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Blogophilia 26.11 – Roger

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 26.11 Topic – “Make a Wish – Count to Three”

**BONUSES:

*Hard Bonus (2 pts.): Incorporate a naughty word – bastards

*Easy Bonus (1 pt): Mention a mountain closest to where you live – Mount Moses in Carroll County , IA (so the internet claims)

.

Roger is not an Executioner – he’s a guard who can never get promoted for various reasons. You can find him in Masque of the Vampire where he gets sent to help out with security at Andre’s party. Before that, though, this happens.

***

Roger tugged his uniform coat straight and glared at the mirror. How many years had he worn this for?  Too damn many, that was for sure.

Well, not this exact uniform. They updated it every few years, presumably to match someone’s idea of the new styles. Frankly, he wished they’d have stopped about two iterations ago.

The new uniform – still black and silver – had a calf length coat that fastened to the side, military style. Black slacks and knee high boots looked sharp, and the silver piping looked nice, especially up the leg. But the material choice…they’d forgone the old cotton and gone for some modern mash up that you couldn’t iron.

“It doesn’t need ironed,” he’d been told when he complained, but they didn’t understand. Ironing those uniforms had been a big part of his week. For years. And years. Every Saturday had been ironing day and now…

Now there’s nothing to do on Saturday.

Sure, he could go socialize, but who the hell wanted to do that? He spent the whole week dealing with other vampires. The last thing he needed was more time with the teeming masses.

If only I’d get promoted. Executioners don’t have to wear spandex-rayon-whatever uniforms.

Actually, they didn’t wear any uniforms. It was traditional for them to dress in all black – and most wore long coats, left over from the days of riding cloaks – but past the required medallion, they could do as they pleased. If he got lucky enough to become an Executioner, the first place he’d go was the tailor to have a set of snappy black uniforms made. The kind that would hold a good sharp crease.

Though then I’d be too busy to iron them.

The Executioners were always gone. If they were home for more than a day it was something to note, and longer than that merited suspicion. Had they done something? Were they in trouble? Were they up to something with Malick?

Looking back, Roger could see the pattern now; all the times that Senya, Griselda, and Greneth had been gone too long, or home too long, no doubt thanks to Malick’s machina…machine…

Roger huffed and snatched the calendar page from the desk. Word of the day: machination – a plot or scheme. Right. It fit perfectly with Malick. That vampire was always up to something.

I knew it all along, Roger told himself. There was always something suspicious about that old coot.

But now he was gone – gone, gone, gone – and, as the new head of the high council, Eileifr had taken charge of the Executioners. It made no difference to the guards, though, who fell under the lesser council’s jurisdiction.

We’ll be under Ian until hell freezes over.

The alarm on Roger’s watch went off. He pushed the button, ending the beeps, then checked his room over one more time. As a lowly guard, a motel style room was all he was issued. A bed, a desk, a wardrobe.  Everything else he had to buy himself, including the television. He’d done a good job decorating the bland space, if he did say so himself. Matching bookshelves, some well-placed artwork, a pair of armchairs in case he got guests – which he did despite his effort to discourage them. It was almost like his prickly attitude was a challenge to some of the guards, rather than a deterrent.

That or they like bitter old ass holes.

And he sure as hell had a right to be bitter. He’d been a greater guard since 1890, well over one hundred years. He’d put in for every promotion and nothing. Nadda. Not even a consideration. The only worse off than him was Noris.

And it’s his own fault. He shouldn’t have revolted all those years ago.

Except Dismas revolted, too, and he made Executioner.

The thought set Roger’s teeth on edge as he locked up and headed for the guard’s office. He reminded himself that Dismas had been appointed by Malick – the same crazy Malick who’d killed a bunch of his own people a couple months ago.

But now that Eileifr’s in charge, things are going to be different. That next Executioner slot will be mine.

Not that the last ones had gone to him. No, that had been Fallon, and Lisiantha, and Cyprus. The same Cyprus who then, so they’d been told, left to side with Malick. His replacement had been pretty quiet, no big announcements, just a down low, if-you-know-about-it, kind of affair.

And who the hell did they pick? Tellith!

Tellith hadn’t even been there during the battle, he hadn’t done anything special, no out of the ordinary bravery on assignments. Nothing.

I sure as hell am not calling him sir!

In fact, he wasn’t going to call any of the new ones sir. They hadn’t done anything to deserve it.

Except, maybe, Jorick.

Not that Jorick deserved to be an Executioner. Malick had made him an Executioner shortly before the revolt as punishment – punishment! – for fighting with too many Executioners.

I say they should have let him kill the rest off. More job openings that way.

With that thought, he breezed into the office, dismissing the guard on duty with a wave. The vampire gave a nod of appreciation and scurried away, no doubt to feed and rest. And why not? The sun would rise soon, and any vampires with natural instincts would be yawning all over themselves for bedtime.

Lucky bastards who don’t have to pull day shift.

He knew damn well why he was there, why he’d been taken off Executioner duty and stuck back in the citadel, in a lesser guard’s position. They might claim it was because they were understaffed, but it was really because of Aine.

Roger dropped into the chair behind the desk and glared at the tidy arrangement of office accoutrements.  He’d been assigned to accompany Aine to catch a rogue. It turned out the vampire had created an immortal cat – a cat Aine blamed him for not turning over to be destroyed. He’d told the lesser council that he never had the cat, that the Executioner had it, but Aine denied it. He said he turned it over to Roger before they split up to come back to the citadel. The lesser council bought the story, put an official reprimand on his file, then sent him and three other guards back to the city in search of the beast. They didn’t find it, or any evidence of an immortal animal, which had made the reprimand worse.  Shortly after, he was stuck on desk duty.

The worst part was, Roger knew why Aine had lied. A newly assigned executioner, Aine didn’t want to admit he’d lost the cat himself, probably on the way back to the citadel. He didn’t want the reprimand, so he passed it on.

Like the Executioners always do.

Roger leaned back in the chair, arms crossed. He glared around the room; at the ticking clock, at the plastic chairs, at the computer and the old filing cabinets. There were still case files in there that needed transferred to digital, but it wasn’t his problem. They had a team of lesser guards working on that – the same team that had been working on that for some time. Let them deal with it.

Roger checked the time- 6:22 a.m. – and adjusted the stapler so it was in line with the pencil cup. That looked better. Why did everyone always mess the desk up? When they came on shift, that desk would be perfect but when he took over again it would me a mess, with things stacked higelty pigelty.  It wasn’t so hard to keep it neat, was it?

The phone rang. Roger stared at it for a moment, glanced to the clock – now 6:25 a.m. Who in the world would that be?

He snatched it up, giving the standard greeting. “Hello. Office.” They couldn’t say what office, just in case it was some random mortal with a wrong number. Weirdly, they got several of those.

But it wasn’t a mortal. It was Tellith. “Hey! Roger!”

“Yes?” he snapped back.

“Could you do me a favor and send over the details from an incident file? Apparently it’s not digital yet. Not sure the date…I think it’s sometime in 1976.” He broke off and spoke to someone in the background. “Yeah, ’76. Maybe in the autumn or the spring. It involved the Mount Moses coven.”

Roger sputtered. “It’s almost seven in the morning! Why aren’t you asleep?”

“No it’s not, its only five – oh! Yeah. Time zones. I’m in California. Anyway, I need the info on what happened and who was involved.”

“Why?” Roger rifled through the organizer of Executioner paperwork. Tellith. California. What the hell assignment was he even on?

“Well, they’re claiming that the group attacking them is part of that Mount Moses coven. I kind of remember them – they had that big complex and that crazy cult master? He had them all whipped up to believe he was the messiah and that he was giving them eternal life because he was a god. Didn’t Jamie work that one?”

“I don’t know!” Roger tugged Tellith’s papers free. A rogue in Arizona, a missing vampire in New Mexico…ah, California. An illegal coven war. That must be the assignment he was on. What information there was said that Ira, the leader of the host coven, had called it in because another coven was attacking them. The only details were a list of dates and assaults, nothing about who the other coven was.

“Yeah, I’m not sure, either. That’s why I need you to look it up for me, see who was in the coven, who’s accounted for, who might have slipped through the cracks. You can just text it to me.”

“You’re joking, right? It’s seven in the morning!”

“Yeah, yeah, you said that already. I guess it will give you something to do, since day shift is normally pretty quiet, huh? Thanks in advance. See you when I get back. We’ll catch a movie or something.”

“No, we-” But Tellith had already hung up.

Damn him.

Roger had no intention of looking anything up, let alone texting it all to him. Let one of the lesser guards do it.

The vampires who are actually supposed to be handling this kind of crap.

He pulled out an information form, meant to pass down important details to the next shift, and filled it in. Under special instructions he added, “Text Executioner Tellith the information.”

That should do it.

Roger straightened the desk again and leaned back in the chair. 6:57. Yep. Just another seven hours until he could go to his den.

Seven hours and three minutes.

That was plenty of time to go get a snack. It wasn’t like anyone else would call. Not this late in the morning. The sun was almost up – though there were floors of concrete and dirt above him, Roger could sense the glowing orb’s ascent. Soon it would rule the sky, its burning rays sizzling the world.

While all the good little vampires sleep.

Except him. He’d be awake, yawning and gobbling down all that extra blood to make up for being off schedule. And who was going to compensate him for that cost? They didn’t give him a raise when they stuck him on this shift, just said, “Thanks for helping out.” As if he’d had a choice in it.

I should quit. Just throw this polyester uniform right in Ian’s face and tell him and the rest of the lesser council to suck an egg….suck an egg. Where the hell did that phrase even come from, anyway? Why is sucking an egg bad? Who decided that telling someone to suck an egg was an insult?

 Still pondering that, he made his down the corridors to the restaurant. Situated in the human friendly area of the sixth floor, the establishment served mortal and immortal alike, and was the only place still open at this ridiculous time.

And it’s on the same floor I am.

The upper floors had taken the most damage in the fight a few months ago. Though mostly repaired, there were still vestiges of the damage. A closed sign here, a caution sign there, big swaths of new, unpainted plaster…

The restaurant had been fixed relatively quickly. The front was open, so that he could see the light green walls. Bright orange flowers peppered tabletops, and shiny lacquered chairs gave it what was probably meant to be a modern look.

Not that Roger had kept up with modern anything.

A human lounged behind a shiny black bar, only standing up when he saw Roger. “Can I help you?”

“Blood,” Roger snapped. “Just give me a carafe. Someone can come pick it up in a couple of hours in the Executioner office.”

“Um…okay. Sir,” the kid added, and hustled to the kitchen. He was back shortly with a tray bearing a pitcher of crimson, a glass, and a folded white napkin.

The human rang it up and Roger gave him his account number to charge it to, then scooped up his meal and trooped back to the office.  Nothing had changed inside, and he dropped into his chair behind the desk. As he poured a glass of blood, he noted the clock.

7:32.

Only six and a half hours left.

Roger took his time drinking the first glass. He savored the flavor, the complex tones. He took half an hour at it. By then, the blood was warm, so he gulped the last of it and pushed the tray aside.

That was tasty.

He got on the computer and checked his bank account, to make sure the restaurant hadn’t charged him extra. They hadn’t, and his balance was just what it should be.

Pity. It would have been nice if it there was more money than I expected. A surprise bonus, maybe, for sticking me on this crappy shift.

As if they’d give him one. They should, but they wouldn’t.

Roger spent some time double checking the rest of the withdrawals on his account, but by 8:46 there was nothing left to do with it. He closed it out, and leaned back again, hands behind his head.

I hate day shift.

He watched the clock; watched the second hand slide around the face, watched the way the minute hand wobbled just before it clicked over.  You’d think someone would have perfected clocks by now. They’ve been making them for how long? Long before I was born, that’s for sure. In all this time they haven’t made a minute hand that doesn’t wobble.

Or maybe they had. Maybe The Guild was just too cheap to buy one. That would be like them to get substandard equipment if it saved money.

Like the money they saved on these cheap ass uniforms.

At nine o’clock Roger tidied the desk again. He reread the information paper he’d completed for the next shift. Were the directions clear enough? He checked to see who was taking over for him – Noris. Right. Noris would never figure out what he was talking about. Never be able to find the file.

Well, crap.

With an impatient huff, Roger stomped to the file cabinets and began his search. There were only a handful of files there, and none of them from the seventies. No, they’d be in the deep storage with the rest.

Of course.

Through an unmarked door was a long, room lined in metal shelving and crammed with numbered boxes. Inside each were sequentially numbered case files; manila envelopes filled with clipping, photos, and handwritten reports. Roger squinted at the boxes and took a guess at what box would hold cases from 1976. He tugged out the top folder, but the date on it was 1983. The next box he tried was 1991. Then 1973.

What in the hell kind of numbering system are these idiot lesser guards using?

Roger took a calming breathe and thought back to the haphazard tour they’d given him.  All the cases were cataloged in ugly binders, some held together with tape. Right. But where were they?

He found them on the shelf right inside the door. Labeled in chunks of years, he sorted through until one said 1968-1981. That would have a 1976 case in it. Or should. It was hard to make guarantees with these idiots.

Despite their subpar intelligence, there was an organization to it. The years were marked by multicolored tabs.  Each plastic pocketed page was divided into neat rows with a case number, the date it was filed, the box it was filed in, the names of the principle vampires involved, the Executioner – or guard – assigned to it, and a couple of notes.  Rogues in Colorado, said one. Coven war, ended in a draw in Massachusetts, said another. Vampire turned a herd of pet rabbits that escaped.

Roger paused at that one. He didn’t remember vampire bunnies, especially not vampire bunnies running loose. Whose case had that been?

He located the potential box and dug through neatly labeled folders. A few minutes later he flipped through the bunny file. Sure enough, a vampire named Johnson, fledgling of Kim, fledgling of Tier, had gone off to live alone and raise rabbits. Things had been fine until the first casualty. Then he’d gone off his rocker and turned the lot. Even then he would have bene okay if a tornado hadn’t come. It took out the hutches, and would have probably killed the bunnies, except he’d dragged all of them down to the cellar with him.

“Johnson says he takes the rabbits to the cellar every morning, to protect them from the sun. The rabbits have never ‘been fond of it’ in his own words. After the storm had passed, Johnson left the rabbits in the cellar to survey the damage above ground. He failed to latch the door properly and the animals escaped.”

Roger it back a snicker. He recognized Executioner Bren’s handwriting. He could just imagine the vampire’s indignation at having to deal with something as ridiculous and trivial as hunting down rabbits.

He sure thought he was something special. That’s probably what got him killed.

Roger skimmed the rest of the report. In the end they found a few of the animals, which thy destroyed. Johnson went crazy, had to be restrained, and was brought back to the citadel to be dealt with. As for the rest of the bunnies…

They just left them out there in the woods, but they penalize me for a cat I never saw!

With a huff, Roger stuffed the file back in the box and returned to the binders. He read through all the notes in 1976, but none of them mentioned the Mount Moses group, or a cult. Surely whoever filed it would have made mention of that?

“Obviously Tellith has the wrong damn year.”

That was like him, half-cocked and totally off base.  Roger flipped through ’77, and ’78, then started going backwards. Finally, the Mount Moses cult was mentioned in 1974.

Two years off. It’s a good thing I’m doing this, Noris would never have found it.

Roger retrieved the file and packed everything up. His watch said it was  11:22, and the clock said 11:23. Either way, he’d killed almost three hours just looking for a damn folder.

If Tellith thinks I’m typing all of the report out in text messages, he’s crazy. Noris can do that.

Roger dropped back into the chair and opened the file. Neat handwritten pages looked back at him. Jamie had written it, which meant it was detailed and complete, unlike some of the other Executioners.

Aine, for example. His report on that cat incident was rubbish.

Roger had looked it up his first night there. It clearly said that the cat was given to him, even though it wasn’t.

“Your obsessing,” Tellith had said when Roger vented about it. “Let it go, man.”

But how the hell was he supposed to let it go when it was the reason he was stuck on this stupid shift, doing these stupid things?

He flipped through report, pausing to study photos of vampires, some dead, some alive. Whoever they’d had taking their pictures wasn’t very good. Many of the shots were blurry, poorly lit…He couldn’t even figure out who or what the last one was supposed to be.

The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted him. Impatiently he snatched it up. “I told you I’d find the damn file, okay? I have it here, but if you think I’m texting all of this-”

The voice who replied wasn’t Tellith’s, “Who is this?”

Roger dropped the photos to the desk and sat up straight, as if it would make his brain work better. “Sorry. I thought you were…Who is this?”

“This is Executioner Jamie. I need to speak with the head guard on duty.”

Jamie? What in the hell was an Executioner calling at this time for? Head guard on duty indeed, as if there was more than just him! “You are, sir.”

“Fine. I don’t have time to file an official report just now, but there are too many details to text. Are you ready?”

Ready? Ready for what?

“We’re in a park in China…Cheng-something. The Sodalitas had reports about it previously and sent Scharfrichter Wolfe to look around some time ago, so it should all be on file already so you can find the right name.”

Roger blinked. Jamie wanted him to find the name of the place he was at? Couldn’t he go look at a sign or ask someone?

Jamie gave a tired sigh. “Long story short, Malick attacked with a large force. They infiltrated the grounds. Casualties mostly come from the Sodalitas, so nothing to file there at the moment, or Malick’s ranks. Most of his army was wiped out, I think. I don’t know, the dust is still settling right now and Scharfrichter Wolfe has taken charge of things.”

Roger wasn’t sure if he was supposed to respond, so he managed an, “Uh-huh.” Did Jamie expect him to do something about this? Send reinforcements? Complain about the Sodalitas taking things over? What was the point of this call? And in the middle of the day?

Jamie muttered a few more comments about the battle, then added, “And Malick is dead. Jorick killed him.”

Roger interrupted, “Malick? As in the Malick? Who used to run things here?” The ancient, terrifying master Malick was dead?

“Yes,” Jamie said impatiently. “After that the Kugsankal showed up, looking for Samael, who disappeared a moment later. Of course they’ll want to track him down, but he isn’t our concern at the moment.”

Samael. The name was vaguely familiar. Where had he heard it before? Was he wanted or something?

“-let everyone know.”

Roger realized Jamie had been talking, but he hadn’t been listening. “Let who know? About what?”

“About Malick!” Jamie snapped. “The High Council will want to know.”

“But-”

Before Roger could tell him that sending messages to the High Council wasn’t his job, the Executioner said, “I’ll call back later tonight with more details. Verchiel is here, too, and Jorick, though I wouldn’t expect any reports from them. Goodbye.”

And that was it. Roger stared at the phone, stared at the desk, stared at the open file.

“What in the hell?”

He shook himself back to sense. All right, so Malick was dead. The Malick. The one and only big, bad Malick. Okay. And he’d been ordered to deliver the message to the High Council.

But that’s not my job.

Executioners talked to the high council, not guards. And, since they refused to make him an Executioner, despite his myriad of qualifications…. Ian could just handle this.

He didn’t know Ian’s den number off the top of his head, so he had to look it up on the computer.  He dialed the phone, and waited as the rings peeled off. When it reached twenty, the line disconnected automatically.

With a huff, he dialed again, and again. After the third disconnect he realized he was going to have to go in person.

They better pay me extra for this!

Roger stormed out of the office and to the elevator. Not only was this inconvenient, but it was completely unprofessional of Ian not to answer his phone. What if there was an emergency? That was the sort of the thing the head of the lesser council was supposed to deal with. Emergencies. That’s why he got the big den, and the big salary and the fancy title.

Then he can’t even answer his damn phone.

On the second floor, Roger stormed through empty halls, past the public areas, past the entrance to the Executioner’s block – where all the lucky bastards are sleeping – and finally to Ian’s door. He knocked loudly, waited, then knocked again. And again. And again.

God damn it.

“Ian! Hey! Wake up! Wake up!”

He pounded harder, and had just decided to forget the whole mess and leave an information sheet for the next shift, when Ian’s voice came from inside, “Hold on!”

Roger stopped, arms crossed, and the door flew open. Ian peered out, draped in a housecoat made of silk, his forehead puckered. “What in the name of- Roger?”

“Talk to Executioner Jamie. He demanded I wake you up immediately to tell you that Malick is dead.”

“He may be an Executioner, but he has no right – wait. What did you say?” Ian blinked.

“Malick is dead. Jorick killed him.”

“Executioner Jorick?” Ian snapped, his face folding back into fury. “As if he deserves such a title. Time in the dungeon would have been a better sentence.” He broke off and blinked. “He killed his own master?”

Roger rolled his eyes. “So Jamie said. He felt you’d want to inform the high council about it.”

Ian blinked again. “Yes. He’s right, of course. Eileifr will want to know immediately.”

Roger gave a sloppy salute. “In that case, I’m headed back to the office. Good luck with-”

“Oh no, no, no. No. You need to go to Eileifr’s chambers immediately. Yes. Go tell him at once. That’s an order.”

“Are you serious? But – sir – I’m not… the high council is out of my paygrade!”

“The tasks included in your ‘paygrade’, as you so eloquently call it, are whatever I deem them to be. Give Eileifr my good wishes.”

Ian disappeared inside, shutting the door firmly in Roger’s face.

“You have to be kidding!”

Close your eyes, make a wish – count to three. Roger did that, wishing that Ian would come back, laughing at his own joke, and telling roger not to worry, he’d handle it

Except Ian has no sense of humor and wouldn’t know a joke if it bit him in the jugular.

No, it was an order – an order he would have to follow.

Well crap.

With a growl that ended in a sort of sigh, Roger clomped back to the elevator. It wasn’t one with the basement keyslot in it, so he had to get off on the sixth floor and make his way to the elevator that had it. With doors that opened on both sides, it could be accessed from the corridor, or from the guard room at the base of the garage entrance.

Just to make things complicated.

Though after the attack, with all the retooling and reorganizing, Roger looked for that garage entrance to disappear. Having two ways in made things confusing and allowed for mistakes to be made. No, he imagined they’d funnel it all down soon, and then the guards would be in for a major overhaul.

Not to mention they’ll be more renovating.

He was musing on which entrance they’d keep – the garage with the ladder or the office with the backroom door – as the elevator descended. The thoughts stuttered off when the elevator touched down. Though not as terrible as it had been under Malick, Roger could still feel the press of the high council’s powers.

Might as well get this over with.

He pulled his key out of the slot, straightened his coat – if only that damned polyester would hold a crease – and exited. The hallway was made of black marble, as was the floor and ceiling, and trimmed in blood red. The effect was shiny and unnerving, and always made him think of an oriental castle. This was just the kind of thing a shogun would have leading to his throne room to scare his enemies. Or it was what he’d imagined they’d have, anyway.

He swallowed down his apprehension, head high as he marched past the pair of lesser guards who stood watch. There was always at least one on duty by the elevator, no matter the time of day, or the circumstances. They’d probably kept their post even when the citadel was under attack. Their primary duty was to defend the high council, whose chambers were down there, even though the high council members were a hundred times stronger than they were.

It’s all a power show, Roger mused to himself. It makes the high council feel important.

They didn’t stop him, or challenge him, and he made it to the turn in the corridor with no problem. Once around it, he paused to gather his courage. Waking Ian up by pounding on his door was one thing, but to wake Eileifr up that way? And at noon, no less? He should have just called him.

Except… does Eileifr have a phone in his quarters?

There was a good chance the answer was no. It wasn’t like ancients were on the technology bandwagon.

With no way out of it, Roger made himself walk to Eileifr’s door. He swallowed, counted to ten, and knocked. When there was no answer, he knocked again.

Maybe I should let him sleep. Maybe-

A voice boomed from inside, “Enter.”

And with it went all of Roger’s hope for escape.

He’d never been in Eileifr’s chambers before – had hoped he wouldn’t have to tonight – but there were no other options. Swallowing hard, he pushed inside, past an antechamber plastered in relief, to a large front room. Wallpapered in forest green, a Victorian pattern stood out in silver, peppered with large framed paintings, many of water scenes. The wooden floor was a silver gray, and scattered furniture was carved from heavy wood by someone with a great deal of skill.

Eileifr stood framed in a doorway, like a Viking god, with long golden hair and eyes the color of storm clouds. The impression was echoed by his long robes, and the way he stared at Roger with a perfect unlined, unflinching expression.

Like some kind of statue.

“Yes?” Eileifr demanded.

Roger dropped his gaze and bowed clumsily. The high council liked that kind of thing. All that kissing up. “Master, I…uh…Ian sent me.”

“Ian?” Eileifr drifted into the room, pausing to straighten a vase on a tabletop. “I assume it is an emergency?”

“I…uh…Executioner Jamie called. He…He reported that Malick has been killed.”

Eileifr’s voice rumbled like the ocean in one of the paintings, “I see.”

Roger felt he should say something, add more to it, except he didn’t remember much of what Jamie had said. Some kind of park? And Verchiel was there. Oh, the most important part. “It was Jorick that…that killed him. Sir. Master.” He amended hastily.

Eileifr ignored his discomfort. “As I assumed. It was only a matter of when. I have foreseen this many times, and no doubt Malick had come to expect it himself. It was in China, yes?”

“I-I don’t know,” Roger muttered. Had Jamie said where he was? Maybe he should have made notes.

But who knew I was going to be important?

“Yes,” Eileifr had said slowly. “I’m sure it was. In China. The culmination of an epic battle, where legends fought. So much power in one place, yet Jorick wouldn’t allow someone else to fulfill his destiny, would he? He ripped out Malick’s still beating heart with his bare hand, then drank from it, ending forever the hold his master had on him. Or so he thinks. But we can never be free of our masters, even with their death.”

Roger wasn’t sure what to say. Eileifr was a demon eye, a vampire who could see the future. Apparently, he already knew it was coming.

So why did I have to come tell him?

Eileifr adjusted a box on another table, then glanced to Roger. “Thank you for bringing me the news. I will tell the others myself. You may return to your duties.”

Roger saluted, then gave a couple of clumsy bows, and hurried out, pulling the door closed behind him. He sagged for a moment in the black corridor, then  power walked to the elevator, ignoring the sleepy guards.

“Tell the others,” he muttered as the elevator ascended. As if there was a chance that Eileifr thought he might wake them up one by one and tell them. Ha! Facing one old powerful vampire was enough for him. He wasn’t waking them all up.

Not unless they promote me to Executioner. Then I’ll be happy to deal with them every day.

He exited on the sixth floor, but detoured to the restaurant for a drink. He deserved it after all the extra work he’d put in. Running around, waking up vampires, delivering messages…

It was almost two when he headed back for the office. He tidied up; straightening the desk, shoving the file in the cabinet, and even dumping the trash. He’d just plopped back in the chair when Noris slumped in, yawning.

“About time.” Roger pushed back from the desk and stood. “I figured you were planning to skip out.”

“Yeah, yeah, I should have.” Noris took the chair, still yawning. “Anything I need to know?”

Was there anything…Roger scoffed. “No, not at all. Nothing happened.”

“Good. I like a quiet day.” Noris leaned back and propped his feet on the desk, hands behind his head, eyes closed.

At the sight, all the details of Roger’s shift died on his lips. Noris wants to know why he can’t get promoted? That’s why. No respect. Putting his feet on the desk like that. And look at his uniform. Coat’s open, shirt’s not tucked in. And he has a stain on his pants. How is anyone supposed to take him seriously like that?

Noris opened an eye. “Is there anything else?”

“Nope, not a thing. As I said, it was a quiet night.”

Roger marched out of the office and toward his bed, muttering a single word to himself, “Idiot.”

***

pic: stormy

topic: Lisa

  1. hello there 2. cross eyed 3. the nose knows 4. a new friend 5. seeing spots 6. seeing red 7. hello kitty 8. lady bird, lady bird, fly away home
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Blogophilia 25.11 – Philip Part 2

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 25.11 Topic – Time Traveling
**BONUSES:
Hard Bonus (2 pts): Use a quote or lyric from Oliver Twist (We have none of us long to wait for Death.)
Easy Bonus (1 pt): Mention a soccer player (Lionel – aka Lionel Messi)

.

***

Philip wanted to slap the smug smile off Beldren’s face; wanted to knock him to the floor, put his foot in the middle of the vampire’s chest, and shout the truth, but he couldn’t.  Doing so would jeopardize everything.

“Still, it’s odd,” Beldren added. “Malick’s never cared about the lives of the lower classes before. It makes one wonder if there isn’t more at play here.”

I’ll show you what’s at play, you-

The waiter interrupted with Beldren’s drink. Philip took the opportunity to slam the rest of his and make his excuses. He had a meeting to go to. Sorry.

As he strode out the door, he thought to himself it might have been better to feed alone for a change.

Next time.

**

Though Beldren had been annoying Philip mused over the implications of his news. The Hand of Death, or Jorick, as was his name, was Malick’s fledgling and one of the original Executioners. Philip had worked under him, and had only gotten promoted to Executioner when he left.

When he left.

Philip still remembered it; he’d been on duty that night. Jorick had stormed the citadel, slashing and killing everything in his path as he made his way to Malick – the master he planned to kill. The details of why were sketchy to Philip. He’d heard that Jorick’ wife died, that somehow he blamed his master for it, but that was all he knew. That and the force of Jorick’s attack. Unlike many of the guards on duty, Philip had survived the onslaught, and in fact gained his promotion because of his “bravery”. Still, he’d never forgotten the Hand of Death, more monster than vampire, tearing through the ranks, his face flecked in blood.

The Guild had kept uneasy tabs on him after that. They didn’t follow his every move, but Malick stayed abreast of here he was living. Until the fifties. He’d vanished from his Alabama den and that was it. No sightings of him, no rumors, nothing.

And now he’s on a beach somewhere. That Beldren had brought back intelligence was a sure thing, but would Malick send others to gather more? How long would it be before someone was assigned to go get him, bring him in, try to get him to join them again?

Ark will love that.

On the other hand, maybe it would make things better. Jorick had evolved into a kind of Legend in the last hundred plus years. Perhaps having him there, in person, would remind Malick that his fledgling wasn’t perfect. Maybe then the lectures and comparisons would stop.

Or maybe not.

Either way, it wasn’t Philip’s problem. At least, not yet. He had more important things to worry about, like his current assignment. Beldren and the others might think he was grounded, but if they ever found out the truth…

They’d be in for a surprise.

Philip made his way to one of the two elevators that would take him all the way to the secret basement of the citadel. He stuck his key into the slot, the only way to activate the floor. Not that these security measures do much. There are probably a hundred keys floating around at any given time. Still, the idea of it made it seem secure and intimidating, as long as one didn’t bother to reason it out.

And almost no one does.

Reason, that was something that most vampires lacked. Logic, precision, common sense. The masses were quick to panic, and easy to manipulate.

Just like sheep.

The elevator reached its destination, but Philip pressed the door close button, ignoring the guards outside. Alone, he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, concentrating on himself, on the lab, on the next few hours. An image flashed by, his own reflection in a shiny surface. He recognized it as one of the steel tables in the laboratory. The next scene was a flash of a scientist with limp hair, an open door, and then he saw the girl on the floor. A pool of crimson spread out around her, rolling toward a floor drain.

Looks like I’ll be working.

With that in mind, and Philip opened the elevator doors and exited on a sci-fi hallway. That was what he always thought of, with its shiny black floors and walls, trimmed with red.  He could feel the ancients in their chambers farther down the corridor. Celandine, Heng, and the other members of the high council. Malick’s presence was notably absent, but Philip didn’t care. He wasn’t there to see any of them.

He bypassed the dungeon, and headed further down the hallway, until he reached a metal door. A computerized plate hung next to it, but with no lights on it wasn’t yet operational.

More tech they haven’t really figured out yet.

Philip banged on the door and a guard in black opened it. Sallow faced, he stepped aside quickly, eyes cast down as Philip marched past.

Good. He understands respect now.

He hadn’t yesterday. He’d dared to meet Philp’s eyes to look sulky at being given orders, and had even talked back. Once. Philip had hit him hard enough to send him flying back into a metal table of instruments. He’d struggled to his feet, in time for Philip to grab him by his shirt and slam him into the wall repeatedly. Only when his face was a mass of gelatin had one of the scientists finally suggested he stop.

“We don’t want to train a replacement!”

Philip had left the bleeding unconscious vampire on the floor, and turned back to his work.  Another guard had hauled him away, maybe to the hospital wing upstairs, maybe to his room. Either way, blood and rest had healed his face, and taught him a valuable lesson about the pecking order.

One he won’t forget.

Philip purposefully tried to meet his eyes, but the guard continued to look away. Satisfied, the Executioner dismissed him to glance around the room. The walls were done in white subway tile, like an institution’s kitchen. The floor was lacquered gray, and the furniture was plastic and metal; maybe stainless steel, maybe coated aluminum. A pair of computers sat on a built in desk against one wall, their screens flashing numbers, or letters – pointless stuff Philip didn’t understand. Two vampires hovered over them, motioning to the output, as if it meant something to them.

Two doorways were set in the back wall. A tall scientist with dark hair stood in one, his hands clasped together. “There you are. Yes, yes, about time.”

Philip gave him a long, hard look. “Be careful, Gildan. I don’t want to have to teach you a lesson, too.”

The scientist snickered. “You won’t get far, Hmmmm? The guards can be replaced, but not us. Your master wouldn’t be very pleased, now, would he? Come, come. We have work to do.”

Philip snarled, but Gildan marched on down the hallway.

He dares to turn his back to me? I’ll show him!

Except, Philip knew he wouldn’t. As the leading scientist in the laboratory, Gildan was right. Malick would have Philip’s head if he so much as hurt the vampire, let alone killed him.

For now. One day he won’t be useful anymore, and then…

Then he’d be sorry.

With comforting daydreams of peeling the scientist apart, Philip followed down the narrow hall. They passed a couple of shiny metal doors, stopping when the hall deadened. A pair of locked doors opened when Gildan inserted his keycard, not the quick swish of a science fiction show, but a slower, noisier motion.

Gildan motioned Philip after him, into a sort of antechamber. One wall was half window, so that they could see into the next room. Empty and walled in the same white subway tiles, its bare concreate floor was stained from blood. The discoloration was the worst around the floor drain, where the liquid pooled as it slowly oozed away. There was no blood today – or at least, not yet.

Gildan pushed a button on a speaker box. “We’re ready. Bring in subject,” he paused to consult a clipboard. “Subject DE220.”

DE, for Demon Eye. The same ability Philip had. “What tests can you possibly perform on him?”

The corners of Gildan’s mouth quirked up. “You’ll see.”

Philip took one of the plastic chairs and crossed his legs. He’d watched experiments for the last two days in the scientific quest to better understand vampires’ unique powers. Yesterday they’d tested a dream stealer against a young, weak vampire with no discernable gifts. They’d begun by doing brain scans in another room, first with no pressure, and then with increasing amounts of inflicted terror and trauma, to see if the stress elevated their abilities. The scientists had oohed and awed over pages of squiggly lines, while Philip handled the terrorizing portion. That was what he was there for, after all.

“We’re scientists,” Gildan had explained. “It isn’t our job to terrorize vampires, just to collect and interpret the data.”

That was why Malick had assigned Philip to help them. They needed someone to do the dirty work; to scare the vampires, torture them, even. Someone who knew how to inflict the most fear in the shortest amount of time.

And Malick wants someone he knows is loyal to keep an eye on things.

Loyalty was always an issue, even in the Executioners. The laboratory and its tests were Malick’s pet project. Though he was the head of The Guild, and the High Council, there were vampires over him. The council in Munich, for instance. They could put their foot down and end the experiments, an edict Malick would either be forced to comply with, or face punishment.

Malick forced. The sentence seemed ridiculous, yet there it was. As strong and ancient as Malick was, rumor said the vampires in Germany were older, and stronger; that they could kill with a look. If that was true, Malick really would have no choice…

And so the experiments were being kept a sort of secret from the rest of the High Council, even the rest of the Executioners. There was only himself and Senya that knew about it. And maybe Bren. Since the pair were engaged in a sexual relationship, it wouldn’t be surprising if she told him.

Not that she isn’t having sex with the rest of us, Philip thought with a smirk. He’d had Senya before, though she was far from his favorite plaything. He preferred his women compliant – often against their will, or at least pretending it was against their will – while Senya preferred to be the one in control. Two Alphas in the bedroom was a recipe for disaster, and only worked when they were both in the mood for a quick fuck with no appetite for games or fun.

And what’s the point of that?

A door in the operating room opened, pulling Philip’s attention. A young female vampire was pushed inside. She stepped forward quickly, but on seeing her new surroundings tried to go back. The door slammed shut as she reached it, leaving her with her palms pressed against its surface.

Gildan pressed a button and barked through the intercom, “If you would step into the middle of the room please.”

The vampiress looked up, eyes wide. She backed slowly away from the door, edging toward the center of the room and the stained drain. Her mouth moved, but most of the sound was lost behind the thick walls and glass. Philip could just catch her asking what they wanted, and why.

Gildan pressed the button again. “We’re going to see if you can figure that out.”

“I’m not a mind reader!” she cried.

“No, but you’re a demon eye, aren’t you? You can see the future, yes? So look at it, and tell me f you can see what we’re going to do.”

She backed away from him, away from the drain and the window, until she was against the far wall. Philip well knew that for her to use her abilities, she’d need to be calm, be able to focus, maybe close her eyes, relax. None of that was going to be possible there. She might as well be powerless.

“She can’t you know,” he murmured.

“I know she believes she can’t, but we’ll see what happens. Have you never used your own gifts mid-battle?”

Philip paused to consider the question. Had he? Yes, probably. He’d had flashes before, sudden insights, usually when he was in an extreme situation with no time to relax and focus properly. But those flashes of the future were rarely right. They were like a mistimed reflex with little payoff. To truly determine the future one needed to concentrate, see several variables, weigh them out and average the outcomes into what was most likely. It was a talent best used by logical, calm individuals.

Still, maybe Gildan is right. Perhaps this could be interesting.

Philip shrugged and turned again to the vampiress. She was trying, but every time she closed her eyes, she’d jerk them open again, gaze darting around the room.

She should just guess that we’re going to kill her, Philip thought. The stained floor is enough evidence for that. Use your reasoning process, don’t just rely on your abilities.

It was advice he never gave her, though it soon became apparent someone should. After twenty minutes of trying with no success, Gildan nodded to Philip. “If you’d like to increase the pressure?”

Philip pulled himself up and headed for the door. He had a pair of daggers at his belt but that was it. Not as if I need much more for her. She’s young.

When he’d wound his way to the entrance and was let through, he was surprised to discover she was even younger than he thought. She couldn’t have been a vampire for more than five years, and more likely three. Her movements were still clunky, crude. Her skin was smooth, but not polished, and though her eyes glittered, they didn’t hold the depth of age, only of fresh immortality.

Is her blood debt even paid yet?

He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. Wordlessly, he advanced on her, watching as she shrank away, those eyes shining with fear.

“Please. I-I don’t know what you want. Please.”

He stopped and fingered one of the daggers on his belt. “I hope you figure it out soon.”

She gulped, and pressed back against the wall. “I-I can’t. Not like this. Please, just…just let me go back to the cell and-”

Philip drew the dagger and advanced; long slow strides. “You’ve had plenty of time in the cell. You didn’t once try to see your future? Not in all that time? Either you’re stupid, or you think I am.”

“No!” She threw up her hands, a gesture to stop, perhaps, or an effort to shield herself. “No! I-I’ve tried to use them, but I can’t relax enough. Please, just let me try again.”

He stopped in front of her and cocked his head to one side, as if he was considering the idea. “Hmmm. Well…” he saw the spark of hope in her eyes, and had to fight not to smile. “You see, there’s a tiny problem with that idea.”

The hope flickered. “What’s that?”

He leaned close, and dropped his voice, as if ready to share a secret. “I don’t really care if you ever get it to work.”

Incomprehension warred on her face, and then she understood. “But…”

“You’re part of an experiment, and I don’t care what their results are. I’m here to tease you up a little bit, and eventually start carving.” He brandished the dagger.

“Experiment? But…but…what experiment?”

“That’s the part you’re supposed figure out. Go on, close your eyes, look to the future. What do you see the scientists doing?”

Her eyelids fluttered closed, then open again. “I-I can’t. Not with you so close. Not with…with that.”

“This?” He turned the dagger so the blade caught the light. “That’s a pity for you.” He looked over his shoulder to the window and shrugged, indicating that she was useless. Gildan rubbed his chin then nodded and motioned the all clear.

Okay. Start hurting her.

Philip shrugged again and turned back. He gave her a merciful smile and stepped back, watching as her shoulders relaxed, as that hope popped back into her eyes…

Then he slashed.

The blade bit her exposed arm, leaving a trail of crimson to quickly rise to the surface. She cried out and flinched away, confusion on her features.

“It’s not personal,” Philip said as he approached again, the dagger ready. “It’s just how it goes.”

She stumbled away from him, landing on the floor. He swooped down to leave a line of scarlet on her cheek. He could smell the blood, but it did nothing for his appetite. It was the bland, dead blood of an immortal; they hadn’t fed her today.

How sad to die hungry.

Though the thought flitted through his mind, there was no emotion attached to it. No feeling of remorse as she crab-crawled away, no particular pity as he cut her again, and again, no guilt when she screamed and begged him to stop.

It’s not that she deserves to be tortured, it’s just the way it is. Bad luck, I guess. And obviously not a very good demon eye – or she’d have seen this coming.

Like he had.

After several minutes, Gildan called a halt. Philip stepped back and glanced down at his hands, both flecked in blood. A quick wipe of his face showed the same.

I’ll have to take a shower after this.

The vampiress lay in a sobbing heap on the floor.  A pool of blood ran from her, down to the drain, and her severed hand lay a few feet away, fingers still curled.

It was the scene he’d seen earlier, in the elevator.

The door buzzed, then opened. A lanky haired scientist bustled through, looking excited, and Philip took the opportunity to head out.  He stopped at a sink to wash the gore from his hands and face before heading back to the observation room for more instructions.

“Stress doesn’t seem to trigger her ability,” Gildan said, hands behind his back as he peered through the window to their subject.  “Perhaps not all powers are enhanced by it?”

“No idea.” Philip dropped back into the chair and yawned. “Demon eye takes practice to use, to focus. Even if she does get clips of the future, there’s no guarantee she’ll see herself, unless she’s focusing. And even then…” Even then there was no guarantee.

“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps there’s too much going on here. She’s running, hiding, crouching. Physical activity may not be conducive to such powers. Perhaps we’ll try her on a table.”

Gildan gave the orders and the vampiress was dragged away. The vampire made several notes in a file, and then motioned Philip to follow. “We may want to continue the torture.”

They wound through out the door, and down the hall to another short corridor. There, they ended in a big white room that was brightly lit. Medical machinery made it look like something from the time traveling future or else the hospital on a space ship, or so Philip always thought. If only they’d lose the tile on the walls. No self-respecting spaceship would use ceramic tile.

To one side of the room, away from most of the equipment, the girl was strapped down to a table. They’d wrapped the restraints around the stump of her wrist, so tight that the purple skin puckered out over the edges. Despite that, Philip wasn’t sure it would prevent her from pulling that arm fee.

And doing what? He asked himself. There’s no hand there. Unless she’s going to beat you with her stump?

It was a fair point, so he kept his opinions to himself while they finished hooking electrodes to her head to monitor brain activity of some kid.

All this science stuff.

When they’d finished, they moved away and let Gildan come close. He peered down at her and asked, “Are you comfortable?”

She looked up, her eyes shimmering with terror and choked out, “Please. Please let me go.”

“I’ll take that as a yes. Now, as you know, we’re conducting some experiments today. All we want is for you to use your demon eye ability. You are a demon eye, yes?”

“Yes.” Tears spilled down her bloody cheeks. “But I-I can’t use it. It’s not working. Please. Just-”

Gildan interrupted her with a low noise. He scribbled a few notes, then waved Philip over. “See if you can prompt her?”

Philip tugged his daggers out and started by prodding her. She tried to get away but, with the restraints, she couldn’t. Her silent tears turned into gulping sobs, and though Gildan was unaffected, one of the other scientists looked uncomfortable. When Philips prodding became stabbing, and her cries turned to screams, the other vampire flinched and finally stammered, “Can’t we…we gag her, or…or something?”

Gildan rolled his eyes. “If you insist, Lionel, be my guest.”

The vampire with a conscience stepped away. “No! No, it’s…It’s not my job. Have your…uh, tormenter do it.”

Philip scoffed. Gagging her would defeat the purpose. How would they know if she’d had a vision if she couldn’t tell them? But it wasn’t his problem. He took the handkerchief Gildan impatiently handed him, and shoved it in the girl’s mouth. She tried to bite him, but he gagged her hard enough to force her mouth open again.

“You’ll have to…to tie something over it or she’ll just spit it out,” their pseudo concerned vampire said.

If he was really concerned for her, he’d try to save her, not just shut her up.  Obviously the screams were what made him feel bad, and if they were gone…Then he can pretend it’s fine. Pathetic.

When the gag was tied in place, Philip was ordered back to it. He yawned as he cut off her toes one by one. How much longer would this go on for? He was feeling peckish – he’d rushed his breakfast because Beldren had irritated him – and he’d spent the last three days doing this to other vampires. He was used to having to do some fighting or torture in the field, but not day after day. There was travel time in between, something to break it up. This was just getting repetitive.

And boring.

The vampiress started thrashing worse than before, her head flopping side to side, and then, she went suddenly still, like the dead. Philip stopped to see her eyelids fluttering and her face slack. Had she passed out? She couldn’t be dead. Not mutilation, or even extreme shock or pain could end their life. It took destroying the heart to kill a vampire.

And her heart-

The thought dropped away when her eyes popped open. Her back arched, and she strained, her back arching and her mouth worked, the words muffled. Gildan motioned Philip to remove the gag, and he complied, pulling his hand back from her mouth quickly, lest she bite him.

Instead, she managed to grab his sleeve with her good hand. Her head snapped towards him and she shouted, “Death! Death in the brick house!”

Philip pulled free just as she broke her stump arm lose. She waved it wildly, as if pointing to one of them, while shrieking, “Death! Ripped open! So much blood!”

Her tirade fell away as Gildan jammed the handkerchief back in her mouth. “We have none of us long to wait for Death. Least of all you.” He stepped back, wiping his hands on his white coat. “Finish her, Executioner. We’ve learned what we wanted.”

She bucked on the bed, swinging her free arm in an erratic pattern. Philip ducked past the limb and jammed his dagger through her heart. Her body drew tight, arched, frozen. Then, as he ripped the blade free, she went slack.

Dead.

Philip plucked the makeshift gag from her mouth and used the handkerchief to wipe his weapons. When they were clean enough, he left the scientists to their clean up, and headed for the sink. He met Gidan there, not washing his hands, but watching the water swirl down the drain just the same.

“You don’t mind if I actually use it?” Philip asked.

“No, no.” Gildan stepped to the side, still focused on the water. Finally he snapped out of it and gave a thin smile, an expression that made him look like a snake. “At this juncture I believe we can say demon eyes’ abilities are not supplemented by physical stress. Though she got the death part of her future right, one can hardly call this a brick house.”

Philip rinsed the soap bubbles off, trying to decide if he cared enough to comment. He didn’t, but… “Unless that isn’t her future. A demon eye can see the future of others, sometimes better than their own.”

Gildan rubbed his chin. “Interesting. Yes. Yes. It could be, I suppose. But it seems a stretch. Perhaps we should try another experiment?”

Philip shut off the water and dried his hands. “You’ll have to find a new subject.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble. One of your kind will supply it, I’m sure. She’s been very good at finding them so far.”

Philip bit back a smile. Yes, Senya would be efficient at it.

“I believe we’re done for today,” Gildan added as an afterthought. “Tomorrow?”

Philip nodded, but didn’t bother to agree. He didn’t need to. It wasn’t as if he had a choice.

Back in the sci-fi hallway, he ignored the horrified looks of the guards. He knew what he must look like, flecked in hours old blood, his hair matted. He wondered what scenarios they imagined for it, what scenario he’d have come up with if he was them.

I’d probably assume the Executioner had been killing an army of vampires.

It was a pity that wasn’t the truth. It would have bene more interesting, at least.

**

In his den, Philip showered, changed, and sent his dirty clothes to the laundry. Then he headed for the café. Another off time, he was left with the same luck as before: no one to sit with. He drank his blood, paid his bill, and headed home again. He had a couple of hours until sunrise and thanks to modern cable there was now programming on TV all night long. Not necessarily quality programming, but it was something to watch all the same.

Though he didn’t like to admit it, even to himself, the vampiress’ pronouncement had unsettled him. Death in the brick house. What brick house? And whose death? Not hers, but was it someone close to her? Or was it one of them?

I can’t imagine why the scientists would be anywhere except the citadel. But me…

He went out on assignments, infiltrated dens, fought other vampires. And it was his sleeve she’d hung on to.

Only because she couldn’t reach the others.

Though he told himself that, he lay in bed after the sun was up, staring through the gloomy darkness. Finally, he closed his eyes and reached for the future – his future. He saw flashes, snatches, but no brick house, and no death.

She was just babbling, he assured himself. Unless she can see farther ahead than I can.

Which, with her young age was impossible.

Just babbling.

**

The next evening, Philip woke, dressed, and headed for the café. Inside, he saw Bren. With messy brown hair, his slender frame was draped in a long black coat, and a silver medallion hung around his neck, marking him as a fellow Executioner.

One who’s more agreeable than Beldren.

“Hello!”

Bren glanced up from his glass and his book. “Oh, hello.” He checked his watch and frowned. “I don’t have long until I have to go.”

“Assignment?” Philip asked as he slid into the empty chair.

“Yes. Malick is sending mw to gather intel. Maine, of all places. This time of year the roads will be a nightmare.”

“You could fly.”

“I could, but…” Bren shrugged and closed the book.  “The guards will drive. If anything happens it’ll be on them.”

“True enough.”

“So how’s your suspension going?” Bren asked with a smirk. Philip stiffened, ready to let him have it, when the other held up his hand. “I bet you’re tired of hearing that, aren’t you? Shame you can’t tell them the truth.”

Philip relaxed a little. So, Senya had told him.

“How is the work going?”

“Honestly?” Philip poked Bren’s glass and glared towards the waiter. “It’s boring. The first day was slightly interesting, but after that…”

“I can’t imagine what good you’re being there does,” Bren agreed. “You’re not scientifically minded.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I have the capacity for it, if I wanted to.”

“Really? I thought erotic sciences were more your speed.” Bren chuckled. “There’s no shame in it. The goons in the lab give me the creeps.”

“They’re all right, I suppose. I just don’t understand what the point of these experiments is. I know what they want to learn, but I don’t know why. Does it matter if stress increases a vampire’s powers momentarily?”

“Of course it does,” Bren said. “You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. When we fight them, when they fight us. A vampire is always harder to take down if he feels threatened. There are…chemicals or something. I don’t know.”

“Adrenaline, you mean? I thought they’d determined we didn’t have those anymore?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one with the scientists. Anyway, I don’t see that it matters. You’d be more use out on assignment than stuck here in the basement.”

Philip couldn’t argue with that.

**

Bren left, and Philip headed down to the lab. He stopped in the elevator to see what the day would bring. A few quick flashes showed Gildan, his face tight and his eyes angry. There was the stained cement floor. A vampire was hunched in a corner…

Same old, same old. Though it might be interesting to find out what Gildan would be so mad about.

Philip made his way to the lab and eventually back to the observation room. They hadn’t caught a new demon eye yet, so today’s experiment was a puppet master.

Finally, someone who might be a challenge.

They sent one of the scientists in first, to act nonthreatening and get a baseline for the young man’s abilities. Hunkered down in the corner of the room, their specimen wasn’t interested in attacking his captor, only asking why he was there.

Boring.

When they sent Philip in, he held onto his nonviolence – until the daggers came out. At the sight of the blades, his whole body went rigid, and then the fear slowly turned to anger.

“What in the hell is this? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Yes you did,” Philip said, moving closer. “You were in the wrong place at the wrong place and let Senya capture you. If you wanted to live, you should have killed her.”

Philip lunged, slashing with his weapon, but the stroke didn’t fall. Instead he found himself frozen paralyzed against his will.

“Why are you doing this?” the young vampire shouted.

Philip met his eyes, and for the first time took stock of his age. He was older than the others had been. Thirty years? Fifty? Maybe more. And he was strong.

This might not be as boring as I thought.

Philip concentrated on moving his arm. But their specimen wasn’t just a paralyzer, he was a puppet master, and he forced Philip’s feet to shuffle backwards. When there was space between them, Philip felt the draw on his fingers, as the other tried to make his fingers let go of the dagger.

Oh no, you don’t.

Philip tightened his hold, squeezing with all his strength. He saw his opponent’s brow furrow, and took advantage of that concentration to move his leg, then his left arm. He just needed to wait a moment and…

And then he sprung. In his surprise, the other vampire’s control flickered, and Philip managed a swipe with the dagger, one that cut through his opponent’s ear and sliced his cheek.

Philip hopped away ready to try again, when he noticed movement from the corner of his eye. He glanced back to the window where Gildan stood, no longer observing, but instead waving his arms at a guard dressed in black.

Philip didn’t have time to find out what was going on before the kid clamped down on him again, using his power to force his back against the wall. Philip glanced to the window again, looking for permission from Gildan to fight, but the scientist was still ignoring him.

“God dammit.”

Philip ripped free of the influence to go after the kid, but he didn’t reach him before he was stopped again. He wrestled with his own body, pushing away the kid’s influence. He managed to get another swipe in, this one across his upper arm, severing both his shirt and flesh.

And then Gildan’s furious voice came over the loudspeaker, “Executioner, return to the observation room.”

Philip looked back and forth between the angry Gildan and their specimen. The kid was crouched down, hair in his face, his chest heaving with the effort he’d been expending.

But I’m wearing him down…

Not that it mattered. Fighting him didn’t matter. It was just an experiment, anyway.

The door buzzed. Philip made a show of sheathing his dagger. “All right. I’m coming.” He gave the kid a half nod, a sort of mock salute, then headed out. It looked like he was about to find out what Gildan was angry about in his vision.

He pushed through the door of the observation room, but before he could ask what was going on, Gildan snapped, “We’re going to see Malick.”

Philip bit back a snicker. If he thought yelling at Malick was a good idea…No, let him. This is bound to be amusing.

Philip followed the furious scientist out of the lab and through the black and red corridor, until they reached the doors of Malick’s chambers. Before they could knock, Malick’s voice thundered from inside, “Enter!”

Philip flinched at the tone, like a roaring ocean mixed with an avalanche. To Gildan’s credit, the scientist didn’t hesitate, but flung the door wide and marched in. They were barely through the antechamber, into the main room, when he snapped out, “Sir, we’ve been ordered-”

Malick stood in the middle of the room, dressed in a suit and tie, his white hair clipped short and his beard neatly trimmed. It gave him the appearance of a slick modern business man, different w=from his usual god-like persona.

Despite the different style, he was his usual omnipotent self. “I know.”

Gildan came to a stop and fixed Malick with a daring glare. “And?”

“And you will disregard that order.”

Gildan’s anger melted into a snake-like smile. “Good. Good, good. We were in the middle of a specimen-”

Philip didn’t need to turn around to know that Celandine was behind him. He could feel her, the strength of her years, less than Malick’s, yet enough to crush a vampire if she chose.

Her voice rang through the room, like a cold, clear bell, “You will do no such thing.”

Gildan spun around, open mouthed, while Malick chuckled. “Ah, so you would enter my chamber uninvited?”

“When you leave the door open, and issue orders you are not authorized to give, then yes.” Celandine seemed to float past them, her long green dress trailing the floor as she moved to stand before Malick. He long dark hair was bound around her head, and her artfully shaped face was pale and cold, like winter dawn after the snow.

Malick laughed, a rich sound that made Philip think of deep green forests. “I seek no permission from you, or the rest of the council.”

“And yet you must have it to conduct these…experiments, as you call them. Though torture is the more appropriate name.”

So the high council had found out about the laboratory.

Celandine sniffed. “The high council is aware of everything. We merely gave Malick a few days, hoping he would end the travesty himself.”

Philip shrank back a step. Of course. She was a whisperer and dream stealer. She could hear all of their thoughts.

Malick’s voice echoed in his head, As can I.

This was why he disliked the ancients.

“Is knowledge a travesty?” Malick asked. “I understanding something to fear?”

“It is not the knowledge that is the issue, Malick, but the means by which you gain it. They cannot be allowed to mutilate and murder innocents.”

“Innocents?” Malick chortled. “What vampire is innocent? Do we not kill to feed, to live? Can any man who takes a life be called innocent?”

“They have committed no crimes under our laws.”

“And if they have?” Malick asked.

Her voice rose sharply, “Then they still may not be experimented upon. This ends now, Malick. The council has voted and passed the decree.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

Philip’s instincts said for him to run, run fast and far. Get away from the ancients before their disagreement turned to violence. But duty held him there. He hadn’t been dismissed, and angering them might be worse. At the moment he might be collateral damage, but if he made them angry…

Celandine drew herself up. “We will report you to the True Council in Munich.”

“Is that supposed to frighten me? They have a laboratory of their own, and their experiments are far more…imaginative.”

“The council has spoken. End this now, and keep some of your research, or we will vote to have the entire lab disassembled. You will lose all of your plans.”

Philip cringed. There was no way Malick would bow to her, or to the rest of the high council. There was no way he’d agree to discontinue-

The ancient master laughed. “As you wish, Celandine. The experiments you so object to will end.”

Gildan gaped, but before he could make an ass of himself, Malick glanced to him. “You will handle the specimens, and discontinue your current work.”

Though not a mind reader, Philip sensed Gildan’s coming argument. He thought about letting the scientist go, but a spark of compassion caused him to grab the vampire’s arm and drag him for the door, leaving behind a trail of “Yes, Master.”

In the hallway, Gildan jerked loose, brushing at his coat sleeve as if he’d been contaminated. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Philip instantly regretted saving him. “I have more important things to do than watch Malick and Celandine kill you. Speaking of which, I’m going to get to them.”

He strode down the corridor, leaving Gildan to shout after him, “Wait! You have to deal with the specimens!”

“Deal with them yourself,” Philip called, without looking back.

He could hear Gildan sputtering all the way to the elevators. Inside, he waited until the doors shut to lean back against the wall and close his eyes. He concentrated on the rest of his day, looking for what would happen now. He saw a few quick flashes; the café, a call from the office, a new assignment…

A brick house.

The last vision was too fast for him to be sure of, wrapped in the mist of the far future.

Or of my imagination.

That was what it had to be, he assured himself. Just a bored mind, looking for something exciting.

 

**

picture: Jay

topic: Lisa

  1. bride of Frankenstein 2. hair raising 3. monster mash 4. vamp 5. monster mama 6. monster’s girlfriend 7. gonna sue the hairdresser 8. bad trip to the beauty parlor 9. next big hairstyle 10. shocking

Blogophilia 24.11 – Philip Part 1

It’ time again for Blogophilia. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 24.11 Topic – “Yellow Rays”

**BONUSES: Hard Bonus (2 pts): Incorporate a line from a Bette Midler song (I know the truth)

Easy Bonus (1 pt): Include the phrase “straight to the heart”

 

I was hoping for a full story, but time is not my friend. Oh well.

**

Philip walked through the door of the café and scanned the crowd. He was a little early for the lunch crowd, but late for the breakfast feeders.  It looked like he was going to have to feed alone.

Damn.

It wasn’t that he had a problem being on his own, he was quite happy that way most of the time, but he’d always felt meal time was a social event. It stretched back to his human days, on to his childhood. He’d had a large family, and meal time was a noisy, rambunctious affair where his mother bustled to and fro, while children fought over the choicest morsels, and the dogs ran around, grabbing dropped crumbs.

That was a long time ago.

He shrugged it off and glided towards a table. The waiter, familiar with his daily custom, rushed to take his order, ignoring other customers. As he should, Philip thought. He deserved special treatment, given he was an Executioner.

He waited for his blood to arrive, drumming his fingers on the tabletop as he surveyed the patrons. All nobodies; not that nobodies weren’t important. Just as a peasant class had been important for the lords to exist, so these no-ones were important for the vampire elite to continue. Someone needed to tend shops, clean things, make things, serve the blood, and commit the crimes, otherwise those at the top would have to do everything themselves.

And who the hell wants that?

Though not a dream stealer, Philip felt the shift in the atmosphere. He glanced to the door, delighted to see Beldren walk in. Tall with a blonde ponytail, Beldren was popular with the ladies. Though he and Philip weren’t exactly friends, they’d spent time together.

A perfect feeding time companion.

Philip waved and Beldren headed for him, taking the empty chair.

“Hello! How are you?”

“Not nearly as bored as you,” Beldren replied, glancing at the menu board. “I hear you’re grounded.”

Philip ground his teeth and tried to force down his objections. “Something like that.”

“What I haven’t heard, is what you did to get into trouble.” Beldren fixed him with an intense stare, as if trying to pull the secret from his memories.

Except he can’t. He’s not a dream stealer, either.

“I wouldn’t say trouble. Just got Malick’s attention is all.”

“Got his attention?” Beldren chuckled. “More like earned his ire is he’s suspended you. I’m not sure that anyone’s ever been suspended before. If so, it was probably Verchiel.”

The waiter dropped off Philip’s glass and Beldren ordered. Alone again, the blond placed his hands on the table, fingers steepled. “Maybe you’d feel more like talking if I told you something interesting?”

Though Philip had no intention of enlightening Beldren, he was smart enough not to say that. “Really? And what do you know that’s so interesting?”

Beldren leaned back, a gloating smile on his face. “I found the Hand of Death.”

Philip stopped, glass halfway to his mouth. “Was he missing?”

“Was he…?” Beldren repeated indignantly. “Yes! In so much as no one knew where he was living. His last known address was vacated sometime in the fifties and since then he’s been on the wind. But I found him. In Maine.”

Philip sipped his blood, an eyebrow crooked. “And how did you do that?”

“We were sent to handle a nest of rogues. Of course, you look for nearby vampires, and we found him and his fledgling.” Beldren dropped the last word as if it was something shocking. Still irritated, Philip refused to play along.

“I assume the rogue killing went well?”

Beldren gave an impatient huff. “It went well enough, yes. As I was saying, there was Jorick and a fledgling; a teenage boy. The rogues had been staying down the beach from them. They’d killed a few humans already, luckily there aren’t a lot of vampires in the area, so it hadn’t progressed to war, yet.”

Beach. A beach sounded lovely. “Who called it in?”

“What?” Beldren blinked.

“The rogues. You said there weren’t very many vampires, so  who called it in?”

Beldren waved it away. “I don’t know.”

Philip took a long drink, savoring the hint of mint. “I only meant that if The Hand of Death was the only vampire in the area, he must be the one who called.”

“Perhaps. I don’t see that it matters.”

“Because then you didn’t so much find him, as he told you where he was.”

Beldren sputtered for a moment, and finally snapped, “I imagine he’d have killed them himself if he felt they were a problem, not called it in.”

“Perhaps.” It was Philip’s turn to feel smug. Tell me I’m grounded again, hmmmm? “I assume the interesting news is still coming?”

Beldren’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he finally snapped, “I assume you’re suspended for insubordination? Or was it a write up for cowardice? I heard you abandoned your guards on your last assignment.”

Philip forced a controlled breath through his tightening lips. Cowardice? Between the two of them, Beldren knew the meaning of the word better than he did. As for abandoning them…It hadn’t been abandonment, but self-preservation. They’d gotten caught out too late. As they ran through the trees, heading back for the safety of a local coven’s den, the lead guard had tripped, and fallen on part of a downed tree, taking a branch straight to the heart. He and the remaining guards had fled, leaving the body behind to be destroyed by the yellow rays of the sun.

It was perfectly acceptable behavior – expected even – but one of the guards had gotten whiny. In his report, he claimed that the guard wasn’t dead, that when Philip sent him to check on the remains the next night, he’d found what was left of him several feet away from the branch, as if he’d fought himself free and crawled, leaving a trail of burned grass behind as the sun took him.  To be honest, Philip hadn’t gone to check himself, but he doubted very much that such a story was true.

And even if it was, he’s dead now, so does it matter?

“I can’t help if someone fell behind,” Philip replied, forcing his tone calm. “It’s not my job to babysit.”

“No, of course not.” Beldren leaned forward. “I know the truth, of course, as do we all. But no matter.”

**

picture: stormy

topic: Myke

  1. stained glass 2. colorful 3. dragonfly 4. autumn is coming 5. autumn colors 6. nature 7. look close 8. delicate 9 wings

Blogophilia 23.11 – Senya

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

Good Times, and Bad Times

Easy: Use a Russian word: Kiska

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

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

***

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

Like the dark.

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

That was a long, long time ago.

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

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

Did they, Boris?

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

Memories she didn’t have time for.

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

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

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

Time to find out.

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you see anyone, Fetiniia?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it any wonder the casualties were so high?

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

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

Griselda had blinked blue eyes. “Master?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And go it did.

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

That was one blood bath I missed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How wrong that assessment was.

“Where did you see him?” Senya asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until she came.

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

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

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

“Kiska…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is she?” Senya finally asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That none of it matters.

“You are right. It is late.”

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

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

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

Not that I don’t trust him.

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

And what I want from him.

***

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

“Well enough. What do you feed on?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is it really there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is it, master?” Greneth asked.

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

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

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

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

“I thought-”

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

Japan?

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

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

“With who, master?” Greneth asked.

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

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

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

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

Hell, I’m colder than he is.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

And now for guesses:

Pic: stormy

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

Mobile to New Orleans – April Photos

In April we visited the Harveys in Florida and they were awesome enough to take us to New Orleans. I’ve posted photos of the city and the French Quarter, but here are pictures of the drive from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans.

It was a fun drive, with some crazy bridges. One was insanely high – there’s a photo of it that fails to capture it – and then there was the insanely long one that I assume went over the gulf. It went on and on and on and on and… as someone who is usually scared of bridges, I was surprisingly unconcerned that we were miles out over water with no land nearby. Mostly it was just cool.

And of course there’s the required photos of the USS Alabama in Mobile because you gotta do that!

And now I m off to get some work done. Have a super long bridge kinda day!

Jo 🙂

New Orleans – photos from April

And now that we’ve seen the French Quarter for days, here are some from other parts of New Orleans.

If you missed the previous 7 entries, this was a trip we took in April when we visited the Harveys for the annual Day and Dark conference. (It’s a thing. I swear.) They were awesome enough to show us around New Orleans and we had an amazing time. It’s just taken me this long to edit the photos.

And actually, that’s not too bad. I have photos from 2012 left to edit up, let alone the years between. Yikes. Hopefully I can get some of that done. I’ve been using Lightroom, though it is not a one stop shop since there’s no clone brush or perspective corrections, etc. Plus I only barely know what I’m doing, but we’ll get there.

In the meantime, have a blue bicycle kind day!

Jo 🙂

Photos from April: French Quarter Part 7

And today is the last of the new Orleans photos from April! Whoo hoo!

And that’s it! Until I get some more photos edited!

Have a thank-goodness-it’s-over kinda day!

Jo 🙂

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