Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Truth of the Rituals

Let me explain this strange mess and you will understand. It is a bit of a long story, but I have to start at the beginning.

You see I met Adam, Officer Rollins to you, about a year ago. I had just moved into the apartment building. At that time I only knew him in passing. It was not until a month later that I got to really know him. That was when he was put on leave following the Charles Street Case.

I am sure you know all about the case. Everyone does. It was the only thing on the news for weeks. Horrible as it was, I would not have paid it much mind if I had not realized that my new neighbor had been the man to expose that...that evil. Whatever details you might think you know, I know far more deeply thanks to him.

So you were not involved with that? Consider yourself lucky. Adam was messed up by it and I hear he wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t even there and look at what has happened to my life. The whole damn thing corrupts anyone touched by it. I don’t want to talk about it, to pass on whatever curse he infected me with, but you are the one that wants answers.

I work from home so I am about the building a lot. Adam spent more time at work than home, and when he was home he was in bed or doing research. Being put on leave changed that. They claimed it was for his own well being, but frankly I think that is what drove him over the deep end. He didn’t know what to do with himself and his free time I think.

We started talking, first in the hallway and then later at the park. Neither of us really had anyone else for company. I haven’t had a chance to make friends in this city. His wife and daughter were busy with their lives which had evolved without him. His only friends were the guys on the force, and now he was largely cut off from them. So we made an unlikely pair.

Yes, yes, I am getting to that. I want you to understand how I got drawn into it. I don't want you thinking I was involved from the get go.

So, as I was saying, he and I started to talk regularly. I told him about my trading business. He told me about his work as a detective. He was peculiar, but I had chalked it up to some kind of police work PTSD. I want to be sympathetic to my new friend. Be a friendly ear. He did not bring up Charles Street at first. That was my damn fault. I put two and two together and realized he must have been working on that.

I had him over to my place for some after dinner beers. We had been friends around two months by then. It was a Friday I think. His wife was taking his daughter to gymnastics lessons. Maybe he should have been doing that. Might have taken his mind in a better direction. Connected him better with his family. She liked gossiping with the other moms the way he explained it though. It made enough sense at the time. I think that might have been a lie in hindsight. I think by then, his wife and kid had just developed an aversion to him.

Ok, I am a bit off topic, but I think you will see the importance later. Anyway, beers and dinner. I finally asked the big question. I asked him if he had worked the case.

He smiled at me and said yes. He figured I would not be interested. No one else was. They didn’t want to hear about something that gruesome. He didn’t mind talking about it though. He seemed almost eager. I figured I would humor him though.

He started by telling me how he was assigned when the first disappearances started. First it was one child, then another. People were starting to panic. Some kind of serial kidnapper was on the loose so far as anyone could tell. He got involved after the second kid went missing. He knew right away that there was a pattern though.

You see, all the others were looking for standard pedophiles and nutjobs. He tapped the side of his head as he told me though. He said he noticed right away that there was a pattern. It was subtle. Observation is the key to good detective work he said. You have to keep your eyes and your mind open.

He explained to me, leaning in close, what none of the others had noticed. There were patterns in the blood. They were not just random spills. The kids had been grabbed without a fight. The blood had come after. While everyone was fretting about the safety of the kids, he was trying to look at the bigger picture. It wouldn’t be until the fourth child was taken that he could really start to see it though.

I was surprised by some of his disgust with his fellow officers. It answered a question though. I had wondered why he didn’t spend more time with them. I know there is a cop bar in town. Till then, I had figured maybe he just didn’t like mixing his private and professional life. He seemed good company to me so I could not imagine that they were shunning him as some kind of jerk. As he told me the truth of it though, I could easily see it his way.

It was something occult. He started diving into researching old manuscripts and spell books. He talked to anyone that might know a bit about symbols. Professors of history. Some geeks that like to pretend they are wizards. Even those pretenders that shout, “hail Satan” to scare old women. The others laughed at him. Can you believe it? While they had their thumbs up their asses waiting for a body to show up, he was doing real work to put it all together. If they hadn’t acted like he was some idiot lunatic...well, they are the ones that helped make him into what he became.

Well of course I get worked up about this. Damnit, they have part of the blame! Don’t look at me like that. If they had seen the truth about him, none of this would have happened. Let’s not get fighting about this. You will see the truth by the end. That is what this all about after all, truth. Truth no one wants to know. Should know.

Well, his theory proved right and when the fifth kid went missing he put it all together. He helped lead the team to Charles Street and personally kicked in the door. He led the way down into the cellar. They burst inside just in time to stop what was happening.

No, what was really happening. They were too late to save the children, but they stopped the real goal. He was the only one that realized it though. The others just saw the room painted with blood and a diagram made out of entrails. To them the occultists were just muttering gibberish. He told me that it was an Officer Thornton that opened fire. The claim is that the cultists had knives and were ready to attack. Everyone else fired after the first shot. I don’t think anyone believes that the cultists were about to attack. No one cares though.

The problem for Adam was that with all the cultists dead, no one could corroborate his theories and ideas. He tried to claim that they had stopped something bigger than a few murders. People just waved him off though. Some even said he was a bit sick for trying to make it out like it was a victory. That was how he ended up on permanent leave; unrecognized, pitied, and ridiculed.

I felt bad for him. He was my buddy after all. I didn’t really buy all the occult stuff at the time. I figured that was his way of dealing with things. If it helped him, then I was all for it. I wish that was all it had been.

A few days later he told me something I had not really expected. He confessed that he was still researching the occult rituals. He figured if he could decipher it all then maybe he could prove he was right and they would let him off leave. From that point on he would always tell me just a bit of his newest findings when we spent time together. He was growing excited by it as it pulled him in. Truth is, his energy was contagious. I wanted him to succeed and paid attention. I encouraged him. If I deserve blame, it is for that.

He started to show me some of his research. It was fascinating in a way. I helped him with a few translations. I took latin in high school and was pretty good at it. He showed me old books and drawings he dug up on the internet. He was creating his own little library of old texts.

The whole time this was going on he started to grow more eccentric. He stopped brushing his hair and polishing his shoes. His family grew more distant, or maybe he grew more distant from them. For a while he would fight with his wife. Then it just turned into her yelling at him. He had tuned out the world in his tireless pursuit.

Then came the beginning of the end. He woke me up late one night. He told me had made his big breakthrough. He led me to his place. In the room he used as his office and study we talked in hushed whispers to not wake his wife and daughter. He explained that the cultists had figured it out. The secret to turning all this occultic writing into something with real power.

He called it the unveiling. He explained that you had to tear away the veil that separates the mundane from the other side. You had to be able to see reality fully. It required an individual to meditate and perform rituals. He did exactly that and now he could lift the veil. Not just for himself though. He could lift it for others. He said he could even lift it for me. He could let me see truth.

I was still half asleep, but his fervor swept me up. I did not think unveiling could really work, but was willing to humor him. He gave me this knowing smirk. He knew it would and that I would have to eat my doubts. He sat me back in a chair and placed his hands over my eyes. He chanted something I didn’t fully understand, but I felt something. Like static coursing through me.

When he removed his hands, my world was changed. Forever. For worse. I could see shadows superimposed on everything. They were wavy and indistinct. It was as though everything existed twice, with the second version out of focus. That was unsettling. He had to clamp a hand over my mouth when the true horror was revealed. I wanted to scream when the creature came into view. It swam through the wall like it wasn’t even there. Maybe to it, the wall wasn’t there.

The thing, because I dare not call it a creature, is almost beyond description. Its body, for lack of a better word, was a long, amorphous mass. It's slime surface was transparent and I could see inside the vile thing. It had gaping openings that I think we're mouths. Long tentacle feelers stretched out from it. They started to come for me and I was on the verge of panic.

He told me to hold still, not to let it know that I could see it. As long as it did not think it was detected we would be fine. The caress of the tentacle as it found my skin was revolting on an instinctual level. I felt violated in the deepest ways possible. This thing was abhorrent to my very nature. I fought down the urge to shudder from the sensual touch that explored my body. The cold touch chilled my soul, but somehow I found the will to endure it and not flee in a blind panic.

After a minute it passed on and Adam let me go. He laughed and slapped me on the back. He gloated more than a little about his own success and how I could not doubt him now. That was true. I doubted not a word he said. I would have believed the man had he told me that the moon was made of cheese and ocean filled with blueberry jelly. He poured me a shot of something stout and told me what had happened.

He had unveiled me so that I could see beyond our pitiful corner of reality. We could see truth now. We were true masters of destiny now. The cultists had figured that out. They had intended to use the ritual as a way to summon a “creature” to our part of reality. They had hopped to harness it. They were not smart enough for that though. Adam had not only dissected their plan, but realized just how sloppy it was. Summoning with the kids blood was fine and all, but to bind such a thing required a better sacrifice. Something closer and more personal.

I asked him what he would do now. He gave me a grim smile and his hands balled into fists. Prove himself. He would make them reinstate him and give him the credit that he deserved. He would make them recognize how poorly they had treated him and make them pay for it.

I was scared by his words. I knew that he had a deep resentment, but it had never manifested quite like this. I dismissed myself, saying that I wanted back to bed. I needed to sleep on all that I had learned. He nodded and said he understood. I don't think he really did.

Over the next few days I did not see much of him. I just tried to avoid seeing those horrible “creatures.” I was starting to have a nervous breakdown. I tried to ask him about it, but he largely brushed it off. He said that I would adjust and be better for it. He would help me understand just how amazing this was in a few days after he finished his final work. He was closed lipped about that though. All he said was that he had figured out exactly how to set things right.

Then came the screams. It was late at night. I was right next door so I must have been the first to hear. It was his wife, I think. It was the most horrible scream I could imagine. Terror beyond belief. He must have unveiled her. I was not sure what to do, but I rushed to his apartment. I knew where the spare key was hidden. As I unlocked the door the scream came to a sudden end. I ran through the apartment to his study. I heard his voice, but could not understand what was being said. When I threw open the door I saw the worse thing I could imagine.

Please, let me rest for a second. Hand me that water. I need a drink before I can tell you the rest.

What I saw was a Hellish scene. The floor was painted with blood. At the center of a blood circle was his daughter’s head. With my damned sight I could see an evil light leaking out of her eyes and mouth. Floating above the severed head was a rip in reality. A rip that was like an open doorway to those things.

Adam was standing in the corner with his wife’s corpse. Her throat was slit and the blood was flowing freely from the wound. It was not puddling on the floor though. Instead it was drifting through the air up to the horrid portal. Adam chanted some foul verse from a book he held in his hand. He did not even notice me. His attention was focused purely on the rip, through which a tentacle was curiously probing.

I had to act. My bowls felt loose and I could taste bible in my throat, but my horror at the bloody sight was nothing compared to the terror of facing one of those abominations. I grabbed the knife from the floor and attacked Adam. I don't think I could have taken him if he had not been distracted. He was, though, and I plunged the blade into his chest.

The rip was still there. The thing was still coming through. I had to act. There was only one course of action. I had been privy to Adams research. I had helped him translate it. So with a glance at the book I knew what to do. I gutted him. I cut him open and pulled out his organs. I spread them in the proper pattern across the room as I chanted the sinful verses. Slowly, the rip sealed itself. It cut off a piece of the tentacle that was still trying to force its way through to outside.

I was watching as the slimy thing flopped around on the floor when the police finally arrived. Someone else had called them when the screaming started. They found me there covered in blood and gore. I think they may have collected that wicked flesh that flopped around the floor. I hope they burn it.

So that is what happened. Do you understand now? Do you see that I am not some murder? Let me go. I cannot be confined to a room or cell. I need to be able to leave when the things float by. You cannot see them, but I can. They haunt me and I can only manage if I can at least run away. Don’t force me to be trapped where they can come for me. Please?

The Truth of the Rituals

Let me explain this strange mess and you will understand. It is a bit of a long story, but I have to start at the beginning.

You see I met Adam, Officer Rollins to you, about a year ago. I had just moved into the apartment building. At that time I only knew him in passing. It was not until a month later that I got to really know him. That was when he was put on leave following the Charles Street Case.

I am sure you know all about the case. Everyone does. It was the only thing on the news for weeks. Horrible as it was, I would not have paid it much mind if I had not realized that my new neighbor had been the man to expose that...that evil. Whatever details you might think you know, I know far more deeply thanks to him.

So you were not involved with that? Consider yourself lucky. Adam was messed up by it and I hear he wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t even there and look at what has happened to my life. The whole damn thing corrupts anyone touched by it. I don’t want to talk about it, to pass on whatever curse he infected me with, but you are the one that wants answers.

I work from home so I am about the building a lot. Adam spent more time at work than home, and when he was home he was in bed or doing research. Being put on leave changed that. They claimed it was for his own well being, but frankly I think that is what drove him over the deep end. He didn’t know what to do with himself and his free time I think.

We started talking, first in the hallway and then later at the park. Neither of us really had anyone else for company. I haven’t had a chance to make friends in this city. His wife and daughter were busy with their lives which had evolved without him. His only friends were the guys on the force, and now he was largely cut off from them. So we made an unlikely pair.

Yes, yes, I am getting to that. I want you to understand how I got drawn into it. I don't want you thinking I was involved from the get go.

So, as I was saying, he and I started to talk regularly. I told him about my trading business. He told me about his work as a detective. He was peculiar, but I had chalked it up to some kind of police work PTSD. I want to be sympathetic to my new friend. Be a friendly ear. He did not bring up Charles Street at first. That was my damn fault. I put two and two together and realized he must have been working on that.

I had him over to my place for some after dinner beers. We had been friends around two months by then. It was a Friday I think. His wife was taking his daughter to gymnastics lessons. Maybe he should have been doing that. Might have taken his mind in a better direction. Connected him better with his family. She liked gossiping with the other moms the way he explained it though. It made enough sense at the time. I think that might have been a lie in hindsight. I think by then, his wife and kid had just developed an aversion to him.

Ok, I am a bit off topic, but I think you will see the importance later. Anyway, beers and dinner. I finally asked the big question. I asked him if he had worked the case.

He smiled at me and said yes. He figured I would not be interested. No one else was. They didn’t want to hear about something that gruesome. He didn’t mind talking about it though. He seemed almost eager. I figured I would humor him though.

He started by telling me how he was assigned when the first disappearances started. First it was one child, then another. People were starting to panic. Some kind of serial kidnapper was on the loose so far as anyone could tell. He got involved after the second kid went missing. He knew right away that there was a pattern though.

You see, all the others were looking for standard pedophiles and nutjobs. He tapped the side of his head as he told me though. He said he noticed right away that there was a pattern. It was subtle. Observation is the key to good detective work he said. You have to keep your eyes and your mind open.

He explained to me, leaning in close, what none of the others had noticed. There were patterns in the blood. They were not just random spills. The kids had been grabbed without a fight. The blood had come after. While everyone was fretting about the safety of the kids, he was trying to look at the bigger picture. It wouldn’t be until the fourth child was taken that he could really start to see it though.

I was surprised by some of his disgust with his fellow officers. It answered a question though. I had wondered why he didn’t spend more time with them. I know there is a cop bar in town. Till then, I had figured maybe he just didn’t like mixing his private and professional life. He seemed good company to me so I could not imagine that they were shunning him as some kind of jerk. As he told me the truth of it though, I could easily see it his way.

It was something occult. He started diving into researching old manuscripts and spell books. He talked to anyone that might know a bit about symbols. Professors of history. Some geeks that like to pretend they are wizards. Even those pretenders that shout, “hail Satan” to scare old women. The others laughed at him. Can you believe it? While they had their thumbs up their asses waiting for a body to show up, he was doing real work to put it all together. If they hadn’t acted like he was some idiot lunatic...well, they are the ones that helped make him into what he became.

Well of course I get worked up about this. Damnit, they have part of the blame! Don’t look at me like that. If they had seen the truth about him, none of this would have happened. Let’s not get fighting about this. You will see the truth by the end. That is what this all about after all, truth. Truth no one wants to know. Should know.

Well, his theory proved right and when the fifth kid went missing he put it all together. He helped lead the team to Charles Street and personally kicked in the door. He led the way down into the cellar. They burst inside just in time to stop what was happening.

No, what was really happening. They were too late to save the children, but they stopped the real goal. He was the only one that realized it though. The others just saw the room painted with blood and a diagram made out of entrails. To them the occultists were just muttering gibberish. He told me that it was an Officer Thornton that opened fire. The claim is that the cultists had knives and were ready to attack. Everyone else fired after the first shot. I don’t think anyone believes that the cultists were about to attack. No one cares though.

The problem for Adam was that with all the cultists dead, no one could corroborate his theories and ideas. He tried to claim that they had stopped something bigger than a few murders. People just waved him off though. Some even said he was a bit sick for trying to make it out like it was a victory. That was how he ended up on permanent leave; unrecognized, pitied, and ridiculed.

I felt bad for him. He was my buddy after all. I didn’t really buy all the occult stuff at the time. I figured that was his way of dealing with things. If it helped him, then I was all for it. I wish that was all it had been.

A few days later he told me something I had not really expected. He confessed that he was still researching the occult rituals. He figured if he could decipher it all then maybe he could prove he was right and they would let him off leave. From that point on he would always tell me just a bit of his newest findings when we spent time together. He was growing excited by it as it pulled him in. Truth is, his energy was contagious. I wanted him to succeed and paid attention. I encouraged him. If I deserve blame, it is for that.

He started to show me some of his research. It was fascinating in a way. I helped him with a few translations. I took latin in high school and was pretty good at it. He showed me old books and drawings he dug up on the internet. He was creating his own little library of old texts.

The whole time this was going on he started to grow more eccentric. He stopped brushing his hair and polishing his shoes. His family grew more distant, or maybe he grew more distant from them. For a while he would fight with his wife. Then it just turned into her yelling at him. He had tuned out the world in his tireless pursuit.

Then came the beginning of the end. He woke me up late one night. He told me had made his big breakthrough. He led me to his place. In the room he used as his office and study we talked in hushed whispers to not wake his wife and daughter. He explained that the cultists had figured it out. The secret to turning all this occultic writing into something with real power.

He called it the unveiling. He explained that you had to tear away the veil that separates the mundane from the other side. You had to be able to see reality fully. It required an individual to meditate and perform rituals. He did exactly that and now he could lift the veil. Not just for himself though. He could lift it for others. He said he could even lift it for me. He could let me see truth.

I was still half asleep, but his fervor swept me up. I did not think unveiling could really work, but was willing to humor him. He gave me this knowing smirk. He knew it would and that I would have to eat my doubts. He sat me back in a chair and placed his hands over my eyes. He chanted something I didn’t fully understand, but I felt something. Like static coursing through me.

When he removed his hands, my world was changed. Forever. For worse. I could see shadows superimposed on everything. They were wavy and indistinct. It was as though everything existed twice, with the second version out of focus. That was unsettling. He had to clamp a hand over my mouth when the true horror was revealed. I wanted to scream when the creature came into view. It swam through the wall like it wasn’t even there. Maybe to it, the wall wasn’t there.

The thing, because I dare not call it a creature, is almost beyond description. Its body, for lack of a better word, was a long, amorphous mass. It's slime surface was transparent and I could see inside the vile thing. It had gaping openings that I think we're mouths. Long tentacle feelers stretched out from it. They started to come for me and I was on the verge of panic.

He told me to hold still, not to let it know that I could see it. As long as it did not think it was detected we would be fine. The caress of the tentacle as it found my skin was revolting on an instinctual level. I felt violated in the deepest ways possible. This thing was abhorrent to my very nature. I fought down the urge to shudder from the sensual touch that explored my body. The cold touch chilled my soul, but somehow I found the will to endure it and not flee in a blind panic.

After a minute it passed on and Adam let me go. He laughed and slapped me on the back. He gloated more than a little about his own success and how I could not doubt him now. That was true. I doubted not a word he said. I would have believed the man had he told me that the moon was made of cheese and ocean filled with blueberry jelly. He poured me a shot of something stout and told me what had happened.

He had unveiled me so that I could see beyond our pitiful corner of reality. We could see truth now. We were true masters of destiny now. The cultists had figured that out. They had intended to use the ritual as a way to summon a “creature” to our part of reality. They had hopped to harness it. They were not smart enough for that though. Adam had not only dissected their plan, but realized just how sloppy it was. Summoning with the kids blood was fine and all, but to bind such a thing required a better sacrifice. Something closer and more personal.

I asked him what he would do now. He gave me a grim smile and his hands balled into fists. Prove himself. He would make them reinstate him and give him the credit that he deserved. He would make them recognize how poorly they had treated him and make them pay for it.

I was scared by his words. I knew that he had a deep resentment, but it had never manifested quite like this. I dismissed myself, saying that I wanted back to bed. I needed to sleep on all that I had learned. He nodded and said he understood. I don't think he really did.

Over the next few days I did not see much of him. I just tried to avoid seeing those horrible “creatures.” I was starting to have a nervous breakdown. I tried to ask him about it, but he largely brushed it off. He said that I would adjust and be better for it. He would help me understand just how amazing this was in a few days after he finished his final work. He was closed lipped about that though. All he said was that he had figured out exactly how to set things right.

Then came the screams. It was late at night. I was right next door so I must have been the first to hear. It was his wife, I think. It was the most horrible scream I could imagine. Terror beyond belief. He must have unveiled her. I was not sure what to do, but I rushed to his apartment. I knew where the spare key was hidden. As I unlocked the door the scream came to a sudden end. I ran through the apartment to his study. I heard his voice, but could not understand what was being said. When I threw open the door I saw the worse thing I could imagine.

Please, let me rest for a second. Hand me that water. I need a drink before I can tell you the rest.

What I saw was a Hellish scene. The floor was painted with blood. At the center of a blood circle was his daughter’s head. With my damned sight I could see an evil light leaking out of her eyes and mouth. Floating above the severed head was a rip in reality. A rip that was like an open doorway to those things.

Adam was standing in the corner with his wife’s corpse. Her throat was slit and the blood was flowing freely from the wound. It was not puddling on the floor though. Instead it was drifting through the air up to the horrid portal. Adam chanted some foul verse from a book he held in his hand. He did not even notice me. His attention was focused purely on the rip, through which a tentacle was curiously probing.

I had to act. My bowls felt loose and I could taste bible in my throat, but my horror at the bloody sight was nothing compared to the terror of facing one of those abominations. I grabbed the knife from the floor and attacked Adam. I don't think I could have taken him if he had not been distracted. He was, though, and I plunged the blade into his chest.

The rip was still there. The thing was still coming through. I had to act. There was only one course of action. I had been privy to Adams research. I had helped him translate it. So with a glance at the book I knew what to do. I gutted him. I cut him open and pulled out his organs. I spread them in the proper pattern across the room as I chanted the sinful verses. Slowly, the rip sealed itself. It cut off a piece of the tentacle that was still trying to force its way through to outside.

I was watching as the slimy thing flopped around on the floor when the police finally arrived. Someone else had called them when the screaming started. They found me there covered in blood and gore. I think they may have collected that wicked flesh that flopped around the floor. I hope they burn it.

So that is what happened. Do you understand now? Do you see that I am not some murder? Let me go. I cannot be confined to a room or cell. I need to be able to leave when the things float by. You cannot see them, but I can. They haunt me and I can only manage if I can at least run away. Don’t force me to be trapped where they can come for me. Please?

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Tale of Henry Ward

It was nothing special that drew Henry Ward to the castle. It was no love of history or exploring. The old stone walls that still stood expire centuries of wear did not particularly catch his eye. He was unaware of its colorful and grim history. He was vaguely aware that the old ruin in the middle of nowhere was suppose to be haunted, or something.

No, what drew him there on a cloudless night with only the full moon for light was the two goth girls that accompanied him. One was tall and whip thin. The other was shorter, but curvey. She also made up for her friend's silence with some vague chatter about the celestial bodies lighting their way. History held no thrall over him. It was his lusts that brought him along. Nothing special.

The walk up the hill ended as the trio passed through the old gate that had stood through the centuries. The wood of a great door had long ago rotted away, leaving nothing but rusty hinges. Past the half crumbled wall was a small court yard of overgrown grass. Despite the years and neglect, the interior still stood strong. The central structure was no different than any other old castle that dotted the countryside except for the blackened walls. It looked as though someone had attempted to burn the structure and no amount of weathering had been able to erase the mark. However, the tall thin girl said that there true destination was the tall tower that lumed over the rest of the structure.

The talkative girl start to ramble with more excitement as they stepped into the castle. Her voice was the only thing stopping it from being as silent as a mausoleum. Henry listened some as he clicked on a flashlight. They trod over dusty, dirty floors and through cobwebs as the girl told some of the castles history.

She recounted how the castle had been built by an eccentric family that had risen to landed gentry. No one was sure how they had managed to acquire their wealth and power. It had seemed as though they had some secret source. The family kept to themselves though, and for the most part no one paid them much mind. Generations passed and the family became more eccentric and odd. People claimed that there was madness in the bloodline, or possibly witchery. The accusation always occurred when something strange happened about the neighboring lands.

The family’s fall came on a night when three people disappeared. People said that the missing had been seen being taken to the castle. When the mob arrived, they said the family had been in the midsts of some demonic rite. Small minded fools, of course. So they burnt the family in their castle. Some claimed the fires burned so hot because the family had drawn forth Hell itself. Times after that, it was often attributed to the accursed family’s ghosts. No one wished to come to the castle, afraid that some taint might follow them home.

As they made their way through the eerie atmosphere, Henry began to wish he had tuned the story out. He was not given to believing in boggarts and ghosts, there was an unsettling air to the place that made the story quite believable. He was in too deep to turn back now. His desires and pride won out against a screaming instinct for survival.

The girls led him to a room that seemed to have once been a library. The remnants of burnt tomes still remained. Even the fires of Hell apparently were not enough to banish these books. Henry looked closer at a leather bound book that seemed to have survived quite well. Occult runes covered the cover, which disturbed him for a reason that he could not quite put a finger on. There was a familiarity to the leather that made his skin crawl.

When he looked up, he realized that the girls were gone. He was alone in a darkness that seemed to be closing in around him. Gritting his teeth he focused. The girls must have headed for the top of the tower. This was just a disturbing way of teasing him. That is what he told himself.

He pressed on until he found the stairs that wound around the inside of the tower towards the top. The darkness seemed to be trying to crush him as he went up. It was like it was draining away the light of his flashlight. Part of him feared that the light might well give out to the draining darkness. It did not flicker or die though. It continued to light his way, but it provided no warmth for the chill running down his spine.

The steps seemed off, as though they were tilted. The walls, were wrong as well. Some strange visual illusion was his hope. A trick of his mind, but it did not stop his equilibrium from being thrown off. The higher he climbed, the walls ceased to be plain stone blocks. They were inscribed with strange symbols. Much like the walls, something seemed wrong with them. They offended his senses on some primal level. The lines did not seem to connect where they should, as they were purposefully drawn to make the eye hurt. It was all giving him a headache.

Relief flooded him when sounds other than the fall of his feet breached the darkness. He was nearing the top and the girls. He was nearing the end of the gauntlet for a long awaited reward. He tried to hurry. The sounds grew clearer, the girls were chanting in latin or something. He wanted to turn and flee. The whole night was turning into some unsettling mess. It was too late though. He could not turn back. He had to swallow the gnawing in his gut that this was all not right.

Pale light poured down onto the steps as he finally reached the top. It was no great unburdening. The girls were indeed at the top. They had dawned black robes, though they seemed to have stained splotches on them. Their chanting continued as he stepped out into the light, but wicked smiles spread across their faces. They had drawn some kind of occult diagram on the rooftop. Candles were spaced irregularly around the circle.

He watched, almost hypnotized as they lifted their hands to the stars above. Their chanting reached a fever pitched. His hackles were raised as he waited for whatever it was that was coming. He knew now that he would be witness to something. The final note rang through the air and his breath caught in his chest.

Heart beats passed. Nothing happened. He waited for what felt like an eternity. Nothing happened. All of his nerves and stress had been built up. The trepidation was for nothing. As a mix of relief, regret, and even disappointment flooded his fear wracked body. He let out a mad laugh that rung through the night.

It was that maddened laugh that seemed to be the final component. The sound of it seemed to physically crack the air inside of the circle. In fascinated horror, Henry watched as the space before him tore and warped. It was like a piece of paper was pinched in the middle the ripped open to show what was on the otherside.

What he saw seemed to stretch on for eternity. It was the blackest of the deepest void. His eyes peered on into something to vast for the human mind to fully comprehend. Worse yet, he saw what had torn the fabric of time and space that should have separated him from that which he was not meant to know.

He collapsed to his knees, laughing and crying all at once. He wanted to turn and run, but all of his will was sapped by the vision before him. He could not resist, fight, or escape. His mind was paralyzed by something that he could not put a name too, for it was something to which a name was meaningless.

So he was forced to hold still as inhuman appendages reached forward for him. He screamed and laughed as he was pulled to the void. His struggles were futile in the grip of the nameless horror and madness that gripped him mind, body, and soul. He was drawn through the sundered space which quickly closed again as the universe enforced its order once again. His final scream echoed through the keep, joining the countless echos of all the rest who had been pulled through to the void.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flash: Predator and Prey

Wolf stalked through the cold forest. The sky aboves was as grey as his coat. The trees were bare of leaves and reached up into the sky like cold, dead claws. They wanted to cut through the clouds to the warm sun that would bring spring. That season was far off though. It was cold and the nights long. It was the season of the wolf.

Frosted leaves crunched under his paws. Each breath turned into a curling ghost. His gleaming yellow eyes peered between the trees in search of his prey. The scent was growing stronger. He sniffed again, and the world came alive. It was like being able to see into the past, the faded image of a memory. He knew every step his prey had taken and its twisting trail through his wood.

He continued along the host trail. The baren oaks formed a line ahead. He could see beyond the sentinel wall that a small glade was open to the dim sun. In warmer weather it would be a lush meadow. There were no birds to sing the songs of summer though. Instead dead grass whipped about in the frigid breeze.

Standing in the glade was his query. The great stag was a massive specimen. He had seen many summers. Even as the season grew late, he still bore his antlers. A massive rack of points that marked him as a successful buck. Now, though, his head was bent with the weight of years. His steps were weak and his breathing ragged. He gave a cough that sent a cloud spiraling through the air.

Wolf stepped into the glade and padded towards his query. This was an elder of the forest, not some yearling to be ran down. Hart raised his head as he saw Wolf approach. He scrapped at the ground with his hoof.

“You have come for me, Wolf,” said Hart.

“Yes, Old One, I have,” Wolf replied, “You have seen many turns of the season.”

“Many, perhaps too many,” Hart said, “I am old. I am tired and feel my strength slipping away.”

“Are you in pain?” asked Wolf.

“Yes. My body is sore and my injuries are many. In my youth I ran often from your kind. I outran them all. Now though, I cannot run. My legs will not carry me. I have grown sick and weak. There is something in me that is taking away my strength,” said Hart.

“Blight has come to you, I can smell it. If you continue on it will spread to trouble more of your kind,” Wolf told him.

“I have sired many fawns. I would not wish this to spread on to them. Now is my time. I wish to pass with my pride and dignity,” said Stag.

“That is why I am here. I have come to see your passing. I will end your pain,” said Wolf.

“I understand. It is my time now and I shall go back to the earth from which I came,” said Hart.

“You will nurture the grass and your kind, as you and your kin shall nurture me,” said Wolf.

“Then let us finish this!” said Hart as he reared up, his front hooves raking the air in a final burst of energy. His antlers gleamed as a thing ray of sun broke the clouds to glint off of the frost that covered them.

Wolf bared his fangs as he growled. His fur bristled in predatory furry. Iron muscles tightened and he leapt through the air. His bone crushing jaws opened wide as they sped towards the stag’s throat, his alabaster fangs shining in the cold light. Tonight he would sing the Old One’s praise to the moon.

The cold dead ground was nurtured then by hot, red life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Concerning Fanfiction

Fanfiction are stories created by fans about their favorite shows, movies, books, and the like. I discovered it when I was a teenager. I read people’s ideas for how the Legend of Zelda might have continued on after the game was beat and explorations of subjects that were never fully explored in my favorite animes. That is most often what you find in fanfiction, peoples thoughts and feelings on subjects that were never fully fleshed out or what might have been. It is also common to find stories of what people think will happen as they wait for the next chapter to be revealed.

I found it inspiring to see that anyone could write a story and put it out there for everyone to read. Being a writer had seemed like such a far away idea, but in the internet forums, anyone could become an author. Not everyone was good of course, but it was understood to be amature hour. It is something shared in a community of people dedicated to a love of a particular subject. It took a while, but eventually, I gave it a try. I had written short fiction before. This was different though. I was putting something out there to be shared and read with the masses. Fanfiction is what made me think, I can do this. I can be a real author.

Among the more “professional authors,” fanfiction can be a controversial topics. Some see it as an infringement on their intellectual property. Anne Rice has been aggressive in fighting fanfiction based on her stories and even asked that it be removed from websites. Others seem to be just dismissive of the writing style in general. Are they wrong? In the question of copyright, that is a tough call. In the case of the quality of the writing of fanfiction, I would say unequivocally yes.

I am going to address the writing quality issue first. I think that is a miss conception, plane and simple. There are of course some very bad pieces of fanfiction. It is by its nature an amature art. That said though, there are also very good works. Some are even better than what the original creators come up with. After all, if you have a thousand people coming up with ideas, sooner or later, someone will hit on gold.  As to the idea that fanfiction writers are unoriginal, just playing off of someone else’s ideas, that is ridiculous. No one calls Timothy Zhan or Michael Stackpole’s works in the Star Wars EU unoriginal. They were simply creating stories within a shared universe. Ultimately, that is what fanfiction is, an unofficial shared universe.

Copyright can be a touchy subject for authors. If that is your profession, then someone violating a copyright is practically robbing you. As well, most writers feel strongly about the characters and worlds they create. They do not want to see them violated or misused. George R. R. Martin likes to point to an instance where an author scrapped a novel when a fanfic writer threatened to sue concerning similarities with a story he made based off of her work. I wholeheartedly agree that the fanfic writer was in the wrong on this. Martin also likes to compare Edgar Rice Burrow and H.P. Lovecraft. ERB held tight control of his characters and creations, and made good money off of them. HPL sadly died in poverty, which Martin attributes to HPL not keeping tight control of his property. I feel this comparison is a bit of an oversimplification. As well, HPL’s Cthulhu Mythos has more in common with a shared world than a fanfiction community.

Now, I will not pretend to be an expert on copyright, creative commons, or the what falls into the public domain. Perhaps my thoughts on the issue will change as I learn more on the subject, but for now, here is my thoughts on how it relates to fanfiction. So long as the fanfiction author credits the source material and does not try to profit from it, I do not see any real harm. The idea that the original author is the only one who has any right to the characters seems a bit stretched in this area. Everyone that reads their work will naturally come up with their own ideas of “what if,” or “I think this will happen,” and play it through their heads. Fanfiction is just taking that idea and writing it down.

There are some times when I do feel a bit more control is appropriate. My own works for example. I would be rather flattered if someone liked one of my stories enough that they wanted to play around with it. However, at this point, that would make it harder to maintain control of my characters. I would be open to someone doing a shared world based off of my works, but I would need to maintain tight control to retain my rights to the property. Now, if I sell a book or two and a few fans want to put up a few stories, at that point, I would be quite fine with it. Heck, I would love to see that. George Lucas does not have to worry about losing control of Star Wars to a few fanfiction writers, but a small novice like myself cannot afford to have his works taken over.

Those are my personal thoughts on fanfiction. I still love to read it now and then. Sometimes I even think of writing some. However, I have moved on to creating my own original works. I had thought of throwing some of my old fanfiction works up on The Word Crafter’s Lair. I decided against that though, wanting it to be a place to showcase my own creations. If you are interested, though, my works can still be found on my fanfiction.net profile.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blood for Blood

Author's Note: This story is dedicated to my dear friend Ariel Pond who passed away last month. It was her birthday this weekend, so in tribute I have striven to compose a story that she would have enjoyed.

Casandra through her head back in a long moan of pleasure. Her hips worked up and down as she rode the sweating man beneath her. They had been having sex for over an hour. She was glad he could keep up the pace, though he was starting to wear down. He was only human after all.

She licked her lips at the feel of his hands playing across her naked flesh. Each time she slid back down it was another jolt of pleasure that reminded her of what it was like to be alive. It was a faint memory from more than a century ago.

“Fuck, I need to cum,” he told her as she raked her nails down his chest. She had chosen a fine specimen this time.

Leaning in she groaned in his ear, “Fill me up.”

He bucked under her, his entire body shaking. She kissed him hard as he released inside of her. It was a rush knowing that he was pressing that elixir of life inside of her. She sunk her teeth into his neck as her own orgasm washed over her. She had given him more than a few nips this evening, but this one was different. This was the final one.

Her fangs punctured his artery to let his warm blood flow. She sucked it down without restraint. She was starving. Not just for nourishment, but for the feeling of warm life inside of her and pleasure. They were both caught up in an ecstasy, more to his detriment than hers. By the time his orgasm had subsided she had drained half of his blood. He was weak and lightheaded, unable to fight.

She looked down at the new corpse under her as she licked her crimson lips. She placed a fierce kiss on his lips as she slowly dismounted. She could feel his life’s blood coursing through her veins. She stretched sensuously like cat as the feeling washed over her.

She looked over to the mirror. Her skin was less pale as the flush of life took effect. She was still of fair complexion, emphasized by her flowing dark tresses. She spied a drop of blood slipping down her neck and over her full breast just as his seed was sliding warmly down her thighs.

She was using his shirt to clean up when her phone started to ring. She would have let it ring, except she could not ignore a call from Nicodemus. With a sigh she picked up her phone, “Hello?”

“Casandra, I need you to come over,” the sibilant whisper told her, “There seems to be something amiss that I want you to look into.”

“Give me about two hours. I have a cleanup to take care of,” she told him as she checked the clock.

“You have one hour,” was the reply before the line clicked off.

Casandra scowled, but there was no arguing with her sire. She grabbed an industrial sized garbage bag. Cleanup was always such a pain in the ass, and she wasn’t even going to get to bask in afterglow. At least she did not have someone bothering her to cuddle.

***

She was fairly sure that it was Bach playing on as the elevator traveled up the floors. It was doing nothing to relax her though. The high of life was already fading and her mood was sour. Sadly she could not show that with Nicodemus.

The elevator doors slid open and she stepped into the penthouse foyer. The entry was lavishly furnished with rugs from India and paintings from around the world. The walls were paneled with black cherry. All of the opulence was lost on her though. Nicodemus’s majordomo standing there, waiting to see her in was the ultimate eyesore.

Alexander was whip thin with hair almost as pale as his skin. He was a half step away from being an albino. His thin lips were pulled back in the grin that he greeted everyone with. So far as she was concerned, he was a weasel in a fine suit.

“He is waiting for you in his drawing room,” he told her as he turned to lead her to the room, not that she needed him too. He was rather insistent on showing everyone around and reminding them of his authority and position. She could have asked him what was going on, but he rarely gave straight answers. With a knowing smirk, he held open the door for her.

Inside the well appointed room, Nicodemus was waiting in high backed, throne-like chair. His features were sharp and aristocratic. He was old, over a millennium. It showed, giving him a withered look. “I am glad you finally arrived.”

“Yes, Sire. As you know, it takes time to hide the bodies.”

“That it does. I miss the days when a corpse could just be left in the street if you were in a hurry,” he said. He laced his fingers together and rested his chin on them. His piercing glare fixed on her and she knew he was ready to get down to business. “Daryl is missing. He has made no contact in two nights now.”

“You suspect something has happened to him,” she said as she thought for a moment. “When was he last heard from?”

“Thursday evening. I had him over to discuss some issues with the Vitalli Clan. They have been eyeing our territory,” he said as his lips curled in a scowl. Nicodemus considered the Vitallis upstarts. “I called him last night, but I have not heard from him as of yet which is highly unusual.”

“Could the Vitalli have taken him?”

“Unlikely, but not impossible. That would be too bold for them. You shall clear the haze from this situation. Punish any that have wronged us, or drag Daryl here so I can deal with his insolence.”

“Yes Sire.”

“Inform me once the issue is resolved. You are dismissed,” he told her and turned his attention to a small ledger that had been resting on stand next to his chair.

Casandra fought down her scowl. She hated being dismissed so abruptly. Even immortality had its downsides though. She was bound to Nicodemus whether she liked it or not. He did look out for her and the rest of his brood, but he was a distant and demanding patriarch to say the least.

As she exited the drawing room she considered her next course of action. If nothing else, this would at least provide some distraction from the mundanity of unlife. That was what she found to be the greatest threat. Growing complacent and sedentary. She could see the signs of it in Nicodemus. Most who reached his ancient stature would start to fall into a degenerated state. She knew that he had secluded himself at least once to sleep away half a century. He had awoken again with some new vitality and focus. Perhaps he would do that again soon. She did not mind the idea. It would open the clan to danger for sure, but it would also offer her more freedom.

Alexander was waiting for her and walked silently with her to the elevator. She did not care for being escorted around like some child. It left her wanting to slug him and put him in his place. He might be in favor now, but it was only a matter of time before he felt out of favor with Nicodemus.

“I haven’t been to Daryl’s new place. Give me his address,” she said with as much insubordination as she could muster.

His eyes flashed in anger for an instant, but he smoothed it over quickly. The weasel was too slick to show something like that. Instead he took a small note card from his pocket and jotted down what she had asked for. “Inform me if you find anything or when it becomes too daunting for you. I am curious as to what has happened wish to see it quickly resolved,” he told her as she stepped into the elevator.

She simmered at his tone, but was surprised to hear him say such a thing. He was not one to show much interest in the other members of the clan and had a known rivalry with Daryl. Still, she did not give a damn about his concerns. Just before the doors closed she flipped him off.

***

It was one in the morning when she arrived arrived at Daryl’s apartment. She picked the lock and entered with a dagger in hand. She was not sure what to expect, but she was not willing to be caught off guard.

The inside of the apartment was a mess. Chairs were knocked over and the coffee table was broken. Several vases were left in pieces from either being knocked over or thrown. A more telling sign was that the plasma TV had been shot.

As she slowly searched the living room she found the reason for Daryl’s silence. A pile of ash with a vaguely human outline was behind the couch. She leaned down to poke through it and found another bullet hole right at where his heart would have been. Flecks of silver were mixed in with the ash. There was no question to her mind that someone had slain Daryl. The question was who?

She continued to search, but found no clues that jumped out at her. She righted one of the chairs and put it back in a corner. Sitting down she looked over the whole scene and started to run scenarios through her head to piece what had happened together. Events slowly unfolded in her mind’s eye.

There was no sign of forced entry and the alarms were off, so he must have let the person in. Possibly, it was someone he knew. He had invited them in, maybe even started to talk when he suspected something was wrong. She could imagine the fight playing out. She was starting to suspect more than one assailant. Someone was distracting him while the other tried to shoot him. That was the shot through the TV. The fight had gone on hard from there until he was knocked down and shot on the floor.

“Great, I know what happened, but not who the fuck did it.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. She needed a clue, a lead, anything. She could only think of one possibility. “I hate dealing with that mutt.”

***

It was an hour after she had checked out Daryl’s apartment. Water dripped off of the buildings that made up the alley to splatter on the pavement below. A short rain right before sundown had left things cool, but damp. Casandra waited impatiently with her back leaning against a wall. She checked her watch again in frustration.

Waiting was always torturous to her. She needed something to stimulate her, to keep her interested. Being alone in a dark alley with nothing but her thoughts was enough to bore her to tears. At least things would be a bit more interesting when he arrived. Of course, he never arrived on time, just to piss her off.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” she said to herself as she turned to the sound of paws splashing in a puddle.

Materializing out of the darkness was a gray wolf. A stripe of black fur ran along his spine. His yellow eyes glowed in the flicker. There was an intelligence behind them, far too cunning for any animal. What grated at her at the moment though, was that truly wolfish grin that said he was pleased with himself for showing up late.

“You took your damn time getting here.”

He just tilted his head in a kind of shrug. Then his mouth started to twist ever so slightly and he seemed to wince in pain. Then he spoke, his voice eerie in the way it came out of a mouth not meant for human words, “It takes time to cross town paws. I think it is rather discriminatory how they won’t let me on the subway. Oh, sure, they’ll let “service” dogs down-”

“Cut it Parker,” she said sharply. “If you wanted to chit chat you should have arrived early. This is a business call, and I need to get things done sooner rather than later.”

“Oh? Well, you know the standard price on information.”

“Not information this time. I need some more direct help from you,” she told him, fighting down the urge to bite on her lip. It was both embarrassing and unorthodox to ask a lycanthrope for help like this. “I need you to see if you can pick up some scents for me.”

“Hey now, I’m not your damn bloodhound!”

“Look, I’ll pay you double your normal price.”

“Tempting, but I will need to know more if I am going to do this,” he said in a half a growl as he opened the option at least. Of course, that was part of the real price, having to let him know of what was going on inside of her world. She had no doubt that he had other customers and that one of them would be quite happy to learn of her clan’s inner workings.

“Someone killed a member of my clan. I need help figuring out who.”

He was silent for a minute than spoke, “Fine, I’ll do it. I’ll need a ride to wherever it happened though.”

“I figured as much. My car is around the corner. I don’t want my car smelling like wet dog though.”

He gave a barking laugh, “Stand back for the show.” His body started to grow and twist in violent bursts. The sounds of bones cracking echoed through the alley. Painful growls escaped a mouth that shrunk from a canine muzzle to human lips. Fur receded except for a short hair on his head and a trim beard. Under the wolf skin he was a tan, muscular man with a tribal tattoo crawling up his right bicep. He was also quite naked.

Casandra eyed him up and down. It was the first time she had actually seen him in his human form. The corners of her lip curled in a thin smirk as she took him all in. He was well built, and well equipped. “So that is what you keep under the fur.”

“Glad you like,” he said utterly unabashed, “Care to show the way. It’s a bit chilly without my coat.”

She turned and led the way. It was a risky thing to turn her back on him, but then again, it was risky talking to him to begin with. The vampire clans and werewolf packs were old enemies. They were both alpha predators fighting over the same territory. Nicodemus would have her skinned for talking with a mut. She imagined that his pack, if he had one, would probably kick him out or kill him for the indiscretion.

That was one of the things she was never sure about with him. She had tried to pin down his pack, but had no luck. No werewolf would betray their pack though. It would be like her trying to attack Nicodemus. She came to him for information on the movements of the packs. On a rare occasion he had a lead on some of the vampire clans. She paid him good cash, and occasionally information.

They got into her car and she put it into high gear heading to Daryl’s place. This was the real dangerous part for her. She was trapped with him in the car. She might take him in a fight in an alley, but not trapped in a confined place. A vampire was fast, strong, and durable, but a werewolf was a rage powered engine of destruction with fangs and claws. The idea that she was that close to death gave her a thrill.

***

The trench coat that Cassandra had loaned Parker was a poor fit, but it would keep anyone from noticing a naked man wandering through the building. Once they were inside the apartment, he hung the coat on the coat rack. The formality seemed almost surreal given they were at a murder scene.

She watched as he transformed again, but this time it was not the full metamorphosis. Instead he stayed human, but became more bestial. He hunched forward as fur grew over his body and his features twisted up into a feral countenance. He might have passed for human at a distance, if he was clothed. That, she reflected, was the real difference between the werewolves and the vampires. His power came from being a human in a monster’s body, while hers came from being a monster in a human body.

He began to sniff around the room. He got leaned down so that he was on the tips of his toes and fingers as he moved across the floor. He took a whiff at the couch, then moved on to where the dust formerly known as Daryl lay. He continued on around the room for several minutes before standing up again. With a growl he transformed back into his human form.

“So? What’s the verdict?”

“There was a fight here and someone was dusted,” he deadpanned.

“That joke is coming out of your pay, which may be non-existent if you can’t offer me more than that.”

“Fine, fine. I could tell a few things,” he told her as he went over to the kitchenette and started to raid the cabinets. He was coming up quite disappointed. Vampires do not keep a lot of snack foods laying around. “There have been at least three vamps in here in the last two days, including you and dusty there.” Finally giving up the search for food, Parker turned back to her and said, “There has also been a male human here in that time frame as well. He was injured, bled a bit. I don’t think he was food though, and fairly sure he didn’t die, at least here.”

Casandra closed her eyes and tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Another vampire might have been someone that Daryl knew. That would explain how they got in without setting off an alarm. Who would Daryl just let in his apartment though? Did the vampire bring the human? The human could have been presented as a meal. That would have gotten them both in. A ruse to get Daryl to let down his guard. It was a workable theory, but it still gave her no clue as to who did it.

“Can you tell me anything else?” she asked in frustration.

“Not really. I mean, if I smelled them again I could point them out,” he said with a shrug, “Pretty distinct smell, especially the vamp. Guy needs to lay back on the cologne and try something a bit less spicy.”

Cassandra's eyes narrowed and she fished around in her pocket for the address card that Alexander had given her. She held it out to Parker and asked, “Does it smell anything like this?”

He took the card and sniffed at it before telling her, “Right on the mark for the cologne. Hard to tell about the other scents though.”

“Doesn’t matter. You’ve told me more than enough,” she told him as she pulled a stack of cash from her coat pocket and tossed it to him.

He flipped through the bills quickly. Then with a smirk he said, “You know I accept payment in trade as well.” She could see that he had grown a bit turgid. The offer was not without appeal. She needed a shot of life in her. She had also heard that lycanthrope blood was like a mix of hard liquor and an energy drink.

“Don’t hold your breath mut,” she told him with a snort. Fun was fun, but she had business to deal with. Besides, dealing with him was enough of a risk without sleeping with him.

He shrugged then morphed back to his wolf form. In his eerie voice he told her, “Well, be careful then. I do you one more favor and I can finally buy a new car.” He took the money in his mouth and waited for her to let him out.

Cassandra went back to her car and popped the trunk. She was going to need a few items for what was coming. A concealable bulletproof vest was a good start if people were going to be throwing around silver jacketed bullets. Two concealed daggers would do for offense. The final trick she concealed was a specialty of hers: razorwire garrotes.

***

She would have preferred to just kick in the door, but she needed to speak with him first. Casandra knocked on the door and put on an impassive face. After a moment the door opened and Alexander was looking at her sternly.

“What are you doing here unannounced?”

“I have a possible lead on the case. You said you wanted to know if I did,” she said, “Now invite me in so we don’t have to discuss business in the hallway.

He sighed then said, “Fine, come in. This had better be good.”

This was her first time in Alexander’s apartment. It was spacious and finely appointed. The walls were white and the furniture black. Expensive appliances including a remote controlled system of blinds (a luxury to any vampire). Everything about it was sleek, modern, and cold.

“Daryl has been slain, in his own apartment,” she informed him.

“That does constitute important news,” he said with a frown.

“He let another vampire into his apartment. This other then had the aid of a human in slaying Daryl,” she explained as she circled around Alexander, “I think I have an idea of who this other vampire is.”

“Hmmm, and what of this human?” he asked calmly.

She locked her eyes on him and answered, “I have not determined that yet.”

“Allow me to enlighten you then,” he said, “Robert.”

Cassandra half turned to see a man stepping out of the bathroom with a revolver pointed at her. He was an older man with close cropped, salt and pepper hair. Most telling was the metal gorget protecting his neck. That meant only one thing, he was a slayer.

“Really, working with a slayer? Not the best choice of company don’t you think Alexander?” she asked as she slowly adjusted her center of gravity.

“Not really. You see, Robert and I have formed a mutually beneficial partnership,” Alexander said, “He is very good at killing out kind, but really only wants to kill one. It turns out that our dear Sire slaughtered his entire family about thirty years back. I’ve offered to help him with that. In exchange I am freed from Nicodemus and in position to take control of the clan.”

So that is why he killed Daryl, she thought to herself. Then she looked at the slayer and asked, “And you think you can trust someone that slays his own clan to honor your bargain?”

“I don’t trust him to awful much, but he made me an offer that was hard to refuse,” he said with a wry smile, “Not a lot of people in this line of work get to retire, and he proposed a very good retirement package on top of getting to kill that leach that spawned you.”

“Yes, so congratulations on solving Nicodemus’s final task to you Cassandra,” Alexander told her.

“No, my final task is to kill you two,” she hissed and spun into a blur of motion. Robert fired too late. She drew out one of the daggers and through it at him, striking his gun arm.

Cassandra never thought of Alexander as one to get his hands dirty. However, as the weasel struck her from behind, she was reminded that he was as much a vampire as her. She smashed through the black glass of the coffee table. She kept rolling to avoid him stomping on her abdomen.

They snarled like beasts as he pressed the attack. She blocked his punches and kicks from her knees. She grabbed his wrist as she sprung up and twisted it hard. She would have liked to torn it off, but had to dodge a stab from the slayer with her own knife. She kicked Alexander away as she drew out a garrote.

When the slayer lunged at her again she leapt over him, twisting in the air. With her arms crossed, she let the razor wire catch under his chin, biting into his skin above the gorget. She landed in a crouch and threw her arms apart. The wire cut clean through his neck, severing his head from his body. The decapitated corpse collapsed in a spray of arterial blood as his heart gave it’s last few pumps.

She turned to face Alexander just in time to see him raising the slayer’s dropped gun. She sprung to the side, but still felt a bullet tear through her leg. She landed bad next to the broken coffee table. Things were not looking good. A knife at a gun fight was something she was use to dealing with. Not being able to move freely, however, would make it a lot tougher.

She looked at Alexander and his weasley smirk. He was not foolish enough to move in closer. He was using his advantage, and there was little she could do to nullify it. She needed a plan, and for that she needed time. So she asked him, “Do you really think the others will accept you as Clan Patriarch?”

“Of course. Who else would they choose?” he responded with a chuckle. “Edgar is a halfwit. Jonathan is a coward. Matilda is half mad. Daryl was the only real competition, and only because he would have had support from some of the younger kin.”

“Oh, and what about me?” she asked as she saw what she needed on the floor among the remains of the smashed table.

“Don’t make me laugh. I’m faster, stronger, and more experienced than you Casandra. You are a good assassin, until now, but no leader. Do you really think you are smart enough to run the clan?”

“No, but I am smart enough to know when sunrise is!” she growled as she slapped down the button on the controller for the blinds. She felt the bullet strike her back, but the vest stopped it from penetrating. Gritting her teeth against the pain she made a clumsy leap over a chair to roll into the hallway. It was not graceful, but it got her out of the way.

From her shadowed cover she could hear Alexander scream as the morning light burned his undead flesh. The smell of charred skin filled the air. She heard sound of the gun clacking against the floor as it dropped from his grasp. She could imagine him flailing about trying to get to the remote and close the blinds. After several moments, the sounds of Alexander’s destruction had stopped.

Casandra had to crawl to reach the kitchenette without getting fried. She opened the fridge and grabbed several blood packs. She limped to the second bedroom, thankful she would not have to lay down on the weasel's bed. She flopped down on the bed and drunk down the two packs. By the time the sunset and she could leave, her leg would be fine.

She was going to have a lot of explaining to do to Nicodemus. For one, she was going to have to make sure her story was good enough that he did not find out about Parker’s involvement. All in all though, she was happy with the way things turned out. The weasel was no longer an issue, and she was enjoying the rush from the fight. She closed her eyes and thought about it as she settled into her daytime repose, a bit of blood sliding down her lips.