoning, or seeing Twister at the drive in. All in all, it simply was.

Now, on to the story:

This takes place during the book Shades of Gray :

****

Franklin opened one eye cautiously, trying to feign sleep. Since he was a sun walker, Migina should know he’d woken some time ago, but maybe she wasn’t thinking about it.

That or she’s teasing me.

He watched as she stood in front of the full length mirror, brushing her waist length hair. The ebony strands were a pleasing contrast with her pale caramel skin – a complexion paled by immortality. He would have liked to see her before she was turned; racing over the plains wearing buckskin and feathers. Of course, she’d told him before that it wasn’t really like that. Not that his own experiences hadn’t taught him that. He had run into what they now termed Native Americans before, when he was a fledgling. Still, he liked to think of her in the Hollywood costumes, anyway.

Or better, out of them.

Her tone was cool, and she didn’t bother to turn around when she said, “I know you’re awake.”

He tried to fake it a moment longer, then surrendered. “What gave it away?”

“You’re breathing again.”

He silently cursed his inattentiveness. Of course. As a vampire he no longer needed to breathe to live, but for some reason it was a habit he hadn’t been able to kick yet. “All right. You caught me.” He slipped from the bed and moved to wrap his arms around her from behind, pulling her to him, skin against skin. “Can you blame me?”

“I could try.” Her cold mask slipped as a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I try.” He pressed a kiss to her cheek and released her reluctantly. “I suppose I should pack.”

Migina stopped brushing to eye him. “If it wasn’t for Senya…”

“Yeah, yeah. If Senya wasn’t in charge I’m sure you’d have been chosen to go. But since she is, she chose a lovely all-male escort.”

Migina scoffed. “And among them are her lovers, no doubt. Bren and Greneth?”

Franklin tugged on a pair of trousers and ruffled his dark hair. “I’m not sure Greneth has made the leap yet, but everyone knows she uses Bren when it suits her.”

“She’d be happy to use all of you.” Migina gave him a glare laced with a warning. “I’ve heard stories about her orgies.”

“Mostly fabricated, I’m sure.” Franklin paused to drop a kiss on Migina’s shoulder, then moved to his closet for a bag and some clothes. “Senya’s too cold, unlike you, my wild Indian princess.”

She rolled her eyes and purposefully turned her back, though he could see her quiet smile reflected in the mirror. He mentally congratulated himself as he stuffed items into an overnight bag. Senya had said two or three days at the most, but considering their prey it might stretch longer. There was only one name, one so-called villain, that would require five of The Guild’s elite police force.

Jorick. The Hand of Death. Fledgling of Malick, head of the High Council. Jorick had been the head of the Executioners for nearly two hundred years before he’d retired. Not long after his departure he’d returned, cutting down everyone who stood between himself and his master. Franklin had been only a guard then, and thankfully hadn’t been on duty, but he’d heard the stories and seen the wounded. That one vampire could do such a thing by himself…it was the stuff of legends.

Or it was in the retelling. Franklin sometimes wondered if his memory was to be trusted as much as he thought. Reason said it must not be, but still…

He shook it off and turned his attention to folding a shirt. In the end, even after all the carnage, Malick had allowed Jorick to leave, and that was the last anyone had seen of him for more than a hundred years. Or at least the last time anyone really noted seeing him. The Guild’s records proved that he hadn’t vanished completely, but rather lived in Maine with a fledgling. Still, if he was involved in the whole sordid business then maybe it was more than they thought…

He finished packing and pulled Migina into his arms for a final goodbye kiss. “I shall see you when I return.”

She kissed the lobe of his ear and whispered, “I’ll be waiting.”

Though he didn’t say it as he strode out the door, he doubted she’d even be there when he got back. A fellow Executioner, it was more likely that she’d be sent on an assignment of her own by then. He was surprised that she’d bene home for two days straight – that they both had. They spent more time out in the field than they did in the citadel.

We need more than twelve Executioners, he mused. Or we need to hand more off o the guards, like we used to.

He met the group above ground, in a gravel parking lot. The chilly October air weaved between the grain bins and many outbuildings that made up the citadel’s exterior, passing over a group of vampires.

Franklin did a quick head count on the guards. Twelve? The standard was two per Executioner, and sometimes just one. With only five executioners, they had two extra guards. Did they need that many?

It’s Jorick, he reminded himself.

Most of the guards wore their Guild issued black and silver uniforms, while four stood apart dressed in plain clothes. Senya’s favorites, Franklin mused. If he was good he could have pulled up their names because she so often requested them.

The vampiress herself was still absent, but Franklin noticed that Zuri – short and stocky with a shock of black hair – and Greneth – slender and blonde with a permanent sneer – were both present.

He nodded to them and took a place nearby. Greneth glanced up from a red bound book and then back again, tapping the page with his pencil.

“Another poem?” Franklin asked conversationally.

The blonde made an airy gesture, as if to say “you wouldn’t understand,” then quoted, Leaves are on the ground, fall has come, while waiting for winter’s queen, to bring with her icy wind and raging numb.”

The syllables felt wrong, but Franklin knew better than to correct him. Luckily he was saved by Senya and Bren’s arrival. Tall for a woman, her black bobbed hair, cut almost comically straight, only served to make her skin look paler and her blue eyes icier. If Greneth was looking for a personification of winter, she was right there.

“The Execution Council will meet us later.” She swept her eyes over them, stopping at last on her favorite guards. “If you’re ready?”

Though they all agreed, Franklin shot Zuri a look and mouthed, “Execution Council?”

His fellow executioner shrugged, and fell into step with the others, moving towards several SUVs. He did the same, his brain still churning. An Execution Council was a tool rarely used by The Guild anymore. Made up of members from the Lesser Council, the council would accompany Executioners on assignments where immediate judgements needed to be made – cases where they couldn’t wait for someone to be dragged back to the citadel and put on trial. Executioners had a free pass to kill under most circumstances by simply saying that their victim had interfered in some way, but an Execution Council was a step further. Despite the official designations, their true purpose was to give Executioners permission to slaughter everyone without needing to make excuses. If they were coming then it meant this wasn’t an assignment, but a blood bath.

*****

More next week!

And now for guesses!

  1. summer fun 2. floating castle 3. lake town 4. where’s smaug? 5. extreme river rafting 6. obstacle course 7. cooling down 8. splash city 9. water world. 10. on the lake 11. slip n slide 12. vacation destination. 13. fun in the sun. 14. look at those boats. 15. I bet Jonathan guesses this right. 16. I also bet he bought a brand new rubber chicken for extra voodoo power. 17. those rubber chickens are super powerful, so he says. 18. this kinda looks like a live action board game. 19. Jonathan always makes me think of board games, though. 20. if it was a board game, he’d win because he uses voodoo for that too.
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Blogophilia 27.10 Fallon Part 3

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 27.10 Topic – Sometimes I Wish…
**BONUSES:
Bonus: Hard (2 pts) Include a lyric from a U2 song
Easy (1 pt) Incorporate the word “diaphanous”

 

And so we are ending Fallon. Considering I had no plan for this story at the very beginning, I am shocked to see how long it ended up in total. Yeesh. Next week should be Franklin’s turn, unless I skip ahead and write Griselda instead.

******

Belle was easier to persuade than Fallon thought she’d be, and soon they were packed into her ’54 Hudson Hornet and headed down the dark highway. Somehow the hulking vehicle, a remnant of Lara’s favorite era, seemed the perfect choice to rescue her in.

“Thanks again,” Fallon said from the roomy backseat.

Belle gave an airy wave. “I’m overdue for a vacation, anyway. Though I admit you two weren’t the companions I had in mind, I suppose you’re better than Noris.” She laughed, then added. “And we might get some action. That’s always a plus.”

Fallon wasn’t so sure about that.

***

As they traveled south, they left winter behind. The cold tempered down to cool, and the naked tree branches gave way first to pine and then to the occasional palm tree. At a gas station they bought a map of the city. Fletcher spread it out on the hood of the car while Belle eyed up a patron, no doubt more for dinner than anything romantic.

“Okay…” He checked the xeroxed paper. “Aha! It looks like they’re right there.” He jabbed the map.

Belle abandoned her ogling to follow his finger. “And where are we?”

“Here.” Fletcher pointed to another spot, halfway across the map.

Sometimes I wish we could just teleport places, like that Star-whatever show,” Fallon commented.

“And miss the fun of the journey?” Belle jerked her thumb towards the car. “Hop in or get left behind.”

He didn’t bother to explain how bizarre that would be. As he shut the back door he imagined Belle and Fletcher showing up at the den without him, and trying to explain to Lara why they were there. It would almost be worth it.

If my sister wasn’t in danger.

Except, as they drew closer to the address, Fallon realized there was no proof she was in danger. That’s why he hadn’t filed a report, or mentioned it to any of the Executioners – not that he thought they’d be excited about helping, anyway. She’d been gone a little over a week, and his own visions showed that she had been alive and well a day or two ago. He had no way to reference the images with exact times. True, she and the redheaded woman hadn’t looked like they were getting along in any of the visions, but neither had anyone openly hurt her.

Yet.

He closed his eyes and sought one more vision. He concentrated on his sister, on Warren, and pictured a calendar. He knew he could only see the past, but maybe he could manage earlier tonight, or last night at the least.

The darkness behind his eyes disappeared, revealing the familiar front room in their den. Warren handed Lara a box. Curiously, she removed the lid and folded back tissue paper with a squeal. A dress with a fifties’ cut was pulled free, light and airy, made of pale yellow and decorated with delicate roses.

Lara held it against herself and spun so that the knee length skirt flared out. She dropped it only to throw her arms around Warren. “It’s so beautiful! Oh my God! It’s perfect!” She let go and dropped back to stroke the fabric heap in the box. “I’ve always wanted a dress like this.”

Warren chuckled. “I know, baby, but your tight wad brother won’t let you buy it – won’t let you spend your money. You got plenty squirreled away. Why not enjoy it?”

Her face darkened. “Fallon says it’s better to be safe. We’re immortal. Living forever means having expenses forever, and we don’t know what the future might bring.”

Warren cupped her face in his hands. “And that’s why you left that loser in the dust, huh? It’s just money, baby. It’s easy to find.” He cut her noncommittal reply off with a kiss.

The vision snapped to a close and Fallon glowered. What he’d assumed was a gift had been purchased for her using her own money. What kind of ass hole was this guy?

It wasn’t just the money that left a bitter taste, but the words. They sounded like Orson’s before he’d left.

“I’m tired of this more-of-the-same crap! We’re vampires now! We shouldn’t be pretending to be humans!”

“We’re not pretending to be anything,” Fallon had snapped. “Becoming immortal doesn’t change who you are inside. Lucien explained-”

“Not more Lucien-this and Lucien-that! He’s not God!”

“He’s my master, and yours! You’d do a damn sight better job to respect him, boy!”

With a roar Orson had lunged. Lucien, who’d been politely pretending not to hear from the next room, intervened at the last second. Orson swore, and finally Lucien told him to go if he wanted to.

“I won’t hold another against their will.”

“Good riddance to all of you, then!” And Orson had stormed out the door into a heavy summer night. Though Fallon had wanted to follow, Lucien held him back.

“He wants to make his own path. You must let him. Even if it hurts you.”

And it had. Sure, he’d seen Orson a few times over the last one hundred-plus years, but never for long. Orson always made it clear he wasn’t interested in full reconciliation, in joining them again, especially when he found out they lived at The Guild.

“You’re one of their dogs?” he’d demanded. “An Executioner?”

“No,” Lara interjected, maybe trying to make things better. “He’s only a guard.”

Orson’s only reply was, “That’s even worse. All the shame, but none of the power.”

It’s probably a good thing I don’t have power, Fallon mused. I’d just abuse it like everyone else.

***

The den was a small house, painted tan, with a palm tree in the front yard. A scraggly flower bed was surrounded in lopsided rocks, and the roof needed re-shingled. Heavy curtains covered the windows, leaking only a small amount of light.

Belle parked on the street and they climbed out, shutting the doors as softly as they could. Fallon strained his hears and caught the soft sound of a television, but nothing else out of the ordinary. Part of him had hoped to catch them in some desperate and violent act – then Lara would already know what they were up to, and be glad to see him.

Now I’m going to have to convince her.

Belle caught Fallon’s attention, motioned to Fletcher and then, with a wink, seemed to disappear. Fallon jolted, then scoffed at himself. She and Fletcher were both phantoms, meaning they could blank themselves out in other’s minds. There were those who were resistant to it, but Fallon wasn’t one. He had no idea where they were, and hoped he didn’t trip on them on his way to the door.

He stopped on the porch and tried to think what to say. Nothing came to mind, so he decided to do what the Executioners always did: wing it.

He drew his shoulders up and knocked forcefully, like Griselda would. A moment passed. The TV quieted down and whispers followed that he couldn’t quite make out. He knocked again. Finally, footsteps padded to the door and he heard locks unbolt.

The door opened a crack and a dark eye peered through. “What do you want?”

Fallon used his shoulder to push the door open and shoved inside to a little entryway littered with shoes and umbrellas. The vampire stumbled back with a cry of surprise, then surged forward, scowling. “Look, bub-”

“I’m here for Lara. She better be alive, still.”

“What’s all this racket?” Warren strode through the doorway, then stopped with a glare. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for Lara.” Fallon pushed away the vampire who’d opened the door and closed the distance between himself and Warren. “And as I said, she better be in excellent health.”

Warren crossed his arms and held his place. “Why wouldn’t she be? She’s in the living room.” He raised his voice and called, “Lara! Your lunatic brother is here!”

A scurry of activity followed, and then Lara hurried through the doorway, wearing a diaphanous dress of pale yellow embroidered with roses. She stopped short and stared openly. “Fallon! What…Didn’t you get my letter?”

“Oh, I got it,” he said firmly. “And now we’re going home.”

He moved for his sister when Warren clamped a hand on his arm. “Not so fast, buddy. She is home.”

“No, she’s in your den, waiting to be killed, or whatever it is you do to all the vampiresses you lure here.”

“Excuse me,” Lara demanded.

“Warren and his coven mates. They lure women here, and kill the and then-“

With those words the storm blew up in her eyes. “Are you insane?” She shouted. “Fallon, I know you don’t like Warren, but really? Do you expect to believe-”

“The Executioners have been sent here five times,” Fallon insisted, ripping free of Warren’s tightening grip. “Five time, looking for missing vampiresses. Each time, their former coven mates say that the woman left with a good looking vampire, arrived here, wrote a couple of letters, then disappeared.”

Lara’s anger wavered, and Warren quickly added, “I can’t help it if they don’t stay. It’s Teresa. She chases them off.”

As if called, the redheaded vampiress from Fallon’s visions appeared at the doorway, her tresses pulled back, wearing a pair of green capris and heels. “Hardly. They’re trying to get away from you, Warren, and your little friends.” She eyed the goon who’d opened the door. “Not that I blame them. If I was a weaker woman, I’d have left long ago, too.”

“There,” Lara said angrily. “Does that explain it?”

“No, not really. If they left, where did they go?”

Warren shrugged. “I dunno, man. It’s not my problem, ya know what I mean? The chick splits and-”

Fallon charged him and grabbed the front of his shirt. “And you bury them where? In the backyard? Burn the bodies and scatter the ashes on the beach?”

Warren snarled and pushed him off hard enough to knock him into the wall. A heap of umbrellas clattered over, and Lara jumped with a squeal.

The other two vampires Fletcher had said lived there, appeared, hands fists and lips pulled back from angry fangs. Teresa moved aside so they could pass, then turned back for the living room. “The commercial’s over. Try to keep it down out here, boys.”

She was barely gone before the goon and one of the new comers grabbed Fallon by the arms and slammed him back into the wall again. Lara’s hands held back a cry that her wide eyes echoed; a cry Warren ignored as he leaned close to Fallon’s face.

“Look here, Guild piss ant. You’re gonna turn around, get back in whatever car you brought here, and go back to Iowa before I rearrange your spine, you got me? Lara is a big girl-”

“You think I’m going to walk away and just let you kill her?” Fallon writhed in the vampires’ grip, trying to get leverage to push away with his foot. “Why do you do it? What’s the point? Some sick cult, like on the news?”

An umbrella skittered across the floor on its own and suddenly Belle appeared, holding a small leather bound book. “I think it’s more mundane than that. Money.”

Warren jumped in surprise, and Fallon used the distraction to wrench free. As a greater guard he’d undergone combat training, and with a couple of well-placed kicks and one good punch he flattened his captors to the floor.

The goon charged, but Fletcher materialized in time to knock his legs out from under him.

Fallon charged Warren, but Lara threw herself in between them with a cry, “Enough!”

Though Fallon pulled up short, Warren snickered and shoved Lara into him. They fell back, and Warren used the surprise to grab and umbrella and swing it at Fallon’s head, barely missing both of them.

Lara jerked free from her brother and spun back. “What in the hell?”

A second swing of the umbrella knocked her off her feet. She hit the floor with a cry, skidding through the doorway into the next room. Warren waved the broken umbrella menacingly, then threw it aside with a snarl and lunged for the book in Belle’s hands. “I don’t know where the hell you came from, but you better give me that.”

She deftly hopped aside, the volume held above her head like a game of keep-away. “I don’t think so, buddy.”

Fallon hesitated between helping them and his sister, finally settling on the later. He plunged through the doorway to find her seated on the floor. Her hands covered her nose, trying to stem the flow of crimson that ran between her fingers onto her dress. The sobs that shook her shoulders only added to the picture of misery.

The TV was still playing a late night talk show, but the couch was empty. Teresa had hightailed it. Not that Fallon blamed her.

He dismissed the thought and crouched down quickly, one eye on the doorway where he could see Warren lunge for Belle. The vampiress disappeared, and Fletcher tackled him from behind. They rolled together, bowling over the goon. It was one of the other two that dragged Fletcher off, but by then Belle was visible, brandishing her Guild-issued dagger.

“He hit me!” Lara gurgled. “Did you see that? He-”

“I saw,” Fallon said gently. “Let’s go get your stuff.”

She waved her hands emphatically, revealing a broken nose and missing front tooth. “But he loves me!”

“Sure he does.” Fallon scanned the floor, looking for her tooth. If he couldn’t find it, she’d end up like that forever…

A crash came from the entryway and the goon flew past to land nearby in a bruised heap. He groaned and started to rise when Fallon kicked him in the ribs. “I’d stay down.”

Lara gave another wail and leapt up, waving her bloody hands. “I’m bleeding! All over – my dress! My new dress! Look! Look! It’s ruined! Oh Fallon, it’s ruined!”

“You might try peroxide.” His reply was lost under her wail, and when he looked up she’d already disappeared, presumably to try to clean herself up.

Fallon kicked the downed vampire one more time, and saw the small white tooth glittering just a few feet away, near the leg of a coffee table. He gave a huff of relief to see it all in one piece, jammed it in his pocket, and turned back for the fight that was still raging. He owed Warren a few missing teeth.

As if she sensed his intentions, Belle broke off from engaging Warren. Fallon charged, fists swinging. He dodged, and swung, dodged, swung, until his knuckles connected with Warren’s face in a spray of blood. The vampire fell back, and Belle and Fletcher hurried to restrain him. He struggled, shouting, “Doug! Tyler! Where the hell are you guys?”

“They’re down for the count.” Belle chuckled. “Just like you’re about to be.”

Fallon grabbed a broken umbrella and raised it, pointy end down, like a stake in a vampire slayer movie. Warren writhed and squealed. “Okay! Okay! Take your sister and go! For the love of…Killing other vampires isn’t illegal!”

“Not if you follow the laws,” Belle agreed. “For instance if there is an official war with their coven. Are you declaring war on all five – I’m sorry, I forgot Lara – on all six covens?”

“In that case you can’t kill me!” Warren half-screamed.

Fallon smiled. “Yes, I can. I’m Lara’s coven, and when you planned to murder her, you planned to war with me. Look at this as the end of our war.”

He raised the umbrella higher. Warren shrieked and mashed his eyes shut, his whole body tense for the death blow, but Fallon hesitated. Technically, he could probably fudge this, make it look legal, but even so it might be a black spot on his record. If he ever wanted to advance to Executioner…

On the other hand, knowing Malick, having committed murder would make him a better candidate. Plus, the Guild would only kill him anyway.

Warren cried out as the umbrella met with his rib cage and snapped.

***

When Teresa came back, trailing cigarette smoke, her coven members had been restrained with electrical cords. Fallon knew they could break free if they really wanted – they were vampires – but he’d pointed out that cooperation would look better when they went to trial. Warren lay where they’d left him. Belle had gleefully used her knife to finish the job, but she’d been careful not to dislodge the umbrella. “I almost hope it’s still there when they come to o the formal investigation. I want ‘death by umbrella’ to be written in this ass hole’s records forever.”

Teresa took one look around and offered full cooperation. “I was never really in on it,” she explained with a puff of smoke. “I knew about it, of course, but I didn’t condone it. Of course. I wasn’t the coven master, so what could I do? Though they didn’t leave fast enough, I did my best to be unpleasant and run them off.”

Fallon doubted her unpleasantness had anything to do with saving their victims, but he wasn’t up to the argument. Leaving Belle to call The Guild, and explain how they had a report to make while on vacation, he went in search of Lara.

A small hallway led back from the living room, lined in doors. Through the last one, he could just hear the refrains of, “…and they call it puppy love.”

With a silent groan, he pushed the door open. The room was small but decorated in modern furniture with lots of brass. Lara was heaped on the floor in front of her record player, still wearing her bloody dress.

She swiped miserably at her face and winced as her thumb dragged over her gap. “I suppose it’s not as bad as the last time. Though at least Stone let me keep my teeth.”

Fallon tugged the tooth out of his pocket and offered it. “If you put it back, when you go to sleep-”

“The gum will grow back around it,” she finished.

“Or you could stick it back and we could find you some blood. That accelerates the healing.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “I’ve been a vampire for one hundred and forty years-”

“No you haven’t,” he said gently. “You’re only one-hundred-thirty-eight, and you were human for eighteen years.”

She waved him away with a soft smile, then sagged. “I knew it wasn’t a fairytale forever after, but I thought it would last longer than two weeks.”

Fallon nosed his foot at the edge of a blue and red rug. “I’m sorry.”

“I suppose you killed him, then?”

Fallon nodded and she sighed. “It’s a shame. He was good looking. To be honest, though, I’d noticed he liked to spend my money and not his. He even bought me this with my own money.” She held up her arm to indicate the dress. “Imagine using someone else’s money to buy them a gift?”

He didn’t have the heart to say he’d already used his abilities to see that. “I really am sorry.”

She used the brass bed to pull to her feet. “You’re just sorry you’re still stuck with me. You were hoping I’d be like Orson and finally go away.”

Though they both knew it was a joke, Fallon still flinched. “No, I wasn’t. I wish he hadn’t…” he shook it off. “I really do wish you’d find someone and be happy. But first you need to work on your taste in men.”

Her chuckle was more sad than amused. “That, brother, we can finally agree on.”

****

Guesses:

Topic: Gerard

Picture: Stormy

  1. black beauty 2.dark horse 3. Seabuscuit 4. Shadowfax 5. Black Stallion 6. mare 7. walk in the woods 8. mane 9. autumn beauty 10. in the trees 11. fallen leaves 12. soulful eyes 13. black velvet 14. steed 15. running free 16. runaway 17. gallop 18. trot 19. canter 20. I bet Jonathan magically guesses this using voodoo.

Blogophilia 26.10 Fallon Part 2

I know. i still haven;t been blogging well. My cousins got married. I finally saw Spiderman: Homecoming. Dad went to ER and has a UTI but he did get rid of the catheter, so there’s that. Got the deck repaired and are ready to start painting. Also found alight fixture for the dining room so as soon as we get it taken out of the house its in we can get back to work on the dining room. Oh, and I finally got some yard work done. I’m finally feeling back to myself after all that rash mess and getting a little bit of energy back. Yay!

In the meantime, it’s time 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 26.10 Topic – Name Your Price
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Include a lyric or song title from The Grateful Dead
Easy (1 pt): Use Last Shadow Puppets lyrics

 

I was hoping to end Fallon this week, but he keeps going. Ugh. We left it with him, Fletcher, Belle, and Griselda in California working on a complaint between covens who claim that they were each there first,

****

After a shower, Fallon hid in the bathroom to be alone. He leaned back against the tiled wall, eyes closed. He concentrated on each coven in turn, imagining the way they looked, and searching for scenes of unpacking or of claiming a house. He saw a short scene of the second coven unwrapping glassware, and the leader of the third drinking from a mortal in the middle of the living room, but there was nothing in either to give a definitive date. All he’d learned was that the second coven had a well-stocked kitchen, and that the third had taken the house from pre-existing mortals, meaning that unless they’d filed a change of ownership, chances were their property records would be useless.

With a grunt of displeasure, he dressed, then reported to Griselda. He expected reprimand, but she took it in stride with a breezy, “try again tomorrow. It’s late now,” before she headed down the stairs to the basement and bedtime.

And he did try again, and again. Belle and Fletcher copied property records but, as he suspected, no one had bothered to transfer ownership except coven number two. They’d gone to the trouble to purchase the house legally, so they were the only ones with a provable date: March 1984.

“That’s more than a year ago,” Griselda said finally. “If all four had been here that long, I we’d have heard about it before now. They can stay. The others can move.”

The pronouncement included their hosts. When she delivered it the following evening, it was met with howls of rage.

“We’ve been here since 1982!” the leader shouted.

Griselda glanced at Fallon, but all he had for her was a shrug. He’d seen clips of their past; of them hunting, sometimes in a field, sometimes near the local beach. He’d seen them sitting in the living room, doing laundry, even repainting one of the bedrooms, but he had no idea when any of the events took place. It wasn’t as if people stood in front of calendars all the time. And older fashions were no use. His sister still thought it was 1955, after all.

“That’s my official ruling,” she barked back. “If you don’t like it I can remove your head and be done with it.”

The leader grumbled, but didn’t reply.

“We’ll deliver the verdict to the other covens, then head back to Iowa. Griselda snapped her fingers and the guards scurried for their luggage. When they rejoined her, she led them to the door, stopping to toss back to the angry coven, “The Guild appreciates your cooperation.”

Fallon could almost feel the knife the coven wanted to stick in their backs.

The news was greeted just as furiously at the other two covens. When the vampires had calmed down at the third, the leader said, “I understand this is your final ruling, but is it really final? Can’t we work something out.” He rubbed his fingers together, indicating a monetary transaction. “Name your price.”

Griselda snickered. “I’ll take whatever you have to offer, but the judgement stands.” She helped herself to an open box of cassette tapes, tossing out her rejects as she added, “You have one week to leave, or Executioners will be back, and we won’t be friendly this time.”

Not that we’ve been really friendly this time, Fallon thought.

The winning coven was, of course, delighted. Though there was still no proof they’d really been first, Fallon had to give them credit for being the only ones to create a paper trail. The funny thing was that in eighty years, the same paper trail that saved them now could get them into trouble. After all, the land deed department would get suspicious if someone who was over one hundred still owned the same house.

Let the future worry about that.

Fallon was happy to board the plane and head home. He watched Griselda trying out her new cassette tapes, and wondered if that was really the way to do things. He understood that fear was necessary – the only way to make a super human creature cooperate was to make them believe they were weaker than you – but straight up theft?

They shouldn’t have tried to bribe her, I guess.

Once back at the citadel, he stopped in the office to file his paperwork. Fletcher was right behind him, an identical sheath of paper in his hands.

“I don’t understand the point of all this.” Fletcher waved his papers.

Noris snatched them from him with a glare. “Talk to Eileifr. He’s the one who loves keeping record of everything. It didn’t used to be like this. It started with a short write up and now look at this!” He waved the papers emphatically. “It’s useless busywork!”

Fallon agreed, but he didn’t want dragged into anything, so he just murmured and hurried out the door, Fletcher on his heels.

The other guard checked his watch. “We have a couple of hours ‘til the morning comes. Do you want to go get a drink?”

After feeding on wild animals for a week, a quiet draught of spiced blood from a civilized glass sounded great. “Let me change first. I hate walking around in this thing when I’m off duty. Everyone sees the uniform and thinks I’m available to work.”

Fletcher laughed, but followed him back to his apartment. He knocked on the door, waiting for Lara to answer. When she didn’t he called, “Hey! I’m home! Let me in!”

Nothing.

“She can’t still be mad,” he muttered as he fished out his key.

“Mad about what?” Fletcher asked.

“Oh, we got in a fight over this new guy she’s been seeing. Warren. He’s bad news. Anyway, I mentioned the last fiasco and she blew up.” He unlocked the door and stepped inside the quiet living room. “Lara?”

Fletcher followed him inside. “I missed the last fiasco. You’ll have to fill me in.”

Fallon motioned him to silence. If Lara overheard him talking about it… “Lara?” He moved through the silent rooms to the open bathroom. The light was off and everything seemed in order. From there he moved to her bedroom. The bed was neatly made, but there was an air of desertion, as if something was missing.

The note on the pillow confirmed it.

Fallon-

You’re my brother, and I love you, but I need some space. Warren has invited me-

“Warren!” Fallon shouted, and quickly turned back to the note.

“-has invited me to go with him to Florida for a while. I’m not saying I’m in love with him, but I’m willing to see what happens. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’ll write when we get settled. Take care and stay safe.

-Lara”

Fletcher leaned in the doorway. “What is it?”

Fallon shoved the note at him, then ran to her closet, her dresser, her bookcase. Everything was empty. He dashed past his fellow guard, back to the bathroom. Sure, it was tidy, but gone were the fancy soaps, the makeup basket, and the electric hair curlers. In the front room, the record stand had been cleaned out. Even the record player was gone. Lara had packed up everything she owned and run away with Warren and his leather jacket.

Fantastic.

Fallon closed his eyes and concentrated on his sister; on her leaving. He saw her packing records in an old green suitcase, saw her folding clothes, humming to herself. Then he saw a flashy sports car. Warren grinned, his dark hair slicked back, and his leather jacket shiny under the yellow street lights. A flash of brick building behind him said that they’d made it somewhere else, though he couldn’t see where.

Uniform forgotten, he started for the door. “I need to go look for her!”

Fletcher hurried to grab his arm. “Who knows how long she’s been gone. She said she’d write. It would be smarter to check your mail first.”

“I don’t think she made it to Florida yet. I didn’t see any palm trees.”

Fletcher’s confusion melted into understanding. “You don’t know what you saw. All of Florida isn’t peppered in palm trees, any more than all of California is. Besides, she is an adult.”

Fallon pulled loose. “You say that because you weren’t involved in her last mess. That was a guy named Norbert, though he’d started going by Stone. Do you know what happened?”

“No.” Fletcher rolled his eyes and stepped back.

“She went with him to New York. Big city, lots of glamour. They lived in a mansion with crystal chandeliers and velvet wallpaper. It was perfect until the human police stormed the place to bust up his ‘human sex trafficking ring’, which, by the way, he was running. Hell, he pimped girls out from their house! Of course, he slaughtered the police, and the girls, then took off, leaving Lara behind for the Executioners to pin everything on. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get her out of all the charges? As far as I know they still haven’t found him.”

Fletcher shoved his hands in his pockets. “All right. That was pretty bad.”

“And before that! Before that she was with Mitchell. He didn’t have a human trafficking ring, instead he was smuggling vampires in and out of the country; wanted vampires. He got caught with a fugitive and the executioners took off his head. Before him, there was Jack.  Jack, at least, didn’t break the law, but he had a lover in every city, and when Lara confronted him all he had to say was goodbye. No apologies, nothing. Couldn’t admit he’d treated her terribly. And before that was-”

“I get it,” Fletcher interrupted. “I get it. She goes for bad buys.”

“Bad guys is an understatement, but yes. Her taste is terrible and I know this one is going to drag her into some kind of mess, too, maybe a mess she won’t come back from. I need to find her!”

As Fallon darted out the door, Fletcher shouted after him, “Just check the mail first, huh?”

Though it was probably useless, he took the advice. Waiting for him was a stack of mail that included the letter he’d written Lara in California – “She doesn’t even know if I made it there!” – and a pink envelope with no return address.

He ripped it open and found a note on pink stationary that said:

Fallon-

We made it! We’re getting settled in with his coven. They seem nice. The house is a little small but it’s only half an hour to the beach. There’s no basement, but they have a room where we sleep that’s safe. Once I’m used to everything, I’ll send you the address and maybe you can visit when you get vacation days.

Love,

Lara

He closed his eyes and concentrated on his sister and a new coven. He saw her and red haired woman eyeing one another distrustfully while a male watched from the doorway, arms crossed. They seemed anything but nice.

He flipped the envelope over. The postmark said Pensacola. His first instinct was to run out the door, but Fletcher was right. It wouldn’t do any good. What would he do? Just drive all over the city looking for her? No. He needed to use his head. The Guild had records of all known dens and their addresses. He knew the city, and that she was half an hour from the beach. Surely there couldn’t be too many dens that matched that description? The trouble was getting access to The Guild’s records.

He stuffed the letter in his pocket and headed back to the office. Noris was in the middle of shutting out the lights as he hurried inside.

“I already filed your report,” the guard said. “If you need to add something you’ll have to file an amendment.”

“No, no,” Fallon said quickly. “I wondered if I could access the den registry? For Florida?”

Noris narrowed his eyes. “Your assignment was for California.”

“I know. This is unrelated.” He saw the shutters go down behind Noris’ eyes and cursed silently.

“Then I’m sorry, but unless it’s related to an assignment there’s nothing I can do without an Executioner’s order. It’s closing time, anyway.”

“Couldn’t you just-”

“No!” Noris snapped. “I already worked a double shift. I’m done. If you want access, come back tomorrow with an Executioner. Good night.” Fallon didn’t move and Noris said emphatically, “I said, good night.”

Reluctantly, Fallon retreated. He contemplated waiting until Noris had locked up and trying to bribe him, but he’d seen how bribery worked for the coven in California. He might not have a box of cassette tapes, but who knew what Noris would take instead.

A glance at his watch said maybe an hour until sunrise. It wasn’t long enough to even get out of the state, let alone to Florida. He’d have to drive because there was no way The Guild would let him take a plane for a personal matter like this. If he remembered, Florida was a two day trip in winter, and three in summer, when nights were shorter. Luckily it was nearly December, so he thought he could do it in two if he left first thing tomorrow.

And when I get there I’m going to kill her.

***

The next evening, Fallon packed a bag, then headed to the guard’s office to put in for his vacation days. Noris was absent, replaced by a sour faced vampiress who stamped his papers approved with a scathing look.

He dashed out and nearly ran into Fletcher.

“You’re still here,” the guard said cheerfully.

“You were right. She’s already in Florida. They joined Warren’s coven. Lara says they’re nice, but if what I saw is anything to go by they aren’t.”

Fletcher frowned. “What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know. They just seemed unfriendly.” He explained the scene he’d witnessed, then broke off. “Anyway, I’m headed to Pensacola. She said they’re ear the beach, so it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days to find her.”

“Good luck!” Fletcher called after him as he scurried to the guest office.

He had to wait in line behind a couple checking out of their motel-style rooms. All guest services were handled there; from getting rooms to renting cars, which was what he needed to do. Lara had wanted to buy one, but he’d always put it off because they didn’t need to go anywhere. Everything was right there in the citadel, from shopping centers to food. Plus, they’d have to pay to store a vehicle in one of the garages. There was no point in paying for something they’d almost never use.

Except now it would be handy.

The vampiress behind the desk was polite, but firm. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any rental vehicles available at this time.”

“None? Not even a pickup truck?”

“There are never any pickup trucks,” she said with a note of irritation. “And I just told you that we don’t have any.”

He refrained from arguing to slump back to the guard’s office. Maye there was an assignment going that way he could hook into.

The vampiress was no less sour than on his earlier visit. “If you’re required, you will be sent for. You certainly can’t request assignments based on location! Besides, you just put in for vacation. I’m not going to cancel it.”

There was no point in trying to talk to her; the office was staffed by lesser guards, who took their lower status with a dose of bitterness. As if it was a greater guard’s fault that they hadn’t risen through the ranks yet. The trouble was there were only so many spots open everywhere, and an immortal population didn’t die off.

Unless there’s a damn good war.

He ran into Fletcher in the corridor again. Like some kind of ghost who keeps hanging around.

“Thought you already had vacation?” Fletcher asked.

“I do. I was trying to take it back. There’s no more rental cars.”

Fletcher patted his shoulder. “They might get another returned tonight or tomorrow. Besides, are you sure you need one? Does your sister really need rescued? The scene you witnessed was out of context. Maybe they were unfriendly because they had no warning she was coming. There are a million explanations.”

“I know. I just have a bad feeling about it, and my hunches are usually right. I’ll see you later.”

With no other options, Fallon headed to the common areas of the citadel in search of someone headed to Florida. Maybe he could get lucky and hitch a ride. An hour later he had nothing to show for his efforts except some dirty looks and good luck wishes.

He slumped back on a bench and tried to figure out what to do next. Maybe he could hitchhike? Surely some mortal would pick him up eventually? And then…and then he could always take their car, leave their drained body in the trunk. Dinner and a vehicle in one.

It seemed like the best idea, so he headed back to his apartment. He paired down his luggage to a backpack, and was shutting everything off and unplugging things when a knock came on the door. He barely opened it before Fletcher pushed inside, exclaiming, “You were right!”

Fallon blinked a few times. “About what?”

“Warren. Or his coven to be exact.” Fletcher waved a xeroxed paper. “You said they’re in Pensacola, near the beach, right?”

“She said they were half an hour from it.”

“And there’s at least two males and a red haired female? If it’s the same one, the Executioners have been sent to investigate them five times in the last ten years.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. What were they sent for?”

“Missing persons complaints. Vampiresses leave their current covens with a ‘nice looking vampire’, move to Florida, write a letter or two, and then disappear. When coven members start checking up, the Florida coven claims the women left, but no one ever sees them again.”

Fallon snatched the paper form his hands and read over the synopsis of incidents. “How did you get this?”

Fletcher shrugged. “I told Grace I needed to locate a coven for an assignment. Did you find a ride?”

Fallon folded the paper, address and all, and stuffed it in his jean’s pocket. “No. I’m going to try hitchhiking. I don’t know what that coven is up to, or why, but I need to get down there!”

“I might have a solution,” Fletcher said reluctantly. “I don’t own a car, but Belle does. I could probably talk her into driving us.”

“Us?” Fallon asked, one hand on the door.

“The records indicate there are five of them, not counting the last vampiress who disappeared. You need all the help you can get.”

Fallon hated to say it, but Fletcher was right.

Again.

*****

To be continued.

 

Guesses:

Picture: Jonathan

Topic: Trevor

  1. bunches of fun 2. banana 3. chiquita 4. Bluth’s frozen bananas. 5. minions love these. 6. Even if they aren’t wearing their pajamas. (the bananas that is). 7. monkey’s love them too. 8. Though it’s a lot of peels to slip on. 9. almost a fruit salad.  10. or a sundae. 11.where’s the pineapple? 12. I’m finally ahead of Jonathan. 13. I think he slacked off one week so that he can use it as proof he is not cheating with voo doo. 14. I still find him suspicious. 15. a bunch 16. plantain 17. bunch of fruit 18. yellow 19. this is harder than last week 20. peel and eat.

Blogophilia 25.10: Fallon Part 1

I mean to blog. I really do. I just haven’t had time, I guess. Dad is home and doing good. Mom is still kicking. The cat is at the vet today, though. I did get Daniel edited and published, and will work on tidying Dismas up next.

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 25.10 Topic – Puppy Love
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Include a Kate Bush lyric
Easy (1 pt): Include the phrase “An Elephant Never Forgets”

This is slightly longer than usual. Okay, it’s almost twice as long as usual. What can I say, they just wouldn’t shut up. Part 2 next week.

1985:

“…And they call it puppy love…”

With a grunt, Fallon kicked the record stand. The arm jumped, the needle skipped, and the syrupy music died.

“Hey!” Lara jerked up from her magazine, chocolate eyes narrowed. “What the hell was that?”

Fallon pulled back to kick the stand again, but she leapt to her feet and pushed him back. “You’ll scratch it!”

“Good. I’m sick of that song.” He flopped on the couch and dropped his head back.  When he spoke he could hear the soft southern drawl, more pronounced with his irritation. “I’m sick of all your music. Can’t you get something new?”

Laura fussed with taking the record off and carefully putting it back in its sleeve. “I don’t like any of the new stuff. Music peaked-”

“In the fifties and early sixties,” he finished for her. “But we’ve been stuck there for twenty years. Isn’t it time to give that crap a rest?”

She shot him a dark look then carefully placed another record on the player. As a do-wop song by the Platters echoed through the room, Fallon made a show of burying his head under a pillow. “For the love of God. I go on duty in two hours. Can’t you wait that long?”

“Fine!” She jerked the arm off the record with a huff, then dropped back to the floor and her magazines. “We can just sit in silence for two hours. Is that better?”

He didn’t bother to reply. It didn’t matter what he said, he couldn’t win – not against his sister. She always found some way to twist things around, and if she couldn’t she’d resort to pouting.

Just like when we were kids.

As the quiet settled around the little apartment, the snip-snip of the scissors seemed too loud. His curiosity piqued, he dropped the pillow and leaned forward to see what she was doing. He looked form a pile of random magazine images, all neatly cut out, to the current heart shape she so carefully snipped.

“Another collage?” he asked finally.

“You don’t need to sound so disparaging.”

“I wasn’t disparaging. I just asked-”

“I was the way you said another. Like it was a waste of my time.” She stopped cutting to look over her shoulder. “I’ll tell you who doesn’t think it’s a waste of time: Warren.”

Fallon’s teeth ground together at the name and his mind conjured a vampire with dark hair and a leather jacket; something straight from one of her fifties rock ballads. A bad boy with a chip on his shoulder. He was just missing the motorcycle.

“I thought we discussed him.”

Laura scoffed and went back to her work. “No, you discussed him. I said I liked him, and you said-”

“That he’s trouble. He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to appreciate you making a collage for him.”

“That’s what you think.” Snip-snip. “He likes them. He thinks it’s artistic and creative. There’s more to him than you think.”

“Right. And after he’s gotten what he wants-”

She set the scissors down and drew a steadying breath. “Fallon, I am one hundred and forty years old-”

“One hundred and thirty-eight.”

“Close enough!” she snapped. “As I was saying, I’m more than an adult, Fallon, and I don’t need you to look out for me.”

“You’d rather I just sit back and watch you get your heart broken, again?” He saw her stiffen and regretted his words. “I’m sorry. But-”

“Why don’t you go to work?” she asked through clenched teeth.

“My shift doesn’t start for…” He realized escape was the best option. “Yeah. Good idea.”

He scurried to his bedroom and changed into the black uniform of a greater guard. A quick brush of his hair yielded the same results as usual; it went where it wanted. He flicked the blonde curls that brushed his shoulders. If he’d only had time to grow it longer before he was turned.

Or cut it shorter.

The curls were his curse to bear through eternity, just like Lara was his curse. Except he sometimes got a break from her for a decade or two.

Dressed, he trooped back through the small living room. He quipped a goodbye that was ignored, then headed out into the carpeted corridor. He knew he’d made her really mad, but he’d meant well. He really didn’t want it to be like the last mess.

With that thought, he headed to the office. A group of five guards waited in a knot inside, while another sat behind the desk, on the phone.

“Look, I need one more to send to Malick…He wants to choose Executioner Griselda’s support himself this time…You know how he gets when he’s bored…I doubt he’ll choose you-” He broke off when he met Fallon’s eyes. “Never mind. Lucky number six just walked through the door.”

Fallon held up his hands. “I’m not on duty for another hour and some.”

The guard hug the phone up. “I don’t care. Report with the others to Malick’s chambers. He’ll choose some of you to accompany-”

“Executioner Griselda,” Fallon said irritably.

“Right, right. Off you go.” The guard motioned them with a wave of his hand, then turned back to paperwork, as if he was just too busy to be bothered.

Fallon bit back his argument and followed the others out the door. Though they were all from a different shift, he’d worked with them before on different things. He fell into step next to Fletcher. Vampires were pale by nature, but Fletcher gave the word a whole new meaning. His black hair and dark eyes made the effect worse.

“So what’s the assignment?”

Fletcher shrugged. “No idea, though I don’t think it’s anything important.”

“I hate when Malick does this, especially when it’s something trivial. Doe she really need to hand select us?”

“Especially when he’s let the guard on duty or the Executioners pick for more serious assignments. I think Noris was right. Malick is just bored.”

Fallon barely hid a snort. “If anyone knows it’s Noris. He’s been a guard for – what? A hundred years?”

Belle, the only woman in the group, looked back. “Something like that. I heard he’ll never advance because he helped in a revolt, then came crawling back. I have no idea if it’s true.”

They fell silent as they boarded the elevator. The deeper they went in the citadel, the stronger the presence of the ancient masters became. By the time they stopped on the lowest floor, Fallon could hear his heart hammering in his ears. He took a deep breath and tried to force the fear away. Malick didn’t call them downstairs to punish them. Hell, he hadn’t even asked for anyone by name.

The guards marched down the black corridor in a knot. Fallon nodded at those tasked with guarding the hallway that lead to the High Council’s personal chambers. He couldn’t imagine having to deal with the full blast of them all the time.

The hallway wound down around a corner and finally to Malick’s doors. Before they could even knock, the master’s booming voice bid them enter. Fallon and Fletcher dropped to the back of the group as they headed through an anti-chamber and into an open room stuffed with plants and a fountain. Grow lights kept the vegetation alive, a change from Malick’s old habit of having them dragged upstairs before sunup and back again after sundown.

Unlike us, they need their sunlight.

In the center of the room stood Griselda. Tall for a woman, she was dressed in the customary black, with a silver medallion around her neck, and a long coat folded over her arm.

In front of her, Malick sat on a carved bench, his red robe a contrast to the zebra skin that hung behind him. A long silver beard and silver hair gave him the appearance of wisdom, while dark eyes sparkled with the power of his years. Fallon looked everywhere but his face. He studied the new shoots of a plant, the fraying edge of a rug, and even the soft wisps of Griselda’s blonde hair that had come loose from her bun. Anything was better than looking at him.

Malick waved his hand, and Griselda turned her cornflower blue eyes on them. “I need four of you for an easy assignment. In total, we should be gone no more than a week.”

No one spoke, so she added, “We will head to California by plane. If this is a problem for anyone bow out now. I don’t want to find out you’re afraid of flying after we’ve taken off.”

One of the guards stepped back sheepishly, but no one else moved. With a chuckle, Malick stood and laid a hand on Griselda’s shoulder. “My child, do not be impatient with them. I believe our presence overwhelms them, yes? Most are young.” His eyes darted over the group, and they unconsciously drew closer to one another, as if the small power of numbers could save them. Fallon felt the master in his head for a moment – a burst of intrusion, like a match flaming to life and then dying in the same breath. Though he wasn’t a mind reader himself, he could almost feel as it happened to the others; as Malick peered into their heads and abandoned them as quickly.

“There.” Malick suddenly motioned towards Fallon, Fletcher, Belle, and another. “Take them.”

Fallon’s heart raced as the master looked over him, but the ancient vampire as quickly turned away and moved back to his bench. “I believe things have been arranged already?”

Griselda bowed low. “Yes, master.” When a flick of his fingers said she’d cow-towed enough, she straightened and marched for the door. “Meet me upstairs in five minutes.”

The chosen hurried to their rooms to pack. Fallon found Lara still cutting things out, her music playing full volume. He shouted over it to say he’d be gone a few days, but got no reaction. With a shake of his head, he tossed clothes and toiletries into a bag, then tried a final time to tell her goodbye. She pointedly ignored him, and he tried a final, “I’ll write when we get there, so you won’t worry.”

“I won’t worry,” she said icily.

But he knew she would.

Fletcher and Belle were already upstairs. When the fourth joined them, they headed out into the night. Heavy clouds obscured the sky with the threat of rain, and frost crusted the dead leaves. Winter would be there soon. Another winter in a string of so many.

One hundred and forty, he thought wryly.

A van waited, a guard in the driver’s seat, Griselda next to him, eyeing her watch. They climbed inside, and settled in for the short trip to the airfield. A rural strip designed for crop dusters, it had been modified over the years to handle The Guild’s bigger planes. Though the vampires were supposed to be a secret, somehow the mortals always did just what was needed. As if Malick was manipulating them from deep in the earth.

He probably is.

The van came to life and the radio snapped on. Fallon closed his eyes, safe at least from Lara’s fifties collection.

But the question remained. Why had Malick chosen them? Had he seen something when he looked into their thoughts? Or had he chosen them based on abilities? He couldn’t imagine that. Griselda was an agonizer, Belle a titan, and Fletcher and the other were phantoms. How would his own angel eye ability help? True, it was rare, but it wasn’t especially useful. Seeing the future, now that was something, but seeing the past…

His master had called the ability a curse; and sometimes it was. To see past moments captured like a painting, to hear old sorrows, and betrayals, all the dark things that people would rather forget. Though the past wasn’t always made of those moments, those were the ones Fallon most usually saw, as if his subconscious will was bent only on misery.

“…Let me steal this moment from you now…”

Fallon focused on the song for a moment, then shook his head. It wasn’t really like stealing their moments. He couldn’t feel them like a mind reader could, or look through their eyes, only see what had happened, like an observer watching playacting.

And it’s just as well, he mused. Memories could be faulty, biased, twisted. Even the most talented mind reader was never guaranteed the truth, only their victim’s version of it. On the other hand, he could see things as they’d happened, with no interference, like a fortune teller in reverse.

So even if they’ve forgotten something, I can still find out the truth. Lara had once joked that it was like asking an elephant what had happened. When he’d asked what she meant, her answer had been a groan worthy, Because an elephant never forgets!”

Her sense of humor needs some real work.

The van stopped at the airstrip, and they filed out to a waiting plane. Decorated in leather and frosted glass, the interior resembled a board room more than a vehicle. A sign of the modern times.

Fallon belted himself into an overstuffed seat next to Fletcher. Griselda took one farther away. Once she was situated she pulled out a Walkman and popped a pair of headphones on. Fallon could just hear the refrain of a song he didn’t recognize.

Probably too modern.

Fletcher checked his watch as the plane rose in the air. “We should get there well before sunrise. I imagine they have a place to stay worked out already.”

Belle leaned over from a nearby seat. “I hope so. I don’t want to be caught in the sun again. Not that it would hurt you.”

Fletcher arched an eyebrow, and she explained, “As pale as you are, you’ll just reflect the sun back.”

Fallon chuckled and settled in for the flight. Hopefully it really would be an easy assignment.

***

They landed at a quiet airstrip in California. With an hour to sunset, they hurried to a nearby den. Their hosts’ lack of enthusiasm was palpable, but Griselda only commented how lucky they were to be able to help The Guild.

They don’t look like they feel very lucky.

The next evening they set out to take up residence with another coven. Their den was a small house near the ocean. Fallon could smell the salt water and thought of Lara’s Beach Boys collection. Though they were just on the edge of the so-called “musical peak”, she owned every album.

“Why don’t we live near the beach?” she’d asked more than once. “We could learn to surf. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

It sounded horrible to him. Plus – “Because The Guild isn’t near the beach.”

“You don’t have to work for them, you know. Most vampires don’t.”

This was usually where he sighed. “I know, but I like it. I get to travel, and we don’t have to worry about coven wars or territory disputes, or hunting rights. If you want to go live on the beach, you can. You don’t have to stay here.”

And that was when she usually got mad, hurling couch pillows and accusations. “You’d like that. You want rid of me, don’t you? You’re sorry that you turned me!”

And of course he wasn’t really, and they both knew it, but it gave her something to say, something to make him defend against, and once he was on the defensive he’d already lost. Not that he was sure what the contest even was.

He still remembered when she and their brother Orson were turned. Fallon had been given the immortal gift on the battlefield, after the battle of Pleasant Hill. There’d been no hill, had the bloody engagement had been far from pleasant, more like hell. Worse, they’d given the win the Yankees, though the Union had turned tail and run afterward.

Not that he’d been there to see them retreat. He remembered lying among the tall grass, gasping for air, and watching the sky darken. Moans sounded around him like crickets, quieting as men lost themselves to the endless slumber of death. He’d thought of his girl, Clarice, and of his family, and prayed that they’d at least find out what happened to him; that he wouldn’t just be reported missing as so many other men were.

That was when Lucien found him. He learned later that the vampire and his coven were combing through the remnants of the battle in search of food, but at the time he took them for angels or demons; a sign of his transition to the afterlife.

Lucian had looked him over, form the spill of his curly blonde hair, to his smooth, dirt smeared face, and declared that the “boy is too well made to allow death to take him.”

Though Fallon had lost consciousness, Lucien carried him back to their den and turned him. It had taken Fallon time to adjust to everything; to warm to Lucian, his mate Eva, and the others. But even warming to them couldn’t stop his worry. His father had been killed in Donaldsonville, leaving his mother alone to take care of his sister and younger brother, one eighteen and the other fifteen.

Kinder than many masters, Lucian not only let Fallon sneak home a month later, but accompanied him. They found his mother dead of sickness, Lara ill, and Orson determined to throw his own life away in the war. As a new fledgling, Lucien warned that Fallon wasn’t strong enough to turn both of them himself, and so he Orson, leaving Lara to Fallon.

Maybe that’s why Orson never wanted to stay, Fallon mused. He didn’t have the same connection as Lara and I.

They’d left the next night for Lucian’s den. Fallon had thought of visiting Clarice, of maybe turning her, too, but his new master refused. “You’ve already asked a great deal, and been granted it. Do not push for more.”

Fifty years later, Fallon had gone home looking for her, curious how her life had turned out. He couldn’t find her, or anyone who knew where she’d gone. His story about being distant relation – because how could he explain that he hadn’t aged? – was suspect and he’d given it up.

Just one of those little mysteries we’re not meant to know the answer to, I suppose.

Not that it mattered. If his strange ability had taught him anything, it was the futility of dwelling on that which had already come to pass.

You can’t change it, anyway.

***

The assignment was to handle a dispute among covens. Four of them, including their hosts, claimed that the hunting territory belonged to their coven first, and that the others were interlopers who’d muscled in.

He wrote Lara a quick letter, to let her know he got there safely and what was going on. He imagined her question, “Why does the territory matter so much?” and added:

“The territory makes a difference because if too many vampires hunt people in the same location, the mortals start to notice the high rate of disappearances. And noticing can lead to investigating, which leads to mortals discovering us. It’s important for covens that share hunting grounds to work together to keep human casualties low enough not to draw attention, and if they can’t get along then someone has to relocate. The Laws say that it’s first come, meaning whoever was here first gets to stay and the rest have either capitulate or leave.”

He stopped from adding, “This is why I like working for the Guild. We don’t have to worry about this.”

Griselda gave him permission to mail it, and then set him to work at coven number two’s den,  leaning against  the wall, his hand on his weapon as he tried to look menacing. She interviewed them, and logged their claim of first ownership. The experience was the same at the third coven and the fourth, and when they returned to their hosts early in the morning, they were no closer to a resolution.

“I’ll contact The Guild and see what information they have. Meanwhile, you!” She turned her blue eyes on Fallon. “You’re an angel eye, yes?”

He nodded.

“Can you determine the truth? Who was here first?”

“I can try,” he offered uncomfortably. “I can’t make promises.”

She nodded. “Do what you can. In the meantime, tomorrow Belle and Fletcher, you will visit the local courthouse and check property records.”

They saluted and Belle asked, “What if we can’t determine who was here first?”

Griselda scoffed. “In five days I’ll make a decision regardless, even if I have to flip a coin. The covens will respect the ruling or die.”

Death. The Executioners’ usual means of forcing compliance. Always effective, it was guaranteed to work. Either they did as they were told out of fear, or they suffered the consequences. Either way, the problem was solved.

******

Topic: Colleen

Picture: Doris

1) swimming hole 2) Taking a dip 3) get back here 4) following 5) get in here 6) this one is really hard. 7) I bet Jonathan “magically” guesses it, though. 8) Yeah, I’m still suspicious. 9) natural pool 10) shallow 11) where’s the beach? 12) rock and pool is nice and cool 13) secret place 14) tucked away 15) come on in, the water’s fine 16) canyon 17) painted rocks 18) water in the desert 19) oasis 20) just swimmingly

 

Dismas Part 4 (Final)

I realize this is not a blogophilia post, but I need to finish the story up or else ruin my schedule.

Dad’s exploratory surgery turned into just surgery. They went ahead and hollowed out his prostate, so he’s staying a day or two for observation. The brother and I are going to see him tomorrow.

Also, my weekend surprise (that I had to move everything around for!) has been cancelled by hubby, which is fine because now I am going to spend Saturday getting Zapados, then the meteor shower, and Sunday we’re going to see Twister at the drive-in in Bellevue. I even bought the tickets already. wOOt!

Anyway, on to the rest of the story:

****

At last, the citadel loomed in the distance. What power Malick held outside of the world of vampires was unknown, but somehow he had managed not only to have train tracks cut across their land, but a grain elevator built right above. Though the presence of busy mortals seemed like a bad idea, it worked in their favor. The humans were unsuspecting guards during daylight hours and were long gone by nightfall. That vampires came and went at night, many by rail, was barely noticed and chalked up to farm business or some other nonsense. Unwilling to acknowledge anything that was really out of the realm of ordinary, humans were easy to roll over.

Unlike Malick.

Dismas’ stomach clenched as they slowed the horses. Inside Malick was waiting to cast judgement and pronounce fate. He glanced nervously to his companions, but neither met his gaze, as if looking into another’s fear filled eyes might compound their own terror.

Among the collection of buildings stood a stable and a guard. The vampire gave them long once overs, but said nothing as they dismounted. Noris clicked his tongue and nodded toward the building, signaling the need for the stable boy. The guard gave a grunt and then called the youth, a slinking human who was barely more than fifteen. With bent shoulders and down cast eyes, he hurried out to take the reins beasts’ reins.

As though they were just members of the masses, the guard ripped claim tickets from a roll and handed them over, so they could collect the horses later. Or that was the idea. Dismas was fairly certain they’d never see the animals – or the star strewn sky – again.

Still he followed Asher inside the small building marked Office in hand painted letters. The vampire that sat at the desk looked more farmer than fearsome, and an old dog lay sleeping near a cold potbelly stove. Though Dismas didn’t touch it, he knew the creature was as immortal as its owner.

Their receptionist motioned them to a door in the back, where stairs led down. Dismas’ heart sank with each step, and his unease grew. He could feel Malick below, like a pulsing bead of darkness that got heavier the deeper they went.

A guard stood at the bottom of the stairs, leaning bored on the banister. He snapped straight when he recognized them. “What are you doing here? Intruders!”

“No-” Asher began, but before he could finish five guards swarmed around them, bladed weapons raised menacingly.

“You thought you and your ilk could attack us again? Where are the others? Hidden outside? No matter. We’ll find them!” He motioned to one of his fellows who broke away to inform the others. Dismas knew the hateful bells would soon toll, and guards and Executioners would swarm up the stairs, expecting the blood of enemies.

“We aren’t attacking!” Dismas cried, conscious of Noris’ I-told-you-so expression. “We don’t know where the rest of them are!”

The guard scoffed. “Of course. We believe you. It isn’t as if you’ve betrayed us in before. Wait.” He rolled his eyes. “We’ll take them down to Malick.”

Dismas’ reply was a strangled sound of fear as they shoved him forward. Though not a dream stealer, he could feel the same terror radiating from his companions. They knew what this meant. They knew what Malick would do…

Noris suddenly dug in his heels and lashed out, knocking aside two of the guards. He sprang past them, racing for the stairs, but a third guard knocked him to the ground and pressed the point of a spear under his chin.

“Malick will kill us!” Noris cried desperately. “Please!”

The guard sneered as those Noris had knocked away jerked him back to his feet. “Then you shouldn’t have come back.”

No, Dismas agreed. No, we shouldn’t have.

The guards bound their hands, then dragged them through the door and down a corridor. Elevators, still something of a novelty in rural America, were lined up, the attendants waiting to whisk passengers to the different floors. Too small to fit them all, they broke up into groups.

Dismas captors stood inside the car, shoulders stiff, hands fidgeting, as they descended. Dismas wished there was a way to capitalize on their discomfort; to take advantage of it and run. But, trapped in the tiny capsule, there was nowhere to run.

The elevator stopped and the attendant opened the doors. “No trouble,” one of the guards huffed at Dismas before they dragged him out into the corridor. Hard wood floors and painted walls, peppered with doors, stretched in a long, straight line to finally curve out of sight. As they marched down it, a group of guards dashed past, ready for the fight that didn’t exist.

The guards pulled Dismas to a stop before a large set of double doors. Malick’s presence left his knees quaking and his mind reeling off old, familiar words.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

One of the guards knocked on the door and was answered in kind. The sound echoed, ominous and heavy.

“…He maketh me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters…”

The doors swung open to reveal a cavernous room, the walls half lined with marble and carved white stone. Pillars loomed, and scattered candelabras threw crazy shadows on a row of chairs near the back where five figures were seated.

“…He restores my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…”

The guards half pushed, half pulled Dismas inside. Footsteps echoed heavy on the marble floor as they drew closer to the chairs, to the waiting masters, to the High Council.

To our doom.

“…Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

The guards stopped and snapped a salute, then retreated, leaving the three of them alone in the center, hands still bound behind their backs. Dismas’ kept his eyes on his feet, as though he was trying to memorize the scuffed pattern on the toes of his boots. Just beyond, in his peripheral vision, he could see the seated laps of the council. Celandine’s blue skirt and neatly folded hands, the vivid robes and dark hands of Obi. Heng’s light yellow robes, Eileifr’s sapphire clothing, trimmed in gold, and finally the deep scarlet of Malick’s dress, a single dark shoe peeping from beneath.

Though he didn’t look up he could feel their gaze on him, none so strong and dark as Malick’s. It was as if the ancient master could see through his skin and bone. To his very center. Like being with Kateesha only a thousand times worse.

“…I will fear no evil…”

“Master,” one of the guards ventured. “If they are here, then the rest of their army-”

Malick’s chuckle was soft, a summer breeze ruffling the leaves. “Relax, and be at peace. There is no army, no imminent attack, only three traitors who have crawled back to us on bended knee to beg forgiveness and protection from the one they once swore fealty to.”

“…your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”

Malick dismissed the guards with a flick of his hand, then addressed the three prisoners. “So you have returned, my children. Abandoned that quest which seemed so urgent and certain only weeks ago? Turned your backs on she you adored as both master and goddess? How fickle is your favor!”

“…Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies…”

Asher shuffled forward. “She was never our goddess, s-sir. She…She convinced us to…When she spoke it seemed so clear but…”

“Yes,” Celandine said coldly. “She uses her will to weave a spell around weaker minds. A dangerous game she has played too many times.”

Malick’s chuckle came again. “You would fault her for using those gifts she was given.” His tone suddenly turned serious, and Dismas flinched as though he’d been slapped. “But such gifts should not be used against her father. For that there can be no forgiveness.” He stood. “Tell me, children, why should forgiveness that is denied her be given to you?”

“…Thou anointest my head with oil…”

“Because…because…” Dismas looked up to see Asher’s desperate expression.

“Because you only followed orders?” Malick suggested. “Because you saw the folly of your ways? Because you are sorry? What good does such remorse do? Will it bring back the dead? Those you fought, and killed in your revolt?”

Dismas felt the burn of Malick inside his skull and suddenly he saw the battle as it had been, saw Josiah laying on the floor in a pool of his own blood while the hateful bells screamed-

“Enough of this,” Eileifr interrupted. “They have returned. Their contrition is true, or you would have said otherwise. They will remain, though they are stripped of any rank they may have possessed before their departure. Guards, unbind them.”

Dismas heart stuck in his throat. He heard the guards footfalls as they drew close, felt as they tugged at and finally freed his hands, yet it was all far away, unreal. A dream that was happening to someone else. They were going to be put to death, not freed.

Malick’s chuckle was in his head, followed by his voice, “And yet you still breathe. Is not life full of miracles?”

Dismas was dimly aware of Asher thanking the council, and of Noris pulling him out the doors and into the corridor. The other two’s words flowed around him. They’d need to find new accommodations, reapply for their guard positions, try to claim any belongings they may have left behind. It was a list of tedious, tangible things that Dismas couldn’t wrap his head around.

He stopped, mid stride, and stared at his hands as if he’d never seen them before, at the half-moons at the base of his fingernails, and then his pale palms.

Asher and Noris stopped and came back to him. “Are you all right?”

Dismas met his companion’s gaze. “We’re alive. We’re actually alive. They spared us.”

Asher arched a golden eyebrow. “Yes. Just a moment ago. As I said they would,” he added with a note of smugness.

Noris scoffed. “It must have been a moment of divine intervention. Only the angels of heaven or God himself could turn such a verdict towards us.”

God. The God Dismas swore he didn’t believe in, yet prayed to all the same. Had it truly been his will? If so why? Why would he intervene for the sake of a monster? Did it matter?

Asher flung an arm around Dismas’ shoulders and they started down the corridor again. “We can share a room for today, but tomorrow I’m going back to reapply for a guard position. There should be some openings.”

Openings. Of course. And if they were lucky, if God was truly with them, they would get their positions back.

“…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Dismas crossed himself and prayed silently that Noris was right.

***

The brother sent Daniel back to me, so I just need to get mom to read it and then I can publish it. I even have the cover done. Now to start thinking of a cover and title for this one. Hmmmm….

Off to work on The Vampire Prophecy and then bed.

Have a finished story kinda day!

Jo 🙂

 

Blogophilia 23.10 – Dismas Part 3

I haven;t been blogging lately for no good reason except laziness. I’ve had some exciting pokemon adventures, Mom went to ER, Dad has his exploratory surgery tomorrow, and I haven’t bothered to write about any of it. I need to get back in the groove.

In the interim, it is time for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly post. this week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 24.10 Topic – Walk, Don’t Run
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Use a Regina Spektor lyric
Easy (1 pt): Include a radio station call letters
**Of note, I have used the call sign – WAIO (95.1 from Honeoye Falls, New York) as a person’s name because it would not fit otherwise without just sticking it in as a cheesy line in the intro.
Now, on with the story. I’d hoped to finish it, but it’s 3:30 so not gonna happen. Maybe next time.
****

A rough voice cut into his thoughts. “Do you want in?”

He blinked at the offered game and shook his head. The vampires shrugged and started the next match. As they did, Noris nudged his foot. He ignored it, but a second and third followed. At last he looked to see the vampire’s hand pressed to the table, a curl of something white barely visible at the edge of his palm.

It took Dismas a moment to realize that it was a note that Noris was trying to pass him. He’d taken it and read the words, “Meet just after sunup in the ruins of the shed. Shade should be enough.”

Though he tried to catch Noris’ eyes with questions, the vampire made a sow of standing and stretching before he wandered away. Dismas looked to the message again. Would the shade be enough to shield them from the sun’s rays? And even if it was, what was the meeting about?

But he knew. He’d expressed his concerns to Noris once, and knew the vampire felt the same. It would be a meeting about escape.

Dismas wadded the note and chanced a glance at Kateesha, seated on the bench, a book in her hand. Though dotted with mildew, its pages curled and the words on the spine indecipherable, she poured over it as though she was a goddess reading the very words of Zeus himself.

She looked up suddenly and smiled, as if to say, “You can meet all you want, but you belong to me.”

The thought made him shiver, even now, surrounded by heavy trees and dewy underbrush.

They’d had their meeting; Asher, Noris, Waio, and himself. The shade had been adequate, but more importantly, they’d come to an understanding: they needed to leave. Asher wanted to return to The Guild, to beg forgiveness, though Noris cautioned against it. Malick would not forgive them. The vampires had bickered, until Dismas interrupted.

“The destination is not as important as the escape. Let us effect that first, then worry about the rest.”

Dismas and Waio crept back to the cottage, leaving the pair to bicker in the shrinking shadows. Dismas had cast a glance at his companion. He knew very little about him. He’d been at the citadel, but not a guard. Though his skin was darker than Dismas’, his heritage was less straight forward. Born to a dark mother, with a white slave owner for a father, Waio had had a rough life and when vampirism found him, he’d been ready to turn some of that roughness back on a world that had failed him.

But that was the limit of Dismas’ knowledge. How Waio had landed at the citadel, or come to be recruited by Kateesha, he didn’t know. That tiny bit of information had been gleaned one night around a fire as they waited for Kateesha’s orders.

Silently, they pushed the cottage door open and crept toward their sleeping places, when a shape stepped from the shadows. A smile curved over full lips, and dark eyes danced.

“I hope your secret meeting went well, my pets.”

Dismas drew back, and Waio cursed. In an instant Kateesha closed the space between them and snatched up the younger vampire. Waio swung, but she snapped his neck and left him hanging limply from her grip.

“What should we do with one who would break his oaths?” Kateesha asked with false sweetness. “What punishment would fit?”

Dismas heart pounded and his throat tightened. Could he make it to the door before she got to him? Could he get outside? Then what? Where could he go? Already the sun was creeping higher, chasing away the saving darkness with rays that would burn him to dust.

“Now, now, pet. You would leave before you have answered my question? That’s not very polite, is it?” She stepped closer, lugging Waio’s limp form as though he weighed nothing. “I asked what we should do with one who betrays those who trust him; those who believe in him?”

Dismas’ tongue wouldn’t work, and she laughed at his terror.

“Since he wanted to escape, what do you say we let him?” When Dismas didn’t reply, she snapped, “He wanted to be free so badly, let us free him.”

She marched to the door and threw it open. Outside, the sun was already creeping across the yard, moving closer to the house.

Kateesha heaped Waio’s limp body before the house just as Asher and Noris came around the corner. Dismas didn’t look at them, though he could almost feel their horror.

“And so the rest of the conspirators return,” Kateesha purred. “Hurry inside, my ducklings, before the light of day catches you.”

As they came inside, Asher shot Dismas a look that was half terror, half confusion.

Kateesha left Waio in the yard and came back inside, wiping her hands together as if dusting off from some arduous task. “I am disappointed my pets, though I know the idea wasn;t yours, was it?”

No one spoke, and Kateesha’s face hardened. “It was your friend’s idea, was it not? To break your oaths – to break my heart!”

Was it? Dismas looked to Noris, who looked to Asher. The blonde swallowed and finally murmured, “He-he did suggest…”

Kateesha patted his head. “As I thought, my ducklings. You have been led astray. But you may come back to the fold. Kneel before me and say you’re sorry.”

No one moved and she snapped, “On your knees, children!”

Dismas dropped to the floor against his will, his head bowed in terror. He chanced a glance to see the other two in the same position.

Kateesha stood before them, her toes peeking out beneath the hem of her dress. “Now say you’re sorry for the trouble that you caused. Say it!”

Dismas managed to mumble, “I’m sorry.”

She jerked his head up by a handful of curly hair. “Say it again!”

“I-I’m sorry.”

Kateesha pushed him away. “You are forgiven. This time. Do not betray me again.”

As she started to walk away, Noris raised his head. “What about Waio? Should we not bring him in before the sun-”

“Leave him,” Kateesha snapped. “Let his skin blister, burn, and peel. Let him die in agony, leaving only ashes, for such is what happens to those who disobey. It’s a lesson you and your friends will do well to remember, lest I must teach it again.”

It was a lesson that had made them even more determined to run.

When the sun sank, all that was left of Waio were ashes and a few chunks of burned bone. His remains were unceremoniously kicked aside as vampires hurried out to feed, some perhaps not even aware of them. Dismas looked from a charred remnant to Noris. If they were going to go, they’d better do it fast.

After feeding, he was given the first guard duty, side by side with one of Kateesha’s faithful. Though Dismas had sworn away God, he secretly felt the deity was with them that night. There was no other way to explain how Noris had been able to sneak behind the vampire and draw the knife across his throat, severing his vocal cords.

Dismas had helped to lower the gagging thrashing vampire to the ground. “I am sorry, friend, but as you know the wound will not prove fatal, only inconvenient. When you are filled with blood again, it will be healed and you will be whole.”

Noris crouched down to whisper, “Know that we could have killed you, but chose not to. Remember always that we spared you.”

He stood quickly, wiping the knife on his pants. “Asher is standing by with the horses. Come quickly.”

Dismas made to dash, but Noris took his arm. “Walk. Don’t run. To do so might draw unwanted attention. You must act natural.”

“Natural?” Dismas whispered back. “She knows! She killed Waio last night, and she’ll kill us!”

“She has to catch us,” Noris replied. “Come.”

And so he’d come. They’d met Asher, climbed in the saddles, and ran through the night as though the hounds of hell were on their heels. And maybe they were.

 

That first morning, as they’d taken shelter in a barn, Archer had brought up their destination again.

“The Guild will kill us,” Noris snapped.

“As will Kateesha,” Asher bit back. “At least within the citadel we will be safe from her and her anger, or do you wish to end as Waio?”

Noris cursed, but finally agreed. With two for, that made Dismas’ opinion inconsequential. Not that he knew what his opinion was. Both paths led to death. It just depended how they wanted to die. At least the other Executioners would probably make it quick, not drag it out like Kateesha would.

“Blister, burn, and peel.”

They rode through the darkness, ever sure of pursuit, even as they drew closer and closer to the citadel without incident. Each day Dismas’ sleep was shrouded in red lipped phantoms demanding his blood, while his nights were a blur of traveling through heavy trees, and across moon drenched fields, always looking over his shoulder.

At last, the citadel loomed in the distance. What power Malick held outside of the world of vampires was unknown, but somehow he had managed not only to have train tracks cut across their land, but a grain elevator built right above. Though the presence of busy mortals seemed like a bad idea, it worked in their favor. The humans were unsuspecting guards during daylight hours and were long gone by nightfall. That vampires came and went at night, many by rail, was barely noticed and chalked up to farm business or some other nonsense. Unwilling to acknowledge anything that was really out of the realm of ordinary, humans were easy to roll over.

Unlike Malick.

Dismas’ stomach clenched as they slowed the horses. Inside Malick was waiting to cast judgement and pronounce fate. He glanced nervously to his companions, but neither met his gaze, as if looking into another’s fear filled eyes might compound their own terror.

Among the collection of buildings stood a stable and a guard. The vampire gave them long once overs, but said nothing as they dismounted. Noris clicked his tongue and nodded toward the building, signaling the need for the stable boy. The guard gave a grunt and then called the youth, a slinking human who was barely more than fifteen. With bent shoulders and down cast eyes, he hurried out to take the reins beasts’ reins.

The guard ripped claim tickets from a roll and handed them over, so they could collect the horses later. Or that was the idea. Dismas was fairly certain they’d never see the animals – or the star strewn sky – again.

Still he followed Asher inside the small building marked Office in hand painted letters. The vampire that sat at the desk looked more farmer than fearsome, and an old dog lay sleeping near a cold potbelly stove. Though Dismas didn’t touch it, he knew the creature was as immortal as its owner.

Their receptionist motioned them to a door in the back, where stairs led down. Dismas’ heart sank with each step, and his unease grew.

***

Guesses:

topic: Tyler

picture: Doris 

  1. Two’s company 2. Three’s a crowd. 3. reflecting 4. reflections 5. blue skies. 6. eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. 7. walking on sunshine 8. walking on air 9. If Jonathan gets this right this week I will know he is using voodoo. 10. Just saying. 11. One is the loneliest number 12. All by myself. 13. Hello, is it me you’re looking for. 14. Now I’m using cheesy song titles. 15. cloudy with a side of meatballs 16. in the clouds 17. heavenly 18. I’m already there. 19. in heaven 20. where are the harps?

 

Blogophilia 22.10 – Dismas Part 2

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 22.10 Topic – Through the Glass
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Incorporate a Billy Joel lyric
Easy (1 pt): Include the word “wildfire”

 

We continue the Dismas story from last week. Either next week’s entry will be very long or this one will take four weeks to write. I don’t know which.

*****

A noise came at the other side of the door. Dismas sniffed and recognized John’s scent. A fellow guard, he’d been more than eager to come. Unlike Dismas, that enthusiasm had remained, and when he came outside, Dismas could see it still shining in his eyes.

“I’m here to relieve you.”

Dismas didn’t argue, only stood with a grunt and headed inside. A rough table and chairs were gathered in front of an old hearth; ancient herbs still hung from the rafters by rotting strings, and a shelf of jars had gone cloudy, so that it was impossible to see through the glass to what was inside. It was an old cottage, long abandoned by mortal occupants and left to rot. That they had taken it showed their desperation.

Kateesha scoffed from her place on a low bench. “We are not desperate, my friend. Only using what is at hand.”

He cringed and dropped his eyes. Like Malick she could climb inside his mind. How could one be comfortable when their very thoughts were not their own?

Kateesha’s eyes glowed. “Why do you worry, dear one? Do you have thoughts we might find…” She stood and sashayed to him. After a long once over, she drew out the word, “…unpleasant?”

His eyes struggled to look anywhere but her. With a laugh, she chucked his chin and moved away. “It is not a sin to doubt, pet, so long as you do not betray us.” She spun back, her eyes narrowed. “And I have faith you will not betray us.”

Though he made a noncommittal sound, the fear pooled in his knees. She didn’t need to remind him that betrayal meant death.

As does staying.

He took the empty chair. Two of the table’s other occupants were embroiled in a primitive game of checkers, while the third watched and muttered advice. Dismas leaned his chin on his hand and watched the players move their pebbles around the board marked with chalk. He remembered playing the game with his brother a long time ago. Like the vampires, they’d used pebbles, worn smooth by a creek, and dotted with paint to denote the colors. Their board was piece of worn cloth, the checker pattern painted in crooked lines. He couldn’t say how many hours they’d spent at it while their father gave sermons, or tended to the sick, or drove the wagon from one lonely place to another, spreading God’s word like wildfire and handing out comfort and brimstone in equal measures.

Those long journeys by wagon were both irksome and exciting, a mix very little in life had managed since. Maybe the loss of such feelings came with the end of childhood, like so many other discomforts. Being a man wasn’t all it was said to be, and many times Dismas wished he could go back to those heavy summers, where bugs buzzed in tall grass and old ladies gave them tea and hard cookies. He’d even welcome the summer he was sick to sitting there in a crumbling old cabin, waiting for the Executioners to attack. A fever was better than this.

And at least mother told me stories, he mused to himself. He remembered snatches of his favorite, “Once upon a time in the land of misty satin dreams there stood a house, and a man who painted. Day in and day out he painted woodland scenes; squirrels and rabbits, deer and trees, but never people. However, such was his skill that he could have painted them easily.” Dismas’ memory ran out there, though he knew the gist of the rest. The artist had once painted portraits in his youth, but had discovered that he had a knack for painting a person’s true form; the person they truly were inside. Surrounded by kind people, the talent was celebrated but then, on the eve of his wedding, he sat down to paint his bride. As the brushstrokes fell he discovered who she really was – not sweet and beautiful but ugly and dark. Furious with the painting, she broke the engagement, and he went to live alone in the woods and swore to never paint a portrait again.

But, A beautiful, but wicked, queen wanted him to paint her portrait. He refused, and she started doing terrible things, like burning his cottage, and sending woodsmen to cut down the forest, until he finally agreed. Of course, the painting he did revealed her for the ugly woman she was, and he was thrown in prison until someone freed him. The prince perhaps? Though Dismas wracked his brain he couldn’t remember who it was, or why, or even what the moral of the story was supposed to be.

Whatever it was, I guess I didn’t learn it.

Unlike the myriad of bible verses that were burned into his brain. His father had one for every occasion and had raised Dismas and his brother to do the same with the understanding they would follow in his footsteps, called by God to be ministers. Though his brother fell in line with his destiny, Dismas had never felt the call of the word, and was more than happy to escape what he saw more as a burden than a blessing. Like the man running to his cottage in the wood to hide with his squirrels. Maybe that was why he’d always liked that story?

A rough voice cut into his thoughts. “Do you want in?”

He blinked at the offered game and shook his head. The vampires shrugged and started the next match. Dismas chanced a glance at Kateesha, seated on the bench like a queen, a book in her hand. She devoured words the same way she devoured blood, and she didn’t seem to be particular about the source or quality of either. The book she held now was dotted with mildew, its pages curled and the words on the spine indecipherable, yet she read it as though she was a goddess reading the very words of Zeus himself.

As though she felt his scrutiny, she looked up and smiled, something smug in her eyes, as if to say, “You can look to the past all you want, but you’re mine now.”

The thought made him shiver.

****

And now for guesses:

Topic: Dianne Jillian

Picture: Dahlia

  1. broken wings 2. fallen angel 3. dark angel 4. shadow puppets 5. shadow on the wall 6. angel of darkness 7. guardian angel 8. in the shadows 9. how the heck does Jonathan keep guessing these? 10. I think he might be cheating. 11. He is the evil twin  12. maybe I should wait and just copy his guesses – except then *I* would be evil…. 13. silhouette 14.  devil is an angel too 15. light and dark 16. shadow and light 17. black and white 18. or rather nothing is black and white because everything is… 19. Shades of Gray 20. that’s like a plug for my book, which is free from all ebook retailers. (Just saying).
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